Saturday, March 6, 2010
Mike Gartner started his pro career with the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association, having just turned 19 years old, below the NHL minimum age of 20 at the time. His 27 goals and 52 points that season for the Stingers got the attention of the general mangers in the NHL, and Gartner was drafted 4th overall by the Washington Captials in the summer of 1979 following the demise of the Stingers and the WHA.
As a rookie with the Capitals, Gartner scored 36 goals, beginning a streak of 30 goals or more seasons that would eventually reach into the mid 90's.
In ten seasons with the Capitals, Gartner would average 39.7 goals per season and never less than 35 until the 1988-89 season when he was traded to the Minnesota North Stars 56 games into the season while currently at 26 goals. He would, however, score an additional seven goals in Minnesota to keep his streak going at ten seasons.
After enjoying so much stability in Washington, Gartner's time in Minnesota would be brief, as he was dealt to the New York Rangers after 67 games in 1989-90, but not before scoring 34 goals with the North Stars. After joining the Rangers, he would add 11 more to his season total which allowed him to reach the 40 goal mark for the sixth time.
Three consecutive 40 goal seasons in Manhattan followed, which included his surpassing the 500 and 600 goal barriers as well as 1,000 points, prior to Gartner once more being on the move, this time to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. His 28 goals in 71 games in New York and the six he scored in 10 games with the Maple Leafs pushed his 30 goal streak to an NHL record 15 consecutive seasons.
The strike shortened season of 1994-95 only allowed Gartner to play in 38 games, limiting him to just 12 goals and unfairly ending his streak of 30 goal seasons at 15.
Back to a full season schedule in 1995-96, Gartner would run his 30 goal season total up to 16 with 35 goals. The Maple Leafs would trade Gartner to the Phoenix Coyotes in time for their first season in the desert, having just relocated from Winnipeg. There, Gartner would achieve his 17th season of 30 goals or more in his career, also a league record, when he scored twice on this date in 1997 in a 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. His second goal of the night was also the 1,300th point in his NHL career.
Gartner would play one final season in the NHL with Phoenix. He would play in 60 games and score 12 goals, which included his 700th career goal, on the fifth player to ever reach that mark.
His final career totals are 708 goals, good for sixth all time, and 627 assists for 1,335 points.
While Gartner set records for his consistent goal scoring, he was probably better known for his speed, winning the always popular and high profile "Fastest Skater Competition" at the NHL All-Star Game each of the three times he entered, including 1993 when he scored four goals and was named the MVP of the All-Star Game.
During his career he would play in seven NHL All-Star Games and following his career he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001 and his #11 was retired by the Capitals in 2008.
Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1985-86 Washington Capitals Mike Gartner jersey.
This jersey features the five stars down the sleeves, which the Capitals jerseys had from 1974-75 until 1982-83 until going to just four stars for two seasons until reverting back to five again for the 1985-86 season.
Here is a great career retrospective of Mike Gartner's career on the occasion of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, followed by his speech. The audio is a tad bit distorted, but still listenable.
Friday, March 5, 2010
The Quebec Nordiques opened the 1991-92 season without their first overall draft pick from the summer of 1991, Eric Lindros, but with a win at home versus the Hartford Whalers on October 5th by a score of 4-1.
It would be the last time all season they would have a winning record.
Today's video highlight are the Quebec Nordiques selecting Mats Sundin first overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft, the first European ever drafted first overall. Unfortunately for Sundin, they apparently didn't have baseball caps in Sweden at that time, resulting in the world's first stovepipe ballcap.
Two losses on the road followed at New Jersey and Minnesota. They returned home on October 12th and lost to the Buffalo Sabres before a tie against the Islanders.
Five more losses piled up between the 17th and 26th, two of those coming on the road at Philadelphia and Montreal, before a 7-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets at home on the 29th.
October closed with a road loss to the Rangers in New York, leaving them with a 2-9-1 record for the season's opening month and winless on the road.
November was more of the same. A win at home was followed by six consecutive losses, with three being road games. A win at home against Montreal on November 21st was followed by a loss to the Canadiens in Montreal on the 23rd.
