Saturday, June 4, 2011
Born on this date in 1972, Derian Hatcher put up good offensive numbers as a defenseman playing for the North Bay Centennials of the junior OHL, scoring first 52 points and then 63 in 1989-90 and 1990-91. His 6' 5", 235 pound size also did not go unnoticed as he was drafted 8th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.
He adapted well to the NHL game, scoring a goal in his debut on October 12, 1991 for the North Stars. After his second NHL season concluded, Hatcher began his international career, playing for the United States at the 1993 World Championships.
Hatcher then moved with the team to Dallas for the 1993-94 season and immediately set a career high in points with 31, thanks to another career high, this one for goals with 12. He was joined on the Stars roster in the strike shortened season of 1994-95 by his older brother Kevin Hatcher. Derian matched his 31 point best again in 1995-96, the season he was named team captain, a position he would hold for the remainder of his time in Dallas.
Hatcher again suited up for the United States for the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, a roster which also included his brother Kevin. The United States won the North American Pool by going undefeated and then eliminated Russia before defeating Canada 2 games to 1 in one of the greatest moments in American hockey history.
After two more seasons with Dallas, including playing in the 1997 NHL All-Star Game and another 31 point season in 1997-98, Hatcher made his Olympic debut for Team USA in Nagano, Japan.
Derian (right) with his brother Kevin at the 1997 NHL All-Star Game
After making the conference finals the previous season, the Stars finished with the NHL's best record in 1998-99 and then defeated Edmonton, St. Louis and Colorado to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals where they downed the Buffalo Sabres in six games to make Hatcher the first American to captain a Stanley Cup winning team in over 100 years of competition. Hatcher set a career playoff high with seven points in 18 games.
Derian hoists the Stanley Cup while wearing the Stars alternate jersey
Dallas returned to the finals the following season, but came up short in their quest for a repeat. Hatcher would play three more seasons in Dallas, from 2000-01 to 2002-03, competing in 242 out of a possible 246 games while maintaining his steady scoring pace, as he scored between 22 and 30 points in eight consecutive seasons.
When the Stars missed the playoffs in 2002, it gave Hatcher another opportunity to play in the World Championships for the United States.
Prior to the 2003-04 season, Hatcher signed with the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent, but played only 15 games after a severe knee injury. The following fall, he was named to the United States 2004 World Cup of Hockey squad, but withdrew from the team prior to the tournament.
Following the World Cup, the NHL season was eventually cancelled due to the lockout and Hatcher dabbled in some minor league hockey for 24 games with Red Wings teammate Chris Chelios when they suited up for the short-lived Motor City Mechanics of the United Hockey League.
NHL veteran Hatcher towers over the minor league competition while playing for the Motor City Mechanics during the NHL lockout
Hatcher was bought out of his contract by the Red Wings due to the newly instituted salary cap and signed on with the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2005-06 season. He was named interim captain in January of 2006 due to the absence of the injured Keith Primeau.
After two full seasons with Philadelphia, he was limited to 44 games of the 2007-08 season but returned in time to play 15 playoff games for the Flyers in what turned out to be the conclusion of his career. He intended to play the 2008-09 season, but was forced to sit out while recovering from another knee injury. Finally in June of 2009, Hatcher had knee replacement surgery and announced his retirement two weeks later.
His career totals were 1,045 games played, 80 goals and 331 points as well as 1,581 penalty minutes, a testament to his rugged presence and strong physical play on the blueline which made him at times one of those players who hated, unless he was on your team.
Hatcher was known for his physical presence and toughness
He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Today's featured jersey is a 1996 Team USA Derian Hatcher jersey as worn in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, won by the United States over rivals Canada.
This waving flag style jersey features sublimated stripes, as well as stars which fade in and out of view in the center of the stripes they are contained in. It also features the bold, flowing USA crest, which fits in nicely with the waving flag motif of the jersey. The sleeve numbers are placed on a single red star, a simple and effective treatment that has been sorely underused on future jerseys for the United States.
The blue road versions of this jersey are particularly sought after by collectors, as they were never made in retail versions for the public in favor of the white home version.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1998-99 Dallas Stars Derian Hatcher jersey from the season Hatcher became the first American to captain a team to the Stanley Cup. Dallas did not wear this jersey during the playoffs however, opting for their striking new alternate jerseys which were just introduced that season.
