Friday, July 15, 2011

Maple Leafs Overtime Heroes: Todd Gill vs. the Blackhawks

Maple Leafs Overtime Heroes is an ongoing (kind of) series where we'll look back at memorable Leaf playoff overtime goals. Today's goal is Todd Gill's controversial winner against Chicago in game two of their 1994 playoff series.

Ref? Ref! This guy just dropped
Marty McSorley's eyeball in my lap!
The Maple Leafs opened the 1994 playoffs with a first round matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. That series opened with a surprisingly lopsided 5-1 victory in game one that started with a Wendel Clark goal from the redline and ended with Robert Dirk squirting blood all over the ice thanks to Todd Gill.

Game two wouldn't be so easy. After being embarrassed in the first game, Ed Belfour shut the door in game two. But so did Felix Potvin, and a duel between two of the better goaltenders in the league saw the game still scoreless heading into overtime. Staring down wave after wave of snipers, Potvin and Belfour traded stunning stops, each one better than the last. Neither would blink. Neither would yield. Nobody, it began to seem, was going to find the net on this night.

Then a defensive defenceman scored on a sixty-foot, unscreened, five-hole slapshot.

Wait, what?

Well, I may have left out one little detail. Let's go to the replay.

Hmm, Eddie Belfour seems a little upset. Whatever could have happened?

We find out in the second half of the video, with Global Sportsline explaining how the goal went in: Just as Gill lets his shot go, Wendel Clark reaches out and taps the end of Belfour's goalstick. It's a subtle tap, but just enough to open up Belfour's five hole right as the puck arrives.

The play was controversial. Wait, no, that's not the right word, since it's obvious Belfour is 100% right and the Hawks were robbed. What's the word I'm looking for? Hilarious! The play was hilarious.

Let's look at some of the best moments from the clip.

Todd Gill - Let's get this out of the way first: Todd Gill was awesome. Yes, I realize some Leaf fans didn't appreciate his game because he wasn't flashy and didn't seek out the spotlight and would occasionally give the puck away four or five times each shift for an entire month. Those fans are wrong. Todd Gill was awesome. He just was. Yes he was. YES HE WAS! (Throws laptop through window; opens up backup laptop; watches the "If You Want Blood" video three dozen times; throws backup laptop through window.)

Seriously, he was. If you don't agree, go find one of those anti-Gill web sites because you sir are not welcome here.

Belfour's reaction - You have to give the Eagle credit here. Most goalies would try to get up before pleading their case, but not Eddie. He starts frantically looking around and waving his arms while still sitting on his bum. He's like a toddler who just had his favorite toy stolen away from him, if by "toddler" we meant "NHL goalie" and by "favorite toy" we meant "rightfully earned playoff shutout".

Clark's reaction - Not only does he completely ignore Belfour's hysterics, but he does the arms-up-in-the-air-360-degree-spin celebration from NHL 93. The only difference from the video game is that his sore-loser opponent isn't trying to body check him as many times as possible before the celebration ends.

The officials - Referee Bill McCreary arrives to find out why Belfour is upset. Linesman Mark Vines arrives to listen in on the conversation. Kevin Collins arrives because god forbid there be one hockey play from the 1990s that doesn't involve a wide-eyed Kevin Collins showing up and then looking around frantically for no reason.

The most obscure guy in the pile - I'm going with Kent Manderville, only because I can't get a visual confirmation of Ken McRae. The Leafs probably locked him in the dressing room for overtime.

Harry Neale - "Is Wendel Clark in the crease when Gill shoots it?" (Replay filmed from 9,000 feet away that makes it impossible to tell if Clark is anywhere near the crease or even in the building.) "NO!"

Bob Cole - Say, would you be interested in hearing Bob Cole react to the Blackhawks' complaints with a sarcastic "Whatever"? Yes, yes, I thought that you might. He drops it here at around 1:38.

