Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 IIHF World Championships Reports

While the NHL playoffs are now underway to determine who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup, on the other side of the world, tournament time is in full swing.

The IIHF World Under 18 (U18) Championships began in Lappeenranta and Imatra Finland on April 17th. This tournament was held in Sochi, Russia last year as a test run of the Olympic facilities and was won by Canada 3-2 over the United States, breaking a streak of four consecutive titles for the Americans, who have won six of the last nine at the U18 level. The preliminary round will conclude on Tuesday and will determine who will advance to the playoffs. The Swiss opened the tournament with a 4-2 upset win over the United States so it will be interesting to see how the US responds when they play the Czech Republic at 8 AM eastern time today, which can be watched for free on FASTHockey.com.

In the U18 Division 1 Group A tournament in France, Latvia (4-0) has already earned promotion to the Top Division for next year, while Italy at 0-4 will be relegated despite there being games left to play today.

Meanwhile over in the U18 Division I Group B in Hungary, the host Hungarians (4-0) have earned a promotion to Division 1 Group A while Poland is demoted to Division II Group A for 2015.

Finally in U18, Division II Group B taking place in Tallinn, Estonia sees Spain leading the standings at 3-0, with Serbia and Estonia each at 3-1 with 6 points with all teams having games left on both today and Sunday to determine who will earn the promotion to Division II Group A, whose tournament took place in Great Britain back in late March that saw Lithuania (3-1-1-0) promoted to Division I Group B while Romania (1-0-1-3) was relegated to Division III Group A for 2015.

Both Division III Group A and Division III Group B in  conducted their tournaments already, with South Africa taking the three team competition from Hong Kong and host Turkey in Group B while Australia captured Group A to move up to Division II Group B for 2015 with a 4-1 record over Israel at 3-2.

In the senior ranks for players 20 years or older, the bottom of the IIHF ladder is Division III. This level of play always features countries you may not even know had hockey teams and some wildly diverse geographic matchups. Their tournament in Luxembourg concluded a week ago with Bulgaria (5-0) outlasting North Korea (4-1), Luxembourg, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Georgia.

Up in Division II Group B, China, Spain, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Turkey all met in Jaca, Spain last week where the hosts earned promotion to Group A for next year with a dominant 5-0 record.

Division II Group A wrapped up on Tuesday with Estonia cruising to a 5-0 record and 15 points, well clear of Iceland's nine to earn the right to compete at the Division I level next season. Other teams in Group A were Australia, Belgium and Serbia with Israel being relegated to Division II Group B.

Division I Group B kicks off tomorrow in Vilnius, Lithuania as Croatia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and hosts Lithuania meet in round robin play with the winner also promoted to Division I Group A while the last place team will be relegated down to Division II Group A for 2015. The Lithuanians were excited to learn that Danius Zubrus of the New Jersey Devils will play for his country for the first time since 2005.

In the second rung on the World Championship ladder, Division I Group A, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Japan, Ukraine  and hosts South Korea begin play tomorrow in Goyang for the right to play in the Top Division next year in the Czech Republic. Games are scheduled to run through Saturday, April 26.


This year's 2014 IIHF World Championship, for teams in the Top Division, begins in Minsk, Belarus on May 9, 2014 when host Switzerland takes on Russia while France meets Canada in the other early opening game.



The field for this years World Championships include Sweden, the Czech Republic, Canada,  Slovakia, Norway, Denmark, France and Italy in Group A and Finland, Russia, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Latvia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in Group B.

With Division I Group B wrapping up today at the Gabor Ocskay, Jr. Ice Hall in Székesfehérvár, Hungary with the hosts having already secured promotion to Division I Group A for 2015, today's featured jersey is a 2009 Hungary National Team Gabor Ocskay jersey. Ocskay became a member of the Hungary National Team at the age of 18 and was named the Hungarian Best Forward three times, Most Skillful Player five times and was named Hungarian Player of the Year in 1995, 1996 and 2006, He was also the leading scorer in the Hungarian league in 1998 and 1999.

Ocskay Hungary, Ocskay Hungary

In 2008, Ocskay and Hungary won Division I Group B after a decisive 4-2 win over Ukraine. The victory for Hungary was the greatest moment in Hungarian hockey history, as it returned the nation to the Top Division of the World Championships for the first time in 70 years, triggering celebrations back home in Budapest that went into the night.