The alternate jerseys were promoted to the team's new road jerseys the following season, retiring today's bonus jersey, which was a dull jersey, whose green color was far too dark for the black background, resulting in the outlines around the name and numbers being impossible to see and the larger waist and sleeve stripes having far too little contrast.
During the Stars first season in Dallas, this jersey did have three color numbers, green trimmed in black and outlined in white, which looked much better when compared to the boring white numbers with disappearing trim of the jerseys worn after 1994-95.
Today's video section features some hard hitting, literally bone-breaking action from Derian Hatcher. Just ask Jeremy Roenick.
Here's a classic back alley brawl between Hatcher and seriously irate Brendan Shanahan.
Here Hatcher knocks Joffrey Lupul into next week. Problem was they were teammates! That's what you get for spelling "Jeffrey" that way.
Finally, here is his induction video from the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Born on this date in 1873, Alf Smith was an early hockey pioneer who began his career with the Ottawa Hockey Club of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC) in 1895 at the age of 22. He played three seasons for the club, recording a total of 24 goals in 24 games.
The 1895 Ottawa Hockey Club with rookie Smith
seated on a stool second from the left
During the 1898 season Smith was playing for the Ottawa Capitals in a lower division of the AHAC but was ruled ineligible to compete when it was discovered he had accepted a $100 bonus for playing for the Capitals lacrosse team. The ruling kept Smith off the ice for the next three years but not away from hockey, as he coached the Ottawa Hockey Club to the 1901 Canadian Amateur Hockey League championship.
The 1901 Ottawa Hockey Club with coach Smith
pictured in the bottom left corner
Smith returned to active play as a professional in 1902 as a member of the Pittsburgh Athletic Club of the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League in fine style, scoring 11 times in 14 games.
He returned to his hometown of Ottawa in 1903 and coached the Ottawa Hockey Club, now nicknamed "The Silver Seven" to their first Stanley Cup against the Montreal Victorias with a dominant 9-1 margin in their two-game, total-goals series.
Smith was then reinstated as an amateur for the 1904 season, but also retained his duties as the team's coach while playing right wing. This was the beginning of a run of success for Smith and the legendary Silver Seven, as they retained the Stanley Cup in ten consecutive challenges from March of 1903 to March of 1906, defeating the Rat Portage Thistles (2 games to 1 just days after defeating the Victorias), the Winnipeg Rowing Club (2 games to 1 in January 1904), the Toronto Marlboros (2 games to none in February of 1904) and retained the cup after a challenge by the Montreal Wanderers was abandoned. In a complicated turn of events, the first game of the total goals series was tied at 5-5, but Montreal refused to play overtime! The Wanderers demanded that the game be declared a no-contest and proposed that the series start over as a best of three, but the trustees of the cup decreed that the series continue as scheduled and Montreal refused to travel to Ottawa to continue the series, allowing Ottawa to retain possession of the cup.
The reinstated Smith in the Silver Seven's iconic barberpole sweater
With that bit of ugliness behind them, the Silver Seven defeated Brandon Wheat Cities 2 games to none nine days later in March of 1904. In one of the stories that made the Stanley Cup famous, the Dawson City Nuggets travelled 4,000 miles to Ottawa all the way from the Yukon, including by bicycle, train, steamship and even dogsled as well as having to walk several hundred miles on foot, only to be greeting by the greatest team of the era, who slaughtered the visitors 9-2 followed by a score of 23-2.
Smith and the Silver Seven retained the rights to the cup by winning the 1905 Federal Amateur Hockey League championship and then withstood a challenge from the Rat Portage Thistles 2 games to 1 in March of 1905.
The 1905 Ottawa Silver Seven, with player and coach
Alf Smith sitting astride the Stanley Cup
The next to fail to unseat Ottawa was Queen's University, who went down 2 games to none in February of 1906 followed a week later by the Smiths Falls Hockey Club, again 2 games to none.
During the period of the Silver Seven's dominance, Smith scored 34 regular season goals in 22 games as well as 32 goals in 18 playoff contests. Ottawa lost their grip on the Stanley Cup following a second place finish in the Eastern Canada Hockey Amateur Hockey Association's 1907 season although Smith scored 17 times in 9 games.
