Tuesday, January 17, 2017

1997-98 New York Rangers Wayne Gretzky Jersey

Instituted to promote the NHL's participation in the upcoming Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the first Olympics to be supported by a suspension of the NHL season to allow the best players an opportunity to represent their home country at the Games, the 1998 NHL All-Star Game was the first to use the World vs. North America format. The new format would last for five years, and during those various All-Star games, each player would wear the flag of their home country on their respective All-Star jerseys.

 photo 1998NHLAll-StarGame.jpg
Dominik Hasek (World) and Wayne Gretzky (North America)
in their 1998 NHL All-Star Game jerseys, complete with a
flag patch for each player's home country

On this date in 1998, for the first year under the new format and for the one and only time, each player would also wear the flag of their native country on their NHL club team jersey during the weekend's 1998 Super Skills Competition. For some players, this would be the only patch they would ever wear on a particular style of NHL jersey, and for knowledgeable collectors, it's a chance to create a interesting jersey with a unique story behind it.

Gretzky 1998 SSC photo Gretzky1998SSC.jpg
Wayne Gretzky wearing a Canadian flag on his New York Rangers
jersey - the only patch he would ever wear on a Rangers jersey

For the 1998 Super Skills Competition, the North American players would wear their dark road jerseys while the World Team would dress in their home whites.

The array of flags in use was quite impressive, with North America being represented by the both Canada and the United States, while the World Team sported the flags of the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden.

Among the most decorated jerseys from that event were from the host Vancouver Canucks. While most of the flags were located in the traditional patch location of the upper right chest, the Canucks were already wearing the 1998 NHL All-Star Game patch in that location as hosts of the event, and chose to locate the flag patches for Canadian Mark Messier (dark jersey) and Russian Pavel Bure (light jersey) to the top of the right shoulder. This pair of jerseys also illustrates how the new format would sometimes pit teammates against each other for the first time in an NHL All-Star Game, a new quirk of the World vs. North America format not seen before.

Vancouver Canucks R 97-98 jersey photo VancouverCanucksD97-98jersey.jpg
Vancouver Canucks W 97-98 jersey photo VancouverCanucksW97-98jersey.jpg

A similar situation occurred with the Detroit Red Wings, as they were already wearing the "Believe" patch for injured teammate Valdimir Konstantinov and team masseuse Sergei Mnatsakanov. They took a different route than Vancouver and put their flag patches in the standard location for Brendan Shanahan (dark jersey) and Slava Fetisov, Igor Larionov and Nicklas Lidstrom (light jerseys) with the Believe patch just below.

Shanahan 1998 SSC photo Shanahan1998SSC.jpg

 photo DetroitRedWings1997-98ASGjersey.jpg

Winners at the event were Teemu Selanne - Puck Control Relay, Scott Niedermayer - Fastest Skater (13.56 second lap around the rink), Ray Bourque, Peter Forsberg and Shanahan - Accuracy Shooting, Al MacInnis - Hardest Shot (100.4 mph) and Dominik Hasek - Goaltenders Competition.

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 New York Rangers Wayne Gretzky jersey with the Canadian Flag patch on the upper right chest as worn only during the 1998 Super Skills Competition during the NHL All-Star Game weekend.

This is special since it is the one and only additional patch Gretzky would ever wear on any Rangers jersey during his three seasons in New York.

It's actually a little surprising that the flag patch was located on the right chest, as the Rangers have had a history of relocating various other patches to both the right and left shoulders due to the diagonal cresting on the front of their jerseys interfering with the standard patch placement commonly used by other clubs.

Of note, defenseman Brian Leetch was also a part of the North American team and would have worn an American flag on his Rangers jersey for the Super Skills Competition.

New York Rangers 1997-98 ASG G B jersey photo NewYorkRangers1997-98ASGGjersey.jpg
New York Rangers 1997-98 ASG G B jersey photo NewYorkRangers1997-98ASGGBjersey.jpg
 photo NewYorkRangers1997-98ASGGPsm.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1997-98 Buffalo Sabres Dominik Hasek jersey as worn during the 1998 Super Skills Competition when Hasek won the Goaltenders Competition with the additon of the Czech Flag for that event only. No other Sabres were a part of the 1998 NHL All-Star Weekend, making Hasek the only one to wear a flag on a Sabres jersey, either dark or white.

Unlike Gretzky in New York, Hasek wore six patches during his nine seasons with the Sabres, but only two full season patches with this particular style Sabres jersey, which was introduced for the 1996-97 season, those being the SHK III patch for Sabres owner Seymour Knox, and the NHL 2000 patch, worn by all NHL players in celebration of the Millenium. Additionally, Buffalo did wear the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals patch during their series against the Dallas Stars.

Buffalo Sabres 1997-98 F
Buffalo Sabres 1997-98 B
Buffalo Sabres 1997-98 P

We have replicated a number of the jerseys from that event for our own collection, and here are the rosters for you to choose from if you would like to add a flag to a jersey you already own or create a new, unique project for your own collection.

At the time of this writing, the flag patches appear difficult to obtain on ebay, as it is now 15 years after the final World vs. North America game. For accuracy, you need the style with the quarter inch wide white border around the flag as shown above. A search for "NHL flag patch" is a good place to start.

Today's video section is the player introductions for 1998 NHL All-Star Game. Unfortunately, we were unable to find any footage of the Super Skills Competition at this time.

Monday, January 16, 2017

1934-35 Toronto Maple Leafs Ken Doraty Jersey

Born in Stittsville, Ontario in 1905, Ken Doraty played for the Rouleau Athletic Club during the 1921-22 season before he joined the Regina Pats for two seasons beginning with the 1923-24 season, where he showed promise with 5 goals and 7 points in 6 games. He also added a further 3 goals and 6 points in 5 playoff games.

