Friday, October 9, 2015

1941-42 Brooklyn Americans Tom Anderson Jersey

Hockey "returns" to Brooklyn, New York tonight for the first time since the conclusion of the 1941-42 season when the Brooklyn Americans played their final games before folding, leaving the NHL with just six teams for the next 24 years.

Metropolitan New York would not have a second team again for 29 years until 1972 with the arrival of both the New York Raiders of the WHA and the NHL's New York Islanders, who were strategically placed in the region to counter the arrival of the WHA.

For the 1925-26 NHL season, a new franchise began play as tenants of the brand new (and third) Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The club was founded by Thomas Duggan, who had actually been granted three franchises back in 1923, but was required to wait until the completion of construction of Madison Square Garden before the team could take to the ice. The club, named the New York Americans, benefitted from the demise of the Tigers in Hamilton, when Duggan's financial backer, mobster "Big Bill" Dwyer, who made his fortune as a prohibition bootlegger, bought the rights to the Tigers players to stock the Americans roster.

Their first game was against fellow expansion brothers the Pirates in Pittsburgh in a contest won by the Americans 2-1 in overtime. Future Hockey Hall of Famer and team captain Billy Burch scored the first goal in team history at 6:12 of the second period, assisted by veteran Ken Randall. Pittsburgh evened the score at 9:45 on a goal by the great Lionel Conacher, who would play a role in Americans team history later on. The third period went by with no scoring, sending the game into an extra period where defenseman Charlie Langlois won the game for New York with an unassisted, short-handed goal at 3:10 to get the franchise off to a fine start.

After four road games to start the season, the Americans would finally play their first game in their new home, which was not originally designed with the ability to create a sheet of ice.

Madison Square Garden 1925, Madison Square Garden 1925
Madison Square Garden in 1925

Duggan arranged for Madison Square Garden owner Tex Rickard to come to Montreal with Dwyer, who would arrange to properly lubricate Tex with some of his underground liquor production before the Canadiens game he was about to witness. The sight of the sold out arena, combined with the dazzling display put on by Canadiens star Howie Morenz suitably impressed Rickard, who agreed to modify the plans for Madison Square Garden to include ice making capabilities on the condition that Morenz be present for opening game. Thus the first opponent hosted by the Americans was none other than Morenz and the Canadiens, who defeated the home team by a score of 3-1 in front of 17,422 curious New Yorkers who saw Morenz seal the victory for Montreal with their third goal at 4:15 of the third period.

1925 Americans program, 1925 Americans program
A program from the Americans first season

Despite stocking their roster with the players from the first place Tigers club, the team finished fifth out of seven with a 12-20-4 record, led by Burch in scoring with 22 goals, quite nearly one-third of the team's total of 68, and 25 points.

1925-26 New York Americans team, 1925-26 New York Americans team
The 1925-26 New York Americans

Still, despite the placing in the standings, the Americans season overall was deemed such a success at the gate that Rickard obtained his own NHL franchise for the 1926-27 season, which would be nicknamed Tex's Rangers. With the addition of not only a second team in Madison Square Garden, but also Chicago and Detroit joining the league, the NHL was split into two divisions, with the Americans being placed in... the Canadian Division! The extra travel over the border took it's toll on the club and they once more finished out of the playoffs with a 17-25-2 record. Burch again led he club in scoring with 19 goals and 27 points, ten more than Conacher, who was obtained from the cash strapped Pirates.

The Americans sank to last in the Canadian Division in 1927-28 with just 11 wins in the face of 27 losses and 6 ties. To make matters worse, the New York Rangers, owned by their landlord Rickard, won the Stanley Cup in only their second year of existence! From the beginning of the two clubs competing for the same fan base. The Rangers, who were coached by the elegant and respected Lester Patrick, became the team of choice for the upper class of Manhattan while the Americans, perhaps tainted by being associated the jailed bootlegger Dwyer, who was arrested 11 days before the Americans first game and spent the entire first season locked up, were the "working class" team, who somehow failed to capture the imagination of the fanbase in the same manner as the stylish and immediately successful Rangers.

Goaltender Roy Worters was obtained from Pittsburgh to solidify the Americans defense, and the club responded with their first winning record, finishing 19-13-12 for second place in their division and their first playoff berth - against their rival Rangers, who won the two-game, total-goals series 1-0 on a dramatic goal at 29:50 of overtime of the second game. Burch led the club in scoring for the third time in four seasons and Worters was named the Hart Trophy winner as league MVP.

1928-29 New York Americans team, 1928-29 New York Americans team
The 1928-29 New York Americans

The team plunged to fifth place in the 1929-30 season under new head coach Conacher and missed the postseason for what would be the first of six consecutive seasons. Norman Himes, who led the team in scoring in 1928, set a new club records with 28 goals and 50 points, breaking Burch's mark of 36.

