Cheated, Not Defeated: Nine Years Later
Hello, children. Do you know what today is?
If you’re a Sabres fan, this date should be etched in the depths of your emotionally tortured heart.
It’s been nine years.
“I believe everybody will remember this as the Stanley Cup that was never won in 1999.”
— Joe Juneau, Buffalo Sabres
Nine years later, and it’s still bullshit.
Yes, fans, nine years ago tonight was the sixth game of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. It’s been nine years since the Sabres got hosed out of their chance at a Stanley Cup. Nine years since the Sabres were as close as they have ever been to being champions. Nine years since the worst officiating/public relations job in professional sports history.
Before you go freaking out on me for still being upset about it, I’m going to point out a few things.
- It was Game 6, Dallas led the series 3 games to 2. They just needed one win. Had the Sabres won Game 6, it would’ve gone back to Dallas for Game 7, where the Stars had completely dominated Game 5 to push the Sabres to the brink.
- It was the 3rd overtime. The Sabres had plenty of chances to finish the game (see: James Patrick hitting the crossbar in the 2nd overtime) and they couldn’t. Sad that I still remember that happened, huh? To quote Seth in Superbad, “People don’t forget.” Don’t you love being a Buffalo sports fan?
- The Sabres did not lose the Cup because of it. Had the goal been called back as it should have been, the Sabres would not have been awarded the Cup.
The Sabres got cheated out of a fair shot. They did not get screwed out of winning. The long and short of it is they were screwed out of the opportunity.
That opportunity is too rare to take lightly. The Sabres were established in 1970. 37 seasons in the NHL, just two Final appearances.
That team was special. Of course, the Sabres did have possibly the greatest goalie in the history of the game, Dominik Hasek. But there weren’t any other stars on the team. While Miro Satan did score 40 goals that year, the three guys who tied for the team lead in goals during the playoffs were Stu Barnes, Curtis Brown and Dixon Ward. These weren’t superstars. It was a team full of glue guys who would do what it took to win. There was more will than talent in that lineup.
The Sabres shocked the hockey world by stealing Game 1 in Dallas on Jason Woolley’s overtime goal. Dallas promptly took Game 2, and then Game 3 in Buffalo. The Sabres tied up the series by taking Game 4 on Ward’s second period goal in a 2-1 win, with Hasek stealing the show. The Stars dominated Game 5 to pull within one game of their first Stanley Cup.
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You all know what happened. Game 6 doesn’t need to be relived.
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Hull scored with his foot in the crease. By the rule the NHL had written, and by the interpretation used all season, it shouldn’t have counted.
It really was a stupid rule. The NHL knew it. After this fiasco, they got rid of it “faster than you can say Jack Robinson”. The dumbass rule wasn’t even called consistently throughout the season. There was so much gray area, it was bad for the game.
The worst part about the whole thing was the NHL trying to cover their own ass.
They said they reviewed it (BULLSHIT.) like they review every other goal. That explains why the review booth was shown empty on CBC seconds after the goal was scored. They really must’ve been studying it.
“I really think that if we had scored a goal like that, it would have been called back,” Juneau said. “I think because it was a goal that gave them the Stanley Cup, everybody jumped on the ice and they were afraid to make the call.”
They said the rule was clarified in a memo sent earlier in the season (BULLSHIT. It was never produced.) and said it was okay. Good to know the NHL would randomly alter rules to fit their needs. They wouldn’t even admit they screwed up, which to me, was the hardest to comprehend. Bettman just acted like it never happened.
When Ruff confronted Bettman and demanded an explanation for the crease call, the coach said he received none.
“Really, he just turned his back on me,” Ruff said. “He almost looked to me like he knew this might be a tainted goal and there was no answer for it.”
It still is tainted, and there still is no answer.
How could a major professional sports league award a champion on these terms? The league came off as bush-league in the way they handled it, and for all the good Gary Bettman has done for the Sabres (like, really, save them from moving out of town, and getting a healthier CBA) he will always be remembered for turning his back on the city of Buffalo in a time of question.
Of course, all this is irrelevant if Brian Holzinger wasn’t such a pussy and knocked Hull off the puck instead of dancing around him trying to knock the puck away.
It’s a shame that it happened at all. The 1999 Finals were regarded as one of the best in years after the previous finals ended in sweeps without contest. It was a tight series. Dallas definitely deserved to win the Cup, no argument there. Problem is, they were given it before the series was fairly completed.
It shouldn’t of counted, and I’ll be waiting for the puck to drop for that next faceoff until the day I die.
Man, I need a drink.