Canucks' 1994 Stanley Cup run: How they saw it
Vancouver's Cup final stars recall biggest plays from memorable playoff
MAY 26, 2005 -- Vancouver Canucks Jyrki Lumme (21), left, and teammates Pavel Bure (10) and celebrate at the end of game 6 of the Stanley Cup against the New York Rangers, June 11, 1994. Ralph Bower/Vancouver Sun [PNG Merlin Archive]
Twenty years. Where has the time gone?
Twenty years ago this week, this month, the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers were battling it out for the Stanley Cup in a stupendous series that went seven games and culminated in a Rangers’ victory.
Twenty years ago, Pat Quinn was wearing three hats as Canuck president, general manager and coach. Twenty years ago, Trevor Linden was captain, Kirk McLean was in goal and Pavel Bure was hockey’s most electrifying player.
Twenty years ago, the supporting cast included Greg Adams, Geoff Courtnall, Cliff Ronning, Dave Babych and Nathan LaFayette. All were involved in some of the most memorable plays from the 1994 run. Up in the radio booth, Jim Robson was describing the action for an enthralled audience.
The years have not diminished any of their recollections. Hockey people never forget. Here, in their own words, they describe the plays Canuck fans will dwell on forever:
SAVE OF THE CENTURY
APRIL 30: ROUND 1, GAME 7 VS CALGARY
With the game midway through the first overtime, Kirk McLean stops Robert Reichel on a 2-on-1.
McLEAN: “I could see what was happening at the other end. Dana Murzyn had pinched and Jyrki Lumme was back playing the 2-on-1. Theo Fleury picks up the puck and is coming down the right side. Being the nifty player and goal scorer he was, he had several options and I’m thinking: ‘OK, Theo has the puck, he likes to hold on to it for a little bit longer than usual, he might come inside, or he might fake, get me moving and then come back to the strong side.’ So all these things are going through my mind. I made the read and, when you do a two-pad slide, that’s kind of a desperation move but I timed it perfectly. Theo threw a wonderful pass over to Reichel and I was able to get my toe on it. Without a doubt, it was the most famous save of my career. It was a defining moment. And we all know what happened after that.”
COURTNALL: “I was backchecking on the play. Reichel had an empty net and all he had to do was get the puck in the air and it would have gone in. Every time I see that save on video I go: ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe Kirk got it.’ ”
PAVEL BURE HAS
WON IT IN OVERTIME
APRIL 30: ROUND 1, GAME 7 VS CALGARY
At 2:20 of the second overtime, Dave Babych backhands a pass to Jeff Brown, who threads the needle blue-line-to-blue-line to the Russian Rocket. Canucks win 4-3.
BABYCH: “I got the puck right between the benches and Brownie was open on the right side. I passed it over to him to let the guys get set and go up ice. He got rid of the puck pretty quickly and then I saw what everybody saw — No. 10 cutting right through the middle. Pavel caught everyone off guard and, once you knew he was in, you knew what was going to happen. I had no doubt he would score. Of course, he did score and he came around the boards and jumped right into me.”
QUINN: “As part of our practice routine, I had been going through quick counters from a defensive setup. We probably practised that every day. We had some real good passers, especially Jeff Brown, and part of making a good pass is that somebody had to get open. Pavel cut up through the middle and that’s where Brown hit him. As soon as that happened, our whole bench stood up because Pavel would make things happen when he had those sorts of opportunities. The rest was history.”
MOTHER OF ALL ELBOWS
MAY 4: ROUND 2, GAME 2 VS DALLAS
Pavel Bure knocks out Shane Churla with a vicious blindside elbow. Canucks win 3-0.
ADAMS: “Churla gave Pavel a cheap shot at one end and then the play came down the other way and Churla was watching the puck. He was nowhere near the puck and Pavel came at him with a lot of speed and just went right after him. It got Pavel fired up, it got us fired up and put them on edge.”
QUINN: “I was surprised they were going to use Churla to try to intimidate Pavel because that was clearly what they were trying to do. They had a big, rough, tough team and they were mean buggers. Churla was Churla. He wasn’t a very good player but he would mix it up. I always looked for players for our team who wouldn’t just take it and, in this case, Pavel answered the bell himself.”
BABYCH: “I was right there. There is no doubt how hard Pavel hit Churla. Nowadays, Pavel would get life for that.”