Doraty was back with the Pats in 1924-25, racking up 9 points from 5 goals and 4 assists in only 4 games. He excelled in the playoffs, as he scored 13 times in 12 games. In addition, he had 7 assists for 20 points as Regina would defeat the Toronto Aura Lee club 2-1 in overtime and then Doraty scored the opening goal on a power play in an eventual 5-2 win in the second game to earn the Pats first Memorial Cup as junior hockey champions of Canada.

1924-25 Regina Pats team
The 1925 Memorial Cup champion Regina Pats

For the 1925-26 season, Doraty turned professional and played with the second incarnation of the Portland Rosebuds in the Western Hockey League. He saw action in 30 games, scoring 4 goals and an assist.

Things were not well with pro hockey in the west however, and the entire WHL folded after the season. For the 1926-27 season, the NHL was expanding and the brand new Chicago Black Hawks roster was stocked with players from the defunct Rosebuds roster. Life in the NHL proved tough for Doraty, and after 18 scoreless games, he was sent to the Minneapolis Millers of the American Hockey Association, with whom he played an additional 7 games, but again failed to register a point.

Doraty, front and center, with the inaugural Black Hawks

For the 1927-28 season, Doraty joined the Kitchener Millionaires of the Canadian Professional Hockey League, where he regained his scoring touch with 19 goals and 25 points in 39 games. The Millionaires relocated to Toronto for the 1928-29 season and Doraty moved with them and increased his offensive output to 26 goals and 31 points in an identical 39 games.

In the fall of 1929, the league renamed itself the International Hockey League, and in a complicated bit of maneuvering, the franchise that replaced the Millionaires in Kitchener was moved to Cleveland, Ohio. However... it's players did not move with it, as they were assigned to the Doraty's Toronto Millionaires club, while Doraty and the Toronto roster found themselves on their way to Cleveland!

Doraty immediately led the new Cleveland Indians team with 27 goals and 41 points in 42 games as Cleveland won the 1929-30 IHL regular season with a 24-9-9 record and then won the league playoff championship over the Buffalo Bisons 3 games to 1.

He again led the Indians in scoring in 1930-31 with a career high 49 points from 25 goals and 24 assists as he finished second overall in league scoring. While his point total dropped to 36 from 21 goals and 15 assists, it was enough to Doraty to lead Cleveland in scoring for the third consecutive season.

Cleveland Indians 1930-31 program
A 1930-31 Cleveland Indians program

Six years after his last opportunity, Doraty earned his second chance at the NHL when he was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 1932-33 season based on his strong performances leading Cleveland. Doraty did play 10 games with the Syracuse Stars in the IHL, but spent the majority of his season with the Maple Leafs, appearing in 38 games, which included scoring 5 goals and 11 points during the regular season.

Doraty Maple Leafs 1
Doraty's second chance in the NHL came with Toronto

Toronto finished first in the Canadian Division and, in an odd playoff format but one that guaranteed the winner a spot in the finals, was immediately paired with the American Division winning Boston Bruins. The Bruins won Game 1 after 14 minutes of overtime 2-1 and in Game 2 Toronto evened the series on the road 1-0 after 15 extra minutes. Game 3 moved to Toronto and the Bruins again prevailed in a brief overtime of 4 minutes, again 2-1. Toronto went ahead 3 games to 1 after winning Game 4 in the only game decided in regulation by a score of 5-3. Needing one more win, Toronto hosted Boston on April 3rd for Game 5.

Doraty Maple Leafs 1933 WWG
Doraty in the Maple Leafs plain white jersey

The teams both had a number of scoring chances but neither could solve Tiny Thompson in goal for the Bruins or Lorne Chabot for Toronto as regulation ended with no score for the second time in the series as the game moved to overtime for the fourth time in five games, thanks in no small part of an apparent goal by Boston's Alex Smith having been waived off because referee Odie Cleghorn had blown the play dead.

The first overtime passed without a winner, as did the second. Both goalies stood tall and the third extra period failed to produce a game winner as the teams had now played the equivalent of two full games. But still, the game continued and the fourth overtime saw the game become the longest in NHL history, surpassing the previous record of 68:52 of overtime in 1930. At one point early in the fourth overtime, it appeared that Toronto had scored the game winner as Joe Primeau fed King Clancy for a goal, but Clancy was ruled to have been offside and the game continued on. Eventually, the teams concluded the fourth overtime still scoreless. By now, midnight had passed and the game moved into April 4th. Amazingly, despite how tired the players were, no one made an error egregious enough that led to a goal in the fifth overtime as well.

Following the fifth overtime, both Conn Smythe of Toronto and Art Ross of Boston appealed to league president Frank Calder to suspend the game and continue after a night's sleep. With the circus coming to town soon, which would force them to vacate Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers, who were awaiting the winner and not wanting to lose a chance to play a home game in the finals, which was scheduled for what was now later that evening, objected and the decision was made to continue, but not after Ross suggested determining a winner by a coin toss!

Smythe actually agreed, but the chorus of boos from those in attendance at Maple Leaf Gardens convinced the teams to continue the game. While many of the original fans in attendance had left, others listening to the game on the radio in Toronto came down to the arena to watch the conclusion of the marathon game after being encouraged by broadcaster Foster Hewitt! Calder suggested that both sides pull their goalies to speed up the result, but neither team agreed, so the sixth overtime began.

Finally, thankfully, mercifully, Andy Blair took the puck away from Eddie Shore as he was about to cross his own blueline and fed Doraty, who beat Thompson to end the marathon at 4:46 of the sixth overtime for a total game time of 104 minutes and 46 seconds. One of the smallest players in the league at 128 pounds had scored one of it's biggest goals ever! The endurance contest ended at 1:48 AM and was so draining that it was reported that legendary broadcaster Hewitt passed out once and lost 8 pounds during the game! One can only imagine the physical toll on the players that night without the knowledge of modern recovery methods and sports drinks.