Perhaps the bright spot of the season was the stretch from November 25th to December 10th, as the Nordiques won at home again over the Whalers and then earned their first point on the road with a 4-4 tie in Buffalo. A loss to St. Louis on the road was followed by a five game unbeaten streak, two wins at home, a tie in Boston and another pair of wins at home.
Unfortunately, that was quickly followed by a seven game winless streak that saw the team travel to Detroit (loss), return home and lose to the Blues, a loss in Washington D. C., a trip over to Calgary (tie), down to San Jose (loss), across the Canadian border again up to Vancouver (tie) and then back across the continent for a home game against Montreal (loss) to complete the journey.
They would finish out 1991 with a pair of wins at home, once again over Hartford followed by Toronto but still without a win away from Le Colisee.
January was very unkind to the Nordiques, with four losses on the road to start the year, followed by three losses at home and another on the road for an eight game losing streak.
A win over the Jets at home broke the losing streak but the Nordiques would go winless over their next ten, losing four on the road, four at home and a pair of ties on the road before a win at home over Minnesota ended that winless skid.
A five game road trip again found the Nordiques go winless after a tie in Pittsburgh, a loss in Harford, a tie in Montreal and a pair of losses in California to San Jose and Los Angeles left the Nordiques at 13-41-9 overall and a road record of 0-25-8 at the end of February.
Their winless streak on the road would finally come to an end on this date in 1992, with the Nordiques 10-4 shellacking of the Hartford Whalers, highlighted by Mats Sundin's five goals and two assists for seven points, which included his third career hat trick.
The Nordiques would go 6-7-2 the rest of the way, winning both ends of a home and home against Buffalo to end the season 20-48-12 with a road record of 2-30-9.
Joe Sakic would lead the club in scoring with 94 points, followed by Sundin's 76. Owen Nolan led the team in goals with 42 on his way to third in scoring with 73 to distance the top three from the rest of the squad, with no one else scoring more than 45.
The Nordiques fortunes would begin to turn around in the off-season when Lindros was finally traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for six players, a pair of first round draft picks and $15 million, which led to the Nordiques making the playoffs in 1992-93 and beginning the franchise's rise to prominence, albeit in Denver, Colorado as the Avalanche.
Sundin would play one more season for the Nordiques, his fourth, before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the summer of 1994.
Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1991-92 Quebec Nordiques Mats Sundin jersey. This jersey features the NHL 75th Anniversary patch worn by all players in the NHL to commemorate the league's anniversary.
This was the first season that the Nordiques added the red trim around their previously single color numbers.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
On this date in 1999, the Toronto Maple Leafs set an NHL record for the fewest shots taken in a winning effort with just nine shots on goal in a 4-0 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Today's featured jersey is a 1998-99 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey. This attractive alternate jersey is one of the finest alternate jerseys in NHL history. It's clean, simple look is further enhanced by the lace-up collar and throwback logo, very much like the style worn from 1958 to 1967.
The Maple Leafs registered three shots on goal during the first period to ten for St. Louis, but ended the period leading 1-0 on a breakaway goal by Steve Sullivan with an assist from Mike Johnson at 11:03. Little did St. Louis know there ten shots in the first period would be more than the Maple Leafs would register for the whole game.
The second period went even better for Toronto, when Mats Sundin scored on their first shot when he beat St. Louis starting goaltender Brent Johnson with a wrist shot off Johnson's glove from the right faceoff circle.
Toronto's second shot of the period also found the back of the net when Lonny Bohonos, who had just been called up from the minors earlier that same day, fired a slapshot from the right circle, beating Johnson between his pads at 5:58, ending Johnson's day after giving up three goals on just five shots.
With Jim Carey now in goal, the Blues fared no better as Gary Valk scored for Toronto on a 2-on-1 with Igor Korolev on the first shot Carey would face, giving Toronto four goals on six shots. Carey would save the only other shot he saw in the second period, as St. Louis again outshot Toronto, this time eight to four for the period, although Toronto scored on three of the four.
Carey was able to withstand the two shot barrage he faced in the third period, but the Blues failed to score on any of the ten shots they threw at Toronto netminder Curtis Joseph, who made 28 saves while blanking his former club, the 22nd shutout of his career.
