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SI's Stanley Cup Archive

SI Flashback Photo Essay: Stanley Cup Finals

"There is tension in a Stanley Cup game that no regular season contest can engender."
-- Sports Illustrated's Martin Kane, 1966

  Click for larger image 1999: "They couldn't disallow it. Not now." AP Photo/Gene Puskar
Every spring since 1955, SI's writers and photographers have focused on the NHL's postseason passion and grace. Still, in the early years of the magazine, which published its first issue on August 16, 1954, the coverage of this cold-weather, regional sport could only be found under the heading "FOR THE RECORD." The 1955, '56, '57 and '58 recaps are classic examples of just-the-facts-ma'am dispatches from the Stanley Cup finals.

In 1959, as the sport was maturing and the Canadiens were ruling the roost, William Leggett wrote Sports Illustrated's first story about a Stanley Cup final. offers an excerpt of that piece, as well as Web-friendly selections from each Cup final that followed. Choose a decade (1950s, 1960s and 1970s) or any single year after 1979 from the dropdown menu above. You can also scroll through some exclusive SI photos of the Stanley Cup playoffs in our Stanley Cup Flashback Photo Essay.

Check out ...

  • ... 1955, when Gordie Howe and the Red Wings were the NHL's best team, before the Canadiens took over for the rest of the decade.

  • ... 1961, when playing with a helmet was a sure sign of injury, when Howe was considered old by NHL standards and when the Canadiens' downfall drew more coverage than the Black Hawks' first Cup in 23 seasons.

  • ... 1962 and 1965, when the stories read more like profiles of Black Hawks center Stan Mikita and Canadiens coach Toe Blake, respectively. Blake, who retired more times than George Foreman, was rumored to be quitting at the end of the season, but went on to win two more Cups.

  • ... 1968, when a 34-year-old Scotty Bowman led the expansion Blues to the Stanley Cup final.

  • ... 1969, when Montreal's Jean Beliveau was considered "the best hockey center who ever lived."

  • ... the early 70s, when Boston and Montreal traded the Cup a couple of times and provided hockey fans with the best rivalry of the era and the first SI cover story on the Stanley Cup playoffs.

  • ... 1974, when Philadelphia's "Broad Street Bullies" became the first expansion team to win the Cup.

  • ... 1983, when the Islanders' fourth consecutive Cup prompted the question, "Are they the greatest ever?"

  • ... 1985, when a guy named Wayne Gretzky personally addressed the above question by altering the conventional hockey wisdom and changing the game.

  • ... 1986, when Claude Lemieux stepped onto the scene as -- surprise! -- a pest and playoff performer in his rookie year, prompting his coach to point out that he was already hated.

  • ... 1991, when Mario Lemieux staked his claim as the world's best player. You'll also learn there was a time when Tom Barrasso spoke to the media.

  • ... 1994, when the Rangers erased the stigma of having failed to win the Cup since 1940.

  • ... 2001, when the Avalanche made a champion out of Ray Bourque, and vice versa, in a classic seven-game series.

  • ... 2002 (seems like just last year, doesn't it?), when Steve Yzerman drove the Red Wings to their third title in six seasons.

    Experience these moments, and many more, in this collection of exclusive Sports Illustrated Flashbacks.