Doraty 6 OT headline
Doraty's goal made headlines that day

The win gave Toronto the series 3 games to 1 and triggered the start of the Finals in New York later that same day. The Maple Leafs then boarded a train at 3 AM for a 13 hour journey to Manhattan, arriving at 4:10 PM, less than three hours before game time. To no ones surprise, the contest went to the well rested Rangers by a score of 5-1. The Rangers won two of the next three games to claim the Stanley Cup 3 games to 1.

Doraty returned to play with the Maple Leafs in 1933-34, which included a game against the Ottawa Senators on this date in 1934 that saw him set an NHL record first. The game ended tied at 4-4 and moved to the then 10 minute overtime. Doraty beat Senators goalie Bill Beveridge, but the rules at the time were not of a sudden death format and required that the entire ten minutes of the overtime be played regardless of how many goals were scored. A few minutes after his first goal, Doraty added an insurance goal and then entered the record books when 5 minutes and 9 seconds after his first goal, Doraty completed the first and only overtime hat trick in NHL history! Needless to say, Toronto won the game 7-4.

Doraty Maple Leafs 2
Doraty in an unusual outdoor publicity shot

The extra 10 minute format lasted until 1943 when overtime was dropped completely. When it returned to the NHL in 1983, it was in a sudden death format and has remained that way ever since, ensuring that Doraty's overtime hat trick will remain the only one in league history.

He finished the season with 34 games played with 9 goals and 19 points and also saw 4 games of action with the Buffalo Bisons of the IHL. Doraty played on final season with the Maple Leafs, limited to 11 games with a goal and 5 points. He spent the majority of the 1934-35 season with the Syracuse Stars of the IHL, averaging nearly a point per game with 12 goals and 29 points in 30 games. In the interested of completeness, he also skated in one game for the New Haven Eagles of the Can-Am league that season.

In addition to playing 7 games with Syracuse in 1935-36, Doraty returned to Cleveland to rejoin his old Indians club, which had now been renamed the Falcons. He finished second in team scoring with 27 goals and 45 points in 39 games.

1935-36 Cleveland Falcons team
The 1935-36 Cleveland Falcons

In 1936-37, the league was now known as International American Hockey League after the shrinking IHL and the Can-Am leagues merged to survive. After six games with the Falcons, Doraty became a member of the Pittsburgh Hornets, scoring 13 goals and 13 assists in 39 games.

Doraty Pittsburgh Hornets
Doraty with the Pittsburgh Hornets

Doraty played 48 games for Pittsburgh, scoring 12 goals and 29 assists, but also returned briefly in the NHL when he played two games for the Detroit Red Wings, registering one assist.

His final season as a player in 1938-39 was out west with the Seattle Seahawks of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, going out on a fine note with 25 goals and 42 points in 48 games played.

Doraty's final NHL totals were 103 games played with 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points, with 20% of his career goals coming in the form of his record setting overtime hat trick on this date in 1934. Additionally, he scored 7 goals and 2 assists in 15 NHL playoff games, which included scoring the game winner in what was the longest game in NHL history at the time and still remains the second longest today.

Today's featured jersey is a 1934-35 Toronto Maple Leafs Ken Doraty jersey. Doraty played three seasons with the Maple Leafs, famously ending the longest game in NHL history and becoming the only player in league history to score an overtime hat trick among just 22 regular season and playoff goals scored while with the Maple Leafs.

Toronto had worn a different style sweater for Doraty's first two seasons with a different style crest originally worn since they changed their name to Maple Leafs from St. Patricks during the 1926-27 season. For the 1927-28 season, the adopted their new blue color, wearing a heavily striped blue sweater and a completely white alternate one for games against the New York Rangers. For the 1934-35 season, they added groups of three stripes to their white jerseys above and below the crest and on the arms in the art deco style of the day, while simplifying their blue jerseys to just two white stripes on the arms and waist.

Toronto Maple Leafs 1934-35 F jersey
Toronto Maple Leafs 1934-35 B jersey

Today's video section is a brief clip of the Maple Leafs and the Rangers in the 1933 Stanley Cup Final.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

CSKA Moscow - The Civil War - A Tale of Two Teams With the Same Name

Following yesterday's look at the brief, but memorable, period of the Russian Penguins, Part 2 today looks at the aftermath following the Pittsburgh Penguins withdrawal of support of CSKA Moscow and the subsequent fallout over the next seven seasons.

The Civil War
A Tale of Two Teams With the Same Name

After dominating the world of Soviet ice hockey from 1946 through 1989, which included all but six championships from 1955 to 1898 and 13 consecutive from 1977 to 1989, the Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA Moscow) saw it's advantage begin to erode when, first, some of their older star players were allowed to leave for the riches of the NHL (in a not so transparent effort to generate some much needed income), followed by key defections of prime up and coming talent.

Their situation nose dived with the breakup of the Soviet Union and their subsequent loss of government backing. By the time the International Hockey League replaced the former Soviet Championship League for the 1992-93 season, Central Red Army (CSKA Moscow) plummeted to an overall record of 9-42-11 and a last place finish in the 12 team Western Conference. How the mighty had fallen.

With the Russian Department of Defense no longer able to fund the team, 1993-94 saw a new partnership with the recent back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, which resulted in a new logo and North American marketing savvy brought on board in order to bring in new sponsorships to revitalize the team. The renewed efforts on behalf of the club paid off with a 21-20-5 record that saw CSKA Moscow rise to 14th place out of 24 and a return to the playoffs.

 photo 1993-94RussianPenguinsteam.jpg

1994-95 had the Russian Penguins finish with a winning record at 25-20-7 and another playoff appearance. But it also signaled the end of the Pittsburgh organization's involvement (as we detailed yesterday) as the Russians now felt they could run the show on their own. Motivated by greed, team management wanted to keep all the anticipated sponsorship dollars for themselves, without having to split it 50/50 with the North Americans any longer. They were also delusional to think they could retain the sponsors brought in by the Pittsburgh marketing staff in light of the interference in their operations suffered at the hands of the Russian Mafia, who went so far as to kick the team's sponsors out of the arena's luxury boxes as well as being responsible for the deaths of as many as three of the team's staff!

