Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wendel Moment #15 - Might want to watch that five-hole, Eddie

On November 22, Wendel Clark's #17 will be raised to the rafters as the team honours its former captain and arguably the most popular player in franchise history.

In the lead up to that night, Down Goes Brown will feature a countdown of Wendel's Top 17 Greatest Moments.

The Leafs opened the 1994 playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks. After taking an impressive 5-1 win in game one, the Leafs were in for a much tougher night in game two. The two original six rivals played a classic. Ed Belfour and Felix Potvin were locked in a goaltending duel, and the game was scoreless after regulation.

Two minutes into the first overtime session, the Leafs were controlling the play in the Blackhawks zone when the puck found its way back to Todd Gill at the point. The veteran defenceman, never exactly known as a sniper, fired a harmless looking shot on net. Despite having a clear view of the long-distance shot, Belfour somehow managed to let it slip through his five-hole for the game-winner.

Wait a second, what does any of this have to do with Wendel Clark? Nothing. Or so it seemed.

As soon as the puck crossed the goal line, the Gardens exploded. So did Belfour, who immediately went after the officials, flailing his arms and tossing aside his equipment. Fans and broadcasters wondered what had set him off.

Then we saw the replay.

As Gill winds up for his shot, Belfour comes out to challenge him. He has the angle covered. He sees the shot all the way. As he drops to his butterfly to steer the shot aside, his form is absolutely perfect.

And then, just as the puck arrives, Wendel reaches out with his stick from several feet away and barely, just barely, brushes the top of Belfour's goal stick.

The little tap is just enough to cause Belfour's stick to pop off the ice for a fraction of a second, just as Gill's shot arrives. Nobody notices. As Belfour goes spastic, Clark innocently skates off to join the celebration.

Belfour, of course, would go on to star for the Leafs a decade later. So would another Norris division goalie, who had his own bad luck with Wendel at playoff time... but we'll save that for later in the list.

Wendel Moment #15 is Clark's barely perceptible role in the funniest (and, OK, cheapest) Maple Leafs playoff win of all time.

(Side note: I would have this rated higher, but for the life of me I can't find a clip of the goal online. If anyone has one, please post a link. It's worth watching just to see Belfour erupt.)

Update: Six months later, here's the clip.


  1. I remember that game well. I was in a playoff pool in which we awarded a significant number of bonus points for a goalie shutout in regulation time. It was the year of the playoff shutout, mark my words - I'm sure that can be verified on or something. My team was like 80% Leafs but I didn't have the Cat - or any other legitimate goaler, as I recall. That one went in the books as a double shutout (extra points for both Belfour and Potvin), and if the Leafs hadn't won the game - well, there would have been a beer shortage in Toronto as a result of my consumption, I can tell you that.

    I guess Clark's oh-so-subtle subterfuge would have to go in the category of "doing the little things" that the TV asshats always talk about, right?

  2. If you can find a copy, the goal should appear somewhere on Rock'em Sock'em 6. Cherry does a montage of each of the playoff rounds from that year. A couple of those are on youtube but not the Leafs-Hawks from round 1.

    Great series so far. Keep 'em coming.

  3. That's the same series where Wendel laid out Chelios, is it not? That hit is available online.


  4. Thank you so much for posting these wonderful memories. I've been going through them and getting serious chills.
    This game was the one and only one that I saw at MLG. Not a bad one to go to. I remember there being some big hits and unbelievable saves in that game, both ways.

  5. Where could i find a game tape of game 1 of that series?