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KINGS INSIDE LOOK: `STICKGATE' STILL DEBATED MONTREAL SPYING LONG SUSPECTED IN PENALTY THAT CHANGED SERIES.

Byline: Rich Hammond Staff Writer

What did Jacques Demers know, and when did he know it?

Demers, former coach of the Montreal Canadiens, has insisted he simply made a lucky choice to have Marty McSorley's illegal stick measured with 90 seconds remaining in Game 2 of the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, regarded as the turning point in the series.

But a confession made to Luc Robitaille three years ago, by a former security guard at the Montreal Forum, puts the incident known as ``Stickgate'' in a new light.

``I'm in Montreal's new arena and this policeman comes up to me,'' Robitaille said. ``He said, `To this day, I feel so bad. You know, they measured your sticks between periods and before games.'

``In the old arena, they used to keep our sticks by the Montreal locker room during the games, and this guy told me that a trainer, or somebody from the Montreal team, told him to look to other way while he measured our sticks. Of course, that's just what he told me, there's no proof.''

Demers could not be reached for comment, but two years ago, he addressed the incident in an article he wrote for USA Today.

``To this day, some people believe we had someone enter the Kings' dressing room and measure that stick,'' Demers wrote, ``but the truth is Kirk Muller and Guy Carbonneau had noticed during Game 1 that McSorley's stick looked illegal.''

McSorley, now the head coach of the American Hockey League's Springfield (Mass.) Falcons, said he didn't see the point in arguing the details of what happened that night.

``I don't worry about it,'' McSorley said, ``but I know there were extenuating circumstances that surrounded that penalty, and I know people do not call for a stick to be measured unless they are sure it is illegal.''

Regardless of whether the Canadiens were playing spy games, many people around the Kings strongly believe that stick cost the Kings the Stanley Cup.

The Kings were on the verge of taking a 2-0 series lead home to Los Angeles when Demers called for the measurement. The curve on McSorley's stick was illegal by a quarter-inch, which gave the Canadiens a power play. If the stick had been legal, the Kings would have received a power play, which made the stakes high for both teams.

Montreal scored to tie the game and won it in overtime to even the series, which they eventually won in five games.

``They took Marty's stick to be measured,'' broadcaster Bob Miller said, ``and (commentator) Jim Fox just put his head in his hands, because he knew it was illegal. I don't know if I've ever seen anything turn a series around as dramatically as that.''

McSorley remains a popular figure in Los Angeles, as Kings fans never seemed to hold the stick incident against him. Many of the players defend him and point to the three overtime losses as the reason the Kings lost, but clearly the stick had an impact.

``We would have won the series if that didn't happen,'' coach Barry Melrose said, ``but we wouldn't have won the series without Marty. It was certainly a turning point in the series, and unfortunately it happened to Marty.

``They knew it was illegal. You don't make that call if you don't know. However they knew, it doesn't really matter.''

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

An illegal-stick penalty on Marty McSorley, now coach of the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons, cost the Kings a 2-0 Finals lead.

Betty Jenewin/Worcester Telegram-Gazette
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 20, 2003
Words:589
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