The blockbuster movie “Rocky” had a beautifully written screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, which essayed the travails of a struggling boxer bloodily battling against all odds.
People loved the action-drama so much that Stallone wrote five more scripts after and starred in six more episodes of the Rocky films.
Rocky was a fictional character and plot, yet people raved and craved for more. But what if you were told that a similar story had indeed happened once before, and in real life, unfolding in much the same way but without a script or a scriptwriter.
Such a story did happen 19 years ago, not in boxing but in an equally popular sport of ice hockey, an event that continues to be remembered to this day as the Miracle on Manchester.
The lead characters were the grossly underdog Los Angeles Kings, who were narrowly close to elimination, 0-2, in the third game of their best of five semis series against the Edmonton Oilers in the 65th season of National Hockey League (NHL) in 1982.
The Kings were trailing the Oilers, 0-5 after two periods, thus they needed a miracle to escape elimination in the final 20-minute stretch.
At this point, some of the home fans at The Forum, along Manchester Avenue in Los Angeles, California, were lined up and moving towards the exit to escape witnessing the heartbreaking spectacle of an impending massacre and elimination of their home team.
After all, the Oilers had met the Kings eight times during the 1981-82 regular season, with Edmonton winning five, losing only once, and drawing the other two. In terms of scores, the Oilers were way ahead of the Kings in eight games, 51 goals to 27.
On the other hand, the Oilers looked home and dry, ready to celebrate their victory. After 40 minutes, the Kings’ slow defense offered little resistance to the Oilers’ speed and scoring ability. They had many young stars, including 21-year-old Wayne Gretzky, considered the best player of the season for breaking existing NHL records in number of goals and assists.
Then, the excited fans were stunned by a sudden burst of rapture.
The outburst came after Jay Wells scored from 30 feet, followed three minutes later by another bull’s eye from defenseman Kevin Lower, closing the gap to 2-5.
The exiting fans rushed back to their seats to root for their team and were rewarded with another scintillating goal, 3-5, by Charlie Simmer. Oilers coach Glen Sather appeared unperturbed by the sudden turn of events and was seen even half-smiling after Simmer delivered the point.
With less than five minutes on the game clock, defenseman Mark Hardy took the offensive stance and scored another point, 4-5, sending the Kings’ fans into shouts of euphoria.
With pressure mounting, the Oilers were forced to play with an incomplete four against six lineup due to penalties in the final minutes, but managed to hold off a blistering assault by the home team.
With 10 seconds left, Jim Fox sneaked a pass to Hardy, who hit a low shot towards the goal, which Oilers’ goalie Grant Fuhr adeptly deflected. In the rebound, however, left winger Steve Bozek took the puck and unleashed it past the outstretched arms of Fuhr for an incredible, 5-5, deadlock.
The miraculous come-from-behind equalizer sent the game into overtime.
As the ice hockey rink drama continued, a defensive lapse in the Kings’ zone almost put to naught their efforts at regulation, but Oilers’ Mark Messier missed the opportunity when his backhand shot missed the net, with King goalkeeper Mario Lessard still not in position to defend.
In another incredible twist with only three minutes left in overtime, King rookie Daryl Evans took the spotlight from everyone else when he won possession of the puck, skated past teammate Dough Smith, and fired an incredible “Hail Mary” slap shot.
The startling shot whizzed past and startled Fuhr when the puck hit the net for the “miraculous” goal, 6-5. Evans, a Toronto native drafted by the LA Kings, spoke to Betway Insider about this.
He claims to feel goosebumps rising on his skin every time he thinks about the Miracle on Manchester. “It was really something else”, he said. “I grew up in Canada, and Toronto was and continues to be the hockey hotbed of the world, yet I went to Los Angeles at that time”.
Nothing short of a miracle?
Source: NHL lines site Betway