Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Distant Replay

Great story in today's WSJ on how--more than twenty years after the fact--two hockey teams in New Jersey will try to get back to the Greatest Game Never Played:

MORRISTOWN, N.J.--On a Friday in 1989, before the biggest hockey game of his life, James Olsen walked into his school gym expecting a pep rally.

He'd waited months for this moment. The Delbarton School senior played for one of two powerhouse hockey teams set to compete the next day for the New Jersey high-school championship. Delbarton and St. Joseph Regional High School, known as St. Joe's, boasted athletes who would play in college and eventually go pro. Ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the state, the teams hadn't faced each other all season. Neither group of players had ever won a state crown.

The 1989 squads never got their shot. Mr. Olsen stepped into the gym and was hit with a reality check: A measles outbreak at Delbarton forced officials to cancel the game. It was never rescheduled.

The New Jersey teams dubbed it "the greatest game never played." For the next 20 years, the decision would weigh on the players, who always wondered if they could have been champions.

On April 3, that weight will be lifted. Virtually every player and coach from the 1989 teams will finally face off at the same Morristown arena where the title contest would have taken place. Players, some of whom haven't talked to one another in more than 20 years, are coming from California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts and Maine to compete and raise money for charity.

"Everybody still talks about that game," said St. Joe's star center, Ken Blum, later drafted by the former Minnesota North Stars. "Everybody."

Of course the game won't be the same as it would have been back in 1989, but it's good to know that after all these years old scores can still get settled.