It is, at the very least, the most famous penalty in Kings history. On June 3, 1993, at the Montreal Forum, the Kings led the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 late in the third period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals. If the Kings won, they would take a 2-0 lead back to Los Angeles in the best-of-seven series. Play halted. The Canadiens called for a stick measurement on Marty McSorley. Referee Kerry Fraser took McSorley’s stick to the scorer’s booth, measured it and determined that it had an illegal curvature. McSorley got a two-minute penalty and the Canadiens scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game, then scored in overtime. Montreal won the next three games and the Stanley Cup. Kings fans can recite these details with the same ease as reciting the names of their children.
For 19 years, McSorley has heard about the stick, from fans and media. Most of the mentions and inquiries are of a good nature, but somewhat understandably, McSorley tires of hearing questions and comments about the stick and its infamous place in franchise history. Today, with the Kings back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993, McSorley held an informal session with the media and addressed the incident at length. After an initial statement, in which McSorley talked about “what a great time in Kings history this is. This is really a phenomenal time,’’ and talked about how his 3-year-old son wears a Kings jersey around the house, McSorley jumped into the stick controversy and gave his extensive thoughts.
MCSORLEY: “I have been asked constantly, and people have texted my wife for reactions. People want to hear about the stick in 1993. It’s OK, fellas. I’m a big boy. How I’m going to answer that is, if you guys know me — and a lot of you — I’m very honest and I’m very frank. The thing that disappoints me most about this (is) I think there’s been a degree of sensationalism, a big degree of sensationalism, and I don’t think there’s been a lot of honesty. Did I have an illegal stick? Yes, I did. Did I stand up, after the fact, and say, `Listen, I had an illegal stick’? Yes, I did. The things that have transpired since then, I don’t think there has been a lot of honesty. For me, personally, it was very, very disappointing. I’ve always been honest with the fans and the media here in L.A. I’m being honest with you now. That was very disappointing. To kind of hear it come out, if it’s going to come out, let’s be honest about what happened.
“Let’s be honest about the situation. Let’s not sensationalize it. Let’s be factual, and then we move on. I had an illegal stick. I think that Barry Melrose, I think that Luc Robitaille, (longtime trainer) Peter Demers, different guys around, have basically said what happened. We all know they basically pulled the stick rack into their locker room. That’s honest and that’s frank. Am I sitting here complaining? No. But that is what happened. Is it disappointing for me? Yes. It was disappointing for us, collectively, because we were a team, and boy were we a tight-knit team. I think that Barry Melrose did a phenomenal job that year of getting us together as a team. Would they have called somebody else? I think probably, because they knew there were numerous guys (with illegal sticks). I think we kind of treated it, at that time, as almost George Brett’s pine-tar (bat). That’s kind of how we treated it. To make a call like that is really, really gutsy. To find out later that they knew, and how they knew, was really, really disappointing. This is not a shot at the Montreal Canadiens, because I think that (new general manager) Marc Bergevin — he’s a friend of mine. I really hope he has success. As you guys know, I do some studio analyst work up in Canada, and I do some work here with Fox in Southern California, and I truly enjoy doing that. I’m brutally honest on the air, as I am right now. That part really disappoints me.’’
Just to back up a bit here, and add some perspective, the stick-rack theft accusation is one that I wrote for the Daily News in 2003, while writing a package about the 10th anniversary of the Kings’ trip to the Finals. Luc Robitaille said that, sometime around 2000, he heard a confession regarding the stick. “I’m in Montreal’s new arena and this policeman comes up to me,” Robitaille said in 2003. “He said, `To this day, I feel so bad. You know, they measured your sticks between periods and before games.’ In the old arena, they used to keep our sticks by the Montreal locker room during the games, and this guy told me that a trainer, or somebody from the Montreal team, told him to look to other way while he measured our sticks. Of course, that’s just what he told me, there’s no proof.’’
Robitaille’s last phrase there is an important one. There has never been any proof that this took place, and nobody from the Montreal organization has even publicly alluded to it. Jacques Demers, Montreal’s coach in 1993, authored a piece for USA Today in 1993 in which he said the Canadiens merely used observation, not deception. “To this day, some people believe we had someone enter the Kings’ dressing room and measure that stick,” Demers wrote, “but the truth is Kirk Muller and Guy Carbonneau had noticed during Game 1 that McSorley’s stick looked illegal.’’
McSorley said he has the stick at his home, but that it’s not on display in any way. McSorley largely laid the blame for the continuing story at the feet of the media, and that’s simply not true. In 19 years, it was really only a media storyline in 2003, during the 10th anniversary, yet fans and hockey followers regularly bring up the stick when McSorley’s name is mentioned. When asked whether he thought he would be “absolved’’ if the Kings ever win the Stanley Cup, McSorely ultimately said no.
MCSORLEY: “You know what? No, because I don’t think there’s anything I need to be absolved from. If you talk to any of my teammates, maybe if it had happened to one of my teammates, God knows how it might have affected them. I don’t think — it didn’t truly affect me, because I had an understanding as to what the situation was and what the circumstances were. We went about playing our business in Game 3 and Game 4. So, to answer your question, I don’t think there’s anything I need to be absolved from. From the fan base, I certainly don’t look at the fan base as being a body of people that have hung onto that. I really don’t. Yes, it comes up and yes, it’s in their mind. It is. It’s a point in Kings history. That point though, if it has honesty and there’s real frankness involved with it, I’m fine with it.’’