Losers' Locker Room
Sabres trying to digest shock, disappointment
Posted: Sunday June 20, 1999 03:26 AM
By Denise N. Maloof, CNN/SI
BUFFALO, N.Y. (CNN/SI) -- The closest the Buffalo Sabres will get to the Stanley Cup this year is the glittery patch sewn onto their jersey shoulders.
"I don't want to talk about it," Michael Peca said.
But the Buffalo captain did anyway, slumped in the Marine Midland Arena locker room where equipment and profanity had tested walls moments earlier.
Having lost the Stanley Cup on a controversy -- Brett Hull's game-winner in triple overtime -- the Sabres were still digesting shock and disappointment. Only moments earlier, head coach Lindy Ruff had stormed off the bench, watched a replay, then stormed back out to demand an NHL explanation while the Stars celebrated, on-ice. The Buffalo locker room wasn't opened to the media until he got one. And it wasn't satisfactory to him, or many others wearing black, white and red.
"We are going to try to do whatever we can," was Ruff's first terse, public comment in the interview room. Asked if he'd seen the replay, he demanded, "Did you see the replay?" Several questions later, he admitted that he'd demanded a personal explanation from NHL commissioner Gary Betteman and hadn't received one. "He turned his back on me," Ruff said. "He almost looked to me like he knew this might be a tainted goal and there was no answer for it."
"What can you do?" Peca said, back in the locker room. "It's over."
"The guys is this room worked so hard," defenseman Jay McKee said, several lockers down from Peca. "It's a rule that's been in the league all year long, and to not call it ... It's too late for us to do anything about it. They're not going to restart the game."
According to NHL director of officiating Bryan Lewis -- who reviewed Hull's goal with the replay officials and insisted that Hull satisfied crease requirements, i.e., had control, had possession -- it was permissible even though his foot was in the crease. But Dominik Hasek didn't think so.
"It was a fluke goal," the Dominator said, shrugging. "Hull was in the crease."
It also meant a painful ending to the Sabres' dream season. After enduring the second-longest Stanley Cup final game on record, all the Sabres have to show for it is the Prince of Wales trophy as Eastern Conference champions.
"It's just hard to talk about," Peca repeated, still slumped in his game pants and leg pads. "They're the champions and we're the bridesmaids."
"Maybe he was asleep," Hasek offered across the room, referring to replay officials. "Or in the bathroom."
One noticeably-absent sentiment in Buffalo's locker room, however, was rancor toward the Stars, tainted goal or not.
"That's an unbelieveable team," right wing Dixon Ward said. "But we battled them to the end and we weren't far from them."
"I just want to congratulate the Dallas Stars," Hasek said. "It was a great series and they are a great team. It's not their mistake or ours -- it's the NHL's."
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