By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
It’s only Tuesday and the week already has more to unpack than the luggage I bring on a two-week trip. So, let’s dive right in.
When The NHL and ESPN reconciled – after over a decade apart – there were a lot of people who were rightly excited for the deal. People said viewership would increase – it did. Executives said more money would roll in – it has. But even with all that, nobody could have foreseen the additional benefits the sport would reap; like ESPN’s famed E:60 series bringing an exciting part of the NHL’s history to life for a new generation.
From 1995-96 to 2001-02, only four teams won Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils won once each. The Colorado Avalanche won The Cup twice and the Detroit Red Wings led the way with three Cups.
During that timespan, the Avalanche and Red Wings engaged in what was, inarguably, the best rivalry in all of hockey; perhaps even in all of sports. It started innocently enough and got heated real quick. To this day Kris Draper (Detroit) and Claude Lemieux (Colorado) have yet to reconcile. If you haven’t seen the play that started it all you can watch it below.
That one hit sparked a white hot rivalry that generated so much raw emotion that, two-plus decades later, it is still felt by many. ESPN’s E:60 Film Series decided 2022 was the right time to go in-depth on this rivalry and Sunday afternoon, June 26, 2022, the project was released to the world. It’s currently available on ESPN+ and is well worth watching; even if you don’t consider yourself a hockey fan.
I won’t spoil the two-hour-plus length film, but if you take a look at the following two clips you’ll begin to understand why this rivalry deserved its own documentary.
And Sunday night, in case the film wasn’t enough for you, there was more hockey to get excited about.
Several hours after “Unrivaled: Red Wings V Avalanche” aired, the Avs took on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay hosted the game and entered the evening desperately trying to keep its dreams of a three-peat alive. On the other hand, Colorado was attempting to clinch its first Stanley Cup championship since 2000-01.
What ensued was an excellently paced hockey game for the first 40-minutes; during which, the Avalanche came back from a 1-0 deficit to take a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. Those final 20-minutes of play were an absolute masterclass in team defense as Colorado smothered Tampa’s skaters, allowing the Lightning just four shots on goal. And when the clock struck 0.00 the Avalanche were champions for the first time in 21-years.
Oh and in all the excitement, Colorado managed to dent the base of The Stanley Cup as the team gathered for a picture. But hey, The Cup has been through worse and will be repaired in no time. So Colorado, it’s time to party!
Now, onto Monday…
It’s officially the NHL off-season, but that just means there’s no games being played on the ice. There are, however, plenty of games being played off the ice.
If that statement confuses you, please, allow me to clarify.
Monday evening The Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto announced its Class of 2022. I’m not going to disparage any of the newly announced inductees as they’re all plenty deserving of the honor. However, that doesn’t mean the voting committee shouldn’t be called on the carpet for its decisions.
But first, let’s say congratulations to The Class of ‘22. The Hockey Hall of Fame welcomes: Henrik Sedin; Daniel Sedin; Daniel Alfredsson; Roberto Luongo; Riika Sallinen and Herb Carnegie. All six individuals earned this highest of honors without a shadow of a doubt.
Now that the niceties have been observed, why the heck are Alexander Mogilny, Pierre Turgeon, Bernie Nicholls, Mike Richter and Stan Fischler still not in The Hall of Fame?!
These five men have been deserving of induction for years, decades in some cases, yet The Hall Committee refuses to give them their due. It’s a travesty to the highest degree. Normally, I would state their cases for you to decide for yourselves, but there’s not a hockey fan in the world who doesn’t know the accomplishments they each achieved during their careers.
It’s high time for the “secret” committee members to come out of the shadows and explain themselves. But, if they are determined to stay anonymous, then they should right their wrongs and put Mogilny, Turgeon, Nicholls, Richter and Fischler in The Hall!