The power outage that ended a tie game in the 1988 Stanley Cup final


Sheldon Turcott’s hot take on Game 4 of the 1988 Stanley Cup final seemed to sum things up pretty well.

“Fans are still shaking their heads over one of the most bizarre hockey nights in history,” the Midday newsreader said, as he brought viewers up to speed on the previous night’s events.

Hours earlier, the Boston Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers were engaged in a tightly contested battle in the second period when the power abruptly went out at the Boston Garden on May 24, 1988.

A blown transformer caused the outage. The score was 3-3 when play had to be halted.

The game could be replayed…

Bob McKenzie talks to CBC’s Midday the day after a power outage halted the fourth match in the Stanley Cup final series in 1988. 3:59

The game would not resume, fans ended up being sent home and the NHL made a call as to what to do about the hockey that had been played.

“If for any cause, beyond the control of the club, a playoff game should be unfinished, such game shall be replayed in its entirety at the end of the series, if necessary,” said NHL president John Ziegler, when explaining why the game could be replayed in future.

“And it shall be played in the rink in which the unfinished game occurred.”

In other words, the two teams would hit the reset button on the game, if it was later needed to decide the series.

That would happen only in the event that Edmonton lost its next three games, since the team was up three games to none.

…but it didn’t get replayed

Mark Messier (left) and Wayne Gretzky (right), are seen holding up the Stanley Cup trophy after the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Boston Bruins on May 26, 1988. (Rusty Kennedy/Associated Press)

Midday looked to an expert, Bob McKenzie of The Hockey News  to provide further insight into the situation and how it might affect the series.

“Basically, we’re going back to Edmonton for a Game 4,” McKenzie told Midday, speaking to the program from Boston.

“It’s an unbelievable situation that’s never happened before and certainly Edmonton’s got an opportunity to wrap it up on home ice and I don’t imagine that in the foreseeable future we’re going to see something like it again.”

McKenzie was right and he was also wrong: Edmonton would win the next game 6-3, capturing the Stanley Cup in doing so.

But two years later, the same two teams would meet again in the 1990 Stanley Cup final and the power would go out again during a tie game at Boston Garden.

That time, however, the lights were restored and the Oilers would win 3-2 in triple overtime.

Edmonton would also win another Stanley Cup that year, a victory that came almost two years after Wayne Gretzky was traded away.



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