Nestor stole my ‘hockey thunder’ but I’ll take a trip…

April 12, 2007 | Drew Forrester

…down memory lane.  I planned on producing a “hockey blog” tonight in honor of the start of the NHL playoffs, then to my dismay I saw Nestor beat me to the punch.  Oh well…I’m blogging about hockey anyway!

I grew up as a Washington Capitals fan.  A die-hard.  My late father and I sat right next to the goal judge behind the south goal at the Cap Centre back in 1974 and 1975.  Talk about some lean years.  We both had to apply sunscreen to our face and neck before each game because of the burn we’d get from that red light going on so much when the Caps defended that goal twice a game.  Ron Low…Bernie Wolfe…Rollie Boutin…Jim Bedard…lots of rubber went their way in “the old days.”

There’s no question, though, about the halcyon days of the Caps.  Even though they made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997-98 (I remember a goal Brian Bellows scored in OT at Boston in the ’98 playoffs…if I close my eyes I can still picture it…top shelf, upper right corner), the late 80’s were truly the Caps’ “golden years”.  Here are a few names for you:  John Druce, the scoring hero of the 1990 playoffs when he scored 14 goals after scoring just 8 in the regular season.  Geoff Courtnall, the mostly-offense, little-defense, fail-to-produce-in-the-big-games scoring leader from 88-90.  His downfall, if you recall, was the “limo incident” following the ’89-90 season.  And then there were guys like Mike Ridley, Rod Langway and even the great Mike Gartner, who never met a crossbar or a post he didn’t like in the playoffs, it seemed.

Those were the days.  I developed an amazing dislike for Brian Propp of the Flyers, Pat LaFontaine of the Islanders and for some reason I never like Gary Unger of the Blues, even though I never met the man.  He once led a St. Louis comeback at the Cap Centre that I still remember to this day.  With the Caps up 3-1 (’76 or ’77 season) in the final 2 minutes, a rare home win was about to be sealed when Unger took a dive behind the goal, right next to where my dad and I are sitting.  Everyone next to the glass is hootin’ and hollerin’, fingers are “exposed” and Unger looks at us all and WINKS!  As if to say…I know I took a dive and YOU all know I took a dive but the ref doesn’t know.  With the Caps shorthanded, Unger won a face-off (as he always did), the Blues scored to make it 3-2 and then about 30 seconds later, Unger finished off a 2-on-1 break and the game was tied 3-3.  In true Caps fashion, Hartland Monahan got a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after that goal and with maybe 10 seconds left, the Blues scored AGAIN (“the assist going to Gary Unger…at 19:50” – I can still hear Marv Brooks on the PA system) to win 4-3.  I never forgave Gary Unger for that dive.

Enjoy your hockey.  I’ve always said the NHL playoffs are the best post-season of any sport.

In Dennis Maruk we trust…