Sixteen years ago tonight, this happened:
Yes, the infamous Wayne Gretzky high-stick. Or, more specifically, the infamous Kerry Fraser non-call.
I've written about that fateful game six before; how Wendel Clark played the greatest game of his career, how he almost managed to carry the Leafs into the Cup final on his back, and how Fraser's gutless copout took it away from him. I won't go over all of that again in detail here, mainly because that's what the restraining order says.
So let's just stick to the facts: Gretzky high-sticks Gilmour, the rulebook says it's an automatic five and a game, Fraser and his linesmen huddle up and then decide that nobody saw anything, and Gretzky scores the OT winner seconds later.
Years later, Fraser finally came clean to the Toronto Sun and admitted that he blew the call. Sort of.
"I was blocked out on the play," Fraser said. "The replays show that."
In reality, of course, the replay clearly shows the exact opposite. At the moment that Gretzky's stick clips Gilmour (0:05 of the video above), Fraser has an absolutely clear view of the play, and is looking directly at it.
He wasn't blocked out. He didn't miss it. He saw it, but he didn't have the guts to call it.
Let's be clear: Bad calls happen. Missed calls happen. They're part of sports. And there was no conspiracy here, no secret plot to get a big market US team into the finals and avoid an all-Canadian matchup.
No, this was just one official, staring down the biggest call of his career, and finding himself without the courage to make it.
And of course, this being the NHL, Fraser was never held accountable. He even got the Finals assignment that year. After all, who better to work the biggest games of the year than somebody who'd just finished choking on their whistle?
(Update: Go here to see the NHL's official response to the blown call.)
And the media, for the most part, forgot all about it. Oh sure, they bring it up every now and then -- complete with a shake of their head and a finger-wagging for those silly Leaf fans, always living in the past.
Next year will be the final one of Kerry Fraser's career. As the season winds down, count on reading plenty of feel-good fluff pieces about Fraser's fine body of work, and how much he'll be missed.
Don't believe a word of it. He's a coward and liar, and no Leaf fan should forget or forgive.
Until then, feel free to print this and hang it on your wall today.