Himes again led the club in scoring in 1931-32, although he came back down to Earth with just 24 points. While the Americans finished "fourth" in the Canadian Division, it was due to attrition, as the Ottawa Senators had not competed that season due to financial difficulties, which meant the Americans actually came in last and missed out on the playoffs for the third season in a row. Additionally, the Pirates had by now moved to Philadelphia for a single, dismal 4 win season and closed up shop for good, unable to survive the Great Depression.

The 1932-33 Americans were led in scoring by Himes for the fourth consecutive season as Worters continued to hold down the duties in goal while their won/loss record continued to slip, now down to 15-22-11, a mark essentially duplicated in 1933-34 at 15-23-10. Eddie Burke led the club offensively with 20 goals and 30 points in 46 games. In hockey sweater news, the Americans introduced a second, white sweater, making them only the second team to have two styles following Toronto in 1927. The struggling team attempted a merger at this point with the equally poor Ottawa Senators, which was turned down by the NHL Board of Governors.

The club had a difficult time in 1934-35 with just 12 wins and their sixth straight, and ninth out of ten seasons of their existence, with no playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rangers not only had yet to have a losing season, made the playoffs in every single one of their now nine seasons and had also delivered a second Stanley Cup by then, which had arrived in 1933.

Another issue for the "Amerks" was Dwyer's inability to recognize the benefits of stability. The club literally had a different head coach every season for their first six seasons, as Tommy Gorman, Newsy Lalonde, Shorty Green, Gorman again, Lionel Conacher and Eddie Gerard all took turns behind the bench until Gerard managed to hold onto the job for two seasons in a row, but only two seasons, as Bullet Joe Simpson then took the helm for three seasons, 1932-33 to 1934-35. Meanwhile, Patrick remained behind the bench for the Rangers' first 13 seasons, and won while doing it, winning 281 games while the Americans would only manged to win 255 during their entire 17 years.

The world turned upside down in 1935-36, as not only did Sweeney Schriner lead both the Americans and the NHL in scoring, but the Americans finally returned to the postseason guided by new head coach and general manager Red Dutton, while the Rangers missed out on the playoffs for the first time in their history! Oddly enough, the Rangers kept their streak of winning records intact at 19-17-12, while the Americans streak of losing records continued for the fifth straight season but it was enough for the Americans to finish third in the Canadian Division to advance to the postseason. They made the most of the opportunity, and defeated the Chicago Black Hawks 3-0 before staying close enough in a 5-4 loss in Game 2 to win their first ever playoff series 7-5 in total goals. Round 2 went to Toronto, who won the best-of-three 2 games to 1.

Sweeney Schriner, Sweeney Schriner
NHL scoring champion Sweeney Schriner

On the business side of the operation, owner Dwyer, now finding it difficult to pay the bills with the end of prohibition, saw the club taken over by the league. Dwyer was given a second chance, but could not pay off his debts and the league took full control for the 1937-38 season.

After 1936-37, which saw the Americans out of the playoffs once again following a 15-29-4 mark in Worters ninth and final season in goal for the Americans, the club posted only the third winning season in their history when they won 19, lost 18 and tied 11 thanks to Dutton acquiring veterans Ching Johnson and Hap Day.

Ching Johnson 37-38 Americans, Ching Johnson 37-38 Americans
Ching Johnson

Schriener again led the team in scoring with 21 goals and 8 points and the Americans finally got the best of the Rangers, knocking them out of the playoffs in a hard fought Round 1, winning 2-1 in overtime of Game 1, losing 4-3 in Game 2 before winning Game 3 by a score of 3-2 "on the road" at Madison Square Garden in an epic four overtimes in what was then the fourth longest game in league history and arguably the highlight of the Americans franchise history. Despite winning Game 1 of Round 2 versus Chicago, the Black Hawks rebounded with two straight wins to eliminate the Americans.

The Americans qualified for the postseason with a losing record once more at 17-21-10 thanks to the demise of the Montreal Maroons leaving the NHL as one seven team division, with the top six qualifying for the playoffs. Schriner led the team in scoring for the fourth consecutive season with 44 points but a quick exit from the playoffs followed, as they failed to score a goal in either game against the Maple Leafs.

Financial troubles led to Schriner departing for Toronto in exchange for four players. Also of note, the club acquired the great defenseman Eddie Shore late in the season from Boston. The now 37 year old Shore played the final ten games of his career, as well as three playoffs games, as the Americans scrapped their way to a sixth place finish, with their 15-29-4 record surpassing the Canadiens, who won only 10 times. The Americans drew the Detroit Red Wings, who defeated them 2 games to 1 to end Shore's career. Meanwhile, the Rangers captured their third Stanley Cup, while the Americans had yet to win three playoff series.

