Dissecting 1989 (Not Taylor Swift)

I will tell you only one recent revelation.

Everyone kept saying that the new Taylor Swift album titled “1989” was a slight move away from her country music roots. After listening to her entire album (only once), I must admit that I like the new pop sound that Taylor has produced. For a guy approaching 40, and slowly feeling apathy towards today’s unidentifiable Top 40, Taylor’s latest album has been somewhat of a breath of fresh air if that makes any sense.

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While Taylor’s album has become an instant hit, her songs from it don’t really remind me of “1989”. The year that I remember included top pop artists like Milli Vanilli, Young MC, Tone Loc, the B-52s, and Tom Petty solo. When I hear a song from 1989, it brings me back to that year which for me was a rough go. There were a lot of events in my life smacked into one short year: The family move from Edmonton to Vancouver (and back), the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster in March, the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Eastern Bloc in November.

In the hockey world, we know that nothing ever stays the same, especially in light of the dramatic events on August 9, 1988. With Wayne Gretzky’s trade to Los Angeles, the hockey landscape has indefinitely shifted. The Edmonton Oilers were becoming to be a shell of their dominant shelf. Meanwhile, their provincial foes in Calgary were starting to dominate. Montreal under new head coach Pat Burns was returning Patrick Roy and the Canadiens back to Stanley Cup contention. Both the Flames and the Habs ended up in the Stanley Cup Final and provided an entertaining all-Canadian finale with the young-gunnin’ Flames prevailing in 4 games to 2 victory – Calgary’s one and only Stanley Cup so far.

Here is a one-hour summary of the 1988-89 season:

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1988-89 Wales Conference Review

Adams Division

Montreal Canadiens – The Habs enjoyed a great seasos collecting 53 wins and 115 points. While they fell short of winning the Cup, Montreal collected plenty of other hardware. Patrick Roy won the Vezina Trophy as top goalie. Chris Chelios won the Norris as top defenceman, despite his infamous run-in with Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers in the Wales Conference Final. Pat Burns won the Jack Adams as top coach, and Roy with backup Brian Hayward won the Jennings Trophy for top goaltending duo.

Boston Bruins – They finished just behind Montreal in the Adams, about 27 points back. The Bruins had an off year, replacing Terry O’Reilly with Mike Milbury. They returned to the Finals in 1990, only to lose to the Edmonton Oilers once again.

Buffalo Sabres – Their season could only be summed up by one near-disastrous moment…

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Hartford Whalers – In a tough division, it’s hard to go anywhere past Montreal or Boston. Always playing second fiddle, the Whalers had a mediocre season finishing in fourth and easily swept by the Habs in the first round.

Quebec Nordiques – They finished dead last for the second straight year with only 61 points, a team record. However, there was an eventual happy ending. A young upstart named Joe Sakic earned 62 points in his rookie season. With first overall pick in the Entry Draft, Quebec picked up a relative unknown who like Sakic would have an outstanding Hall of Fame career. His name was Mats Sundin.

Patrick Division

Washington Capitals – Although they were on top of the division with 92 points, and even after trading long time stalwarts Mike Gartner and Larry Murphy, the Caps were stunned in the first round by the lowly Flyers.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Mario, Mario, Mario. Super Mario scored 85 goals and 114 assists for 199 points. And for the first time in his young NHL career, he and the Pens cliched second place, good enough to make the playoffs. While they lost their state rivals the Flyers, it wouldn’t take long for the Penguins to reach Stanley Cup glory (twice) in the next three years.

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New York Rangers – There were two bright spots for New York. Guy Lafleur returned from retirement to play one season for the Rangers and was his old stellar self. And a young defensive rookie named Brian Leetch scored a record 23 goals, good enough to win the Calder Trophy. Despite this, the Rangers were embarrassingly swept by Pittsburgh in the first round, leading to the firing of GM and Coach Phil Esposito.

Philadelphia Flyers – They finished at .500, and weren’t projected to go far in the post season. Paul Holmgren who replaced Mike Keenan put the Flyers on a surprising run, upsetting first-place Washington, and squeaking by Pittsburgh before bowing out to the Habs in a fight-filled Conference Final. Chelios beware…

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New Jersey Devils – After unbelievable playoff run in 1988, the Devils faltered hard. After 1989, GM Lou Lamourello signed two unexpected players, Soviets Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Starikov and Alexei Kasatonov. Calgary’s Sergei Priakin was actually the first Soviet to ever play in the NHL in 1989.

New York Islanders – Like Quebec, the Isles finished with only 61 points. Gone was the dynasty and it soon be preceded a long & painful history of hockey mediocrity, Captain High Liner, ownership fraud & scandal.

Part Two, The Campbell Conference