MONTREAL — Yvan Cournoyer still remembers the last time there were no Canadian teams in the NHL playoffs and hasn't forgiven the Detroit Red Wings for their part in making it happen.
That was in 1969-70, when the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens missed the playoffs for the first time in 22 years on what Cournoyer believes was foul play by the Red Wings.
"We didn't like them too much," Cournoyer said this week. "If there had not been an agreement between Detroit and New York, we would have been in."
Cournoyer's Canadiens found themselves battling the New York Rangers for a playoff spot in the final days of the 1969-70 campaign.
At the time, the league had only 12 clubs, the "Original Six" in one division and the six teams from the 1967 expansion in the other. The top four from each division made the playoffs.
The Canadiens lost their next-to-last game, leaving the door open for the Rangers to tie them for fourth place. The Red Wings, having reportedly partied hard after clinching their own playoff berth, decided to sit out some top stars in their regular season finale, which New York easily won 9-5.
That tied the Rangers in points and wins with Montreal, and gave them the lead in the next tie-breaker — goals scored.
In their final game, the Canadiens fell behind 5-2 to Chicago. Coach Claude Ruel pulled goalie Rogie Vachon with nine minutes left in a desperate bid for goals, but it backfired in a 10-2 defeat. The Rangers got the final berth with a two-goal cushion.
Cournoyer believes the Red Wings let New York win in order to keep the Canadiens out of the post-season.
"You respect other teams," he said. "I don't think we would do that.
"It's against our principles. I think they found out after that we weren't happy with that. They didn't win too many games against us after that.
"We had the personnel to win the Cup. We had some guys hurt and we had some bad games, but it's a different story in the playoffs."
The Toronto Maple Leafs finished a distant sixth, leaving no Canadian team in the playoffs for the first time.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press