The Keystone State won’t be getting a visit from a famous silver mug this year. It’s not been a great year to place any Stanley Cup bets connected to the state of Pennsylvania. The Pittsburgh Penguins were bounced in the first round by their old nemesis the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t even make the playoffs.
Individually, Pennsylvania’s active NHL players also had a rough go of it when it comes to the pursuit of Lord Stanley’s mug. Pittsburgh’s Brandon Saad, a two-time Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks, thought he was in line to win a third, skating this season with the Colorado Avalanche, who were Stanley Cup favorites entering the postseason. However, the Avs were knocked out in the second round by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Pittsburgh’s Vincent Trocheck of the Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh’s Matt Bartkowski of the Minnesota Wild and Hollidaysburg’s Sam Lafferty of the Penguins all made first-round playoff exits. Pittsburgh’s John Gibson and the Anaheim Ducks didn’t make the playoffs.
“Brandon Saad” by Jonathan Daniel/Getty is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Rich Stanley Cup History
There is a rich Stanley Cup history that envelops Pennsylvania. The Flyers won back-to-back Cups in 1973-74 and 1974-75, becoming the first of the NHL’s 1967 expansion franchises to win a championship.
Twice – in 1990-91 and 1991-92 and again in 2015-16 and 2016-17 – the Penguins also won successive Cups. The Pens were also NHL champions in 2008-09. Since 1990, no NHL team has won the Cup more often that Pittsburgh.
However, most hockey fans who follow the NHL in the Steel City and in the City of Brotherly Love are probably blissfully unaware of the significant role a Pennsylvanian played in one of the most sensational and memorable moments in Stanley Cup history.
For Pete’s Sake
Pete Babando was born in the Braeburn section of Lower Burrell on May 10, 1925. When he was five, his family moved to Canada and eventually settled in South Porcupine, Ontario. Growing up in Canada, Babando became a top hockey player. He broke into the NHL with the Boston Bruins in 1947-48, scoring 23 goals as a rookie. He finished second in the Calder Trophy voting for NHL rookie of the year.
The Detroit Red Wings lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in successive Stanley Cup final sweeps in 1947-48 and 1948-49. Deciding that his team needed a shakeup, Red Wings general manager Jack Adams made a blockbuster trade. He dealt all-star defenseman Bill Quackenbush and forward Pete Horeck to the Bruins on August 16, 1949 for defensemen Clare Martin and Lloyd Durham and forwards Babando and Jimmy Peters.
“Brandon Saad” by Juan Ocampo/NHLI is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Finding A Role
Babando settled into a spot on the left wing of Detroit’s checking line with center George Gee and right-winger Gerry (Doc) Couture. He sacrificed offense, scoring just six times during the 1949-50 season, but never regretted the choice.
“I was very fortunate just to be playing in the NHL,” Babando told the Timmins Daily Press. “I can remember as kids, we used to listen to the games on the radio on Saturday night. It was like they were way up here, and we were down here.”
Detroit finished first in the NHL during the regular season and would face the defending champion Maple Leafs in the Stanley Cup semifinals. A hard-fought series went the full seven games. Detroit advanced to the final with a 1-0 Game 7 verdict on an overtime goal by defenseman Leo Reise.
The New York Rangers awaited in the Stanley Cup final and it again went to Game 7. Babando scored his first goal of the playoffs in the second period, as Detroit fought back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to force overtime. No one scored through the first extra session and the game went to double OT.
Nearing the midway point of the period, Detroit forced a faceoff in the Rangers zone. Gee won the draw back to Babando, who whipped a backhand shot past New York goalie Charlie Rayner.
“It was just one of those things, I guess,” Babando said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.
“We were to Chuck Rayner’s right. I usually lined up behind him, but Gee told me to line up a little more to the side. He said he’d get it to me.”
Babando died in 2020 at the age of 94. He’s one of two players in Stanley Cup final history to score a Game 7 OT winner and the only one to do it in double OT.