With his ECAHA season over, the Kenora Thistles attempted to add Smith to their roster for the Stanley Cup series against Brandon Wheat City, but he was excluded by the trustees. For their series against the Montreal Wanderers on March of 1907, Smith was again added to the Thistles roster and again ruled ineligible. However, the series began with Smith playing and the trustee. Mr. Foran, was informed that Montreal had dropped it's protest, which was actually not the case. The trustee then threatened to take the cup back to Ottawa, but the teams played the series anyway, with Montreal winning.
Back with Ottawa, now using their final name of the Senators, for the 1908 season, Smith had a strong campaign, scoring 12 goals in nine games. The next season was an eventful one for Smith as he returned to Pittsburgh to join the Duquesne hockey club of the WPHL only to be suspended after three games for rough play. He next joined the Pittsburgh Bankers, only to suffer the same treatment, again being suspended for rough play after just two games. Clearly not a fit for the WPHL, he returned to Ottawa and joined a Federal Hockey League team he founded also named the Senators.
He also coached the Ottawa Cliffsides to the Allan Cup championship that same season. With his playing days over, Smith then concentrated on his coaching career, which included managing the Renfrew Millionaires, the Ottawa Hockey Club, now known as the Senators and was the first coach of the New York Americans of the NHL in 1926.
In all, Smith played in 107 games over 15 seasons, scoring 135 goals. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
Today's featured jersey is an 1897 Ottawa Hockey Club Alf Smith jersey. The Ottawa Hockey Club would evolve through a series of white sweaters while they were loosely known as the "Generals", which included this simple white sweater with a plain black "O" with beveled corners. Their sweaters became slightly more elaborate with red sleeves and a rounded red "O" before returning to their iconic red, black and white barberpole jerseys around 1904 when they became known as "The Silver Seven".
While this is the best photo we can find of Smith wearing this style, here is an illustration of the complete, simple sweater.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
After starring at Irondale High School, where he set records for most goals in a career with 80, as well as most points in a season, coincidentally also numbering 80, Scott Bjugstad, who was born on this date in 1961, attended the University of Minnesota for four years.
He began slowly, but my his junior season he scored his greatest number of goals as a collegian with 29 on his way to 43 points in 36 games. As a senior, he scored at a torrid pace with 56 points despite being limited to just 26 games, an average of more than 2 points per game for the season.
Bjugstad joined the United States National Team the following season in preparation for the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He scored 31 goals and 51 points in 54 games in the United States pre-tournament schedule followed by three goals and four points in the United States six Olympic contests. Some of his teammates on the 1984 Olympic team included Ed Olczyk, Chris Chelios, Al Iafrate and Pat Lafontaine.
Following the games, he made his NHL debut with the Minnesota North Stars, a game in which his "welcome to the NHL moment" was a broken nose. He still managed to play five games with the North Stars and gained additional seasoning during 15 games with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles (a rare four word team name!), scoring 18 points in 15 regular season games prior to seven points in five playoff contests.
Bjugstad's first NHL season was a disappointment, as he scored just 15 points in 72 games and was a -21. He rebounded in 1985-86 with a vengeance in 1985-86 playing on a line with Neal Broten and Dino Ciccarelli which resulted in a phenomenal 43 goals and 76 points.
He was unable to repeat that performance and scored just 14 more goals for the North Stars over the next two seasons in 72 games, which included an 11 game stint in the minors with the Springfield Indians as well as a series of injuries that included a pulled abdominal muscle, a separated shoulder and a torn knee ligament, which eventually required surgery after being re-aggravated.
He missed the start of the 1988-89 season with strained knee ligaments and was assigned to the Kalamazoo Wings on his return to action, but after four games he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins in December. His Penguins career lasted just 24 games, during which he scored three goals and no assists. His season ended when he was suspended for refusing a minor league assignment in March and was later released.
For the 1989-90 season he signed with the Los Angeles Kings as a free agent. Looking to re-establish himself as an NHL player, he had a terrific season with the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL, scoring 45 goals and 66 points in 47 games. Recalled by Los Angeles, he played in 11 games, as well as two in the playoffs.
