Fifteen years after his Los Angeles Kings ripped the hearts out of the Maple Leafs and their fans, Barry Melrose is here to patch things up.
Melrose returns tonight as the new coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, having made only sporadic visits since May of 1993. That seven-gamer was the last playoff series he'd win with the Kings, denying Pat Burns, the Leafs and a manic city their best shot at returning to the Stanley Cup, before or since.
The Melrose bravado, powered by positive thinking advocate Tony Robbins, drove Burns nuts. After Marty McSorely wiped out Doug Gilmour in Game 1, the two coaches started a war of words and gestures, including Burns mocking Melrose's shaggy haircut, Melrose puffing his body up for the cameras, insinuating the hefty Burns was overweight.
Melrose was gone from coaching within two years. His wit earned him a long-standing TV gig in the U.S. and when Hollywood businessmen Oren Koules and Len Barrie took control of the Tampa Bay Lightning this year, they brought his wildcard act out of the studio.
"I think that was one of the best series the NHL has had in the last 30 years," Melrose told the St. Petersburg Times. "Wayne Gretzky having one last kick at the Cup, two high-profile teams and Toronto thinking that was the year they were going to the Cup final.