Eddie Shore Americans, Eddie Shore Americans
Eddie Shore during his brief time with the Americans

The Americans hit bottom in 1940-41 after being forced to sell of their best players in an attempt to stay solvent, coming in a distant last with a dismal 8-29-11 record, the only team to score less than 100 goals and the only to allow more than 147, with 186 against.

Desperate to improve their financial situation, the club changed it's name for the 1941-42 season to the Brooklyn Americans in hopes of connecting with the fans across the East River in Brooklyn despite retaining Madison Square Garden in Manhattan as their home arena due to the lack of a suitable arena in Brooklyn. The team improved record-wise to 16-29-3, but despite scoring 34 more goals while allowing 11 less and improving 8 points in the standings, the Americans finished last in the NHL and missed out on the playoffs once again.

With the arrival of World War II, the Americans were hit harder than most due to their already weak financial position. With many players off to serve in the war, combined with travel restrictions and Dutton's inability to actually relocate the team to Brooklyn, the team suspended operations with the intent of regrouping and coming back after the war. Despite an effort to build a new arena in Brooklyn as a home for the team in 1945, the NHL finally cancelled the franchise formally in 1946.

In all, the Americans played 17 seasons, qualifying for the playoffs just five times despite only three winning records in their history.

With the New York Islanders first official game in Brooklyn tonight at their new home, the Barclays Center, The Brooklyn Historical Society is now hosting an exhibit titled: "Brooklyn Americans: Hockey's Forgotten Promise".

Brooklyn Americans exhibit logo photo Brooklyn Americans exhibit logo.jpg

The exhibit, which opened on September 23rd will be on display through March 27, 2016, features programs from the 1920's and 1930's, team photos, scrapbooks and other memorabilia, including Chuck Rayner's goalie stick, Worters' skates, a sweater worn by GM Dutton and Pat Egan's warmup jacket. The gallery will be open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 PM and is located at 128 Pierrepont Street in Brooklyn at the corner of Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights.

It also features original footage of the team in action and recorded interviews with former Brooklynites who either played or were fans of hockey in Brooklyn.

BHS Exhibit photo BHS Photo.png
The Brooklyn Americans exhibit at the Brooklyn Historical Society
photo ©Scott Rudd

"With the imminent arrival of the New York Islanders in the borough, we are thrilled to be uncovering the history of hockey in Brooklyn," said Deborah Schwartz, President of the Brooklyn Historical Society. "We hope that visitors not only walk away with a new understanding of hockey history, but also a better appreciation of how far Brooklyn has come."

Today's featured jersey is a 1941-42 Brooklyn Americans Tom Anderson jersey as worn by defenseman and recently converted left winger Anderson during the Americans final season. Anderson was named the winner of the Hart Trophy as league MVP after setting a league scoring record for defensemen with 41 points in 48 games. He played eight NHL seasons, with his MVP season being his last, as military duty brought his NHL career to a premature end. He remains one of three Hart Trophy winners not elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Americans adopted their first white jersey, complete with red stripes down the arms and red cuffs, back in 1933. There would be frequent changes in the cresting and waist stripe colors and thickness until the desperate name change to "Brooklyn" in 1941, despite the team never actually playing in Brooklyn.

This game worn example no longer has it's original number 7 on the back, but it's outline is still clearly visible on the back, thanks in part to the bleeding of the dye of the red digit's blue outline.

Brooklyn Americans 1941-42 jersey photo Brooklyn Americans 1941-42 F jersey.jpg
Brooklyn Americans 1941-42 jersey photo Brooklyn Americans 1941-42 B jersey.jpg
Photo courtesy of

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1925-26 New York Americans Billy Burch jersey as worn during the Americans inaugural season. When the Americans took to the ice, it was in their new, star-spangled sweaters, unlike any seen before in the NHL, and we dare say ever since, thanks to it's more than three dozen stars.

The Americans first wore their star spangled sweaters for all games during their first eight seasons, either home or road, before adding a white alternate jersey in 1933. They would wear both jerseys through the 1937-38 season, which was the last for the original stars and stripes jersey. For their final four seasons, only the white jerseys were worn for all games.

New York Americans 25-26 jersey, New York Americans 25-26 jersey
Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1935-36 New York Americans Harry Oliver jersey from the middle era of the Americans run in the NHL. Through 1932-33 New York had only worn variations of their original sweaters, but with the concept of separate home and road jerseys made necessary due to the expanding league seeing now multiple teams wearing red or blue, the Americans introduced a white sweater for the first time in 1933. That first white sweater, with it's shield crest, lasted two seasons until being replaced by today's bonus jersey for the 1935-36 season.

