Wednesday, December 21, 2016

1991-92 New York Rangers Turn Back the Clock Joey Kocur Jersey

One of the toughest men to ever play in the NHL, Joey Kocur was born on this date in 1964.

Kocur impressed scouts with his performance as a junior in the Western Hockey League while playing for the Saskatoon Blades. During his first season of 1982-83, he scored 23 goals and 40 points while amassing 289 penalty minutes in 62 games, over 4.6 minutes per game in penalty minutes. That eye opening performance led to him being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.

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Kocur while with the Saskatoon Blades

He returned to Saskatoon for the 1983-84 season, where in 69 games, Kocur scored an even 40 goals and matched that with 41 assists for 81 points while being whistled for 258 penalty minutes. Once his junior season was over, Kocur joined the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League for five playoff games, where he received 28 penalty minutes.

Kocur spent the majority of his 1984-85 season with Adirondack, playing in 47 games with 19 points to his credit. He was called up to Detroit to make his NHL debut, eventually seeing action in 17 regular season games, scoring his first goal.

His debut would have to wait however, as during his last game before being called up, Kocur knocked out Jim Playfair. Doctors in Halifax didn't realize Kocur, who needed 40 stitches to close the wound on his hand following the fight, had cut his hand on Playfair's teeth and sewed the wound shut, which allowed the hand to become infected.

Overnight, his arm swelled up to three times it's normal size which attracted the attention of the Detroit trainer. Three hours later he was in surgery and two weeks later he was informed that if he had waited another day, they might have had to amputate his entire right arm.

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Kocur after having emergency surgery following a
hand infection after a fight

For the 1985-86 season, Kocur played 9 games with Adirondack, but spent most of his time in the NHL terrorizing the league with a career high 377 penalty minutes in just 59 games to lead the league despite giving the rest of the league a 21 game head start. In all, Kocur had 34 fights that season, also a career high.

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Kocur introduced himself to the NHL by leading the
league in penalty minutes

Kocur again led the Red Wings with 276 penalty minutes thanks to 30 more fights in the 1986-87 season while scoring another 9 goals. The following season, Kocur placed second on the team with 263 minutes, thanks to 25 fights, behind teammate and league leader Bob Probert (398). The duo became known as "The Bruise Brothers" and were very popular with the Detroit faithful.

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In a lighter moment, Probert and Kocur share a laugh

Kocur again was second on the Red Wings in penalties in 1988-89 with 213 behind Gerard Gallant. Such was the power of his right fist that he was actually able to crack some player's helmets during fights. Donald Brasher relates, "Kocur was hitting me in the helmet like a power hammer and in the end the helmet split! I remember the next day I had a terrible pain, my gums on the left side of my head were hurting even though he was hitting me on the right side of my face. I couldn't chew anything. I wonder what it would be if I did not have a helmet? Too scary."

Not only did Kocur lead Detroit in penalty minutes for the third time in 1989-90 with 268, but he set a career highs for goals with 16, 20 assists and points with 36, double his next highest of 18.

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Kocur had offensive career highs in 1989-90

After 52 games of the 1990-91 season with the Red Wings, and 253 penalty minutes, his sixth season of over 210 penalty minutes with Detroit, Kocur was traded to the New York Rangers in March of 1991 and played in five games for New York to finish the season, adding another 36 penalty minutes to his final season total of 289, the second highest of his career.

His role with the Rangers would change, and in five seasons in New York, Kocur would never exceed 131 minutes. His best offensive season in New York was 1991-92 when he had 7 goals and 11 points.

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Kocur took his toughness to the New York Rangers

In 1993-94, the Rangers would go on a deep playoff run and Kocur would play in 20 of the Rangers 23 games as they defeat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years.

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The 1994 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers

One of Darren McCarty’s first fights as a rookie for Detroit was against Kocur, by then with the  Rangers before they later became teammates. “One of his punches cracked my helmet,” McCarty recalled. “The momentum of his fist connecting with my head sent us both crashing to the ice. We were both tangled up, and we went down head first and we landed face-to-face.” Kocur asked if McCarty was okay. “Thanks for not killing me, Mr. Kocur,” McCarty said.

After having only played in 38 games for New York in 1995-96, Kocur was traded to the Canucks in March of that season, playing just 7 regular season and 1 playoff game in Vancouver.

Kocur began the 1996-97 season with the San Antonio Dragons of the International Hockey League, but after just five games, he was resigned by Detroit on the recommendation of team captain Steve Yzerman to provide an element of toughness the team was lacking with the departures of Probert and Stu "The Grim Reaper" Grimson.

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Kocur had two successful stints with Detroit

He would play in 34 games, scoring a pair of goals and 3 points with 70 penalty minutes. He would also play in 19 playoff games, scoring once and chipping in 3 assists as the Red Wings would sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in four straight to win the second Stanley Cup of Kocur's career.

