Saturday, June 9, 2012
After winning the Atlantic Division with a 46-20-10-6 record for 108 points, the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils, with the fourth best record, entered the NHL playoffs against the seventh seeded Boston Bruins. New Jersey got their postseason off to a great start, winning 2-1 thanks to a pair of goals by Jamie Langenbrunner. They also won Game 2 after third period goals by Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk broke a 2-2 tie.
Martin Brodeur shut out the Bruins back in Boston in Game 3 with 29 saves, and after a Game 4 loss, Brodeur repeated the feat with an identical 3-0 shutout, with Langenbrunner scoring his 4th and 5th goals of the series in the third period to seal Boston's fate.
The Devils advanced to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, where were seeded third in the east thanks to their winning the Southeast Division, despite only having the east's fifth best record. The Devils and Brodeur stayed hot, shutting out the Lightning 3-0 to open the series, as Brodeur was require to make only 15 saves as Langenbrunner got the game winner at 7:41 of the third period. Langenbrunner's torrid pace continued, as he scored the game winner in overtime of Game 2, for a 3-2 Devils win.
Tampa Bay won Game 3 back at home before the Devils closed them out with consecutive wins to advance to the Conference Finals where they would take on the President's Trophy winning Ottawa Senators.
Game 1 in Ottawa went into overtime before the Senators prevailed, but New Jersey got an important win on the road in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1 heading back to New Jersey, where Brodeur posted yet another shut out, holding the second leading scoring team in the league off the board with 24 saves.
New Jersey would push Ottawa to the brink with a 5-2 win in Game 4, but the Senators would no be going away quietly, as they came back to win the next two games by scores of 3-1 at home and 2-1 in overtime back in New Jersey to force a Game 7 back in Ottawa.
The Senators broke out on top, but Langenbrunner regained his scoring touch with a pair of goals in the second period to take the lead. Ottawa tied the game early in the third but Jeff Friesen eliminated the Senators with his fifth goal of the playoffs with less than 2:30 remaining to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Freisen scores to eliminate the Senators in Game 7
Meanwhile in the West, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim swept the Detroit Red Wings in four, eliminated the Dallas Stars in six and locked down the Minnesota Wild by allowing the Wild one goal in their four game sweep thanks to the goaltending of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
With both Brodeur and Giguere entering the finals with four shutouts, everyone knew goals would likely be at a premium, and sure enough, both Games 1 and 2 were matching 16 save shutouts in favor of Brodeur by identical scores of 3-0, raising Brodeur's postseason shutout total to six while Friesen closed out the scoring both nights to raise his goal total to 8.
The Devils strong defense shut out Anaheim in Games 1 and 2
The Mighty Ducks fought back at home with a 3-2 win thanks to defenseman Ruslan Salei's overtime winner in Game 3 and Giguere's turn to get the clean sheet with his 26 save shutout, his fifth.
Something strange was in the water for Game 5, as the teams combined for nine goals as Langenbrunner scored two more in the third to extend the Devils 4-3 lead to a 6-3 final score. They were his 10th and 11th of the playoffs. Game 6 was the Mighty Ducks turn to light the lamp, scorching Brodeur for three goals in the first period and chasing him from the net in an eventual 5-2 win to force a winner-take-all Game 7.
Game 7, played on this date in 2003 in New Jersey, was scoreless after the first period as both defenses limited the amount of chances as the Devils were credited with 7 shots to Anaheim's 5. Rookie Mike Rupp scored his first goal of the playoffs from Scott Niedermayer and Colin White at 2:22. Ten minutes later, Friesen struck for his 9th goal from Rupp and Niedermayer at 12:18 while Brodeur held Anaheim at bay with another 9 saves.
Friesen extended the New Jersey lead to 3-0 with his 10th goal with 3:44 left in the season from Rupp and Devils captain Scott Stevens. It was a memorable night for Rupp, who was credited with the game winning goal and finished at a +3 and scored 3 of his 4 total playoff points while only playing in 4 of the Devils 24 postseason games.
The Mighty Ducks were never able to solve Brodeur, who finished the game with 24 saves and an NHL record 7th playoff shutout in one year. The win was the Devils 12th on home ice, also a record.
