No one's sure when the tradition began, but Hockey Night in Canada's famed towel is now eagerly sought by NHL players who are interviewed during game broadcasts.
This was a bold mission. Interviews, and therefore towels, usually went to standouts from the previous period. Malone, on the other hand, had scored only his second goal of the season two nights prior in Ottawa. The fourth-liner was, in fact, among the more unlikely candidates for getting a towel, until he punched back a juicy rebound and raised his fist in celebration, maybe even to signal for his reward.
“He doesn’t score that often,” Skinner says, setting up the gut punch. “Then someone else ended up getting the towel.”
At the time, Skinner wasn't well-versed in the towel’s tradition, but Malone’s plight lingered with the Toronto native. So when the Hurricanes later hosted the rare Hockey Night in Canada game in Raleigh and Skinner got a towel himself, he gifted it to Malone. “That’s when I learned about the towel and the significance,” Skinner says. “He earned it. He got robbed.”
It just wasn’t the same.