Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saint Petersburg, Russia - 2012-13 SKA Saint Petersburg Ilya Kovalchuk Jersey

Founded 312 years ago on this date in 1703 by Peter the Great, Saint Petersburg (Sankt Peterburg) is the second largest city in Russia with a population of 5 million. From 1713 to 1728 and again from 1732 to 1918 it was the capital of Russia until the communist Russian Revolution of 1917. It is also the northernmost city in the world with a population of over a million.

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Saint Petersburg

The city was founded when Peter the Great desired a better seaport and won the territory from the Swedish Empire, who controlled the area at the time.

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Peter the Great

After the Russian victory, the Peter and Paul Fortress was built, the first brick and stone building of the new city from which the city got its name.

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The Peter and Paul Fortress, birthplace of Saint Petersburg

In the 1860's, following the emancipation of peasants in Russia, the city saw large growth, which saw Saint Petersburg surpass Moscow in population as well as becoming one of Europe's largest industrial cities. Additionally, it developed a major naval base, river and sea port.

Following the outbreak of World War I, the government renamed the city Petrograd, meaning "Peter's City" in order to remove the German words "Sankt" and "Burg"

In October of 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, stormed the grand Winter Palace, the official residence of the Russian monarchy dating back to 1732, which led to the transfer of all power to the Soviets and gave rise to the Communist Party. When the city was threatened with bombardment and invasion by advancing German troops, the Soviets transferred the capital to Moscow to keep it away from the border, as was the case in Petrograd.

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The Winter Palace, home of the Czars

On January 26, 1924, five days after the death of Lenin, the city was again renamed, this time to Leningrad.

During World War II, German forces laid siege to the city from September of 1941 until January of 1944, one of the longest, most destructive and lethal sieges of a major city in modern history, with over a million civilian casualties, mainly from starvation.

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Citizens fleeing German bombardment during the
devastating siege of Leningrad during World War II

In 1991, after the fall of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the city reverted back to its original name of Saint Petersburg.

It is considered the cultural center of Russia and is home to The Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world and one some 200 museums in the city. Additionally, there are about 8,000 architectural monuments, 50 theaters and many parks in Saint Petersburg.

It's main hockey club is SKA Saint Petersburgh, with SKA standing for Sports Club of the Army, written as CKA in Cyrillic. The team was founded in 1946 with the name Kirov LDO (Leningrad Officers Club). It underwent several name changes until changing to SKA in 1959. Like CSKA Moscow (Central Red Army), SKA belonged to the Soviet Ministry of Defense sports club system with its roster stocked with Leningrad Military District officers.

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SKA Leningrad were relegated for the 1947-48 season, but earned an immediate promotion back to the top level in their first try. Their return to the top level did not go well, and the club was once again demoted to the second division, and again won the right to return to the top division for 1950-51. This time they were successful in staying up, and remained in highest level for the next 40 years. The team remained in the top division until 1991, never having won a Soviet Championship League title thanks in large part to the dominance of CSKA Moscow.

Their first taste of success would wait until 1968 when they were a finalist for the USSR Cup, a season long knockout competition which ran concurrently with the league regular season. The club earned their first hardware in 1970, when they won their first Spengler Cup, defeating the Czechoslovakian team Dukla Jihlava.

The team repeated their Spengler Cup success with another victory over Dukla Jihlava in 1971 and then completed arguably the best season in club history with a bronze medal in the Soviet Championship League and a runner up finish in the USSR Cup.

Their next success would arrive with their third Spengler Cup victory in 1977 at the expense of Dukla Jihlava once again.

SKA Leningrad's next good result in the Soviet Championship League came with another bronze medal after the 1987 campaign.

That success would have to suffice for some time, as the political upheaval which arrived with the dissolution of the Soviet Union would affect the club's finances and resources as the changes in Russian society and it's sporting landscape sorted themselves out over the early part of the 1990's. This instability saw the team relegated for only the third time in it's history, as they were relegated following the 1990-91 season.

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A badge from their days as SKA Leningrad

Another affect the breakup of the Soviet Union had on the team was the name of their home city Leningrad changing back to it's historic, original pre-1914 name of Saint Petersburg in 1991. From then on, the club would now be known as Hockey Club SKA Saint Petersburg.

SKA Saint Petersburg logo, SKA Saint Petersburg logo

The team spent the 1991-92 season in the second division and joined the new International Hockey League for its debut 1992-93 season. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union, the landscape of Russian hockey was rather unstable, and in the IHL ceased after just four seasons, being replaced by the Russian Superleague in 1999.

While several teams were able to rise to the top and win championships with the loss of dominance by CSKA after its systemic advantages were lost following the fall of communism, SKA was not one of those. In the 12 years of the RSL, six different clubs won championships but Saint Petersburg was unable to win even a single playoff round.