MAY 24: ROUND 3, GAME 5 VS TORONTO
Greg Adams scores at 0:14 of double overtime to eliminate the Leafs. Canucks win 4-3 and are off to the Stanley Cup Final.
ROBSON: “I don’t think many guys in our business plan what they’re going to say when something happens and I didn’t seem to be able to think of anything else to say so I just said ‘Greg Adams, Greg Adams’ three or four times. Dave Babych took a shot from the left point that Felix Potvin couldn’t handle. He juggled the puck, it bounced in front of him and Adams was right there to scoop it in. The rest of the call — ‘the Vancouver Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup Final!’ – was clear but just saying Greg Adams over and over again wasn’t too imaginative, I guess.”
ADAMS: “It was the start of the second overtime and I was tired and I remember thinking: ‘God, I hope somebody scores early.’ It felt like the game was going to go on all night. We got the puck deep right away, Babs shot and, for some reason, Potvin bobbled it and the puck was just sitting there for me. After I scored, I kind of looked in the corner and I saw all the people in the crowd up on their feet yelling and screaming so I went over to celebrate with them. Then all the guys were on me pretty quick. It was probably one of the biggest moments in my career and something I’ll never forget. I’ve heard Jim Robson’s call a ton of times and he made it so exciting. He made that goal famous for me.”
RONNING TO ADAMS
MAY 31: STANLEY CUP FINAL, GAME 1 VS RANGERS
Brian Leetch hits the crossbar at one end and Canucks counter with Cliff Ronning feeding Greg Adams for the winner at 19:26 of the first overtime. Kirk McLean makes 52 saves, including 17 in OT. Canucks win 3-2.
RONNING: “I was caught out a little long on my shift so I had to position myself as a winger in our zone. Leetch walked in and hit the crossbar and then we were going the other way. Pavel got the puck up to me and it became a 2-on-1. I had to make sure I got the blue-line so we didn’t go offside and then I saw Greg Adams coming up the middle. I knew if I could just get the puck over to him flat, he had the capability of taking a one-timer in stride and scoring and he was able to hammer the puck home. I was glad it went in because I was so exhausted I don’t think I would have been able to back check.”
McLEAN: “I remember trying to weather the storm. Maybe I had the angle cut down on Leetch and that’s all he could find. I’d like to think that anyway. After Cliffy made the pass and Greg scored, it was just elation.”
BABYCH GETS THE WINNER
JUNE 9, STANLEY CUP FINAL, GAME 5
Facing elimination, the Canucks squander a three-goal third period lead but regain the advantage for good just 29 seconds later as Pavel Bure sets up Dave Babych. Canucks win 6-3.
BABYCH: “Obviously as a defenceman, you have to be fairly responsible so you don’t go up ice unless you see an opportunity. Pavel had the puck along the boards and I had a wide open lane so I thought: ‘What the heck?’ Pavel passed the puck to me and I think he expected me to pass it back. Percentages would say that might have been the smart play. But when I looked at the net, Mike Richter was already cheating back to Pavel just a hair and I went shortside along the ice. After the goal, Pavel jumped so high, I had to catch him and, with his momentum, I fell over like a slow-cut tree. I landed on my elbow and hyper-extended it so bad I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to play the next couple of games. I remember going home with my arm down by my side and my wife saying: ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ But with a little magic medicine, it all worked out.”
IT’S A GOAL! IT’S A GOAL!
JUNE 11, STANLEY CUP FINAL, GAME 6
Nathan LaFayette feeds Geoff Courtnall, who goes upstairs on Mike Richter at 18:28 of the third period. The puck squirts back out and Mark Messier scores at the other end 34 seconds later. Video review confirms the Courtnall goal. Canucks win 4-1.
COURTNALL: “Nathan passed to me and I was basically in the clear. I faked a shot, went to my backhand and had an empty net. I shot high and saw it hit the back of the net but it came out and play continued. I was yelling at the ref (Bill McCreary): ‘It was in! It was in!’ But he wasn’t listening to me. I was back on the bench when Messier scored and I said to Pat Quinn: ‘My shot was in.’ After the review, when they said it was a goal, the place went crazy.”
