The Monday Night Miracle
Doug Wickenheiser is most known for his game-winning, overtime goal in Game 6 of the 1986 Campbell Conference finals game between Doug's St. Louis Blues and the Calgary Flames. The Blues were down, 5-1, with 14 minutes to play. Doug scored to spark a four-goal rally which sent the game to overtime.
Seven minutes, 30 seconds into the sudden-death overtime, Doug scored a rebound goal to send the series to a seventh game, sending the packed Checkerdome crowd into a frenzy. The fans refused to leave the arena and players were fearful the building would collapse.
Al MacInnis, a current Blues player who played for Calgary in 1986, called the game "The greatest night in Blues' history." The folks in St. Louis still refer to that Game 6 as the "Monday Night Miracle." A powerful player, always big for his age, Doug was the first pick in the 1980 NHL draft, selected by Montreal.
He scored 111 goals and had 165 assists in a 10-year NHL career before playing a few years in the minor leagues. Ultimately, he was forced into retirement because of the cancer. He was 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and just a dominating, dominating player. When he was 10, he was playing with 13- and 14-year-olds and Doug was the best player out there. He was always two years ahead of himself. Even when he was 15, he looked like he was 17.
Ken Wilson had the announcing duties for the local St. Louis television broadcast of the game (the Blues regular television broadcaster, Dan Kelly, was calling the series on national TV in Canada), and he watched Calgary build a four to one lead.
St. Louis scored their second goal of the game with about 15 seconds remaining in a five on three powerplay goal by Doug Wickenheiser, only to have that momentum temporary stifled as Joe Mullen answered by scoring Calgary's fifth goal of the game.
The Blues subsequently found themselves trailing five to two at home with 12 minutes remaining in the third period. The Blues began their rally in earnest when Brian Sutter scored off a deflection off Calgary goalie Mike Vernon, and the 5-3 score carried down to eight minutes remaining in game.
Greg Paslawski was the next Blues player to score, making the score 5-4. In the midst of an electric atmosphere and impending sense of an upset, broadcaster Wilson commented on the Blues: The St. Louis Blues have been in this game what they have been all season and throughout the playoffs; an underdog. They've called this club a lunch-bucket team. They're blue-collar, hard workers. They don't have the talent of other teams; they know it.
Unfortunately for the Blues, the clock dipped under two minutes remaining in the game as they still searched for the game-tying goal. With only 1:17 remaining in the game, the Blues shot the puck behind Calgary's net from the neutral zone. As Calgary defenseman Jamie Macoun brought the puck from behind the net, he didn't notice that Paslawski was right behind him. Stealing the puck at the side of net, Paslawski flinged a quick shot from a terrible angle that caught goalie Mike Vernon off guard. The puck went in the net, and with near-pandemonium in the Arena, the Blues burned the remaining time on the clock to force overtime.
Overtime quickly became another heart-racing experience in itself, as players like Calgary's Al MacInnis and the Blues' Doug Wickenheiser took shots at the net. Calgary then came within inches of winning when Joe Mullen took a slapshot from just inside the blueline that hit off the goalpost.
A short time after that near-miss, and with future Blues franchise player Brett Hull watching from the press box as a member of the Calgary Flames, announcer Wilson called what many consider the greatest moment in St. Louis Blues history: Here's Ramage, for Federko too far, Federko steals the puck from Reinhart, over to Hunter who shoots, blocked, Wickenheiser scores! Doug Wickenheiser! The Blues pull it off and it's unbelievable!
The goal came after seven minutes and thirty seconds had already passed in the overtime period. It is considered to be one of the most memorable victories in Blues history.
After battling cancer for over a year, St. Louis Blues playoff hero Doug Wickenheiser succumbed to the disease that consumed him. He was 37. "Aside from being one of the most exciting hockey players, he was a truly great person and had a great family," said Susie Mathieu, the Blues' publicity director when Wickenheiser was with the team. "He embodied it all."
Wick is best remembered for the "Monday Night Miracle" when he scored the game-winning overtime goal in Game 6 of the 1986 Campbell Conference Finals against Calgary. In the game, St. Louis trailed 5-2 with 11:52 left in the game when the Blues clawed back to tie the game in regulation.
Wickenheiser's goal in overtime sent the series to a seventh game, which Calgary eventually won 2-1. Wearing a Bluenote for 230 games, Wick had 51 goals and 67 assists. His career spanned 10 years and four other teams - New York Rangers, Washington, Montreal, and Vancouver.
During Wickenheiser's struggle with cancer, the Blues wore a circular emblem with a lit candle and the number 14 above the flame. In a ceremony to honor Wickenheiser's life, the Blues unveiled a banner with that symbol on it that will hang between the American and Canadian flags.