Predictably, CSKA Moscow fell to 8-13-5 in the first round of the 1995-96 season, finishing 11th out of 14 teams in the Western Conference. For the second round of the season, they were grouped with the other non-automatic playoff qualifiers and faired well, finishing atop the group comprised of the lower half of the league with a 19-4-3, earning one of the two available playoff spots as the 15th seed. Their reward for their efforts was drawing long time rivals and 2nd seed Dynamo Moscow, who eliminated CSKA Moscow 2 games to 1.

The upheaval following the 1995-96 season was seismic, as the team found itself barred from their facilities, the water and electricity shut off and the long time and highly decorated Viktor Tikhonov out as head coach of CSKA Moscow, the team he led with an iron fist since 1977.

 photo ViktorThikhonov3.jpg
Viktor Tikhonov

Tikhonov responded by forming a new club, the incredibly similarly named HC CSKA Moscow and taking his case to court, where the actions of Colonel Alexander Baranovsky in ousting Tikhonov were found to be illegal. Tikhonov's new club were granted access to the arena, but order was not necessarily restored, as locks were cut off lockers, electricity, water and phones were cut off and access to the training base was blocked. The upheaval cost both Tikhonov's new club and the existing CSKA Moscow team much needed players, as they did not want to be caught in the middle of the fight between Tikhonov and the army and opted to play elsewhere.

The situation became even more muddled when the established CSKA Moscow found itself relegated to the Yysshaya Liga, the second level of Russian hockey, for the 1996-97 season. The established club opted to return to the classic "UCKA" lettering underneath a red star on the front of their jerseys, while Tikhonov's upstart operation stayed with the Russian Penguins logo and joined the newly formed Russian Superleague, meaning the old guard and former dominant powerhouse team, CSKA Moscow, was in the formerly unfathomable position of playing in the second division, while Tikhonov's upstart "Red Army" club (HC CSKA Moscow) started out life in the top division!

 photo CSKA_HOCKEY_logo.png
CSKA Moscow opted for the classic crest

Russian Penguins logo photo RussianPenguins_logo1994.jpg
Tikhonov's new HC CSKA Moscow retained the Russian Penguins logo
despite the departure of the Pittsburgh Penguins partnership

CSKA Moscow fared well in 1996-97, winning promotion by finishing first in the Western Conference of the Vysshaya Liga, while Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow was a first round playoff exit.

This set up an even more confusing situation for the 1997-98, as the new HC CSKA Moscow and the established CSKA Moscow were now both competing in the Russian Superleague at the same time. One can only imagine the difficulty broadcasters and reporters must have had when the two Red Army clubs met during the course of the regular season and the intensity the games must have had during this Civil War of Red Army vs. Red Army!

The established CSKA Moscow side finished 8th in the Western Conference while Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow side came 12th out of 14. CSKA Moscow missed out on the Superleague playoffs, while HC CSKA Moscow failed to survive the relegation schedule and was demoted to the Vysshaya Liga for 1998-99, separating the two clubs once again. Clear as mud, right?

For the next three seasons Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow side finished mid-pack in the Yysshaya Liga, but a strong 2001-02 season saw them earn a promotion back to the Russian Superleague by finishing with a combined 49-12 record with 1 overtime win, 6 ties and 2 overtime losses over the course of the two halves of the split season.

Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow soldiered on in the Superleague, managing to avoid relegation by the barest of margins, winning a tiebreaker over Vityaz Podolsk in 2000-01 to avoid the drop, but the 2001-02 season saw them slip to depths of a new level, as they completed a dismal season at 10-36-4 with an overtime win to finish 17th out of 18, a single point out of last place for the once mighty Red Army, but not enough to avoid relegation to the Vysshaya Liga for 2002-03, an especially bitter pill considering Tikhonov's HC CSKA team were to be promoted into the very spot they were vacating.

Eventually, after several failed attempts over the years, the reality of the situation finally was too much for all involved to continue to deny - one strong CSKA club was a far better and more commercially viable option than two mediocre, financially struggling teams. An agreement was finally reached, which included Tikhonov at the helm of the reunited club, which would use HC CSKA's spot in the Superleague for the upcoming 2002-03 season.

The merger also signaled and end of the "Russian Penguins" logo, which far outlived it's intended purpose as the logo for the joint effort between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Central Sports Club of the Army, an arrangement which came to an end seven years prior.

The reunited CSKA Moscow rose as high as third in 2007-08, the final Superleague season, and won  division titles in the Tarasov Division of the Kontinental Hockey League, in 2008-09 and 2012-13. In 2014-15, CSKA not only won the Tarasov Division, but finished with the best record in the KHL with 139 points from a stellar 49-9-1-1 record, 16 clear of traditional rivals Dynamo Moscow and SKA Saint Petersburg, only to lose in the Conference Finals to Saint Petersburg in seven games.

In 2015-16, CSKA repeated as the regular season champions with a 43-14-1-2 mark for 127 points. For the first time while a member of the KHL, the club advanced to the Gagarin Cup Finals, winning 12 of 13 games in the process, only to lose Game 7 to Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3-1 to deny CSKA their first championship since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 HC CSKA Moscow Sergei Samsonov jersey. Tikhonov's Red Army club continued to use the Russian Penguins logo, only now with the Cyrillic characters "XK" added to the chest of the penguin to differentiate it from CSKA Moscow, while the original club used the classic UCKA crest below the red star.