Oddly, the original look with it's multiple stripes was dropped for 1938-39, leaving this white style as their only sweater for two seasons until an evolution in their look brought a new design for 1940-41, ending today's bonus jerseys' run after six seasons, with the floundering club having just two years left to play prior to folding.

 photo NewYorkAmericans1935-36jersey.jpg
Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video is a look at the history of the New York Americans.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

1997-98 Washington Capitals Adam Oates Jersey

Adam Oates, a Canadian, took the less travelled route to the NHL at the time by playing college hockey in the United States. While with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, more commonly known as RPI, he led the Engineers to the 1985 NCAA Championship. He graduated with single season school records for most assists, setting the tone for his NHL career in the process, with 60, points in a season with 91 and career points with 150.

Oates RPI, Oates RPI
Oates celebrates RPI's national championship

After RPI's championship season, Oates signed as an undrafted free agent with the Detroit Red Wings. He would play four seasons in Detroit before being traded to the St. Louis Blues and beginning his journey around the league. Upon his arrival in St. Louis, he would be paired with Brett Hull, a move that enabled him to immediately score over 100 points for the first of four times in his career, a 24 point improvement over his final season with the Red Wings. During his second season in St. Louis, 1990-91, he would accumulate 90 assists despite playing in only 61 games, which allowed him to raise his career best from 102 points up to 115.

Oates Blues, Oates Blues

Following a contract hold out the following year, he was traded to the Boston Bruins. He would show St. Louis the error of their ways with a career high 45 goals and 145 points to finish third in league scoring in 1992-93, a position he would repeat the next season with 32 goals and 80 assists for 112 points.

Oates Bruins, Oates Bruins
Oates during his career best season in 1992-93

The relationship with the Bruins soured and Oates would once more be on the move three seasons later, this time to the Washington Capitals, where he would change his jersey number from #12 to #77 in honor of Bruins teammate Ray Bourque, who remained in Boston.

In Oates first full season in Washington, the Capitals would make it all the way to the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals before falling to his former club, the Red Wings, but not before scoring his 1,000th NHL point in style with his 7th career hat trick plus two assists for a 5 point game in a 6-3 Capitals win over the New York Islanders on this date in 1997.

Oates Capitals 1998 Finals, Oates Capitals 1998 Finals
Oates shakes hands with Steve Yzerman following the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals

Oates would play six seasons for the Capitals, including being named team captain in 1999. He led the league in assists in 2000-01 and would repeat that feat again the following season, becoming the oldest player to ever do so at age 39. That season would also see him score his 1,000th assist, becoming only the eighth player in NHL history to reach that milestone.

Oates Capitals, Oates Capitals
Oates as captain of the Capitals

However, Oates would once again be traded, finishing the season by playing 14 games with the Philadelphia Flyers. 2002-03 would see Oates return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time, now with the Mighty Ducks of Anahiem, before falling in seven games to the New Jersey Devils.

Oates Ducks, Oates Ducks
Oates while with the Mighty Ducks

2003-04 would see him add one last opportunity to add to his sweater collection, as he would dress for his seventh and final club, the Edmonton Oilers. His final career totals would stand at 341 goals and 1079 assists for 1420 points in 1337 games and Oates would play in five NHL All-Star Games. His playmaking ability would see him total more assists in the 1990's than any other player, save for Wayne Gretzky. Oates had the most points of any eligible player not in the Hockey Hall of Fame up until his induction this year.

In addition to being voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame Oates' memorable day continued with him being named head coach of the Washington Capitals, his first NHL head coaching position.

"Obviously, a fantastic day. I don't know if that's happened before," Oates said of being picked for induction and hired as a coach on the same day. "It's just a special, special day for us."

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Washington Capitals Adam Oates jersey. This jersey style was introduced for the 1995-96 season, debuting not only a new eagle logo, but an entirely new color scheme as well. This blue road style would be worn though the 1999-00 season until it was replaced as the team's road jersey by the Capitals black alternate jersey, which was introduced in 1997-98, the season Oates scored his 1,000th NHL point with his memorable five point night.

Oddly, in 1997-98, the world "Capitals" would vanish from the team's white home jersey, while it remained on the blue road jersey. The home white and road black styles would carry on through the 2006-07 season until the team once again returned to their patriotic red, white and blue roots.

Washington Capitals 1997-98 jersey photo Washington Capitals 1997-98 F jersey.jpg
Washington Capitals 1997-98 jersey photo Washington Capitals 1997-98 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1989-90 St. Louis Blues Adam Oates jersey from Oates' early days in the NHL when he rose to prominence as a high scoring playmaker.

This style of Blues jersey can be traced back to the 1984-85 season, when the newly introduced style had "Blues" arched over the Blue Note crest. The red trim arrived a year later and the arched "Blues" was dropped for the 1987-88 season. A subtle change arrived in 1989 when the sharp corners of the crest became rounded, brining us to this exact style as worn by Oates. The Blues had one more tweak to make though, as the names changed from one color to three color for the final two seasons of this style, beginning in 1992-93.