Langenbrunner led all playoff scorers in goals with 11 and was tied for the points lead at 18 with Niedermayer (2 goals, 16 assists). John Madden was close behind with 16 points and Friesen's 10 goals were one back of Langenbrunner's 11. Add in the fine defensive efforts of Stevens and Niedermayer, along with White and Brian Rafalski, helping Broduer to the shutout record, the candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy were numerous, so it certainly caught many off guard when Giguere was named the winner over Broduer despite Brodeur setting the shutout record and winning their head to head battle for the cup 12 goals to 18. It was only the fifth time a player on the losing team won the award since it was first handed out in 1965.
Broduer was later recognized with his first Vezina Trophy for his league leading 41 wins and 9 shutouts as well as his 2.02 goals against average and .914 save percentage.
Brodeur with the Jennings Trophy, Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy
Today's featured jersey is a 2002-03 New Jersey Devils Martin Brodeur jersey as worn during the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. This jersey is distinguished by the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals patch worn by both the Devils and the Mighty Ducks, a tradition which began back in the 1989 finals and has continued ever since.
Today's video segment are the highlights of Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, in which Brodeur shut out the Mighty Ducks to set a new NHL record with 7 shutouts in one playoffs season.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Born on this date in 1960 in Sweden, Thomas Steen began his career with Grums IK in 1975-76 and moved over to the Leksands IF junior team in 1976-77, the year he made is debut for the Sweden National Team at the European Junior Championships where he scored 8 points in 6 games as Sweden took home the gold medal.
After a move up to the Elitserien in 1977-78, Steen would play three seasons with Leksands IF. He would also participate for Sweden in the World Junior Tournament in 1978 (silver), 1979 (bronze) and 1980 (bronze). Following the 1978-79 season, Steen was drafted 103rd overall by the Winnipeg Jets.
He moved to Farjestads BK for 1980-81 and more than doubled his previous season high in points when he scored 16 goals and 23 assists for 39 points in 32 games on his way to being named 1981 Elitserien Player of the Year as Farjestads won the Swedish Championship.
Now playing at the senior level, Steen participated in both the World Championships, earning a sliver medal, and also skated in the 1981 Canada Cup.
Having reached the top of Swedish hockey, Steen moved to North America for the 1981-82 season and made his NHL debut with the Winnipeg Jets.
His first four seasons saw him adapt quite well to the North American game and his point totals improved each season, from 44 as a rookie, to 59, then 65 and then setting a career high with 30 goals on his way to 84 points in 1984-85. Prior to that season Steen also competed in his second Canada Cup, the 1984 edition in which he led the tournament in goal scoring with 7 goals in 8 games.
After three more steady seasons, which included Steen scoring 11 points in 8 games for Sweden at the 1986 World Championships, helping Sweden to bring home the silver medal, he would set a career high with 88 points from 27 goals and 61 assists in 1988-89 and follow that with his final appearance at the World Championships in 1989.
Health issues began to affect Steen, as he only played in 53 games in 1989-90, his first season under 73 games in his nine years in the NHL, due to a back injury. Those 53 games were very productive however, as Steen totaled 66 points for 1.25 points per game, the highest average of his career. He was also named as one of the team captains for 1989-90 and 1990-91.
The following season was a carbon copy of the previous one, with 67 points in just 58 games played, this time due to a broken ankle. Prior to the start of the 1991-92 season, Steen played for the Sweden National Team for the final time when he played in the 1991 Canada Cup, his third.
Another short season of 38 games in 1991-92 due to both ankle and back issues was followed by a return to health, with 80 games and 72 points in 1992-93 and 76 games and 51 points in 1993-94.
His final NHL season of 1994-95 saw him play in 31 games during the strike-shortened season and finish his 14 year NHL career, spent entirely in Winnipeg, with 950 games played, 264 goals and 553 assists for 817 points. Steen remains the second leading scorer in franchise history, including their over ten years in Phoenix as the Coyotes.
At the conclusion of his career, Winnipeg retired Steen's #25 on May 6, 1995, one of only two numbers ever retired by the Jets and the very first European player to have his number retired by an NHL club.
Steen would come out of retirement in 1996 to play with the Frankfurt Lions of the German DEL in 4 regular season and 3 playoff contests. He would continue playing the following season, joining the Berlin Polar Bears, for whom he would play for three seasons before retiring again in 1999.
Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Winnipeg Jets Thomas Steen jersey. This jersey has the "Goals for Kids" patch on the left sleeve and features the NHL 75th Anniversary patch on the right chest as worn by all players in the NHL that season.
After Winnipeg adopted a new set of jerseys for their entry into the NHL in 1979, this was their second and final NHL jersey, which served them well from 1990 to 1996.
Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996-97 Eisbaren Berlin "Berlin Polar Bears" Thomas Steen jersey as worn during the final few seasons of Steen's career after he came out of retirement from the NHL. Steen scored 33 points in 49 games.
This jersey has the typical European flair with it's sublimated graphics, multiple, if not excessive, sponsorship logos and even sports a collar, something more common in the Scandinavian leagues. It also has the European-standard player name located below the number on the back, giving the more prominent location above the number to yet another sponsor logo.
Our video segment begins with Thomas Steen scoring with just seven seconds left in regulation to fuel a late Winnipeg comeback versus the Chicago Blackhawks from 1991-92. Note that the Blackhawks are wearing their Turn Back the Clock jerseys, worn only during the NHL's 75th Anniversary season.
Next is the retirement ceremony in Winnipeg for Thomas Steen's sweater #25.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
One of the all-time great Soviet hockey players, Vladimir Krutov, died yesterday at the age of 52.
"Volodya was such a dependable and steadfast man that I would have gone anywhere with him - to war, to espionage, into peril. There are fewer and fewer guys like him in every generation of hockey players," former Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak told the Sport-Express newspaper.
Krutov was a member of the famed KLM line along with Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov which dominated Soviet and international hockey the 1980's.
The KLM Line
Krutov, a left winger, played for CSKA Moscow (better known in North America as Central Red Army) beginning with one game in 1977-78 and a half season of 24 games the following year,including scoring his first goal, before becoming a full time member of the Red Army squad in 1979. That season, in 40 games, he would average more than a point per game with 30 goals and 12 assists for 42 points.
1981-82 would see Krutov set a personal high with 37 goals and 66 points in 46 games and was Red Army's leading scorer with 53 points in 1982-83. CSKA would win the Soviet League championship in each and every of Krutov's 12 season's with the club. Additionally, he led the league in goals in 1984 (37 goals), 1986 (31) and 1987 (26) and was named to the USSR All-Star Team every year from 1982 to 1988 and was the Soviet Player of the Year in 1987. His final career totals with CSKA were 438 games played with 288 goals and 215 assist for 503 points, which still ranks him 5th in team scoring, 7th in goals and 4th in assists over 20 years later.
In addition to his 12 Soviet League championships, Krutov and CSKA would win the Soviet Cup twice, in 1979 and 1988, and the European Cup in each of his 12 seasons.
While with CSKA, Krutov also toured North America as part of the Super Series, a series of exhibition games between Red Army and other Soviet club teams taking on various NHL teams. He participated in the Super Series three times, in 1982-83, 1985-86 and one last time in 1988-89, playing a total of 17 games, scoring 10 goals and 21 points.
His Soviet League success was duplicated in international play as well, beginning with a silver medal in his international debut at the 1978 European Junior Championships and a pair of gold medals in the World Junior Tournament in 1979 and 1980 while leading the World Juniors in scoring both years with 14 points in 6 games in 1979 and 11 points in 5 games in 1980 while being name Best Forward both times as well.
Krutov's senior international career began with a silver medal at the 1980 Olympic Games (he scored the first goal of the "Miracle on Ice" game and later added an assist to give the Soviets a 3-2 lead) prior to a run of five consecutive gold medals at the 1981 World Championships, the 1981 Canada Cup, the 1982 and 1983 World Championships and the 1984 Olympics.
1984 Olympic Champions
A third place finish in the 1984 Canada Cup and a bronze medal in the 1985 World Championships followed. The Soviet Union would rebound with another gold medal at the 1986 World Championships, where Krutov was named Best Forward.
In 1987, Krutov scored two goals in the 5-3 Soviet win in game two of Rendez-vous '87 against the NHL All-Stars before earning a silver medal at the 1987 Worlds, were Krutov led the tournament in goals and points and was named Best Forward for the second consecutive year. Later that year, he participated in the 1987 Canada Cup where he was named to the All-Star Team as the Soviets finished second.
