By now, it’s been the goal seen, heard, and debated around the world. You already know which one we’re talking about: the San Jose Sharks overtime winner against the Blues that came off a blatant hand pass. Truth be told, I wasn’t watching the game, I was at a bar, but I knew the situation was bad when I looked down at my phone and saw, not a text from my hockey loving friends, but my own mother explaining the situation.
“San Jose just scored but one of their players touched the puck with this hands to give it to someone else. Is that even allowed? It looks controversial.”
As soon as I saw that, I knew this was going to be the great debate heading into the Stanley Cup finals. Now, the purpose of this article isn’t to debate if the officials blew the call or not (they did, by the way), but to compare it to another controversial NHL playoff goal. This is one we’re still talking about and debating 20 years later. That goal was Brett Hull’s Stanley cup winning goal in 1999.
For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999, a year before they would lose to New Jersey in the finals, after Stars player Brett Hull scored in overtime of game 6. At the time, NHL rules stated a players skate could not be in the crease, but Hull’s was prior to the goal being scored. The NHL explained, and maintains the position, that since hull had possession of the puck while his skate entered the crease, the play was legal and the goal stands.
The entire hockey world has been talking about Erik Karlsson’s goal Wednesday night, with that news eclipsing even the Boston Bruins advancing to the Stanley Cup finals. Even though we’re still talking about it after two days, will we be talking about in 20 years like the Hull goal? Which will go down as the more controversial of the two?
The answer to that is simple: the Brett Hull goal will continue to live in infamy. That goal decided, not only a series, but a Stanley Cup championship. The stakes are always high for the Stanley Cup, but the stakes for the 1999 cup were just a bit higher considering both franchises, the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres were competing for their first Stanley Cup. Buffalo still remains Cup-less to this day, so the wound of the Hull goal can still be felt throughout the city.
Karlsson’s goal, while coming in the Western Conference final, came in game three. While it may have given the Sharks a 2-1 series lead, this is still a very winnable series for the Blues. If the Blues end up falling to the Sharks, that goal will be looked at as a turning point. If the Blues end up prevailing over San Jose, Blues fans will probably forget all about it as they set their eyes to the ultimate prize: the team’s first Stanley Cup.
Over the years, a certain mystique has grown around Brett Hull’s goal and the leagues reaction. The league responded with actions, such as changing the rules about a players skate in the crease all the while sending a secret memo to NHL teams explaining the goal call. That might sound like aggressive action, but it was an aggressive situation.
The NHL got the call wrong, and we can all watch the clip a million and one times and come to the same conclusion. Most likely as the playoffs carry on, the outrage will begin to dwindle, and the San Jose Sharks goal will be relegated to a footnote in NHL history, while the Hull goal has its own chapter.