Luc Robitaille has a conspiracy theory about one of the few bad memories he was left with after a Hall of Fame career.
The former Los Angeles Kings star believes the Montreal Canadiens were tipped off during the 1993 Stanley Cup final, when Habs coach Jacques Demers famously had Marty McSorley’s illegal stick measured late in Game 2 – a desperate move that changed the entire series.
Montreal tied the score with McSorley in the penalty box, went on to win the game in overtime and never lost again in the series. That cost Robitaille his first chance at a championship and he thinks it was predicated on something that happened behind the scenes.
“I don’t think they were flying blind, but I don’t think anyone will ever admit to it,” Robitaille said Wednesday on a conference call. “Actually, there are a couple of people that told me throughout time that it wasn’t blind. But there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, and I actually know for a fact that it wasn’t blind, but that’s the way it goes.”
Asked to elaborate on why the Habs choose McSorley’s stick, he refused to bite.
“I know, but I won’t get into it,” Robitaille said with a laugh. “Someone told me. Bad memories there.”
Fortunately, Robitaille’s 19-year career included far more good memories than bad. His accomplishments will be celebrated next week in Toronto when he’s inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame alongside Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Steve Yzerman and Lou Lamoriello.
Robitaille eventually won the Stanley Cup as a member of the 2002 Detroit Red Wings – a team that included Hull and Yzerman. It was a special group.
“I never played on a team with that much talent,” said Robitaille. “And I remember the first words at the beginning of training camp coming from Scotty Bowman and Ken Holland were: ‘We’re here to win the Stanley Cup so we’re going to start preparing for it now.”‘
Robitaille finished his career with 668 goals and 1,394 points – astounding numbers considering where he came from. The 43-year-old from Montreal wasn’t selected by the Kings until the ninth round of the 1984 draft.
As a result, simply making it to the NHL provided him with his proudest moment.
“I’ll never forget my first game,” said Robitaille. “To get on the ice and looking up at the rafters of the Fabulous Forum in L.A. and thinking: ‘Man, this is it, you’re in the NHL now, you better work hard every day to stay.”‘
That first game came in 1986, just two years after he was selected 171st overall. The Kings quickly sent him back to junior during his first two training camps, but he showed up at the third one intent on making the roster.
“I’m kind of a guy that looks at everything with the glass half full,” said Robitaille. “And I remember thinking when I got drafted, ‘I’m on the list, now it’s up to me to make a difference.’ And I was on the list. And I gave them no choice but to look at me.”
He never played a single game in the minors.
Even still, it rarely crossed Robitaille’s mind that his career would end with him being enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“I think I thought of it once in my career and it lasted about five seconds because I was so scared the next day I was going to play a bad game and the next thing you know I would be back home,” he said. “So that was always the fear for me. But I do remember scoring my 500th goal and someone said, ‘You know, if you score 500 goals it gives you a real good shot of getting into the Hall of Fame.’
“I remember thinking: ‘That’s pretty cool, I never thought of it that way.’ You just keep on playing and try to be the best you could be every day.”