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.
Marty McSorley's eyeball in my lap!
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.
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.