Card stock incarnations of the greatest hockey players ever to lace up skates took to the ice in Denver to determine which team of “all time greats” was the “all time greatest!”
The size of our gathering was affected by the weather and various family and work commitments, but we still had a good turnout. Myself, Ed Meek, Steve Heller and David Santistevan took the coaching reins, while Dan Pallotti attended as our "crowd!" We had to adjust the format on the fly, to accomodate time constraints, so the end result was not so much a tournament in the truest sense. But whatever you call it, it was great fun! Here are a few highlights...
We started out with the idea of each of us choosing a favorite team: I chose the Islanders, Ed picked the Sabres, Steve took the Canadiens, and David decided on the Oilers.
Since Ed and I had arrived a little earlier than anyone else, we decided to get a head start on things by playing Sabres-Islanders. Ziggy Palffy scored for the Islanders in the first minute! And then we scored AGAIN, in the second minute, Anders Kallur! That was all the Isles needed, as Billy Smith was "on" for this one. Clark Gillies scored midway through the third period, and Mike Bossy added an empty-netter in the closing seconds as New York won, 4-0.
By then, Steve and David had showed up, so we had them play each other, Edmonton against Montreal, me keeping the book and stats. Just like me and Ed's game, this one featured a goal off the opening face-off, Larry Robinson getting it in the net for the Candiens, assisted by Richard and Moore. Goals from Guy LaFleur and Yvon Cournoyer two minutes apart later in the period put the Habs up 3-0. But David got the Oilers back in it with a pair of second period goals, Tikkanen on a breakaway and Glenn Anderson on a wrist shot with two minutes to go to make it 3-2. Montreal pulled away in the third period, though, Richer with a rebound shot at the six minute mark, followed two minutes later by a breakaway goal from Boom Boom Geoffrion. The teams traded goals late, and Montreal posted a final winning margin of 6-3.
At this point, we decided rather than limit the scope of our tournament to just our chosen teams, we'd instead try to involve as many of the other ATFG teams as we could. So for round two, we had Ed play Steve, Red Wings vs. Rangers, while I played David, Maple Leafs vs. Bruins. Ed and Steve's game was epic---scoreless after regulation, with numerous memorable SPEC SAVES from Ed Giacomin and Terry Sawchuk. The Rangers finally snuck a puck past Sawchuk in the opening minutes of overtime, Richards scoring with assists from Hadfield and Vickers for a 1-0 win. My game with David was much less dramatic. Toronto just didn't seem to have it's stuff together, and the Bruins scored three times in the first period in skating to an easy 4-1 win.
By now we were starting to think about time limitations, and had to do some "quick play" dice rolls to eliminate teams so as to be able to finish the tournament by 5PM. When all the dice rolling was done, our "final four" was Canadiens vs. Flyers and Rangers vs. Penguins. (The Islanders kind of got the shaft in this one, we all agreed that a Rangers-Islanders elimination game would have been awesome, but we just didn't have time to full play it.)
I took the Flyers against Steve's Canadiens, and the result was one of the best tabletop hockey games I've ever been a part of. Lindros took a major penalty in the second minute, but the Flyers killed all five minutes of the Montreal power play. P. K. Subban opened the scoring in the twelfth minute, but Kerr answered for Philly two minutes later and the first period ended 1-1. The second period opened with a pair of Montreal goals, Lemaire and Subban. Philly fought back, with Barber scoring on the power play in the seventh minute to draw the Flyers back to within a goal, but a goal from Moore gave the Habs a 4-2 lead at the end of two. The third period began with another Montreal penalty (Richard, major), and the Flyers seized the opportunity, Lindros with the power play goal. Then, minutes later Bobby Clarke broke loose and blasted one in to knot the score at 4-4 with twelve minutes to play! Wow! From then on, every possession seemed super-charged. The Flyers got a great opportunity in the 14th minute, misfired on two shots and Montreal's Lach got a breakaway---he SCORES! 5-4 Montreal, but here come the Flyers. with two minutes to play, Kerr gets the puck from Giroux\u2014he shoots, he SCORES! We're tied at 5-5 with a minute to play. The Candiens get a last-gasp chance in regulation, but Bernie Parent makes the stop and we're headed to OT. It didn't take long, though, for this one to be settled: Steve Shutt's goal in the second minute won the game and sent the Habs to the championship.
The Rangers-Penguins game had a similarly close score, and nearly as dramatic a finish. "Super Mario" netted one for the Pens in the first period, but Ed's Rangers got two in the second period (Cook, Nielson) to head into the final stanza up 2-1. That's the way it stood until just four minutes remained, when LaRouche slapped one past Tom Barrasso to give the Rangers a two-goal lead, 3-1. David pulled Barrasso and got a extra-man goal (Letang), but the final minute ended with New York skating out the clock and the Rangers held on to win 3-2.
That set up a Rangers/Canadiens final, which looked pretty exciting on paper but just didn't unfold as expected. After a scoreless first period, Montreal scored three goals in a stretch of four minutes (Gainey, Cournoyer and Robinson) for a 3-0 lead. Vickers got one back for the Rangers with five minutes left in the period to make it 3-1. But Laperriere scored for the Canadiens early in the third period, and Cournoyer's second tally at the ten minute mark essentially sealed it for Montreal. Final score Montreal 5, New York 1. Thus the Canadiens earned the distinction of being our "HOF Hockey Champions!"
As an aside, we made VERY good use of the line strategy elements outlined in the rules (double shifts and skips), as well as the strategy cards. If you every get the chance to play HB head-to-head, these options are highly recommended. They really add a lot to the game.
Also want to thank Dan (AKA "Kranepool") for stopping by and hanging out, even though he wasn't coaching a team it was definitely fun having him there for moral support! We all agreed, we gotta do this again sometime soon!!