The last time Mike McEwen attended a Stanley Cup Finals, he watched from the penalty box. For the whole game. And he wasn't even a player in the game.
It was Game 7 in June 1994, Vancouver vs. New York at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers beat the Canucks 3-2. "The Garden was nervous,” recalled the former Oklahoma City Blazers coach. "The fans were nervous. They weren't loud or crazy. It was like everybody was apprehensive. It was close all the way, and it just wasn't loud and obnoxious like it normally is.” Several former Rangers players had been invited to the game — but they had nowhere to sit, except the sin bin. "They cut the penalty box in half, so a lot of us alumni players were standing in there,” McEwen said. "We were scrunched together pretty good. There were five guys in front and five guys in back.” McEwen, now president of the Oklahoma City Youth Hockey Association, played in four Stanley Cup Finals in his 12-year NHL career. Now 51 and residing in Bethany, McEwen was one of the NHL's highest-scoring defensemen. He had his best NHL season in 1979 when he scored 20 goals and 58 points and helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost to the Montreal Canadiens, who won their fourth straight Stanley Cup. "We beat them in the first game, and we were winning 2-1 after the first period of the second game. But Montreal got mad,” McEwen said. "They came out in that second period and they were mad and they just blew us away in four games. They were a great team, and we couldn't keep up with them. The whole game changed. It was pretty amazing to play against them. But at least we lost to a better team.” From 1980-1983, McEwen did what few others have done: He played on three straight Stanley Cup champions, for the New York Islanders. "We used to sit in that room and say, ‘Let's go out and dominate,' and we knew we could. That was the level of that team,” McEwen said. "We could play tough with anybody, or we could play finesse with anybody. We could play anybody's game, and if we just played our best we would dominate.