When it was finally over—after Peter Mahovlich had lost a few dozen face-offs to Stan Mikita, after Valeri Kharlamov had watched Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito masquerade as a couple of scared rookie goaltenders from Minsk, after captain Henri Richard of the Montreal Canadiens had skated around Chicago Stadium carrying the Stanley Cup over his shoulder like a gun-nysack—it was impossible to forget reports of the verbal exchange between Yvan Cournoyer and Jerry Korab just seconds before Cournoyer scored the goal that beat the Black Hawks and won the cup for the Canadiens. As they lined up alongside one another for a face-off early in the third period last Thursday night, the 6'3", 205-pound Korab, who answers to the name of King Kong, loomed over the 5'7", 172-pound Cournoyer.
"Hey, you little frog," Korab snarled, "what are you going to be when you grow up?"
"Something you'll never be," Cournoyer answered. "A goal scorer."
While Korab was thinking that over, Jacques Lemaire stole the puck from him and broke away with Cournoyer. "Yvan was right beside me at the Chicago blue line," Lemaire said, "but I took the lead and...."
"You what?" said Cournoyer, who has never lost a race to anyone. "Jacques, my friend, you went one way to the net and I went another. Korab was in front of me and I had to go around him."
Cournoyer eluded Korab without any great difficulty and there he was backhanding Lemaire's rebound past Esposito for the decisive score, his record-setting 15th goal of the playoffs. Next, before the bewildered Black Hawks could recover, Cournoyer neatly set up Marc Tardif for an insurance goal as the Canadiens won the game 6-4 and clinched the cup four games to two. Then the silver-haired, 37-year-old Richard, playing for his 11th cup champion in 18 years, proudly led his mates to a nightlong group therapy session with his old friend Piper-Heidsieck.
"All those years," Richard said, "all I ever wanted to do was skate around the ice with the cup. I watched Butch Bouchard skate with it, I watched Maurice, my brother, and I watched Jean Beliveau, too. They told me it was the greatest feeling in the world. Now I know what they meant. But I always thought the cup was very heavy. When I picked it up I couldn't believe it. The thing is lighter than a feather."
Maybe so, but at one point last week Richard and the Canadiens must have thought the cup was heavier than Korab. There they were in the friendly Montreal Forum, leading the Black Hawks three games to one and obviously anxious to win it all in front of the adoring Qu�becois. Also in the audience was Kharlamov, the Russian who had made Team Canada's defensemen look so inept last September. "I am here to watch the two best goaltenders in the world," he said, trusting that word would not get back to Vladislav Tretiak, the outstanding Russian goalie, in Moscow.
What Kharlamov watched instead was basketball-on-ice as both Dryden and Esposito played as though their face masks were upside down, with the eye slits at their chins. In a normal game Dryden and Esposito will allow roughly one goal for every 17 shots fired at them; in this slam-dunk exhibition they fanned on one of every four shots and permitted the gaudy total of 15 goals, leaving Kharlamov in shock and prompting 44-year-old Gump Worsley to announce his un-retirement from the Minnesota North Stars. The score was tied five times, while the lead changed three times. Montreal scored first but never led after 7:09 of the second period. Happily for the Hawks, they happened to be hanging on to an 8-7 advantage when the shooting gallery mercifully closed for the night.
"We ran around like chickens with our heads cut off," Richard mumbled. "Did you ever see so many mistakes in one game? Ever? We played stupid." About the only player who did not contribute to the shoddiness was Center Stan Mikita, who scored two goals himself and directly set up two others for the Black Hawks although he was playing with a painful bruise on the middle finger of his right hand.