It’s been 52 years since any winner-take-all game was played here in Detroit by a Detroit team. It was the 1957 NFL Championship game and the legendary Tex Maule wrote the following about it in Sports Illustrated: “The seams of Briggs Stadium in Detroit were near to bursting with the 55,263 people who were willing to pay up to $10 apiece to watch their home-town Lions play the Cleveland Browns for the national professional football championship.”
$10 dollars apiece, you say? I have a friend who was hoping to score a pair in the Lower Bowl for big Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final tonight and his ticket broker told him, “No problem. That will be NINE THOUSAND DOLLARS.” I told my friend, “I understand that watching Hi-Def TV is just like being there.”
Well, no matter where we are sitting, let’s look at Game 7’s in the Stanley Cup Final. Or is it Games 7? I don't know.
(Note to the broadcasters on radio and TV: It’s The Stanley Cup FINAL. The Finals are played in the NBA. This is the reason you see the words “Stanley Cup Final” painted on the ice in ten-foot letters. Twice. Inside each blue line. It’s the name of the event, you see.) Ahem.
With respect to The Stanley Cup Final, this is the seventh 7th game in the history of the Detroit Red Wings. It’s surprising, but since the National Hockey League made the Final a best-of-seven series in 1939—some 70 years ago now that we think of it—only 14 Final series’ have gone the limit. What’s more, five of them (including the present series) have come in the first 9 years of the current century. Indeed, the NHL went nearly a quarter of a century (between 1971-94 non-inclusive) with only one 7-game Stanley Cup Final.
1971 is important. It’s the last time a road team won a Game 7. It was the year the Blackhawks led rookie goalie Ken Dryden and the Canadiens 2-0 at the Chicago Stadium in Game 7 only to have Henri Richard—the same Henri Richard who scored the controversial Cup-winning goal at the Olympia against Detroit in Game 6 of the 1966 Final—score both the game-tying and game-winning goals for Montreal. Since that game the home team has won Game 7 six straight times.
Now, at one time or another, we’ve told you each of the following during the Detroit-Pittsburgh series. (Each scenario reflects the standing of the Red Wings in the current Final series):
- Teams winning Game One have won the Cup 54 of 69 times (78.3%).
- Teams winning both Games One and Two have won the Cup 41 of 44 times (93.2%).
- Teams holding a 2-1 series lead have won the Cup 38 of 44 times (86.4%).
- Teams winning Game Five after splitting the first four games have won the Cup 14 of 19 times (73.7%).
- Teams holding a 3-2 series lead have won the Cup 26 of 32 times (81.3%).
(Source: 2009 NHL Total Stanley Cup)
Now, let’s add one:
- Teams tied 3-3 in the series have won the Cup 7 of 14 times (50.0%).
However, we can also say this:
- Teams playing at home tied 3-3 in the series have won the Cup 12 of 14 times (85.7%).
Let’s give you a few more facts.
- No team has played in more Game 7’s in the Final than Detroit (6). Montreal is second with 4.
- Detroit is 3-3 all-time in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
- The only team to defeat Detroit in a Game 7 is Toronto. The Leafs beat Detroit in Game 7 in 1942, ‘45 and ‘64. (All 3 of those series are remarkable. In 1942, Detroit led the series 3-0 and dropped four in a row, the first and only time that’s happened in a Final. Johnny Mowers gave up 25 goals, still the record for most goals allowed by a netminder in a Final series. In 1945, Toronto became the first team—and other than those ‘71 Canadiens, the only team—to win a Cup Final Game 7 on the road, beating Detroit at Olympia Stadium 2-1. Toronto’s Frank McCool shut out the Red Wings in the first 3 games that year but Detroit came back to win the next 3. Toronto won Game 7, 2-1, in a series in which McCool and Detroit’s Harry Lumley, both rookie goalies, allowed only 9 goals each. Really. 7 games and both goalies only gave up 9. In 1964 Maple Leafs defenseman Bobby Baun was famously carted off on a stretcher at the Olympia late in Game 6, only to come back and even more famously score the overtime winner to force Game 7 in Toronto—a game won by the Leafs 4-0 in the first-ever shutout in hockey’s ultimate game.)
- Detroit played in the first 6 Game 7’s in the history of the Final: 1942, ‘45, ‘50, ‘54 ‘55 and ‘64.
- Other than those losses to Toronto, Detroit went the full 7 against the Rangers in 1950 and Montreal in 1954 and 1955. They won all 3.
- This is the first Game 7 in Detroit since April 14, 1955—a 3-1 Cup-winning win over the Canadiens.
- The only 2 Game 7’s to go into overtime were played in Detroit and won by Detroit. Pete Babando scored in double overtime (28:31 of OT to be exact) to beat the Rangers in the 1950 Final. In 1954, Tony Leswick lobbed the puck into the Montreal zone and headed off for a change. He never saw Montreal’s Doug Harvey—the best defenseman in NHL history not named Bobby Orr—reach up to bat the puck away and instead deflect it past his perplexed goaltender Jacques Plante at 4:29 to give the Leswick the goal and the WIngs a 2-1 win and the Stanley Cup.
And that’s all I have for you. I tell you one thing I don’t have. $9,000 for a couple of hockey tickets. I think it will look just fine on TV. Oh, I forgot. That 1957 NFL Championship game in Detroit that fans were willing to fork over as much as $10 to see? It was blacked out locally. So, no complaining tonight, especially if you’ve got hi-def.