Buffalo robbed of best chance to win Stanley Cup


It's fitting the last goal scored when the NHL's ridiculous "toe-in-the-crease" rule was, in effect, clouded with controversy.

Somewhat fitting also is that half-a-decade later, a mere mention of Brett Hull's 1999 Stanley Cup-clinching tally can cause a stirring debate. It also raises the ire of any member of the Buffalo Sabres.

The Dallas Stars' lone Cup victory isn't tainted. Nor should it put a black mark on Hull's magnificent career. The fact remains, under the rules implemented to protect the goaltenders, the triple-overtime Cup-winning goal in Game 6 in Buffalo should never have counted.

The evidence, concrete thanks to the magic of video tape, clearly proves the case against it.

Hull clearly had his left skate in the crease as he dumped the puck past Buffalo goaltender Dominik Hasek.
Worse yet, based on the rule at the time, his little piggies were in the blue paint before the puck was on his stick in the split second after Hasek made the save and it ricocheted off a Sabres defenseman's skate.

The final statement against said goal is that the puck was out of the crease when Hull's skate went in it and before it was on his stick.

A steady stream of less important goals were denied all season for the very same reason.

The situation, naturally, was made all the worse by the fact there was no video replay done at the time.

Remember, this was the season when seemingly every goal came with two celebrations. The first one coming immediately after the puck crossed the line and the red light came on, and the second after the officials talked on a telephone for an eternity before finally pointing to center ice.

For some reason, the officiating crew didn't use the technology created by Alexander Graham Bell.

Curiously, the league later said a video review team watched the replay from several angles, deemed it to be a goal and called down in time. (If you think that smacks of a contrived statement made on the spot, you're not alone. It's very similar to the statement released after Game 6 of last year's final regarding the question about Martin Gelinas' potential Cup winner).

Anyway, amidst the pandemonium and celebration, the NHL didn't have the kahunas to deny the goal, tell everyone to return to their positions and wait for a legit goal to end the match. Maybe they didn't want to bother all the photographers who had stormed the ice.

The good news is it served as the final crushing blow for the "toe-in-the-crease" rule that was abolished days later for the more reasonable "no-harm, no-foul" position that served the purpose those 75 years before and ever since.

Well, that and the fact it finally ended the most mind-numbingly dull Stanley Cup final in history -- but that's another debate.

The Hockey News Material from The Hockey News.
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