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Kocur drinks from the cup in 1998

Detroit, inspired by the career ending injuries to Vladimir Konstantinov while celebrating in the days following the 1997 championship, would repeat as Stanley Cup winners again in 1998. That season Kocur played in 63 games with 6 goals and 11 points and then scored 4 more goals during 18 playoff games during the 1998 playoffs.

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Kocur lifts the Stanley Cup in 1998

Kocur would play one final season in the NHL, seeing action in 39 games before retiring as a player. His final career totals were 821 games played, 80 goals and 82 assists for 162 points. His final penalty minute total was 2,519, which rank him as 20th all time.

In July of 2010, Probert died of a heart attack at the age of 45 while boating with family. "This is a very sad day for Red Wings fans as we have lost one of the toughest players, best power forwards and all-around great guys who ever wore the Winged Wheel," Kocur said. "My favorite memory of Bob would be sitting down before a game, going over the opposing lineup and picking and choosing who would go first and if the goalie would be safe or no. It was great to be able to go out on the ice knowing that he had my back and I had his. He was like the brother I never had. My prayers go out to his family."

Kocur Probert jersey photo Kocur Probert 
Kocur wearing a Probert jersey in his honor during the
2014 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Showdown Game 2 in Detroit

After his playing career ended, Kocur became President of the Red Wings Alumni Association, which is involved in raising money for charitable causes by holding reunion games and he also started the Joe Kocur Foundation for Children, which can be followed on Twitter @KocurFoundation.

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To read about Kocur and Probert, the legendary Bruise Brothers, get your copy at the link below.

Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 New York Rangers Turn Back the Clock Joey Kocur jersey. To celebrate the NHL's 75th Anniversary season, every player wore the NHL 75th Anniversary logo patch on their jersey, while the Original 6 clubs each wore a throwback jersey based on a design from the team's past. New York wore jerseys based on the ones worn the last time they had won the Stanley Cup in 1939-40.

 photo New York Rangers 1991-92 TBTC F jersey.jpg
 photo New York Rangers 1991-92 TBTC B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1987-88 Detroit Red Wings Joey Kocur jersey. Jersey forensics reveal this to be the only season the Red Wings had the combination of their customizers EastSide Team Sports adding their logo to the team's jerseys in combination with the red-red-blue CCM logo on the back, which changed to team colors the following season, leaving the three blocks in the CCM logo now white-white-white with red letters.

This simple, yet iconic style was first worn by Detroit in 1932-33, the season they changed their name from Falcons to Red Wings. Aside from changing the original red numbers outlined in white to one color white in 1937 and adding sleeve numbers and names on the back, this jersey remains unchanged for over 80 years and looks to remain the same for another 80 years.

 photo Detroit Red Wings 1987-88 F jersey.jpg
 photo Detroit Red Wings 1987-88 B jersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings Joey Kocur practice jersey. To date, we have featured very few practice jerseys on Third String Goalie, but they can be an interesting subset of jersey collecting and can be found in variety of colors, often unrelated to the team's identity package. We've seen everything from half the team wearing white and the other half the team's primary color to each forward line wearing a different color (green, red, blue, yellow), while the defense wore white and the goaltenders black.

This particular style has a bold CCM logo below the Red Wings winged wheel logo as well as Kocur's name on the back. Many practice jerseys do not have player names on the back. Note the simple block lettering on this one when compared to the ornate vertically arched lettering of the Red Wings road jersey shown above.

 photo Detroit Red Wings 1997-98 practice F jersey.jpg
 photo Detroit Red Wings 1997-98 practice B jersey.jpg

Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra bonus jersey is a 1996-97 San Antonio Dragons Joey Kocur jersey.worn during his brief time away from the NHL until he was resigned by the Red Wings and would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season.

The Dragons only lasted two seasons in the IHL, 1996-97 and 1997-98 before folding due to financial problems.

 photo San Antonio Dragons 1996-97 jersey.jpeg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with Kocur messing up Link Gaetz, whose nickname was "The Missing Link".

Next, newly signed by the Red Wings, Kocur fights his former teammate Probert in 1996.

Here, Kocur knocks out Jim Kyte of the Winnipeg Jets with his feared right hand.

In this next video, Kocur picks off a Flyers pass and beats Ron Hextall in Game 1 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. Don't forget, Kocur scored 80 goals during his career.

The sweet hands of Kocur score on this penalty shot against the Chicago Blackhawks  Jacques Cloutier.

Kocur battles Cam Neely of Vancouver and lands several blows to Neely's helmet, which Neely said was cracked afterwards from the force of Kocur's punches!

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