Happy 20th Anniversary!
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Canadiens’ last Stanley Cup championship. Waiting 20 years for a championship might seem like a strange milestone to celebrate, but you have to understand where you have been to know where you are going.
This anniversary is a good opportunity to reflect on one of the most exciting runs in the club’s glorious history. For those of you who are too young to recall the early ‘90s, hopefully we can fill you in on what it feels like to watch your team win a Stanley Cup (more on that later…)
Many Habs fans of a certain vintage can trace their fandom back to Patrick Roy. The ’93 playoffs were arguably Patrick Roy’s greatest performance. His Conn Smythe trophy winning effort was the stuff of legend not only because of the gaudy stats (10 straight OT wins, .929 SV%, etc., etc.), but also due to the unique flair he brought to the crease… just ask Tomas Sandstrom.
As good as St. Patrick was that year, he hardly did it alone. As per the cliché, Montreal’s best players were their best players in the playoffs: Vinny Damphousse and Kirk Muller led the team in scoring (Corsi Rel not available…) and Eric Desjardins was stellar throughout the run and will forever be remembered for his hat trick in game 2 of the SCF.
To give you some context I was 13 years old in 1993 and at the absolute peak of my on-going hockey obsession. I felt a particular connection to this Habs team as well. I’m from Fredericton, New Brunswick which was then the home of Montreal’s AHL affiliate. I’d seen guys like Gilbert Dionne, Paul DiPietro, and Oleg Petrov graduate to the Show. I felt a sense of ownership about those guys, and it was a thrill seeing them with the big club and doing well.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream? (Puck < puck)
Clearly, I have many vivid memories of the ’93 playoffs. But the reason I’m writing this is because there is one memory that eludes me… That would be the night of June 9th. I didn’t see game 5 of the Finals. I didn’t see the Habs win the Cup. I was at a goddamn play.
My Mom, grandmother and I were on a family trip to Toronto. We stayed with my aunt and uncle, who are massive Habs fans, and with them I lived and breathed that final: banners, face paint, singing, the whole nine yards. My Mom said we didn’t drive halfway across the country only to watch hockey, she wanted us to get the most out of the trip. One of her plans to ensure I received an adequately cultural experience involved booking us tickets to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Stratford Festival. The tickets were purchased long in advance… unfortunately, they were booked for June 9th. This was tantamount to a horrible punishment for an unknown offence. How could the world have been that unfair?
I begged to stay and watch the game, but obviously lost that fight. Good money was invested in those tickets and it would be a "wonderful experience". I had no choice. To add to the cruelty, the production ended up being an avant-garde, modernist interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic… male nudity, giant lavender pillows, bizarre mauve backdrops… I was in hell. All I could do to maintain my sanity was hope to the hockey gods that Wayne Gretzky could keep the Habs at bay for one night so that I could witness Les Boys, my boys, win.
With a sense of dread I turned on the radio in the car on the ride back to Toronto. Sadly, the Great One let me down. The Habs had in fact secured the Cup without me. My Mom said, "isn’t that great! They won!" I slowly looked over with the angst that only a 13 year old robbed of his greatest moment could invoke… there were no words that would capture how I felt. All I could muster was, "Yeah, great."
Taking Back the Memory
I eventually forgave my Mom (after much counselling we were able to reconcile in 2004…), she didn’t intentionally inflict this damage on me. But, I knew that I had missed a defining moment in Habs history, and it still hurts a little bit to this day. At that time I never would have guessed that twenty years later I would still be waiting to watch my Habs hoist the Cup. I can only hope that our wait will soon be over.
So, I put it to you EOTP. What are your memories of the 1993 run to the Cup? How did you celebrate on June 9th, 1993? I need your help with some strategic amnesia. I need to finally purge those memories of naked dudes speaking in iambic pentameter; and replace them with your recollections of the Habs last Stanley Cup celebrations. I need to recapture June 9th, 1993.