The NHL has not yet advised its teams to prepare contingency plans for playing games without spectators in the arena as a means of protection against coronavirus, even as has the NBA.
But if that does become a necessity, David Quinn has experience with the phenomenon. See, the Blueshirts coach was a freshman defenseman who played for Boston University against Lowell in the “Measles Game” at Walter Brown Arena on Feb. 27, 1985, in which spectators were barred because of an outbreak of the disease on campus.
“You know it’s kind of funny, you’re 18, 19, and you don’t really give an awful lot of thought to stuff like that, or at least you didn’t back in those days,” Quinn told Slap Shots on Friday. “It was kind of like, ‘Who cares? We’ve got a game to play, let’s go.’
“I remember that the first 10 minutes or so, it was really strange. But then, it kind of seemed normal. You play in empty rinks all the time when you’re a kid, right? So, really for me the most memorable part of that night was beating Lowell … and we wanted to beat Lowell.”
We’ll get to Lowell in a moment, but the legendary Jack Parker, who coached BU for 40 years and was behind the bench for that 5-3 triumph, called that game the strangest moment in the Terriers’ 34-year run from 1971 through 2005 at the old barn.
“The ‘Measles Game,’ for sure. We played a game with nobody here,” Parker said in an interview with uscho.com when his team made the move to Agganis Arena. “There was a measles outbreak around campus and some other campuses. So it was the press, the referees, the timekeepers and us — no fans whatsoever. It was a real eerie feeling, a very bizarre game.”
Quinn said none of the members of the team caught the measles. Fifty-four students were found to have contracted the disease before BU canceled public events for a short time leading into spring break. One basketball game against Northeastern was played without spectators.
“It was just that one game,” said Quinn, who at first thought that the match might have been played in his senior season. “Then it was just back to the normal stuff.”
“They were one of the teams Hockey East took on from the ECAC and we wanted to kind of stand up for the league,” Quinn said. “So we were up for playing Lowell.”
BU played Lowell (UMass Lowell since 1991), whose campus is located approximately 25 miles outside of Boston, four times that year and won all four. And if Quinn doesn’t distinctly recall details of the “Measles Game,” he sure remembers Lowell’s best player, Jon Morris.
“Jon Morris, there’s a guy as talented as they came,” Quinn said. “It was incredible what he could do. Honest. But he was a different guy. He always wanted to be home. When he was recruited by BU, he told Jack Parker that it was too far from home and so he went to Lowell. Twenty-five miles!
“But what he could do on the ice … I think he’s still Hockey East’s all-time leading scorer.”
Morris is indeed the conference’s all-time leading scorer, having recorded 177 points (74-103) in 121 games, with BC’s David Emma and BU’s John Cullen, a teammate of Quinn’s, second and third, respectively. Morris had been the Devils’ fifth-round and 86th-overall draft selection in 1984 and joined the team in 1988-89 off a terrific training camp. He played four games and … went home.
“Talk about skill, guys would watch him do things with the puck in practice and just start laughing at how amazing it was. Guys’ mouths would be open,” Brendan Shanahan, a teammate, told Slap Shots. “He wasn’t quite in the [Pavel] Datsyuk category, but he was similar in his skill set at the start.”
Pavel Datsyuk … Jon Morris … what?
“Well, Pavel took it to the next level,” Shanahan said. “Jon, he just quit. He went home.”
Morris did return the next year, in fact playing for a short time on the top line between Shanahan and John MacLean when Patrik Sundstrom went down with a bad back, and played 86 games overall for the Devils over slices of five seasons in which he recorded 16 goals and 46 points. He had brief stints with the Sharks and Bruins before playing one year in Italy and another in Germany (neither around the corner from Lowell) to end his career.
“Jon was very quiet and very smart,” Shanahan said. “He was really well-liked and respected in the room. I enjoyed playing with him.”
They don’t make hockey nicknames like the “Pocket Rocket” anymore, and they don’t make hockey players like Henri Richard anymore, either.
Richard, an 11-time Stanley Cup winner over the course of his 20 year-career with the fabled Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, passed on Friday at age 84. He was as fierce as they came, this 5-foot-7 (maybe) center who was 15 years younger than his older brother, Maurice; as willful in his way as Mark Messier.
He scored late in the second period and early in the third for the tying and winning goals of Game 7 of the 1971 Cup final in Chicago. He scored the overtime Cup winner in Game 6 in Detroit in 1966 by sweeping the puck in with his arm or hand as he went sliding through the crease, predating the Brett Hull no-goal controversy by 43 years. In 1971, by the way, he had been benched by Al MacNeil late in Game 5. Richard responded by calling him, “The worst coach I ever played for,” two games before scoring the Cup winner.
In New York, of course, he was renowned for his series of fights in the penalty box at the old Garden with Vic Hadfield. These were the days when teams shared a penalty box, players from opposing sides separated by an aisle in the stands and perhaps a security guard.
“It was nothing personal, but I didn’t like him one bit back then,” Hadfield said last year before his No. 11 retirement ceremony. “He was such an important player on their team, he was the guy I had to get off his game and target. There was mutual respect, but there was also a mutual dislike. Nothing personal. It was our job. I got to know him later after we retired, and it was different.”