151 minutes and 36 seconds.
That was the mark when Everett Silvertips’ Cal Babych scored in quintuple overtime, putting an end to the longest game in Canadian Hockey League history.
The marathon contest on April 2nd, 2017, between Everett and the Victoria Royals broke the previous CHL record by five minutes and 25 seconds. That game on March 19th, 1999, between Victoriaville and Hull lasted 146:31.
The Victoria and Everett game also eclipsed the Western Hockey League record by 14 minutes and 40 seconds, a game between Kamloops and Kootenay in 2003.
Headed into action, no one knew on that Sunday afternoon they would be a part of hockey history. Those fans attending for the 2 pm puck drop would not realize it would be five hours and 49 minutes of real time before they saw an end to game six.
What happened that day was a marathon, for the players on the ice, the coaches behind the benches and the voices calling the game. Cal Babych, Griffen Outhouse, Kevin Constantine, and Marlon Martens share their memories of that 151 minutes and 36 seconds.
It was a goal to never forget. Six seconds was all it took for Cal Babych to intercept the puck, skate in and put the marathon to an end.
“All I was thinking was to make it down there and score because I didn’t think I’d be able to make it back,” said Babych with a laugh while describing the breakaway. “I don’t know where the extra energy came from, but it worked out.”
With Royals players racing on tired legs to catch him, the 20-year-old North Vancouver product went top-corner glove side on Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse. The overtime goal gave Everett a series-clinching 3-2 win and put the team through to the next round to face the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“It’s one of the best moments of my hockey career,” said Babych. “It’s one of the things that you can’t recreate. That game was by far the coolest game I’ve ever played in. It just kept carrying on, maybe a little longer than we wanted to.”
The goal was Babych’s second of the game, and both goals were his first-ever playoff goals in 15 career WHL postseason games. As the game wore on, Everett went back to playing its full line set, allowing Babych to see the ice more.
“Our fourth line played quite a bit more than Victoria’s and throughout overtime when we were playing our full team. I think that helped us keep our legs fresh and that was one of the edges of overtime.”
“The longest game that I played before that would be two overtime periods, which I mean, that’s still a fairly long game. But obviously this is on a whole another level.”
“It was one of the coolest things in my life and I’m going to cherish that moment forever.”
Griffen Outhouse played the entire game for the Royals and routinely made game-saving stops. Outhouse, along with Carter Hart at the other end for Everett, combined for a mind-blowing 136 saves in the game. However, no matter how remarkable he played, the loss still stings.
The memory that stands out for Outhouse is a bittersweet one. When asked what he remembers the most, the competitive netminder said, “I hate to say it, but the losing.”
“Obviously it was a heartbreaker,” said Outhouse. “The guys were pretty tired, and the shot quality was going down. I think the biggest thing was when Everett’s fourth line came out. It was kind of bizarre because they’re a little fresher compared to everybody who had played the whole time.”
“That’s what led to their goal. Babych came on. I don’t think he played in that game. He had some wheels and I faced a hard shot for the first time in three periods.”
“We put our hearts on the line. We put it all out there, and to lose the series, have our season ended still stings.”
“I was so proud of the guys in front of me. We did our best — they just caught a break. Even with the loss, playing in the game was a lot of fun.”
Outhouse and his counterpart Hart played unbelievably throughout the game and the play of those two goalies stood out. Silvertips goaltender Hart, now with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, made 64 saves while Outhouse made a staggering 72 saves.
“He [Hart] put up a great game,” said Outhouse. “He made a lot of saves that he shouldn’t have and is a big part of the success that they have had over the past years, so it’s always fun to be able to battle against the goalie like that.”
Understandably, the action was not end-to-end the whole time. “The game got a little bit slow at times, especially around the third OT. At first, going into the first overtime, there was a big pep talk from Dave [Lowry] like ‘We got this, just keep working.’ Then as the intermissions kept coming, Bodge [assistant coach Doug Bodger] was talking about how he played in an OT game with the Buffalo Sabres that was something like 55 or 60 minutes, and then how Dominik Hasek stopped like 69 of 70 shots. Every time we were just laughing when we got in there. It was a lot of fun and the guys just bonded together.”
