Dave Lewis and Bob Bourne grew up together in Kindersley as best friends. Next, they ventured in unison to Saskatoon to play junior hockey. The NHL sought to separate these life-long pals, but fate wouldn’t allow that to happen.
Together once more, in the spring of 1975 they’d help engineer one of the most famous comebacks in Stanley Cup history. Down 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their best-of-seven Stanley Cup series, the New York Islanders were facing extremely long odds of staging a comeback to win the series.
To that point in NHL history only once had a team won a playoff series when down 3-0. That was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, so it had been awhile.
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An Epic Comeback
When the Islanders arrived for practice the day prior to Game 4, trainer Ron Waske had scratched a brief message on the chalkboard. “Magic number four,” was all it read.
According to Lewis, Isles coach Al Arbour put the emphasis on simplification.
“Simply put, you can’t allow yourself to look at the big picture,” Lewis told the Windsor Star. “If you start thinking, ‘We have to win four straight games,’ you’ll never do it.”
Arbour broke their gameplan down to winning small battles.
“You have to focus on winning that first faceoff, then winning that first shift and move on to winning that first period,” Lewis explained. “And that’s the way you have to approach things the rest of the way.”
The Islanders took Game 4 on home ice by a 3-1 count, then went to Pittsburgh and beat the Penguins 4-2 in Game 5.
“Probably after we won Game 5 was when guys really started believing that we could do it,” Lewis said. “We were coming back to Long Island for Game 6 and if we won that, going back to Pittsburgh for Game 7.”
The Islanders took that sixth game by a 4-1 count. In the series decider, team captain Eddie Westfall got the only goal of Game 7. Lewis was on the ice for the series winner. His defense partner Bert Marshall drew the lone assist on the goal.
“He was such a huge part of those teams,” Bourne said of Lewis. “Just a terrific guy in the dressing room.”
“The Islanders” by NHL is licensed under CC BY 3.0
A Life Long Bond Of Friendship
Bourne and Lewis have been pals since childhood. They met as first graders in Kindersley. They are as close as two men can be without being brothers.
They’d capture a provincial bantam hockey championship as teammates. Bourne remembers the young Lewis as being the leader of their social group, a devious prankster and a power-hitting catcher.
“When he turned 16, he got this old Dodge four-door sedan and painted it exactly like a Canadian flag,” Bourne said. “We drove it for about a year and then he couldn’t afford to fix it up, so we just left it to rot somewhere.”
They played junior together with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, thanks to the persistence of Lewis. The two shared a place in Saskatoon. Bourne intended to attend the University of Saskatchewan and put hockey on ice, but Lewis was having none of that.
“The morning of the first day of training camp, I was sleeping in and Dave came into my room and said, ‘We’ve got to be there in an hour.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going there, I’m going to school.’ He grabbed me by the neck of my shirt and pulled me out of bed.”
Selected 33rd overall by the Islanders in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft, Lewis cracked the lineup as a rookie. In 14 NHL seasons, he never played a single game in the minor leagues.
Bourne, though, was drafted 38th overall by the Kansas City Scouts in 1974. He and Lewis shouldn’t have been NHL teammates. Fate intervened and on Sept. 13, 1974, the Scouts dealt Bourne to the Isles for the NHL rights to Larry Hornung and a player to be named later, who turned out to be Bart Crashley.
“To end up playing on the same team in junior and professionally, that’s almost unheard of,” Bourne said.
Almost as unheard of as a team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven Stanley Cup series.