Welcome friends! 2MH is back. I know it’s been a while, but after penning the Gary Leeman hate tribute, I, and certainly you, noble reader, are just coming down to normal levels of rational calm, and there’s this whole thing about how there’s been present day hockey related content to get angry over (Phoenix, am I right?), but here we are.
Once a yearly, regular thing Flames fans had become accustomed to now appears off on the horizon, a glimmering oasis of higher illusion. Back in the days of yore, the Flames were, to soften the tone as to not hurt the eyes of Flames fans today, competitive. They may have not always been contenders, but you know what they say, WHEN YOU GET TO THE DANCE, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
It happened once. Well, more than once, but let’s talk about this once. We’ll delve into this deeper, but there’s one culprit we can attribute this particular slice of Flames’ misery on, and seeing as you’ve already read the title, it’s probably someone you might think.
Pavel Bure Kirk McLean.
The Year Was 1994
The world changed in the year nineteen ninety four, in ways that would forever alter the way we as a society operated. American and Russian Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin signed the Kremlin Accords, a major coup in the pledge to decommission nuclear programs. NAFTA was formed. Schindler’s List took the cinematic world by storm, as the Steven Spielberg epic won 7 Academy Awards. Plucky advocate for hope and mental health, young Kurt Cobain was tragically murdered by his wife, forever pushing the world into an abyss of flannel shirts and self loathing.
Teemu Selanne turned 38.
And the Calgary Flames, our heroes, weathered the storms of change in their 14th National Hockey League campaign.
You see, in the 1993-94 season, the NHL had morphed into what is more or less the current incarnation we know today. The NHL realigned the conferences, divisions, and playoff formats. The Smythe Division was no more, and the Flames were, somehow now a member of the PACIFIC (!!) Division in the Western Conference. The Western Conference was now also a thing.
And your Calgary Flames, well they flourished. Change suited them like whatever was a nice looking suit in 1994, which was probably not really nice, because the nineties.
The Flames owned. They flew through the regular season, becoming the inaugural champions of the Pacific Division (again, !!), guaranteeing them a 2nd place overall in the Western Conference. Led by a three pronged attack of 40 goal scorers in Gary Roberts, Robert Reichel, and Theoren Fleury, while, somehow, being backstopped in goal by Andrei Trefilov, Jason Muzzatti, Jeff Reese, Mike Vernon, and best goaltender ever Trevor Kidd.
The Flames, who had the previous season been upset by the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, certainly knew that they had a tough postseason opponent in the Vancouver Canucks, but one they felt like they could win. And they could have. They had the tools.
But something stood in the way.
Kirk McLean is awful. Like, seriously. no one likes you, Kirk McLean, except for the people in Vancouver, but they are atrocious people with destructive properties that cannot be ignored. In 1988, when the blockbuster Bruce Willis action saga DIE HARD!!! (the name DIE HARD!!! must always be spelled out with extra pomp and circumstance and exclamation points to truly charecterize it’s excellence) was released, 20th Century Fox made a last second name change, spelling Willis’ John McClane in a less conventional way so as to not invite comparisons with the then Devils goaltender (Incidentally, the studio had no issue at the time with McLean teammate and Die Hard namesake John MacLean. They just really hated Kirk, as do we all)
Kirk McLean had a forgettable career doing this or that or something, I don’t know. I think he played for Oshawa for a while, marginally, no doubt before either being drafted by the Devils in 1984 or being hired as an usher the record was never quite clear. Anyway, he somehow snuck into the equipment room and donned himself some pads but then lost out on the Devils’ starting goaltender job to the likes of Sean Burke, Chris Terreri, Craig Billington, Karl Friesen, and Alain Chevrier, and that is hilarious.
He managed to play in his first game in the NHL, somehow, in 1986, while Chris Terreri was injured with something called the flu, and the Devils’ other backup (OTHER BACKUP???) Friesen had been released. McLean played in relief of Chevrier and won the game, because it was the 80’s and these things seemed to happen.
Anyway, McLean was eventually traded to Vancouver and blah blah blah, rebuild, Pavel Bure happens, Trevor Linden is loved by all, no one cares. This is not the story we want to tell today. The story of Kirk McLean is not unlike the history behind Kraft Dinner: it’s a household name, you know it’s there, you don’t really care where it came from, and in the end you know it’s going to give you cancer.