The Kontinental Hockey League arrived in 2008-09. The club's fortunes began to look upwards, beginning in 2010, when they won their fourth Spengler Cup.

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SKA Saint Petersburg celebrate their 2010 Spengler Cup

Playoff success arrived in 2011-12 with the team making it to the conference finals before winning the Continental Cup as the team with the best regular season record at the conclusion of the 2012-13 regular season as they posted a 36-2-11-3 record for 115 points, 11 clear of second place. While they did advance to the conference finals again, the club lost in six games to the eventual champions Dynamo Moscow.

Finally in the 2014-15 season, the team finished second overall in the KHL and then defeated Torpedo Novgorod 4-1, Dynamo Moscow 4-1, Continental Cup winners CSKA Moscow in seven games before claiming their first championship in 69 years when they beat Ak Bars Kazan 4 games to 1.

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After never winning a domestic championship,
SKA Saint Petersburg won the 2015 Gagarin Cup

SKA were captained by former NHL goal scoring leader Ilya Kovalchuk, who was named the MVP of the Gagarin Cup Playoffs.

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SKA captain Kovalchuk hoisting the Gagarin Cup
for the team's first championship in 69 years

Other notable players to have skated for SKA include Maxim Afinogenov, Alexi Kasatonov, Darius Kasparaitis, Evgeni Nabokov, Alexi Ponikarovsky, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexi Yashin, Valeri Zelepukin and Sergei Zubov.

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Evgeni Nabokov in goal for SKA during their 5-3 exhibition game
victory against the Carolina Hurricanes in 2010

Their home games are held in The Ice Palace, which holds 12,300 fans and has hosted the IIHF European Champions Cup from 2005 to 2008. In 2011-12, SKA averaged 10,126 fans, becoming the first Russian club to average over 10,000 fans per game in a season. SKA also placed 6th overall in attendance in all of Europe and first in Russia.

Today's featured jersey is a 2012-13 SKA Saint Petersburg Ilya Kovalchuk jersey as worn by the NHLer early in the season while the NHL lockout was still in effect, foreshadowing his return to Saint Petersburg following his "retirement" from the NHL for the following season.

While in most leagues 68 seasons and no titles to show for it would be a cause for ridicule, not unlike baseball's Chicago Cubs, but the tilted system of Soviet hockey in favor of perennial champions CSKA (Central Red Army), 32 titles in 46 years and 13 in a row from 1978 to 1990, takes some of the heat of SKA as few clubs, other than perhaps Moscow Dynamo, were winning any championships either.

Of note, with the expansion of the KHL beyond the borders of Russia, the league no longer customizes player jerseys with the names on the back in Cyrillic, changing to English in 2011-12.

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Today's video section is highlights of SKA Saint Petersburg winning Game 5 of the Gagarin Cup Finals to win their first championship in 69 years.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

1976-77 Quebec Nordiques J. C. Tremblay Jersey

The Quebec Nordiques were one of the original 12 WHA franchises when the league was founded in 1972.

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The inaugural 1972-73 Quebec Nordiques

They were led by long-time Montreal Canadien J. C. Tremblay, already a 300 goal scorer in the NHL. His 89 points led the heavily French-Canadien Nordiques who finished out of the playoffs following the 1972-73 season with a 33-40-5 record.

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JC Tremblay in the Nordiques first jersey

New arrival
Serge Bernier led the team in scoring in 1973-74 with 86 points and Rejean Houle joined the club, also from Montreal as the team once again missed out on the playoffs.

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Serge Bernier led the club in scoring in 1974

Bernier became the first Nordique to crack the top ten in WHA scoring when he exploded for 54 goals and 122 points in 1974-75. Houle added 92 points and hit the 40 goal mark after being limited to 64 games. The team continued to add talent, with
Marc Tardif joining the club that season. His 38 goals and 72 points came in just 53 games after joining the team from the Michigan Stags. Real Cloutier would also make his Nordiques debut that season.

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Real Cloutier

The team would not only qualify for the playoffs for the first time ever, but romp past the Phoenix Roadrunners 4-1 and outlast the Minnesota Fighting Saints 4-2 to make it to the Avco World Trophy Finals before falling to
Gordie Howe and the Houston Aeros. Tardif led the club in playoff scoring with 21 points in 15 games.

Tardif led the way in 1975-76, setting a new team record with 148 points from an outstanding 71 goals and 77 assists in 81 games. Cloutier finished the season with 60 goals of his own to give the Nordiques the top two places in the goal scoring race, while Houle's 51 placed him fifth.

