As previously mentioned, I am not a Montreal Canadiens fan, but June 9th, 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of their 1993 Cup championship, so here’s a guest post by Fantasy Sports insider Drew Farmer discussing why that Cup victory remains special to this day…
Why the 1993 Montreal Canadiens Cup Victory Remains Special Even 25 Years Later
By Drew Farmer | Twitter: @DrewMFarmer
It has been 25 long, frustrating years since a Canadian NHL team has won the Stanley Cup. It seems unfathomable. How could a team from the country that eats, sleeps and breathes ice hockey have not won Lord Stanley’s Cup in over two decades?
It has been 25 years of hurt as Canadian hockey fans have had to look enviously south at the clubs in the United States. The country isn’t even cold in some of its major hockey markets. Nashville, Tampa Bay, Dallas and Vegas have all seen more success in the last two decades than Canada’s club teams. But it wasn’t always that way.
Canada’s last great team
The 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens were the last team from north of the border to win the NHL Stanley Cup. The Canadiens were the last in a long line of great teams from the Great White North. Just a few years before Montreal’s triumph, Canada dominated the middle to late 1980s thanks to the Edmonton Oilers five Stanley Cup wins in seven seasons.
The 1970s had belonged to Montreal, who had recorded six title wins during the decade of disco. Four of those Stanley Cups came in consecutive years as the Canadiens flexed their muscle.
Those iconic days of Canadian dominated hockey are done. It left along with the old-school style of the league and its hardnosed, hard drinking, hard playing players. It has been replaced with glitz and glamor, something the NHL tried long to repel to no avail. Now, it is the glitz and glamor that has taken over the league and brought success to teams in the lower 48 states.
The Great Canadian Dry Spell
On Wednesday night June 9, 1993, the Montreal Canadiens etched their names into NHL history for the 24th time. Kirk Muller’s second period goal turned past Los Angeles Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey secured the win for Montreal. Although the Canadiens won Game 5, 4-1, it was Muller who tallied the game winner as he achieved a dream all Canadian boys grow up with.
The iconic goal scored by Muller is well remembered by fans of the Canadiens, especially with every passing year that goes by without another Montreal Stanley Cup win.
Since Montreal hoisted the cup on that famous June night 25 years ago, just five Canadian teams have reached the playoff’s final series. The Vancouver Canucks have done it twice, while Calgary, Ottawa and Edmonton have accomplished the feat once each.
No Canadian team has returned to the NHL Stanley Cup finals since the 2011 Canucks. The team took the series to seven games before Montreal’s archrivals, the Boston Bruins, finally defeated them.
Montreal’s rode to the ’93 Stanley Cup final
Coached by Jacques Demers, Montreal was good during the 1992-93 season, but the team wasn’t great. The Habs’ bench boss had seen plenty of NHL games and playoff series by the time he took over the Canadiens in 1992 – but he had never taken a team to the Stanley Cup finals. Demers’ last head coaching job had ended in 1990 as his Detroit Red Wings missed out on the league’s playoffs.
If Montreal fans weren’t excited for Demers’ appointment they could be forgiven. The Canadiens had finished second in the Prince Wales Conference the previous season and under coach Pat Burns, the club was continually one of the NHL’s best.
In each of Burns’ seasons as Canadiens coach, he led the team to the second round of the playoffs. Yet, each season the team ran into its old rivals, the Boston Bruins. Between 1989 and 1992, the Bruins eliminated the Canadiens in the second round of the playoffs three years running.
Burns frustrations were at record levels and the media’s continued pressure in Montreal led to the coach’s breaking point. Burns stepped down in the summer of 1992, ushering in Demers.
At one time, making the NHL playoffs in Montreal was the club’s God given right. While other teams struggled to put together winning seasons and hopes lived and died on making the postseason, it was a foregone conclusion that the Canadiens would qualify each year. The team had last missed the playoffs in 1970 and under Demers, the team’s run of consecutive years in the postseason continued.
Montreal finished fifth overall in the conference. It was good, but not great. In the Stanley Cup playoffs first round, the Canadiens came up against the Quebec Nordiques. It was a showdown of the province’s two ice hockey clubs. It was a bitter battle for bragging rights in the area, and it was won by the Canadiens. Down 2-1 in the series, Montreal won Game 4 in Montreal. Back in Quebec City, Montreal took its rivals to overtime. There, the Canadiens won away from home, 5-4. The shocked Nordiques couldn’t overcome the loss and Montreal put the team out of its misery days later in Game 6.
Due to the Buffalo Sabres four games to zero series win over the Bruins, Montreal was denied the chance to beat its archrivals. After three straight years of being denied in the second round by Boston, Montreal blitzed the Sabres in four straight games. The series win took Montreal to the conference finals and a date with a former great franchise, the New York Islanders. Montreal would win Games 1, 2 and 3 before the Islanders were able to draw blood. The wins to open the series pushed Montreal’s playoff win streak to 11 games. A Game 4 loss was followed by an emphatic Montreal 5-2 win. The Stanley Cup final was set with Montreal taking on Wayne Gretzky and the Kings.
Although Montreal had dominated its playoff series, the team fell victim to the Kings in Game 1. Call it over confidence, arrogance or just bad luck, but the Kings tallied four goals against a nearly impenetrable Canadiens defense.
Three straight overtime games would follow with the Canadiens getting the upper hand in each game. Montreal returned home for Game 5 with the Kings up against the ropes. The Kings were punch drunk and exhausted, and by the end of the second period, Muller had connected with the knockout punch.
Legacy of the 1993 Canadiens
The Canadiens’ legacy grows with every NHL season a team from north of the 49th parallel doesn’t win the Stanley Cup. A generation of ice hockey fans have seen teams from the United States dominate the NHL. A generation of ice hockey fans have continually seen Canadian clubs fail in the NHL playoffs. A generation of ice hockey fans have no idea how great the Canadian teams of the 1970s and 1980s once were.
Canada is no closer to recapturing its past NHL glories. It is a drought that has seen the country’s national pastime become the hipster sport of a generation of Americans.