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Love That OT
E.M. Swift
May 09, 1994
The NHL playoffs have proved again that hockey's sudden-death overtime is the finest finale in sports
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May 09, 1994

Love That Ot

The NHL playoffs have proved again that hockey's sudden-death overtime is the finest finale in sports

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Babando was a journeyman, and in fact he would be traded before the next season began. The first overtime was scoreless, action packed, nerve-racking. Then, 8½ minutes into the second overtime, Babando lined up for a face-off directly behind his center, George Gee. Gee drew the puck straight back, and Babando fired it into the Ranger net. The goal sent Detroit's Olympia Stadium into pandemonium. "In the view of 13,095 fans, "The Detroit News reported, "weary, worn and aching Red Wings kissed and embraced, threw equipment to the ceiling and hoisted coach Tommy Ivan to their shoulders."

In the celebratory aftermath a Stanley Cup tradition was born. When the Red Wings were presented the Cup by NHL president Clarence Campbell, "Terrible" Ted Lindsay, the league's scoring champion and a pugnacious competitor, grabbed the Cup in delirious delight and raised it over his head. Holding it aloft, he spontaneously skated along the boards to the roaring approval of the spectators. It is a gesture now linked irrevocably with winning the Stanley Cup.

Hockey historian and broadcaster Dick Irvin cites as the most famous overtime goal the Cup-winner scored in 1951 by Bill Barilko of the Maple Leafs. All five of the names in that year's finals, between Montreal and Toronto, went to sudden death, with the Leafs winning four of them. What makes Barilko's goal in Game 5 particularly memorable and poignant was that it was the last game the defenseman ever played. That summer, while going to a fishing trip in northern Canada, he died in a plane crash. "There's a famous picture that's hanging in Maple Leaf Gardens of Barilko scoring that goal," says Irvin, whose father, Dick Sr., was behind the Canadien bench in that game. "He's flying through the air almost like Orr."

Ah, yes. Any discussion of sudden death has to include Bobby Orr's Cup-winning goal against St. Louis in 1970, scored on Hall. That's the one that Bruin vice president Tom Johnson cites as the most memorable overtime goal in his experience. (Johnson, a former Canadien defenseman, was on the ice when Barilko scored his famous goal, and he was a teammate of Maurice Richard's when the Rocket scored five of his six sudden-death goals.) "It had a flair to it," Johnson remembers. "The picture of it, of course, is something I've seen a thousand times. And the only ones you remember are the ones you won."

The fact that Orr's goal won the Cup—and was the only sudden-death goal the great player ever scored—lends weight to those who argue it was the most famous OT goal ever. Never mind that it was also one of the least meaningful, completing the mighty Bruins' four-game sweep of the Blues, who, in their third season, were Mill thought of as an expansion team. II the Blues had somehow won that game, the Bruins would surely have taken the next one. Or the next one. But the joy in Orr's celebratory leap, body parallel to the ice, arms extended, legs splayed, stick upraised, captures the essence of all sudden-death scorers who have buried that delicious dagger.

"Bobby asked me one time what I remembered about that goal," says Hall. "I told him, 'Bobby, I had showered before you landed. You went up and up and just floated away.' "

Such a leap could have happened only in sudden death, the magical time that gives the sport wings.

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