Tardif's 148 points won the league scoring title, with Cloutier tied for third with 114,
Chris Bordeleau sixth at 109 and Houle and Bernier eighth and ninth with 103 and 102, giving the high scoring Nordiques five of the top nine scorers. Tremblay and Tardif tied for the most assists with 77 each.

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Marc Tardif would win the WHA MVP award in 1975-76

The Nordiques high powered offense, which scored 371 goals (4.6 per game and 26 more than second place), failed to deliver in the playoffs however, as the Calgary Cowboys eliminated the Nordiques in five games while outscoring them 23-15.

With Tardif limited to 62 games, it was Cloutier's turn to lead the club offensively. His 66 goals and 141 points led won him the scoring title and his 66 goals were good for second. Tardif (109 points, sixth), Bordeleau (107, seventh) and Bernier (96, tenth) also finished in the top ten.

The Nordiques reduced their goals against over the course of the season by 21 and headed into the playoffs as the second overall seed. They first knocked out the New England Whalers and then the Indianapolis Racers, both 4 games to 1 to advance to the finals against the Winnipeg Jets.

The Jets took Game 1 in Quebec 2-1, but the Nordiques came back strong in Game 2, winning 6-1. The Jets returned the favor, winning by an identical 6-1 score back in Winnipeg, but the Nordiques gained a split in Winnipeg to even the series at 2-2 by winning Game 4 by a 4-2 margin.

Quebec rolled at home 8-3 but once more Winnipeg fired right back, destroying the Nordiques 12-3 in Winnipeg to force a seventh and deciding game back in Quebec. The Nordiques take their turn to dominate play, and win the game 8-2 to capture the franchises one and only title on this date in 1977.

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The WHA champion 1976-77 Quebec Nordiques

The Nordiques would play two more seasons in the WHA, with Tardif and Cloutier again going 1-2 in points in 1978, with Tardif's 154 setting the all-time WHA record and earning him his second league MVP award, with Cloutier winning the scoring title again in 1979, the fourth consecutive by a member of the Nordiques. However, they would fail to reach the AVCO World Trophy finals of the ever shrinking WHA again.

The club would survive to be one of the four WHA teams granted entry into the NHL, where they would play for 16 more seasons before financial difficulties and their inability to get a new, modern arena constructed would result in their sale and relocation to Denver, Colorado in 1995, only to win the Stanley Cup in their first season after leaving Quebec.

Today's featured jersey is a
1976-77 Quebec Nordiques J. C. Tremblay jersey as worn during the season in which the Nordiques would win their only championship in franchise history.

After 13 seasons and five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, Tremblay made the jump to the rival WHA Nordiques. He was the only player to play for the Nordiques all seven seasons of the WHA and had his #3 retired by the club.

The original 1972 Nordiques jerseys used light blue had a considerable amount of red on both the shoulders and waist stripe. The following season the blue was changed to a considerably darker shade and the amount of red was limited to the shoulders on the home jerseys and narrower striping.

The familiar Nordiques style seen here was adopted in 1975 and remained in use through the Nordiques final season in Quebec twenty years later, although a new jersey with a modernized logo was scheduled to be introduced the season the club relocated to Denver, Colorado.

1976-77 Quebec Nordiques

Our first video selection today features rare footage of Game 7 of the 1977 Finals. The white-clad players are often hard to see against the white ice since the video has brightness issues, but the thrill of the crowd is unmistakable as the home team dominates the game to win the title. Notice the number of fans who are able to run out onto the ice to join in the celebration!

If you have some time on your hands today, here is a highly recommended film entitled "Just Another Job", which runs 28 minutes and takes you behind the scenes of the Quebec Nordiques and coach Maurice Richard and their first ever game. Richard would only last two games as the Nordiques head coach!

Even if you don't have a half hour to spare, we implore you to at least check out the opening theme song, which runs a minute and a half and is not to be missed.

Monday, May 25, 2015

1988-89 Calgary Flames Al MacInnis Jersey

On this date in 1989 the Calgary Flames completed a journey that required 16 years and 1900 miles across two countries to complete.

The Flames began play in 1972 in Atlanta, Georgia as the NHL reacted quickly to occupy new arenas on Long Island, New York and Atlanta, Georgia to prevent the upstart World Hockey Association from moving into those markets.

The name "Flames" originated from the famous burning of Atlanta during the American Civil War and the club would play eight seasons in Atlanta before falling ticket sales were met with a rapid rise in player costs due to the competition for players between the NHL and WHA. When an offer for the club came from Nelson Skalbania, former owner of both the Edmonton Oilers and Indianapolis Racers of the WHA, the Atlanta ownership group accepted the offer and Skalbania immediately moved the club to Calgary, Alberta and keep not only the Flames name, but their jerseys as well, with only the flaming "A" changing to a flaming "C".