Of the nine Toronto shots, three were credited to Sundin, with no one else having more than one.
When asked about the low number of shots, Sullivan responded "As Glen Healy told me once, 'Good teams look at the scoreboard and not the shot clock.' "
This jersey also features the Memories and Dreams patch worn that year to commemorate the final season of Maple Leaf Gardens, the Maple Leafs long time home since 1931.
Today's video is Hamada Takasi playing the Maple Leaf Rag on his banjo. Arigatou gozaimasu.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
On this date in 2002, Teppo Numminen of the Phoenix Coyotes became the first Finnish player to appear in 1,000 NHL games in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. He also became the first player to play in 1,000 games in Coyotes franchise history.
Numminen, a defenseman, was drafted 29th overall by the Winnipeg Jets while playing for Tappara in Tampere, Finland in the SM-liiga.
He came to North America to play with the Jets in 1988-89, appearing in 69 games and registering 15 points. Over the course of the next three seasons, Numminen would appear in 239 out of a possible 240 games, establishing his reputation as a reliable and durable player.
He would play four more seasons in Winnipeg, which included a career high with 54 points in 1995-96 from 11 goals and 43 assists, never playing less than 57 games aside from the strike shortened season of 1994-95 before the Jets would relocate to Phoenix.
The desert air seemed to be good for Numminen's health, as he would go on a consecutive games streak, which dated back to December 15, 1995 in Winnipeg, that would eventually see him hold the longest active streak for games played in the NHL. After playing 74 games in the Jets final season in Winnipeg, he would play every game of the Coyotes first three seasons in Phoenix., which included the second 50 point season of his career with 51 in 1997-98.
While the consecutive games streak would come to an end in 1999-2000, the next four seasons would see him play between 72 and 79 games per season, which included his 1,000th game for the franchise on this date in 2002. He was named captain of the Coyotes before the 2001-02 season, a position he would hold for two seasons.
After fifteen seasons with the Jets/Coyotes franchise, Numminen was dealt to the Dallas Stars for the 2003-04 season. He sat out the lockout year of 2004-05 and resumed his NHL career by signing with the Buffalo Sabres for two more 70+ game seasons. During the 2006-07 season, Numminen would play in his 1252nd game, setting a record for the most games by a European-trained player, passing Jari Kurri.
His first two years in Buffalo afforded Numminen the first two extensive playoff experiences of his career, as the Sabres would make it to the Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007. His 28 playoff games those two years stand out when compared to the fact the Jets or Coyotes never made it past the first round in nine previous tries of Numminen's career.
Numminen required heart surgery before the start of the 2007-08 season and returned to play in the Sabres final game of the season. His last season in the NHL, 2008-09, saw Numminen play 57 games for the Sabres. He would finish with 117 goals and 520 assists for 637 points in 1372 games played, a record for a European trained player at the time and still the most by a Finn. His 1,098 games were a franchise record for the Coyotes.
His #27 was retired by the Coyotes in 2010 and joined Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk and Thomas Steen as members of the Coyotes Ring of Honor.
Prior to coming to North America, Numminen competed for Finland in the World Championships and the Canada Cup in 1987 prior to competing in the World Junior Championships!
In all, Numminen would compete for Finland in the World Championships six times, earning a silver medal in 1994, the Canada Cup once, the World Cup of Hockey twice and in four Olympics, winning bronze in 1998 and silver in 1988 and 2006.
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 Phoenix Coyotes Teppo Numminen jersey as worn during his 1,000th NHL game on this date in 2002, becoming the first Finnish player to reach 1,000 NHL games.
The Coyotes wore this style jersey from their first season in Phoenix in 1996-97 through the 2002-03 season before undergoing a radical identity re-branding that coincided with their move into their new arena. This style jersey was always considered quite unusual and had a very polarizing effect, with the fans either loving the uniqueness or hating it for how busy and odd they considered it to be.
In today's video section, Teppo Numminen's jersey #27 is retired by the Coyotes in 2010 and he is inducted into the club's ring of honor.
Next, an interview with Numminen just prior to his jersey retirement.