Krutov playing in the Canada Cup tournament
The 1988 Olympics concluded with another gold medal after finishing the tournament at the leading scorer and Krutov finished his international career in style with his fifth World Championship gold in 1989.
Krutov on his way to leading the 1988 Olympics in scoring
Krutov's final medal count shows nine gold medals, three silver and two bronze, which included at least one gold at each of the World Juniors (2), World Championships (5) and the Olympics (2) as well as winning a Canada Cup.
Kutov was one of the first wave of Soviet players allowed to join the NHL, playing for the Vancouver Canucks, who had drafted him in 1986 in hopes that he would some day be allowed to leave the Soviet Union.
He played just one NHL season, 1989-90, scoring 11 goals and 34 points in 61 games while faced with the challenges of being a veteran trying to adjust to the change to a new language and culture while being viewed by some as taking a job away from a Canadian, plus the sudden riches combined with the freedom he was afforded in North America after an entire career in which he was required to train 10 months out of the year. It was unfortunate that Krutov's attempt to play in the NHL was viewed as unsuccessful since it tainted many North American opinions of Krutov based on just a single season late in his otherwise stellar career in the Soviet Union.
"The Tank" unleashes a shot while with Vancouver
He played very little hockey in 1990-91, just one regular season game and three playoff games with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland. After another season with ZSC where he scored 32 points in 28 games, he moved to Östersund IK in the third division of Swedish hockey, helping them earn promotion to the second division on his first try, scoring a dominant 25 goals and 49 points in just 19 games. He would play two more seasons for Östersund and wrapped up his career with Brunflo IK before retiring.
Krutov was named to the Soviet Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981 and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2010.
Today's featured jersey is a 1987 Soviet Union National Team Vladimir Krutov jersey as worn by Krutov during Rendez-vous '87, a two-game series held in Quebec City on February 11 and 13, 1987 which replaced that season's NHL All-Star Game which featured a team of NHL All-Stars against the Soviet National Team.
Game 1 went to the NHL All-Stars 4-3 and the Soviets came back to win Game 2 by a core of 5-3 in which Krutov scored a pair of goals, including the game winner at 9:19 of the third period.
This jersey is typical of the Soviet style, with a minimum of adornments and simple one color names and numbers, made to look even more spartan when compared to the flashy NHL All-Star jerseys it competed against.
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions
Today's video section begins with Krutov scoring against the Montreal Canadiens on December 31, 1982 in an exhibition game.
Here Krutov scores for the Soviets in Rendez-vous '87 to put the Soviets ahead 2-0 followed by his game winning goal to make it 4-2 on the Soviets way to a 5-3 win.
In some truly rare footage, Krutov scores on a penalty shot for the ZSC Lions, quite possibly the slowest approach in the history of hockey.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Born on this date in 1958, an Edmonton, Alberta native, Wayne Babych played for his hometown Edmonton Mets of the Alberta Junior Hockey League in 1973-74, where the right wing put up a respectable 20 goals and 38 points in 56 games.
Staying close to home, Babych moved up to the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League for the 1974-75 season, where he scored 19 goals and 36 points. He more than doubled his point total for the following season, thanks to an increase to 32 goals as well as 46 assists for 78 points.
Babych stayed with the franchise when it relocated in 1976-77, becoming the Portland Winter Hawks, with whom he impressed with back to back 50 goal seasons. In 1977, he added 62 assists for 112 points, and topped that with 71 in 1978 for 121 points, leading the team in scoring by 32 points.
Following the season, Babych was selected third overall by the St. Louis Blues in the NHL Amateur Draft. He made the Blues roster straight away, playing 67 games his rookie season, scoring 27 goals and 63 points in 67 games. He backed that up with 61 points in 1979-80 in only 59 games.
Seemingly shot out of a cannon, Babych scored more goals than he previous two seasons combined when he finished in sixth in the league with 54 goals, just one back of Wayne Gretzky at 55 to become the first 50 goal scorer in Blues history while playing on a line with Blake Dunlop and Jorgen Pettersson. His 54 goals, 42 assists and 96 points were far and away his career best in all three categories, as were his 93 penalty minutes.
He would play three more seasons with St. Louis, never scoring more than 44 points or reaching 20 goals thanks to a torn rotator cuff which suffered in a fight during a preseason game in 1981.
His time in St. Louis had run it's course, and Babych was claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1984 waiver draft, where his first season went well, as he did manage 20 goals and 54 points.