Injuries again caught up to him and he was limited to just 31 games with the Kings in 1990-91. He divided his time between Los Angeles and the IHL's Phoenix Roadrunners in 1991-92 but suffered a torn abdominal muscle which ended his season in March.
He returned briefly in 1992-93 with Phoenix but played in just seven games before retiring with 317 NHL games played, 76 goals, more than half of which came during his 43 goal season, 68 assists and 14 points.
Today's featured jersey is a 1983-84 United States National Team Scott Bjugstad jersey. This particular jersey was worn during the national team's pre-Olympic schedule of games. The white jerseys worn during the actual Olympic games had the red and blue colors on the arms reversed, with blue now being the predominant color. The cresting and numbers remained red outlined in blue, but the names on the back changed to two color, red outlined in blue, to match the numbers and cresting.
Today's video is Bjugstad trading punches with Dean Kennedy of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
With yesterday's news that the Atlanta Thrashers ownership group has agreed to sell the Thrashers to a group based in Winnipeg, Manitoba who will relocate the team, the second era of NHL hockey in Atlanta has come to an end.
Following the Atlanta Flames move to Calgary in 1980, Atlanta was without a team of any kind until the IHL expanded in the form of the Atlanta Knights in 1992. The club only lasted four seasons before also relocating to Canada, this time to Quebec City.
Three seasons later, as part of the NHL expansion of 1998-2000, the Thrashers began play in the 1999-00 season after being granted a franchise back in the summer of 1997. On February 16, 1998 the club's original owner Ted Turner announced his choice of the name "Atlanta Thrashers", inspired by the state bird of Georgia, the Brown Thrasher.
The Thrashers home jersey was debuted on March 27th, 1999 at the nearby Olympic Park and their unconventional road jersey was revealed before a preseason game on September 19th of the same year.
Atlanta played their first official game no October 2, 1999 in front of a packed Phillips Arena, as 18,545 saw them fall 4-1 to the New Jersey Devils. led the inaugural season in scoring with 23 goals and 50 points as the Thrashers finished a distant last in points that season.
Perhaps the highlight of the Thrashers run in Atlanta was wining the draft lottery on April 10, 2001 which allowed them to select Russian Ilya Kovalchuk with the first overall pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Following the season, Dany Heatley, picked second overall during the previous year's draft, was named the winner of the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie, edging out Kovalchuk.
Heatley and Kovalchuk
In February of 2003, Heatley was named the MVP of the NHL All-Star Game after scoring four goals and an assist on the day.
Tragedy struck in September when Heatley, who had led the club in scoring the previous two seasons lost control of his Ferrari and slammed into a wall. Teammate Dan Snyder died from his injuries six days later, while Heatley was limited to just 31 games after recovering from his broken jaw and torn knee ligaments.
Heatley returns to the ice with the Dan Snyder Memorial patch on his jersey
Those 31 games were Heatley's last in Atlanta, as he requested a trade out of Atlanta in hopes of leaving the reminders of the accident behind him. A trade brought Slovak Marian Hossa to the Thrashers for the 2005-06 season. Kovalchuk led the club with new franchise records for goals (52) and points (98), followed by Marc Savard (97) and Hossa (92). Still, the team missed the playoffs yet again, for the sixth season in a row and Savard departed as a free agent.
In 2006-07, Hossa became the first Thrasher to score 100 points and the team finally qualified for the playoffs, only to be blitzed by the New York Rangers, who swept them in four straight while outscoring them 17-6.
Any progress made in 2006-07 was lost in 2007-08. The team began 0-6 and fired their coach of the past three seasons Bob Hartley. Later, when Hossa would not resign with the team, he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the end, the Thrashers not only missed the playoffs, but sank to 14th in the conference out of 15.
After two more seasons of not making the playoffs coach John Anderson's contract was not renewed and the Thrashers fans had to endure the loss of superstar Kovalchuk via trade when he, just like Hossa, was not interested in continuing to play for a franchise in the deep south that gave him no foreseeable chance to win a championship, much less qualify for the playoffs.
During this most recent season the Thrashers, led by their fourth coach in 11 seasons, finished 13 points out of the playoffs and showing no improvement, completing the schedule with less points than the season before despite an infusion of players via trade from the salary cap distressed Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The Thrashers finished the year 28th in league attendance, averaging 13,469 fans, which was only 72.6% of capacity and less than two European club teams.
