June 20, 2019

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Everyone can use a hand now and then, especially in OT

LOS ANGELES — Nelson Emerson admits he used some sleight of hand to bilk the system — and got away with it.

The former NHLer scored 195 goals while playing 11 seasons, including a career-high 33 as a Winnipeg Jets winger during the 1993-94 campaign. Seventeen years after retiring, no one seems to care about the other 194.

On Oct. 16, 1993, he was credited with one of the most infamous disputed goals in league history. He beat Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour not with a quick shot but a subtle toss for a 1-0 overtime victory for the Jets at Winnipeg Arena.

“True story, it really happened and it’s kind of neat. I dropped it in,” he says, laughing. “I grabbed the puck, took two steps and I didn’t throw it, I just dropped it in the crease and then I just hoped for the best. It bounced into the net instead of (Ed) Belfour being able to cover it.

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LOS ANGELES — Nelson Emerson admits he used some sleight of hand to bilk the system — and got away with it.

The former NHLer scored 195 goals while playing 11 seasons, including a career-high 33 as a Winnipeg Jets winger during the 1993-94 campaign. Seventeen years after retiring, no one seems to care about the other 194.

On Oct. 16, 1993, he was credited with one of the most infamous disputed goals in league history. He beat Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ed Belfour not with a quick shot but a subtle toss for a 1-0 overtime victory for the Jets at Winnipeg Arena.

"True story, it really happened and it’s kind of neat. I dropped it in," he says, laughing. "I grabbed the puck, took two steps and I didn’t throw it, I just dropped it in the crease and then I just hoped for the best. It bounced into the net instead of (Ed) Belfour being able to cover it.

"No one can believe it counted."

Emerson was in just his fifth game in a Jets jersey — after being acquired just before the season began from the St. Louis Blues — and was on a line with centre Thomas Steen and Teemu Selanne. The clubs were locked in a scoreless tie, and Belfour and Winnipeg goalie Bob Essensa had each stopped north of 30 drives in regulation time.

On the first shift of OT, the puck was dumped in, Belfour picked it up in the corner and tried to ring high around the boards but sent it behind the net, onto the stick of Emerson, who took a couple of strides before Belfour — a tough character from Carman — put his shoulder into him while scrambling back to his crease.

But Emerson managed to reach around the post and let the puck slip from his glove and it hopped just inches over the line before Chicago forward Joe Murphy swept it out at the 41-second mark of OT.

Veteran referee Denis Morel immediately signalled a goal, Emerson, Steen, Selanne and blue-liners Teppo Numminen and Stephane Quintal huddled up celebration and the Blackhawks… well, they went haywire.

"We’re on the ice and just put our hands up and pretended it’s a good goal. We celebrate for about a minute and then someone says, ‘Hey, we gotta go to the locker room and keep pretending we won this thing,’" says Emerson. "We’re in the locker room and I’m sitting with Keith Tkachuk and I remember saying to him, ‘There’s no way. If this actually counts, boys, this is not real hockey.’"

Tucked away in the bowels of the old barn, Emerson and the Jets weren’t aware of the fury unleashed by the Blackhawks.

Morel had asked for help from video replay. But views from several angles proved inconclusive so he stuck with his original call, and he was immediately confronted by infuriated Belfour, Murphy, Steve Smith, Dirk Graham, Rich Sutter and Jeremy Roenick, all in his face.

Chicago head coach Darryl Sutter burst from the bench and sprinted across the ice to verbally accost the officials, and he pursued them to their dressing room afterward.

It was reported later that Roenick actually scooped up the puck, with the officials looking on, and flung it into the net, replicating how the Jets notched the game winner.

Emerson, who likely should have been slapped with a two-minute minor for closing his hand on the puck, says he watched highlights of the mayhem when he got home that night.

"The refs all got together and talked about it, it went to video and then they called it a good goal and (the Blackhawks are all going absolutely crazy. Then you see Darryl run across the ice and he’s going crazy," he says. "That’s my famous goal.

"It’s the only thing of mine that my kids watch on YouTube that proves to them I actually played in the NHL. My son said, ‘Dad that was you? You really did that?’ No one believes I actually caught it and put it in."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Read full biography

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