To put Hungary's accomplishment into perspective, hockey was not a supported sport under 40 years of communist rule, such as it was in Czechoslovakia, and the country had only three teams, who all played outdoors. It wasn't until 1991 that Hungary even had an indoor ice rink and they had now it had made it to the highest level of world hockey with a team of players who started their journey playing outdoors on ice that only lasted three months a year which they had to resurface themselves at times - and now they had reached the highest level of world hockey.

Back in Hungary for the domestic league playoffs in March, Ocskay again showed his undiminished offensive talent with 8 goals and 18 points in 9 games, as Alba Volán won the Hungarian championship for the sixth consecutive season and Ocskay was named the Most Skilled Player for the fifth time.

One month later the 2009 World Championships were held in Switzerland, only without Gábor Ocskay, as he unexpectedly died on March 24th, 2008 of a heart attack at the age of only 33, just two days after winning the 2008 Hungarian championship. His passing hit the hockey fans in Hungary hard, and they remembered him by lighting candles at every ice rink in the country.

Ocskay Memorial candles, Ocskay Memorial candles

Hungary National Team captain Baláza Kangyal reacted, "Terrible, incomprehensible, what happened." while teammate Viktor Tokaji said, "I'm shocked. Saturday we celebrated together a championship title, and now we lose the best player, a real friend, who always helped me."

While Hungary lost all of their six games at the 2009 World Championships and were relegated is not important, as much as through the efforts of Ocskay and his teammates that they were even there in the first place was their ultimate victory.

Ocskay was remembered by his teammates at the 2009 World Championships with a #19 decal on their helmets during the tournament.

Ocskay Hungary memorial, Ocskay Hungary memorial

During his career, Ocskay played in 531 games, scoring 354 goals and 489 assists for 843 points which included a whopping 187 games for his country, which began back in 1992, including two European Junior Championships, three World Junior Championships and 16 consecutive World Championships, helping guide Hungary from the depths of the "C" Pool to the Top Division.

Both his club team, Alba Volán Székesfehérvár, for whom he played his entire 15 year career, and the Hungarian National Team retired his famous #19 in tribute to Ocskay and Alba Volán now plays at the Ocskay Gábor, Jr. Ice Hall, named in his honor.

Today's jersey is the one Ocskay would have worn during the 2009 World Championships. Click here for a more detailed look at the life and career of Gabor Ocskay.

Hungary 2009 jersey photo Hungary2009F.jpg
Hungary 2009 jersey photo Hungary2009B.jpg

Today's video section begins with highlights of Ocskay displaying his speed and offensive skills as he terrorized goaltenders from all over the world.


This next clip is a musical tribute to Ocskay and shows not only his hockey playing skills, but more about his life off the ice and the family man that he was.

Friday, April 18, 2014

1982-83 Calgary Flames Kent Nilsson Jersey

When the Flames relocated from Atlanta to Calgary in 1980, the became the new tenants of the Stampede Corral.

Calgary Stampede Corral logo 1988

Calgary Stampede Corral 1988

The Corral was built in 1950 at a cost of $1.25 million Canadian dollars to replace the Victoria Arena, which dated back prior to World War I. It had 6,475 seats but could hold over 8,700 fans including standing room only patrons and when it was constructed it was the largest arena in Canada west of Toronto.

It originally was home of the Calgary Stampeders hockey club, who were then members of the Western Canadian Senior Hockey League. The Stampeders turned professional the following season when the joined the Pacific Coast Hockey League for one season prior to joining the Western Hockey League for the next 11 seasons. During their third year in the WHL, the Stampeders won the league championship for the only time in their five trips to the finals before folding in 1963.

The next club to call the Stampede Corral home was the Calgary Buffaloes, who became the Centennials after one season, a junior hockey team which began play in 1966. They played each of their 11 seasons the Corral, reaching the Western Canada Hockey League finals once in 1974 prior to relocating to Billings, Montana. John Davidson and Lanny McDonald were the most notable of the Centennials.

