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September 13, 2014

1987-88: Canada Cup Magic

The Three Stars:

Gretzky....to Lemieux! - Three exciting 6-5 games decide the 1987 Canada Cup final between Canada and the Soviets, with the teams splitting two overtime verdicts. It may have been the best hockey ever played. The score is tied 5-5 late in game 3 when Canada's Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Larry Murphy get a 3-on-1 break. Gretzky feeds a perfect pass and Super Mario fires the puck past goalie Sergei Mylnikov at 18:34, sending fans at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum into hysteria. It's a coming of age moment for Lemieux, who scores the deciding goal in both Canadian wins. In fact it is in many ways a passing of the torch moment from Gretzky to Lemieux.

Donuts - Donuts have a rich history in hockey, what with the success of Tim Hortons etc. But donuts leave a negative connotation on the game following a 6-1 New Jersey Devils loss to Boston in game 3 of the Wales Conference final. An angry Devils' coach Jim Schoenfeld confronts Don Koharski after the game, calling him a "fat pig" and suggesting he "have another donut!" Schoenfeld is suspended by the NHL, but gets a court injunction and is back for game 4. NHL officials refuse to work the game and amateurs are used in their place. Wearing yellow practice jerseys, it is one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history. And to make matters worse, NHL president John Ziegler can't be found.

Coffey Traded To Pittsburgh - Edmonton Oilers GM Glen Sather makes the first move in the eventual collapse of the Oilers Stanley Cup dynasty. Demanding to re-negotiate his contract, two time Norris Trophy winning defenseman Paul Coffey, who had been sitting out, is traded in late November to Pittsburgh in a 7 player trade that included Craig Simpson going back to Edmonton.

Season Highlights -
  • Not that the Coffey trade hurt the Oilers immediately. They rolled through the playoffs and won their fourth Stanley Cup title in five years. Oddest moment came in game four when a power outage forced the game, which was tied 3-3 late in the 2nd period, to be replayed in its entirety.
  • By his standards it was not a great year for Wayne Gretzky. A knee injury sidelined him for 16 games, costing him both the Art Ross and Hart trophies, both of which he virtually owned since entering the league. Gretzky finished with "only" 40 goals (the first time he failed to reach 50 in his career) and 149 points. He was extra strong in the playoffs, however, scoring 43 points and winning the Conn Smythe trophy for the second time. Gretzky also surpassed Gordie Howe's all time record for assists with 1049. Howe set that over 26 season. Gretzky took 9 seasons.
  • Mario Lemieux stayed healthy all year (he missed 4 games) and scored an amazing 70 goals, 98 assists and 168 points, taking him the Art Ross and Hart for the first time.
  • Craig Simpson started the year playing with Mario, but ended the year with Gretzky. How's that for linemates. Actually in Edmonton he played mostly with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson, and it was instant chemistry. Simpson score 43 goals in 59 games with the Oilers, and finished the year with a combined 56 goals.
  • LA Kings super-sophomore Jimmy Carson finished third in goals with 55. Calgary Flames rookie Joe Nieuwendyk wowed with 51, while teammate Hakan Loob also hit 50.
  • Ron Hextall, who started the year with an 8 game suspension for slashing Kent Nilsson in the previous Stanley Cup final, becomes the first goalie to score a goal by actually shooting it into the opposition net. 
  • The NHL honoured King Clancy by establishing an award in his honour for "the player who best exemplifies leadership on and off the ice and for making noteworthy humanitarian contributions in his community." Lanny McDonald of Calgary was the inaugural winner. 
  • Ray Bourque famously switches jerseys from 7 to 77 in order to retire 7 for Phil Esposito.

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