Flames jerseys

While the WHA's Calgary Cowboys never captured the fans hearts during their two seasons in Calgary, the Flames were an instant hit both on and off the ice. The Flames never won a playoff round in six tries while in Atlanta, but their first season in Calgary saw them defeat the Chicago Black Hawks 3-0 and the Philadelphia Flyers in seven to advance to the semifinals where they would lose in six games to the Minnesota North Stars.

After four consecutive playoff appearances the Flames would advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1986 by defeating the Winnipeg Jets 3-0, their inter-provence rivals the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 and the St. Louis Blues 4-3 before losing to the Montreal Canadiens 4 games to 1.

They kept their consecutive season playoff streak alive at 14 over the next three years, setting new franchise records for points in a season each time, first with 95, then leading the league with 105 and a second consecutive President's Trophy with 117 points in 1988-89.

The 1988-89 Flames were led by Joe Mullen's 107 points, which placed him 7th overall in the league scoring race. Joe Nieuwendyk tied Mullen for the team lead on goals with 51, which were career highs for both players. Doug Gilmour tied Mullen for the most assists with 59, with defenseman Al MacInnis and Hakan Loob right behind with 58 apiece.

MacInnis and Gary Suter led the Flames blueliners with 74 and 62 points as Mike Vernon's 52 games and 37 wins led the Flames goaltending department.

Captain Lanny MacDonald provided veteran leadership, as did Rob Ramage.

The Flames finished in first place in the Smythe Division and drew the fourth place Vancouver Canucks, who finished 43 points behind them in the standings, but the Canucks took the Flames all the way to overtime of Game 7 before Joel Otto scored the series winning goal on a deflection off his skate with just 39 seconds left in the first overtime period.

The Flames made quick work of the Los Angeles Kings, eliminating them in four straight to advance to the Conference Finals against Chicago. The teams split the first two games in Calgary before the Flames went on a run, winning the next three in a row to gain a rematch with the Canadiens, who had finished right behind the Flames with 115 regular season points, in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The 1989 Stanley Cup Finals remain the last time the top two seeds have met in the finals, as well as the most recent time two Canadian teams squared off for Lord Stanley's Cup.

Game 1 went to Calgary in overtime by a 3-2 score before losing 4-2 in Game 2. Montreal sustained their home ice advantage in Game 3 with a nail-biting 4-3 win in two overtimes only to have Calgary respond with a 4-2 win in Montreal in Game 4.

Game 5 in Calgary was a narrow 3-2 Flames win as McDonald scored the game winner to put Calgary up 3 games to 2 as the series moved back to Montreal.

McDonald scored the second Calgary goal and Gilmour took control with the game winning goal in the third period plus a late empty-netter to give the Flames their first, and to date only, Stanley Cup championship following a 4-2 win on this date in 1989. It would be the final goal of McDonald's 16 season NHL career, as he would retire during the off season.

1988-89 Calgary Flames

The win made Calgary the only team to ever win the Stanley Cup on the Canadiens home ice in 33 opportunities dating back to 1914. Flames coach Terry Crisp became only the 12th man to win the Stanley Cup as a player and a coach, although it should be noted that none of the Flames player's had ever won the cup before. Flames goaltender Vernon won his 16th playoff game in one season, tying the record.

MacInnis was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as he became the first defenseman to lead the NHL in playoff scoring with 31 points in 22 games.

Al MacInnis Conn Smythe 1989

Mullen was second for the Flames with 24 points and led the team with 16 goals. Gilmour was third with 22 to round out the players who averaged a point a game in playoff scoring.

Today's featured jersey is a 1988-89 Calgary Flames Al MacInnis jersey. This was the first time that the two participating teams would wear a special commemorative patch for the final series of the playoffs, a tradition which continues to this day, although the customary location for the patch changed from the left shoulder to the upper right chest the following season.

The Flames would continue to wear this style jersey through the 1993-94 season until it was replaced after 22 seasons of use and a change in logo after the franchise's relocation from Atlanta to Calgary.

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Today's video section begins with a brief highlight of the Flames overtime series winning goal in Game 7 against Vancouver.

Next up is Lanny McDonald's Game 6 goal in the cup finals.

This video is of the final seconds of the Game 6 and the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup presentations.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The History of Hockey in Indianapolis

With today being the annual running of the Indianapolis 500, we thought it would be an appropriate day to take a look at the history of hockey in Indianapolis.

The oldest team we could find information about is the Indianapolis Capitals of the American Hockey League who began play in the 1939-40 season. The Capitals, who were a farm team for the Detroit Red Wings, started out strong, winning their division in their very first season and two seasons later, after posting a 34-15-7 regular season record went on to capture the Calder Cup as league playoff champions in 1942.