Before their departure, the Centennials shared the arena with the return of professional hockey to Calgary when the Vancouver Blazers of the World Hockey Association moved to Calgary and became known as the Calgary Cowboys, who featured one of the worst logos in professional sports history.

Calgary Cowboys logo

The Cowboys were doomed to be a financial failure, as the Stampede still only held 6,500 fans, which the franchise could not even fill. Ownership was hoping the arena would be expanded to 15,000 seats, but attendance during their second season was less than 4,500 fans and, when only 2,000 signed up for a third season, the franchise folded in the summer of 1977 after only two seasons of play.

Immediately filling the departure of the junior hockey Centennials were the Calgary Wranglers, who relocated from Winnipeg. The Wranglers played in Caglary for ten seasons, making the finals once before moving yet again in 1987. Future Flames goaltender Mike Vernon would be the best known of the Wranglers.

In 1980 the Atlanta Flames ownership was suffering from considerable financial difficulty and sold the Flames to Nelson Skalbania for a record $16 million. Skalbania moved his new purchase to Calgary, keeping both the name and the jerseys, with only a change in logo from a flaming "A" to a flaming "C". The Flames were an immediate success playing in the Stampede Corral for their first three seasons prior to moving in 1983 to the 19,000 seat Olympic Saddledome, which had been constructed in anticipation of the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The Flames had a great debut season at the Sampede Corral, finishing with a 39-27-14 record and making it to the NHL playoff semifinals. Their third season saw them qualify for the playoffs, and after defeating the Vancouver Canucks, they faced their Alberta rivals the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs for the first time ever.

The ascendant Oilers won the first two games in Edmonton prior to returning to Calgary for games 3 and 4. The Oilers embarrassed the Flames 10-2 in Game 3, but the Oilers sent the arena off in style in front of 7,242 fans with a 6-5 win in the final NHL game ever played at the Stampede Corral on this date in 1983 after building a 6-2 win and holding on through a furious Oilers rally during the final ten minutes. The series would then move to Edmonton, where the Oilers would oust the Flames from the playoffs.

The Stampede Corral is still used for the annual Calgary Stampede rodeo exhibition and festival as well as other events such as basketball, wrestling, boxing and concerts. It also hosted the 1972 World Figure Skating Championships, some hockey games during the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Today's featured jersey is a 1982-83 Calgary Flames Kent Nilsson jersey as used in the final NHL game at the Stampede Corral when the Flames defeated the Edmonton Oilers. As stated previously, the Flames jerseys remained unchanged following their move from Atlanta, save for a change in logo.

Nilsson would lead the Flames in scoring during their first season in Calgary while placing third in the league scoring race behind only Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne with 131 points. After an injury shortened season in 1981-82, he rebounded to lead the Flames in scoring once more during their last season at the Stampede Corral with 103 points, which tied him for ninth place overall.

Calgary Flames 82-83 jersey

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1975-76 Calgary Cowboys Ron Chipperfield jersey from another tenant of the Stampede Corral, the Calgary Cowboys of the WHA. The Cowboys only lasted two seasons before folding.

Chipperfield played eight professional seasons with Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton of the WHA and then moved with the Oilers to the NHL, where he later played with the Quebec Nordiques. His final professional season was spent in Italy where he won the league scoring title with an amazing 78 goals and 128 points in a mere 30 games!

Calgary Cowboys 75-76 jersey

Extra Bonus Jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1983-84 Calgary Wranglers Darryl Daignault jersey from the junior team which played at the Stampede Corral from 1977 to 1987 prior to becoming the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

This attractive jersey is reminiscent of the Winnipeg Jets jerseys of the same time period, only with stripes that run down the sides of the jersey and not across the waist, proving to be ahead of it's time, as that is now a common design element.

It also features a great logo of a cowboy roping an italicized "W", a dynamic look which was light years ahead of the Calgary Cowboys lame "Charlie Brown in a cowboy hat" logo.

Calgary Wranglers 83-84 Jersey
Calgary Wranglers 83-84 Jersey

Today's video highlights begin with a look at the 2012 Centennial edition of the Calgary Stampede, which is held every July.