St. Louis Blues 89-90 jersey, St. Louis Blues 89-90 jersey

Here is Oates talking about his favorite memories of playing in St. Louis.

Uh, yea...

And a few less speaking lines this time around...

Finally, here is Oates and other prominent members of the hockey community discussing his career in advance of his upcoming induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1972-73 New York Islanders Craig Cameron Jersey

Born as a result of a hasty effort by the National Hockey League to prevent the rival upstart World Hockey Association from placing a team at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the New York Islanders played their first game on this date in 1972.

Nassau Coliseum
The Nassau Coliseum

Located less than 30 miles from New York City on Long Island, the Coliseum originally held roughly 13,000 for hockey and slightly more for basketball, as the arena was also home to the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association from 1972 until 1977, who brought two ABA championships to New York behind the play of "Dr. J" Julius Irving.

Julius Irving
Dr. J, Julius Irving

Some of the other teams to have called the Coliseum home have been the New York Arrows of the Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1984), the New York Express, also of the MISL (1986-1987), the New York Saints of the National Lacrosse League (1989-2003) and the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League (2001-2008).

The Coliseum saw it's seating capacity expanded in the early 1980's to 16,250 for hockey and up to 18,100 for concerts. The arena has also hosted some of the World Wrestling Federation's biggest events as well as boxing and NCAA basketball regional round games.

In addition, some notable concerts have also been held there, including David Bowie, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and was one of only two venues in the United States to host Pink Floyd's live show of "The Wall".

The motivation to quickly create the Islanders came about due to the new WHA planning on placing it's flagship franchise, the New York Raiders, in the brand-new Coliseum, a plan which was met with rejection by Nassau County officials, who wanted nothing to do with the new league which they did not consider to be major league. With the only way to legally keep the WHA out of the Coliseum being to place an NHL team there, and despite the fact the New York Rangers did not think highly of a competing team just 19 miles down the road, a hastily awarded team was given to Long Island in November of 1971, along with a second new club, the Atlanta Flames, to keep the league balanced.

While the plan cost the Islanders a $4 million territorial rights fee paid to the Rangers, it cost the Raiders even more, as they were forced to play in Madison Square Garden as tenants of the Rangers! Needless to say, the Rangers were less fans of the Raiders, who belonged to the rival WHA, than they were of the Islanders, who at least were members of the same NHL.

New York Raiders
The WHA's New York Raiders

The unfavorable terms of the Raiders lease was a burden on the club, and when very few fans showed up to buy tickets, the original owners defaulted before the first season was even complete. WIth the league now owning the club, it was then sold to a new owner for the second WHA season and renamed the Golden Blades.

New York Golden Blades
Andre Lacroix of the short-lived New York Golden Blades

The Golden Blades saw as few as 500 people show up, and 20 games into year two, the franchise once more became property of the league, who moved them to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia for the remainder of the 1973-74 season where they had to play in a tiny arena (capacity 4,416) so awful it has achieved legendary status as the visiting teams not only had to put on their gear back at their hotel, but also skate uphill for two out of three periods thanks to a slope in the ice surface! Following the conclusion of the season, the franchise was moved to San Diego, California, seemingly as far from New York as possible! The formation of the Islanders had ultimately had the desired effect the NHL had hoped for.

The Islanders started slowly, preferring to build their club through the draft and passed on the temptation to sign veteran players, especially in light of the rapidly increasing size of player contracts due to competition from the WHA. The first year Islanders were led in scoring by Billy Harris, who managed 28 goals and 50 points in 78 games. For comparison, Phil Esposito led the league with 55 goals and 130 points.

The Islanders lost their first game at home 2-3 to the Flames on this date in 1972, but won their second game 3-2 over the Los Angeles Kings to earn their first victory in front of their home fans in their new arena.

It was not something the fans should have gotten used to however, as the Islanders dropped their next four games at home before a tie with the Chicago Black Hawks ended their inaugural homestand with a 1-5-1 record. For the remainder of the season, they would win 9 more games at home and only 2 on the road. Losing streaks of 12, 8, 7 games, as well as another winless streak of 12 doomed the Islanders to a distant last place with a 12-60-6 record for just 30 points, 18 back of the California Golden Seals and 35 back of fellow first year club the Flames!

However, their roster included not only Harris, but center Lorne Henning (63 games), wingers Bob Nystrom (11 games) and Gary Howatt (8 games) plus goaltender Billy Smith (37 games) who would remain with the team and achieve the heights of hoisting the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups just seven years later.