Samsonov played two seasons for CSKA Moscow but left Russia for the North American minor leagues amidst all the strife surrounding the two warring Red Army clubs, choosing instead to play for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. Following the 1996-97 season, he was drafted 8th overall by the Boston Bruins and would go on to play eight seasons with Boston before bouncing around the NHL, with stops in Edmonton, Montreal and Chicago before settling in with the Carolina Hurricanes for four seasons before wrapping up his career with 20 games with Florida in 2010-11. He would play 888 games, score 235 goals and 571 points, reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with Edmonton in 2006.

 photo HCCSKA1996-97Fjersey.jpg
 photo HCCSKA1996-97Bjersey-1.jpg

Bonus jersey:  Today's bonus jersey is a 2001-02 HC CSKA Moscow Maxim Koryakin jersey as worn by Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow during their final season as an independent club, separate from the original CSKA Moscow team.

HC CSKA, as denoted by their use of the Russian Penguins logo with the addition of the "XK" to the chest of the penguin in the logo to differentiate themselves from the CSKA Moscow club, would earn promotion from the Vysshaya Liga at the conclusion of the 2001-02 season.

Their subsequent merger with the original CSKA Moscow team prior to the start of the 2002-03 season would bring to an end the use of the "Russian Penguins" logo, which lasted well beyond the two years of the operating agreement between CSKA Moscow and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.

HC CSKA 2001-02 jersey photo HCCSKA2001-02Fjersey.jpg
HC CSKA 2001-02 jersey photo HCCSKA2001-02Bjersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 2002-03 CSKA Moscow Dimitri Kosmachev jersey as worn by the reunited CSKA Moscow team in the Russian Superleague, the first season the two rival Red Army clubs were merged into a single entity once more.

CSKA Moscow 2002-03 jersey photo CSKAMoscow2002-03Fjersey-1.jpg
CSKA Moscow 2002-03 jersey photo CSKAMoscow2002-03Bjersey-1.jpg

Today's first video is a feature on a young Samsonov from 1994, which if you look closely during the interview, has the classic UCKA logo on the chest, with the Russian Penguin logo on Samsonov's left torso.

Finally, CSKA Moscow lives on, now only in the KHL.

Friday, January 13, 2017

1993-94 Russian Penguins Sergei Brylin Jersey

In 1993, seeking a more direct pipeline to the abundance of talent formerly locked away behind the Iron Curtain, Pittsburgh Penguins owner Howard Baldwin purchased a 50% share in the formerly all-conquering Russian Red Army club.

The Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA Moscow) had ruled the world of Soviet hockey with 32 championships in 48 seasons, including 13 in a row between 1977 and 1989. However, the fall of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 meant the once dominant club were no longer financed by the state and fell onto hard times - and in a big way.

That's when Baldwin saw an opportunity to combine savvy North American sports marketing with the best known club in the world outside of the NHL located in the largest city in Russia in an effort to not only make some money in the newly capitalist Russia, but also have the inside track on finding the best players Russia had to offer, which in 1993 was all the rage, as players such as Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure were tearing up the league.

The Red Army club was rechristened the "Russian Penguins" and a new logo was created to reflect the new arrangement with the recent back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

Russian Penguins logo photo RussianPenguins_logo1994.jpg

In addition, staff from Pittsburgh was sent over to Moscow to oversee the club's transition to the modern, NHL way of selling the game by selling sponsorships and building private suites.

What could possibly go wrong?

The person sent over by the Pittsburgh was Stephen Warshaw, a sports marketing consultant given the responsibility to oversee the turnaround of the Russian franchise. Here is a fascinating interview with Warshaw from the PBS television series Frontline, which ran back in October of 1999.

Over the years, the Central Red Army team produced some of the greatest hockey players in history. What did you see when you got there? 
Well, we first got there, the team was so downtrodden and so bankrupt that they couldn't even afford to buy jerseys for their teams. They had one set of uniforms for six different teams. So, one team would come off the ice, their jerseys ringing wet with sweat, and give it to the next guy, and he'd put it on. And I can't tell you how bad the locker room smelled, I mean you could smell that clear to Vladivostok from the East Coast of Russia. Very bad, and [North American hockey equipment manufacturer] CCM came to the rescue and provided all of our teams with jerseys. The youth teams, the big teams, and beautiful jerseys, and we bought them a washing machine, and they wanted their jerseys washed every game now. All of a sudden they were very concerned with hygiene after the washing machine and their new jerseys. 
 photo 1993-94RussianPenguinsteam.jpg 
The 1993-94 Russian Penguins in their sparkling new CCM jerseys
What happens to old Russian hockey players. . . I mean some of the great stars -- what was their stake when you get there? 
Well, it's very sad. They retired making $5 a month, $10 a month.
These would be the Gretzkys of their --  
The top stars of the day, this is the equivalent of the Espositos and Orrs, Bucyks, Howes, all the top guys. And basically the government has just left them for dead, and, pathetically, they show up at the arena drunk, very drunk just to get through the cold winters. Nobody knows where they live and it was sad. I mean we had one guy, Vikolaf, one of the legends of CSKA, double gold medal winner, had one of his fingers bitten off before one of the games by a bear that was making a between-periods promotion for us and he was drunk, he just kept pushing the bear saying: Ploho medved. Bad bear, bad bear. And the next thing his finger was gone. And there's no treatment for the players. There really should be, again, part of the NHL progra--there should be a veterans legends program to take care of all the great stars of Russia that the Soviet government denied any dollars to.
How did you manage to transform the environment of Russian hockey from that drab thing we remembered, to the glitz? 
Well it was actually quite easy, because no one had tried it before. So there was no benchmark. We really had free rein to do everything. [Central Red Army Coach] Viktor Tikhonov at the beginning was very reticent to let us try out some of the promotions. And he took about a month until they let us actually do what we wanted to do.

