MONTREAL - From 1979 to 1995, hockey fans across the province reveled in meetings between the Canadiens and Nordiques. Even after the Habs' provincial rivals left for Colorado, the intensity of the rivalry still remains, all because of one contentious question 20 years after the event: was Alain Cote's goal good?
Here's how the story unfolds. On April 28, 1987, with the series tied 2-2, the Canadiens and Nordiques face off at the Forum in the fifth meeting of the Adams Division final. Brian Hayward against Clint Malarchuk in nets. With five minutes left in the game, the score is 2-2.
Cote, No. 19 for the Nordiques, sprouts into the Canadiens' zone, faking out defensemen Craig Ludwig and Chris Chelios before taking a shot that would find its way past Hayward. But, at the same time, Mats Naslund and Paul Gillis collide near the net and Gillis makes contact with the Canadiens' goaltender.
Without hesitation, referee Kerry Fraser waves off the goal, much to the ire of Cote, Nordiques fans, and above all head coach Michel Bergeron.
Even though he had just celebrated his fifth birthday, one person who doesn't need any description of the event is the son of the guy responsible for the famous disallowed goal, Jean-Philippe. A member of the Canadiens' farm team in Hamilton for the past four years, the younger Cote could easily give the replay with his eyes closed.
|Jean-Philippe Cote and Alain Cote have often had talks about that famous day in April 1987. |
"I have to say that as a family, the question has definitely made its rounds, to the point where the subject's been put to rest," said a smiling Cote. "Occasionally though, friends do bring it up. After all, it's one of the defining moments in the Canadiens-Nordiques rivalry."
The Bulldogs defenseman, who is currently sidelined with a left ankle injury, would have liked to have seen the goal count, and not just to see the Nordiques take the win over their Highway 20 rivals.
"Bergeron would have loved for that big goal to count and for my father to get some acknowledgement for his efforts," explained Cote. "My dad spent his career working hard in the shadows of the Goulets, Statsnys and Hunters. That goal would have given him some recognition."
Nevertheless, certain circumstances can change one's opinion.
"I've seen the goal often and I always disagreed with Kerry Fraser. But since I've been a part of the Canadiens organization, I bug my father about it from time to time," said Cote. "I tell him, 'Your goal wasn't even good.' We go back and forth a bit and then we laugh."
With 2:39 left in the frame, Ryan Walter secures the Canadiens' win in the historical contest. Montreal would fall 3-2 in Game 6 at the Colisée before heading home for the seventh and deciding game, where they'd send the Nordiques packing with a 5-3 triumph.
Heather Engel is a writer for canadiens.com