Finally, a tribute to Numminen, which also includes footage of him from his playing days in Finland.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The Toronto Arenas had won the Stanley Cup in 1918 but quickly ran into financial difficulties and were sold by their owners, The Toronto Arena Company, who owned the Arena Gardens rink where the team played, to new owners for $5,000, who then changed the club's name to the Toronto St. Patricks and their sweaters from blue to green.
Rebounding from a chaotic 5-13 season resulting from the sale or defection of their best players due to the financial problems of the previous ownership, the club was essentially starting over for the 1919-20 season.
While they did not qualify for the playoffs, the St. Patricks did improve their season record to 12-12 and were led in points by Corb Denneny, a holdover from the Toronto Arenas, who had 24 goals and 36 points in 24 games, good for fourth in the league.
Future Hall of Famer Babe Dye led the club with 33 goals and 38 points in 23 games in 1920-21, and the team would finish first in the second half standings, but lost in the NHL finals to the Ottawa Senators.
1921-22 again saw the St. Patricks led by Dye's 31 goals and 38 points in 24 games, as Toronto would defeat the Senators 5-4 in a two-game, total goals series to capture the O'Brien Trophy and earn the right to play for the Stanley Cup against the Vancouver Millionaires, champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.
The series was a best-of-five and all games were played in Toronto. The Millionaires won Game 1 and Dye scored in overtime to even the series at 1 game apiece. Vancouver shut out Toronto 3-0 in Game 3, only to have the St. Patricks return the favor 6-0 in Game 4. Dye took control of the deciding Game 5, scoring four goals to lead the St. Patricks to a 5-1 victory and the Stanley Cup.
1921-22 Stanley Cup Champion Toronto St. Patricks
The next two seasons Toronto would finish in third place, and miss out on the playoffs both times. Dye again led the team in scoring both seasons, with 37 points in 1922-23 and just 19 in 1923-24, but still enough to lead the club.
Dye rebounded with 38 goals and 46 points in 1924-25 to lead the team for the fifth season in a row and Toronto again returned to the playoffs, only to lose out to the Montreal Canadiens 5 goals to 2.
Another Hall of Famer, Jack Adams, would finally unseat Dye as the club's leading scorer, as he managed 21 goals and 26 points to Dye's 23 points in 1925-26, but Toronto would fail to reach the playoffs.
St. Pats Owner Charlie Querrie lost a lawsuit to the notorious Eddie Livingstone, the one time owner of the franchise when they were known as the Toronto Blueshirts and played in the National Hockey Association, and decided to put the team up for sale. The club was purchased by Conn Smythe for $160,000 and took control of the team on February 14, 1927 and immediately changed the club's name to the Maple Leafs.
On this date in 2002, the Toronto Maple Leafs wore the green jerseys of the St. Patricks, along with brown pants and helmets, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the franchise changing their name to the Maple Leafs in a 3-3 tie against the Buffalo Sabres, led by captain Mats Sundin's two goals.
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 Toronto St. Patricks Mats Sundin jersey as worn for one game only on March 2, 2002 to mark the 75th Anniversary of the change in the club's name from the St. Patricks to the Maple Leafs.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Beer Day, or "Bjórdagurinn" is celebrated in Iceland ever year on March 1st in recognition of the end of 74 years of prohibition on the sales of beer. Originally the law, passed by a public referendum, went into effect on January 1, 1915 and banned all alcoholic drinks.
The complete ban was partially lifted to allow the sale of wines due to economic pressure from Spain in 1921, which refused to buy any of Iceland's main export, fish, unless Iceland bought Spanish wines. Another vote in 1935 lifted the ban on spirits, but strong beer was not included in the vote to please the temperance lobby, which believed that since beer was cheaper than hard liquor, it's consumption would be greater and lead to more drunkenness and depravity.
Beer Day arrived on this date in 1989, after a nationally televised live 13-8 vote in Iceland's Parliament, and was celebrated by crowds despite the 14º F temperatures for their first taste of real beer. The day went without incident, despite predictions to the contrary.
The number of liquor licenses in Reykjavik rose by 47% the first year and total alcohol consumption rose by 23%, with the most popular brands of beer being Viking followed by Thule.