This next video of cowboy Glenn Stewart putting his horse through a series of obstacles contains enough long shots to give you an idea of how small the Corral is, making it hard to imagine an NHL team ever called it's cozy confines home.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

1973-74 Minnesota North Stars Dennis Hextall Jersey

Born into a hockey family on this date in 1943, Dennis Hextall was the son of New York Rangers great Bryan Hextall Sr. Dennis began is road to the NHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1961-62. He returned for a second season, which saw his point total more than double from 29 to 67.

Hextall then enrolled in the University of North Dakota, where he would play from 1963-64 to 1965-66, where his best season saw him score 53 points in 33 games. Fate was on his side, as after one season in the minor leagues with the Knoxville Knights of the Eastern Hockey League, where he scored 76 points while amassing 202 penalty minutes in 61 games, the NHL expanded from 6 clubs to now 12, creating roughly 240 new jobs for players in the NHL.

Still, Hextall wasn't deemed quite ready just yet, as he spent the entire 1967-68 regular season with first the Omaha Knights of the Central League before spending the majority of his season playing in 60 games for the Buffalo Bisons in the American Hockey League. Following 5 playoff games for the Bisons, Hextall made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers for a pair of playoff games, becoming only the second player to make it to the NHL after playing college hockey in the US after Red Berenson.

He would again return to Buffalo for 1968-69, scoring 65 points in 60 games as well as appearing in 13 games for the Rangers, which included his first NHL goal and four additional assists.

Hextall Rangers, Hextall Rangers

He was then traded to the dismal Los Angeles Kings, who would finish with 38 points, 20 back of the Oakland Seals for last place in the league. While with the Kings' organization, he would play in 28 games for the parent club as well as 10 games for the Springfield Kings of the AHL before being dealt in January of 1970 to the Montreal Canadiens organization, where he was assigned to the Montreal Voyageurs of the AHL, where he average a point per game for the 29 games he was there.

Hextall Kings, Hextall Kings

He was then sold to the renamed California Seals for the 1970-71 season where led the club in scoring with 21 goals and 52 points although it was the Seals turn to sink in the standings to last place. The toughness in Hextall's game emerged that season as he also led the club in penalty minutes, with 217, over 120 more than his next closest teammate and enough for second place in the entire NHL.

Hextall Seals, Hextall Seals

On the move once again, Hextall was then traded to the Minnesota North Stars for two players
just after the season, but was limited to only 33 games with Minnesota and an additional 5 with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL due to a knee injury.

Hextall North Stars, Hextall North Stars

Minnesota stuck with Hextall and he responded to finally having some stability and the leadership role the North Stars put him in, as he set a career highs with 30 goals and 82 points to lead the team in scoring while also having the most penalty minutes with 140, the only one on the roster to even break 100.

Hextall North Stars, Hextall North Stars

He duplicated his 82 points in 1973-74 thanks to a career best 62 assists, and followed that with 74 points the next season, leading the team in scoring for the third consecutive season and earning his second consecutive appearance in the NHL All-Star Game. His 147 penalty minutes allowed him to regain the team lead after having finished second the previous year to Dennis O'Brien.

After qualifying for the postseason the first two seasons, the North Stars had slipped out of the playoffs the previous two seasons and their situation was no better in 1975-76 and changes were in the making. After 59 games, which included three months playing with his brother Bryan Jr. after his arrival from the Detroit Red Wings, and the team clearly going nowhere fast, Hextall was one of the few North Stars with some trade value and shipped to the Red Wings late in the season.

Unfortunately for Hextall, it was now the Red Wings turn to hit rock bottom, finishing even below the dreadful Colorado Rockies. Detroit was unable to produce much offensively, which naturally affected the now 34 year old Hextall's numbers, as he scored 46 and 49 points. His rugged style of play remained however, as he racked up 158 and then 195 penalty minutes while serving as one of the team's captains.

Hextall Red Wings, Hextall Red Wings

In 1978-79 Hextall played 20 games with the Red Wings before signing with the Washington Capitals as a free agent to finish out the season. He would return to the Capitals for 1979-80 for 15 games before retiring with 681 games played with 163 goals and 350 assists for 503 career points along with his 1,398 penalty minutes.

Despite starting his 13 year NHL career in the playoffs with the Rangers, Hextall had the unfortunate timing of joining a succession of teams while each were at low points, which limited him to only three other playoff appearances.

