It might be the most infamous non-call in NHL history. And now, the referee who blew it is saying he's sorry to Maple Leafs fans who believe he cost the team a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Kerry Fraser says he was watching the puck when the stick of Los Angeles Kings superstar Wayne Gretzky caught Toronto's Doug Gilmour in the face in overtime of Game 6 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals. When Fraser looked back and saw Gilmour doubled over he quickly assessed the situation, but ultimately kept his whistle in his pocket.
“I was uncertain but I thought I had it right,” Fraser writes in The Players' Tribune.
Here's an excerpt from Fraser's piece, describing how he saw the play unfold:
Gretzky gets the puck. He shoots it, and my eyes go to the net. But Jamie Macoun blocks it. The puck rebounds between Gretzky and Doug Gilmour. When my eyes go back to Gretzky, I see a motion. Gilmour goes down. Did Gretzky’s stick follow through and catch him? Gilmour’s bent over now. He’s got blood on his chin.
And I have no idea what happened. That’s a helpless, helpless feeling. Under the 1993 rules, if Gretzky high-sticks Gilmour and it draws blood, it’s a five-minute major. He’s gone. It was a huge call to make — a worse one to miss.
Guys from both teams were skating up to me. It didn’t smell right. I should have known when I saw Gretzky skating away. Whenever there was a dispute, Gretz was always at the forefront arguing his side of it. But this time, he kind of slinked away. That was uncharacteristic. That should have tipped me off.
Missed calls are inevitable, but rarely do they involve players of this stature on a stage this big. And rarely do they have consequences like this. Instead of spending the next five minutes in the box, Gretzky scored on the ensuing face-off to lead the Kings to a 5–4 victory and set the stage for a decisive Game 7.
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That game went down as the finest Gretzky ever played. The Great One scored a hat trick and added an assist to lead Los Angeles to a 5–4 win and seal a berth in the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadiens.
Fraser understands why Leafs fans are still sore nearly a quarter-century later. And he wishes that he could make it right.
"If I had one opportunity to turn back the hands of time for a 'do over' it would be to catch that high-stick," he writes.