The Savardian Spin-O-Rama is one of the most storied moves in NHL history. The funny thing is that the man most associated with it today – Blackhawks and Habs legend Denis Savard – isn’t even the Savard it’s named after. That honor goes to Hall of Fame Canadiens Defenseman Serge Savard. But if you grew up watching hockey in the 1980s, it was Denis you looked for to spin his way through any and all comers.
In the 1980s, the Edmonton Oilers were as close to invincible as a hockey team could be. With a lineup including Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe, Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog and some guy named Wayne Gretzky, they were almost completely unstoppable. If it hadn’t been for a fluke own goal in 1986 during a playoff series against the Calgary Flames, The Oilers would have won five straight Stanley Cups, and six in seven years.
The Chicago Blackhawks, meanwhile, were a very good team that never quite made it over the championship hump. They made five conference finals in the 1980s, losing each one, including three to the powerhouse Oilers.
In a 1988 game, the Oilers and the Blackhawks squared off in Chicago. Chicago went down a man after taking a penalty. Savard, short-handed, picked up the puck at his own blue line. I’ll let Gretzky himself explain what happened: “I had a good look at one of most amazing goals I’ve ever seen when I was with the Edmonton Oilers. I want to say it was 1988. We were in the Stadium, and we went on a power play. I like to joke with Denis that he never really had to get past me because I was cherry-picking at their blue line, waiting for a pass so I could skate in on their net. Well, he wound up with the puck, close to their blue line and near the red line. Before it was all over, he basically stickhandled through our whole team. We had only one defenseman on, Kevin Lowe, because we had a man advantage, but it didn’t matter. Kevin was the last guy he went around, and then Savy scored this ridiculous goal. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. The place went crazy, of course.”
Denis Savard may not have invented the Spin-O-Rama, but no one before or since did it better.