Thinking he was going to be back with Pittsburgh the following season, fate had surprises in store for Babych, as he was dealt to the Quebec Nordiques after playing in just two games. Things went well in Quebec, having gotten off to a nice start with 11 points in 15 games, only to be sent back across the border when the Nordiques dealt Babych to the Hartford Whalers for the remainder of the season, where he joined his brother Dave Babych and scored 28 points in 37 games.
The hockey card makers had trouble keeping up with
all the movement Babych endured in 1985-86
His final season was an abbreviated one, having suffered a horribly broken leg in the preseason. Told he might never play again, he would spend nearly the entire season recovering in time to play six rehab games with the Binghamton Whalers in the AHL, the only minor league games of his career, before playing in Hartford's final four games of the season. Giving it a try in training camp the following season, pain and fear of further injury were too much, and Babych called it a career.
His final totals were 519 games, 192 goals and 246 assists for 438 points, and one magical 50 goal season.
Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 St. Louis Blues Wayne Babych jersey as worn during his career year when he scored a career high 54 goals and 96 points.
St. Louis joined the NHL in 1967 with jerseys that had the colors reversed on their striping. They swapped to today's featured jersey's configuration in 1973-74 and gained names on the back in 1977-78 before the attractive shoulder striping (added to match the white home jersey) was added in 1979-80. This classic Blues style would remain in use until being replaced in 1984-85.
In today's video section, Babych looks back on his time in St. Louis with the Blues.
Next is an interview with Babych on the occasion of a rough night, where he suffered a broken cheekbone from an elbow and a broken nose in the subsequent fight!
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Born on this date in 1945, Andre Lacroix, the youngest of 14 children, was a multi-skilled center who played for clubs in both the NHL and WHA during his 13 year professional career.
Lacroix, was clearly a man born at exactly the right time and was able to benefit perhaps more than any other player from the dramatic upheaval in professional hockey during the fifteen year span from 1966 to 1980. While other players were able to benefit better financially, Lacroix was rescued first from the minor leagues when the NHL expanded in 1967 and then liberated from his own personal hockey purgatory with the arrival of the WHA to record one of the greatest offensive careers of his generation.
Lacroix set prolific scoring marks in Canadian junior hockey starting in the 1964-65 season with the Peterborough Petes of the OHA by scoring 119 points in 49 games. He showed his goal scoring ability with 45 tallies and highlighted his remarkable playmaking skills with 74 assists. He was also very adept at winning faceoffs and penalty killing as well. He followed that season with a 120 point campaign in the 1965-66 season to lead the league in points.
Following the Petes regular season, Lacroix played a pair of games with the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League, scoring 4 points. 1966-67 saw Lacroix adapt to the game at the minor league level with a 25 goal, 24 assist season for 49 points.
He elevated his game to the next level in 1967-68 and was sitting at 41 goals and 87 points in 54 games before being recalled by the expansion Philadelphia Flyers, as this was the season that the NHL expanded from it's traditional six clubs to 12, creating approximately 130 new jobs that never existed before, which Lacroix was more than happy to benefit from. In 18 regular season games with Philadelphia, he scored 6 goals and 14 points, including scoring in his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 21st, and added 5 more points in 7 playoff games.
Building on the confidence of his successful first season in the league, Lacroix led the Flyers in scoring the next two seasons with 56 and 58 points, respectable totals for a member of one of the new expansion clubs who generally scored 50-75 goals less than the established teams.
After one more season in Philadelphia, Lacroix was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks, which did nothing for Lacroix's game. The Black Hawks were loaded with established offensive talent, the likes of Bobby Hull, Pit Martin, Dennis Hull and Stan Mikita, who all had been playing together on the Original Six club for years. This left very little opportunity for Lacroix to fit in and gain valuable ice time or any confidence, limiting him to only 11 points in 51 games.
Fortune smiled on Lacroix once more, as the following season saw the debut of the World Hockey Association, which was eager to establish itself while in competition with it's established rival, the NHL. The new league was eagerly looking for players with a level of offensive ability, and given the opportunity to return to Philadelphia, Lacroix wasted no time in leaving the bad experience in Chicago behind him and signed with the WHA's Philadelphia Blazers for the 1972-73 season.