Islanders Stanely Cup 1980
The Islanders hoist the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups

Bill Torrey, general manager of the Islanders tells his version of the competition with the Raiders and the rise of the Islanders. "The WHA originally wanted to get into the Nassau Coliseum but once the NHL made the commitment to put the Islanders there, I sensed we were in a situation that my club would be a target for the new league. The WHA put a team in New York at Madison Square Garden. THe Raiders wanted to weaken us as best as they could. I let them do it in a way. There were six or seven players that signed with the WHA that I had offered two-way, short-term contracts. I had a hunch they wouldn't accept my offer, but that was okay because I felt by building with younger players that we would draft, the Islanders would develop quicker and be better off in the long run.

At the time, the NHL was a two-division league. There really wasn't much chance for us to finish anywhere but where we finished, be it with a handful of wins and points. That wasn't important at the time. The WHA signed three or four players who I didn't care about and a couple of others who would have helped our organization. Still, we established a policy where our drafts, in '72, '73 and '74, would be all great ones. WE had a chance to let our future players mature faster. In the short term, it was tough. But in the big picture, things worked out well for us."

Their last place finish in 1972-73 allowed them to select franchise cornerstone Denis Potvin with the first overall pick in the 1974 NHL Draft. The following year the Islanders picked Clark Gilles fourth overall and Bryan Trottier in round two and the Islanders had the foundation for their dynasty of the early 1980's.

Nassau Coliseum

Time passed the Coliseum by however, as it was the second oldest building in the NHL and had the lowest capacity for years (not to mention seasons with the lowest average attendance) and was viewed as an unsuitable building for the modern NHL, mainly due to it's lack of private suites and other modern features which provide essential money making opportunities for a professional sports franchise. Despite repeated attempts to replace it, none ever came to fruition and the club has now moved 25 miles west to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York for the upcoming 2015-16 season despite it having an even smaller capacity and compromised sightlines for hockey.

Today's featured jersey is a 1972-73 New York Islanders Craig Cameron jersey. The first season of play for the Islanders saw them wear what would become the jersey the club would return to over and over again, despite a number of attempts to change to something different.

The orange numbers were unique to the first year Islanders jerseys, as they would be changed to white for the 1973-74 season and remain so on their dark jerseys ever since. The white sleeve ends and lace up collar would remain for the first five seasons before both disappeared in 1977-78, the same season names arrived on the back for good.

New York Islanders 72-73 jersey
New York Islanders 72-73 jersey

Our video section today takes a look at the history of the New York Islanders.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

1988-89 Winnipeg Jets Eldon "Pokey" Reddick Jersey

Born on this date in 1964, goaltender Eldon "Pokey" Reddick earned his unusual nickname from his father due to being a "slowpoke" around the house as a kid. As he matured though, his reflexes served him well and he made serval stops as part of his junior hockey career in the Western Hockey League. He played a single game with the Billings Bighorns in 1981-82 before taking the reigns of the  Nanaimo Islanders in 1982-83, playing in 66 games.

He became a member of the New Westminster Bruins for 1983-84 where he played in 50 games, posting a winning 24-22-2 record while lowering his goals against average from the season before by over 2 full goals a game to 4.40 while sharing time in goal with future NHL teammate Bill Ranford, who appeared in 27 games.

For 1984-85, Reddick became a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings where he saw action in 47 games as the team's number one netminder.

Reddick Wheat Kings photo Reddick Wheat Kings.jpg
Reddick in junior hockey with the Wheat Kings

Undrafted by the NHL, when his junior career came to an end in 1985, Reddick played 10 games for the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL as well as 2 additional games for the Sherbrooke Canadiens of the AHL after signing as a free agent with the Winnipeg Jets organization. He was back with the Komets for a full season in 1985-86, going 15-11 in 32 games and a 3.05 goals against average.

Reddick Jets photo Reddick Jets.jpg
Reddick made his NHL debut with Winnipeg

Reddick made his NHL debut in 1986-87 with the Jets appearing in 48 games to lead the team, posting a 21-21-4 record. He shared time with Daniel Berthiaume (31 games) and the duo was given the hilarious nickname of "Pokey and the Bandit".

Pokey and the Bandit photo pokey_bandit.jpg
Pokey and the Bandit - Reddick and Berthiaume

Reddick lost the number one job to Berthiaume in 1987-88 and was limited to 28 games with the Jets as well as spending 9 games with the Moncton Hawks of the AHL. Reddick rebounded in 1988-89 with 41 games in goal for the Jets, more than any of the other four goalies used by the club.

Just prior to the 1989-90 season, Reddick was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers, where he was reunited with his former junior teammate Ranford. He divided his season with 3 games for the Phoenix Roadrunners of the IHL, 15 games for the Cape Breton Oilers of the AHL and 11 games with Edmonton in the NHL. He also appeared in one playoff game for the Oilers as they would go on to win the NHL championship with a 4-1 defeat of the Boston Bruins, earning Reddick his name on the Stanley Cup.