What did you want to do? 
Well, the opening night we wanted to have a woman come down on a rope, to start the game, give the puck to the referee. And I remember Viktor Tikhonov said to me, 'I'll only let you do it if you're the guy on the rope.' And I said okay, I'll do it, I know how to climb. He said--'Good, 'cause I'll be up there with a pair of scissors cutting you down.' So he had a good sense of humor, and I think that the cultural difference was big problem at first, but after a while they started to get a kick out of the insanity.

Tell me about the insanity, what kind of gimmicks did you come up with?
Well at the very beginning we had an empty building, so we had to fill it quickly. And everybody loves beer, around the world, so we had a few free beer nights from our big sponsor, Iron City Beer. We had strippers, we had all the normal things that attract men. As soon as the building was full, we started to gear up towards families. And that's when we could go to Disney, after we had the families. So we got rid of some of the real crazy stuff, and then we started to market very professionally, we would give premiums every night to the fans. We had car giveaways from Chrysler. We had trips to the United States to see the Stanley Cup finals courtesy of Delta Airlines. Every sponsor got in on it, and these were real big prizes. And even on the off nights we had free shaving cream and razors from Gillette. Even that was enough to draw fans.
Russian Penguins ticket photo RussianPenguinsticket.png 
And what went wrong?
We did it too well. And the criminal element started to come to our games, started to enjoy our games, started to evict our corporate sponsors out of their super boxes. And we had a real high class problem, we had too much interest, not enough super boxes. Our partners, Viktor Tikhonov and Valery Gushin were afraid to confront the mafia.

The mafia, these were like hoods?
These were guys with the sawed off shotguns down their long coats, and smoking away just like you'd imagine in movies, and this was sort of good news that we were attracting the money. Unfortunately, it was a rough crowd. My suggestion was--'Hey, let's build them their own super boxes, let's talk to them, and I'm sure they'd have no trouble paying the twenty-three thousand dollars for the season. ' And the comment that I got from my partners was--'You go ask them for the money, 'cause if you do, you're gonna be hanging from the rafters by your thumbs. . . '

When did you first become convinced of the reality of the danger of violence in Russia? 
Personally, I had my heart skip a few beats at the end of the second season when one of the Mafia partners, with our Russian partners, came up to me and offered me a job with his company -- suggesting that I leave the Pittsburgh Penguins and work for them, that there was no need for the Americans anymore as long as I was there. And I asked him how much they'd pay me, uh, through a translator of course, and he didn't speak a word of English. And then finally, when I told him it wasn't enough money, he started to laugh. . . And he said well, we'll kill you for 6,500 dollars. I said 6,500 dollars for me? You shouldn't be paying more than three grand. He laughed, tweaked his neck, which means let's drink in Russian, and then started speaking perfect English to me for the rest of the night. Never saw him again.

Kill you for 6,500 bucks.
That's all.

You mentioned the fact that seeing the mafia at the hockey game. How did you know you were seeing mafia, they didn't wear jerseys?
I think the guns were a tip off...

Long sawed-off shotguns, down their side of their coats. They travelled in groups, and beautifully dressed businessmen -- beautifully dressed with security forces. They'd come in with the limousines with the dark windows, disobeying our parking rules, disobeying our smoking rules, disobeying everything. And, basically, our partners said, Just back off, don't get involved here, we'll take care of this. And, again, we had no way of knowing if they were getting paid by the Mafia, or if they too were afraid. This is the issue.

How far did they go in terms of taking over the corporate boxes side of it. What happened there?
Well, basically we couldn't build the superboxes fast enough. We only had about eight to start, and we started selling them quickly to multinational corporations, to Ernst and Young, to Delta, to Philip Morris, to Coca Cola, all the major concerns that were sponsors. And they quickly got thrown out of their boxes, which I thought was a good problem, until I realised we couldn't even build the boxes for them. Our partners couldn't get it done quickly enough and, therefore, we were basically reneging on our sponsorship deals. And that's when I realised if we can't honor our commitments to our multinational sponsors, because of the Mafia's influence in taking over their prime seating, we're in trouble.

So they just walk into the box --
Took it --

Point a gun, somebody would say, "Get out."
They said this is our box, yeah, get out. That was it. We've had situations where we had Nike coming in from Germany and from Beaverton, and two in the morning I was paying a painter to spraypaint the Nike logo into the ice as part of their sponsorship deal. At eight in the morning it had been cut out of the ice by our partners. And I said, what are you doing? That's $100,000 to us, which you get $50,000. He said no one asked us for permission. This was when we knew we had a problem . . .

What about the killings, and how close were they to the hockey scene?
Well, it was frightening, in about a six month period, a player was killed on our team, Alexander Osache, who was a San Jose Sharks pick. The team assistant coach, Vladimir Bouvich, was killed. And our team photographer Felix Oliviov, were all killed. Two of them gunned down Mafia-style, five bullets to the head in front of their wives. The player, we're still not sure how he died. He died in his room, in his apartment . . .

When did you learn this fact of life about doing business in Russia?
Well it was always there. I think any time you have a new capitalist structure, there's always the chance for criminal elements. I mean, look at the the twenties in Chicago, with Prohibition, and this is the "Wild East." There's lawlessness, I've seen kiosk owners dragged out of their kiosks at high noon and beaten by four guys because they didn't pay their twenty percent to the mafia. Most mafias, as you know, the traditional image of a mafia is that they control certain industries. Construction, carting, the fish industry, contracting. However, in Russia, they don't really make anything. They just take everything. And they wanted twenty percent of everybody's action. And the tax police wanted their money. And then the minor criminals wanted their money. So it became impossible for companies to actually make money over there, because, by the time you sold the can of beer or a chocolate bar, it already cost more to bring it in than it does to sell it.

