Sunday, July 12, 2009

Maple Leafs Overtime Heroes: Mike Foligno vs. the Red Wings

This post kicks off a new series where we'll occasionally look back at memorable Leaf playoff overtime goals. Today's goal is Mike Foligno's winner against the Red Wings in game five of the 1993 playoffs, which gave the Leafs a 3-2 series lead.

Any Leaf fan over the age of 25 should remember Mike Foligno's overtime goal against the Red Wings. Probably the most famous goal of Foligno's long career, it served as turning point in the Leafs' eventual series win that launched the rebirth of the Leafs as quasi-contenders.

Heading into game five in Detroit, the series had been predictable: the heavily favored Wings had won two blowouts at home, while the underdog Leafs had won two squeakers at MLG. Mid-way through the game it seemed like the pattern would hold, as the Leafs were trailing 4-1.

Thanks to a furious comeback by the Leafs and some Toskalish goaltending by Tim Cheveldae, the two teams went to overtime for the first time in the series. And just two minutes in, this happened:

The video pretty much speaks for itself, and I could just end the post here. But I hope everyone realizes by now that that's not the way things work around these parts.

No, instead we're going to analyze the entire clip in ridiculous detail. Here are nine interesting things about this goal:

Probert's giveaway
The play starts with one of the worst overtime giveaways in recent memory. Bob Probert has an easy path out of the Wings zone, but sees a check coming from Foligno and throws the puck carelessly along the blueline instead.

Now a lot of people will criticize Probert for this one, but I'm going to defend him. Put yourself in his position. He's trying to make a play along the boards when out of the corner of his eye he sees somebody skating towards him wearing a Maple Leafs jersey with the numbers "1" and "7" on it.

Every other time this happened to Probert in his career, he spent the next few days trying to poop out shards of his own teeth. So I don't think you can blame him for going into full-on panic mode here. I think he actually showed a lot of restraint by not finding the nearest exit, sprinting down the hallway and pulling the first fire alarm he saw.

Anyways, the puck slides almost all the way across the ice before two players converge on it.

Clark vs. Lidstrom
Yes, that's a young Nik Lidstrom trying to stop Wendel Clark along the boards. Clark winds up with the puck. Lidstrom winds up with a nicely framed diploma, because he gets taken to school.

Here's an approximate transcript of Nik Lidstrom's thought process on this play:

"Here comes the puck, I should probably go and... oh god almighty, here comes Wendel. OK, stay calm. Hook him. Hook him again. Don't make eye contact. Hook him a third time. He's not stopping. Dear god why isn't anybody helping me? Now he just slammed on the brakes and left me standing here by myself. Good, I'm going to just aimlessly skate backwards and let somebody else deal with this. Hey, did somebody just pull a fire alarm?"
After Clark is done shrugging off a terrified Lidstrom he spins back and executes a backhanded saucer pass to a streaking Foligno, who Clark was no doubt able to spot because of...

Foligno's helmet
Three things you need to know about Mike Foligno's helmet.
  • He made it himself out of an old salad bowl.
  • It had a white stripe around it for absolutely no reason.
  • For his entire Leafs career, it was always a slightly different shade of blue than everyone else's
And yes, I listed those in increasing order of how much they annoyed me. And still do.

The goal
Not much to say about this one, except to point out that Cheveldae executes one of the great overtime "losing goaltender sprint off the ice" moves of all-time. I love those.

There are only two types of athletes who are allowed to react to crushing defeat by storming away as quickly as they can: sobbing five-year-olds whose parents signed them up for sports against their will, and NHL goaltenders. And when they build a hall of fame for losing goalie sprints, the first inductee will be Ed Belfour.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh right. Moving on...

The Foligno Leap
Every Leaf fan knows the Foligno Leap, and at least 25% have suffered a serious ACL injury trying to replicate it.

But here's a question: why did Mike Foligno have his own patented goal celebration? Has any other player in NHL history had a specific goal celebration that was unique ot them? I don't mean one-time deals like Ovechkin's hot stick or Selanne's air rifle, I mean specific celebrations that they did every single time they scored. I can't think of any.

