As 2009 comes to a close, most Canadian sports fans would tell you that the biggest tactical sporting blunder of the year, and perhaps of all time, was made during this year’s Grey Cup game where the Saskatchewan Rough Riders’ vaunted 13th man actually turned out to be the grim reaper. However, only a few know, and even few of those are willing to speak of, an even bigger blunder that occurred in a pivotal moment of an equally important game.
That game was the Blue team’s second game of the WOHL’s annual Christmas round robin tournament where each of the four league teams plays three fifteen minute games in a two hour span. After breaking oddsmakers hearts across the land with a 2-0 loss in game one, the blue team needed to win game two in order to stay alive. Or did they? Ah….as the saying goes, that is the question.
With less than a minute to go and tied with the red team 0-0, (yes, the offense was feeling the pressure), the troops prepared to waive Fulch the goalie to the bench. However, the infamous red team then committed what appeared to be a most critical blunder when they iced the puck with 36 seconds to go. For why this was a bad move, please see an explanation of the WOHL’s last minute ice rule in this post.
With a penalty shot coming the blue team’s way at the end of regulation, there was no need to go with the extra man since the odds of scoring on the penalty shot were probably 50-50, better than the chance the extra attacker would provide the winning goal and, more importantly, not giving the red team the chance to snatch a limp victory by virtue of an empty net goal in the final seconds.
36 seconds to go and the clock ticking. Rich the ref scoops the puck up and takes it to the red team’s end for a face-off. Out comes Fulch. But wait….some on the Blue bench are screaming to put him back in. 30 seconds. Fulch arrives at the bench. “PUT HIM BACK IN – WE’VE GOT A PENALTY SHOT COMING!”. Others on the blue bench, particulary Rajna, want Fulch squarely on the bench so we can go for the victory in regulation. 25 seconds. Trimble and Warmington and Crowley are screaming at Rajna and Erb that we need to put him back in the cage but to no avail. 16 seconds. The extra attacker heads for the red team’s end. The puck drops, there’s 10 seconds of scramble and then the red team clears it out of their end , crosses centre and scores into the empty net with 1 second to go. Argh……
But wait, there’s more. Warmington then took the penalty shot, which the blue team was still awarded, knowing it’s meaningless since we needed a win to stay alive. Or did we? (Wasn’t there one year where the four game round robin had all four teams tied with 1-1-1 records and some complex tie breaker rule was needed? ) He missed after getting poke checked out near the blue line somewhere (he didn’t read my earlier blog post, see link above, on how not to take a penalty shot) and the final score is 1-0 red team.
After the game, it’s a bitterly divided bleu dressing room. The mitts were dropped, as well as some pretty good one-liners, and then cooler heads prevailed. After all, win or lose, there were still wings and bevies to be had at the Central after game three.
The red team went on to win the tournament but it was a tainted victory. Kinda like the Stanley Cup game where Brett Hull scored with one foot in the crease to win it for Dallas.