Dennis Hextall autograph, Dennis Hextall autograph

Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Minnesota North Stars Dennis Hextall jersey as worn during the season he tied his career high with 82 points.

The North Stars green jerseys acquired a white shoulder yoke in 1968-69 and this style lasted throughout Hextall's time with the North Stars until being replaced by a new style in 1975-76, Hextall's final one with the club.

Minnesota North Stars 73-74 jersey, Minnesota North Stars 73-74 jersey
Minnesota North Stars 73-74 jersey, Minnesota North Stars 73-74 jersey

Today's video segment begins with some of Hextall's many penalty minutes, as he fights with Stan Jonathan of the Boston Bruins.


Next, Hextall is interviewed by Hall of Famer Sid Abel while with the Red Wings, although the synching of the audio is off enough to make you question who's voice it is you're hearing!


Finally, Hextall discusses getting back outdoors and playing some pond hockey in Colorado.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

1938-39 Boston Bruins Roy Conacher Jersey

Beginning his career with the West Toronto Nationals of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1933-34, Roy Conacher and the Nationals would capture the Memorial Cup in 1936. Conacher would then join the Toronto Dominos in senior hockey in 1936-37 before joining the Kirkland Lake Hargreaves for 1937-38, where he had a fine season, scoring 12 goals and 23 points in 14 games.

Conacher Dominoes, Conacher Dominoes
Roy Conacher while with the Dominoes

That fine season led to him making his NHL debut the following season of 1938-39 with the Boston Bruins, where he established himself with a league leading 26 goals and 37 points in 47 games, good for second on he club behind only linemate and future Hall of Famer Bill Cowley as the Bruins finished atop the NHL standings with a 36-10-2 record for 74 points, 16 ahead of the second place New York Rangers. Conacher was the last rookie to lead the league in goals until Teemu Selanne 54 years later!

During the odd playoff format of the era, Boston immediately faced the Rangers in a best-of-seven series for an immediate berth in the Stanley Cup Finals, while the second and third place teams faced off with the winner meeting the survivor of the fourth place vs. fifth place club, all best-of-three series.

Boston won the first game against the Rangers in New York after 59:25 of overtime, just 35 second short of two complete games, setting the tone for what would be a most difficult series for both clubs.

Boston won another overtime game at home in Game 2 after 8:24 of extra time before a relatively easy 4-1 win in Game 3. The series moved back to New York, where the Rangers won a narrow 2-1 win. Back in Boston for Game 5, the Rangers won another 2-1 game, this one requiring 17:19 of overtime.

The Rangers then evened the series at 3-3 after having lost the first three games when they took a 3-1 win in New York, setting up a Game 7 in Boston.

In yet another 2-1 game, the fourth of the series and fifth one goal game, Boston survived after 48 minutes of overtime, the fourth game to extend beyond regulation time.

The Toronto Maple Leafs advanced to face the Bruins in the finals after defeating the New York Americans and the Detroit Red Wings, which they accomplished so quickly that they had an extras day's rest despite having to play in two series spread out over three cities. In fact, Toronto had played in just five games with an additional 5 minutes of overtime, while the Bruins needed seven games plus an additional 133 minutes of overtime, the equivalent of over two additional games of play!

The 1939 Stanley Cup Finals began in Boston on April 6th, a game won by Bobby Bauer of Boston with a goal with 4 1/2 minutes remaining for a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 on the 9th went to the visiting Maple Leafs in overtime before the series moved to Toronto for Game 3 on April 11th.

There was no scoring through the first two periods before Bauer got Boston on the board at 1:28 followed by Conacher at 8:12. Jack Crawford extended the Bruins lead to 3-0 and when Gus Marker got one by Frank Brimsek with just 49 seconds remaining to spoil the shutout, it made Conacher's goal the game winner.

Boston went up 3 games to 1 when Brimsek shut out the Maple Leafs as Conacher scored both Bruins goals, the first coming at 2:21 of the first period on the powerplay, which gave him his second game winning goal in as many games. His second goal came at 12:55 of the third period to give the Bruins some additional breathing room.

