Insisting that his malaise was the flu, not pressure, Martinello was cautious. " Boston had the champagne on ice three times during the semifinals, but in the end Montreal drank," he said.
"I think we can take them, but it won't be easy," said Quebec's hero of the finals, Goalie Smeltzer, showing considerable proficiency at stock answers, despite the infrequency of his contacts with the press. As a leading contender for the MVP award in the Nations Trophy series, Smeltzer was a sudden celebrity. That indeed is a rare circumstance in a league where player salaries average $11,000 and the dress code runs to Levi's and Earth shoes.
After receiving a standing ovation before the third game, Smeltzer plainly had been awed. "Gosh, I come from Fergus, Ontario, population 5,000," he said. "There were more people sitting behind the goal than in my hometown." During the off-season, Smeltzer stays in shape by working in the family business, barn building, but when he discusses goaltending it is clear he is no farm boy. "Lacrosse goalies are a combination of a lot of things," he says. "You've got to have the reflexes of a racing driver and the skill of a hockey goalie. Sometimes you've got to be like a football quarterback implementing plays, and other times you've got to be like a linebacker ending them."
Smeltzer's teammate Cook, a 6'3", 200-pound Mohawk Indian from the St. Regis reservation, Cornwall, Ontario is more sophisticated about fame, perhaps because he is a college man. He says, "I want a career in lacrosse. I'm a geography major at Oswego State in New York, and there aren't many jobs available for geographers. If we beat Montreal, that oughtta do it for me."
While the Caribous idled through their workout and chatted with onlookers alongside the playing surface, a lone figure in a hat and overcoat sat up in the dark Colisee and watched. He was Montreal Coach Jim Bishop.
That night another sell-out crowd discovered that Bishop's spectating had been profitable. He had his tightly controlled offense press deeper against Quebec's zone defense, pushing the Caribous behind their penalty-shot line. Davis, the Henry Aaron of lacrosse at 31, contributed four more points and Montreal won 13-8.
After the loss the fans vehemently announced certain suspicions to NLL Commissioner Gerry Patterson, who was sitting among them. "This is a fix!" yelled one enraged man. "You just want the revenue from Game 5!" Patterson wiped his forehead and slipped away, carrying the silver Nations Trophy in a cardboard box back to his car. "You know, we had a hall and a band hired," lamented Caribou Owner Barre. "Now I don't know what to do."
What there was to do was pack up and catch the bus to Montreal for Game 5 two nights later. At 5:30 that afternoon Smeltzer was playing a pinball machine in a diner near the Forum. "I don't like to get to the dressing room too early," he said. By 10:30 he wished he had not been there at all. Montreal put together a near replay of Game 4. Light, agile, its power play working well, it swept the angry, fistfighting Caribous off the boards in a 12-8 victory.
In spite of Montreal's two fine efforts, the Caribous still had a 3-2 lead going into this week's final pair of games. And Montreal fans were aware that even with their team's game back in form, another come-from-behind series win seemed unlikely. As Commissioner Patterson once more lugged the Nations Trophy out to his car, Montreal Owner Nelson Stoll stared wistfully after it. "I know we have the better team," he said. " Quebec is playing over its head. But that doesn't mean a thing in lacrosse. It doesn't mean we'll win." Especially not when you consider how Quebec has been thriving on the unexpected lately.