Minnesota North Stars

Book excerpt: Phil Bourque on assisting Lemieux’s magnificent goal

This excerpt from If These Walls Could Talk: Pittsburgh Penguins by Phil Bourque with Josh Yohe is printed with the permission of Triumph Books.  For more information and to order a copy, please visit Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Bookshop.org, or www.triumphbooks.com/WallsPenguins.

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Heading into the 1991 Stanley Cup Final, we respected the North Stars but definitely felt like we were the better team. They made the playoffs with a sub-.500 record and, somehow, got hotter than hell and pulled off a bunch of upsets in the playoffs. When the series began on May 15, we were feeling good about ourselves. Really good. 

Then, of course, we lose Game 1. Our fans were upset, but we really weren’t. Honestly, we were so comfortable in that position. We probably wouldn’t have known what to do if we had won the first game of a series. But we had an issue in all those Game 1 losses: we gave up a ton of goals. We played a loose game defensively and lost 5–4. We fell into bad habits early in all those series. It was our instinct just to see how many goals we could score and, quite honestly, that was good enough on a lot of nights. There’s firepower, and then there’s the kind of firepower we could produce. Only when we got in trouble did we really start to bear down defensively. 

Game 2 was a different story and gave us the greatest goal of Mario’s career. I’m proud to say I assisted on it, even if I made the degree of difficulty a little greater. We were up 2–1 in the second period, but the North Stars were starting to press us. We weren’t comfortable just yet. And even though we absolutely thought we were the better team, we couldn’t lose that game. Fall down 2–0 with the first two games at home and you’re pretty much screwed. 

Tommy made a save and the puck caromed off his pads, like always. You always had to be aware of that with Tommy. His pads were a little different, and off them, it was like the puck was pretty much bouncing off boards. So, I corralled the rebound. Then, I heard a noise. I knew exactly what that noise meant. The big guy wanted the puck. 

Mario had different kinds of yells, and we all knew them. Normally, he would give you a certain yell. It was his way of telling you, “You have time, just give me a crisp pass.” That was the ordinary Mario yell. But every now and then, you’d get a different one. It was more of a loud yip. Short. Loud. More direct. That’s when you knew to get him the f—— puck. So, I heard this noise, and, even though we were in our own territory, I knew to give him the puck as quickly as possible. I only needed to hear it once. It was different than any noise I had ever heard him make on the ice. He really, really wanted this puck. So, what did I do? I got him the puck. It wasn’t a good pass. In fact, I never looked at him. I had a feel for where he was, so I just delivered it in his direction. Remember, Mario had the longest reach of just about anyone who ever played, so I knew if I got the puck somewhere in the 412 area code, he was going to be fine. I just threw it in his direction. The pass was well behind him, but it didn’t matter. He never even broke stride. He reached back and gathered the puck. It didn’t matter that the pass I threw him was a grenade that was almost out of reach. What happened next was hockey history. I was on my way to the bench after I made the pass, but I paused for a second and got a good look at what happened, because I knew he was about to do something special. He never disappointed you in that way. I don’t know what it was, and I actually don’t think he could even tell you why those moments popped up. But every now and then, Mario just felt like putting on a show. I truly believe he had no control over it. For whatever reason, it just happened organically. That was one of those moments. He was absolutely flying through the neutral zone and two defensemen were left in his way, Neil Wilkinson and Shawn Chambers. Those poor bastards never had a chance.

Earlier in the game, Mario had a similar rush and they shut him down. It wasn’t about to happen twice. He put the puck right between Chambers’ legs and blew through both of them. Then, for reasons I’ll never understand, Jon Casey tried to poke check Mario. He kept trying to do it all series. Good luck. Mario went to the backhand and that was that. Never in my life have I, nor will I ever again, see a goal like that. Time stood still for just a moment. On the bench, all we could do was laugh and say, “Holy s—.” That’s it. We had nothing else to say. 

Everyone has their favorite Mario goal, and there have been so many: 

  • The day in Quebec when he carried players on his back and scored
  • The day he saved our season in overtime in Washington in 1988
  • Going between Ray Bourque’s legs and beating Andy Moog
  • The Game 1 winner in 1992 against the Hawks
  • His breakaway against the Flyers in 1997 in what we thought
    was his last home shift
  • The Canada Cup clincher in 1987

Hell, there are hundreds of others to pick from, because no one scored highlight-reel goals like the big guy. Not even close. But that goal was special, both for the remarkable athleticism it required and because of the timing. Game 2, Stanley Cup Final. It’s a close game, we’re in a little bit of trouble, and we desperately need to win. And he pulls off a goal like that. Give me a break.

At that moment, I truly believed we were going to win that series, and I wasn’t alone. We all believed it. If we were playing a powerful team from the Campbell Conference like the Blackhawks or Oilers, it would have been a different story. But we knew we were better than Minnesota. 

My Favorite Goal: Lemieux’s end-to-end masterpiece; Hextall scores again

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers and personalities remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, we have two selections from our NHL on NBC analysts. First, Patrick Sharp’s choice is one of the NHL’s most famous goals.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins holding a 2-1 lead in the second period of Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final, Mario Lemieux took a pass from Phil Bourque and proceeded to make mince meat out of the Minnesota North Stars. Shawn Chambers, Neil Wilkinson and Jon Casey had no chance at defending “Le Manifique.”

The Penguins would go on the win the game 4-1 and the series in six games to take home their first Stanley Cup title.

Our second choice is from Keith Jones, who picked a goal that made NHL playoff history.

A year and a half after Ron Hextall became the first goaltender to actually shoot and score a goal, he became the first to do it in the playoffs against the Washington Capitals. The Philadelphia Flyers netminder had always wanted to score in a game and was going to take advantage of every opportunity that was presented.

