Friday, December 13, 2013

1970-71 Minnesota North Stars Cesare Maniago Jersey

When it was announced in 1965 that the NHL would finally expand after over 20 years of operating as a six team league, Minnesota was a natural location for one of the new six franchises to be granted.

The Minnesota North Stars began play on October 11, 1967 and played their first four games on the road, tying two and losing two, before returning to Minnesota for their first ever regular season game at the brand new Metropolitan Sports Center on October 21st, a 3-1 win over the California Seals, the first victory in franchise history.

After a second win over the St. Louis Blues, the North Stars lost two before putting together a nice run of four without a loss, three wins and a tie, prior to a rugged part of the schedule which featured seven of eight games against established Original 6 clubs. Predictably, they lost six and tied the two others to finish all eight winless.

The final game of that rough stretch was a 1-1 tie versus Montreal, which gave the North Stars a needed boost of confidence, which they used to begin their best stretch of hockey all season. They thumped St. Louis 5-1, earned their first win over the Chicago Black Hawks 4-3 in Chicago before a close-fought 1-1 tie with the defending Stanley Cup champion Toronto Maple Leafs.

A narrow 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at home was only a temporary setback, and they returned the favor in spades the very next night in Pittsburgh by retaliating with a 7-4 win. Then on this date in 1967, Minnesota's Cesare Maniago earned the first shutout in North Stars history with a 4-0 blanking of the Los Angeles Kings in Minnesota.

Maniago Topps

The two teams then traveled to Los Angeles where Minnesota reiterated it's dominance with another shutout, this time 3-0 with Maniago again in goal. After traveling up the freeway to play Oakland the very next night, Maniago's shutout streak was extended to three consecutive games as the North Stars continued their fine defensive run with a 1-0 victory over the Seals, evening the North Stars record at the time to 11-11-6. He would eventually record three more shutouts in the North Stars first season to set the franchise's benchmark at six.

Maniago made his debut with seven games for Toronto back in 1960 before being claimed by the Canadiens. He would play 14 games with Montreal in 1962-63 but spent several years toiling in the minors waiting for an opportunity to return to the NHL while the Canadiens were winning Stanley Cups on a regular basis with Charlie Hodge and Gump Worsley in goal.

Maniago Canadiens

A trade to the New York Rangers provided little opportunity, 34 games in two seasons, before the NHL expanded for 1967-68, creating approximately 140 new NHL jobs, a dozen of those for goaltenders.

The North Stars made Maniago their first choice, instantly changing the course of his career. The notably tall (6' 3") goaltender would spend the next nine seasons in Minnesota, compared to playing for 12 different clubs, including four different ones in both 1960-61 and 1962-63, over the previous seven seasons.

Maniago North Stars

That first season with the North Stars saw Maniago establish what would stand up as his career hight with 22 wins thanks to his quick reflexes and acrobatic style. The following seasons he set another career high with 64 games played. He was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 1976 and played there for two years before retiring.

He completed his NHL career with 568 games played, 190 wins and 30 shutouts. At the time of his retirement, Maniago was in the top 25 all-time in shutouts and 12th in games played as well as leading the North Stars in every meaningful category.

Maniago North Stars

Today's featured jersey is a 1970-71 Minnesota North Stars Cesare Maniago jersey. The very first North Stars jerseys looked very much like this one, only with a lace-up collar and without the white shoulders. The lace-up collar vanished almost immediately during the North Stars first season and the white shoulder yoke was adopted for the North Stars second season of 1968-69. This style would remain in use until 1975.

North Stars 70-71 jersey
North Stars 70-71 jersey

Today's video section begins with the well spoken Maniago fielding phone calls from fans on TV, which is abruptly and annoyingly cut short for some reason. Why do people post videos like that?


