1997 was a great year. It was the first year I went to an NHL game (Penguins vs Bruins), supposedly Mario Lemieux's last year before retirement (although he would come out of it later), it was the year the Detroit Red Wings won the first of two consecutive Stanley Cups, the year I got the best dog to ever live, Cammi (who passed last summer after 16 awesome years, may she rest in peace. Yes, she was named for Cam Neely), and it was in which this ridiculous Star Wars theme was used as a broadcast opener for a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 22 on NHL on Fox.
Is that "Chicago vs Pittsburgh" text made in Microsoft Word "Word Font"? Totally.
The 1996-97 season was also the prime of the dead puck era. The number of shutouts in a season in the league was a record 127, which was predictably in tandem with low overall scoring. Only two players still reached 100 points that year: Mario Lemieux and Teemu Selanne. The regular season MVP was a goaltender (Hasek), as was the Stanley Cup Final MVP (Mike Vernon).
Okay, maybe it wasn't that great of a year. But I was only 10 so I remember it being pretty great, as I was a full blown hockey fan in the grips of Bruins fandom despite them sucking and Sergei Fedorov adoration. I don't have any recollection of watching this broadcast, and I hadn't yet become the Star Wars fan I am today. But looking back, 17 years (!!!) later, this is awesome (s/t to Steve Lepore for this).
The graphics are about on par with what you'd expect from 1997, which makes it hilarious, and it's always fun to walk down memory lane.
Who were the superstars in this mid-season game between two teams that lost in the first round of the playoffs as bottom seeds? Let Fox Sports announcer Jiggs McDonald narrate:
"Fox Sports presents: NHL's version of Star Wars! Featuring superstars like Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux...
...and Jaromir Jagr (who did not play in this game due to injury)! Two of the most prolific scorers in the NHL today!...
...Introducing rising stars like Chicago's Tony Amonte...
...and Eric Daze."
"Co-starring shining stars like all-star defenseman Chris Chelios...
...and left winger Ron Francis."
"Feel the force from stars like hitmen Darius Kasparaitis...
...and Bob Probert!"
I'm truly impressed. I mean amused. I am truly amused.
Anyway, this game was won by the Blackhawks by a score of 5-2. Chicago goal scorers were Jeff Schantz (2), Chris Chelios, Tony Amonte, and Ethan Moreau. Mario Lemieux had both Penguins goals. Ken Wregget made 35 saves on 39 shots for the Penguins while Jeff Hackett stopped 24 of 26 shots for the Hawks.
I absolutely love when hockey and Star Wars mix. They are two of my favorite things. And it's such a bonus that this is done in cheesy late-90s fashion. As we all know, two years later, Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out and the tragedy that was the prequels began. But this was 1997, before we knew of such a horrible future. Before we knew of full-season lockouts or the long-term consequences of head injuries. It was a simple time. Ah, nostalgia.
Here is the link to the video itself, in case you'd like to watch rather than have me narrate through GIFs. (These GIFs will all come in handy in the future, I just know it).
What was your favorite part of this opening feature? Or your favorite instance of Star Wars and hockey crossing paths?