Life in the freewheeling, better paying WHA agreed with his game and he immediately set a career best with 50 goals and added 74 assists for 124 points to win the inaugrual league scoring championship.
1972-73 WHA scoring champion Andre Lacroix
While some players were fortunate to find themselves with stable franchises, such as those in Quebec, Winnipeg, Houston, Edmonton and New England (and even they relocated from Boston to Hartford), many more players had to endure the frequent upheavals associated with life in the WHA. Lacroix was forced to live through many of the growing pains, perhaps more than his fair share, and was destined to only play one season in Philadelphia - one way or the other.
The Blazers relocated to Vancouver for the 1973-74 season, but before he could lace up the skates out west, Lacroix was traded to the highly unstable New York Raiders. The franchise was so erratic that they were taken over by the league when the original owners defaulted in year one and sold to a new owner for the second WHA season, who immediately changed the name to the New York Golden Blades. Again, the league ended up taking over the franchise after only 24 games, and moved them out of their money-losing situation as tenants of Madison Square Garden to Cherry Hill, New Jersey for the remainder of the season in a rink so inadequate the visiting teams had to leave the arena in their still wet gear to change into their clothes back at their hotel because of the inadequate situation with the locker rooms there. Worse, the ice surface sloped uphill toward one end!
Rumor has it that the franchise was named the "Knights" because that was the only jersey style a local sporting good store had enough of in stock to be purchased at the last minute following the team's relocation from Manhattan. Ah, life in the WHA.
Lacroix in a seldom seen Knights jersey
Still, throughout all the upheaval and inadequate facilities, Lacroix managed to score 31 goals and lead the league with 80 assists for 111 points, good for second in the league and ahead of the likes of Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, now in the WHA with Winnipeg.
Clearly the situation in New Jersey was unacceptable and the New York market was now lost to the WHA as the club was sold to a new California-based owner who relocated the team as far from New York as possible to San Diego, California - over 2400 miles away - where they were christened the Mariners.
With the team's situation settled for the time being, Lacroix got back to work and again won the league scoring title, this time with a career high 147 points from 41 goals and a whopping 106 assists, a new professional record at the time and all the more impressive when you consider the Mariners second leading scorer, Wayne Rivers, had 107 total points.
Lacroix again topped 100 points in 1975-76 with 101 and again in 1976-77 with 114 to lead the franchise for the fourth consecutive season. Three seasons of stability was perhaps more than anyone playing in the WHA in the United States was entitled to however, as the Mariners folded after the conclusion of the season.
With his services now available, Lacroix signed with the Houston Aeros as a free agent to replace the scoring of the recently departed Gordie Howe. As was his custom, Lacroix led the Aeros in scoring by a wide margin, with 36 goals and 77 assists for 113 points, 38 more than any other member of the Aeros. But before Lacroix could get truly comfortable, he was on the move once more as the Aeros, one of the strongest and most stable clubs in the WHA up this point, ceased operations when they were left out of any plans to merge with the NHL.
Lacroix signed with the Winnipeg Jets in July of 1978, only to be traded to the New England Whalers in August before even having the chance to report to the Jets training camp! The Whalers were a fairly average team with balanced scoring in 1978-79 and as a result, Lacroix's streak of six consecutive 100 point seasons came to an end with 88 total points that year. Only six other professional players have duplicated Lacroix's 100 points in six consecutive seasons.
In a new twist to the unstable path Lacroix's career had taken, he remained with the Whalers for the 1979-80 season, but the club itself changed leagues, as well as it's name to "Hartford", as the WHA ceased to exist and the Whalers joined the NHL.
Lacroix played in 29 games, scoring 3 goals and 17 points for the Whalers in his final season before retiring.
Lacroix's offensive skills and consistency made him the WHA's all time leader in assists with 547, points with 798 and in games played, totaling 551. Additionally, he ranked fourth in goals scored at 251. All told, Lacroix played in 551 out of a possible 555 games during the seven seasons of the WHA, including not missing a game during the first five seasons of the league.
He was also a member of Team Canada for the 1974 Summit Series against the Soviet Union where he was second on the team with 7 points in 8 games.
Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers Andre Lacroix jersey. The Flyers joined the NHL in 1967-68 with identical jerseys, save for the use of simple, one color numbers. The first change to their look came in 1970-71 when the numbers gained a black outline for his final season in Philadelphia.
