Deep-Sixing the Habs

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:33 AM ET

Forget the fact the Olympic Saddledome would be worked into a frenzy if they returned for a seventh game.

The Calgary Flames weren't interested in waiting any longer.

"Yep, the sooner, the better," recalled former Flames skipper Terry Crisp. "Believe me, if you had your way as a coach, you'd take it in four straight. If you had your one wish with the hockey gods, you'd say, 'Give it to me in four.' "

A sweep was already out of the question, but when the Flames settled into their beds at a Montreal hotel on May 24, 1989, they knew they were on the verge of something they'd been dreaming about since they first laced up skates -- winning a Stanley Cup title.

With a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Campbell Conference champs were optimistic they'd be returning to Calgary with the hardware in hand.

"When we were flying out there, I knew we were going to win," said stay-at-home blueliner Jamie Macoun. "I think the team all believed that if we just go out there and play our best, we're going to win that game, and it doesn't matter if it's by one goal or 10 goals, we know we're going to win. Really, that's my memory of it -- that we were going to win that game."

The Flames and Canadiens split the first two games at the Saddledome before the series shifted to Montreal and the Habs eked out a 4-3 victory in double overtime, handing the Flames their first set of back-to-back losses since December.

Calgary evened things up with a 4-2 triumph in Game 4, then served up another victory for the Stampede City faithful to move within 60 minutes of sipping from Lord Stanley's mug.

Through five tilts, the last all-Canadian Stanley Cup showdown had certainly lived up to its billing as a see-saw battle between two teams stacked with stars.

"We always felt we had a larger edge in the play," said Flames co-captain Jim Peplinski. "Maybe that's my memory playing tricks on me -- the older I get, the better we were -- but my recollection is that it didn't need to be as close as it was."

As if Crisp's crew needed any extra motivation in 1989, the veterans still remembered the feeling of watching the Habs spin laps around the Saddledome with the Stanley Cup after finishing off the Flames in Calgary three years earlier.

To top it off, there were constant reminders no visiting team had ever clinched the Cup in Montreal's storied stadium.

Tim Hunter, a born-and-raised Calgarian who was drafted by the Atlanta Flames, was still fuming about the way his club was treated at an afternoon banquet in 1986.

"You're David against Goliath, and they treated us like also-rans," Hunter said. "When we went in there and they had the Stanley Cup luncheon, they quickly introduced us in about 30 seconds and they took about a half-hour to introduce the former Canadiens that were in attendance and then all their players on their roster and all their great achievements.

"It was kind of a slap in the face and we didn't get a lot of respect. So we knew in 1989 we had the better team and we weren't going to show the Canadiens any respect because of the Forum, because of the past Stanley Cup wins."

Crisp doesn't exactly recall being treated like royalty in 1989, either, at least not by the general public.

"Whenever you went out in the streets or walked into a restaurant or whatever, the fans knew exactly who the Flames were and who the coaches were," Crisp said. "I think it's a good thing I didn't understand much French."

WES.GILBERTSON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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