Doesn't that seem odd to you? Journeyman grinder Mike Foligno somehow became the only player to get his own patented celebration. This would be like if the only NFL wide receiver to ever do an endzone celebration was Waybe Chrebet. And yet everyone in the hockey world was fine with this.

So Foligno does his leap, the Leafs pile onto the ice, and we get a rare sighting of...

Darren Puppa
Is it me, or is Puppa a little bit too involved in the post-goal celebration? He's only been on the team for a few weeks, but he's right in there, aggressively looking for somebody to hug but not finding any takers.

True story: I was once at a wedding reception with Darren Puppa. A friend and I decided to play a game called "how many reception pictures can you take that have Darren Puppa somewhere in the background?" After a few drinks, we were basically posing for pictures in his lap.

He probably hates me.

Alright then, moving on...

Todd Gill's celebration
This was an important goal scored by the Leafs during the 1990s, so you're no doubt assuming that Todd Gill was on the ice. And he was, as you can see on the right-side of the screen during the replay at the 0:50 mark.

Watch his reaction. When the goal goes in, Gill raises his arms in the air and appears to do a 360-degree twirl. He doesn't head for Foligno, or towards another teammate. He just stays where he is and spins around by himself.

It's a bizarre was to react to a goal, but it felt vaguely familiar to me. And then it hit me: arms raised... random spinning... no interaction with teammates...

Todd Gill is doing the goal celebration from NHL '93!

The only thing missing is an occasional fist pump, an annoying siren, and my college roommate desperately trying to check him headfirst into the boards from behind and then making me watch the replay of that seven hundred times.

Pat Burns' reaction
This is the single greatest "holy crap, I can not believe we actually won" reaction of all time. Burns doesn't even try to contain it. He can not believe the Maple Leafs actually won this game.

He's still smiling a minute later as the players are coming off the ice. He's in such a good mood that we get to see a series of awkward high five attempts, even though Burns is holding either a pen or a Virginia Slim cigarette. I think you can tell which players on the team were cool by how they react to the high-five. Doug Gilmour handles it smoothly, while Mike Krushelnyski has no idea what to do.

Also, Burns is wearing suspenders. I don't know why this makes it so much better, but it does.

The old man strut
At the very end of the clip, you can see Foligno leave the ice and walk into the dressing room. Except he doesn't walk. He lets out some sort of warrior scream, then proceeds to strut into the dressing room like he's Ric Flair fighting a stomach flu.

As an added bonus, Kent Manderville tries to leap into Foligno's arms but mistimes it and winds up awkwardly landing by himself.

Homework assignment: at some point this week, you must enter a room strutting like Mike Foligno. And that includes the pre-strut scream. I'd suggest a crowded elevator, a church service, or a conference room at work during a meeting you were not invited to. Report back here when done.

Update: Commenter kidkawartha adds a tenth moment: at 0:42, does Foligno seem to be... um... "getting to know" Bob Rouse?


  1. oh man Foglino, that goal was amazing

    also what the hell is up with Burns' tie? Im pretty sure he didnt always wear ridiculous pieces like that. Did Grapes lend him one for luck or something?

  2. At 0:42, Foligno gives Rouse a nice little butt-cheek squeeze.
    Also, Gill's celebration was patented back in the day in Cardinal, Ontario. It's a play on half the fans in the stands being too drunk to stand, so they spin, fall down and crack their heads open while their friends laugh their asses off.

  3. These days, the goalie that seems to storm of the ice the fastest after an OT goal is Tim Thomas; so fast is the Bruins goalie that he is often in the dressing room and out of his jock strap before the puck even crosses the goal line, though perhaps that's merely a result of him trying to make the save.

  4. Genius DGB! Can't wait for more of these.

    Sidenote: looks like Glenn Anderson got in on the man-love after Bobby.

  5. PS: NHL '93 - "watch, I'm going to make Gretzky's head bleed!"

  6. Awesome. Always loved that image of Gill and Foligno coming down the hall.

    Foligno was great. Unique in many ways: the helmet, the leap, the nose that went six different ways, smiling like a happy child through every interview. He was fun and easy to like.