While the Flyers jersey would continue to evolve over time in small ways, the team would revert back to this look in 2008-09 when they were in need of a new alternate jersey, which then took over as the team's current primary jersey in 2010-11.
Today's video section is a look at highlights from Lacroix from WHAHockey.tv. It includes rare footage of the WHA as well as the 1974 Summit Series where the WHA's finest took on the Soviet Union.
Monday, June 4, 2012
One of hockey history's most successful, respected and feared coaches was born on this date in 1930. Viktor Tikhonov's own playing career began in 1949 with VVS Moscow, the hockey club of the Soviet Air Force, under the guidance of Soviet hockey innovator Anatoli Tarasov. He later moved to Dynamo Moscow in 1953-54, where he played for ten seasons, eventually finishing his career with 35 goals in 296 games played, four consecutive Soviet League championships (3 with VVS 1951-1953 and 1 with Dynamo in 1954) and a USSR Cup in 1952 with VVS.
After the end of his playing days, he became an assistant coach with Dynamo Moscow in 1964 and later became a head coach with Dynamo Riga. He was later named head coach of the powerful CSKA Moscow (Central Red Army) in 1977. Along with those duties also came the position as head coach of the Soviet National Team, as the vast majority of the national team was made up of players from CSKA.
Dynamo Riga and young head coach Viktor Tikhonov
His success was immediate, as he led CSKA to a Soviet Championship League title in his first season. Following the domestic championship, Tikhonov guided the Soviet Union to the 1978 World Championship, setting the tone for what would become a historical run of success unequalled by any coach in hockey history.
With CSKA's unparalleled ability to choose nearly at will any player it desired from other clubs, by "drafting" them into military service and then assigning them to report to duty with the army' s hockey club, CSKA was essentially a perpetual Soviet National All-Star Team competing in a domestic league. This obvious advantage led to CSKA winning 12 consecutive Soviet Championship League titles under Tikhonov's reign. Additionally, CSKA would win the Soviet Cup in 1977, 1979 and 1988, the European Cup 14 times in 1976 and 1978-1990 and the Spengler Cup in 1991.
Additionally, the World Championship gold medal was nearly an annual right, as the Soviets were successful in 1978 and 1979, 1981-1983, 1986, 1989 and 1990 - 8 out of a possible 10 times, with a silver medal in 1987 and a bronze in 1985, making for 12 out of 12 placings in the medals.
During that period of time, the World Championships were not held during Olympic years, and the Soviet Union came home with a sliver medal in 1980, followed by gold medals in both 1984 and 1988. In 1984, the Soviet Union went undefeated in seven games with 48 goals for an 5 against, while 1988 saw them finish 7-1 with 45 goals for and 13 against.
The undefeated 1984 Olympic gold medal winning Soviet National Team
Other international success included soundly defeating the NHL All-Stars in the 1979 Challenge Cup and capturing the 1981 Canada Cup tournament, the only nation to defeat the Canadians in five tries.
Despite the success of his teams, he was an unpopular figure with his players, as he was an absolute iron-fisted dictator, controlling not only the player's on the ice, but their personal lives as well, confining them to barracks away from their wives and families for intensive training 10 or 11 months out of the year.
This eventually led to friction followed by an open revolt by stars Igor Larionov and Viacheslav Fetisov in 1991, as they desired more personal freedom and the opportunity to sign a contract to play in the NHL in particular. Eventually the political and economic changes in the Soviet Union resulted in the national federation allowing players to leave for the NHL, with their incentive being a portion of the proceeds from the player's contracts proving too lucrative to pass up, despite Tikhonov's desire to keep the national team intact.
"In the past, players stuck it out with the national team for 10 years," Tikhonov told the Toronto Sun in September 1991. "I will have to replace the departed players with juniors and they'll stay with me until they are 23 or 24, before they leave. I'm trying my best to keep the 18- and 19-year-olds from jumping to Scandinavia, Central Europe, or North America. I don't want the drain on our talent to continue, because we won't have a national team at all."