Next up is a slide show of Maniago photos by a fan. Best watched with the sound all the way down. You've been warned.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

1976-77 New York Rangers Rod Gilbert Jersey

On this date in 1976, Rod Gilbert of the New York Rangers celebrated his 1,000th game with New York, only the second player to reach that mark for the Rangers, with three assists in a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

Rod Gilbert's career almost never happened, as during the 1959-60 season in junior hockey, with one game left in the season, he slipped on some trash thrown on the ice and fell backwards into the boards, fracturing his back and was paralyzed for two months and underwent spinal fusion surgery. He also got an infection in his tibia, raising talk of an amputation, and a staph infection in his back. In total Gilbert required eight months of recovery time.

Fully recovered, he began his career with the Rangers in 1960-61, getting into one game following the conclusion of his junior hockey season. His first NHL goal came in the playoffs following the 1961-62 season when he scored 5 points in 4 games before cracking the Rangers lineup the following season and getting into 70 games in 1962-63, scoring 11 goals and 31 points.

He really made strides in 1963-64, more than doubling his point total from the year prior, with 24 goals and 64 points and playing in the first of eight NHL All-Star Games, followed by another 25 goals and 61 points the next season and another All-Star Game appearance, all while playing with a back brace.

Another back surgery, and an incident while recovering in the hospital when he choked as a result of acute indigestion and was clinically dead for four minutes before being revived, caused him to miss more than half the season in 1965-66, but for the next 11 seasons Gilbert would play in a minimum of 64 games, with 9 of those seasons being 70 games or more.

Gilbert, teamed with center Jean Ratelle, whom Gilbert had played with as early as age 10, and team captain Vic Hadfield on left wing, would form the GAG Line, which stood for "Goal A Game" and would play together in the late 1960's and early 1970's, averaging over a goal a game.


In 1971-72 Ratelle, Hadfield and Gilbert would finish third, fourth and fifth in the NHL scoring race, which included Ratelle missing a month with a broken ankle! The trio was broken up in 1974 when Hadfield was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gilbert's best seasons were 1971-72, with 43 goals, his career high, and 54 assists for 97 points and his only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and 1974-75 with 36 goals and 61 assists for a matching 97 points.

The 1975 trade of lifelong friend and linemate Ratelle took away some of Gilbert's spirit and likely hastened the end of his career, as Gilbert only played two more seasons following the trade.

He would finish his career after 19 seasons with 1065 games played, 406 goals and 615 assists for 1,021 points. He had his #7 retired by the Rangers in 1979, astonishingly, the first Ranger to ever have his number retired! Gilbert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

Internationally, Gilbert played for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 games, and again for Canada in the 1977 World Championships with 4 points in 9 games.

Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 New York Rangers Rod Gilbert jersey from his final season in the NHL. This jersey style was first introduced by General Manager John Ferguson Sr. in the 1976-77 season and was the first departure in club history from the iconic diagonal "RANGERS" cresting.


After proving unpopular with the tradition bound Rangers fans, this style was only used for two seasons, the first without names on the back of the road jerseys and, thanks to a new NHL rule requiring them, with them on the back for the 1977-78 season. Names were always worn on the home white jerseys.

After being let go by the Rangers in 1978, Ferguson became the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and reprised the exact same jersey template for the Jets beginning with their inaugural NHL season in 1979, with the only differences being the font for the name and numbers and, naturally, the team logo. The Jets would use this style all throughout the 1980's.


In today's Third String Goalie Police Blotter, a painting of Rod Gilbert by the late Andy Warhol, as part of his ten painting Athlete Series, was stolen between September 2 and 3, 2009 from the Los Angeles residence of collector Richard L. Weisman along with the remainder of the series, which includes Muhammad Ali, OJ Simpsion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pele.

A $1 million reward has been offered for information leading to their recovery and anyone with information about this theft or whereabouts of the missing paintings is asked to contact the Art Theft Detail of the Commercial Crimes Division of the LAPD at (231) 485-2524.

This image is the accurate color version of the missing painting which was
produced in several variations

Today's video is one of the always excellent "Legends of Hockey" profiles, this one of Gilbert.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

1931-32 Montreal Maroons Hooley Smith Jersey

In 1923-24 the NHL consisted of just four member clubs, the Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto St. Patricks. The league expanded by two when the Boston Bruins, the first club based in the United States, and the Montreal Maroons were admitted to the league for the 1924-25 season, the NHL's eighth in their history.

