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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Ghost of Marty McSorley's Stick

May 30, 2012 enters uncharted territory for Los Angeles Kings hockey. 

Never before has a Kings squad entered the Stanley Cup Final as the favorite  – ESPN’s “experts" picked L.A. to take Lord Stanley’s Cup home by a vote of 10 to 3. Heck, they have only been in the Finals once. (Sheesh once? Why do I waste my time? I always say…)

Never before has a the lowest seed taken the championship at the end of the playoff. Cinderella's slipper never fits for long it seems. The Kings are riding the momentum wave like never before: 12 wins. Two losses. Undefeated on the road. They are making teams whine all the way to the league office while whimpering away towards their tee times. Surely these aren’t the Kings I grew up watching. Agonizing with every postseason overtime loss and thoughts of next year. Heartbreak at every turn.

So, today, nothing makes sense. 

Down is up. Left is right, the moon IS made of cheese, the world IS flat, the Brad Pitt-Angeline Jolie union is universally embraced as the undisputed reflection of how relationships should be handled in the New America, and the Los Angeles Kings should win the Stanley Cup. You get it by now, I know. Yet, I digress once again, so I'll stop. But not before I face the horrors for a single game that changed my life, ruining sports and I know them.

It was Thursday, June 3, 1993. A beautiful Montreal summer day outside with the mighty Montreal Canadiens taking on the Great One’s (that’s Wayne Gretzky for those of you whose nickname encyclopedias have been misplaced) Kings at the legendary Montreal Forum.

The magic of this game was that the Kings had already taken game one and literally cruising in game two up 2-1 in the closing minutes. 

Then it happened.

The illegal stick.

The curve of Marty McSorley’s stick was just a quarter-inch outside of the rules. A freaking quarter-inch! Screw it, the NHL tells the story better: 

The rest was history with the Canadiens winning the next three games and winning their bajillionth Stanley Cup. I swear the maintenance crew at the Forum spent years scraping off the bits of my skull and grey matter glued to ceiling of those hallowed hockey halls. 
"Hey Wayne? Why don't you have more Cups?" "Uh, because of Marty..."


Because my brain exploded as I screamed "NO" spelled with 7,000 O's. When Marty was out-thought (not a hard thing to do with McSorley) by the brain trust of the Bleu Blanc Rouge (that’s Blue, White and Red in English). It was then that every Habs fan in section 116 gloated knowing that the Kings would be losing that game.
It was then that Marty McSorley took his rightful place near the billy goat, the Bambino, the cover the Madden video game, the Clipper and every other curse that has broken the hearts of many men. 

I ran in Mr. McSorley a few years ago. My passion for sports had long died down, but my vitriol for hockey’s nicest enforcer had not. His excuse to the group set to tee off in front of me went something like this:

Yeah, I was there...
“Geez, there’s been a whole lot of sensationalism, actually a huge degree of sensationalism, and I know there hasn’t been a whole lot of honesty. 'Did I have an illegal stick? Yes! Did I stand up after and say, 'Listen everyone, I had an illegal stick?' Yes! The things that have transpired since then, I don't think there has been a lot of honesty.''

Just like that, he explained it all away.

I wanted to punch him, but, uhhhhh, I quickly re-thought that course of action. And I surely wish Mr. McSorley would have re-thought using a stick he clearly knew was illegal and had to have an inkling that the Canadiens always have the Hockey Gods on their side.

I don’t remember much really after that game.

Cut me some slack; things were very touch-and-go right about then.

I only remember that sports didn’t mean as much to me after that. Something I was good with until this band of hockey misfits who could bare score in the regular season sucked me in again. I dusted off my 1990 Mike Krushelnyski game used jersey and will wear it proudly through the finals. After all, he left me with a much better memory in the Stanley Cup playoffs:

Nineteen years have passed since that game and I still haven’t fully recovered from the chain of events unleashed by the illegal stick game. I may never recover. Kind of surreal.