In a country ranked #1 in economic opportunity and quality of life, it doesn't get any better than Beer Day, as the country with the longest work week in Europe lets down it's hair and samples a variety of different brews as celebrations are held in pubs, restaurants and clubs, continuing long into the night.
While team handball is considered to be the national sport of Iceland, having won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, soccer is also popular.
Hockey in Iceland was first played around 1950, but artificial ice did not arrive until 1987 and the first of three indoor rinks not until 1997. While there is a hockey league in Iceland, it only consists of three clubs, Skautafélag Akureyrar in Akureyri in the north and Skautafélag Reykjavikur and Björninn in Reykjavik, who play a season of 12 games each plus playoffs.
The most famous group of Icelandic hockey players were immigrants to Canada, who were discriminated against by the Canadians. Having taken up the game of hockey, they were forced to establish their own teams within the Icelandic community in Manitoba. In 1909 they established a single club, the Falcon Hockey Club, and a new league, the Manitoba Independent League, which included teams not allowed into the established Winnipeg City League.
The City League responded by allowing the best teams from the MIL into the WCL to diminish the upstart league. The Winnipeg Falcons would persist, and applied to participate in the Canadian Amateur Championship for the Allan Cup, awarded to the senior men's champions of Canada. After being repeatedly rejected, they were finally admitted in 1919-20 and won the championship in their first try, earning the right to represent all of Canada in the 1920 Olympics, the first appearance of ice hockey at the Olympics.
The Falcons defeated Czechoslovakia 15-0 in the quarterfinals, the United States 2-0 in the semifinals and easily handled Sweden 12-1 to become the first Olympic hockey champions with a team made up of Icelandic players.
The Iceland National Hockey Team is currently ranked 37th in the world out of the 48 ranked nations and has 64 registered senior male players. They played their first international game at the senior level on April 14, 1999 at the lowest rung of the IIHF ladder system, Pool D.
Iceland U18 National Team
Iceland hosted the Pool D championships in 2000, placing 5th of the 9 teams. With the reorganization of the system, Iceland was now in Division II in 2002, where they finished 5th and then 6th in 2003 and were placed in then newly created Division III for 2004, where they won promotion to Division II with a 3-0-1 record, which included a 30-0 win over Armenia.
They finished 6th and last in 2005, dropping back down to Division III for 2006, where they once more earned a promotion back to Division II with a 4-0 record. They finished 4th for their highest finish in the history of the program to maintain their place in Division II, where they finished 5th in 2008 and 2009.
The team is primarily made up of players from the three clubs in Iceland, but the 2009 team did have three players who were playing outside of Iceland, one in Norway and two in Sweden, a sign of progress for the Icelandic hockey community.
Iceland also competes at the Division III level of the men's U20 Junior Championships and Division II of the U18 Junior Championships, and has 467 registered junior players, a sign that the growth of Icelandic hockey is well underway.
The logo for Ice Hockey Iceland tells an interesting story, featuring the Icelandic Falcon, the largest wild Falcon in the world. The white represents a glacier and the bottom is fire, to represent a volcanic eruption, which is in the shape of a maple leaf to honor the Winnipeg Falcons, the 1920 Olympic hockey champions who were of Icelandic decent.
Today's featured jersey is a Nike 1998 Iceland National Team Hallur jersey worn in the U20 Junior Championships and features the IIHF 90th Anniversary patch worn in 1998 in the various IIHF championships that year. The name is sewn on twill, while the numbers are heat sealed onto the jersey.
While Iceland is not at the level of the World Rankings that we normally limit our collection of international jerseys to, this highly attractive jersey, especially with the addition of the anniversary patch, was just too nice to pass up and is one of the most unique jerseys in the Third String Goalie Collection.
As one would expect, footage of the Iceland National Team is not the easiest thing to come by, but we think we have managed to assemble some items of interest for you in today's video section.
But wait! Check this out, Greece taking on Iceland in the 1999 World Championships in Division III. Youtube totally rocks.
Good seats still available by the way. Be sure not to miss Mr. Chest Hair and Gold Chains at the 3:14 mark. We suspect he's a supporter of Greece for some reason...
A commercial for Thule beer and a history lesson on the Cod War. Who knew a beer commercial could be so educational?