1989-90 Edmonton Oilers team photo 1989-90 Edmonton Oilers team.jpg
The 1990 Stanley Cup Champion Oilers
with Reddick pictured in the first row, far right

With Ranford playing the bulk of the Oilers games in 1990-91, the competition for time in the Edmonton goal was fierce, with Kari Takko playing 11 games and Grant Fuhr 13, leaving just 2 starts for Reddick, who played the majority of his season back in the AHL with Cape Breton, where he was 19-10 in 31 games.

Reddick Cape Breton photo Reddick Cape Breton.jpg
Reddick with Cape Breton in the AHL

He was out of the NHL in 1991-92, starting the year with Cape Breton of the AHL for 16 games and then 14 games back with the Fort Wayne Komets in the IHL. He would lead the Komets in 1992-93 with a standout 33-16-4 record in 54 games, posting a 3.08 goals against average.

Once in the playoffs, Reddick went on a tear as For Wayne swept Cleveland, ousted Atlanta in four and then captured the Turner Cup by blowing out the San Diego Gulls in four straight to complete a historic playoff sweep of 12 consecutive victories without a single loss for the Komets first championship in 20 years. Reddick was then named the IHL Playoff MVP thanks to his 12-0 record and 1.49 goals against average, which included limiting the league leading San Diego offense to just 5 goals in the four game final.

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Reddick hoists the Turner Cup as an IHL champion

That performance earned Reddick a contract with the Florida Panthers in hopes of returning to the NHL full time. While he did manage to return to the NHL, it was only for two games with the Panthers, the final games of his NHL career.

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A rare shot of Reddick with the Panthers

The rest of his season was spent as the number one for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL, going 31-12-6 with a 3.05 goals against.

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Reddick spent one year in Cincinnati

Reddick would spend the next five seasons in the IHL, beginning with a pair of seasons with the Las Vegas Thunder, going 23-13-1 in 1994-95 followed by a 27-12-4 record the following season.

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A fantastic shot of Reddick with fellow goaltenders
Clint Malarchuk and Manon Rheaume!

1996-97 saw Reddick set a professional career high with 61 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins, which also saw him post a stellar 2.48 goals against average and a 30-14-10 record.

He began the 2997-98 season with Grand Rapids (10 games) before a move to the San Antonio Dragons (16 games) and finally the Kansas City Blades for 22 games. In all, Reddick went 20-21-4 despite all the time spent getting acclimated to new teammates and new systems.

Reddick returned to Fort Wayne yet again in 1998-99, seeing time in 33 games, his final ones in the IHL.

For the 1999-00 season, Reddick made the move to Europe as he signed with the Frankfurt Lions of the German DEL. For three seasons Reddick owned the Frankfurt net, playing in 56, 59 and 52 games of the shorter European season, never with a goals against higher than 3.00.

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Reddick during his time in Germany with Frankfurt

Reddick had one more trip to Fort Wayne remaining however, as he would play the final 9 games of his career with the Komets, now members of the United Hockey League following the demise of the IHL while he was away in Germany.

Today's featured jersey is a 1988-89 Winnipeg Jets Eldon "Pokey" Reddick jersey as worn during his final season with the Jets. This jersey style was adopted by Winnipeg for their first season in the NHL after the demise of the WHA. This jersey template was first used by the New York Rangers for just two seasons until reverting to their traditional, diagonally lettered jerseys. When former Rangers GM John Ferguson became the Jets new GM he brought the same jersey in the exact same colors, only now with the Jets logo in place of the previous Rangers shield.

Also of note is the large space between the top of the numbers and the player name on the back, thanks to the nearly square back numbers used by the Jets.

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Winnipeg Jets 1988-89 jersey photo Winnipeg Jets 1988-89 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1992-93 IHL All-Star Eldon "Pokey" Reddick jersey as worn by Reddick during his dominant season in the IHL, which was capped off by his undefeated 12 game run through the Turner Cup playoffs, which earned him IHL Playoff MVP honors.

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1992-93 IHL ALL STAR JERSEY photo 1992-93 IHL ALL STAR B JERSEY.jpg

Today's video section consists of both Reddick's videos on YouTube, first he squares off with Jeff Reese, but not much in the way of punches happen. This is followed by Reddick getting plastered by none other than Tiger Williams, who sends Reddick into next week.

Monday, October 5, 2015

1976-77 Colorado Rockies Michel Plasse Jersey

On this date in 1976, the Colorado Rockies played their first ever game, which was also the first NHL regular season game to ever by played in Denver, Colorado.

The Rockies began life as the expansion Kansas City Scouts in 1974 and had a very poor 15-54-11 record their first season, having been outscored 184-328 and finishing the season by winning just one of their final 19 games as they went 1-15-3 to close out their inaugural campaign.

