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Tim Moriarty: Flyers feel blame lies with refs

Duane Sutter of the New York Islanders celebrates

Duane Sutter of the New York Islanders celebrates with teammate Butch Goring, left, after scoring to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead in first period action against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals at Nassau Coliseum. At right is Reggie Leach of the Flyers. (May 24, 1980) Credit: AP

This column appeared in the May 25, 1980, edition of Newsday

UNIONDALE - Peter Peeters, his helmeted head bowed, skated slowly away from the scene of the disaster and was approaching center ice when he was met by Reggie Leach and Bobby Clarke. The two veteran Flyers tapped the rookie goalie on the top of his helmet. The trio then moved into the procession of Flyers offering their congratulations to the victorious Islanders.

A friendly scene. It wasn't until the Flyers reached the dressing room that the bitterness of their loss in the climactic game of the Stanley Cup playoffs seeped out.

First, they locked the door to the room and kept it locked for 20 minutes - 10 minutes beyond the prescribed time allotted for breath-catching and temper-soothing.

Hardly anybody waiting outside the closed door complained. Most realized the Flyers would need that extra time to compose themselves before meeting reporters. So while the Flyers cooled off inside the room, Ed Snider, the team's chairman of the board, stood in a nearby corridor, squawking about the work of referee Bob Myers and linesman Leon Stickle.

"I know I can be fined for this, but I don't give a damn," Snider said. "The officiating was absolutely disgusting. That was a good hockey team that beat us, but their first two goals were questionable. Denis Potvin had his stick too high when he scored and the Islanders were offside on their second goal."

In a room adjoining the visiting team's dressing room at the Coliseum, Stickle admitted he failed to notice that the Islanders were offside on a play that led to Duane Sutter's goal. "I was in the right position [at the left side of the Flyers' blue line] and the puck came back across," Stickle said. "I guess I blew it. Maybe I was too close to the play. Apparently the replay showed I missed it."

Myers was quite emphatic in defending his non-action on Potvin's goal. The Flyers had squawked that Potvin was carrying his stick too high when he whacked a rebound behind Peeters. "It was not a high stick," Myers said. "The stick was around the chest area and that is not illegal. Potvin came down with his stick and tapped it in front."

By this time, the Flyers had opened the door to the dressing room. Peeters was already dressed. He stood in front of a mirror, combing his hair. Asked about the two disputed goals, Peeters said, "There's no point in discussing them now. They're not going to call 'em back and replay the game. But the tapes will always be available. They will be able to see for themselves what really happened."

Peeters then turned away from the mirror and said, "I've got to go now. I'd like to be alone now with my thoughts."

Bob Kelly was seated across the room, his face beet-red from a combination of the heat and his temper. "There was a lot of emotion out there and it's a shame that in the sixth game of the final series, when a championship is riding on the outcome, that you wind up with questionable officiating. It's also a shame that some characters involved do not measure up to the league standards."

Bill Barber, standing alongside Kelly, said, "This is the toughest since I've been with the club. I won't forget what happened today. I mean I won't forget the officiating. The Islanders were at least two feet offside on that second goal."

There were other Flyers who modified their squawks with praise for the Islanders. Pat Quinn was one. The coach spent the first 10 minutes after the game with his players. His eyes were misty as he left the room and embraced his wife, Sandra.

"What's done is done," Quinn said. "Certainly it should be an embarrassment to that official, but that is part of the business and it is not going to change the outcome. And I don't want to taint the Islanders' victory. It was a fantastic victory and they earned it."

Flyers captain Mel Bridgman said, "I guess some of those goals were questionable but I won't use them as an excuse. The Islanders are a tremendous hockey team. They played great and they deserved it. And Bryan Trottier is very deserving of the MVP award."

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