Wednesday, April 29, 2015

1989-90 Edmonton Oilers Craig MacTavish Jersey

An era came to an end on this date in 1997, when Craig MacTavish announced his retirement from the NHL, as MacTavish was the last NHL player to play without a helmet.

When the NHL mandated the use of helmets for all players in 1979, any player already in the league was given the option of continuing to play without protective headgear.

MacTavish was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft and saw limited NHL action for three seasons as he spent the majority of his time in the American Hockey League, ut it was his 46 games with the Bruins in 1979-80 that allowed him the exemption from the new helmet rules.

He finally made it with the Bruins full time in 1982-83 and got his first extended playoff experience as the Bruins made it to the conference finals that season. After one more year in Boston, MacTavish missed the 1984-85 season following a conviction of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence and spending a year incarcerated. After his release, the Bruins and MacTavish parted ways and MacTavish joined the Edmonton Oilers, where he accepted the role of a checking center on a team loaded with offensive talent.

He would play nine seasons in Edmonton, winning three Stanley Cups in 1987, 1988 & 1990. His best offensive season was in 1988-89 when he scored 21 goals and 31 assists for 52 points, which is the best one can expect playing behind offensive minded centers like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

Following the departure of Kevin Lowe, MacTavish became the Oilers team captain in 1992 until his late season trade to the New York Rangers in 1994, just in time to help the Rangers capture their famous Stanley Cup championship, their first since 1940.

The following season he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he would play for two seasons before being traded to the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96. He would return to the Blues for the final season of his career in 1996-97 as the last helmetless player in the league.

MacTavish Blues

His final NHL totals show 17 seasons, 1093 games played, 213 goals and 267 assists for 480 points and his name on the Stanley Cup four times. Following his playing career, MacTavish eventually became head coach of the Oilers for eight seasons, including a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.

The first player to be credited with wearing a helmet on a regular basis for protection in the NHL was George Owen back in 1928, who wore the same helmet while playing for the Bruins that he wore while playing college football. Owen played five seasons for the Bruins, winning a Stanely Cup in 1929.

After suffering a head injury in 1933, Eddie Shore began wearing a helmet for the rest of his career, but it wasn't until the on ice death of the Minnesota North Stars Bill Masterton that players began to embrace the widespread use of the helmet. At the time of the helmet rule being made mandatory 11 years later, 70% of players were wearing helmets.

While many players wear similar helmets, occasionally facial injuries can result in additions to the normal helmet, such as Pat Lafontaine's addition to protect a broken jaw.


Other players notable for their unique helmets were Stan Mikita and his rounded Northland "dome" helment, Wayne Gretzky's Jofa VM lid and Butch Goring, who wore the same Snaps helmet since he was 12 years old, famous for it's small size and lack of gloss while with the New York Islanders.

Hockey Helmets

Goring actually had a pair of the helmets, one for at home and one for the road. They went through several color alterations as Goring moved from the Los Angeles Kings to the Islanders and later the Boston Bruins and eventually the Nova Scotia Oilers to close out his career.

When Goring was traded from the Kings to the Islanders late in the 1979-80 season, the Islanders equipment man didn't have the right paint available and had to improvise while on the road to get Goring in line with the rest of the team, as his road helmet was currently painted Kings' purple while the other was painted gold. The solution was to cover one of the helmets with blue tape, giving the headgear it's distinctive non-glossy, flat appearance, as if it had been flocked.

"It looked pretty good, you couldn't tell the difference." Goring said. "The tape was light enough so it was no big deal, it did the job."

"I didn't wear it for the protection. It was almost why do you wear gloves, why do you wear pads? For me, it was like I didn't know any other way to play hockey other than with my helmet. I grew up in an era where helmets were mandatory as a kid and it just didn't make any sense to take it off because it wasn't anything cumbersome that I needed to get rid of."
"Hockey players are like any other athletes, they get attached to certain things and they had good success and the helmet for me and I actually had a couple of items I kept for a long period of time but I think it is just a comfort zone more than anything else," Goring recalled.

Today's featured jersey is a 1989-90 Edmonton Oilers Craig MacTavish jersey. This jersey was worn during the final championship season of the Oilers era of success.

When the Oilers first joined the NHL they wore Maska jerseys and then Sandow SK brand for two seasons before the change to Nike. It was not until the 1989-90 season that the Oilers began wearing CCM, meaning Gretzky never wore CCM jerseys while with the Oilers in the NHL.

Edmonton Oilers Jersey
Edmonton Oilers Jersey

Today's video section begins with a brief look at the history of the hockey helmet and a profile of MacTavish.

Helmets used to come in a wider variety of shapes and sizes. In one of YouTube's finest moments, we present the Toronto Maple Leafs Top 11 Worst Head Gear.

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