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HOCKEY / STANLEY CUP NOTES : Gretzky's Stray Game-Winner Keeps Kings on Solid Footing

June 01, 1993|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TORONTO — No one questions that Wayne Gretzky is The Great One. But is even he that great?

Could even Gretzky have scored a goal--the goal that put the Kings in the Stanley Cup finals--by deliberately caroming the puck off an opposing player's skate?

The answer is no. He's Wayne Gretzky, not Minnesota Fats.

Here's what happened: With the Kings leading the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3, and just over three minutes left in Game 7 of the Campbell Conference finals Saturday night at Toronto, Gretzky skated out from behind the net, appeared to consider a wraparound goal and instead threw the puck into the slot, despite the fact that there wasn't a King within a stick length.

The puck banged off the skate of Toronto defenseman Dave Ellett, past goalie Felix Potvin and into the net.

When Ellett scored just over two minutes later, Gretzky's goal turned out to be the game winner.

"I could sit here and say I tried to do it," Gretzky said, "but I was just trying to get it on the net and it went in off Dave Ellett's skate. I didn't even see it go in."

The rest of the hockey world did.

*

The action in the Stanley Cup finals will be on the ice, not the benches.

So say both coaches, who insist they will not let matters deteriorate to the level they did in the Campbell finals where King Coach Barry Melrose and the Maple Leafs' Pat Burns exchanged insults--Burns on Melrose's long hair and Melrose on Burns' weight.

Melrose played for Montreal Canadiens Coach Jacques Demers, and the two men hold each other in high regard.

"But," warned Demers, who would certainly not be described as thin, "he'd better leave my stomach alone."

*

Whose names are etched in the Stanley Cup? Those of the winning team, of course.

But it not as simple as that.

Players must have played in at least 40 regular-season games or one game in the finals.

It's not, however, limited solely to players. Owners can have their names on the Cup. The Edmonton Oilers once added public relations director Bill Tuele to the list.

The teams are given a total amount of space. Once the eligible players are accounted for, whatever room is left can be used by the club at its discretion.

But, a league official stressed, only within reason.

So if the Kings should win, for example, don't expect the Cup's list to include team mascot Kingston.

*

Canadien center Stephan Lebeau has idolized Wayne Gretzky since he was 11. He has collected an array of photographs, hockey cards and two autographed Gretzky sticks. Lebeau even wears a corner of his sweater tucked into his hockey pants, as Gretzky does, and he named his cats Wayne and Janet, after Gretzky and Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones.

But with Gretzky standing between him and the Stanley Cup, Lebeau decided he can no longer be a fan. After putting away his souvenirs, he told his girlfriend, "We must also change the name of our cats." They came up with Savy and Mona, for teammate Denis Savard and Savard's wife. "In the finals, we can't have Gretzky in the house," Lebeau said.

*

Gretzky's NHL playoff debut was against Montreal in 1981. He and the Edmonton Oilers were upstarts then, prompting Canadien goaltender Richard Sevigny to boast, "Guy Lafleur will put Gretzky in his back pocket."

Not quite. Gretzky led Edmonton to a sweep of the best-of-three series, outscoring the Canadiens, 15-6. Montreal center Guy Carbonneau still winces at the memory. "I don't think that declaration helped anybody," he said.

Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this story.

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