I remember exactly where I was nearly 17 years ago on May 24, 1994, at precisely 10:01 p.m. PST; a 10-year-old me, in flannel Rocko's Modern Life pajamas, was nervously sitting in the living room back in Brandon, Manitoba, with his nose pressed against a 20-inch Sony tube TV and fingers crossed on both hands.
My bed time was 12 a.m., which my mom emphatically reminded me just as the big had and the little hand were reunited, but I brushed her off with the classic statement/question “five more minutes?”
All I needed was 60 seconds.
All Greg Adams needed was 14 seconds.
As the second overtime began with the Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs even at 3-3 in Game 5 of the 1994 Western Conference Finals (Vancouver led the series 3-1), Doug Gilmour beat Trevor Linden off the draw getting the puck back to defenceman Jamie Macoun, who sent it across to Sylvain Lefebvre.
As soon as Lefebvre received the pass, Adams was all over him, knocking the puck away and right to Linden. The Canucks captain then carried the puck into the Toronto zone before being ambushed by Nikolai Borschevsky and Lefebvre, although he still managed to dump the puck back to the blueline, where Dave Babych was waiting, thunderous slapshot cocked and ready to roll.
Babych settled the puck and ripped a bullet on net that played tricks on Maple Leafs goaltender Felix Potvin. He made the save, but the puck jumped out to his right into empty ice.
That’s when Greg Adams became a household name.
Adams had a step on Dave Andreychuk in front and before Andreychuk could get a stick on the Canucks forward, he backhanded the puck past Potvin stickside and in.
“There was no time to think, it was more of a reaction than anything,” said Adams, who will be celebrated when the Canucks host the Chicago Blackhawks on February 4th.
“We started that second overtime period and the first thing that I remember is just being exhausted and I was thinking ‘okay, settle down, you’ve got to give everything you have because you never know what’s going to be the outcome.’
“Linden had the puck at the half boards and he gave it to Babych and he just got a shot on net. It wasn’t a real hard shot, but for some reason Potvin had trouble controlling it and all I remember was I had to go to the net, I knew the puck was going to the net, Babych was always good at getting it on the net, so I was going to go to the net and for some reason the puck came right out to me and I just backhanded it in.”
What ensued, to quote Canucks radio legend Tom Larscheid, was an “instantaneous explosion of jubilation happening at the Pacific Coliseum.”
I cheered like never before, you cheered like never before, the sell-out crowd of 16,150 cheered like never before, and Adams…well, he threw his arms into the air and glided into the glass, amazed.
“As soon as I scored I was going towards the corner and I looked and saw all the fans jumping up and down I kind of went right to them, right to the three people sitting in the corner, I kind of wanted to celebrate with them because they were the first people I saw. I just jumped into the glass and then everyone came on top of me from there.”
Fireworks were set off as the Canucks piled onto Adams, the players suddenly filled with rush of adrenaline moments after sucking wind.
The celebration that ensued in the Canucks dressing room, according to Adams, wasn’t so much one of loud music and champagne showers as much as it was a break in the insanity of the playoffs to rejoice in the relief of having made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
By Game 5 of the Western Conference Final, travel had become an issue for the Canucks following series wins against the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars. Another trip back to Toronto, what with the five hour flight and three hour time change, could have spelt doom for an already weary Vancouver team.
With the Canucks falling behind 3-0 to the Maple Leafs after the first period of Game 5, you’d assume the panic button would have been broken, but the players never doubted themselves or their ability to get the job done.
“I remember everyone’s biggest thought was that we had to win this game because we didn’t want to go back to Toronto, if we had to go back it could have been a different outcome, so being down 3-0 made it almost a desperate situation and you could feel it in the dressing room.
“The weird thing was that we had won so many overtime games and so many close games that playoffs that we all felt that we were going to win every game, it was just a feeling we had, you didn’t know how it was going to happen, but you always felt that way. It’s the first time I’ve been on that type of run where you’re so confident about the team that you’re with and that you were going to win hockey games.”
Murray Craven, Nathan LaFayette and Adams scored in regulation, the latter notched with 2:03 to play in the 2nd period. Not surprisingly, it’s the series clinching goal that Canucks fans remember most of Adams, not his tying goal that same game or his overtime game-winner in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.
When the biggest goal of your career is one of the most important goals in team history, it’s to be expected that fans want to relive it with Adams.
“That’s just how it goes,” laughed Adams. “A lot of the avid Canucks fans remember me for more than just the goal, I played in Vancouver for eight years and was a part of this team for a long time, but that goal is definitely the one that I’m branded with and I don’t mind that at all. People remember you for a couple of important things, things that were eventful in their lives.
“Vancouver and Canucks fans have always been very respectful towards me and have shown me a lot of kindness, so it’s sure a nice feeling and I respect how much that goal has meant to a lot of people.”
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