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The 1974-75 Kansas City Scouts

Things were going better for the Scouts in year two, with a 11-21-4 mark near the end of 1975, but the club managed to win only a single game the rest of the season! The last 44 games saw the Scouts set the benchmark for futility with a 1-35-8 record, which included being outscored 105-214, an average of being outscored by 2.5 goals per game.

One of the main issues facing the Scouts was the arrival of the World Hockey Association in 1972, which resulted in a dramatic rise in player salaries as well as a suddenly very thin talent pool, as the number of professional teams went from 14 NHL teams in 1971-72 to 32 between the two leagues combined by 1975-76.

With the Scouts averaging 8,218 fans per game in their 17,000 seat arena (roughly 5,000 below the league average at the time) and an ownership group in debt, a mid-season ticket drive was staged that resulted in only 2,000 sales. Faced with that bleak reality, the owners decided to get out of the hockey business and sold the club to a group headed by Jack Vickers, who moved the team to Denver for the 1976-77 season, renaming his new club the Rockies.

As a side note, Denver as actually scheduled to receive an expansion franchise that season and the Scouts relocation to Denver scuttled that plan, which cost Seattle, Washington it's opportunity to receive the other franchise, which it still has never obtained now 39 years later.

The Rockies opened their first season in Denver with a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on this date in 1976, and eventually finished with a 20-46-14 record, which relegated them to a 5th place finish in the five team Smythe Division.

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The inaugural 1976-77 Colorado Rockies

While the Rockies actually won one less game in 1977-78, they improved by five points in the standings by virtue of 21 tie games, which reduced their loss total from the year prior by six games. This resulted in the franchise qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in their four year history to date. Unfortunately, their stay was brief, as the "preliminary round" contested at the time was a quick best-of-three and the Rockies were ousted by the powerful Philadelphia Flyers in two straight.

The team took a step backwards the following season, dropping to 15 wins and just 42 points in the standings, which was the worst in the NHL.

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Wilf Paiement led the Rockies in scoring their first three seasons

Despite rising to 19 wins and 51 points in 1979-80, the Rockies were still last overall in the league yet again.

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Lanny McDonald arrived in Colorado in 1979-80

It was more of the same in 1980-81, but the Rockies nudged up from 51 points to 57, which did allow them to not only stay ahead of the Jets, but pass the moribund Detroit Red Wings by a point as well.

Once more, it all went wrong for the Rockies during their final season in Denver when they came home trailing the pack, having dropped back to 49 points, five behind Detroit. To make matters worse, the Jets improved by a whopping 48 points that season!

One would expect all the last place finishes to eventually lead to some improvement, but a look at the Scouts and Rockies early draft picks reveals a list of names that include Barry Dean (#2 overall in 1975 - 81 career NHL points), Don Cairns (#20 overall in 1975 - 105 points), Doug Berry (#38 overall in 1977 - 43 points), Randy Pierce (#47 overall in 1977 - 138 points), Mike Gillis (#5 overall in 1978 - 76 points), Merlin Malinowski (#27 overall in 1978 - 165 points), Paul Gagne (#19 overall in 1980 - 212 points), Joe Ward (#22 overall in 1980 - 0 points), Rich Chernomaz (#26 overall in 1981 - 16 points) and Uli Hiemer (#48 overall in 1981 - 73 points).

The Rockies drew fairly well at the gate, but the dismal finishes, seven coaches in six seasons and three different owners while in Colorado made for a very unstable franchise, which was eventually sold to John McMullen, who relocated the franchise to New Jersey for the 1982-83 season and renamed them the "Devils". Of note, the Devils would also play their very first game on this date in 1982, a 3-3 tie against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In New Jersey, the club would find it's long awaited stability and success, as McMullen would own the club for 18 years, have one general manager for 29 years and win three Stanley Cups.

Today's featured jersey is a 1976-77 Colorado Rockies Michel Plasse jersey worn in the Rockies first-ever game played on this date in 1976. Plasse was a goaltender who had actually spent some time with the franchise while they were in Kansas City, was backing up starting goaltender Doug Favell for the majority of the game, but did see action for a few minutes early in the third period when he relieved Favell who came out of the game while suffering from a cramp.

This jersey survived in such remarkable condition as both goalies would change numbers after a few games, with Plasse taking the #31, leaving this one relatively unused.

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1976-77 Colorado Rockies Nelson Pyatt jersey. This lightweight mesh jersey was from the Rockies first set of jerseys, worn early in their first season until their main jersey set arrived.

This jersey stands out due to it's smaller crest made of a white mountain, while the club's main jerseys had a much larger crest which consisted of a blue mountain outlined with a bold white outline as pictured in the player photos above.

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Here is an interview with Rockies captain Lanny McDonald on the occasion of his return to Toronto.

Our next video is some old time hockey featuring the Colorado Rockies.


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