BLARNEY CASTLE, COUNTY CORK – Gather around lads and lasses and hear a tale not made of blarney… but of actual facts surrounding a St. Patrick’s Dayhappening in year 1991. Not since the snakes were eradicated from the motherland by our favorite saint, did a massacre occur equally horrifying in The States.
Setting & Participants: Chicago Stadium with the Chicago Blackhawks vs the St. Louis Blues – both neck and neck for the Norris Division lead. Those in attendance thought they were at a backyard cookout as referees whistles sounded repeatedly to the tune of 278 penalty minutes.
Names of integral participants sounded fictional. Garth Butcher (STL)—a defenseman and not the German guy in your high school shop class who had hair on his teeth and ran machinery as if he were buttering toast. John Manson (CHI) – cut directly out of Slap Shot – was the Charles Manson of the NHL as 183 penalty minutes in 35 games that year attests. Teammate Stu Grimson made Manson look like an altar boy and it was rumored his trading card was to list “Penalty Box-man” as his position. To this day, I don’t know if a pound of feathers weighs more than stones, but somebody who got tagged by Glen Featherstone (STL) knows for the answer. Then there were hockey players: Chelios, Roenick, Larmer, Thomas, Goulet, Belfour for the ‘Hawks and Hull, Oates, Stevens, and Joseph for the Blues. And some were part of hockey infamy like aging Blues defenseman Harold Snepts, a decade removed from his ridiculous attempted puck clear in overtime of a Stanley Cup Finals game that found Mike Bossy’s stick, promptly ending the game with three seconds left. And Ol’ Harry was in the center of hullabaloo as recipient of a questionable Roenick hit. That hit drew the ire of tough guy Featherstone, who thereby pissed off another Blackhawk. Chaos ensued.
Things remained somewhat calm until Steve Larmer high-sticked a Blues player in the face. What then unfolded is both hockey history and St. Paddy’s Day lore. Fifteen or more on the ice at one time included one of the Mike Keenan’s and the NHL’s most formidable lines: Stu Grimson, Mike Peluso and Dave Manson. Scott Stevens was called to center ice by Manson and lost a unanimous bare-fisted decision to the delight of the partisan crowd. After six ejections per side and others serving penalties, ice-time was plentiful. With few skaters left, Adam Oates, one of the era’s prolific assist artist’s, ended the game playing defense.
On top of both teams getting their “Irish up”, it was only fitting an Irishman named Quinn scored during the game. And what better to score on St. Paddy’s Day. Get a leg up fellas! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Our own pot o’ gold, West Coast Craig, tomorrow.