The Maroons were based out of the brand new Montreal Forum, which was built specifically for the Maroons, only to have the Canadiens take the honors of playing the first game in the new arena when their home, the Mount Royal Arena, which did not have the capability to produce artificial ice, was unable to host their game against the St. Patricks due to poor ice conditions.

The Maroons first game was played on December 1, 1924, a 2-1 loss to their fellow expansion brothers, the Bruins. After two more games, another loss followed by the first win in club history, 3-1 over Ottawa, the Maroons faced off against the Canadiens, who just happened to be the defending Stanley Cup champions, for the first time ever on this date in 1924.

The established Canadiens were led by three men that season, Bill Boucher (31 points), second year pro Howie Morenz (34 points) and team scoring leader Aurel Joliat, who led the Canadiens with 29 goals and 40 points. Those three men dominated team scoring that season with a remarkable 79.5% of their total, 105 out of the team's 132 points.

In their game against the Maroons, Joliat scored four of the Canadians five goals, while Georges Vezina got his 9th career shutout in their 5-0 victory.

The Maroons would gain a tie with the Canadiens 17 days later, a 1-1 affair with overtime did not settle. January 14th saw them battle to another 1-1 overtime draw. The remainder of their meetings that season went the way of the Canadiens when they repeated their 5-0 win again on January 31st, shut the Maroons out for the third time in a 1-0 win on February 18th and took their third in a row 3-1 on March 7th.

The 1924-25 Montreal Maroons

After finishing fifth in their first season, ahead of only Boston, the Maroons fielded a much stronger club during their second season of 1925-26, climbing up to second place overall in the now seven team NHL. Their first ever victory over the Canadiens did not take long to arrive, as they downed the Canadiens 3-2 in their first meeting of the new season. The Maroons dominated the inter-city rivalry that season, taking five of six from The Habs, including a pair of shutouts.

The improved play of the Maroons heightened the rivalry between the two clubs, which was already fueled by the fact the Maroons were the club of choice for Montreal's English speaking population, while Les Canadiens were the darlings of Montreal's francophone supporters.

Following the regular season, the Maroons defeated the third place Pittsburgh Pirates 6 goals to 4 in their playoff series to advance to the league championship, where the Maroons upset the established Senators in a closely fought pair of games. The first contest in the two-game, total-goals series was a 1-1 draw, setting up a winner-take-all second game, which went the Maroons way 1-0.

With the NHL championship in hand, the Maroons advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals versus the Victoria Cougars. Nels Stewart led the Maroons with six goals in four games as the Maroons shut out the Cougars by identical 3-0 scores in the first two games of the best-of-five series. The Cougars took a narrow 3-2 win to stay alive, only to have the Maroons close out the series with another shutout by goaltender Clint Benedict, this one a 2-0 victory to claim the prestigious Stanley Cup in only their second season.

1926montrealmaroons Pictures, Images and Photos
The 1925-26 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Maroons - note Benedict in the back wearing his trademark ballcap and one of the previous season's jerseys

The Canadiens would move into the much more modern Forum the following season and would share the arena with the Maroons until 1938. The two clubs would also meet in the playoffs for the only that season when they met in the quarterfinals. They tied 1-1 in Game 1 of the two-game, total-goals series. The second game saw regulation end scoreless, and the Canadiens advanced with an overtime goal to take the series 2 goals to 1 and add another chapter in the growing rivalry of the two clubs who shared not only a city, but now an arena as well, even though they divided their fanbase along linguistic lines.

The Maroons would play for 14 seasons and qualify for the playoffs in ten of those seasons. Following their Stanley Cup in 1926 it would be another nine seasons before they would claim their second and final one in 1935. During the Maroons 14 seasons in the NHL, both the Maroons and Canadiens each won a pair of Stanley Cups, with the Canadiens coming back-to-back in 1930 and 1931.

