It has been six years since the controversial Memorial Cup in Regina, Saskatchewan, in which the Cornwall Royals became Canada's junior champions over the bewildered Peterborough Petes and Regina Pats.
Amazingly, the coaches of all three finalists not only have moved into the National Hockey League but are in the Patrick Division. Regina's Bryan Murray of Washington and Peterborough's Mike Keenan of Philadelphia, both former NHL coach-of-the-year winners, are fighting for first place.
The coach of Cornwall's champions, Doug Carpenter, is in last place with a New Jersey team that has won only 20 games, but he may be doing the best job of all, keeping the Devils competitive despite the absence of playoff incentive.
Before playing the Capitals here last night, New Jersey had a 5-3-1 record in its last nine games. Over the season, the Devils have played 23 one-goal games, winning nine. They lost three times to Edmonton by a total of four goals and dropped three straight one-goal games to the Islanders, all on late goals by Mike Bossy, before turning on the Islanders last week, 7-2.
Carpenter, a college football and hockey teammate of Murray's at McGill University in Montreal, had an uphill battle with Cornwall, too. Few people gave the Royals, an Ontario team playing in the Quebec League, much chance at the Memorial Cup after they upset Sherbrooke in the Quebec playoffs.
"We had a lot of young kids, and we went to the tournament as a distinct outsider," Carpenter recalled. "Everybody was saying, 'Cornwall who?' We apparently weren't supposed to be there, and the Quebec League is never supposed to win."
Peterborough looked like a winner through its first three games of the double round-robin portion of the tournament, twice beating Regina by one goal and tripping Cornwall by two. The Royals beat the Pats, 5-3, but then took an 11-2 drubbing in their second meeting with Regina.
As Cornwall met Peterborough in the round-robin windup, it needed a victory to advance to Sunday's final against the Petes. A Cornwall defeat would put Regina in the final on goal differential.
Peterborough took a 4-1 lead, but then a funny thing happened. The Petes fell apart, Cornwall took 21 shots in the third period and pulled out a 5-4 victory. The hometown fans in Regina screamed "Fix," and Murray and the Pats' general manager, Bob Strumm, joined in.
"They took one shot on net in the third period, they had two breakaways where they didn't shoot and they were turning back into their own zone," Murray said. "Bob Strumm and I were front and center when asked if Peterborough deliberately gave the game away, but the executive of the CAHA disagreed and we were out.
"Somebody must have seen something very obviously wrong, though, because they changed the format after that."
"They certainly didn't play very well," Carpenter said. "But in this type of tournament, you win so many games and you get in the final. Regina didn't win enough games, so they were odd man out."
Keenan, who did not visit his team's dressing room after the second period, was asked about his team's motives and replied, "I can't comment on that. It's too far removed."
Washington defenseman Larry Murphy, an all-star defenseman for Peterborough, said, "The game didn't mean anything to us, and a lot of our better players didn't see much ice time."
By the time Sunday's final rolled around, the entire city of Regina was up in arms. Fans at the game threw eggs at the Peterborough players and it took an interminable time to finish the contest, won by Cornwall in overtime, 5-4.
Murphy called it a "fiasco." Keenan said, "The final game was an ugly scene. It didn't do justice to the game itself and the meaning of the game. There were a lot of distractions to that particular game, and they changed the format after that. People learn from their mistakes."
Besides the coaches, a number of players on the three teams became NHL regulars. Cornwall's champions included Dale Hawerchuk of Winnipeg, Dan Daoust of Toronto and Marc Crawford of Vancouver. Regina graduated Washington's Darren Veitch as well as Doug Wickenheiser and Ron Flockhart of St. Louis.
Among Peterborough's array of talent were Murphy, Tom Fergus of Toronto, Bill Gardner of Chicago, Mark Reeds of St. Louis, David Fenyves of Buffalo and Washington farmhand Andre Hidi.