Two December 31 | The Journal of Montreal
A great story of December 31 is that of 1988 and it takes place in the old Igloo of Pittsburgh, where a big guy from Ville-Émard is already at the peak of his career.
Mario Lemieux just turned 23 and his instructor, Gene Ubriaco, uses him practically on two lines. In the team, besides the Magnificent, there is another great star and that is Paul Coffey.
The others are average players, but who become very successful as soon as they skate with the big 66. That was long before Jagr, Recchi or Crosby.
On this last evening of 1988, it’s already a party in the building. The supporters are more and more numerous and we snatch the tickets to see the evolution of the phenomenon which demonstrates a unique talent, never seen before.
That evening, the Penguins welcomed the poor New Jersey Devils who were hanging out in the slums of the circuit, and it will be a festival of goals, with the game could not be more open.
Mario was going to achieve what will probably never be repeated in the history of NHL hockey.
His club won 8-6.
The great has participated in all the goals of his team. He had three assists and he had five himself.
And what is quite unique is that none of these nets were threaded under identical conditions.
First, five against five. Then, on the power play at five against four. The third arrived shorthanded, four against five.
Mario will then get a Penalty Shot. He will count.
End of the game, it’s seven to six for Pittsburgh; Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld pulls his goalie out and Mario throws into the empty cage.
This is how this story ends, the epilogue of which is worth noting.
Not only did Mario receive his family for New Year’s Day, but he had to finish this season (1988-1989) with 199 points, his best in career.
Another historic evening
Thirteen years earlier, in 1975, Montreal, Quebec and even Canada trembled with fear.
The Red Army club of the USSR aimed to spoil the New Year’s Day for the powerful Canadians in their temple, the Montreal Forum.
It was December 31, a little over three years after the great Series of the Century won by Canada, but narrowly.
We thought that if the best players in the NHL together had had so much trouble defeating the USSR, the Montreal Canadiens, as dominant as they were, still had no Phil Esposito, Paul Henderson or Brad Park in their lineup.
Especially since the Soviets, three days earlier, had easily disposed of the New York Rangers on account of 7 to 3 in Madison Square Garden.
Many will say that the Red Army-Canadian match of December 31, 1975 was one of the most exciting in the history of the Forum.
Final account? Null verdict from three to three.
Montreal’s best were all there and the same could be said of the Soviet side. A meeting that gave way to talent, strategies, speed, respect.
A very great match where Scotty Bowman’s men gave everything they had in the belly both in attack and in defense with a « Big Three » at the top of its form.
Only 13 shots to Dryden
In this game, Viktor Tikhonov’s players directed only 13 shots at Ken Dryden, but Boris Mikhailov, sensational Valeri Kharlamov and Boris Aleksandrov still scored.
For the Canadians, Steve Shutt, Yvon Lambert and Yvan Cournoyer managed to beat Vladislav Tretiak, who had been extraordinary, prodigious, with 35 saves during the game, including 16 in the third period.
Tretiak and Yvan Cournoyer had been chosen among the players of the match, and it was that evening that instructor Viktor Tikhonov declared that Bob Gainey was the most complete hockey player in the world.
In that eight-game series the Soviets came to play against NHL teams, they drew in Montreal, they were savagely beaten by Philadelphia (a dangerous and overly tough game) and Buffalo.
The Red Army defeated the Rangers, Bruins, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Islanders.
From the enclave
When the Washington Capitals are on the power play, 96% of the time Alex Ovechkin is on the ice.
It’s been over a year since Sean Couturier, of the Flyers, has not played a single game. He has had two back surgeries in less than 10 months, the last of which was last October. Maybe a return next March.
The Quebec Remparts are having a dream season with only five losses in regulation time in 33 games since the start of the season. The addition of Simon Gagne as assistant instructor patrick roy certainly should not harm.
Ryan Hughes, brother of Kent (general manager of the Canadiens), was drafted in the second round by the Quebec Nordiques in 1990, but he never broke into the NHL. In 1995, he played three games with the Boston Bruins… full stop.
The defender Alec Martinez (Vegas) is in a class of its own with its 132 blocked shots since the start of the season. Its closest competitor is Jacob Trouba (Rangers), who has 88. At the Canadiens, Joel Edmundson leads the team with 79.
Eight Quebecers play for the Syracuse Crunch, a branch of the Tampa Lightning. The big boss of the organization, Julien Brisebois, don’t hesitate to hire people from here. His deputy is Mathieu Darche. And Benoit Groulx leads the American League team with his assistants Gilles Bouchard and Eric Veilleux. Jean-Philippe Cote, former Canadian and son of Alain, works in the development of young Lightning. Well done, Julian.
Besides Maurice, Henri and now Anthony, two other Richards have played in the NHL: Jacques and Jean-Marc, with the Nordiques.
Fishing for channel fish in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade has begun. Live an unforgettable experience, everything is provided. If you don’t want to keep the catch, the edible fish left on the premises will be picked up by your outfitter and then taken to the Moisson Mauricie food bank.
In a friendly match for the 60 and over age group, the Bande à Jap’s de La Prairie beat the Gerihatricks 7 to 4. It smelled of Antiphlogistine in the locker room.