Everyone knows who scored the Stanley Cup game-winning goal. It's pretty easy to pick out. Someone shoots and he either scores or the goaltender makes the stop and someone puts in the rebound. It’s cut and dry.
But just who really did score the goal to give the Toronto Lord Stanley's Cup back on May 2, 1967?
Toronto won the game, beating Montreal 3-1 with Jim Pappin being credited with the game-deciding tally at the 19:24 of the second period. George Armstrong scored an empty-net tally with 47 seconds left to clinch the Cup. But did Pappin really score the goal? Or did someone else net the clincher in Game 6?
Video replays show Pappin's shot was deflected, hitting Pete Stemkowski in what appears to be the derriere. Stemkowski always thought he felt something hit him in front of the net, but no one bothered to check TV replays back in 1967. Besides, the puck did go into the net and the Maple Leafs held off the Canadiens to win the Cup.
Pappin and Stemkowski will have the chance to replay the goal again Saturday as the 1967 Leafs will be honored during pre-game ceremonies at the Edmonton-Toronto game at the ACC. Another reunion will take place March 22 at a dinner at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"I think I scored the goal, but I don't know whether I scored the goal," Stemkowski recalled. "At the time that the goal was scored, they said I scored the goal. But I have seen the replay since ... years later ... they didn't have replays or things like that then.
"I still don't know whether I scored the goal. It was a crazy thing. Jim Pappin shot the puck from in front of the net. Terry Harper and myself were standing (in front of the net) and it hit something and went into the net."
Here's where the story gets really murkier. It seems that Pappin had a lot riding on the goal.
"I could have taken credit for that goal, because it was not obvious who scored it and had the winning goal in the Stanley Cup game," Stemkowski said. "The fella who scored the goal, Jimmy Pappin, came up to me after and said 'Hey listen, I got a big, big bonus riding on this. Did you really touch that puck?' I said, 'I felt something, I felt something Jimmy.' And he said, 'Well look between you and I just say you didn't feel a darn thing.' So I went over to the referee and said 'Well I don't think I really touched that puck.'
"Jim Pappin got credit for that goal, got a $10,000 bonus and put a swimming pool in his backyard, and you know what? The guy was real generous. He let me swim in that pool anytime I wanted the rest of the summer.
So that was my reward for scoring a goal that I didn't score."
Stemkowski has never gotten to the bottom of just how that puck ended up in the Canadiens net. He looked for a bruise on his body as a sign the puck hit him, but there was no bruise or black and blue mark. Then he bought the video copy of the 1967 Stanley Cup Final looking for evidence. But there was no answer there, at least in his mind.
"They advertised the video tapes of the 1966-67 Stanley Cup and out of the blue I said I'll get out my Visa card and get this darn thing and maybe it will show it. And I have gone over that tape time and time again. I have had friends look at that thing, slow it down and everything and its still not conclusive as to who scored that goal," said Stemkowski. "I could have been a real unfriendly teammate in that situation and been in the record books in the NHL scoring the winning goal in the Stanley Cup. But I don't even know whether or not I even got an assist on the Stanley Cup winning goal."
But there is more to Stemkowski and the Game Six goal saga. Pappin built his pool, but Stemkwoski ran into a problem with his swimming rights.
"I got to swim in Jimmy Pappin's pool. Wasn't that wonderful? He was real nice to me," Stemkwoski joked. "You know he got traded next year, so I got one summer of enjoyment in Jimmy Pappin's pool. He sold the house and the pool with it, so that was my reward for being a nice guy."
The new owners of Pappin's house and pool didn’t seem to care that Stemkwoski had perpetual swimming rights. He never went to the Toronto neighborhood again.
"The house was next to Bob Pulford's house. He was such a grouch; he never put a smile on his face. So it wasn't exactly the friendliest neighborhood. Pappin and Pulford, who played on my two sides, these were two that were neighbors and drove to the games together. Never spoke, hated each other's guts, yet they spent so much time in each other's company."
So Pappin got the goal, the money got the goal, the money and the pool. Stemkowski felt something though. "I thought I felt a twinge. It could have been Harper kicking me or whatever. But the puck changed directions from the corner in front, dang it was in the net. And the referee skated over to the scorer's table and said give it to Stemkowski.
"They made the announcement and Pappin gave me a little nudge in the ribs and says did you really touch that puck? I got 10 grand riding on it, so would you please kindly say you didn't?"
"In those days we used to steal goals," Stemkowski explained. "I had a deal with Dale Rolfe when we were with the Rangers. Anything close in front of the net, he didn't have a bonus, he was a defenseman. I used to have a bonus for goals. There were deals in those days between forwards and defensemen.
"But it's Pappin's goal. Let him have it. He's in the books and what did I get out of it? A handshake, a thank you and a swim in a swimming pool."
Oh yeah, and a Stanley Cup.