The 1994 Stanley Cup Final and aftermath
By Brandon Yip, Contributor
June 14 will mark the 25th anniversary of game seven of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers. The series was viewed by millions across North America. Canucks fans across the province were hoping for a Vancouver victory in game seven, but unfortunately it was heartbreak as the Canucks lost 3-2 at Madison Square Garden. It was the first championship for the Rangers in 54 years; it was the second cup final appearance for the Canucks (previously making the finals in 1982 and later in 2011).
While the city of New York was in a celebratory and euphoric mood, the atmosphere in Vancouver was downtrodden and destructive. After the end of game seven, an ugly riot ensued in the downtown core. Hundreds of people began smashing windows and looting local businesses on Robson Street. Riot police used batons and tear gas to disperse the crowds. The damage caused by the riot cost approximately $1.1 million, and 150 people were arrested and over 200 injured. In a 2011 CBC News online article about the ’94 riot, Philip Owen, the then-Mayor of Vancouver, stated that the riot was indicative of the “deep social problems across the country”—and in some eyes, it was also the precursor for the devastating 2011 riot, which similarly took place after Vancouver’s Stanley Cup Final game seven loss that year.
At the outset of the ’94 finals run, the Vancouver Canucks finished the regular season in seventh place in the Western Conference with 85 points and a record of 41-40-3. The Canucks faced the Calgary Flames in the first round and the Flames took a commanding 3-1 series lead. Then the Canucks mounted a comeback and won an incredible three straight overtime games to win the series, highlighted by Pavel Bure’s game seven breakaway winning goal at 2:20 of the second overtime period. In round two the Canucks faced the Dallas Stars, with the Canucks winning the series four games to one. Then it was the Western Conference Final against the Toronto Maple Leafs, with the Canucks winning the series in five games. The series was notable for Greg Adams’ series-winning goal 14 seconds into the second overtime in game five, a victory which sent the Canucks to the finals.
In contrast, the New York Rangers had a strong regular season, winning the Presidents’ Trophy for having the best record in the league. They finished first in the Eastern Conference with 112 points and a record of 52-24-8. Their road to the cup final at first was not challenging as they swept the New York Islanders in four straight games, then defeated the Washington Capitals in five games in the next round. However, the Rangers had a difficult series against the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers eventually prevailed, winning the series in the seventh game on a double overtime goal at 4:24 by Stéphane Matteau. The Stanley Cup Final was now set.
In the finals, the Canucks won game one in New York 3-2 on an overtime goal at 19:26 by Greg Adams. The game was also notable for the spectacular performance of Canucks goalie Kirk McLean, who made 52 saves. The Rangers then won the next three games, taking a 3-1 series lead. The Canucks would again mount another comeback, winning the next two games to force a game seven at Madison Square Garden. But in game seven, the comeback fell short as the Rangers held on to defeat the Canucks 3-2.
During the 1994 cup final run, many members of the Canucks played a key role in the team’s success—such as goalie Kirk McLean; centres Trevor Linden, Cliff Ronning, and Murray Craven; and wingers Greg Adams and Geoff Courtnall. In addition, the Canucks had a game breaker in the “Russian Rocket” Pavel Bure. He electrified Canucks fans with his speed, finesse, and puck handling abilities while skating at high speed. He put fear into opposing goalies each time he carried the puck into the offensive zone. Furthermore, the Canucks also had a solid defense core with Dave Babych, Jyrki Lumme, Gerald Diduck, Bret Hedican, Jeff Brown, and Brian Glynn. The team also had some toughness and grit in players: Martin Gelinas, Sergio Momesso, John McIntyre, Nathan LaFayette, Tim Hunter, and Shawn Antoski.
For many people in the media who covered the Canucks and Rangers cup final, the memories are still vivid. Squire Barnes, sports director and anchor with Global TV, recalls where he was during game seven of the Canucks and Rangers final. “I was doing the late sports on BCTV,” Barnes said in an email interview with the Other Press. “So, I was watching and editing the game highlights and coordinating with our people who were in New York for interviews and such.”
Barnes recounted how angry Canucks coach Pat Quinn was that there was a three-day break between game six and game seven. “He felt it gave the Rangers an edge because if they had played two days later, on June 13 instead, the younger Canucks would have won,” Barnes said. “He always believed that and would show his frustration whenever you asked him about it.”