Throughout all the team's recent struggles on the ice, ownership was also historically an unsettled situation. After four seasons of ownership by media giant Time Warner, the team was sold prior to the 2003-04 season to an ownership group consisting of eight members, who purchased the club just eight days before Heatley's crash which killed Snyder.
In January of this year, the ownership group, which had been in turmoil, having been involved in legal proceedings brought by one of their own members, claimed losses of $130 million over the last six years and were looking to sell the team. When no one interested in buying the club with the intent on keeping it in Atlanta stepped forward, a sale was agreed to yesterday which will involve the club relocating to Winnipeg, who had lost their original Jets franchise in 1996.
Today's featured jersey is a 2003-04 Atlanta Thrashers Dany Heatley jersey, emblematic of the low point in Thrashers history, as it is from the season Heatley lost control of his Ferrari and crashed, killing teammate Snyder who is memorialized on the jersey with the #37 patch.
The Thrashers had an unconventional approach to their sweaters over their time in the NHL, which began with the very first season. WIth NHL rules in place not allowing new clubs to introduce an alternate sweater in their first three seasons, Atlanta did an end around the rules and made their original road sweaters in the style of an alternate, using their secondary logo as the primary logo on their dark sweaters from day one.
When their first alternate jersey arrived, it was instantly one of the worst jerseys we have ever seen, done in light blue with white numbers trimmed in yellow, a perfectly good color combination for a child's room, but not a professional sports club. Even worse, the jerseys had a single navy blue stripe down only the left arm, with "ATLANTA" running vertically down the sleeve, which created a jarring an unattractive look. That jersey survived as the dark sweater when the original road jersey was dropped in 2006-07.
The change to the new Reebok Edge jerseys only made matters worse, as the Thrashers distinctive winged sleeve striping on the white jerseys gave way to a mess of a jersey with additional piping and messy sleeves while the light blue jerseys became even worse with the navy blue arm stripe now changing widths as it travelled from the neck to the wrist.
A new alternate arrived on the scene in 2008 and was roundly criticized for it's football jersey styling, as rather than a team logo on the front, it controversially had a smallish Thrashers word mark over the player's number, which was prominently featured on the center of the chest where the team logo normally would reside. An enlarged Thrashers head on each sleeve acted almost as striping while the white areas on the sleeves stopped halfway down just after suddenly, and unexplainably wrapping around the arms.
Counting the six the change to the Reebok versions of their jerseys, the Thrashers had six jerseys during their run in Atlanta, four of which were plain awful.
Today's video section begins with the drafting of Ilya Kovalchuk in 2001, which should have sent the club on it's way to playoff success, but for various reasons did not.
Here is a compilation of Kovalchuk highlights, which also doubles as a Thrashers jersey retrospective.
With the team now relocating, and never having won a playoff game in it's history, this will now remain as the greatest moment in team history.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Goaltender Cecil "Tiny" Thompson, born on this date in 1903, was the oldest of the two Thompson brothers, arriving three years before his brother Paul Thompson, who played left wing and became the first player to ever score a goal against his own brother!
His nickname "Tiny", acquired when he was still a teenager, was in jest, as he was the tallest player on the team at 5' 10".
Thompson's junior career began with the Calgary Monarchs in the 1919-20 season at the age of 16. As a 17-year-old, he played for the Calgary Pacific Grain club in the Calgary City Senior Hockey League. Back in junior hockey for 1921-22, he tended goal for the Bellevue Colts of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and remained in Bellevue for the next two seasons with the Bellevue Bulldogs of the Alberta Senior Hockey League.
The 1919-20 Calgary Monarchs
He moved to the United States to compete for the Duluth Hornets in the United States Amateur Hockey Association in 1924-25 before relocating a couple hours south to Minneapolis for the next three seasons to play for the Minneapolis Millers in the now renamed American Hockey Association. Thompson caught the eye of the NHL with his 1927-28 season with a stellar 28-7-5 record and a 1.23 goals against average.
