There is something about Dickie Moore that the years cannot change. It was that way when he was scoring smartly for the Montreal Canadiens. It was that way as he led the St. Louis Blues to their West Division Stanley Cup championship over Minnesota's North Stars last Friday night in the seventh game of a desperate series. Dickie feints and jabs as Willie Pep used to, waiting for that little prod that breaks the string, that trips the lever, that rings the bell, that starts the motor and triggers the explosion. When his trigger is pulled, Moore's cloudy, pale blue eyes get watery and wild, his shoulders knot and his old legs are reborn—and in three of those seven games Moore was the Blues' indispensable man.
Game 1: Moore deflects a shot past North Star Goalie Cesare Maniago to give the Blues a 3-2 lead and all the impetus they need toward a 5-3 victory. Game 4: The North Stars have a 3-0 lead and can take a 3-1 advantage in the series merely by hanging in there. With 11:57 gone in the third period, Moore feeds a 40-foot pass to Jim Roberts at the Stars' goal mouth and Roberts scoops it in. Exactly one minute later Moore rushes the net, fakes Maniago out of position and scores himself. Thus inspired, the Blues proceed to win 4-3 in overtime—one of the seven overtime games in the crazy mixed-up West semifinals and finals—and the series is 2-2.
Game 7: St. Louis Arena. Through scheduling foul-ups Minnesota has drawn only two home games, but surprisingly is 3-3 for the series. The North Stars have forced the Blues into overtime in two of the St. Louis wins; they have themselves taken an overtime game.
Minnesota Forward Parker MacDonald runs his finger down the Blues' roster. He comes across ages out of the Dead Sea Scrolls—more veterans than are to be found in an American Legion post. "They have guys on that club," says MacDonald, "who remember Betty Boop." They remember Kay Kyser, too, and Wendell Willkie, and Frank Sinatra with his own hair. Doug Harvey, tiny scars cross-hatching his Kewpie-doll face, is 43 and no longer the superman he was when, like Moore, he played for the Canadiens. But he is still plenty tough around the goal mouth.
Goalie Glenn Hall is 36 and still aghast at the suicidal nature of the position he plays, just as he used to be in Chicago when he was a big star; he is still throwing up before games. But he is still a money goalie. When the Stars jumped off to a solid lead in the sixth game, St. Louis Coach Scotty Bowman removed Hall to rest his most valuable property for the last game.
Moore is 37 and straight man for Harvey (who had been called up to the Blues after 65 games as player-coach for the team's Kansas City farm club). Asked to pose for pictures with Moore, Harvey grins, "Nope, not with that old guy. It would damage my image."
As a capacity house of 15,556 assembles Friday in the well-designed Arena for No. 7, Minnesota Coach Wren Blair is more concerned about the scheduling inequities that have put his team in a hostile town (due to a conflict in dates with an ice show in the Stars' arena) than with his own image. His image is fixed: a redheaded, husky-voiced cockatoo whose behind-the-bench language would wilt the feathers on a sea captain's parrot. He had wanted one game moved to a neutral rink—Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens—to give the Stars at least a facsimile of the three home games they deserved, but St. Louis' hard-nosed General Manager Lynn Patrick had refused. "I've been in this business long enough," said Patrick, "to know that playoffs are won or lost in the fifth, sixth and seventh games. We want to play at home."
The St. Louis fans come early for the big game and hang out signs. One reads, "Go, Red Baron," imploring Gordon (Red) Berenson, a 24-goal scorer in the regular season but a zero-goal scorer in 13 straight playoff games, to get with it. They put another sign over the penalty box which says, "Sorry 'bout that," but its reach for humor is wasted. Referee Art Skov has evidently decided to interfere as little as possible; ultimately he calls only six penalties in 82 minutes and 49 seconds of hockey.
As the St. Louis fans whistle for action, they know that this game, like most Stanley Cup games, probably will hinge on the goalies. They are watching two of the better ones. Hall is No. 2 in the West. Maniago, the Stars' 6'3" contortionist, ranks fifth, but time and again has sealed off the goal against relentless sieges. The Blues have come to bury Cesare, but they are very slow about making a big move at him. The Stars respond with some very, very cautious play of their own. One period goes by with no score. Two periods go by with no score. Now it is deep into the third and supposedly final period. Wren Blair gives his troops the go sign, and they begin to storm the walls. The Stars' suntanned rookie center, Walt McKecknie, skates in on Hall and fires a 20-foot line drive at him. It goes in—with a mere 3:51 left in regulation time—and now Minnesota's year of agony is close to being crowned with triumph. The North Stars are the West's No. 4 team in a six-club division; they have come from behind to win seven more or less impossible cup games: they have already been in five overtime playoff matches.
But there is more agony to come. Enter Dickie Moore. The sight of McKecknie's shot in the net lights Dickie's fuse again. Within 31 seconds, he has a pass from Larry Keenan, and then he winds up and shoots so hard, from 35 feet, that both his skates leave the ice. Maniago never sees the disk.