Bob “The Moj” Marjanovich, host of the Donnie & The Moj radio show on TSN 1040, remembers being at The Shark Club in downtown Vancouver during game seven. “There was a big viewing party and I remember watching the game with friends on the big screen and just experiencing the emotional roller coaster of that game, the highs and lows,” Marjanovich said in a phone interview with the Other Press.
“One thing that I vividly remember is the last faceoff with Pavel Bure taking the draw with 1.6 seconds left,” Marjanovich said. “The crazy thing about that Canuck team from a fan’s perspective, you just had a feeling they were going to win no matter what. And even with 1.6 seconds left, there was a part of me thinking that Bure was going to score on this draw and we’re going to overtime. But that wasn’t the case and we all know what happened [Rangers winning the cup].”
Paul Chapman, Deputy Editor at The Province and Vancouver Sun, was working in news at The Province during game seven. He was assigned to meet the team at the airport. Chapman remembers seeing the disappointment and melancholic looks on the players’ faces. “The players arrived back about 4 am and we got our quotes, I remember big Sergio Momesso trying to answer questions but breaking down into tears and not being able to finish,” Chapman said in an e-mail interview with the Other Press.
Oddly, Chapman recalls being a Rangers fan as a kid and especially loving their uniforms. “I wore it into the newsroom for one game, kind of just to create a reaction, and it did, some people got quite angry,” Chapman said.
Even Douglas College student Ryan Wildgrube remembers where he was the night of game seven. “I remember watching game seven at my friend Scott’s place with our parents,” said Wildgrube, a third-year psychiatric nursing student at Douglas College. “It was at the time one of the things we kind of all did as a big group.”
Wildgrube said the ’94 Canuck team had a strong nucleus. “At the time I was a fan and a number of players stood out. Of course, Pavel Bure, who was an insanely good skater and goal scorer; Trevor Linden, who was an extremely young captain, who led through his actions on the ice; Dave Babych, probably the team’s best defenseman; and Kirk McLean, who was an amazing goalie.”
For Trevor Linden, the captain of the Canucks in ’94, who scored both Vancouver goals in game seven of the cup final, the passage of time has not made the loss to the Rangers any easier. In a March 2014 interview on the Hockey Night in Canada segment called “Inside Hockey,” Linden said the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup is a rare occurrence because you may never get another chance. “I think ultimately, you get that close to something that you dreamed of, you realize the opportunity that you had and the opportunity that you missed,” said Linden. “And I think just the emptiness of just leaving the ice with nothing [is painful].”
Linden also states that because the Canucks did not win the Stanley Cup, he does not have good memories of that ’94 cup run. “People have really fond memories of that spring in Vancouver,” Linden said. “It was a beautiful spring and I remember the weather was incredible. It was just very euphoric around the team. So, people have wonderful memories about that. And I got to say I’m not sure that I share that because we lost and that’s the bottom line.”
For Pat Quinn, coach of the Canucks during the ’94 cup run, the loss to the Rangers hurt but he was very proud of what his team had accomplished. Before his death in November 2014, Quinn spoke about losing game seven to the Rangers. In an interview during that same March 2014 “Inside Hockey” segment, he stated how proud he was of that Canucks team who captured the hearts and imagination of Vancouver fans during that incredible spring in 1994.
“I always believed to this day that the wrong team got that cup, based on its play,” Quinn said. “And it didn’t happen and I’m a bit of a dreamer. I was so disappointed for them because I wanted it badly for them. I always remembered Fred Shero [Philadelphia Flyers coach, who won Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975], saying the old statement that he said, ‘Win and you walk together forever.’ Well, this group in my mind were winners and they will walk together forever.”
Sidebar: What was happening on June 14, 1994?
Douglas College only had the New Westminster Campus, as the David Lam Campus didn’t open until fall of 1996
Canadian Prime Minister: Jean Chrétien
US President: Bill Clinton
BC Premier: Mike Harcourt
Number one song on the Billboard Charts: “I Swear” by All-4-One
Number one album on the Billboard Charts: The Sign by Ace of Base
Movies released in theatres: Speed and City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (both released on June 10). The Lion King would open on June 15
The NBA Final was taking place, with the Houston Rockets leading the New York Knicks two games to one
The 1994 FIFA World Cup, held in the US, would begin on June 17