His contract was purchased by Boston Bruins manager Art Ross, who had never actually seen Thompson play in person! He rewarded the Bruins faith with a 1-0 shutout in his first game as a Bruin in 1928. He played in all 44 of the Bruins games, winning 26, including 12 by shutout on his way to a 1.15 GAA. During the playoffs, Thompson recorded three shutouts in five games and allowed only three goals as the Bruins swept their way to the Stanley Cup title. When the Bruins reached the finals against the New York Rangers and Tiny's brother Paul, it was the first time that two siblings had met in the playoffs, something that would not happen again until the Esposito brothers 40 years later.
The Stanley Cup champion 1928-29 Boston Bruins
Scoring went up in the 1929-30 season when league rules were amended to allow for forward passing. While Thompson's GAA rose to 2.19 as a result of the more wide open game, he allowed the fewest goals of any netminder, earning him the first of his Vezina Trophies on his way to a stellar 38-5-1 record.
For the third consecutive season, Thompson played in all 44 of the Bruins games, winning 28 and lowering his GAA to under 2.00 again at 1.98. He was also involved in a unique strategy decision during that seasons playoffs, when, for the very first time in league history, Ross pulled Thompson late in Game 2 of the semifinals in favor of an extra attacker, instantly becoming a regular part of any coaches playbook.
The club had a down year in 1931-32, as they missed the playoffs and Thompson had his consecutive games streak stopped when he only played in 43 of the Bruins 48 games of the newly expanded schedule.
Thompson rebounded in 1932-33, winning 25 games and beginning a new streak of playing in every game, setting a career high with 48. His 1.76 GAA earned him his second Vezina Trophy while his most memorable game of the season came in the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when the game moved to overtime tied at 0-0.
The extra time went on and on, finally reaching a sixth overtime when Ken Doraty of the Maple Leafs intercepted a pass and scored on Thompson after 104:46 of additional time in what was the longest game in NHL history at the time and is still the second longest game ever. The loss eliminated the Bruins from the playoffs and earned Thompson a standing ovation from the hockey-savvy Maple Leafs fans.
Three seasons later in 1935-36, Thompson set a new personal best GAA of the modern era at 1.68 on his way to this third Vezina Trophy and also became the first goaltender to ever be credited with an assist by intentionally passing the puck with his stick to a teammate.
The 1937-38 season again saw Thompson play in all 48 of the Bruins games, his sixth consecutive season playing each and every Bruins game. He won 30 or more games for only the second time in his career with a 30-11-7 record, which included 7 shutouts on his way to a 1.80 GAA and a fourth Vezina Trophy, the first man to ever win four.
With Thompson now 35 years old and future hall of famer Frank Brimsek waiting in the wings, Thompson was traded after five games of the 1938-39 season to the Detroit Red Wings. Thompson played in 39 games for Detroit that season and 46 the following season before retiring following the 1939-40 season.
He finished his NHL career with 553 games played, 284 wins, 194 losses, 75 ties, 81 shutouts, which was second all-time when he retired, a career GAA of 2.08, four Vezina Trophies and one Stanley Cup, won back in his rookie season of 1928-29.
Thompson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959.
Today's featured jersey is a 1932-33 Boston Bruins Tiny Thompson jersey. This was the first season for this style Bruins jersey after eight seasons with their original logo, which pictured a bear. The Bruins were still using their original colors of brown and yellow, which came from the club's original owner Charles Adams' grocery store chain, First National Stores.
This style, worn during the second of Thompson's four Vezina Trophy winning seasons, was used for two seasons until the club's permanent change to the colors black and yellow in 1934-35.
Monday, May 30, 2011
After playing junior hockey with the Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters of the Ontario Hockey League in 1959-60, goaltender Gilles Villemure, born on this date in 1940, joined the New York Rovers of the Eastern Hockey League for the 1960-61 season. He spent the next season with the Long Island Ducks, playing in 61 games that season.
He moved across the continent fir 1962-63 to become a member of the then minor league Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League. There, Villemure posted his first winning record, going 35-31-4 in 70 games to win the WHL Rookie of the Year award.
He returned to the east coast for the 1963-64 season to play with the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League as well as making his NHL debut with the New York Rangers, having been signed by the club back in 1962, but failed to impress, going 0-2-3 in five games played.
