May 28, 2008
1999: Stanley Cup Controversy
The year is 1999. The Stanley Cup is awarded to the Dallas Stars over the Buffalo Sabres, thanks to a famous/controversial game six overtime goal by Brett Hull.
All season long the NHL had strictly enforced a rule that prevent players from entering the goalie's crease. The play was to be whistled dead if any player occupied any of the blue ice without the puck having previously entered the area.
The rule was a disaster. So many goals had to be reviewed, taking out a lot of the crowd's enthusiasm whenever a goal was scored. Many goals were reversed for the tiniest of infractions. The players didn't like it. The coaches didn't like it. Most importantly the fans didn't like it. Only the goalies liked it.
When Hull scored the Stanley Cup winning goal, his left skate (perhaps more accurately a toe or two) was in the forbidden blue paint. But lost in the overtime euphoria of the Stanley Cup winning goals was the proper video review of the goal. The NHL's season-long zero tolerance policy likely would have disallowed the goal. But with celebrations ensuing and the dejected Sabres retreating, the NHL did not have the guts to call down and disallow the goal.
The raging controversy overshadowed two great teams in the finals.
The overachieving Sabres were of course led by the incredible goaltending of Dominik Hasek. Two-way warriors Michael Peca and Curtis Brown set the tone, while the team got some timely secondary offense from defensemen Alexei Zhitnik and Jason Woolley.
The Stars were a team built to win. They spent a lot of money on guys like goaltender Ed Belfour, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Sergei Zubov, Jere Lehtinen and team captain Derian Hatcher. GM Bob Gainey surrounded them with the amazing veteran presence provided by former Montreal Canadiens like of Guy Carbonneau, Mike Keane, Brian Skrudland, and Craig Ludwig.
But the key addition was Brett Hull. This season the Stars paid $17M over 3 years to pry him loose from the St. Louis Blues. He was brought in to score goals. And score goals he did, most notably two game winners in the finals.