The Quebec Nordiques were having a terrible season in 1988-89. That January, they stopped talking to the press when a Calgary newspaper calling them a “goose [goalie Mario Gosselin] and 19 turkeys” led to a Quebec radio show composing the song “Un club de dindes.” On January 23, when 14,227 came to Le Colisee to watch them play the Hartford Whalers, their spirits tanked further.
It took 14 minutes before the Nordiques even got a shot on net. Nordiques then proceeded to waste nine power-play opportunities and gave up three power-play goals. They were given 41 penalty minutes (compared to 29 minutes for Hartford). In the end, the Whalers rookie goalie, Peter Sidorkiewicz, earned his second shutout when Hartford crushed Quebec 5-0.
However, the worst part of the night came with 9:30 remaining in the game. Kevin Dineen had just scored the final Whalers’ goal on a power play, and the crowd had had enough. They threw “several rolls of toilet paper,” and one hit their target, referee Kerry Fraser. Back in the 1987 Adams Division finals, he “disallowed a third-period goal by the Nordiques’ Alain Cote that would have given Quebec the lead.” They had had it in for him ever since, and that combined with the calls on the Nordiques leading to power-play goals for the Whalers incited the crowd to throw anything they could. In addition to toilet paper, they threw “coins, cigarette lighters, galoshes and just about anything else” onto the ice. Nordiques Mario Marois said, “Fraser had nothing to do with the result. We got what we deserved. But I won’t cry [for Fraser] because referees always haven’t been fair to us here.” The victorious Whalers had a bit of a laugh. Rookie Scott Young joked, “I’d like to know where they got all the toilet paper. They must have been selling it at the concession stands.” Then Ulf Samuelsson remarked, “All they kept throwing were pennies; they couldn’t afford quarters.” The man with the shutout, Sidorkiewicz, joined in commenting, “You can call this one The Toilet Bowl.”
For many, this was not a laughing matter. After ten minutes of enduring the onslaught, Fraser and the coaches finally brought the teams back to the locker rooms to take cover. Dineen, whose goal had sparked the incident, said, “If it were my decision I would have cancelled the game. In the third period we were concentrating only on not getting hurt and that is a very dangerous way to play a hockey game.” Whalers Coach Larry Pleau commented, “I didn’t mind the fans at first because they’re part of the organization and have a right to let their feelings be known. But they really carried it too far.” Several of the Whalers noted that the fans would have been arrested anywhere else and that security was too lax. Captain Ron Francis went as far as to say, “It’s an embarrassment to the National Hockey League.”
After about 13 minutes in the locker rooms and some action by the maintenance crew, the teams returned to the ice. It seemed the game would resume until Fraser appeared again. Somehow, the crowd still had toilet paper to throw at him. The game took another three minutes to resume. Although several were ejected, no one was arrested for their rowdy behavior.
Over the next couple of days, the NHL and the Nordiques looked into the situation to try to improve the security. The Nordiques’ vice president of marketing and communications, Jean Legault, met with Provincial Exhibition Commission (the security firm) and the Quebec police department. According to their director of public relations, Jean Martineau, “Everyone looked foolish because of 30 or 40 people, and now we’re all working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” They discussed increasing the security force to 30 and “decided that dispensers with single sheets of toilet paper will replace those holding rolls.” Nordiques President Marcel Aubut said, “I think it’s an isolated incident. We don’t have that style of fans on a usual basis, like in New York or Boston. I don’t know if we have enough security, but it’s never been tested like that.” Unfortunately, the Nordiques leased Le Colisee and did not have much control over its security.
With the shutout, the Whalers moved 5 points ahead of the Nordiques for 4th place in Adams Division. The Nordiques finished their lousy season 5th in the Adams Division with 61 points (27-46-7). Still, they would manage to do even worse the following season.
- Bruce Berlet, “Sidorkiewicz, Whalers shut out Nordiques, 5-0,” “Rowdyism Forces 20-minute Suspension,” and “Talking turkey helps to solidify Nordiques,” Hartford Courant, 24 Jan. 1989, p. E1 and E5.
- “Nordiques get bum rap again,” Montreal Gazette, 24 Jan. 1989, p. F2.
- Bruce Berlet, “Quebec rolls out new security,” Hartford Courant, 26 Jan. 1989, p. B6.