It was back to Boston for Game 5 and the Bruins broke out on top with Mel Hill's goal from Conacher and Cowley at 11:40 with a man advantage only to have Toronto even the score at 18:40 of the first with Bingo Kampman's goal at 18:40.

The only goal of the second period was by Conacher, from Cowley and Eddie Shore at 17:54. Brimsek then held the Maple Leafs at bay throughout the third period while Flash Hollett added a late goal with just 37 seconds left in the game to make the final margin 3-1 as the Bruins captured the Stanley Cup thanks to the rookie Conacher's third consecutive game winning goal on this date in 1939, making him the first player to ever score three straight game winning goals in one playoff series, let alone the finals.

1938-39 Boston Bruins team, 1938-39 Boston Bruins team
The 1939 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins

Conacher finished second in playoff scoring for the Bruins with 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 points, trailing only Cowley's 3 goals and 11 assists.

Conacher would go on to play three more seasons for the Bruins, including winning a second Stanley Cup in 1941 before his career was interrupted like so many others by World War II from 1942-43 to 1944-45, during which time he did compete for a number of Royal Canadian Air Force teams on a limited basis.

Roy Conacher Bruins, Roy Conacher Bruins
Roy during his later years with the Bruins

He returned to the NHL with the Bruins for 4 regular season and 3 playoff games in 1945-46 before being traded to Detroit for 1946-47 when the Bruins' Art Ross had his doubts that Conacher could regain his previous form. In his only season in Detroit, Conacher posted the only 30 goal season of his career on his way to 54 points in 60 games while becoming the answer to a trivia question, as he wore #9 with Detroit during Gordie Howe's rookie season as Howe wore #17. During that season Conacher had a career best four goals in a single game, all of them assisted by Billy Taylor, who set an NHL record with 7 assists that night.

After just one season with Detroit, following a dispute over his pay, Conacher was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks where he would play the final five seasons of his career, reeling off consistent seasons of 22, 26, 25 and 26 goals before an abbreviated final season in 1951-52.

Roy Conacher Blackhawks, Roy Conacher Blackhawks
Roy while with the Chicago Black Hawks

He would finish his career with 490 games played, 226 goals and 200 assists for 426 points and a pair of Stanley Cups and an Art Ross Trophy, won in 1949 while with Chicago when he totaled a career best 68 points in 60 games while teamed with playmakers Bill Mosienko and Doug Bentley, ironically winning a trophy for scoring excellence named after the very same man who doubted his!

Roy was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998, joining his older brothers Charlie (1961) and Lionel (1994) as the only trio of brothers currently in the Hall of Fame.

Charlie, Roy, Lionel Conacher, Charlie, Roy, Lionel Conacher
Hall of Famers Charlie and Lionel Conacher flanking Roy's twin brother Bert

Today's featured jersey is a 1938-39 Boston Bruins Roy Conacher jersey as worn by the rookie Conacher when he scored the game winning goal in three consecutive games to lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup.

The Bruins debuted this sweater style in 1936-37 before the term "sports marketing" had been invented, choosing to feature a large player number on the front of their jerseys instead of any sort of logo in what looked more like an NFL football jersey.

The numbers would reverse colors in 1940-41 and would remain that way until the 1948-49 season when the famous "spoked B" would be seen for the first time.

Boston Bruins 38-39 jersey, Boston Bruins 38-39 jersey

Today's video segment is an interesting look at what hockey was like back in 1939 when Conacher was a rookie.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Detroit's Octopus Throwing Tradition

On this date in 1952, Metro Prystai scored two goals and an assist, while Terry Sawchuk held the Montreal Canadiens scoreless as the Detroit Red Wings captured the Stanley Cup, becoming the first team to ever go undefeated in the playoffs.

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But more significant than being awarded a silver chalice as a trinket to note one's success, on this date in 1952 the tradition of hurling a celebratory cephalopod was born in The Motor City.

The brainchild of Pete and Jerry Cusimano, owners of a fish market in Detroit's Eastern Market, the brothers had the bright idea to hurl an octopus onto the ice during the series clinching game to symbolize the eight wins needed to achieve the Stanley Cup during the days of the Original Six - the same number of tentacles possessed by an octopus, making for the perfect synergy in seafood.

