True "Money" Goalie Of The 1990s
One of the true "money" goalies of the 1990s, Curtis Joseph developed into an NHL star while guarding the net of the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Although he was usually excellent in the regular season, "Cujo" became of the most feared playoffs foes due to his penchant for elevating his game in the NHL's second season. His cat-like reflexes and indomitable competitive spirit made Joseph one of the toughest goalies for shooters to face in recent years.
A native of Keswick, Ontario, less than an hour north of Toronto, the shy Joseph initially struggled to make an impression as a hockey goalie at the amateur level. He almost gave up altogether before venturing to Wilcox, Saskatchewan to play for the Notre Dame Hounds.
At this point Joseph was trying to earn a college scholarship through hockey as a means of gaining access to an education. He impressed a few scouts and eventually was offered a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, which was trying to replace the departed Mike Richter.
Joseph excelled for the Badgers during his one season of college hockey in 1988-89. He won 21 games and was voted on to the WCHA Conference First All-Star team. A few weeks after the season "Cujo" was signed by the St. Louis Blues and left college for a pro career. He began the 1989-90 season with the Peoria Rivermen of the IHL but was eventually called up to the Blues to solidify their goaltending picture after Greg Millen was traded to the Quebec Nordiques. Joseph played in 15 regular season and six playoff games while solidifying the goaltending picture with Vincent Riendeau.
Joseph became the Blues' first string goalie in 1991-92 when he won 27 games in 60 appearances. The following season he won 29 games but earned league-wide attention with his brilliant effort in the playoffs. Even though the club lost to Toronto in the Norris division final, Joseph emerged as a hero after stopping 119 of 122 shots in consecutive double overtime games.
Prior to the 1995-96 season the cost-cutting Blues shipped the popular Joseph to Edmonton. He played well but the Oilers were in the early stages of a rebuilding process. In April 1996 he excelled for Canada at the World Championships and later that year represented his country in the inaugural World Cup of hockey.
Curtis "Cujo" Joseph made many brilliant saves for the Blues in the 1990s, but perhaps his lasting legacy will be the shots he took on January 23, 1993. The Blues and Detroit have had many memorable battles in their rivalry, but the second game of a home-and-home series in 1993 may go down as one of the best: the night Joseph fought Red Wings goalie Tim Cheveldae.
Following the Blues' 5-3 loss two nights earlier in Detroit, tempers were off the charts when the teams came back to St. Louis. Fifty-four seconds after the puck dropped, the Blues' Kelly Chase and Detroit's Jim Cummins dropped the gloves. "The Joseph-Cheveldae fight, it was funny how it started. I thought I was going to have to fight [Bob] Probert," Chase said. "I went out on the ice and initiated a cross-check to [Probert] and thought, Well, he's going to fight me, and I'm going to get this over with early in the hockey game. I don't know if Bob had a bad hand and he didn't want to make it worse. But he played the body and skated away from me. All of a sudden, Jimmy Cummins came right across the ice and dropped the gloves."
As the Chase-Cummins tilt in the corner concluded and the players were taken toward the penalty box, Probert went after Chase and the melee began anew. Probert was tangled up with the Blues' Dave Lowry, and then teammate Rick Zombo skated in to help. When Zombo was tackled by Detroit's Brad McCrimmon, Bob Bassen jumped in to aid Lowry with Probert.
What happened next almost instantaneously became one of announcer Ken Wilson's most famous calls for the Blues: "Here comes Cheveldae! He'll be thrown out of the game," Wilson bellowed. "Now Joseph gets into it.... Curtis Joseph grabs Cheveldae, and the two goalies go at it." Cheveldae darted out from his crease and attempted to pull Bassen off Probert. When he did, Joseph made a beeline to Cheveldae and tugged him from behind. Cheveldae's mask came off during the scrum for positioning, and then he pulled off Joseph's mask. "Joseph with three great rights to Cheveldae!" Wilson shrieked.
With sticks and gloves and two goalie masks on the ice, the crowd of 18,104 nearly blew the roof off the Arena. They cheered each of Joseph's bare-knuckle shots, including one that caught the eye of Cheveldae, leading to immediate swelling. Meanwhile, the Blues had an extra body on the ice because Cummins had already been escorted to the penalty box. But that was no deterrent since Cummins came out of the box to rejoin the fray.
There were three pairs of players tied up near center ice, including Joseph and Cheveldae "For those of you watching [the goalie fight] on television, we'll try to update you on everyone else," Wilson continued to narrate, sounding more like a police dispatcher than a hockey announcer. As officials chauffeured Probert to the penalty box, some semblance of sanity finally began to take hold.
But that was far from the end of it. "As soon as [Probert] got put in the penalty box, a guy sitting in the stands started giving him a bunch of crap," said Blues public-address announcer Tom Calhoun, who was stationed next to the visiting penalty box. "Well, Proby starts going up the glass after this guy and I'm sitting there thinking, I guess I better do something. "I reach up and I grab Proby by the trunks and start pulling him back down off the glass. He looks down at me and goes, 'You don't want to do that.' I said, 'Okay, no problem, no sweat.' One of the linesmen skated over and said, 'Proby, get off that glass. You'll get kicked out of the game.' "So he sat back down, right next to me, and after I make all the penalty announcements and things finally calm down, he tapped me on the shoulder and goes, 'What the hell were you thinking?' I said, 'Proby, I had no idea what I was thinking.'"
Four players were ejected-Probert, Cummins, Lowry, and Zombo. And Cummins was hit with a double-game misconduct for leaving the penalty box. Somehow Joseph and Cheveldae avoided being booted from the game, despite Rule No. 54e: "A game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player who is assessed a major penalty for fighting after the original altercation." Instead, referee Dan Marouelli handed out only minor penalties to each of the goalies for leaving their crease. "It was his judgement," Will Norris, the NHL's officiating supervisor that night, told reporters. "He felt he didn't want to throw out the goalies. That was it."
The decision perhaps helped the Blues, who were outshot 42-21 but won the game 4-3 on two goals by Brett Hull, one from Brendan Shanahan, and the game-winner by Kevin Miller. If Joseph had been ejected, the Blues would have been forced to play Geoff Sarjeant who hadn't played one minute in the NHL and was only on the roster because the other half of the team's tandem, Guy Hebert, was injured. "It's a very satisfying win," said a smiling Joseph after the game.
Teammate Garth Butcher chimed in, "Don't get too close, boys. He'll drill you." Just ask Cheveldae. "I played in Saskatoon with Tim Cheveldae," Chase said. "And after everything settled down, they were tossing me out of the game and I looked over at Cheveldae and I could see that his eye was swollen up shut. You could see in the fight if you watched the tape he kind of holds his eye when it's over. "I said, 'You're an embarrassment to the Saskatoon Blade alumni.' He went crazy. He said, 'You idiot, you started all of this.' I tell Cujo all the time the only reason that he was able to beat up Cheveldae was because he went and played in Western Canada for a year and we toughened him up."
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