So, are you telling me that like this remarkable marketing success, was written off in a matter of months?
We had two really beautiful seasons, and we were lucky enough to get some great media from all over the world. German television, Canadian television, the US was very high on it. Disney came in, I think that was the biggest part of the whole deal is when Disney became our partner. And then I think the problem was after the second year they felt that they learned enough from us, they saw how we did it, and they figured they could take over. Why cut us in for fifty percent when they could have the whole thing? And I think it was at the end of the second season that we knew that we were ghosts. We were dead.

We, being?
The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Did it ever cross anybody's mind to basically tell these people to go away?
Well. You can't do that over there. It's their country. And we always had to realize that we were the imperialist capitalist dogs that Stalin and Brezhnev and Lenin and everyone had told the Russians that we were. We had to be on best behavior. And we had to respect the authorities; we had to respect everyone over there. As a matter of fact that's why we became successful, is because we paid tribute to all the deceased legends of the Red Army. Guys that had never received ten dollars from the government, and we retired their jerseys, brought their widows onto the ice, their children. And in Russia, remember, it was never about individuals, it was always the team. And it was a system, it was a machine, an evil machine that would dehumanize people. So what we did is we started to make people human. To show the human side, through promotions, through entertainment at our games. And I think it was too much of a good thing too fast. 
So, tell me, what did you think when the guys with the shotguns showed up?
I wondered if they were kalashnikovs or American made, I didn't know at first. I naively went up to these big guys in the super boxes owned by Philip Morris and I asked them if I could help them. And they just sort of laughed at me. And I brought Sergei Starykof's kid who was eight years old with me so that they really couldn't do much in front of a little kid. And [the kid] said to me, Steven, I don't think you're gonna wanna hear what they're saying in Russian. And I said, No, tell me. And that's when I realized that we became so popular so fast, that we really had no safeguard against this criminal element. We did bring in security, but you gotta understand that the security forces in Russia, the police, are ineffective, they're useless against the new rich, the new Russians. They have their own security forces that come into the building hours in advance, check it out, make sure it's okay for their big guns to come in.

I heard that they actually bought [advertising] space on the boards [around the rink]. What was that all about?
Well it's very strange. We had a deal with the partners that we would sell about eighty percent of the rink boards and leave twenty for them to sell. Because we wanted to have Russian sponsors, not just multinationals. And one game I looked down and I saw a company that I'd never heard of. And I asked one of our partners -- who is this? What do they make? He said, Don't ask. Again, you'll be hanging from the rafters by your thumbs. And this became sort of the easy way out for our partners that if something was a problem, it was always mafia. So we never knew if it was a hundred percent mafia, fifty percent mafia, or perhaps made up by greedy partners, we could never really find out.

You're talking partners Tikhonov and Gushin.

These weren't boy scouts.

Tough guys.
These are hard-line Communist.

And how big a part of the problem were they?
Well, I think that at the very beginning, they really had to swallow a lot of pride, to get the cash from the Pittsburgh Penguins. And it really hurt them in a strange way, to see the building full. They were happy that they were making money, but they were embarrassed that it took Americans to come in to Russia and show them how to do it. And I think that success really hurt us. I mean it happened so fast. I remember one great story when I first got there. That Valery Gushin said to me that--'not even Jesus Christ could fill this building.' And I remember two months after the opening game, against Dynamo, we were full. And I went up to him, I said -- 'Have you seen a guy with long hair and sandals? ' And he didn't laugh. You know. This is -- there's no humor in Russia. No matter how evil rival factions are, they're always more attractive than the Americans.

What impact did this have on this little brief hockey renaissance that you saw?
Well it killed the future of Russian hockey, and the [NHL/Russian] partnerships, because the Detroit Red Wings were watching us very intently. Michael Ilitch who owns Little Caesars and the Detroit Red Wings had already put a restaurant in Prague, and he was already looking at Moscow and we figured what a perfect venue to introduce his pizza. So they sent their staff over to Moscow to consider purchasing the Krilya Sovietov team which is the Soviet Wings, a perfect match with the Red Wings. And they got greedy. Which seems to be the problem for the country is that the greed is so great, they asked for five million dollars from the Detroit Red Wings. [The Red Wings] countered with a million. Which was a million more than we gave to the Red Army -- we only gave them marketing dollars, and expertise. And they left. The Russians got too greedy, they didn't take the million, and, today, they owe money, and there's tax collectors and bill collectors and no fans. And again, this is, I think, the biggest tragedy: I think that everybody was watching the Penguins and the Red Army and if this worked, perhaps every Russian elite team would have an NHL affiliate. But they killed the goose.

Didn't the NHL also kill the golden goose by taking the best players developed under the Soviet system and not doing anything to cultivate a future crop of promising Russian players?
Well, I think the NHL has lost its conscience. I think that they have neglected their responsibility to replacing the trees that they've cut down in Russia. It's not different than a rain forest that's been denuded by a greedy paper company, and they leave for the next rain forest. And I think it's very shortsighted by the NHL, considering that almost twenty percent of the players in the league are from the former Soviet Union, including the top stars of the game. I think that American business is sort of a slash and burn, rape and pillage mentality, just to get you to the next quarter for your stockholders' meeting. And I think that from the commissioner on down to the general managers, they have to succeed each quarter. They don't think about five, ten years from now. Russia] used to be a hatchery for the NHL. They would just breed 'em, like little fish. And now, the hatcheries are drying up.

During the two seasons as the Russian Penguins, the club came over to North America to play a series of games against teams from the International Hockey League, with those during the 1993-94 season counting in the IHL standings. The Russian Penguins returned again in 1994-95, but those game were treated as pure exhibition matches.

Russian Penguins pennant photo RussianPenguinspennant.jpg

The 1993-94 games saw the Russian Penguins finish a dismal 2-9 with 2 additional losses in overtime in their 13 games, one each against each IHL club. They did bring a couple of players that would eventually become familiar to fans in North America, future long time New Jersey Devil Sergei Brylin and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, both of whom would win Stanley Cups.