Although the hero has passed on, his teammates will always remember him for the joy he had on the ice. "I remember the pumping of his fists," said Bernie Federko the franchise's career leading scorer, now a radio analyst with the team. "I can see it right now, and the smile on his face. That's what we remember him by, not the last few months."
Doug Wickenheiser survived almost 600 NHL battles, but on January 12, 1999 he lost the biggest battle of his life. In August of 1994, Wickenheiser developed a cyst on his wrist and had surgery to remove it. It turned out to be a rare form of cancer that returned three years later in his lung. The cancer was inoperable, but Wickenheiser, as he had done so many times during his career, tried to fight back and beat the odds. The outpouring of prayer, love and affection from the community and hockey people all over North America wasn't enough to help Wick win the battle.
He succumbed to cancer at the age of 37. The Blues established the Fourteen Fund as their charitable trust which features a special logo of a lit candlewick with the number 14 above the flame. Wickenheiser wore No. 14 for Blues and the banner hangs nearby retired Blues numbers from the rafters. The man affectionately known as Wick died of a rare form of cancer in his lungs leaving behind a wife and three young daughters.
Wickenheiser was the first overall draft pick in the 1980 entry draft by Montreal, picked ahead of such names as Denis Savard and Paul Coffey. He became a victim of his incredible junior hockey success as he couldn't live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him. The Regina, Saskatchewan native starred with the home-town St. Pats of the WHL.
His final season saw him score a league leading 89 goals and 170 points while being named the Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year. His reward for his junior success was to be the first overall selection by the Canadiens.
However the move was unpopular from the start as the French-speaking media and fans wanted local junior star Denis Savard. Wickenheiser would struggle early, and was often sitting on the bench in Montreal while Savard was blossoming into one of hockey's most electrifying performers. Wickenheiser never had a chance under the intense pressure.
The man known as "Wick" asserted himself nicely with the Blues and his sharp wit made him a favorite with teammates and fans in St. Louis. Wickenheiser never came close to reaching the scoring heights of his junior years, but he became an important part of the Blues at Center and left wing. He was a standout defensive player who was excellent on faceoffs. His best season was 1984-85 when he scored 23 goals and 43 points in 68 games.
A serious knee injury that resulted when he was struck by a car during a team outing put Wickenheiser at the crossroads. Wickenheiser showed his strength and determination in coming back from what many feared was a career ending reconstructive surgery. Wickenheiser missed almost a full year, but came back strong in 1985-86 with 19 points in the final 36 games.
Wickenheiser, who was drafted by Montreal scout Ron Caron, was traded part way through the 1983-84 season. Caron, now manager of the St. Louis Blues traded skillful Perry Turnbull for Wick, Gilbert Delorme and Greg Paslawski. Wickenheiser fell in love with the city and the city loved his hard working, hard checking style.
While he never was able to establish himself as a scoring sensation that many expected he would, Doug managed to reinvent himself as a hard working defensive center. In the summer of 1987, Wickenheiser became one of Pat Quinn's very first acquisitions in Vancouver as he was claimed in the training camp waiver draft. Wickenheiser performed admirably in his only season in Vancouver, playing all 80 games and filling the role of 4th line center.
He would then bounce to the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals as a free agent before stints in Europe and the IHL. He retired from active duty in 1994, although his last full NHL season was back in 1987-88. Wickenheiser settled in St. Louis, where he established two businesses -- Blue Line Nursery and Wick's Frozen Custard. He also established a relationship. On Sept. 2, 1989, Wickenheiser and Dianne Pepple had their first date.
The day after that date, Wickenheiser flew to Sweden for the Capitals' training camp. "We always joked about the fact that he left the country the day after our first date. My dad loved the fact that I accepted a collect call from Doug right after our first date. My dad said, 'You must have really liked this guy to accept a collect call.' Dad loved it. He thought the world of Doug. He saved the phone bill and highlighted the call. It was a lot of money! I couldn't get off the phone. I was so happy to talk to him.''
Wickenheiser was happy to talk to everyone -- a trait that was quickly noted and appreciated by Dianne when the Capitals visited St. Louis to play the Blues in October of 1989. "Doug knew all the people,'' Dianne marvelled. "Doug stopped and talked to everyone. He talked to the ushers. He was friends with everyone. That's what I liked about him so much. Everyone was important to him. He always had friends from all different areas. It was always very important for him to find out about everybody. Doug and Dianne were married on Aug. 8, 1992. Almost two years later, Kaitlin and Rachel were born. Four days later, Doug underwent surgery to remove a cyst on his left wrist.
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