1993 NHL playoffs

Why the ’93 Habs’ Cup victory remains special (guest post)

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…

K.P. Wee

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.


A look-back at the career of Paul DiPietro, 1993 Stanley Cup champion with the Montreal Canadiens

Let me first say this to get it out of the way: I’m not a Habs fan and I have never been a Habs fan. Growing up, I loved the Bruins and I thought Denis Savard (who played for Montreal in the early 1990s) was awesome – but I never rooted for the Canadiens in 1993. 

Having said that, the Canadiens’ 1993 Stanley Cup run is a part of hockey history, and that championship is magnified every spring when the last Canadian-based team alive is eliminated – as no Canadian team (not Montreal Canadiens, but Canadian, period) has won a Cup since then. Even if I am not – and was not – a fan, it’s a story that still must be discussed. 

June 9th, 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of the Cup clincher. To “celebrate” that, here’s sportswriter and blogger Rajan Nanavati with a guest post, discussing the career of forgotten Cup champion Paul DiPietro – an unsung hero who was a key contributor during Montreal’s 1993 run. 

K.P. Wee

The Interesting, Long-Lasting Hockey Life of Paul DiPietro

By Rajan Nanavati

In life, we tend to be so focused on where we’re going, that we often forget to take a step back and enjoy the journey.

If we could give advice to former NHL player and Stanley Cup champion Paul DiPietro, we would do so. While he was one of the stars of Montreal’s championship in 1993, it was a long and twisted road for DiPietro to get there.

In 1990, the Montreal Canadiens selected DiPietro with their fifth-round pick (102nd overall) in the NHL Draft. Despite scoring 119 points in 66 games as a member of the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), DiPietro lasted that long largely in part because of his size, or lack thereof — he was only 5-foot-9, which didn’t exactly give him the idea frame of someone destined for a long career in the league.

Like most rookies, DiPietro spent his entire rookie season playing with the Fredericton Canadiens — also known as the “Baby Habs” — of the American Hockey League (AHL). But, it didn’t take long for the “big league” Canadiens to realize that they might have a future contributor on their hands. In DiPietro’s rookie season, he had 70 points in 78 games, which included 39 goals.

Clearly encouraged by what they saw, DiPietro spent his next two seasons splitting time between Fredericton and Montreal, playing at last 29 games for the NHL club in both years. In fact, his 17 points in 29 contests during the 1992-93 season solidified a spot for DiPietro on Montreal’s postseason roster, as the Canadiens finished with the third-most points in the Prince of Wales Conference standings.

That decision would unquestionably pay dividends for Montreal. After the Canadiens found themselves in an 0-2 hole against the favored Quebec Nordiques, with the local media even saying that the Canadiens should consider trading away future Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy, Montreal turned the tide in the series, winning the next four straight games. DiPietro would help Montreal clinch the series in emphatic manner, as he tallied a hat trick plus an assist in Game 6 of the series, giving Montreal the 4-2 series win.

In Game 1 against the Buffalo Sabres in the ensuing series, DiPietro picked up where he left off, adding another goal and an assist in Montreal’s 4-3 win. His goal in the first 6:23 of the second period helped give Montreal a 3-1 lead in the game. You could say that helped Montreal start off on the right foot against Buffalo, as they swept the Sabres in a series that lasted only six games.

In the Prince of Wales Conference Finals, DiPietro added two more goals and an assist in Montreal’s 4-1 series win against the New York Islanders. His goal in Game 2 helped tie the score up late in the second period, and Montreal would add another in the third to secure the win. DiPietro scored again in Game 4, though Montreal ended up suffering their lone defeat in the series; he was the only score for the Canadiens in their 4-1 loss.

Montreal then advanced to the 1993 Stanley Cup, giving them their third appearance in the league’s final series in a decade. However, while Montreal did most recently make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1989, they were on the losing end of the series, suffering a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames; it was only the second loss in the Stanley Cup in 33 years for the franchise that has been to and won the most Cups. Montreal had most recently won the Cup in 1986, but nothing after that.

The series had an added layer of intrigue, as Montreal would be facing off against Wayne Gretzky – “The Great One” himself – and the Los Angeles Kings. Gretzky had led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships, but hadn’t been to the Finals after being traded to the Kings – until now.

Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, and the Kings got off to a fast start, with Robitaille tallying two goals and Gretzky dishing out three assists (and a goal of his own) in the Kings’ 4-1 win over the Canadiens. But LA’s celebration would be short-lived, as Montreal would end up winning the next four games straight.

Ironically, in a series featuring the game’s greatest player in history, DiPietro is the name whom the history books will likely remember, as he scored two goals in the deciding Game 5 of the series, giving Montreal a 4-1 win in the game and the series. DiPietro scored the first goal of the game, and when Los Angeles tried to make a comeback while trailing 3-1 in the game (and the series), DiPietro scored the last goal of the game, which was effectively the nail in the coffin of the Kings.

Members of that Canadiens team that won in 1993 have all lauded how DiPietro emerged as one of the stars for Montreal in that series. Others commented on how DiPietro contributed as a fourth line or reserve player, giving them the types of clutch goals and key plays that are needed from guys deep on the roster in the postseason.

The hero of the 1993 run would go on to play another two seasons with Montreal; in the year after DiPietro helped Montreal win the cup, he registered a career-high 13 goals with the Canadiens. But two seasons later, Montreal traded him to the squad that was “persona non-grata” to any hockey fan in Quebec: the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Unfortunately, DiPietro bounced between the NHL and the minors once again, eventually culminating in the Leafs trading DiPietro to the Los Angeles Kings (in something of an ironic twist). But his career alongside Gretzky was very short-lived, as he spent the vast majority of his time in the IHL, with teams like the Phoenix Roadrunners and Cincinnati Cyclones.

But if you think that was the end of DiPietro’s career, you couldn’t be more wrong. DiPietro went on to play another 16 years of professional hockey, the vast majority of which took place in Switzerland. It wasn’t until 2014 when we officially saw DiPietro retire.

1993 Playoff OT Magic…

Thanks to awood CHV for posting the following video on YouTube. It’s a video showing overtime goals from the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs.

When I was writing The End of the Montreal Jinx, I got the chance to chat with former Hab Gilbert Dionne, and I had to ask him the question… Did the puck really touch his stick in Game 3 of the Buffalo series in the second round? “It sure did,” Dionne told me without any hesitation when we chatted in 2014.

That’s exactly what he said all those years ago, including in the video above. Great stuff!

Note: I do not own the video above. No copyright infringement is intended. I’m merely sharing its link here so that others can re-live this particular playoff year. Thanks to YouTube user awood CHV for making this video available. 

The End of the Montreal Jinx: Boston’s Short-Lived Glory in the Historic Bruins-Canadiens Rivalry, 1988-1994 can be purchased here.