Apparently they drink more than beer in Iceland, as proven by this commercial.
Speaking of lessons, here is an introduction to the Icelandic language with the lovely Natalja.
Finally, our favorite Icelandic export, Lazy Town!
Dasherboard: The 2010 Olympic tournament concluded yesterday with an exciting contest played at a very high level. It seemed like any and every mistake resulted in a shot on goal against the team making the error.
Things seemed to be going well for the United States as they got past the first five minutes without allowing a goal and letting the Canadian crowd get fully energized. Canada was able to finally get the critical first goal of the game at the 12:50 mark of the first period when Jonathan Toews got the puck after the US turned the puck over deep in their own zone.
Canada added to their lead 7:13 into the second when Cory Perry fired in a deflected centering pass to make it 2-0 for the hosts. Ryan Kesler answered for the United States with a deflection of a Patrick Kane shot to get the Americans on the scoreboard. Both teams had several good scoring chances but both goalies stood tall, with Ryan Miller of the USA in particular being aided by several great plays by his defense to thwart good scoring chances and keep the game close as the period ended with the shots at 25-23 in favor of Canada.
The third period was played penalty free, as the officials let them play, avoiding any of the marginal calls we have seen earlier in the tournament. With time running out and Miller out of the US goal for an extra attacker, Patrick Kane threw a puck into the slot where it deflected off of Jamie Langenbrunner's skate to Roberto Luongo, who could not freeze the puck. Zack Parise, who had gotten in behind the Canadian defense, pounced on the loose puck and fired it past Luongo with 25 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Played four on four, the overtime produced scoring chances on both ends before a shot on Miller was deflected into the corner. Sidney Crosby got to the puck along the boards and passed it forwards to Jarome Iginla, who passed it back to Crosby, who was now heading for the goal, having gotten a step on Brian Rafalski, who quite nearly deflected the pass. Crosby received the puck and shot it as quickly as he could, sending it between Miller's legs for the gold medal winning shot and putting him up there with the likes of Paul Henderson when it comes to the all time clutch goals in Canadian hockey history.
While the United States players were clearly disappointed to receive silver medals, the US did themselves proud with a very young team, punching above their weight and mixing it up with the favored teams. They finished the tournament 5-1, having defeated Switzerland, Norway, Canada in the most thrilling game of the tournament, and Switzerland again before destroying Finland in 13 minutes to reach the gold medal final. There, they took the Canadians to overtime before finally losing by a single goal.
The soap opera that is Team Canada began as expected, with a dominant 8-0 win over Norway. The first signs of drama came in game two, as Switzerland took the Canadians all the way to a shootout before The Golden Child Crosby won the game for Canada, inviting the usual hand wringing, scrutiny and over-analysis, which only intensified after a breathtaking 5-3 loss to the United States in the one thing that the Canadian public expects Canada to do better at than the United States, aside from producing brilliant comedians, with the noted exception of Martin Short.
By failing to earn one of the coveted byes, Canada was forced to play an additional game to advance to the quarterfinals, which actually worked in their favor, as they were given the opportunity to regain their confidence and swagger by pummeling Germany 8-2.
Back on top of their game, everyone was anticipating a cracker of a game against traditional rivals Russia, only someone forgot to tell Russia to give a damn, as Evgeni Nabokov missed his wake up call, and Canada led 6-1 before Nabokov awoke from his nightmare. Canada would eventually advance with a 7-3 victory.
The Canadian freight train would come back to reality after nearly letting a 3-0 lead over Slovakia slip away in the third, and only a Pavol Demitra shot off the crossbar in the final seconds would preserve the Canadian victory and a rematch with the Americans.
Similar to their 2002 Olympics, Team Canada took the long road, stumbling in the group stage and having to endure the questions and doubts of a nation, before pulling it all together when the elimination games arrived and the games truly mattered.
Their gold medal was a fitting finale to the wonderful Olympics that Canada and Vancouver staged and certainly created many memories, as well as adding another chapter in the already charmed life of one Sidney Patrick Crosby.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The 1960 United States Olympic Team had played together in preparation for their entry into the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. Feeling that the team wasn't good enough to win after completing their training schedule of games, coach Jack Riley said to Walter Brown, "Walter, do you want to go into the Olympics with a chance to win or no chance to win?"
