Thursday, January 7, 2010

30 Years Ago 3: No Streak No More

Continuing the story from here, it's 30 years ago: January 7, 1980.

In the previous post in this series, I mentioned my job in Minnesota. It was a hockey-mad office. We even had a co-worker whose name is on the Stanley Cup.

Another co-worker asks me if I want to go to Met Center to see the National Hockey League's Minnesota North Stars attempt to end the unbeaten streak of the Philadelphia Flyers. OK.

It was a cold night, maybe a bit below zero, I'm not sure. My co-worker was a man who made the buying of tickets from scalpers into an art form. The previous October, we had gone to South Bend, Indiana, on a Saturday, and managed to find tickets to that day's Notre Dame-USC football game, somewhere around face value. But I digress.

We got into the arena. Good seats. Then, the Flyers scored the first goal of the game (Bill Barber at 3:49 of the first period). Was this destined to become game 36 of the streak? Maybe not. By the end of the first period, the Stars led 3-1.

Still too close for comfort, as the second period progressed. Then, things looked ominous. Bobby Smith of the North Stars incurred a double minor penalty at 4:31 of the second period. So he would spend up to four minutes in the penalty box. Then, his teammate Greg Smith (no relation) got a two-minute minor penalty at 5:41. So, the Flyers had a two-man advantage for two full minutes, a situation from which it's very difficult to escape unscathed.

But escape the Stars did. The roar of the Met Center crowd was incredible, after the penalties were "killed" (expired without the Flyers scoring).

Whether it was inspiration from that moment, or just what, the North Stars went on to score four more goals while their goaltender, Gilles Meloche, let in no more pucks. The North Stars won 7-1, in the 36th game of the 35-game unbeaten streak.

I still rank that as the most memorable NHL game I ever saw in person, 28 years after I left Minnesota, and 17 years after the North Stars (now known as the Dallas Stars) did the same.

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