By this point in the season, the North Stars knew that they were going to be facing the Bruins in the playoffs and Head Coach Glen Sonmor decided that the "Curse of the Bruins" was going to come to an end that night. Sonmor wanted to instill a new attitude of toughness into his team and to no longer back down from any challenge, especially that of intimidation by the Bruins.
Sonmor's instructions to his squad was simple and direct. "Not the second time, or the third time or even the fourth time, but on the first time that any Bruin tried to intimidate one of them. that they were to drop the gloves. I told them that we were going to wear that night and that we were going to keep going to war until the game was over. Period."
The North Stars took the message to heart, and right off the opening faceoff, the Bruins Steve Kasper cracked the North Stars star player, Bobby Smith, right under the chin with his stick. Smith immediately dropped the gloves and fought Kasper. Afterwards, there was one fight after another. In the first period alone, there were 340 penalty minutes called and 12 players ejected from the game!
Here are the penalties from the boxscore from just the first period alone:
Penalties - BOS - Crowder 0:07 ; BOS - Crowder ( (maj)) 0:07 ; BOS - Crowder (Misconduct (10 min)) 0:07 ; BOS - Kasper 0:07 ; BOS - Kasper ( (maj)) 0:07 ; MINS - Payne 0:07 ; MINS - Payne 0:07 ; MINS - Payne ( (maj)) 0:07 ; MINS - Payne (Misconduct (10 min)) 0:07 ; MINS - Payne (Misconduct (10 min)) 0:07 ; MINS - Smith B 0:07 ; MINS - Smith B ( (maj)) 0:07 ; BOS - Milbury 2:53 ; MINS - Christoff 2:53 ; BOS - O'Reilly 3:35 ; BOS - O'Reilly ( (maj)) 3:35 ; MINS - Carlson ( (maj)) 3:35 ; BOS - Mccrimmon 4:28 ; MINS - Hartsburg 5:42 ; MINS - Smith G 6:02 ; BOS - Bench 8:06 ; BOS - Gillis ( (maj)) 8:06 ; BOS - Gillis (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:06 ; BOS - Milbury ( (maj)) 8:06 ; MINS - Bench 8:06 ; MINS - Hartsburg ( (maj)) 8:06 ; MINS - Hartsburg (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:06 ; MINS - Younghans ( (maj)) 8:06 ; BOS - Bourque 8:58 ; BOS - Bourque ( (maj)) 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon ( (maj)) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon ( (maj)) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Mcnab 8:58 ; BOS - Mcnab (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Milbury 8:58 ; BOS - Milbury (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - O'Reilly 8:58 ; BOS - O'Reilly (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Vachon 8:58 ; MINS - Bench 8:58 ; MINS - Carlson 8:58 ; MINS - Carlson (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Hartsburg (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam ( (maj)) 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Meloche 8:58 ; MINS - Payne (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Roberts ( (maj)) 8:58 ; MINS - Roberts (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Smith G ( (maj)) 8:58 ; MINS - Smith G (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Younghans 8:58 ; MINS - Younghans (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Maxwell B 12:44 ; MINS - Zanussi 14:02 ; BOS - Kasper 17:36At one point, players were being sent off to the dressing rooms using the aisle that ran between the benches and a spark of anger set off a melee off the ice that involved the police trying to separate the combatants!
By the end of the game, 42 penalties had been called for a NHL record 406 penalty minutes with six more major penalties in the second period plus four more in the third.
After the game, Bruins Head Coach Gerry Cheevers got into a shouting match with Sonmor, who was so fired up he tried to get at Cheevers. With his players holding him back, Sonmor even tried to take a few swings at his Bruins counterpart.
The Bruins had won the game 5-1, but the North Stars management could not have cared less. The message had been sent - the North Stars were not going to be intimidated any more.
After the game, reporters came to Sonmor with disparaging quotes from Cheevers, to which the feisty Sonmor replied, "OK, I have a message that you can take back to Gerry. Tell him to meet me between the dressing rooms the next time we play each other and we'll settle this like men. We'll see who's got character then." Adding "Oh, by the way, tell him to bring a basket to carry his f---ing head home in!"
The league president called Sonmor into his office afterwards and asked him if he had incited the North Stars that night. He replied with honesty, "We needed to make a stand." and I wasn't going to apologize for that. Sonmor was fined but the North Stars General Manager Lou Nanne gladly paid the fine for his head coach, knowing what Sonmor was up to and was behind him 100%.
Sure enough, the North Stars were paired up in the opening round of the 1981 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just before Sonmor was to leave for the airport for Boston, he opened a letter from a local woman who said that she was a psychic. She had a vision of Sonmor standing behind the bench in the Boston Garden wearing an eye patch and beating the "Curse of the Garden". Sonmor thought her name, Amy Puckett, sounded enough like a hockey "puck" and considered it a good omen. Sonmor, you see, had his budding hockey career cut short by an eye injury which left him with a glass eye in place of the one he lost to a slapshot.
Sure enough, Sonmor figured he could use all the good Karma he could get at that point and retrieved his eye patch for the trip to Boston. "I put that patch on right before we hit the ice and I remember screaming out just like a general leading his troops into battle: "Boys, the curse ends tonight!"
