Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Giant Hockey Jerseys

Born on this date in Grenoble, France in 1946, Andre Rene Roussimoff is better known to the world as former professional wrestler Andre the Giant. The third of five children, Andre did not show any signs early on that he would grow to such oversized proportions brought on by acromegaly, a disease which results in excessive growth hormones. While the rest of his siblings ceased growing at the usual age, Andre's body continued to grow, and at the age of 12, he stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall.

He started to make a name for himself wrestling in France where he came to the attention of French-Canadian wrestler Edouard Carpentier, who convinced Andre to make the move to North America, where he moved from the undercard to headliner, performing in front of 20,000 fans in Montreal.

This level of success brought Andre to the attention of Vince McMahon, Sr., head of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, who not only signed him to a contract in 1972, but dubbed him "Andre the Giant". He was now selling out venues such as Madison Square Garden in New York and making appearances in the Boston Bruins dressing room!

Vadnais and Orr with Andre the Giant
Andre, reportedly 7 feet, 4 inches and 500 pounds, easily hoists Carol Vadnais (6' 1", 190 lbs.) and Bobby Orr (5' 11", 200 lbs.)

Phil Espostio explains how the photo came to be in his book "Thunder and Lightning", some of which we can repeat here.

"Carol Vadnais was acquired in a trade with the California Golden Seasls late in the 1971-72 season. We were skating around the Boston Garden during the warm-up before a game, and in the stands behind the net was this huge man with a gigantic head and an afro haircut. I had never seen anyone like him in my life.

I said, "Who the hell is that? Look at that guy!"

Vad said, "That's my buddy, Andre the Giant."

"The wrestler?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

After the game Andre came into the dressing room. I used to have a picture of Andre holding me up in one arm and Bobby Orr in the other.

We knew this girl who was gorgeous, but who love the Bruins so much she would do absolutely anything for us, and we fixed her up with Andre. We all went out after the game to have drinks. We were in a place on Commonwealth Avenue that had a bar and a swimming pool inside. I'll tell you how big Andre was. He ordered a beer, and when he held it, he only needed two fingers to cover that can of beer.

At one o'clock the manager came and asked us all to leave. We were all together, and Bobby Orr said something to Andre, and Andre picked the guy up and threw him into the swimming pool! The cops came and we left."

His fame, as well as his frame, continued to grow, as Andre was paired with boxer Chuck Wepner in a 1976 "boxer vs. wrestler" match at Shea Stadium in New York in front of over 35,000 fans, which ended with Andre tossing the 6' 5" Wepner out of the ring. Andre was also the subject of a Sports Illustrated article in 1981, the kind of appeal and mass recognition that few, if any, professional wrestlers had ever achieved at that point.

Eventually Vince McMahon, Jr. would take control of the WWWF wrestling empire, shorten the name to the WWF and create the first nation-wide wrestling promotion, of which the crown jewel was "WrestleMainia". For WrestleMania III in 1987, in the headline match saw Andre the Giant squared off against Hulk Hogan at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan in front of a sold out crowd of 93,173 and generated $10 million in pay-per-view sales. He eventually became the WWF Heavyweight Champion.

Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan

Despite the increasing issues with his health, he continued to wrestle and later make appearances ringside until 1992. In 1993, when the WWF created it's Hall of Fame, Andre the Giant was the very first, and only, inductee that year.

He also crossed over into television and movie roles, well known for his portrayal as Sasquatch in the TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man" and most notably for his role as "Fezzik" in the movie "The Princess Bride".

Andre passed away at the age of 46 in his sleep from a heart attack on January 27, 1993 in Paris, France.

In honor of Andre the Giant, today we take a look at some giant hockey jerseys.

Most recently, the United States Women's Olympic team toured with an oversized promotional jersey in their Qwest Tour exhibition season leading up to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. There were actually two of them made by Nike at a cost of $1,000 each. Aside from the fact the jerseys are 26 feet wide from cuff to cuff and 17 feet tall, they are the same as a regular jersey, only on a much bigger scale.

2010 USA giant jersey

Another notable jersey, 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide, is an Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky jersey made for the Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp VII in 2009, which consists of 23 yards of fabric, compared to three for a normal jersey, which took seamstress Patsy Elmer approximately 35 hours to complete. After the conclusion of the fantasy camp, the jersey now resides in an arena in the Frank Lacroix Arena in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Giant Gretzky jersey

Another enormous jersey decorated the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1997 when the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The statue measures 37 feet tall, making the jersey 16 feet tall in our estimation.