LaFAYETTE: “Courts was a pretty vocal player and he certainly let me know he was there. I dove to get the puck to him and I got up just in time to see it hit the back of the net and pop right out. Me and Courts were in celebratory fashion, kind of losing our minds thinking how great it was he scored and then we saw out of the corner of our eyes that play had continued. We skated off the ice in a panic, just yelling and screaming: ‘That was a goal! That was a goal!’ It made me a believer in video replay for the rest of my life.”
HE WILL PLAY,
YOU KNOW HE’LL PLAY
JUNE 11, STANLEY CUP FINAL, GAME 6
In the final minute of the 4-1 victory, Trevor Linden collides with Adam Graves and is then run over by Mark Messier. He crawls off the ice but later returns, his jersey bloodstained, to exchange a post-game hug with Kirk McLean. It is one of the greatest Canuck photos ever taken.
ROBSON: “Graves had knocked Linden down and sort of shook him up and then Messier cross-checked him in the neck and pushed his face into the ice. Sergio Momesso was standing up on the bench, just livid, and wanted to go after Messier. And I said: ‘He will play, you know he’ll play, he’ll play on crutches, he will play at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.’ But if I had tagged it with ‘in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final’ it would have been a better line and one for all time.”
LINDEN: “Dougie Lidster had cut me across the chin with his stick earlier in the game so I was already bleeding and then Adam Graves and I collided around our blue-line. It completely knocked the wind out of me and when you get the wind knocked out of you, you can’t breathe, right? So I was just basically trying to crawl to the bench and that’s when Messier kind of rolled over the top of me. After the game, I gave Kirk an embrace and it was just one of those exhausted, relief feelings. The photo really captured that moment. Like they say, one picture is worth a thousand words.”
McLEAN: “Trevor and I didn’t really say anything after the game. Obviously he has the blood dripping off his chin and on his shirt and his arm is up around my head pushing my mask halfway across my face. We were both mentally spent at the moment. The photo has taken on a life of its own. People love that photo and it really does show a lot of what we went through — and what Trevor went through as far as taking a beating and continuing.”
BABS MAKE A SPEECH
JUNE 14, STANLEY CUP FINAL, GAME 7
Down 3-1 after two periods, the usually quiet Dave Babych gives the pep talk of his life.
RONNING: “Babs wasn’t one of our captains or assistants and he was a guy who would never talk at all. He stood up and pretty well said: ‘Guys, I want you to look around the room. This is a team that really cares about each other and I guarantee you after this game, win or lose, this team will never be the same ever again. Guys will be traded, guys will be moved, so let’s go out there and give it our best.’”
BABYCH: “I was never big on locker-room speeches. I did my thing on the ice and if guys followed, great. But I remember getting up this time and what Cliffy said there, yeah, that was the meat of it. It gives you goosebumps, doesn’t it?”
HE HITS THE POST!
JUNE 14, STANLEY CUP FINAL, GAME 7
With the Canucks now trailing 3-2 late in the third period, Geoff Courtnall sets up Nathan LaFayette, who hits the post. Canucks lose the game 3-2 and lose the series 4-3.
LaFAYETTE: “Courts beat his guy to the puck and saw me going to the net. He hit me and I chose to one-time it. Who knows? Maybe I could have stopped it and put it somewhere better but I chose to one-time it and I got creamed by Glenn Anderson right after that. Sometimes the game goes super fast and you have trouble figuring out what to do and where to be and, at other times, it slows down to a snail’s pace and you see things you don’t typically see. This was one of those instances where I shot it, saw it hit the post and then saw the puck flipping back at me logo, no logo, logo, no logo and it was just kind of suspended there. As I took my stick back to try and hit it again, that’s when I got creamed by Anderson. I never did make contact with the puck. Obviously it’s something I think about. I wish it had gone in. If it goes in, it’s 3-3 and who knows what happens after that?”
I COULD SEE THEIR PAIN
JUNE 14, STANLEY CUP FINAL, POST-GAME
The game, and series, are over and the Canucks are heartbroken.
LINDEN: “It’s just an empty feeling. You’re kind of in disbelief. I’m basically kneeling in the corner, waiting for their celebration to end, waiting for the handshake line and to get off the ice. The handshake line itself, I don’t remember it.”
QUINN: “I just went in the room and told the players how proud I was of them and that they deserved a better result. I could see the pain in their eyes. They knew they had played well but it was the other team that was lifting the Cup.”
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