Once players began to receive permission to leave for North America, Tikhonov's obvious advantage in compiling the CSKA roster deteriorated and no more domestic titles would be forthcoming in his remaining years as CSKA coach through 1996. The strength of the National Team had also diminished, as players such as Alexander Mogilny had been lost to defection and Tikhonov did not allow players drafted by NHL clubs, such as Pavel Bure, Valeri Zelepukin, Evgeny Davydov and Vladimir Konstantinov to compete in the 1991 Canada Cup for fear of them defecting to the west as well, which led to a dismal 1-3-1 record to close out the history of the Soviet Union National Team on a down note.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in December of 1991, Tikhonov guided the Unified Team to gold at the 1992 Olympics, the final great triumph of his long and successful career.
"This is the kind of joy I haven't experienced in a long time." He explained that he had mellowed, recognizing the need for a new approach to lure NHL and European stars to play for the Unified Team. "We had a lot of new players and we didn't know them very well," Tikhonov said after the Games. "We lost a lot of good players. In order to get fresh players, the coaches had to review our approach."
Tikhonov would return for the 1994 Olympics after relinquishing his duties as coach at the World Championships, guiding Russia to the Final Round playoffs and an eventual 4th place finish.
In addition to the many, many honors and awards he would receive in the Soviet Union and later Russia, including the prestigious Order of Lenin, Tikhonov would be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. Later, when the IIHF named it's Centennial All-Star Team, four the six players named, Vladislav Tretiak, Fetisov, Valeri Kharlamov and Makarov, all had played for CSKA and the Soviet Union under Tikhonov during their careers.
Tikhonov receiving the Order of Friendship in 2010
Today's featured jersey is a 1981 Soviet Union National Team Sergei Makarov jersey as worn during the 1981 Canada Cup. While the Soviet Union was used to having it's way at the World Championships and the Olympics, the Canada Cup was the one time where each country could send it's best players regardless of their amateur or professional status, which benefitted Canada more than any other country.
The Soviet Union had opened it's tournament with a 1-1 tie against their rivals from Czechoslovakia and received a sound 7-3 thumping at the hands of Canada in the Round Robin portion of the tournament, knowing that both countries had already qualified for the playoffs. The Soviets then downed the Czechs 4-1 in the Semifinals and stunned Canada 8-1 in the finals, scoring the last seven goals of the contest after the game was tied at 1-1 eight minutes into the second period.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1992 Unified Team Andrei Kovalenko jersey as used in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, Tikhonov's final great success of his coaching career.
With the upheaval of the political situation in the Soviet Union in 1991, there was little time to sort out what kind of identity the brand new team made up of six of the 15 former Soviet republics would compete with. Mind you, the Unified Team was not the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Team, which was comprised 12 of the 15 Soviet republics and acted more like an association similar to the European Union, rather than a country, such as the Soviet Union had.
The Unified Team competed under the Olympic flag, and with just five weeks before the games were to commence, the jersey supplier to all the Olympic teams, Tackla of Finland, made up a set of the usual Soviet Union jerseys, only without the "CCCP" lettering across the chest. Note they did not even continue or even alter the chest stripes, which were still notched on the left hand side for the curvature of the "P"!
This was the one and only appearance for these stop-gap jerseys, as Russia competed in a new set of jerseys in time for the 1992 World Championships two months later in April with"Россия" now across the front in rushed, simple one color block letters rather than the fancier two color, drop shadowed letters used during the 1991 season prior to the fall of the Soviet Union.
Photos courtesy of Classic Auctions
Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1988-89 CSKA Moscow Alexander Mogilny jersey from Red Army's 13th consecutive Soviet Championship League title under Tikhonov just weeks prior to Mogilny defecting to the west. Mogilny's departure in early May after that year's World Championships in Sweden, effectively marked the end of an era for Tikhnov and the supremacy of CSKA, as prior to the following season Fetisov, Larionov and Vladimir Krutov left the Soviet Union with permission of the authorities to play in the NHL, brining to a close their unparalleled streak of championship dominance.
Today's video section begins with highlights of the final game of the 1981 Canada Cup tournament.
Our next video selection is the gold medal game from the 1992 Olympics, as the Unified Team, wearing their jerseys without any national identity, captures the gold medal against Canada, followed by a brief clip of the medal ceremony.
For those of you with the time, here is a half hour interview with Tikhonov on the occasion of the Russian's first World Championship victory in 15 years in 2008, which features his long standing view on team play over individual talent and his thoughts on many other topics.
It requires some concentration to listen to the translator over the original Russian language in the background, but is a rare chance for North Americans to hear his experience come through in his own words.