On Sunday night in Nashville, Kevin Pollock was welcomed into an exclusive and very unwelcome fraternity — the NHL Zebra Haters’ Club.
He joins esteemed members like Leon Stickle, Kerry Fraser, Bill McCreary and Stephen Walkom, each of whom was inducted into the club following controversial, series-altering calls that helped shape the outcome of a Stanley Cup Final.
And while their names may never be etched onto the Stanley Cup, their infamous contributions will nonetheless be part of its lore.
So, without further ado, here are the five most controversial (some might say “egregious”) calls in Stanley Cup Final history:
No. 5: Marty McSorley‘s stick measurement in Game 2 of the 1993 finals
Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings had a 1-0 lead and were 1:45 away from taking a commanding 2-0 lead in their series against the Montreal Canadiens when Habs coach Jacques Demers called a timeout and asked referees for a measurement of McSorley’s stick.
Fraser skated to the Kings’ bench, pulled out a measuring device and determined that McSorley’s stick had an illegal curve, warranting a two-minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Demers pulled goaltender Patrick Roy to create a 6-on-4 power play, and Canadiens defenseman Eric Desjardins scored the tying goal just 32 seconds later to send the game into overtime.
Desjardins netted the game winner 51 seconds into overtime to give the Canadiens a 2-1 win — the first of four consecutive victories for Montreal. Years later, McSorley said the Canadiens’ equipment staff had wheeled the Kings’ stick rack into their locker room to measure for illegal curves.
No. 4: No offside call in Game 6 of the 1980 finals
With the score tied at 1 in the first period, Islanders forward Duane Sutter beat goaltender Pete Peeters on a cross-ice feed from Butch Goring, giving the Isles a 2-1 lead with 5:52 remaining.
Replays clearly showed that when Clark Gillies entered the offensive zone and dropped the puck back to Goring, the puck left the offensive zone into neutral ice, after which Goring brought the puck back over the blue line. Linesman Leon Stickle waved the pass clean.
Although the Flyers twice rallied to tie the score, the Islanders clinched their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups with Bob Nystrom’s goal 7:11 into overtime. After the game, Stickle admitted he made the wrong call. He was vilified by fans every time he returned to Philadelphia.
No. 3: The quick whistle in Game 6 of the 2017 finals
In front of a raucous crowd at Bridgestone Arena (where they had gone 9-1 in the playoffs), the underdog Nashville Predators needed a win to send the series back to Pittsburgh for a seventh and deciding game.
With 1:07 gone in a scoreless second period, the Predators appeared to take a 1-0 lead when Filip Forsberg‘s shot squirted past Penguins goaltender Matt Murray and Preds forward Colton Sissons poked it into the open net.
Positioned to Murray’s right in the far left corner of the offensive zone, Pollock was blocked from the action by the bodies of Forsberg and Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley. He blew the play dead, thinking Murray had smothered the puck. Pollock whistled the play dead about a second before Sissons celebrated what he thought was the game’s first goal.
The game remained scoreless until the Penguins’ Patric Hornqvist netted the game winner with 1:35 remaining in the third period, and Carl Hagelin finished off the Predators with an empty netter. After the game, Pollock reportedly apologized to Sissons for his mistake.
No. 2: Over the line in Game 6 of the 2004 finals
One win from clinching their second Stanley Cup in franchise history, the Calgary Flames thought they had taken a 3-2 lead against the Tampa Bay Lightning on a power-play goal by forward Martin Gelinas with 6:57 remaining in regulation.
Flames forward Oleg Saprykin raced the puck through all three zones and fired a shot on Tampa goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin that caromed off the netminder and onto the right skate of Gelinas. The puck ricocheted in the direction of Khabibulin and crossed the goal line before the goalie could kick the puck back out of harm’s way.
Referees Bill McCreary and Stephen Walkom never saw the puck cross the line, nor did they seek out a video review. It was not revealed that Gelinas had actually scored until the following faceoff, when a television replay showed the puck clearly crossing the line.
The game spilled into overtime, where Martin St. Louis netted the winning shot 33 seconds in to send the series back to Tampa. The Lightning won their first Stanley Cup following a 2-1 Game 7 victory that was fueled by a pair of goals from Ruslan Fedotenko. Later it was revealed that Fraser was originally scheduled to work Game 6 in Calgary but was replaced after Calgary fans reacted angrily to Fraser’s calls in Game 4.
No. 1: Skate in the crease in Game 6 of the 1999 finals
Dominik Hasek and the die-hard fans of the Buffalo Sabres will probably carry this one to their graves. The Sabres were facing the Stars in Buffalo with a chance to send the series back to Dallas for a seventh and deciding game. Hasek and Stars netminder Eddie Belfour put on a goaltending clinic, each allowing just one goal and forcing the game into a third overtime.
With 5:09 left in the third OT, Stars forward Brett Hull gained position in front of the net, took a pass from Jere Lehtinen and had his initial attempt stopped by Hasek. The puck careened out of the crease, but Hull kicked the puck back to his stick and deposited the game winner, prompting his teammates to spring from the bench and onto the ice in celebration.
When Hull’s shot crossed the goal line, the toe of his left skate was in the crease. At the time, the NHL rulebook (78-b) read:
Unless the puck is in the goal crease area, a player of the attacking side may not stand in the goal crease. If a player has entered the crease prior to the puck, and subsequently the puck should enter the net while such conditions prevail, the apparent goal shall not be allowed. If an attacking player has physically interfered with the goalkeeper, prior to or during the scoring of the goal, the goal shall be disallowed and a penalty for goalkeeper interference will be assessed. The ensuing face-off shall be taken in the neutral zone at the face-off spot nearest the attacking zone of the offending team.
The rule was put into effect to protect goaltenders, and referees Terry Gregson and Bill McCreary later contended that because Hull did not interfere with Hasek, his goal was allowed to stand. The NHL has since removed the rule, but that has not appeased the passionate fans in Buffalo, who are still seeking their first Stanley Cup.