Monday, September 26, 2016

1983 Lewis Cup Finals

Before it even began, the 1983 Lewis Cup Finals promised to be spectacular. Each team had finished first in their respective conferences and there was no shortage of compelling storylines. Danny Stevenson and the Stingers, determined to redeem themselves after the disappointment of ’82, and the Chicago Shamrocks, equally determined to win one last championship for their dying founder. Game one in Chicago was face-paced and very physical, as both teams sought to establish themselves early on. Danny Stevenson scored first for Pittsburgh, but the lead didn’t last long. Two goals from Gaganov just six minutes later gave the Shamrocks the lead. Eventually the game went into overtime, where Rudy Hunter proved to be the hero, giving Chicago a 1-0 series lead. After the Shamrocks took game two 5-4, The Stingers felt the pressure to win at home. Stevenson totaled three goals in games three and four while Nate Carroll added two of his own including the eventual winner in a 3-0 victory in game four. The series was now tied 2-2.

Heading back to Chicago for game five, Pittsburgh knew they had to figure out how to win at home if they hoped to take the series. The two teams went goal-for-goal throughout regulation, leading to yet another overtime game. Early in the first overtime, Vladimir Gaganov found himself on a breakaway. The crowd rose out of their seats and began to cheer, until Jakob Martensson stopped him cold with an unbelievable glove save. Martensson and Massey both refused to yield despite golden opportunities for both teams. One overtime turned into two, then three, then four. In the fifth overtime, the game finally appeared to be over when Pittsburgh’s Terry Willis finally beat Tim Massey but rung it off the post. The marathon had already set a new record for longest game in Lewis Cup history when it went into a sixth extra frame. Four minutes into the sixth overtime, Stingers Defenseman Dave Ritter’s point shot finally found the back of the net. The exhausted Stingers slowly left the bench to celebrate. It was now almost 3:00 AM local time, yet most of the fans stayed to the bitter end. It was a heartbreaking end to an epic contest for the Shamrocks, but they knew they had to put in behind them quickly as they now faced a must-win game six in Pittsburgh.

Given the unusual circumstances from game five, league president Alan Garcia made a decision to move game six back one day to give the teams an extra day of rest. The Shamrocks received a surprise just prior to game six. Fred Garfield Sr., despite his quickly failing health, had made the journey all the way to Pittsburgh. “This team is my life” said Garfield to a reporter. “I won’t be going anywhere until they finish the job.” The Shamrocks came out flying in game six. Defenseman Marcus Ekman scored early, then rookie Graham Boswell scored to give Chicago a 2-0 lead. The Stingers would not go down easy though. Stevenson scored his sixth of the series to bring the game within one, then assisted on a Dave Breedon goal to tie the game. Tension continued to build throughout the third period before Dave Hawthorne, the only player left on the Shamrocks that the senior Garfield had recruited himself, scored to put Chicago up 3-2. Seconds later, another veteran, Don Newman, put the Shamrocks up by two. Pittsburgh made a desperate push as Nate Carroll scored to bring the game within one. With 1.8 seconds on the clock, Danny Stevenson fanned with a wide open net. Chicago barely held on to force game seven back in the Windy City.

18050 nervous fans packed into Lincoln Sports Arena on May 30, 1983 for what would turn out to be one of the most classic games in PHL history. The Lewis Cup was in Chicago for the first time since 1965 and the home fans were determined to see their beloved Shamrocks finally take it home. Danny Stevenson and the Stingers had other ideas, however. Stevenson once again opened the scoring for Pittsburgh, yet failed to quiet the raucous home crowd, who erupted a minute later when Gaganov tied the game. The teams battled hard to a 3-3 tie as both goaltenders fought to preserve the tie and give their teams an opportunity to win. With less than two minutes to go, Chicago’s Rob Saskin rung a hard shot off the post. The clock wound down and the game went into overtime. One last overtime, the next goal would decide the championship. Both teams exchanged opportunities early in the overtime, but it was the Shamrocks who found themselves camped out in the Pittsburgh zone. Martensson turned away shot after shot but the Stingers couldn’t clear the puck. Finally, Graham Boswell planted himself next to the net. Nobody in the building saw him except Don Newman, who fed him a perfect pass. Without hesitation, Boswell flipped the puck over Martensson’s pad and into the net. The crowd erupted while Boswell repeatedly leaped into the air. The Shamrocks piled off the bench and celebrated their first Lewis Cup Championship in 28 years.

Interestingly for the Stingers, Danny Stevenson became the first in Lewis Cup history from the losing team to be named playoff MVP, but it was little consolation for the 33-year-old. “They have a great team, they earned the Cup, but it doesn’t make it any easier” said a heartbroken Stevenson.

When Alan Garcia handed the Cup to captain Don Newman, Newman immediately placed it in the lap of Fred Garfield, who had joined the celebration on the ice. The entire team posed for a picture with their former owner. “I just wanted to see my boys win one more time.” Said Garfield, overcome with emotion. “This is the greatest moment of my life.”

Boswell’s goal would go down as one of the most famous in PHL history, often referred to by Chicago fans simply as “The Goal”. Just three weeks after game seven, Fred Garfield Sr. passed away at his son’s home in Chicago, he was 91.

No comments:

Post a Comment