  7. @kidkawartha: As someone who learned to skate in that very arena, that indeed sounds like Cardinal to me.

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  9. I have a game used Mike Foligno stick at home. I wanted the Bill Berg, cause he shoots right like me, but got Foligno instead. I like to think it's the stick that scored this goal.

  10. @lordosis...

    True story: I have a Bill Berg game-used stick.


  11. @ Peter Lynn
    Really? My family moved from the farm to Cardinal in '76- we grew up watching Todd play for the Broncos and my brothers and I played soccer with all the Scott and Gill brothers on that filled-in canal field in the town league. Fun times in a truly crappy little town.

  12. Somewhere I have an audio cassette of Joe Bowen calling this goal. His call is so energetic I suspect he too was doing the Foligno Leap in the Red Wings press box some 200 feet above the ice.

  13. Foligno had sat for one or more games earlier in that series and they asked him about it in the post-game. His response was something like "Pat told me, 'Mike, we're going to need you to come in and be a big hero, so we're going to make sure you're really well-rested.'"

    Not bad for spur of the moment.


  14. Quick trivia question: What company made the infamous Mike Foligno helmet?

  15. Re: update-
    The team that smacks ass together, wins together.

  16. @ Jaredoflondon

    No, but good guess. I think that helmet may have been the last piece of equipment this company produced, since the owners took one look at what they had unleashed on the world, burned down the factory, and took their own lives.

  17. Too easy!

    Foligno wore a Northland hockey helmet originally made for Stan Mikita. Lanny was another Leaf that wore it.

    I had one back in the 70s and 80s. Very comfortable, despite the odd design.

  18. @kidkawartha: Really! I've spent as little time as possible in that crappy little town since I was a kid, though. I spent much more time in the Brockville Memorial Centre, home to Todd Gill's new team, the Brockville Braves.

  19. Bill Goldsworthy also had his own celebration. I saw it on TSN after he passed away and started doing it myself. But I scored so little that it was soon forgotten.

  20. In case anyone's wondering, I spent way too much time trying to figure out which NFL receiver would be the best equivalent to Mike Foligno.

  21. I remember that game as my friends and I had left the sports bar we were watching it at when it was 4-1. As every diehard sport fan knows, you need to change your teams luck somehow so we changed venues to one of our buddies apt's and sure enough the comback was on. When Foligno scored at least 2 of us did the leap with him. Bar none this is still my favourite playoff series of all time.

  22. The Memorial Centre in Brockville is a bit of a dump considering it's supposed to be the big rink in town. I always hated playing there Saturday morning because they would never flood the ice enough after Braves games on Friday night and it was in terrible condition.

  23. LMAO DGB does it again hahaha you got all the boys at work doin that folino walk and scream man hahaha go leafs go

  24. My roommate - let's call him "Smitty" - in 1992/93 was a huge Sabres fan. As the playoffs approached, I believed in this Leafs team but Smitty was all trash talk. He cut up the Leafs continuously, making frequent reference to Foligno in particular and characterizing him as useless.

    One night, still prior to the commencement of the playoffs, over a series of refreshing beverages at the neighbourhood establishment, I challenged him on that point and opined that Foligno was a character guy who could be counted on for clutch scoring. Smitty mocked me further, and (in the way that guys do while enjoying a few lifters) our dispute escalated somewhat. This may be difficult to understand for some, but the end result of the evening's argument was that Smitty and I had made a wager: if Mike Foligno scored a playoff overtime goal, Smitty would "eat a piece of dog shit." Ahem.

    Fast forward to that fateful day; another buddy and I were at my folks' cottage watching the game together. When Foligno started doing the hop, I was jumping right there with him, only I was shouting "Smitty has to eat a piece of shit! Smitty has to eat a piece of shit!"

    The next thing I had to do that night was explain to my second buddy why my room-mate would have to eat feces as a result of a Mike Foligno goal. The next thing I have to do NOW is explain why I was rooming with a Sabres fan in the first place; on that count, I have to plead (a) poverty; and (b) stupidity, not necessarily in that order.

    Oh, and "Smitty" never made good on his wager. We don't talk much anymore. True story.

  25. Amazing story Junior, still laughing...