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A look at the uniforms of the Indianapolis Captials

They would return to the finals in 1943 but it would take eight years for the Capitals to again win the Calder Cup following a sweep of the Cleveland Barons in 1950. The club, which played it's games at the Indiana State Fair Coliseum, lasted through the 1951-52 season. Les Douglas was the franchise's leading scorer, with 302 points in six seasons in Indianapolis. The most well known player for the Capitals was Terry Sawchuk, who spent two seasons tending goal before joining the Red Wings for a Hall of Fame career.

The next team to call Indianapolis home was the Indianapolis Chiefs of the International Hockey League from 1955-56 to 1961-62. They also called the coliseum home and started out poorly with an 11-48-1 record. They improved quite a bit in year two, but still finished under .500 at 26-29-5. The next season they again had a losing record (28-30-6), but came to life during the playoffs, eventually becoming the 1958 Turner Cup champions by outlasting the Louisville Rebels 4-3 in the finals. The club would last four more seasons and never manage a single winning record during their eight seasons of existence.

1956-57 Indianapolis Chiefs
The 1956-57 Indianapolis Chiefs

The next attempt at a hockey team in Indianapolis was extraordinarily brief, as the team, also named the Indianapolis Capitals but playing in the Central Hockey League this time around, had played nine games of their inaugural season when a gas explosion during an ice show killed 74 people and heavily damaged the coliseum, causing their parent club, again the Red Wings, to move the franchise to Cincinnati for the remainder of the season.

Indianapolis went without a team for the next nine years until the arrival of the first major league team in the city's history in the form of the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1974-75. The Racers, the first team to embrace the racing heritage of the city, played their games in the brand new 16,000 seat Market Square Arena.

The Racers had a rough start as well, winning 18 and losing 57 with 3 ties their first season in the then 14 team WHA. They bounced back nicely in year two, winning their division, although with a 35-39-6 mark. The following year they won their first playoff series but found the going much tougher in 1977-78, falling to last place in the now 8 team league and missing the playoffs.

Desperately trying to survive, owner Nelson Skalbania signed the then 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky to play for the Racers. The arrangement would only last eight games before Skalbania sold Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers. It was a death blow for the Racers, who lasted just 15 more games before folding after just 25 games and a dismal 5-18-2 record on December 15, 1978. Like the Chiefs, the Racers never posted a winning record in their four plus seasons.

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Wayne Gretzky during his time with the Racers

Other than Gretzky, Mark Messier had a five game cameo with the Racers and Dave Keon played 12 games in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Checkers, which suggested both "a check" in hockey as well as "a checkered flag" in racing, arrived the following season of 1979-80 as members of the Central Hockey League and played out of the coliseum. They provided the city with their first winning record since the 1950-51 Capitals when they began life with a 40-32-7 mark in their debut season. Two seasons later they improved upon that feat by winning the Adams Cup as champions of the CHL. They brought the fifth championship to Indianapolis when they went back-to-back by winning the title again in 1983 after a league best 50-28-2 record. After one more season in the CHL, down to just five clubs, folded. Long time Vancouver Canucks Goaltender Richard Brodeur and future New York Islander and Los Angeles Kings netminder Kelly Hrudey were the best known of the CHL era Checkers.

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The Checkers receiving the 1982 Adams Cup

The Checkers lived on however, as they joined the same IHL the Chiefs once belonged to for the 1984-85 season. The IHL was a step up from the CHL and the Checkers lasted three more seasons before relocating to Denver after the 1986-87 season.


After one season without professional hockey in the city, the Indianapolis Ice arrived in the 1988-89 season and began life at the coliseum, but had enough success to move to the larger Market Square Arena. Typically, the expansion club began slowly with a 26-54-2 record but immediately turned things around in their second season, going 53-21-8 to win the Western Division before storming through the playoffs with a 12-2 record to return the Turner Cup to Indianapolis for the first time since the Chiefs won it back in 1958, a gap of 32 years.

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Steve Dubinksy of the Indianapolis Ice in the 1994-95 season

They were never able to repeat their championship success over the next nine seasons, but did have five winning seasons and two division titles in their 11 year run in the IHL. The Ice were affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, and therefore had the services of none other than Dominik Hasek for parts of two seasons upon his arrival in North America.

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Dominik Hasek while a member of the Ice

After the 1998-99 season, the Ice left the struggling IHL, which lasted only two more seasons, and gained membership in the Central Hockey League, only a different CHL than the one the ill-fated 1963-64 Capitals were members of. The Ice won the Miron Cup as champions of the CHL the first time out. They continued to play for four more seasons before folding after the 2003-04 season, bringing to and end professional hockey in Indianapolis for the time being.

