Toronto made bold moves at the trade deadline, but the celebratory mood was cut short by injuries
The Maple leafs reached an emotional high on March 11, when general manager and coach Pat Quinn snapped up Toronto icon Doug Gilmour, 39, from the Canadiens and puck-moving defenseman Phil Housley, 39, from the Blackhawks to give him four new postseason-savvy players before the trading deadline. Having acquired top power forward Owen Nolan, 31, from the Sharks and former All-Star defenseman Glen Wesley, 34, from the Hurricanes earlier in the week, Quinn injected the Leafs, who were 38-26-5-1 and fifth in the Eastern Conference, with an abundance of talent, grit and leadership. Toronto figured it could spend the stretch run building chemistry, tinkering with line combos and priming for a serious run at its first Stanley Cup in 36 years.
Two days later the Leafs' collective psyche took a plunge. Last Thursday, Gilmour, who starred for Toronto from '91-92 through '96-97, sustained a left knee injury in his first game back. He'll be out for four to six weeks. In the previous match, against the Oilers on March 10, left wing Gary Roberts pulled a groin muscle and is listed as day-to-day.
Upon his arrival Gilmour had instantly become the team's inspiration, and his loss was devastating. "We were full of emotion [after the trade]," Quinn said. "Two days later we're as down as we were up the other day."
The play of Nolan, however, provided a boost. After a sluggish season he appears energized by his escape from the disappointing Sharks, who fell out of the playoff race early. His power-play game-winner in a 1-0 victory over the Canucks last Saturday was his third goal, to go with two assists, in four games since the trade. "There's a different attitude here than in San Jose," Nolan says. "It was hard to get up for games there. We have the attitude that we'll win every game here."
Penguins' Frozen Equipment
Warming Up Before the Game
When mechanical difficulties forced the cancellation of the Penguins' late-night flight from Pittsburgh to Ottawa on March 8, the team left its equipment on the plane for the evening. However, with temperatures in the low 20s, equipment manager Steve Latin returned the next morning for the rescheduled takeoff to find the sweat-soaked equipment stiff. "All our stuff-uniforms, gloves, pads, sticks-was frozen," says Latin. "Then the ice melted on the way to Ottawa, so when we got there the equipment was wet."
With less than seven hours until face-off, Latin and his crew hung up everything in an empty room at the Corel Centre, cranked tire heat and brought in a number of large fans to circulate the air. "Everything was bone-dry by game time," says Latin. "Nobody even knew."