Pete Babando, the first player in NHL history to score an overtime winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, passed away Wednesday morning. He was 94.
Born in Braeburn, Penn., and raised in Timmins, Ont., Babando rose to the NHL through the Ontario junior circuit and the AHL, where he spent a campaign with the Hershey Bears in 1946-47 before moving on to the big league the following season. As a rookie, Babando wowed with a 23-goal, 34-point campaign, and his freshman output earned him Calder Trophy consideration. He finished second in voting behind Jim McFadden, but earned a greater portion of the vote than future Hall of Famer and NHL legend Red Kelly.
Despite his excellent rookie output and similar numbers in his second season with the Bruins, Babando’s time in Boston spanned only two seasons. Ahead of the 1949-50 campaign, he was shipped to the Red Wings in a six-player deal. And it was in Detroit that Babando made history. Though he struggled to produce throughout the season and mustered a career-worst six goals and 12 points in the regular season, he was able to chip in two goals and four points in eight playoff games, none more important than his Game 7 tallies in the 1950 Stanley Cup final. Yes, Babando scored twice.
The first of his two goals was a power play marker that drew the Red Wings within one of the New York Rangers in the second period of the seventh and deciding game, with McFadden and Sid Abel also scoring for Detroit. Buddy O’Connor scored the Blueshirts’ third goal. After neither team found twine in the third period and the sides went goalless through the first overtime, Babando struck in what was and to this day remains the only Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final in NHL history to go to a second overtime. Babando’s shot eluded future Hall of Famer Chuck Rayner 8:31 into the period, lifting the Red Wings to their fourth Stanley Cup and first of four in six seasons.
However, Babando’s days as the Red Wings’ hero were short lived. Less than three months after scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal, he was shipped to the then-Chicago Black Hawks in a nine-player deal. He spent parts of three seasons in Chicago, scoring a career-high 18 goals and 37 points in 70 games in 1950-51, but was later dealt to the Rangers in 1953 and moved to the Montreal Canadiens only months later. The only Original Six franchise to whom Babando didn’t once belong was the Toronto Maple Leafs.
From 1953-54 on through to his retirement from hockey in 1966-67, Babando played in the AHL, Ontario League and Eastern League, where he spent the last seven seasons of his career with New York’s Clinton Comets.
In the wake of Babando’s passing, here is a look at other late-series Stanley Cup heroes in NHL history, with these overtime goals scored in Games 6 or 7 of the final:
Bryan Hextall, New York Rangers – 1940, Game 6 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
The father of Bryan (Jr.) and Dennis and grandfather of Ron, Hextall was an icon for the New York Rangers and spent 11 seasons in New York. His overtime-winning in Game 6 against the Maple Leafs marked only the third time in NHL history the Stanley Cup had been won in overtime and the first time such a winner had been scored in a series that wasn’t a four-game sweep. Hextall wasted no time scoring the OT marker, either. The 3-2 goal came 2:07 into the period, and not all that long after New York completed a two-goal third-period comeback.
Tony Leswick, Detroit Red Wings – 1954, Game 7 vs. Montreal Canadiens
Oddly enough, the only other player to match Babando’s feat – scoring the winning goal in overtime of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final – did so with the same team. Also interesting is that Leswick had a front-row seat for Babando’s heroics. He assisted on the Rangers’ first goal and scored the second during Game 7 of the 1950 final. Leswick got his own taste of glory in 1951 as a Red Wing, and then went on to win another pair of Cups in Detroit, the 1954 victory coming on the strength of his OT winner.
Henri Richard, Montreal Canadiens – 1966, Game 6 vs. Detroit Red Wings
‘The Pocket Rocket’ was bound to score a Cup-clinching OT winner at some point, right? After all, he won an NHL record 11 Stanley Cups as a player. To put that in perspective, he finished the season a Stanley Cup champions more times than he didn’t. Only seven of his NHL campaigns ended without him holding the Cup high above his head. Richard’s winner, scored 2:20 into the frame, is the fourth-fastest of the 17 Cup-winning goals to be scored in overtime.
Bob Nystrom, New York Islanders – 1980, Game 6 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The goal that began a dynasty, and one that saved the Islanders from letting Game 6 slip through their fingertips. New York had a two-goal lead entering the third period, Nystrom scoring with seconds remaining in the middle frame to give the Islanders the insurance, but a pair of early period Flyers goals drew Philadelphia level before the end of regulation. In overtime, John Tonelli took a pass from Lorne Henning, crossed the blueline and slipped the puck to Nystrom, who made no mistake in deflecting it past Pete Peeters. The Islanders went on to win each of the next three Stanley Cups.
Brett Hull, Dallas Stars – 1999, Game 6 vs. Buffalo Sabres
A totally cool and not-at-all controversial goal that no one still thinks about and the good people of Buffalo have accepted with ease. No one feels the Sabres were robbed. No one. Nope. Not one bit. Ahem… In all seriousness, Hull’s Stanley Cup winner was and will likely forever remain among the most controversial goals in NHL history. That is was a Stanley Cup-winning tally, and that it came in overtime, no less, only adds to the lore. Apologies to Sabres faithful for dredging up those memories.
Jason Arnott, New Jersey Devils – 2000, Game 6 vs. Dallas Stars
The Stanley Cup has only been decided in five games that have gone on longer than Game 6 of the 2000 final between the Devils and Stars. Looking to defend their crown, Dallas had pulled to within one win of sending the game to a seventh game with a triple-overtime victory two days prior, but the tables were turned in Game 6. After the first overtime solved nothing and the score remained 1-1, Devils found themselves pressing eight minutes into the second OT. With the puck in the right wing corner, Patrik Elias threw a no-look backhand feed into the slot and Arnott got onto the end of it, driving a one-timer past Ed Belfour to give New Jersey the franchise’s second championship.
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks – 2010 vs. Philadelphia Flyers
The only Stanley Cup final of the past decade to be decided in overtime of a sixth or seventh game was also one of the most bizarre. Calling for a pass on the wall, Patrick Kane took a feed from Brian Campbell and made a series of head fakes in order to open up space to sneak by Kimmo Timonen. Seeing a sliver of daylight between the pads of Michael Leighton, Kane slapped the puck towards the net and beat the Flyers keeper five-hole…but only Kane and Patrick Sharp seemingly knew the puck was in. The arena was eerily silent and it wasn’t until minutes later it was confirmed that the puck had gone in.
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