Foot In The Crease: Brett Hull And The Dallas Stars Stanley Cup


Let’s go back in time to a world that seemed much simpler. The year is 1999. The Mars Lander has launched, President Clinton is impeached and acquitted, Michael Jordan announces his retirement from basketball (not the first or last time but who’s counting), and we’re partying like Prince said because our beloved Stars have reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Brett Hull, Superstars of Hockey. Photo:

The road to the finals was not easy. Sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, we had a handful of competition in the St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche. The 2nd seeded Avalanche gave the Stars a run for their money. Going 7 games, the final curtain came down on Colorado at Reunion arena as the Stars drove to a 4-1 victory. Finally returning to the big dance in 8 years, the Stars awaited for their final opponent.

The 7th seeded, Buffalo Sabres.

Yes, you read that right. 7th seed. Buffalo Sabres. Lindy Ruff. Dominik Hasek. In the Eastern Conference finals the Sabres upset the Toronto Maple Leafs who were having their best post-season since their 1994 Cup run. After splitting the first 4 games, Dallas goes up 3 games to 2 on a shutout performance from Ed Belfour. This is it. They are one win away from drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Of course in typical Dallas Stars fashion, winning can’t come that easy. Let’s step back for a moment. At one point in the NHL, there was a “skate in the crease” rule. Meaning no player was allowed in the crease without the puck. In today’s day and age the rule no longer exists but it was a hot topic in the late 90’s. The Dallas Stars also seemed to fall victim to it on a couple of occasions:

Back to 1999. Earlier in the year the NHL released a memo to clarify that rule that had been plagued teams all season long. Its clarity confirmed that players were not allowed in the goalie’s crease unless the puck was already there. The goalscorer or player in question must have established control of the puck and not possession before entering into the crease.

Seems pretty simple right? Heh.

Game 6 took place back in Buffalo at Midland Arena. Pumped and ready to go, the Stars come out of the gate first with a goal 8 minutes in from Lehtinen. Not to be outdone, the Sabres battled back and tied the game 10 minutes later. Then the waiting started.

Second period.  No scoring.

Third Period. No Scoring.

Ladies and Gentleman, we are heading to overtime.

And by overtime, I mean triple overtime.In the intermission, during Coach’s Corner, Don Cherry said he hoped that the goal was a zinger and a fair goal with no controversy. Boy was he wrong.

One goal awaits Dallas from hoisting the Cup. But like I said before, it wouldn’t come easy. After battling through 5 long periods of hockey, both teams are battered, bruised and tired. At 14:51, Brett Hull kicked the puck up out in front of him to maintain possession off of a rebound inside the crease. Two shots later and it was all over.

Buffalo fans were immediately screaming for “No Goal” as Hull’s foot was in the crease but the puck was not. Cries of being “screwed” were heard for days to come. But, as history shows the goal stood. Referrees proclaimed that Hull’s two shots did in fact consist of of a single possession due to the puck deflecting off of Hasek. The following year, the confusing as hell rule was removed from the rulebook.

Lord Stanley. Photo: (

Hull scored the biggest goal of his career to finally lift Lord Stanley. Hull went on to play two more years with Dallas before he was off to Detroit for 3 before retiring. (Well, there’s that forgotten “year” in Phoenix but we won’t go there.) His accomplishment in Dallas Stars hockey history remain one of the biggest and most controversial. One that surely won’t be forgotten.

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