Why the 1993 loss means so much

At some point in the next three days — or it's probably already happened — someone is going to climb up on their horse and say, "1993 has nothing to do with the upcoming Pens/Isles series."
And that person will be dead-wrong.
Growing up in Pittsburgh or being a fan of Pittsburgh sports teams in the '90s carries three life-changing losses with three villians at the forefront.
1. Francisco Cabrera in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. [ Video ]
2. Larry Brown in Super Bowl XXX. [ Vomit ]

3. David Volek. Game 7. May 14, 1993.

To Pens fans, David Volek is every bit what Bill Buckner was/is to Red Sox fans. The name David Volek doesn't just represent the man. The name defines a childhood. The name is synonymous with a playoff series that ended a dynasty.


With apologies to the old-time Pens fans, a good amount of us became fans in 1990. We were introduced to what the Stanley Cup Playoffs were all about in 1991. If that didn't hook us in for life, 1992 did.
Fast-forward to the spring of 1993. The Penguins were again gearing up for a run. Mario Lemieux returned from his chemo treatment, and the Pens rattled off 17 straight wins. Lemieux trailed the scoring race by 18 points when he came back. By the end of the season, he was leading by 12. 
It wasn't just Lemieux, though. Look at these stats:
Seven players with 70 points or more. Come on.
This portion of the season highlight video breaks it down:

This was a video-game team. They could not lose.

The Playoffs

The first two Cup runs didn't come without a price. Pens fan knew it wasn't easy. However, the Pens were making it look easy. In 1992, they won 11 straight games on their way to winning the Cup. The 1993 playoffs arrived, and they opened up against the New Jersey Devils, roaring out to a 3-0 series lead and extending the playoff win streak to 14 games. They finally lost a game but ended up winning the first-round series with ease, 4-1.

And the news got better. The Islanders upset the Captials…and lost their best player, Pierre Turgeon, on this cheap shot by Dale Hunter:

So imagine this. The Pens just manhandled the Devils, and they would now be playing a team in the second round that ended the regular season with the same exact record as the Devils. By the way, said team just lost their marquee player. No worries, right?

Uneasy is the head that wears the Crown

With basically the entire NHL going down on the Pens, a small fact slipped through the cracks: the Isles were the only team during that 1992-93 regular season to beat the Penguins three times.

The Isles beat the Pens in Game 1. (There was a huge Kevin Stevens disallowed goal in the third.)
The Pens also won Games 2, 3 and 5.
They were up 3-2 in the series going into Game Six on the Isle.

Game Six

Such a brutal series, and this game was no different. The Isles scored 47 seconds in, but the Pens fought back.

It was tied going into the third period, and it remained that way until this:

What a huge mistake by Ulf.

This turned the Isle into a complete zoo. The Isle fans, to their credit, were completely insane. If you watch the above video, which includes the entire game, you'll see the Pens dominated the entire period. But the Isles got a chance and scored. They end up winning 7-4.

Game Seven

There are four things about Game 7 that will stay with us forever.

1. Glen Healy. The Pens outshot the Isles 42-17. Healy stopped Mario on two breakaways and countless other shots. He played the game of his life.

2. The end of Kevin Stevens. This series changed many things, none more than Kevin Stevens. Stevens collided with Islander D-man Rich Pilon, he of the Mario Lemieux statue currently erected outside CONSOL Energy Center, in the first period, and down he went.

The commentary by Mike Lange and Paul Steigerwald is interesting.  Lange wondered if this hit would cause more players to wear visors. Stevens actually broke almost every bone in his face. He was never the same. Look at his point drop-off:


3. The Pens tie it. Over the previous two years, there had been so many magical moments. They made the players seem bigger than life. It was inspiring to watch. You re-created the plays in your backyard.

And the Pens provided another huge moment. After cutting the lead to 3-2, the Pens pulled Tommy B. Larry Murphy got a puck to the net:

We investigated this play once. Tocchet touched it last.

They did it. Complete jubilation. They had tied it up, and there was no question they would win it in OT.

4. David Volek. He wasn't a noted goal-scorer, but he finished his short career with 95 goals. He had four lifetime playoff goals. Two of those were in this game.

It was early in OT, and the Pens were buzzing. Ulf Samuelsson had a bad pinch, and this opened the door for the Isles, who found themselves on a disjointed 3-on-1. Marty Straka couldn't get back. By the time the puck was on Volek's stick, it was over:

A haunting stunned pic from the Pens feed:

And just like that, our sports fandom got a little less happy. Watching the Francisco Cabrera hit was bad, but this was worse. This couldn't happen to the Penguins.
The yelling of the Isles as the Mellon Arena fell silent is still nightmare material.

Exorcising The Demons

If you talk to older Pens fans, they will tell you this pales in comparison to the Pens blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Isles in 1975.
But this was still bad. Not only did it end the Penguins dynasty, it prevented two legendary matchups. In the next round, it would have been Pens/Habs. A Pens win in that series would have set up a Lemieux vs. Gretzky matchup in the Stanely Cup Finals.
This 1993 Game 7 was the only time a Penguins loss made us shed tears. So fuck the guy who says 1993 is meaningless. We finally have the chance to go back to our 9-year-old selves, pat them on the back, and tell them everything will be all right.