It was once more back across North America for the next two seasons, rejoining the WHL's Canucks for 1964-65 and 1965-66, being named a WHL First Team All-Star in 1966.
Back across the country yet again, he returned to Baltimore for the 1966-67 season, playing in 70 games with a 34-27-9 record. He was able to avoid the change in time zones for 1967-68 by becoming a member of the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL. He only saw action in 37 games for the Bisons, but had a winning record of 18-13-6 while posting the lowest goals against average of his career up to that point at 2.47. The highlight of his season was earning his first NHL victory during the four games he played with the Rangers that same season.
He really hit his stride the next two seasons with the Bisons, winning both the Hap Homes Award as the goalie with the lowest goals against average as well as the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL MVP in both 1969 and 1970. In the 1970 postseason, Villemure went 11-3 with a 2.13 GAA to lead the Bisons to the Calder Cup championship.
While the early part of his career was prior to the NHL expansion of 1967 when one goaltender played the majority, if not all of his teams games, the common thinking in the NHL had now evolved into favoring a two goalie rotation, creating a spot on the Rangers roster at long last. Paired with Eddie Giacomin on a strong Rangers club, Villemure played in 34 games in 1970-71 with a record of 22-8-4 and shared that season's Vezina Trophy with Giacomin.
He improved upon that mark in 1971-72, winning 24, setting an NHL career high, while losing just 7 and tying 4. He also made six playoff appearances with a 4-2 record as the Rangers made it to the 1972 Stanley Cup Finals.
The next season Villemure stayed on a roll, playing in 34 games with a record of 20-12-2 and also appeared in his third consecutive NHL All-Star Game. After playing in just 21 games in 1973-74, the popular Villemure rebounded with 45 appearances in 1974-75 and a 22-14-6 mark.
Now in his mid-30's thanks to his long minor league career, Villemure was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks for the final two seasons of his career where he saw limited action in a backup role to Tony Esposito before retiring after the 1976-77 season.
In all, Villemure played in 205 NHL games with a record of 100 wins, 64 losses and 29 ties and a career 2,81 goals against average.
Villemure remains a valued and respected member of the Rangers alumni, and is seen here pictured with current Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and his old goaltending partner Giacomin
Of note, during the offseason, Villemure was a professional harness race driver at horse racing tracks throughout the northeast.
"You need timing, you need quickness because when you live at the gate in harness racing, you have to time the gate, when you leave from behind the gate, if you have reflexes then you can get out of the gate quick," Villemure explained. "If you don't have the reflexes, then you lose a couple of steps and as a goaltender you need reflexes, of course. You have to make the right move at the right time."
Today's featured jersey is a 1971-72 New York Rangers Gilles Villemure jersey. While the Rangers had worn a variation of this white jersey since 1951-52, this jersey would only remain in use until the 1976-76 season until being replaced by a new modernized jersey that featured the Rangers shield logo rather than the diagonal "Rangers" cresting.
That new style would only last for two brief seasons before the return of the classic Rangers jerseys, which remain in use through this day, surviving the change to the Reebok Edge jerseys in 2007.
Today's video section begins with footage from a Rangers game against the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1970.
Here is footage of a conversation with Villemure while he is signing reproductions of his instantly recognizable goalie mask.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
With today being the centennial running of the Indianapolis 500, we thought it would be an appropriate day to take a look at the last one hundred years of hockey in Indianapolis.
Well, most of the last 100 years anyway, as 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 one of the now eight championships for the city represented by five different trophies - the Calder, Turner, Adams, Miron and Clark!
The Indiana Ice pose with the Clark Cup in 2008
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.
The Indiana State Fair Coliseum
Tying in nicely to today's centennial Indianapolis 500, the Indiana Ice are associate sponsors of Canadian Paul Tracy's #23 Wix Filters Honda powered entry in today's race. Tracy was the fastest of the second day qualifiers for this year's race and will start from the 25th spot on the grid with the 17th fastest time. Tracy drives for the Dreyer & Reinbold team which, just like the Indiana Ice, are based out of Indianapolis.
Paul Tracy carries associate sponsorship from the Indiana Ice in today's Indianapolis 500
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.
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 opening video for the 2007-08 Indiana Ice, the most recent team to call Indianapolis home.