Here's my question: Did kids say that back in 1994? I don't think they did. I don't remember that becoming 90% of the average pre-teen's vocabulary until a year or two later. Which means I think Bob Cole might have been ground zero for the phrase right here. Is that possible? Does Bob Cole have that kind of influence? I guess we'll know for sure next year if snotty kids are rolling their eyes at their parents and shouting "Everything is happening!"

Pat Burns - Immediately after Cole's "whatever", we see Clark conferring with Burns to explain why the Hawks are complaining. Burns considers the information, then says "Hmm, they may have a point, and if I was in their shoes I suppose I'd be upset as well."

Just kidding. Burns responds with an exaggeratedly pained reaction and waves dismissively at the ice while saying, if my lip-reading skills are accurate, that the Hawks should go vacuum themselves.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Pat Burns era.

The post-game report - For the fallout we got to Global Sportsline, which was one of the greatest television shows on the early 90s. Put it this way: If you can listen to this guitar solo without picturing guys with afros making diving catches on bright green astroturf then you missed out on the Sportsline era and you are poorer for it. Yes guy!

For this story we throw it to reporter Don Martin, who either has one leg that's six inches shorter than the other or is being filmed by a cameraman who's watched too many Adam West-era Batman reruns. We then cut to comments from Belfour, the role of whom is apparently being played tonight by a young Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Finally, we get comments from Hawks' coach Darryl Sutter who criticizes the non-call before mentioning how impressed he is by the Leafs overpaid fourth-liners and asking whether they'd want to trade them for his best two young defencemen.

This game was a crucial one in what turned out to be a tight series. The Hawks evened the series with a pair of wins at home in games three and four, before the Leafs scored back-to-back 1-0 wins to advnce in six games. (Historical note: Game six was also the last one ever played at the old Chicago Stadium.)

Felix Potvin's three 1-0 shutouts in a single series is arguably the greatest playoff performance by a Leafs goaltender in the modern era. His three shutouts in one series wouldn't be equalled by another Leafs goalie until 2004, when it was done by... Ed Belfour.

Belfour will enter the Hall of Fame this year. On November 12, he'll be introduced to the crowd at the ACC during a pre-game ceremony as part of the traditional HOF weekend. He'll get a loud ovation, wave to the crowd, possibly tear up slightly. Then Wendel Clark will sneak up behind him with a hockey stick and tap his belt just enough to make his pants fall down, and we'll all laugh.


  1. This is a classic DGB post.

    Full of love for the early 90's Leafs and not a bullet point list anywhere.

  2. "Gets him on the shaft, opens the five-hole and in goes the winner."


  3. Good to see Darryl's eloquence in interviews hasn't changed over the years.

  4. What are the chances this was the start of Belfour's drinking problem?

  5. I missed these more than any grown man should

  6. I give you a lot of credit, DGB; a lot of fans wouldn't be willing to come out and admit your team was on the winning end of a bad call. Much respect for that.

    Also, I give Belfour a lot of credit for not immediately slashing someone behind the knee or cup checking them.

  7. I'm 37 years old and have been a life-long Leaf fan. But I only ever managed to get to one live game at Maple Leaf Gardens.
    This one.
    Quality, not quantity. :)

  8. FYI, the YouTube video isn't showing up in the National Post version.

  9. Also, I remember Potvin made a ridiculous save in either the first or third period (I'm inclined to believe it was the first) where he dove across the crease and just got the puck with the tip of his glove.

    (Actually, go to 0:35 of this to see the save I'm talking about. Cherry says it's Ruuttu but I'm positive it was Paul Ysebaert who shot the puck).

  10. Todd Gill- the stuff hockey dreams were made of, and soon to be the next Stanley Cup winning head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
    I see Eddie's point, BUT the more I look at the shot, it appears to go in off the inside of his right pad or skate and a slightly tapped goal stick wouldn't have made any difference. It's a weird shot that I think he misplayed just slightly.

  11. DGB post of the year.

  12. "Sutter who criticizes the non-call before mentioning how impressed he is by the Leafs overpaid fourth-liners and asking whether they'd want to trade them for his best two young defencemen."
    As a Leaf fan I'm embarrassed I don't know who's mentioned here. Can someone answer the riddle? Who are the 2 4th liners and Chicago's best young d-men?