Andrei Vasilyev was the star of the show, scoring 10 goals and 16 points in 13 games. He would also eventually appear in the NHL, playing 15 games over three seasons with the New York Islanders and one with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Russian Penguins returned again in 1994-95 to play against teams from the IHL, but those games were treated as exhibition matches and were not counted in the standings.

Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 Russian Penguins Sergei Brylin jersey as worn during the Russian Penguins schedule of games against teams from the IHL. These CCM jerseys are miles ahead of the standard lightweight mesh jerseys with sublimated or heavily screen printed logos worn by teams during the days of the Soviet Union.

This jersey can be dated by the Iron City Beer patch on the upper right chest, while the set worn during the 1994-95 tour had Gillette sponsorship.

Brylin, born on this date in 1974, was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 1992 NHL Draft. He came to North America for the 1994-95 season and first played for the Albany River Rats of the AHL while the NHL season was delayed by labor issues. He then joined the Devils once the season got underway, playing in 26 of their 48 games. He also was active for 12 of the Devils 20 playoff games, which concluded with the Devils winning the Stanley Cup in Brylin's first season in the NHL!

He would eventually play 13 seasons for the Devils before returning to Russia in 2008-09 with SKA St. Petersburg for three seasons prior to joining Metallurg Novokuznetsk for 2011-12. In all, he played in 765 NHL games, scoring 129 goals and 308 points and would win Stanley Cups again in 2000 and 2003.

Russian Penguins 1993-94 jersey photo RussianPenguins1993-94Fjersey.jpg
Russian Penguins 1993-94 jersey photo RussianPenguins1993-94Bjersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1994-95 Russian Penguins Vladimir Zhashkov jersey as worn by the Russian Penguins during their second and final season. The Gillette sponsorship has now replaced the Iron City Beer, and in an unavoidable manner with not only a logo on the front, but a large banner ad across the back.

Russia Russian Penguins 1994-95 jersey photo RussiaRussianPenguins1994-95F.jpg
Russia Russian Penguins 1994-95 jersey photo RussiaRussianPenguins1994-95B.jpg

While the formal arrangement with the Pittsburgh Penguins came to an end after two seasons, the Russian Penguin logo continued on for many years - and in a most confusing manner, which will be the subject of tomorrow's entry"The Civil War - A Tale of Two Teams With the Same Name."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

1989-90 Boston Bruins Cam Neely Jersey

Cam Neely played his junior hockey for the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League. He gained recognition for his 56 goal, 120 point season in 1982-83 when he led the Winter Hawks to the Memorial Cup championship with 20 points in 14 playoff games, which earned him a 9th overall selection by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.

Neely Winter Hawks
1983 Memorial Cup champion Cam Neely

He began the next season with Portland, but after 19 games he made the jump to the NHL with the Canucks, scoring 31 points in 56 games, as well as gaining his first NHL playoff experience with four games in which he scored a pair of goals.

Neely Canucks
Cam Neely in the Canucks "Flying V" jersey

The next two seasons with Vancouver saw Neely play over 70 games and score 39 and 34 points, Additionally, he showed his rugged side with 137 and 126 penalty minutes. He was however, playing behind veterans Stan Smyl and Tony Tanti and Canucks coach Tom Watt was not a fan of Neely's defensive game, which combined to make Neely expendable in the eyes of the Canucks, who dealt him to the Boston Bruins along with their first pick in the 1987 draft, for former 100 point scorer Barry Pederson.

The change in scenery saw an immediate rise in Neely's production and he scored more goals in his first season with Boston than he did points the previous season in Vancouver, more than doubling his point total from 34 to 72, as the Bruins coaching staff gave him more playing time which led to more confidence.

The 1987-88 season saw a rise in goals to 42 and the first deep playoff run of Neely's career as the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, a run that saw Neely contribute 17 points in 23 games. After a then career best 75 points in 1988-89 before exploding with 55 goals and 92 points in 1989-90 prior to the Bruins making a return to the Stanley Cup Finals later that season. Neely had an excellent playoff season, with 28 points in 21 games.

Proving his 55 goal season was no fluke, Neely lit the lamp 51 times in 1990-91 and registered a second consecutive 90 point season with 91. A knee injury suffered during the conference finals that year would change the course of Neely's career and limit him to just 22 games over the next two seasons combined.

Neely Bruins throwback
Cam Neely in the 1991-92 Bruins throwback jersey

He rebounded in 1993-94 with 50 goals in his 44th game of the season, a mark only Wayne Gretzky has surpassed. Still suffering from injury problems, Neely was limited to just 49 games that year, leaving many to wonder what his goal total could have reached had he played a full season that year. His ability to return to such a high level of play after essentially missing the previous two seasons earned Neely the Masteron Trophy for 1994.

After two more seasons limited to 42 and 49 games, along with a drop in production to point levels in the 40's, led Neely to call it a career due to a degenerative hip condition.

Neely's #8 was retired by the Bruins on this date in 2004 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.

Today's featured jersey is a 1989-90 Boston Bruins Cam Neely jersey as worn during Neely's finest season in which he set personal highs with 55 goals and 92 points.

This particular jersey was worn during the finals and features the 1990 Stanley Cup patch, only the second season that the cup final patch was worn and the first that it was worn on the chest, having been worn on the left arm the previous season when it was introduced.

This long-serving Bruins jersey style was first used back in 1974 and quickly gained secondary shoulder logos and names on the back by 1977 and then remain essentially unchanged through it's retirement at the end of the 1994-95 season.

Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey, Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey
Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey, Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey

Our first video is a very well done look at highlights of the career of Cam Neely.

Here is a unique look at Cam Neely's 50 goals in 44 games - all 50! - in the 1993-94 season.

Finally, Cam Neely shares his favorite work out routine and then expresses his feelings in no uncertain terms regarding the debut of ESPNews.


hit counter for blogger