Game 1 on April 8th saw Minnesota lead 2-1 after the first period on goals by Steve Payne and Brad Maxwell, but the Bruins scored twice in the second to take a 3-2 lead into the third. It only took 37 seconds for Payne to tie the game, but Peter McNab gave Boston their lead back at 7:14. The unlikely brawler Jack Carlson scored at 11:55 to tie the game, which later went to overtime.
The curse then ended 3:34 into the overtime when Payne completed a hat trick to win not only the game, but end a 14 year, 35 game winless streak.
The Bruins needed to win Game 2 at home before heading to Minnesota, but the North Stars were flying high after their win the night before. While Boston scored first 56 seconds into the game on a power play, Bobby Smith responded just 19 seconds later and the North Stars were off and running. They got goals from Payne and Al MacAdam to take a 3-1 lead before the first period was half over. Boston fought back to tie the game with goals with 31 seconds remaining in the first and 41 seconds into the second, but the North Stars replied with 3 goals from Brad Maxwell, Payne and MacAdam for a 6-3 lead after two.
The Bruins tried to fight back with a goal at 29 seconds of the third but the North Stars responded with two goals in less than three minutes for a commanding 8-4 lead. Two Boston goals within a minute were not enough and Tim Young's goal at 14:25 made the final score 9-6, something unthinkable as recently as February 25th, six weeks earlier.
Back in 1981, the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were a best-of-five, meaning the Bruins were not on the brink of elimination with no margin for error as the series moved back to Minnesota for Game 3 at the Met Center in Bloomington.
Energized by their rabid home fans, the North Stars got out to a 2-0 lead within the game's first five minutes, as Brad Palmer beat Rogie Vachon with assists from Steve Christoff and Neal Broten and 3:36 followed by MacAdam scoring from Young and Payne at 4:57. Dino Ciccarelli scored on a power play with an assist to Bobby Smith at 12:00 exactly with Terry O'Reilly in the penalty box. Payne set the North Stars faithful into a full throated roar when he made the score 4-0 at 18:33 with an assist to MacAdam. Mike O'Connell got the Bruins on the board late in the period with a shorthanded goal against Gilles Meloche at 19:47 with O'Reilly serving his second minor of the period.
The majority of the second period passed without any scoring until Greg Smith scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal at 18:05 with Curt Giles in the penalty box for the North Stars to make the score 5-1 for Minnesota with twenty minutes to play.
There was a fracas at the 5:18 mark which led to Crowder and McCrimmon getting minor penalties and Jonathan being whistled for a double minor plus a major and a game misconduct. Minnesota, meanwhile, saw a minor to Carlson and a double minor to Ciccarelli, giving the North Stars an extended power play in light of Jonathan's major.
Bobby Lalonde with just 4 goals in 62 games during the regular season, then tried single handedly to save the Bruins season, scoring a shorthanded goal at 11:10 from O'Connell. Christoff was penalized for Minnesota at 11:51 followed by Middleton receiving a penalty for the Bruins at 13:59. Lalonde then struck again at 15:42 for his second shorthanded goal at 15:42 to cut the North Stars advantage to 5-3.
Lalonde's second shorthanded goal, along with those by Minnesota's Greg Smith in the second period and O'Connell's first period goal while Boston was a man down, set an NHL record for the Most Shorthanded Goals in a Playoff Game at 4.
With the desperate Bruins having pulled Vachon in search of two goals to keep their season alive, Payne scored his seventh goal of the series from Young into an empty net at 18:34 to make the final score 6-3 to close out the game and the series, something few would have bet on in mid-February.
Buoyed by their success against Boston, the North Stars then defeated the Buffalo Sabres in five games, including three on the road, and then eliminated the Calgary Flames in six to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they encountered the defending champion New York Islanders dynasty in the making, who won their second of four consecutive Stanley Cups in five games.
Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Steve Payne jersey from the North Stars infamous brawl with the Bruins and the player who scored the goal that ended the North Stars curse in Boston when the teams met later in the playoffs. During the North Stars run to the Finals, Payne led the club in points with 29 with 17 goals and 12 assists in 19 games.
Payne had an eventful night in Boston, as he was involved in a secondary brawl at the seven second mark with Crowder, which earned him a double minor unsportsmanlike conduct, a fighting major and a rare double misconduct. All of this should have kept Payne out of the action until well into the second period, yet he still managed to find himself involved in the fracas which erupted at the 8:58 mark of the first period in the runway next to the Bruins bench which earned him a game misconduct before the first period had even reached the halfway mark. Payne finished the evening with 7 seconds of ice time and a total of 39 penalty minutes!
The North Stars would adopt this jersey style in 1978-79 when they merged with the Cleveland Barons. While the white home jerseys gain generous amounts of black striping in 1981-82, the black was unexplainably not added to the green jerseys until 1988-89.
Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Bobby Smith jersey worn during the era when defenseman Greg Smith was also a member of the North Stars. But rather than go with the usual first initials "B. SMITH" and "G. SMITH" to identify the pair, the North Stars, for some unexplained reason, chose to put his full name "BOBBY SMITH" on Bobby's jersey, despite the full name treatment usually reserved for brothers whose names began with the same letter, such as Rich and Ron Sutter, Dave and Don Maloney, Jim and Joe Watson or Mark and Marty Howe. We assume Greg Smith received the same full name treatment,.
Bobby Smith led the North Stars in scoring in 1980-81 with 29 goals and 64 assists for 93 points and was second to Payne in playoff scoring with 8 goals and 25 points in 19 games.