Why we hate Kirk
That’s Kirk Cameron, by the way, who everyone also hates.
You may be asking yourself "Why are we 2MHing Kirk McLean? He wasn’t a particularly uncomfortable thorn in the Flames side. He was certainly no Trevor Kidd"
And then you would shudder at the thought of Trevor Kidd, and all the relapses of every one of those addictions you thought you beat flare up, and now your kids won’t talk to you and you’re back in the unemployment line, and well it’s been a pretty crazy ten seconds for you, hasn’t it?
Well, the difference in this instance, compared to past Two Minutes Hate! case studies is breadth of work. Quite often, past 2MH candidates have been showcased for large bodies of work in the sphere of pissing off Flames fans. In the case of Kirk McLean, it all comes down to a single moment in time.
Yeah, that one.
This is infuriating. The Flames, as we’ve established, were the superior team that year, and this, a supremely entertaining and hotly contested seven game series was down to the wire. Game 7. Overtime. Stanley Cup playoffs. It certainly does not get any better than that.
And then it happened. Vernon deftly makes the save off a wrister from the half boards. The puck flutters harmlessly in the air to the other end of the Flames defensive zone, where a waiting Gary Roberts, young and hard nosed as he was wont to be, flips the puck out of the zone where diminuitive speedster Theoren Fleury pounces. Robert Reichel, the third member of this All 40 Goals Scored line, smelling blood, also charges down the ice while the plodding Vancouver defensemen fail to pick up on the developing odd man rush on time. Flat footed, they are also surpassed by a breaking Gary Roberts, creating what is essentially a 3 on 1.
Again, in overtime.
Fleury, perceptive to Reichel’s lurking in the slot, shifts to his side and feeds a wide open Reichel with the puck while Roberts drives to the net. The cage coould not be more yawning. Reichel, eyes agape, recieves the disc, cradling it on the curve of his Sher-Wood (maybe) stick, angles the crisp past towards the looming net.
It’s over. It’s Kirk McLean. It’s the Flames destiny. It HAS to be over. Onto round 2 and beyond.
And then, a toe.
Kirk McLean’s toe.
The man who made an entire career out of defining himself as a stand up goalie all of a sudden felled the Flames hopes for more postseason glory by discovering the two pad stack.
THE TWO PAD STACK?!?!?!
The play was immediately dubbed "The Save", a kind of epithet that ensures the moment is forever immortalized and ranked in the upper echelons of sports mystique. But this had to have been by accident. McLean must have tripped on his blade or a stick or nothing, or something, because no way was this goaltending heretic ever that graceful nor was that on purpose. One assumes he realizes that there was no way Reichel was going to miss and was already in the process of skating towards the dressing room where he would let the media know that he was in fact, a fraud.
(We still know it’s true, Kirk, doesn’t matter if you spent the rest of your career shrouding that little secret)
At least the Flames were still alive, aspirations for Stanley still intact, their inferior opponents on the ropes, until double overtime when the tragic happened:
Yeah, we don’t like you either, Pavel.
The Young Guns era was a short 4 seasons away.
LET THE HATE FLOW THROUGH YOU
Rest assured, friends, everyone got what was coming to them on this one. The Canucks, on the strength of The Save, made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, where the deadly combination of Mark Messier, Mike Richter, and an abundance of goal posts kept Vancouver from tasting hockey’s most prized delicacy. This, in turn, led to Vancouver residents destroying their city over a hockey game and oh God where have I heard that one before?
I don’t need to tell you that Vancouver still has yet to achieve this goal.
They also traded McLean and a young Martin Gelinas, noted playoff warrior, to the Carolina Hurricanes in a deal where Enrico Ciccone was part of the return coming the other way, so good call on that one, guys.
McLean, for his part, in no short supply of karma, would spend the rest of his post Vancouver career playing backup to those who had been ahead of him in New Jersey, those who would thwart him in previous playoff runs, and Trevor Kidd. So that soothes the sting a little bit.
But not enough, obviously, which is why this has been your Two Minutes Hate! May you forever be the victim of Brian Noonan’s offensive exploits.