1935-36 Montreal Maroons
The 1934-35 Stanley Cup champion Montreal Maroons

The Canadiens would not only win the all-time series between the two clubs 40-35-17, but add insult to injury by taking over as sole occupants of the arena originally built for the Maroons when the Maroons folded due to a lack of support during the Great Depression of the 1930's, which hit Canada particularly hard.

The one time the two clubs would come together would be in the Maroons final season, on November 2, 1937 when members of both Montreal teams paired up to take on a team made of All-Stars from the other six NHL clubs in a benefit game for the benefit of Morenz's family following his premature death in March of that year.

Maroons and Canadiens Morenz benefit game
The Maroons and Canadiens team up for the Howie Morenz benefit game

Today's featured jersey is a 1931-32 Montreal Maroons Hooley Smith jersey. While Smith was a member of the Senators when the Maroons and Canadiens played their first game against each other, he was sold to the Maroons in time for the 1927-28 season and played for the club until the 1935-36 season, nine in all. He was named team captain in 1932 and remained so until he left the club in 1936. While with the Maroons Smith scored 130 goals and 151 assists for 281 points, making him the Maroons all-time franchise scoring leader, 14 points more than Jimmy Ward in 108 less games.

Smith won a Stanley Cup with the Maroons in 1936 to go with the one he won with Ottawa in 1927. Additionally, Smith also won a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics while playing for Canada.

With the Maroons decline underway, Smith was sold to the Bruins, who later sold him to the New York Americans. He would play 17 NHL seasons in all, scoring exactly 200 goals on his way tot totaling 425 points. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

The Maroons jerseys underwent several changes in their 14 years. Their first jerseys had the the name "Montreal" across the chest in simple block letters. They replaced that with the large "M" crest for year two, in which they won the Stanley Cup. Those jerseys featured four white stripes down the arms and two around the waist.

In 1929 styles had changed and their jerseys now had nine thinner stripes running down the arms and the waist stripes were increased to three. After two seasons they switched to the "Northwestern" stripe pattern (a thick center stripe flanked by two thinner stripes) for the rest of their history with the only change being to the font used for the "M" in 1935. During that era teams almost exclusively wore one style of jersey, so the Maroons never wore a white version of their famous maroon sweaters.

Hooley Smith Maroons 31-32

Today's video is a look at the evolution of hockey in Canada, which features the Maroons Clint Benedict, the first man to wear a goalie mask in an NHL game.


Monday, December 9, 2013

1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Stan Mikita Jersey

On this date in 1973, Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks played in his 1,000th career game in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota North Stars. In doing so, Mikita became only the third player to appear in 1,000 games with Chicago.

Additionally, on the same date in 1978, Mikita became only the second player in NHL history to register 900 career assists in a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Mikita's story is unlike probably any other player in the long history of the NHL. Born Stanislaus Gouth in Sokolce, Czechoslovakia in 1940, Mikita's family, fearing the political changes in the late 1940's as the Soviet Union's influence over Eastern Europe grew, sent the eight-year-old Stan, who was unfamiliar with hockey, to live with relatives in Canada just as the Iron Curtain closed and he took the family name Mikita of his aunt.

The Iron Curtain photo IronCurtainmap.png
A map showing Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain

"Hockey was the biggest help in making the adjustment to a new life," Mikita recalled. "I was sitting on the front porch, and eventually I got enough nerve to go down onto the sidewalk to watch. One day they were short a guy, so they motioned for me to come and join them."

"I had no idea how to play hockey, so the first time a guy went around me, I chopped his legs out from under him. I didn't understand a word of English, but one of the older fellows told me, in sign language, "No, we don't play hockey like that." He showed me how to hold the stick and stickhandle. That was my introduction to hockey and where I learned the English language. Needless to say, my vocabulary was limited and included quite a few cusswords."

He made his NHL debut with the Black Hawks in 1958-59 season, becoming the first ever Czechoslovakian-born player in NHL history and scoring his first point and the first of many penalty minutes. He would become a regular the following season, appearing in 67 games, scoring his first NHL goal and racking up 119 penalty minutes, as he employed a rough and feisty style in part due to his smaller size.