Here is actual game footage of the United States defeating the Soviet Union 3-2 in Squaw Valley.
Brown responded "I want a chance to win." to which Riley replied "Then I have to bring in the Clearys."
"Do it," said Brown.
Prior to the arrival of the Bill Cleary, a top scorer on the 1956 Olympic team, and his brother Bob Cleary, the players said they were not going to compete if the Clearys were added to the team.
"Let them quit," Riley said. "Find out where they want a plane ticket and get them out of here."
The addition of the Clearys cost Bob Dupuis and Herb Brooks, due to his lack of international experience, their roster spots.
The Cleary brothers were given the cold shoulder by the remainder of the team, unhappy with the late addition, which cost two of their friends and teammates their roster spots despite having been with the team for months. One of the reasons the players were upset was, while there was no doubting the talent of Billy, they did not feel his brother Bob would have been on the team if not for Billy insisting they come as part of a package deal and Riley agreeing to it in order to get Billy on the team.
Before their first game, Bill Cleary addressed the team concerning their treatment of him. "I didn't come three thousand miles to lose. We don't have to hug and kiss. I just want you to pass me the puck."
Goaltender Jack McCartan agreed. "We've worked too hard to let this get in the way." McCartan had, in fact, been cut from the team at one point when coach Riley didn't like his playing style, but when he gathered the players at one point to ask how they could improve the team, the players told him to bring back McCartan.
John Mayasich, another top scorer in 1956, was also added to the team, but Riley had told the team all along that Mayasich would be a late addition to the roster. So late, that he didn't meet the team until the day before the Olympics.
Mayasich and the Clearys were added to the team so late they had to be retouched into the team photo, with their heads added to the bodies of the players they replaced on the roster! Notice how Billy Cleary's head in the front row differs in contrast and lighting from the other front row players in particular.
Once the games started, The United States defeated favored Czechoslovakia 7-5 in their opening game after trailing 4-3 after two periods. Despite only having one practice with the team, the supremely talented Mayasich had a hat trick, all unassisted!
They next routed Australia 12-1. Their two wins advanced them to the medal round, a round robin schedule of give games to determine the medal winners.
First up for the Americans in the first televised Olympics was Sweden, who they defeated 6-3 behind a hat trick from Roger Christian. Germany was the next team to fall, 9-1 thanks to four goals by Billy Cleary.
The Soviets had fallen a point behind the standings due to a tie with Sweden, leaving the US and Canada tied at the top of the table with 4 points each before their vital game. The Canadians were heavily favored before the game, but the Americans came out on the attack. Bob Cleary scored on a rebound of a Mayasich shot to give the US the confidence they could play with the Canadians. Later, the US went up by two when Paul Johnson, who Riley had been advised not to play because of his defensive play, scored on a slap shot while on a breakaway.
Although Canada scored one goal, McCartan held the Canadians at bay to hold on for the victory and put the Americans at the top of the table by themselves.
Coach Riley said about the Canadians, "If we played the Canadians 10 games, they'd win nine of them."
Things did not get any easier for the United States, with the Soviet Union next on the schedule, a team they had never beaten.
The Soviet Union had been involved in international hockey since 1954, winning the World Championships on their debut and then taking the gold medal in their first try at the Olympics in 1956, beginning a dynasty that would last until 1991.
The 85oo seat covered, but open air, Blyth Arena overflowed with 10,000 people, including some sitting on the player's bench! Notice the shadows on the ice from the sun coming through the east side of the arena, which was open to the elements.
The first goal of the game was scored by Bill Cleary on an assist from his brother Bob. The Soviets came right back and evened the score and then added a second to take the lead at 2-1. After another close call when Mayasich cleared a puck off the line, Bill Christian evened the score for the United States from his brother Roger Christian at the end of two periods.
The third period saw the United States pressure the Soviets and score with 5 minutes remaining to edge back into the lead when Bill Christian scored his second of the game on an assist from Roger Christian and Tommy Williams from right in front of the net.