1999-00 Indianapolis Ice
The 2000 Miron Cup champion Indianapolis Ice

While the IHL Ice were active, there was also an Indianapolis Junior Ice that played Junior A hockey in the North American Hockey League from 1989-90 to 1994-95.

Another Junior A club named the Indiana Ice began play in the United States Hockey League in 2004 following the demise of the Ice of the CHL. They too, play at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the now renamed Pepsi Coliseum, which has been home to nearly every major hockey team in Indianapolis hockey history, dating all the way back to the original Capitals in 1939.

Following their first three sub .500 seasons, the Ice won the Eastern Division of the USHL in 2007-08 and became the Clark Cup champions in 2008-09, the fifth team from Indianapolis to win a championships for the city represented by five different trophies - the Calder, Turner, Adams, Miron and Clark!

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The Indiana Ice pose with the Clark Cup in 2008

Just one year ago, on May 20, 2014, the Ice captured their second Clark Cup as USHL champions, the ninth title for the city of Indianapolis.

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The Indiana Ice celebrate their second Clark Cup in 2014

One virtual constant throughout the history of hockey in the city of Indianapolis has been the Indiana State Fair Coliseum, now known as the Pepsi Coliseum, which opened in 1939, which also saw the arrival of the Indianapolis Capitals. It seats 8,200 fans. In addition to all the various hockey teams who have called the Coliseum home, it has also hosted the Indiana Pacers basketball team while they were members of the ABA from 1967 to 1974, which included league titles in 1970, 1972 and 1973.

It has also hosted boxing cards, boat and sports shows, horse shows, graduation ceremonies and concerts, which include such acts as The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Who.

Indiana State Fair Coliseum
The Indiana State Fair Coliseum

Today's race will be paced by fastest qualifier and previous winner Scott Dixon, who flew around the track for an average of 226.760 mph. The pole position is his second, the first coming in 2008 when he went on to win the race that year.

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Scott Dixon posing at the yard of bricks

Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Indianapolis Racers Michel Parizeau jersey from the first Indianapolis team to embrace the heritage of the Indianapolis 500 in their identity package.

The Racers wore the same jerseys for each of their five seasons, the last two changing from two color names to one color names on the back and this jersey has the distinction of being Wayne Gretzky's first professional jersey.

Parizeau never led the club in scoring, but through his longevity of the ever-evolving roster was the Racers all-time leader in points, with 136 during his four seasons with the Racers. Parizeau played with both the St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers in 1971-72, scoring 3 goals in 58 total games. He then joined the Quebec Nordiques of the brand new WHA in 1972 and reeled off four seasons of 25 goals or more, including a change from the Nordiques to the Racers in 1975-76. In 509 WHA games, Parizeau scored 142 goals and 394 points.

Indianapolis Racers 77-78 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1978-79 Indianapolis Racers Michel Parizeau jersey from the Racers final season. In fact, the Racers did not make it to 1979, folding after just 25 games of the season on December 17, 1978 with a record of 5-18-2, having sold Gretzky after just eight games of the schedule.

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photos courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with highlights of the Indianapolis Racers from 1974 to 1979.

Perhaps the most significant moment in Indianapolis hockey history, Wayne Gretzky's first professional goal as a member of the Racers.

Up next is the Indiana Ice winning the 2014 Clark Cup, the most recent of nine championships for hockey teams to call Indianapolis home.

Finally, an Indy 500 tradition that came to an end last year, Jim Nabors singing "Back Home Again in Indiana", something he had done almost every year since 1972.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The New England Whalers Become the Hartford Whalers

Founded in 1972, the World Hockey Association began it's first season with an ambitious twelve member clubs located in Cleveland, Boston, New York, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Quebec, Edmonton, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Minnesota and Winnipeg.

Team movement began before the second season had even begun, with Philadelphia relocating to Vancouver and Ottawa finding a new home in Toronto, while New York moved over to New Jersey and underwent a name change.

The third season saw expansion to Indianapolis and Phoenix, while the New Jersey franchise relocated cross-country to San Diego as Los Angeles moved to Detroit for just half a season prior to moving to Baltimore before folding for good after the season, as did Chicago.

And so it went for the next four seasons with additions such as Cincinnati and Denver, teams moving to Calgary, Ottawa again, Birmingham and Minnesota again, while clubs in San Diego, Phoenix, Calgary and Houtson folded after their seasons ended.

Worse, clubs were no longer waiting until the conclusion of the season to fold, as Ottawa, Minnesota (twice) and Indianapolis all called it quits mid-season.