  13. Welcome back, DGB! Nice to see the Buds front and centre again. :)

  14. @Anonymous who posted at 4:12 PM: it's a reference to Sutter's later brilliance as a GM in Calgary. You know letting Phaneuf go for "depth" (aka 4th liners).

  15. At first I was a little off put by what seemed like a serious hockey business is serious post.

    Then it just takes the fuck off. I wasn't a hockey fan back then (late bloomer, late, chunky bloomer) but retrospectives like this are great to read and hilarious.

  16. Great to see you back to doing what you do best, DGB. Love the retrospectives.

    And yes, Todd Gill was awesome. The only guy more awesome was - is - Bob Cole.

  17. Hahaha, after I watched the video I hoped there would be a Darryl Sutter dig. Well done.

  18. The two best young defensemen were Phaneuf and Aulie, and the 4th liners were Mayers, Hagman, and Stajan.

    Wendel reacting like a guy who didn't do nuthin' as was just happy to be on the ice was the goal was classic, as was this post.

  19. Sooo... that makes the gretzky call that year a make up call from the first round?

  20. NHL 93! J.R. should have been able to stop that play...

  21. Damn, I loved Todd Gill. I think I loved everyone who was on the 1992-1994 Leafs, though.

  22. @@YDsean: Gretzky's non call was 1993.

  23. OT heroes and great obscure moments were my two favourite articles that you wrote. Here's to hoping you continue to write more like this one in the future.

  24. I don't want to say definitively that you're right about Cole and "whatever", but the movie Clueless, that most would say pioneered the word, didn't come out until 1995.

  25. Curse you DGB! And curse Todd "No Skill" Gill!

    [shakes fist]

  26. Also, to answer the question of the guy took the Darryl Sutter thing seriously, the coveted fourth liners were Mike Eastwood and Peter Zezel.

    The Hawks defensemen in question were Ivan Droppa and Keith Carney.

    You're welcome.

  27. "Did Clark touch it? ...Doesn't matter, the Leafs won it." Love it

  28. More of these kinds of posts, please! I'm not a Leafs fan, I' root for the Kings, but I started to get interested in hockey around 1992/93, so it's sort of nostalgic reading about that time.

    Excellent work!

  29. Sportsline was the greatest sport show ever. My favourite memory was watching with my dad and trying to get through for the trivia question at the end on a rotary phone...we never won.

  30. There you go, DGB. The Maple Leafs lost a series on a bad call, then won a series on a bad call. Karmically, you're even. Let us never hear about how Toronto got jobbed in 1993 ever again.

  31. @kidkawartha: getting tapped would likely have messed up Belfour's concentration at least a little, enough to cause him to slightly misplay the shot. So either way, Clark's play certainly contributed to the goal, if not being the primary cause.

  32. A sportsline reference? YES GUY!!

  33. Top shelf, where they keep the peanut butter!

    This post is absolute vintage DGB. Newer peeps to this blog should search the DGB archives for my all-time favourite post - May 12, 2009: Great Obscure Moments in Leafs History - Gary Leeman vs. Denis Savard

  34. i was at that game with my mother. yes my mother. in fact, i have the faded ticket stub in my desk drawer. greys for $37.50. beauty.

  35. Hawks fan from Switzerland here...

    Thanks for this! I really miss the old Hawks - Leafs battles of the early 90s.

    Back then we could hardly watch any NHL action over here. It's just plain beautiful to rewatch all that stuff on YT now. And your blog just adds to the excitement!

    Just watched the 'last game at Chicago Stadium' vid at 5:40 your hero shakes my heros hand. Just loved it.

    Hope the Hawks will meet the Leafs in a playoff series again soon... ;)

  36. in games three and four, before the Leafs scored back-to-back 1-0 wins to advnce in six games

    Typo in advance

    But one of the best DGB posts I've ever seen.

  37. Todd Gill was an excellent professional ice hockey defenceman. He is a dedicated person for hockey. I like him.