The Philadelphia Flyers face the New York Islanders a number of times during every regular season. This shortened hockey year, they will play them four times. Whenever the “Bullies” travel to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the misery connected to the 1980 Stanley Cup Final is resurrected.
Philadelphia hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since they beat the Buffalo Sabres in 1975. The Flyers had no chance to capture a third straight silver chalice in 1976, because the Montreal Canadiens began their four-year domination of Lord Stanley’s silver chalice with a sweep of Fred Shero’s team that spring.
But, 1979-80 was the season that Pat Quinn’s team forged their incredible 35-game unbeaten streak. That unbroken hockey line began with a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 14, 1979 and ended with a 7-1 loss to the Minnesota North Stars on January 7, 1980. During the course of nearly three months, the Flyers amassed and recorded 25 wins, 10 ties and zero losses.
The preceding paragraph was included to establish proper perspective. During that historical season everyone who was connected to the National Hockey League believed that the Flyers were a team of destiny. On May 24, 1980, linesman Leon Stickle and Islander Bob Nystrom prevented that iced reality from ever existing.
Here’s a rewind of the fateful scenes:
With the Flyers trailing the series 3-2 and the team’s tied at 1-1 in the first period of Game 6, Stickle blew a call that allowed Butch Goring to accept a blatant offside pass from Clark Gillies. Gillies passed the puck to Duane Suter who beat Pete Peeters over his left shoulder to give the Islanders the lead.
The Flyers later fell behind 4-2, but tied the game to send it into overtime. It was during that final, infinitely painful frame that John Tonelli fed Nystrom who beat Peeters with a backhand shot to win the Cup. That dramatic ending began the Islanders’ streak of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships.
Yes, that game happened nearly 33 years ago. But, whenever the old Coliseum is seen again, those vivid scenes are instantly renewed.
Thankfully, the Islanders will be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to start the 2015-16 season.