While Billy Smith was the first goalie to be credited with a goal, no NHL netminder had shot the puck down the ice at an empty net and scored until Hextall first accomplished the feat in Dec. 1987 against the Boston Bruins. He was the first to do it twice.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL
McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
Malik’s stunning shootout winner
Paul Henderson scores for Canada

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Video: Wild honor J.P. Parise with a video tribute

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The Minnesota Wild honored the late J.P. Parise with a video tribute prior to puck drop against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

Parise, the father of Wild forward Zach, passed away on Thursday after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

The Wild are also wearing a No. 11 decal on their helmets.

Parise spent parts of nine seasons with the Minnesota North Stars scoring 154 goals and 396 points in 588 games.

Hall Call: Hasek, Blake, Forsberg, and Modano make up 2014 Hall of Fame class

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The 2014 Hockey Hall of Fame induction class is one for the ages.

Dominik Hasek, Rob Blake, Peter Forsberg, and Mike Modano have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame for their storied careers as players.

Hasek was a six-time Vezina Trophy winner and a two-time winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP while with the Buffalo Sabres. He’s also been a member of two Stanley Cup winning teams in Detroit with the Red Wings in 2002 and 2008.

Blake played for 20 years with the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, and San Jose Sharks and won a Stanley Cup patrolling the blue line with the Avs in 2001. He scored 40 or more points in 12 seasons in the NHL and was a Hobey Baker Award finalist at Bowling Green.

Forsberg was as dominating a force as could be found in the NHL during his 14 seasons in the NHL. He was the Calder Trophy winner in 1995 and won two Stanley Cups with the Avalanche in 1996 and 2001. Originally a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, he’ll forever be linked with Eric Lindros as part of the monster trade that sent Lindros to Philly and the building blocks to Cup winners to the Quebec Nordiques. He won the Hart Trophy in 2003 and won two Olympic gold medals with Sweden in 1994 and 2006.

source: APModano was the face of the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise over 21 out of his 22 seasons in the NHL before finishing his career at home in Michigan with the Red Wings. In his career he piled up 561 goals and 1,374 points, the most ever by an American-born player. His crowning achievement came in 1999 winning the Stanley Cup with Dallas beating Hasek’s Sabres.

Also joining those four are longtime coach Pat Burns who was elected as a builder and referee Bill McCreary who was selected for his work as an official.

Burns was a three-time Jack Adams Award winner as coach of the year and won his lone Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 2003. He’s forever known as being the face of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1980s and ’90s.  He also led the Boston Bruins for four seasons in the late ’90s. Burns finished his career in 2004 with a career winning percentage of .574 but passed away in 2010 from cancer.

McCreary spent 27 years as a referee in the league working 1,700 regular season games and 282 playoff games. Known for his mustache and no-nonsense style, he earned the respect of everyone throughout the league and was often the man called on to officiate the biggest games. He also worked the 1998 and 2002 Olympics and earned the call to work the gold medal game in both tournaments.

USA Today’s Kevin Allen and CSNChicago’s Pat Foley are the 2014 Media Honorees. That group will be inducted on Monday, November 17 in Toronto.

Best and worst sweaters of all-time: Dallas Stars

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All right, listen… Not all sweaters can be big winners and remembered forever. The Stars have a nice look to what they’ve got and throughout their history in Dallas they’ve done well embracing the black and green. Unfortunately, they’ve got a much better looking past to contend with among NHL fans outside of Dallas.

Instead of picking one side or the other here to suck up to, I’ll make sure to tick everyone off in some way. Here’s to hoping that Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, or Neal Broten don’t show up at my door and punch me in the gut.

Best: I’m going to do my best to not pick a Minnesota North Stars sweater here because those days are over. With that stipulation in the way, I’m going to side with their current road sweaters that have “DALLAS” emblazoned across the front with the number on the front of the sweater with it. This sweater in particular started as their alternate sweater, but the look was so good already on their home blacksweater, they had to double their pleasure by putting it on the white as well.

It’s a look that goes against the grain for most NHL sweaters and it often reminds fans a bit too much of the NFL. The crazy part here, it’s a good look. It’s clean, has the Stars logo on the shoulders, and looks seamless. Black, green, and gold are the main colors for the team, but the white sweaters pop with ferocity.

Worst: When you create an alternate sweater that instead of making fans and curious on-lookers think of constellations and the heavens the way it was supposed to, makes them think of cows and female reproductive organs, you’ve failed. The “mooterus” sweater is one that rather than being a hockey sweater is an awkward test of human psychology; like an ink blot test that everyone calls out for being “fallopian tubes” instead of “cattle constellation.” It’s awkward, it’s ugly, it makes everyone squirm in their seats because they’re thinking of seventh grade health class.

Old-timey favorite: All right, now it’s time to talk North Stars. Perhaps the saddest part about Norm Green screwing over the fans in Minnesota when he moved the team to Dallas is that we were forced to lose the Minnesota North Stars sweater. With the perfect logo, the fun color scheme, and a look that lives on to this day as a popular one for NHL fans, it’s one I’m still sad isn’t around on the ice night in and night out. It’s one of those perfect sweaters from the 70s and 80s that everyone can say that they love. Much like the Whalers and Nordiques, when the North Stars moved away part of hockey’s heart went with it.

Assessment: The Stars’ current sweaters are great. They’re boring, but they’re great. The home black sweater is just as good as the road white and while the logo isn’t the biggest part of either. While the logo lives on in their white alternate sweater (one that features their great secondary logo on the shoulders as well) the Stars just don’t have that sort of iconic look to them even in spite of winning the Stanley Cup in 1999. I’m sure fans in Dallas will disagree with me on this and hate that the North Stars are even mentioned here, but you’re going to have to deal with it.