Wayne Gretzky: Maple Leafs ‘could have won the Stanley Cup’ in 1993

Los-Angeles-Kings-Wayne-Gretzky

Had Kerry Fraser called a high-sticking penalty on Wayne Gretzky in Game 6 of the Kings-Maple Leafs series in 1993, it’s quite possible the city of Toronto wouldn’t still be dealing with a 52-year Stanley Cup drought.

“The Toronto Maple Leafs were probably a better hockey club than we were,” Gretzky told Ron MacLean. “Montreal deserved to win the Stanley Cup because they were better than the LA Kings. And I say this to people in earnest, and people in Montreal wouldn’t agree: Toronto probably could have won the Stanley Cup.”

But that pivotal moment went in another direction and Gretzky’ Kings won both that game and the following one to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. There they met the Montreal Canadiens for a five-game series that had wild moments of its own, including three games that needed overtime.

On Saturday night, in the first of a special two-part series, Gretzky joins MacLean to watch Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. The Great One will share some of his stories and memories from the game and will give viewers a glimpse into what he was thinking at certain key moments, such as when Los Angeles’ Marty McSorley was given a critical illegal stick penalty will less than two minutes left in regulation.

MacLean and Gretzky will also be joined by Kirk Muller for a perspective from Montreal’s side.

Game 2 appeared to be a turning point in the series. With Los Angeles already up 1-0 in the best-of-7 and 2-1 in Game 2, they were in position to take a favourable lead back to California. But the crucial call led to a Montreal goal in regulation to tie it up, and the home side went on to win in overtime to even the series.

Gretzky never won a game in the Stanley Cup Final again.

The Kings and Canadiens took very different paths to the final. Where Montreal came in having played only nine games in their previous 33 days, the Kings had played 19 total playoff games and had just come off an emotional win in Game 7 against Toronto. Their travel schedule was also more difficult, already surviving a cross-continent slugfest.

Gretzky explained how exhausted the Kings were once they got to the final, and shared a story about one thing in particular that happened on the morning of Game 2 that will stick with him forever.

“We won Game 1,” Gretzky starts. “Game 2 morning skate (Canadiens coach) Jacques Demers didn’t practice and I remember thinking, because I’m old school, how can you not have a morning skate? And they were so fresh and so ready for Game 2…we were physically and mentally exhausted as a team heading into that third period of Game 2. It was very difficult for us.

“I remember thinking ‘I can’t believe Jacques Demers did not practice on the morning of Game 2.’ I thought ‘wow they’ve given up.’ That was my first thought. And boy was I way wrong.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.