Was a porcelain elephant responsible for the Montreal Canadiens winning the 1993 Stanley Cup? As far-fetched as that sounds, Eric Desjardins isn't going to dismiss that a miniature show elephant just might have provided the lucky charm Montreal needed.
Montreal had a decent regular season in 1992-93 that was marked by hot streaks and cold spells. The Habs staggered into the playoffs by losing 11 of the team's final 19 games. They opened the playoffs against the Quebec Nordiques by losing the first two games in Quebec City. When they returned home, a Montreal taxi driver picked up goaltender Patrick Roy and Desjardins, one of the team's defensemen, and started discussing the plight of the Habs.
"That cab driver gave him a little elephant and that cab driver said, 'Here Patrick, take that and rub that elephant every time you play before a game.' I was rooming with him at that time and every time we had a game, we were rubbing that elephant," said Desjardins. "After that we won 11 in a row and it is tough to say. It certainly worked for us."
The two Canadiens were looking for anything to help the team and decided, why not. Roy was superstitious anyway and was the perfect person to take a good luck charm. The magic worked in Game 3 as Montreal beat Quebec 2-1 in overtime. Montreal won Game 4 at home and beat Quebec 5-4 in overtime in Game 5. The Canadiens closed the series at home with a 6-2 win.
Desjardins wasn't quite sold, at least after one round. Montreal took on Buffalo in the Adams Division Final and swept the Sabres. Three of the four games went to overtime and it got Desjardins to wonder. Montreal had won eight in a row, including five in overtime -- maybe there was something to the elephant.
"You do whatever it takes to win, and if you have to do something like that to believe ... whatever it takes," he said.
Desjardins didn't think much of elephant at first -- it was a simple knick-knack that surely didn't have great powers. Or did it?
"It was just like marble, the trunk was pointed toward the sky and it was cracked, too," he said. "We had to make sure we were really gentle with it. It was really cracked all over his body and his legs. We took care of it and I guess it took care of us."
Next up was the New York Islanders in a battle of former dynasties. The Islanders had just knocked off the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champion, taking Game 7 in overtime, and had some momentum.
It didn't matter.
Montreal bolted to a 3-0 series lead, with two of the wins coming in overtime. Montreal's 11-game playoff winning streak -- which equaled Pittsburgh's record from the year before -- was snapped in Game 4. Seven of the 11 games went into overtime, so clearly something was working.
Los Angeles won the opener at the Montreal Forum, but Game 2 was downright freaky. The Kings had a 2-1 lead late in the contest when Jacques Demers out-smarted Los Angeles coach Barry Melrose. Demers had some intelligence -- he was tipped off by his training staff that Kings forward Marty McSorley was using an illegal stick. Demers asked for a measurement of McSorley's stick, and sure enough, his stick had too big a curve and the Kings' forward was called for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. Demers pulled Roy and Desjardins scored the tying goal, his second score of the game, to send the contest to overtime.
Guess who got the game-winner 51 seconds into the overtime?
Desjardins scored to become the first defenseman to score a hat trick in Stanley Cup Final history.
The elephant was in the Montreal locker room during Game 2, and Desjardins decided maybe there was some magic left in the beaten-up good-luck charm. He rubbed the elephant during the intermission between the third period and the first overtime.
"Yeah," he laughed. "It was great, when you look back at it. You do stuff, amazing stuff. It worked well for us and for sure, if I could have that elephant back, I would take it anytime."
Desjardins was not a goal scorer, yet he scored the most important goals in what really amounted to a do-or-die Game 2. Montreal won Game 3 in Los Angeles in overtime -- of course -- and in Game 4, John LeClair scored at 14:37 of overtime to give Montreal a commanding 3-1 series lead.
"It was just like marble, the trunk was pointed toward the sky and it was cracked, too. We had to make sure we were really gentle with it. It was really cracked all over his body and his legs. We took care of it and I guess it took care of us." -- Eric Desjardins
"It helped us -- me and Patrick, for sure," said Desjardins.
The elephant became a valued member of the team and the training stuff had to take care of the very superstitious Roy and his little good-luck charm. Roy was known to drive people crazy with his quirks.
"The trainers had to be really careful about his equipment, all kind of stuff, his sticks. He played all the (playoff) games with the same stick that year, he was feeling good with that one. I guess it was a pretty good one -- it didn't crack," said Desjardins.
The elephant was part of the Canadiens' run, but the cab driver wanted his good-luck charm back. Eventually Roy returned the elephant to the cab driver, who was pleased his favorite hockey team won the Cup and that maybe he had a hand in the 11-game win streak, and the 10 overtime wins.
"If you have to do something like that to believe in it, we ended up winning the Stanley Cup. It was a good story," said Desjardins.