"It was a good luck omen," said Cusimano. "The octopus has eight legs and we were going for eight straight."

The bizarre ritual caught on, and Sports Illustrated reported in 1978 when writing about the Red Wings playoff series versus the Atlanta Flames,
"Making their first cup appearance in eight seasons, the Red Wings won their best-of-three preliminary series in two straight games over the favored Atlanta Flames. And as Detroit clinched the upset with a 3-2 victory Thursday night before a record Olympia throng of 16,671, fans hurled no fewer than a dozen live octopuses onto the ice.
As a result, maintenance crews kept scurrying around the rink with pails and shovels and more mannerly fans began to wonder whether there might not be a more seemly way of saluting Detroit's hockey revival.
When the teams moved to Detroit for Thursday's game, the passions of Motown hockey fans were at fever pitch. Scalpers commanded $60 for a pair of $11 tickets, and parking spaces near the Olympia were going for $8. Inside the building, fans bombarded the ice with all those octopuses, as well as two dead chickens, scores of apples and other comestibles. There were moments when the inside of the Olympia was almost as littered as the mean streets outside."

The tradition continues to this day and has made a celebrity of sorts out of Al Sobotka, the Zamboni driver at Joe Louis Arena and the man responsible for retrieving the hurled octopi, which he does with aplomb, twirling the projectile from the depths over his head, winding up the faithful in the process.

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During the 1995 playoffs, three dozen octopi were flung onto the ice during the playoffs and the record for a single octopus belongs to Bob Dubisky and Larry Shotwell, who topped their record 38 pounder a year later with a 50 pound monster, which Sobotka proudly displayed on the hood of his Zamboni.

With Detroit's first home game in their quest for the cup scheduled for Sunday, here is a primer on how to get your shot at gooey glory.

After purchasing your Octopus, preferably at the Eastern Market, boil it for 20 minutes on high heat with a little lemon juice and white wine to mask the odor. Not only will this hide the stench of the creature, a boiled octopus will bounce and roll when it hits the ice, rather than landing with a sticky splat that will leave an inky stain on the ice, making for more work for the ice crew.

Another key is the purchase of a desirable aisle seat, allowing a quick response and plenty of elbow room immediately following a goal.

Speaking of a goal, one must know when it is appropriate to toss your octopus. Acceptable opportunities are following the national anthem, following a Red Wings goal or a final game victory, and for heaven's sake, don't aim for anything other than open ice. You don't want to hit any of the game's participants with a disgusting sea creature, or worse, actually hurt them with a launched projectile of between five and thirty pounds.

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Cusimano's insights on the proper form for throwing your octopus recommends holding it around the middle of the tentacles with the head hanging down by your knees and then, while keeping your arm straight, swinging it over your head as if throwing a grenade. "That's the only way you're going to get any leverage. You try to throw it like a baseball and you're going to throw your shoulder out," he relates.

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Don't grasp it too far down the tentacles however, as they will likely break off in your hand, causing the bulk of the creature to end up randomly deposited on an unsuspecting fan nearby.

Keep in mind, it is against the law to throw anything on the ice during a game, and while no octopus hurler has ever been prosecuted, the Red Wings do try to discourage fans from bringing them into the game. With that in mind, all manner of smuggling techniques have been developed by would-be hurlers. After encapsulating the creature in a zip-lock bag, it can be stuffed stuffed down your shirt or pants, wrapped to your body with plastic wrap or hidden under a hat if size allows.

Once the beast has been launched, getting the stench off your hands with wet-wipes and a slice of lemon will do the trick if gloves weren't worn to begin with.

The Red Wings organization has embraced the tradition, including creating a 35-foot-wide purple octopus which they hang from the rafters of Joe Louis Arena named Al the Octopus, in honor of Sobotka, the Zamboni driver and octopus retriever.

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Today's featured jersey is a 1951-52 Detroit Red Wings Terry Sawchuk jersey. The Red Wings jersey is a true classic in the NHL and has remained essentially unchanged since it was introduced back in 1932 when the club changed their name from the Falcons, as they had been known since 1930. The original Detroit red sweaters used red numbers trimmed in white from 1932-33 until a change to single color white numbers in 1937-38, with the next change to the red jerseys being the addition of names forty years later in 1977-78.