It wasn’t all laughs during the intermissions, as getting food and regaining some energy became a focus.
“In the intermissions, we were trying to get energy levels up. Lots of Gatorade. I know that they brought in some pizza for you guys during the last intermission. So, I guess the pizza didn’t work.”
“I was feeling a little bit sick playing that game anyway so I don’t think pizza would have done anything for me anyway. But it was fun. Guys are just eating pizza in there. I was just trying to stay in the moment the whole time.”
After the game, it was clear the marathon had taken a toll on Outhouse. “I was tired. After that for like the next three days I had ‘bus legs’ and it was pretty tough. I remember I had to do media after the game, and I was just laying on the ground after just in my shorts and workout shirt, on my back hoping that they would never come to tell me that I had media. And when they eventually did, it was the worst thing ever to just have to get up, both physically and mentally.”
Kevin Constantine was behind the bench for the Silvertips and had the job of managing his squad through the lengthy game.
Looking back on the game, Constantine had high praise for both goalies. “The most amazing people in those games are the two goalies and their ability to endure and compete under extraordinary circumstances.”
“One interesting stat,” said the veteran coach, “we averaged 65 shot attempts per game that season. That game, we attempted 204 shots.”
As the game progressed, Constantine made adjustments that arguably helped his team achieve victory. “I am more of a four-line than a three-line coach but generally we narrow our bench to three lines by the middle of the third period. However, we decided to go back to four lines, for energy purposes, in the overtime.”
“The other issue is always food, believe it or not. It is not something you regularly plan for, so our equipment manager scrambled in that situation.”
The two biggest memories for Constantine were, of course, the highlights. “Carter Hart making a hell of a lot of saves and Cal Babych’s shot.”
“Other than that, I was too tired to remember much.”
One person who had a workout off the ice was the “Voice of the Royals”, play-by-play broadcaster Marlon Martens. Martens had the challenge of keeping his voice sounding fresh while filling unexpected hours of content for the listening public.
“I remember thinking at one point that this game may never end,” said Martens.
“The way guys were slowing down and hardly generating anything. Everyone playing safe and trying not to be the one with a costly mistake. The game had changed so much from the first three periods, where it had been such a physical war.”
It was not only the game that slowed in its pace, but Martens’ call also changed. “I’m not sure how I lasted. I remember having to pace myself and keep my pitch lower after the first overtime. And keep drinking a lot of water. I did start croaking a bit on the exciting plays by the fifth overtime.”
Being at home, Martens had some help in the broadcast booth. “I was lucky I had Mark Addams to provide colour commentary because he could just fill as much as needed. I felt bad for Mike Benton in the booth next to me, covering the Silvertips broadcast as he was on his own. I have no idea how he had anything left when he blasted out the winning goal.”
It wasn’t just the voice that was under a strain.
“I like to stand during the broadcast as it gives me more energy,” said Martens. “However, after the first overtime, I was half sitting on a stool. Eventually, I even took my dress shoes off as my feet were getting sore.”
“Man, the dogs were barking! I can’t imagine how the players must’ve felt wearing those skates for that long.”
Like many of the local fans, the lengthy game was too much for half of the Martens family.
“I got a text from my wife saying she had to take my young daughter home who was spent, and my son was going to stay. He wasn’t going to miss it.”
Content is always a challenge for any game that goes into extra time, but this game was the extreme.
“The intermissions in overtime are a bit shorter,” said Martens. “For the playoffs, I kept a pretty hefty backlog of player profiles and interviews. But I still didn’t have enough, so I had to re-air some features. Also, there was a lot to recap and fill with so many periods to talk about.”
The biggest memory for the broadcaster is the end of the game.
“The overtime goal by Cal Babych is a vivid memory. I’m glad it was a nice goal, top corner on a breakaway.”
“I was disappointed the Royals didn’t win, but I also had a sense of relief that it was finally over. In essence, they played that Game 6, plus a Game 7 and then some, all in one shot.”
The quintuple overtime set records and wrote history. Most players who battled in the game have moved on through their junior careers, along with the coaches who have moved on to other opportunities. What remain are the memories of that special Sunday, not likely to be repeated to that degree for a long time.