McSorley tells his side of '93 stick incident
By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- First things first. Yes, Marty McSorley still has the stick.
Presumably it's somewhere in his house in cozy Hermosa Beach, near Los Angeles, but McSorley didn't divulge details.
"I have it," McSorley says.
Is it on display? Hidden away in a closet?
"I have it," McSorley said Sunday as laughter filled the room. Pressed further, he said, "It's not on display."
A few minutes earlier, McSorley completely let the air out of a conference room full of reporters, who were gun shy before McSorley piped up with, "Let's get the big elephant out of the room here."
It didn't take much prodding to get McSorley to talk about an incident that is forever etched in the minds of Los Angeles Kings fans. McSorley was penalized for using an illegally curved stick late in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final; the Montreal Canadiens tied the game during the power play and won in overtime.
Montreal then won the next three games for its 24th Stanley Cup, while the Kings went 19 years before making it back to the Final until this season.
McSorley has been reluctant to talk about the episode at length, but earlier this week he did an in-depth interview with the Los Angeles Daily News and, after numerous media requests, sat down with a group of reporters Sunday at the Kings' practice facility.
McSorley mainly wanted to tell his side of arguably the most painful moment in Kings history.
Los Angeles, coming off an incredible Game 7 win in the Western Conference Finals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, was poised to take a 2-0 series lead against Montreal. It was leading 2-1, with fewer than two minutes remaining when Montreal coach Jacques Demers, in an effort to essentially salvage the series, asked officials to measure McSorley's stick.
The curve exceeded the maximum under NHL rules, and McSorley was sent to the penalty box. The Canadiens pulled goalie Patrick Roy for a 6-on-4 skating advantage, and Eric Desjardins tied it with 1:13 remaining. Desjardins scored 51 seconds into overtime and the series was tilted in Montreal's favor.
McSorley said that the Canadiens knew he had an illegal stick because they wheeled the Kings' stick rack into their locker room.
"I think that [former Kings coach] Barry Melrose, [former player] Luc Robitaille, [former trainer] Peter Demers, different guys, have basically said what happened: We all know that they pulled the stick rack into their locker room," McSorley said.
"That's honest and that's frank. Am I sitting here complaining? No. But that is what happened."
McSorley didn't want his comments to come across as a blast at o the Canadiens. He called new Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin a good friend. But he feels that, over the ensuing two decades, "there's been a degree of sensationalism, a big degree of sensationalism. And I don't think there's been a lot of honesty. Did I have an illegal stick? Yes, I did. Did I stand up after the fact and say, 'Listen, I had an illegal stick?' Yes I did."
The details tend to get lost. McSorley's penalty only allowed Montreal to tie the score. If the Kings scored in overtime the incident would have gone down as an interesting footnote. L.A. still got out of Montreal with the series tied 1-1, but the Canadiens won Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles, both in overtime.
McSorley came to the Kings from the Edmonton Oilers as an ancillary piece in the Wayne Gretzky trade in 1988 because Gretzky wanted to retain McSorley as a bodyguard. McSorley's game wasn't pretty. He wasn't a great skater and the puck always seemed to be on its edge when he shot it. But he was smart and tough, and his hard work and willingness to defend his teammates endeared him to Kings fans.
The incident made him a polarizing figure, though, as many L.A. fans blame him for the Kings losing their first shot at the Cup. McSorley said he doesn't have an issue with the fans but he told the Daily News that he does get irritated when they bring up the stick, even in a joking fashion.
He wants them to know what he claims is the complete story. Without comment from members of the 1993 Canadiens, his accusation is just that – an accusation. But McSorley is adamant.
"Would they have called somebody else?" McSorley said. "I think, probably. Because they knew – there were numerous guys. I think we treated it at that time at almost like [former baseball player] George Brett's [illegal] pine tar [bat]. To make a call like that is really, really gutsy. To find out later that they knew, and how they knew, was really, really disappointing.
"I think you have to ask the fans, 'If Marty wasn't on the ice, would they have called somebody else?' They would kind of go, 'I never thought [about] that.'"
As McSorley talked, the Kings were practicing below. McSorley works as an analyst in Canada and he said he thoroughly appreciates breaking down this Kings team. He would much rather talk about the current Kings than the stick incident, but after two decades – and numerous text message requests directed at his wife – McSorley wanted to get it out there.
If the Kings did win the Stanley Cup it would mean "a great deal" to McSorley in the bigger picture. The Gretzky era in Los Angeles facilitated the expansion to Anaheim, San Jose and the southwest.
"It kind of validates to people outside of L.A. how strong hockey is in Los Angeles right now," McSorley said. "I mean, the number of kids that are playing, the quality of the minor hockey that is played. And that doesn't happen overnight. That happens over a long period of time."
Does McSorley feel that Cup would absolve him of the illegal stick?
"I don't think I need anything to be absolved from."