The US, behind the stellar goaltending of McCartan, held on for the 3-2 victory and put themselves in position to lock up the gold medal in a rematch with Czechoslovakia in a game scheduled for 8 AM the following morning! The organizers had assumed the gold medal would come down to a game between Canada and the Soviet Union and scheduled that contest for the prime spot later in the day.
Riley told his squad that a key to the game was keeping the Czechs from scoring early and not letting them get into the game. The boys must not have been awake yet to hear him, as the Czechs won the opening faceoff, skated down the ice and promptly scored the first goal of the game with just eight seconds elapsed!
The teams swapped goals and completed the first period tied at 3-3. Czechoslovakia scored the only goal of the second period and led 4-3 at the second intermission. While the team was in the locker room preparing for the third period, the captain of the Soviet team, Nikolai Sologubov, came into the American locker room to suggest the team breathe oxygen between periods to re-energize at the high altitude of Squaw Valley, presumably in an effort to ensure that the Soviets would finish in the medal placings, prevent the Czechs from finishing ahead of them and keep the Canadians from winning the gold.
Roger Christian tied the game five minutes into the third followed by a pair of goals from Bob Clearly. Roger Christian deflected in a shot from Mayasich to complete a hat trick. The rout continued when Bill Clearly went coast-to-coast, splitting the defense in the process, and walked around the sprawling Czech goaltender for the easiest goal of his life. Roger Christian later completed the scoring with his fourth of the game, and the United States sixth of the period, to secure the gold medal with a 9-4 final score and a unbeaten 7-0 record for the tournament.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, Brooks watched the gold medal game at home on television with his father. When the United States won gold, his father Herb Sr. turned to him and said "Well, it looks like they cut the right guy."
Brooks would go on to play for both the 1964 and 1968 United States Olympic teams, as well as six other US National teams, coach the University of Minnesota to three national championships and then lead a team of college kids to defeat the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" and then capture the gold medal two days later with a victory over Finland.
Today's featured jersey is a 1960 United States Herb Brooks jersey. This 1960 gold medal jersey features Brooks number 5 as worn while he was still with the team and a wonderfully reproduced shield with embroidered Olympic rings and sewn on stripes and USA lettering.
Here is actual game footage of the United States defeating the Soviet Union 3-2 in Squaw Valley.
This next clip is from the final game of the tournament when the United States captured the gold medal against Czechoslovakia.
Here, 1960 Olympic gold medalist John Mayasich is interviewed at the Vancouver Olympics.
Finally, here is the trailer for the movie "Forgotten Miracle" about the 1960 team in the words of those who lived it.
Dasherboard: In yesterday's bronze medal game, Finland broke out on top with a power play goal from Sami Salo late in the first period, only to have Slovakia own the second period with a trio of goals, the first two on the power play and the third shorthanded, from Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa and the rejuvenated Pavol Demitra to take a 3-1 lead into the third period.
Finland began their comeback drive with a goal from Niklas Hagman off a deflection just after the first penalty of a two-man advantage expired to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Olli Jokinen tied the game a little over a minute and a half later with a shot from the slot to even the score and followed that with his second goal of the period exactly two minutes later to take the wind out of Slovakia's sails and give Finland a lead they would never lose.
Valtteri Filppula sealed the bronze with an empty net goal with 11 seconds remaining to complete a four goal third period for Finland and giving the fans at that end of the ice a close up view of every single one of the eight goals scored during the game!
For Finnish veteran Teemu Selanne, it was a nice way to conclude his international career with an Olympic medal.
Today's Gold Medal Final pits the surprising United States, undefeated so far in the tournament against the host team Canada.
The Canadians are under enormous pressure to win at home where nothing less than gold going into the tournament was acceptable, and even more so now that their opponents are their rivals from the United States.
Canada did not finish strong against Slovakia, perhaps taking away some of the momentum they had built with dominant wins over Germany and especially Russia, but it could have also acted as a reminder to Canada to play a full 60 minutes.
The United States will be looking to continue their strong team play and will depend on goaltender Ryan Miller to continue his solid play in goal to capture their third gold medal in Olympic history on the 50th anniversary of their first gold in Squaw Valley in 1960.