On March 30, 1991, Guy Lafleur arrived at the Forum in a Nordiques uniform. His retirement already announced, everyone knows that this is his last match in the amphitheater where he was so adored. And because life is sometimes well done, Lafleur underlines the event by entering the 560and and last goal of his career. Let’s relive this historic goal with seven people who were there.
Posted yesterday at 11:00 p.m.
Before the match
The day before, it was in a hotel in downtown Montreal that Lafleur spoke to the media. Only in the photo published in The Press, there are five television cameras capturing the press briefing. The craze follows to the Forum.
“There were so many Lafleur sweaters in the stands! remembers Claude Quenneville, descriptor of the match at Radio-Canada. With the Montreal-Quebec rivalry, there were always Nordiques fans at the Forum. That evening, I’m not sure that all these people took for the Nordiques, but they took for Lafleur. »
The crowd announces its colors even before the start of the match. Lafleur is given a standing ovation during the warm-up, then at the start of a ceremony to pay tribute to number 10.
“They were giving him presents, like in pretty much every arena he was last in,” says Dave Chambers, Nordiques head coach that season. I remember we couldn’t start the game, because the crowd kept cheering! »
The ovation finally lasts a good six minutes.
The numerical advantage
We move into the second period. It’s tied at 2-2 when Brent Gilchrist is kicked out. The Nordiques then form the worst team in the NHL, by far. Their numerical advantage is therefore as follows: Joe Sakic, Stéphane Morin, Tony Hrkac, Alexei Gusarov and… Lafleur.
He always had exceptional shooting and good anticipation of the game. His shooting was his trademark and he was able to stand out. He still had it at the end of his career, even if he didn’t have his speed before.
Jacques Martin, assistant coach with the Nordiques that year
For the Habs, Shayne Corson, Brian Skrudland, Éric Desjardins and Jean-Jacques Daigneault are deployed.
“You see the guys want to give the puck to Guy. I find it beautiful, ”analyzes Desjardins, after reviewing the sequence.
Sakic ends up joining Lafleur at the blue line, Lafleur shoots… and misses the target. The other attempts to join him proving unsuccessful, Gusarov goes there with a slap shot. Patrick Roy makes the save, but grants a return.
“There are two players against me,” recalls Daigneault. I try to control the return with my right skate, because I have someone [Morin] on the left post of Patrick, but the return passes me between the two legs. »
Lafleur passes by, he jumps on the free puck and scores. A goal that Patrick Roy admits to having forgotten.
“When I saw the game again, I was at least happy to see that he had scored from the slot and not from the corner or the edge of the boards! emphasizes the legendary goalkeeper. I’m going to have to show the goal to my players from the Remparts, when I tell them to go into the enclave on the power play to score! You could see he had the “sniff” to know where the puck would go. »
“We see that this is not a classic goal for Guy. It’s a return, he is well positioned, in the slot, a little high, to be ready if the puck comes out, ”analyzes Desjardins.
“It looks like it’s a goal that is not typical of Guy, adds Daigneault. We remember Guy going down the wing, his hair blowing in the wind, with his fluidity and his talent, he crossed 10 feet after the blue line, he shot and he scored. But a return to the enclave on the power play, it seems that I have not often seen him score like that. Maybe he scored more like that at the end of his career, because the systems were more evolved and the goalkeepers were better. »
Roy gives all the credit to Lafleur. “He worked on it, his goal! He jumped on the return and he put it inside the post, not in the middle of the net. Hat ! Not all players went into the Enclave like this, especially without a helmet! »
By his legendary status, Lafleur is entitled to a certain immunity on the ice. This is even more true in a match like this, the penultimate of the season for both teams, with no stake in the standings.
“In season, when you face a legend like that, you have to do your job, but you don’t want to be the one who hurts him either, recalls Desjardins. I remember facing Wayne Gretzky in the playoffs, and it was completely different. It’s for the Stanley Cup, you can’t play with too much respect.
Guy was still good. But having all that respect gave him a little more space on the ice. And he wasn’t wearing a helmet. You didn’t want to come in the corner, give him the big check and hurt him!
The goal is followed by an explosion of joy, in the stands, but especially among the fleur-de-lis jerseys. An unusual joy for a team that has 15 small wins in 78 games.
“You feel that it’s special, that the guys are happy for him,” observes Desjardins.
Morin is the first to jump into his arms. Hrkac, Gusarov and Sakic follow.
Gusarov had then just arrived from the Soviet Union, but cigarette diplomacy had obviously worked between him and Lafleur, who liked to smoke one together during intermissions.
“My English was not very good. It is still not very good today! laughs Gusarov. But he was funny and kind to his teammates, he took us out to good restaurants, so it was easy to communicate with him. Sometimes he would lend me his cell phone so that I could call Russia. I think it cost him enough for my calls! »
The referees wait 1 min 40 s before putting the puck back into play, the time to let the spectators, including Maurice Richard, Michel Bergeron and Jean Doré, give their hero a standing ovation.
“At the time, a lot of people said it was Lafleur’s revenge against the Canadiens. But I think he just wanted to prove that he was still able to play, believes Claude Quenneville. It was a bit of a nod to the audience saying, ‘I’m giving you a present. “And the public gave it back to him. I have never seen an opponent get so much applause. People loved him. He was the successor of Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau. The torch had been passed to him, as in the famous phrase in the locker room. »