Still, the four constants during all the franchise meandering and bankruptcies were the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets and the New England Whalers, although in the interest of fairness it must be noted that the Whalers did relocate from Boston 91 miles up the freeway to Hartford, Connecticut midway though the 1974-75 season while keeping the "New England" moniker throughout.

New England Whalers logo
The Whalers won the first WHA championship in 1973 and made the finals again in 1978. Finally after several years of negotiations and failed attempts, the Oilers, Jets, Nordiques and Whalers were granted expansion status into the NHL, leaving Birmingham and Cincinnati out in the cold. The original merger/expansion vote was initially rejected by a single vote but a massive boycott of Molson products in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Quebec City led to the Montreal Canadiens, who were owned by Molson at the time, and the Vancouver Canucks to change their votes during a second ballot, approving the plan on March 22, 1979.

One provision of the expansion, as the NHL chose to treat it, rather than a "merger", was the Boston Bruins insisting that the Whalers drop "New England" from their name. Thus, on this date in 1979, the New England Whalers formally changed their name to the Hartford Whalers.

The WHA teams were severely restricted by the terms of the deal. Since they were being treated as expansion clubs, they each were required to pay a $6 million franchise fee to enter the NHL, as well as returning any player who had left the NHL to join the WHA without compensation after being allowed to protect just two goalies and two skaters. They were also placed at the end of the line for the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, rather than having picks 1-4 as any normal expansion club would expect.

The Whalers chose to keep Jordy DouglasMark Howe and goaltender John Garrett. An agreement was also reached which allowed Gordie Howe to remain in Hartford despite the Detroit Red Wings legally having the right to reclaim the now 50 year old Howe.

The Whalers did lose Alan Hangsleben (Canucks), Rick Ley (Maple Leafs), George Lyle (Red Wings) and Warren Miller (Rangers) to their original clubs.

Once the reclaiming process was completed, an expansion draft was held, which allowed each NHL team to protect 15 skaters and two goalies before the "new" clubs were allowed to restock their rosters at a cost of $125,000 for each player chosen.

Thus, the Whalers paid $250,000 to simply keep Ley and Hangsleben on their roster in the end when they reclaimed the pair among the 16 players they selected at a cost of $2 million on top of the $6 million they had already been charged simply for the right to become a member of the NHL.

The move to the NHL resulted in an overhaul of the team's sweaters and logo. While the original team colors were simply green and white, gold trim was added for the second season while the crest was simplified to a "W" bisected by a harpoon. These jerseys would remain in use for three seasons before some striping changes to the road jerseys and the player's names changing from one color to two in 1976-77. The home jersey waist striping was changed to mirror that of the road jerseys in 1977-78 through the final WHA season of 1978-79.

On entry to the NHL, gold was dropped in favor of royal blue and a completely new jersey was designed to compliment the brand new, much more modernized team logo.

Hartford Whalers Logo
Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 New England Whalers Rick Ley jersey. This was the third variation of road jerseys used by the Whalers while in the WHA and differed from the second version only in the waist stripes. No longer was it a wide white stripe with gold trim three stripe pattern, but now a main white stripe (thinner than previous) bordered with a pair of green stripes which were then in turn bordered by a pair of gold stripes in a five stripe "Northwestern" pattern as featured on today's jersey.

Ley played four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs prior to moving to the Whalers for their inaugural WHA season of 1972-73 through the demise of the WHA in 1979, being named team captain in 1975.

While Ley was reclaimed by the Maple Leafs as part of the expansion process, the Whalers reclaimed him from the Maple Leafs (for $125,000) and he played two more seasons with the renamed Hartford Whalers in the NHL, remaining team captain until 1980.

He would play 310 NHL games and 478 in the WHA with a combined 47 goals and 329 points plus 1244 penalty minutes. His #2 was one of only three numbers retired by the Whalers franchise.

New England Whalers jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with the kind we just live for. First, the Whalers are introduced to the sounds of "Brass Bonanza" in an all-too-short clip, followed by their December 27, 1976 Super Series meeting in which the New England Whalers defeated the Soviet National Team, with Vladislav Tretiak in goal, 5-2!

Friday, May 22, 2015

1907 Kenora Thistles Tommy Phillips Jersey

Born in Rat Portage, Ontario, Tommy Phillips played for the local junior team before moving to Montreal to attending McGill University in 1902, where he joined the school's hockey team and was named the team captain. He also found time to play with the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, who were the present holders of the Stanley Cup at the time Phillips joined the club.

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The 1900 Rat Portage Thistles

In late January of 1903 the Montreal AAA faced a challenge from the Winnipeg Victorias, which was a best-of-three format. Montreal won Game 1 by a score of 8-1 and Game 2 was declared a tie after 27 minutes of overtime when the clock reached midnight. While Winnipeg won the third game 4-2, Montreal retained the cup with a 4-1 win  in the deciding fourth game as Phillips contributed 3 goals during the series.