In his Stanley Cup Finals debut, Sawchuk won four straight games, including a pair of shutouts in Games 3 and 4 to clinch the cup, bookending the pair of shutouts he had to open the tournament against the Toronto Maple Leafs on his way to an 8-0 record in that year's playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings 1954-55 jersey photo DetroitRedWings1954-55jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's first video is a look at the Octopus tradition and what it means to Red Wings fans.


In this brief clip, Cody MeLeod of the Colorado Avalanche returns the octopus into the stands!


Finally, another look at the Octopus tradition through the lens of ESPN.


Monday, April 14, 2014

1927-28 New York Rangers Lester Patrick Jersey

On this date in 1928, in only their second year of existence, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup with a 2-1 defeat of the Montreal Maroons, becoming the first NHL franchise based in the United States to win the cup, and only the second American club to win the cup after the 1916-17 Seattle Metropolitans.

1927-28 New York Rangers

After the success of the New York Americans, who were founded in 1925, Madison Square Garden president Tex Rickard wanted a team of his own. He was granted a franchise for the 1926-27 season, which was named the Rangers. He originally hired Conn Smythe to run the team, but after Smythe had a falling out with John S. Hammond, who ran the team for Rickard, Lester Patrick was hired to be both the coach and general manager.

The Rangers won the American Division during their first season, but were defeated by the Boston Bruins in the semifinals 3 goals to 1 in their two-game, total-goal series.

While the Rangers finished second in the American Division in 1927-28, they first knocked out the Pittsburgh Pirates 6 goals to 4 and then got their revenge on the Bruins 5 goals to 2 to advance to face the winner of the Canadian Division playoffs, the Montreal Maroons, in a best-of-five series.

The Rangers were led by Frank Boucher, who was third in league scoring with 23 goals and 35 points, Bun Cook (28 points) and his brother Bill Cook (24 points) and Lorne Chabot in goal.

The Rangers were unable to host the series however, due to the circus being booked into Madison Square Garden. As a result, all games were played in the Montreal Forum.

Game One went to the Maroons by a score of 2-0, with Clint Benedict of the Maroons earning the shutout.

Game Two provided one of the most unusual events in NHL history, when Nels Stewart of the Maroons fired a hard shot that struck Rangers goalie Chabot in the eye, knocking him out of the game. Maroons coach Eddie Gerard refused to let the Rangers use either Ottawa Senators goalie Alex Connell or minor leaguer Hugh McCormick, both of whom were in attendance watching the contest, forcing the Rangers coach Patrick to put the pads on and take over in goal after a 40 minute delay - at age 44.

He told his squad, "Boys, don't let an old man down" and proceeded to hold the Maroons to a single goal as the Rangers came through for their boss, checking the Maroons like mad, doing everything in their power to keep them as far away from their goaltender as possible.

Bill Cook put the Rangers up 1-0 just 30 seconds into the third period before Stewart tied it with a goal for Montreal with a long shot that made in between Patrick's pads with less than six minutes remaining. Boucher then scored the game winning goal in overtime to give New York a 2-1 win to even the series at a game apiece as the Rangers carried a tearful Patrick off the ice on their shoulders in celebration. Patrick's appearance set a record for the oldest person to play in the Stanley Cup Finals at 44 years, 3 months and 10 days, a record which still stands today.

For the remaining games, the Rangers employed Joe Miller of the New York Americans to tend goal.

The Maroons went back on top with another 2-0 win in Game 3 and the Rangers fought back in Game 4 with a 1-0 squeaker to force a fifth and deciding game on this date in 1928.

The Rangers prevailed in the low scoring series with another nail-biter, this time by a 2-1 score to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

Today's featured jersey is a 1927-28 New York Rangers Lester Patrick jersey. The Rangers began their first season with blue sweaters with white letters and changed to red lettering for their second, Stanley Cup winning season.

The following year they outlined the red letters with white, setting the standard that would remain in effect to this day.

Lester Patrick

The Rangers would win the Stanley Cup again in 1933, and here Canadian broadcasting legend Foster Hewitt interviews members of the Rangers, including Lester Patrick.

 

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