Denver remains a special place for Hartley, Tanguay
Flames coach, star return to scene of 2001 Stanley Cup victory and the memories are still fresh
DENVER — Nearly a dozen years have passed. Yet the images remain indelible. Imperishable. The madness of those final seconds. Standing atop a fire truck during the championship parade. The confetti. The adulation.
Every bit as fresh, as vivid, as powerful, as when it all happened.
“Looking at the clock with Ray Bourque on the ice, 18,000, 19,000 fans on their feet, screaming and jumping ...,” reminisced Bob Hartley on Tuesday.
“Well, it’s pretty special.
“The greatest assist that Joe Sakic got in his great career is when he passed the Stanley Cup to Ray Bourque. That’s his best pass.
“You don’t forgot those memories.”
Standing outside the just down the hall from an Avalanche room he used to oversee, the Calgary Flames’ boss is remembering a late faceoff in a corner at the far end of the Pepsi Center on that unforgettable Stanley Cup-clinching Game 7 night in late spring/early summer of 2001, to Patrick Roy’s right. The inspirational Bourque had just dragged himself off the ice, and Hartley went to assistant Jacques Cloutier and said: ‘We cannot win the Cup with Ray on the bench.’ The motto that springtime was, after all ‘Win One for Ray.’
“He was that tired,” says Hartley. “He was puffing for air and God knows the air around here sometimes is rare.
“We threw him back on the ice. Looking at the final seconds, there was some guys with tears on the bench. Everyone was jumping. But just to see — I think it was Chris Drury chipped the puck out of the zone — Ray just stand there and watch the clock. It finally happened.
“Those are engraved in my memory forever.
“To be honest, I don’t think there’s been a day since that day, June 11th, it was, that I don’t think about it.”
And no wonder. Hartley’s not the type of guy who quietly moves on to the next thing; who puts the past in the past. He’s a nostalgic person by nature. And this was, dammit!, the Stanley Cup. So reminders of that Game 7 are naturally close at hand.
“I have VHS tape. I have DVDs. I can sell some, if you want some.
“I think I them in every drawer in my house, every plastic box. I think I even have some behind the plates in my wife’s kitchen.
“I have some everywhere.”
Alex Tanguay was a 22-year-old NHL sophomore in 2001. But his career high-water mark came in the decider of that championship season, scoring twice and adding an assist in a 3-1 decisioning of the New Jersey Devils that gave the Avs the first of their two titles.
“I honestly think I’d appreciate it more now than I did as a young kid,” Tanguay conceded Wednesday. “My first year, we lost Game 7 of the conference finals. Second year we won the Stanley Cup. My third year we lost Game 7 of the conference finals. I thought ‘This is it. This is going to come very naturally.’
“Ever since that, I’ve never got a sniff. Never really got close to winning it.
“I cherish this city. The atmosphere of Game 7, I still remember it like it was yesterday. The game was at 6 o’clock, I showed up at 3:30 and the party was already going on outside.
“From the time we stepped on in warm-up until the game started, nobody sat down. An incredible experience.”
Having made two previous trips in here as a visiting coach, both with the Atlanta Thrashers, this isn’t a new experience for Bob Hartley, either. But the building, the ghosts, the images triggered by certain places, certain faces, none of it ever gets old.
“It’s always special. I have lots of friends plus lots of great memories. My first year was the last year at McNichols Arena, that was pretty special.
“Walking through this building when they were just building it. Looking at the plans, where would be the showers, where would be the stick room, sitting with Pierre (GM Lacroix).
“I remember everything.”
Well. Almost everything. On a double-dog-dare, he can’t come up with the name of the person that passed him that big, silver, jug-eared mug when his turn to hoist the grail came along.
“Once I had it, it was special,” he said, with a soft smile. “Believe me. But players win championships. For me, to watch every single one of them lift the Cup, I could’ve been behind the Zamboni driver and been happy.”
NOTES: Hartley wasn’t in the mood to rehash the impotent power play, lost lead or general depression brought on by Tuesday’s 2-1 OT loss in the Twin Cities. “We’re not going to spend too much time on last night. We talked about a wedding (Tuesday) morning. Well, I felt like The Wedding Singer laying down in the dumper. That’s how I felt. Today’s a new day. Tomorrow’s another big game. Let’s move on” ... Akim Aliu’s sore knee has responded well enough that the big fella might return to the lineup tonight on the fourth line. There’s also a chance veteran Cory Sarich draws in, too, on the blueline.
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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