William Penn Flyers jersey

The Field Museum in Chicago has gotten on the Blackhawks bandwagon, dressing their three story high cast iron Brachiosaurus statue in a Jonathan Toews jersey for the playoffs recently.

Field Museum Dinosaur jersey

Perhaps the most famous oversized jersey is the Detroit Red Wings jersey, traditionally used to dress the 26 foot tall Spirit of Detroit statue in downtown Detroit since they made the finals in 1997. The jersey has actually undergone several variations, including sporting the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals and Believe patches, a very nice touch and great attention to detail.

Spirit of Detroit 1998

In 2009 the statue was dressed in a new, undersized and absurdly tight Reebok jersey, more fitting for Johnny Weir than Johan Franzen, which will apparently make the Spirit of Detroit 9% faster than before...

Spirit of Detroit 2009

Other Detroit landmarks have seen Red Wings jerseys make appearances during the Stanley Cup Finals, with both the statues on the Wayne County Building and the Tiger statues outside of Comerica Park getting into the spirit.

Other Red Wings jerseys

If you are aware of any additional oversized hockey jerseys, we'd love to hear about them. Either post them in the comments below, or email us with the details.

Today's video section kicks off with the Spirit of Detroit getting dressed for the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. Or is it the 2009 US Figure Skating Championships?


Next up is the famous match between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania III.


Here are recollections by those involved in the movie of Andre playing "Fezzik" in the Princess Bride.


Does Andre the Giant have a connection to a current NHL team captain? Here is evidence that suggests there very well may be one...


Dasherboard: While the NHL playoffs have certainly seen their share of upsets, with the top three seeds in the East being knocked out in the first round and the 7th and 8th teams meeting in the conference final to determine who goes to the Stanley Cup Finals, the World Championships in Germany have also seen some very surprising results to date.

With the Preliminary Round seeing Canada losing to Switzerland, the Czech Republic losing to Norway and the United States being beaten by Germany, there was no bigger unexpected result than Denmark shocking first Finland 4-1 and then outlasting the USA 2-1 in overtime to send the Americans to the relegation round, guaranteeing their worst finish since 2003.

The Relegation Round went as expected, with the USA winning easily over Kazakhstan and France before being taken to a shootout with Italy to remain secure in the Top Division for 2011 while Italy and Kazakhstan drop down to Division I for next year.

In general, the Qualification Round saw the expected teams advance to the Playoff Round, which begins tomorrow. With several of the games from the Preliminary Round carrying over, several teams had a head start in the standings, such as Switzerland's wins over Latvia and Canada and Russia's wins over Slovakia and Belarus.

Once the Group E and F games began anew, Denmark continued to surprise, demolishing a surprisingly poor Slovakia 6-0, Switzerland remained strong defeating the Czech Republic 3-2 before suffering a defeat at the hands of Norway. Canada has also been mediocre, losing to Sweden and the Czech Republic and only advancing to the Playoff Round by winning a tie breaker against Norway!

The Quarterfinals thus produce some very interesting matchups, with Finland vs. the Czech Republic while Denmark looks to advance against their Scandinavian neighbors Sweden in the early games.

The late games have Switzerland taking on hosts Germany while what is usually a Final or Semifinal matchup, sees Canada looking to save their tournament against what must be a rather heavily favored Russia, who will clearly have their drubbing by Canada in February at the Olympics fresh in their minds.

The four winners will meet in the Semifinals on Saturday with the bronze medal game followed by the Championship Final on Sunday in Cologne.

3 comments:

  1. The Pepsi Center blows up a giant inflatable jersey that has the front of a home jersey on one side and the front of an away jersey on the other for home games.
    You can see the jersey in the background of this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRFPFBZOSxU at the 1:00 - 1:05 mark.

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  2. That "Edge" jersey on the statue in Detroit borders on obscene. It looks like a guy with no pants on!

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  3. I'm not sure if this counts, but there is a giant Capitals jersey at the mall where the team's practice facility is. I'm not sure if it is an actual jersey or just a banner however. Will have to check if there are sleeves the next time I'm there.
    http://40-4d.50megs.com/giantcapsjersey.jpg

    ReplyDelete

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