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37 FOR 37: THE CUP

It was the single-biggest moment in Flames history - hoisting Lord Stanley's mug on the hallowed ice of the Montreal Forum

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / calgaryflames.com

Making history, unseating royalty, partying like there's no tomorrow, can be dangerous in unexpected ways.

"(Theo) Fleury,'' recalled back-up goaltender Rick Wamsley years later, thinking back to the chaos inside the dressing room of the venerated Montreal Forum that singular night, "opened a champagne bottle and the cork hit me right in the eye. From eight feet away.

"Almost knocked me out.

"Then I went looking for my championship hat, right? You know, the kind everybody wears with the tag attached?

"And they were gone. I just wanted to know: 'Where's my damn hat?!'"

Arguably the most telling image from that unforgettable scene was of warhorse Brad McCrimmon. A thin, snaking line of stitches marred the bridge of the uncompromising defenceman's nose. He was missing a tooth.

But the smile was as wide, as full of promise, as the prairies he hailed from.

That's what it meant. That's what it took.

With his team on the verge of clinching, Flames' general manager Cliff Fletcher had flown in a slew of family members to share in the moment.

"I got a picture that night of me kissing the Cup with my dad beside me,'' two-goal hero Doug Gilmour reminisced in 2014. "You talk about it being years ago. Life changes and he passed away a year and a half ago.

"That one's on my phone and I look at it. Often."

So much had gone into it. The near-disaster of Vancouver in the opening series. Sweeping Gretzky and the Kings in Round 2. Coach Terry Crisp doing his Spiderman impersonation on the glass to plant a kiss on Norma MacNeil, wife of Al, after an Al MacInnis semifinal Game 6 winner at Chicago Stadium.

Hopping out of the penalty box to accept a diagonal Joe Nieuwendyk pass and snap the go-ahead, 2-1 goal behind Patrick Roy, the look of utter joy on the face of Lanny McDonald as he peeled away in celebration.

Doing the unthinkable: Becoming the only invading team, ever, to lift the Stanley Cup on the hallowed ice of the Montreal Forum in front of the devoted Canadiens' faithful.

"Sure we had a great team,'' conceded Crisp. "Big, strong, deep. But people just assume with teams like ours that year that all the coach has to do is yell 'Next line!' once in a while and make sure the gate gets opened.

"I'd lay awake nights wondering what lineup to use. Who plays? Who sits? We'd won a President's Trophy, won individual awards … but without the Cup they didn't mean doodly-squat."

In McCrimmon's mind, the road to the moment of vindication actually began in the wake of an embarassing four-game slapdown by the Oilers in the previous springtime's opening round.

"It all started then,'' he maintained. "Being beaten by Edmonton. It was a painful, humbling experience. We had such high hopes but sometimes it takes a real hard kick in the rear to get people to understand what it takes.

"And we had that boot-mark on our behinds from the Oilers right up until the clincher in Montreal."

In this town, it remains the standard, a team for the ages: First in points (117), second in offence (354 goals), second in team defence (226 allowed), first on the powerplay, second on the PK, 32-4-4 at home, two 50-goal scorers (Joe Mullen, Joe Nieuwendyk), a Lady Byng Trophy and Emery Edge - top plus-minus - winner (Mullen), a first All Star Team selection (Mullen), two seconds (Mike Vernon, Al MacInnis) and, as a capper, a Conn Smythe Trophy winner (MacInnis).

 Culminating in May 25, 1989.

"The whole year,'' summed up Nieuwendyk neatly, "was storybook."

 

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