Hunbelievable read one. SUPER SUBS SINK KRAUTS roared another. Faded accounts of the World War I Battle of Jutland? No, those are English tabloid headlines celebrating Manchester United's 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich for the Champion's League title. Man U, winner of England's Premier League and F.A. Cup, trailed 1-0 at the end of 90 minutes but stole the May 26 game during 3� minutes of stoppage time on goals by late replacements Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That made manager Alex Ferguson's lads the first English team to achieve soccer's triple—a league title, a national cup and the world's most prized club trophy.
Fleet Streeters reacted with typical reserve. The Daily Mail proclaimed the evening THE MOST DRAMATIC NIGHT EVER FOR BRITISH FOOTBALL. The Sun called the triumph the BEST OF ALL TIME! The Mirror deemed the finale THE GREATEST TWO MINUTES IN THE HISTORY OF SPORT. On the continent, Munich's S�ddeutsche Zeitung lamented THE MOTHER OF ALL DEFEATS.
Lest there be any doubt about the importance of Man U's feat, consider the Mirror headline ARISE, SIR ALEX. That's an allusion to the reward Ferguson might get: a knighthood.
Dirty Pool Party
Dale Hunter is a fair enough hockey player—he had 114 points in 167 postseason games coming into this year's playoffs—but the Avalanche center is best known for racking up the most playoff penalty minutes in NHL history. Hunter, 38, is the sneaky sort of s.o.b. who's adept at what players in the league call dirty pool, and that's why Colorado picked him up in a March 23 trade with Washington.
Through the Avalanche's 7-5 Game 5 win over Dallas in the Western Conference finals on Sunday, Hunter had scored just one goal in the '99 playoffs. Yet he had played a pivotal role, for his thuggery helped Colorado survive its second-round series against Detroit. Near the end of the Avalanche's 4-0 loss in Game 2 of that series, Hunter plowed into Red Wings goalie Bill Ranford, knocking him off his skates. The play seemed a mere sideshow as Detroit took a 2-0 series lead, but that hit incensed the Wings and rattled Ranford, who never regained his composure. Colorado shelled him for eight goals in the next two games—he was pulled early in both—and won four in a row.
NHL players get so jacked at the thought of soothing their swollen fingers on the cool silver of the Stanley Cup that they'll do almost anything for the chance. Just ask Stars rightwinger Pat Verbeek, who dealt a fiendish two-handed slash to the back of Blues center Pierre Turgeon's left knee during a second-round playoff game. Ask the Avalanche's usually mild-mannered Peter Forsberg why he rammed Red Wing Brendan Shanahan's face into the glass. The lowdown on the Stanley Cup playoffs is that they're about as low down as it gets.
Through Sunday there had been only two brawls in these playoffs. Fighting always drops in the postseason, when ice time is so precious that the league's goons get little of it. That doesn't mean virtue reigns, however. When Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek returned to the Eastern Conference finals last week after missing two games with a groin pull, the Maple Leafs went after him like wolves on a wounded elk (page 78). They shoved and bumped the Dominator, hoping to aggravate the injury and knock him out of the game.
Of course Hasek was simply getting the treatment all goalies receive in the postseason. Ask a forward to explain his team's playoff strategy and he'll say, "We have to create traffic around the net." Translation: We're going to slam into the goalie, slash him, poke him, gouge him and elbow him.
Colorado's siccing Hunter on Ranford was part of such a plan. Yet for all Hunter's success in goalie goading, his claim to infamy will always be his patented "face-washing." In this maneuver, Hunter drives an opponent to the ice, leaps on top of him and vigorously rubs the victim's mug with his sweat-soaked glove. His epic facial of Detroit's Steve Yzerman during last year's Red Wings-Capitals Cup finals was perhaps his most memorable. After that game, in which Hunter was not penalized, he explained, "I was just playing hockey." That's right—playoff hockey.