The one thing every fan fears is their favorite team collapsing in a crucial moment. The only thing scarier than that is their favorite team coughing up what seems like a guaranteed victory.
This column focuses on the scariest of all collapses, the choke job. The following instances are some of the worst in not only the NHL, but in all of sports history. These are choke jobs that are so bad that even the Heimlich Maneuver wouldn’t help.
The Edmonton Oilers came into the best of five series as heavy favorites. The Oilers finished the regular season at 48-17-15 where as their opponents, the Los Angeles Kings, had a disappointing 24-41-13 record.
Ultimately the Kings won the series in game five, but that wasn’t where the Oilers choked. The turning point came in game three when the series was tied.
In that game, the Gretzky led Oilers blew a 5-0 lead in the third period. Then they coughed up a goal in overtime to give the Kings the victory.
After that the Oilers tied the series in game four but the damage had been done. The Kings had nothing to lose and proved that they could hang with the Oilers offensively. That resulted in the Kings pulling off one of the major upsets in postseason history with a score of 7-4 in game five to move on to the next round.
The game 7 loss stung for Bruins fans
In the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, the Boston Bruins took a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers. That lead didn’t last long as the Bruins dropped the next three games to the Flyers.
Boston’s inability to close out the series in games four, five or six would prove costly. In game seven, the Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the first period. That lead didn’t last long because James Van Riemsdyk scored at the end of the period to pull within two.
The Bruins then proceeded to give up three more goals in the last 40 minutes of the game. Somehow Boston managed to choke away a three-game series lead and a three-goal lead in the elimination game.
It all worked out in the end for the Bruins, though, because the next year they were able to get their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
In the 1999 Stanley Cup finals, the Dallas Stars took on the Buffalo Sabres. This was a crucial game that would either crown the Stars as champions or push the finals back to Dallas for a seventh game.
The choke job here did not come from the Sabres but from the officiating crew. As many people still maintain this is a no-goal because of the rule that says a player can not have a skate in the crease unless the puck entered first.
In the game, the officiating crew did not enforce the rule as many understood it. Since the game was late into the third overtime, it is possible that the referees were tired and making a bad call fueled by exhaustion. Skating at a high speed in order to follow some of the world’s best athletes can be tiring. It can be especially tiring when you do it for two hours of game time and past midnight.
The NHL released many statements defending the decision of the referees but that was most likely to quiet the outrage over the issue.
There is no guarantee that if it had been called a no-goal that the Sabres would have won, but it was a rough pill to swallow for Buffalo fans.