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When the Stanley Cup was stolen from the Sabres

Miroslav Satan was devilishly good at scoring goals and points, Michal Grosek registered the best season of his career, and there was an air of destiny about the 1999 Buffalo Sabres team.

The playoffs went like a dream for the Sabres, sweeping aside the Ottawa Senators and the Boston Bruins, before crushing the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 to win the Eastern Conference Finals. Buffalo had reached the Stanley Cup Finals for only the second time since 1975, while fans of the team were confident that glory would be theirs, the Dallas Stars didn’t stand a chance.

Unfortunately, whichever deities we believe are in control of our fate and destiny, they must have a very cruel sense of humor when it comes to Buffalo sports teams. Followers of the Buffalo Bills and NFL will testify to that, having endured “Wide Right” and “Music City Miracle” misfortunes.

Although it’s true the Sabres were 3-2 behind heading into the sixth game of the series, every encounter had been close and the series was still on a knife edge. There was quite literally nothing between the two teams, until that infamous “No Goal!” scored by Brett Hull landed the Stanley Cup for the Dallas Stars.

The problem is, Hull’s skate was clearly inside Dominik Hasek’s crease, and at the time, it was still illegal to score if an offensive player’s skate entered the crease before the puck. NHL officials didn’t seem to care, they didn’t even seem interested in reviewing the play. The red carpet was already being rolled out for the trophy presentation.

There was such a sense of injustice about the whole incident, which ultimately proved pivotal in deciding the series, it was listed as one of the worst calls in sports history by ESPN, not to mention one of the most controversial in professional ice hockey. Conveniently, the rules were changed after 1999.

For some fans, that monumental incident remains fresh in the memory, even though more than 21 years have now passed. It’s also the last time that Buffalo reached the Stanley Cup Finals, while the Sabres haven’t even made it to the playoffs since 2011. Meanwhile, those dastardly Dallas Stars will be there this year, and according to the latest NHL betting odds for the Stanley Cup, they’re priced as +650 contenders claim victory.

Despite the Sabres being absent yet again, as avid fans of ice hockey and the NHL, most of us will be glued to our screens and watching how things unfold in the playoffs. We might even select a surrogate team to support, although there’s a good chance it won’t be the Stars, for obvious reasons.

Looking ahead and with a strong desire to put the past behind us, our hopes now turn to next season. Following the departure of Jason Botterill as GM and the appointment of Kevyn Adams, there’s every chance this could be a fresh start for the Buffalo Sabres. They say that a new brush sweeps clean, so this could be a new and more ambitious era for the franchise.

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