"I hadn't completely eliminated the language factor, and kids made fun of me. That made me determined to be better than those kids as a hockey player, but I was also in a lot of scraps. When I got to the NHL in 1959, I was still fighting. My first left-winger was Ted Lindsay, who, at 5 foot 8 inches and 152 pounds, was about my size. I asked Teddy, "You've played 16 years in the league. How did you ever survive?" He answered, "Hit 'em first." I followed that advice and made sure everyone knew that I was tough enough for the NHL," said Mikita.

Stan Mikita rookie card photo MikitaRookiecard.jpg
A Stan Mikita rookie card from 1960

Mikita would improve his game in 1960-61, more than doubling his goal total to 19 and nearly doubling his assist total to 34 for a 27 point increase in points to 53 in 66 games along with another 100 penalty minutes. Following the regular season, he led all goal scorers with six and helped the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1938.

1960-61 Chicago Blackhawks team photo 1960-61ChicagoBlackhawksteam.jpg
The 1960-61 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Black Hawks

Another leap in production in 1961-62 saw him in the 20's for goals scored with 25 and 52 assists for 77 points, tied for third overall in the league with Gordie Howe, seven behind Chicago teammate Bobby Hull. While the Black Hawks would not repeat as champions, Mikita had 21 points in 12 playoff games as the Black Hawks again made it to the finals.

After another 76 point season, Mikita would capture his first Art Ross Trophy in 1963-64, leading the league in scoring with a career high 89 points on 39 goals and 50 assists, along with 146 penalty minutes, third overall and just 5 behind the league leader.

Mikita would again lead the league in scoring in 1964-65 with 87 points and 154 penalty minutes plus 10 more points in 14 playoff games as they again reached the finals.

Then an amazing thing happened. Mikita returned home from a road trip and his wife told him that their daughter was watching the last road game on TV and asked "Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?" It was at that point that Mikita thought about how to explain to a three-year-old how her father took a penalty he shouldn't have and was being punished for it. He also figured out where his penalty minutes were coming from and made a conscious decision to eliminate "lazy" penalties such as holding, hooking and tripping, as well as his misconduct penalties and began to play a different style of hockey and keep quiet with the referees.

The results were dramatic.

1965-66 saw a drop in penalty minutes to 58, yet he still managed 78 points, second overall.

Mikita's reinvention of his style continued in 1966-67 as he scored 35 goals and 62 assists tying the single season league record of 97 points to capture his third Art Ross Trophy, yet even more surprising was his mere 12 penalty minutes, 142 less than just two seasons prior, which earned him the Lady Byng Award. Had you suggested such a thing was even possible the first six seasons of his career, you would have been laughed at. Mikita is fond of saying, "I realized that you need an awfully long stick to score from the penalty box." The scoring title, along with reinventing his style in play, resulted in Mikita winning the Hart Trophy as well, the first player to ever win all three trophies in a single season.

Mikita poses with his record setting trio of trophies in 1967

He would repeat the triple trophy feat in 1967-68 with a career high 40 goals, 47 assists for 87 points and just 14 penalty minutes and be named the winner of the Lady Byng, Hart and Art Ross trophies his fourth scoring title in five years.

Although his point total increased the following season to 97, tying his career best, he would finish fourth in the scoring race. The next six seasons Mikita's consistent production saw him average 78 points per season, with none lower than 65. During that time period the Black Hawks would make it to the finals in 1970-71 (18 points in 18 games) and 1972-73 (20 points in 15 games).

It was just prior to the 1972-73 season that Mikita would have a homecoming while part of Team Canada. After completing the grueling Summit Series against the Soviet Union, Team Canada travelled to Prague to play the Czechoslovakian National Team. Mikita was named team captain for the contest, which was the first time he was able to play in front of his parents and siblings.

