Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - An ongoing series to honor the greatest, completely meaningless moments in Toronto Maple Leaf history.
Curtis Joseph has had an up-and-down history with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There was his amazing acrobatics against the Leafs in the 1993 playoffs. He was on the receiving end of the Gilmour spinarama and the Wendel waster. He signed with the Leafs in 1999 and lead them to ten playoff rounds in four years. He ripped out Leaf fans' hearts by defecting to the Red Wings in 2002. Then he returned this year for a final season.
And, of course, there was today's obscure moment: that time Mike Foligno kicked him in the face.
Now, if you're too young or didn't really follow the Leafs back then, you probably hear "Mike Foligno kicked Curtis Joseph" and think "Hm, Cujo must have been scrambling for a rebound, and Foligno skated in and accidentally nudged him with a skate."
Here's the setup: It's the second round of the 1993 playoffs. Less than 48 hours after Borschevsky's goal to eliminate the Red Wings, the Leafs are hosting St. Louis at the Gardens.
The game turned out to be a classic, and was tied 1-1 after regulation. Felix Potvin was solid, but the story of the game was Blues goalie Curtis Joseph. He was unbelievable, seemingly robbing the Leafs on every shift with increasingly spectacular saves. The Leafs would end up taking over 60 shots in the game, but Joseph seemed unbeatable.
Midway through the first overtime, Gilmour cuts over the line and fires a wrist shot. Mike Foligno, who is playing on Gilmour's line because it's the playoffs and Gilmour is being quintuple-shifted, drives hard to the net as Garth Butcher reaches out an arm and twists him off-balance.
Foligno loses his balance, spins 360 degrees, and for some reason swings one foot out, squarely connecting upside Joseph's head. Joseph's mask pops straight up in the air, as Leaf fans hold their breath in hopes that his head might be in it. Joseph skates towards the bench with his gloves covering his face, possibly because the impact has temporarily allowed him to see into the future and read his 2008-09 stat line.
Some people forget this now, but a shaken up Joseph actually left the game for several minutes. That forced Blues backup Guy Hebert into the game, ice cold and mid-way through a playoff overtime. He ended up making an outstanding save on Mark Osborne to keep the game live until Joseph returned at the next stoppage.
Hebert is a footnote in the story now, but imagine the reaction if he'd lost that game. Blue fans still whine incessantly about the 1996 playoffs, just because Nick Kypreos intentionally snapped Grant Fuhr's ACL one little time. Imagine how mad they'd be in the Leafs had snuck one by Hebert while Joseph was having his head glued back on.
The game ended up going into a second overtime, where Doug Gilmour finally ended it on perhaps the greatest OT goal in NHL history. Joseph would go on to steal three games and nearly the series, before finally bowing out in a game seven blowout.
A few more thoughts on the moment:
- Fifteen years ago, a guy getting kicked in the face was pretty funny. If the same play happened today Pierre McGuire would demand a national inquiry, Damien Cox would insist that the NHL expand the crease to the size of the NBA's three point line, and Professor James Cullingham would call on the NHL to ban skates. Instead, we all made Street Fighter II jokes and moved on with our lives.
- Not really related to anything, but did you know that Guy Hebert was an American, and that his name was actually pronounced "Guy Hibbert"? People assumed he was french and called him "Gee Hee-bahr" for his entire career, and he just went with it. That cracks me up.
- I get a little too excited for Leafs/Sens games this year, just for the chance of some sort of encounter between Joseph and Nick Foligno. Would Foligno try to finish the job his dad started? Or even better, would Joseph be looking for revenge? Wouldn't you love to see Nick Foligno standing on the blueline during the national anthem, only to be super-kicked Shawn Michaels style by Joseph? What would the NHL do, suspend a guy who never plays anyways? Do it, Curtis!
- You know you're having a rough series when getting kicked by a hockey skate at full speed is only the second worst thing that happens to your face.
- When Nikolai Borschevsky gets his own talk show, and Pinky Finger sits next to the guests flipping them off, I want each interview to end with a flying Mike Foligno kick to the unsuspecting guest's head. Why is this show not on the air yet?
Here are ESPN's highlights of the game, the only footage I could find on youtube. The flying roundhouse comes at 1:20.