Saturday, October 29, 2011
Born on this date in 1961, Joel Otto, attended Bemidji State University beginning with the 1981-82 season. He scored 52 points in 31 games as a freshman and followed that up with a 33 goal, 61 point season in 1982-83. After winning their, and Otto's third consecutive Northern Collegiate Hockey Association regular season championship in 1983-84 season, during which Otto increased his point totals yet again with a 75 point season, the Beavers advanced to the NCAA Division II championship series, where they swept Merrimack in a best-of-three series by scores of 6-3 and 8-1.
Otto (#24) as a member of the Beavers
Having gone undrafted by the NHL, Otto was signed by the Calgary Flames organization who assigned him to their minor league affiliate, the Moncton Golden Flames of the AHL for the 1984-85 season. There, Otto easily adapted to the next level of play, scoring 27 goals and 63 points in 56 games, which earned him a callup to the Calgary Flames for the final 17 games of the season as well as three playoff games. Following the elimination of Calgary from the playoffs, Otto was called upon to make his international debut for the United States at the 1985 World Championships, playing in 86 games that season, nearly three times as many as he had during his final year of college the year before.
In the NHL to stay, Otto played in 79 games with the Flames during 1985-86, racking up 59 points thanks in part to a career high 25 goals. The Flames once again qualified for the playoffs, where they went on a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, giving Otto and the Flames 22 games of valuable playoff experience.
Otto, at 6' 4", was a strong two-way player, able to score, win faceoffs as well as play in a checking role to contain the Flames strongest opponents, often drawing duty neutralizing the Edmonton Oilers' Mark Messier. Otto posted his second consecutive 50 point season in 1986-87, and later that summer Otto once more suited up for the United States in the 1987 Canada Cup.
Otto battling Steve Smith of the Oilers
He would extend his streak of 50 point seasons to four over the next two campaigns, which included his second 20 goal season with 23 in 1988-89. The Flames would earn the President's Trophy for having the league's best regular season record with 117 points from a 54-17-9 record.
The Flames would survive a seven game series against the Vancouver Canucks when Otto scored in overtime of Game 7. The Flames would then sweep the Los Angeles Kings and reach the finals by eliminating the Chicago Blackhawks in five. A rematch of the 1986 finals against the Montreal Canadiens awaited them. The teams split the first two games in Calgary and did the same in Montreal. Back in Calgary, the Flames won 3-2 and captured the only Stanley Cup in franchise history with a 4-2 win in Game 6 back in Montreal. During the playoffs, Otto scored 19 points in 22 games, fourth on the club.
The 1989 Stanley Cup Champion Calgary Flames
For 1989-90, an early playoff exit allowed Otto to once again participate in the World Championships for the United States for a second time. Prior to the 1991-92 season, he was invited to join the Americans for the 1991 Canada Cup, where he scored four goals in eight games.
After four more seasons in Calgary, which included his fifth 50 point season in 1992-93, the rebuilding Flames allowed Otto to leave as a free agent, and he subsequently signed with the Philadelphia Flyers after a dozen seasons with Calgary.
His first season with Philadelphia in 1995-96 was his best offensively, as he scored 41 points. Prior to the start of the following season, Otto was a member of Team USA at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, where the Americans defeated Canada in a best-of-three final to achieve their finest result since the 1980 Olympics.
Otto (right) and Keith Tkachuk with the 1996 World Cup trophy
Back with the Flyers for the 1996-97 season, they rolled through the playoffs, reaching the finals with a 12-3 record, only to fall to the Detroit Red Wings.
The 1997-98 season would be the last for Otto in the NHL, but not without once again wearing the jersey of the United States, as the league took a break from it's regular season schedule to allow it's star players to compete in the 1998 Olympics in Japan.
Otto retired at the conclusion of the 1997-98 season with 943 games played, 195 goals and 313 assists for 508 points and 1,934 penalty minutes and a reputation as a talented two-way player and leader.
Today's featured jersey is a 1983-84 Bemidji State Beavers Joel Otto jersey. The Beavers hockey program dates back to 1946 and won seven NAIA national championships between 1968 and 1980. They then moved to the NCHA and won five NCAA Division II and one Division III national titles between 1984 and 1997.
In 1999, the Beavers moved into Division I and qualified for the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in 2005 and once again in 2006.
2009 would see Bemidji State return to the NCAA's, which began with an upset of #2 ranked Notre Dame. They then won their regional with a 4-1 win over Cornell to advance to their first ever Frozen Four, where their Cinderella story came to an end with a 4-1 loss to the Miami RedHawks.
The next chapter in BSU hockey came in 2010 when they were accepted as members of the WCHA, thanks in part to their new arena, the 4,700 seat Bemidji Regional Events Center.
To purchase your own retro Bemidji State Beavers jersey, please visit our friends at VintageMinnesotaHockey.com.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1988-89 Calgary Flames Joel Otto jersey as worn during the season Otto won the only Stanley Cup of his career. The Flames jersey style remained unchanged in 1980 when the team relocated from Atlanta, aside from the necessary logo change from a flaming "A" to a "C". It would remain in use through the 1993-94 season.