"The welcome I received from the crowd was the proudest moment in my life," said Mikita.

 photo MikitaTeamCanada.jpg
Mikita as a member of Team Canada in 1972

His production would drop from the 80's to the high 50's, partly due to back problems which would eventually cause him to retire in 1980 as the second highest NHL career scoring leader, behind only Howe, with 1,467 points from 541 goals and 926 assists in 1,394 games, the 7th most in league history at the time. His games, assists and points were all Black Hawks records and he would finish his career with 4 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Hart Trophies, 2 Lady Byng Trophies. In addition to his trophy collection, Mikita would appear in nine NHL All-Star Games - 1964, 1967-1969 and 1971 through 1975.

Howe, Mikita & Hull-1967 ASG photo HoweMikitaampHull-1967ASG.jpg
Mikita played on a line with Howe and Hull in the 1967 All-Star Game

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Slovak Hall of Fame in 2002.

In addition to all his scoring exploits, Mikita was also an innovator of hockey equipment, both intentional in unintentional. Following a concussion in 1972-73, Mikita began wearing a helmet designed especially for him with it's distinctive round crown and even put it into production for others to purchase.


Mikita wearing the Northland dome helmet

Having even more of an impact on how the game is played, Mikita is credited with the innovation of the curved stick blade in the early 1960's.

"My invention of the curved stick came by accident. One day, I cracked my stick in practice, forming an angle in the blade. I was tired and angry at the thought of climbing the 21 stairs to the dressing room to get another stick. I fired a puck in frustration, and the way it left my stick and the sound it made against the boards caught my attention. Before the stick finally broke, I had taken a half a dozen shots, and each time, it was the same."

"After that, I intentionally bent my stick. I broke a lot before I figured out how to make the wood pliable with heat and soaking. I experimented in practice for a month or two before I used a curved blade in a game."

Handyman Mikita ushering in the curved stick era

The curve gave the puck a fluttering path like a baseball knuckleball, moving unexpectedly. Once put into use by Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull, and combined with Hull's notoriously hard slapshot, the curved stick blade quickly became adapted league wide and by 1963 rules were put in place to limit the amount of the curvature to lessen the effect.

Apparently not everyone agrees with this rule...


Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Stan Mikita jersey from the season in which he played his 1,000th game. This was the first season that the Black Hawks numbers were two colors, previously being one color white numbers. The Black Hawks would not being using names on the back of their jerseys until 1977.


Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1960-61 Chicago Black Hawks Stan Mikita jersey from his rookie season. Unlike today's featured jersey, this earlier sweater has the trappings of a 1950's style with the lace-up collar, one color numbers and no name on the back.

This indian head logo sweater, so revered today and often topping Best Jersey Lists, came into being in the 1955-56 season, replacing the previous style which had a small indian head of a different design contained in a circle logo. The 1955-56 version had no sleeve numbers and a slightly different main crest design before the logo changed to today's more familiar version and sleeve numbers were added in 1957-58. Note today's jersey has two sleeve stripes and long black cuffs, which were changed to three stripes to match the waist striping for the 1963-64 season.

Chicago Black Hawks 1959-60 jersey photo ChicagoBlackHawks1959-60Fjersey.png
Chicago Black Hawks 1959-60 jersey photo ChicagoBlackHawks1959-60Bjersey.png

We hope you have some time on your hands today, as we mine a rich vein of video about Stan Mikita and his lengthy career.

First up, highlights of the 1961 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 where Mikita assisted on the game winning goal, the first Stanley Cup won by the Black Hawks in 38 years and the only one of Mikita's career.


Here is an interview with Mikita who discusses the creation of the helmet he wore and the incident that led to the development of the curved stick and gives you a glimpse of his self-depreciating sense of humor.


Next is a nice career retrospective on Mikita.


In one of the nicer stories in hockey of the last few seasons, here is Mikita talking about rejoining the Chicago Blackhawks family as an ambassador for the team followed by the long overdue Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita Night.



For further viewing, this two part profile of Mikita from 1995 is also recommended. Part One. Part Two.

Finally, for fan's of the movie Wayne's World, no one should be without their own Stan Mikita's Donuts t-shirt.


 

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