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The 1903 Montreal Amateur Athletic Association

Phillips moved to Toronto to attend a different school in late 1903, and while there, he joined the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey Association and played as their rover. He scored 5 goals in 4 games as the club won the city and province championships, which earned the Marlboros the right to challenge the Ottawa Hockey Club for the cup in late February of 1904, which Ottawa was able to defend 2 games to none.

He returned to Rat Portage to be with his ailing father later in 1904 and took a job with a lumber company as well as a bonus to play hockey for the Rat Portage Thistles. During his first season with the team he finished second in the league with 26 goals in 8 games.

The Thistles won the Manitoba Hockey League title with a 7-1 record and subsequently challenged the Ottawa Senators for the rights to the Stanley Cup in March of 1905, a series won by Ottawa 2 games to 1. The Thistles won the first game 9-3, with Phillips finding the net no less than five times. While Ottawa took the third game by a score of 5-4, Phillips had a hat trick in the losing effort.

The founding fathers of Rat Portage saw fit to merge with the towns of Keewatin and Norman, and taking the first two letters from each, renamed the newly formed municipality Kenora in 1905. While the town's name may have changed, the hockey team kept the name Thistles.

For the 1905-06 season, the Kenora Thistles repeated their 7-1 record to win the league title once more,  with Phillips scoring 24 goals in 9 games. However, a warm spring left the teams without suitable ice for a cup challenge until the following winter!

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The 1906 Kenora Thistles

Phillips led the league in 1906-07 with 18 goals in 6 games for Kenora, who then got their long-awaited Stanley Cup challenge against the Montreal Wanderers in January of 1907. The Thistles roster was stacked with four future Hockey Hall of Famers, including "Bad" Joe Hall, Tom Hooper and Art Ross. The format of the series was a two-game, total-goals series. Phillips, the Kenora team captain, led the way in Game 1, scoring all four Thistles goals for a 4-2 win, giving Kenora a 2 goal cushion entering Game 2.

Both Phillips and Hooper recorded hat tricks in Game 2 as Kenora won the game 8-6, taking the series 12-8 and claiming the Stanley Cup for tiny Kenora, the smallest town to ever hold the cup.

Thistles headline photo Thistlesheadline.jpg

After their challenge in January, Kenora returned home with the cup to finish their league schedule, which ran through March. The Thistles won the MPHL league playoff title to retain the cup and were then immediately challenged by the Wanderers in late March. The Thistles had lost three players to injuries and skillfully replaced them all with future Hall of Famers, Alf Smith, Harry "Rat" Westwick and Fred Whitcroft. There was some controversy over Kenora's use of their replacements, but in the end Montreal won back the cup 12 goals to 8 after the series was moved to Winnipeg in search of better playing conditions. Phillips recorded a goal in each of the two games of the challenge.

 photo 1907 Kenora Thistles team.jpg
The 1907 Stanley Cup Champion Kenora Thistles

Phillips was lured east thanks to the rise in professional hockey, as up until 1906 he played in amateur leagues. Despite an potentially higher offer from the Wanderers, Phillips signed to play with Ottawa and finished third in the league with 26 goals.

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Tommy Phillips while with the Ottawa Senators

His stay in Ottawa was brief, as he signed to play for the Edmonton Hockey Club for the 1908-09 season. His first assignment for Edmonton was to participate in their cup challenge against the Wanderers in Montreal. Game 1 was a 7-3 loss for Edmonton, who also lost Phillips for the upcoming season when he broke his ankle during the contest.

He continued to travel west, as he signed for the Nelson Hockey Club in British Columbia for the 1909-10 season before playing the 1911-12 season for the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, where he scored 17 goals in 17 games to bring his career to an end at the age of 29.

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Phillips final club, the 1911-12 Vancouver Millionaires

Phillips played a total of 67 league and cup games, scoring 141 goals, a career average of over 2 goals per game, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as part of it's inaugural class in 1945.

Today's featured jersey is a 1907 Kenora Thistles Tommy Phillips jersey. The Thistles name was chosen in a contest and the winner was a local Scottish carpenter named Bill Dunsmore who not only submitted the name in reference to the region's Scottish heritage, but a drawing of a thistle for the team's logo.

This jersey is the style worn by the 1907 Stanley Cup champion Thistles clubThese jerseys were reproduced by the CBC in connection with their "Hockey: A People's History" documentary, and are sadly no longer available on demand.

In another one of those amazing youtube moments, here is a video on the Kenora Thistles. While the original Thistle club disbanded in 1908, subsequent clubs in Kenora have adopted the Thistle name, which was the case for the club that Louis McKay played on in 1934.


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