Thursday, January 19, 2017

1973-74 Atlanta Flames Ed Kea Jersey

Born on this day in Weesp, Netherlands in 1948, the story of Ed Kea is one of triumph and tragedy.

His family emigrated to Ontario, Canada when Ed was four years old and he began to play hockey like many young boys in Canada.

His first professional club was the Jersey Devils of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL) in 1969-70 where the defenseman played 52 games, scoring 22 points and accumulating 130 penalty minutes.

Kea Jersey Devils 69-70

The following season he played 74 games with Jersey, scoring 34 points, and also played five games with the Seattle Totems of the Western Hockey League.

For the 1971-72 season, Kea would head to St. Petersburg, Florida for a year with the short-lived Suncoast Suns of the EHL. Kea was the Suns highest scoring defenseman and set career highs with 10 goals and 39 assists for 49 points.

1971-72 Suncoast Suns
The 1971-72 Suncoast Suns. Kea is third from the right in the front row wearing the assistant captain's "A".

He moved a step closer to the NHL in 1972-73 when he played for the Omaha Knights in the Central Hockey League. In 68 games he equalled his career high ten goals from the year before and contributed six points in 11 playoff games as the Knights won the Adams Cup as league champions.

The 1973-74 season was a memorable one for Kea. He would play seven games for the Knights and 51 games for the Tulsa Oilers, scoring 23 points, but the true highlight was making his NHL debut with the Atlanta Flames. He would see action in just three games that season, but his two assists would make Kea the first player born in the Netherlands to ever score a point in the NHL.

Kea Flames
Ed Kea, the first Dutchman to ever score a point in the NHL

He would work to establish himself as a full-time NHL regular the following season, as he spent 21 games with Omaha but the majority of the season with 50 games in Atlanta, which included his first NHL goal, also the first one ever by a player born in the Netherlands.

Kea would play exclusively in the NHL over the next three seasons with the Flames, supplying solid defensive work, with a +21 rating in 1976 and a +25 in 1978, as well as steady offensive contributions with 27, 25 and 26 points.

He played on more season in Atlanta, although he was limited to 53 games, but still managed his usual point production with 24. He also appeared in a pair of games with Tulsa back in the CHL.

Prior to the 1979-80 season, Kea was traded to the St. Louis Blues, where he would play three and a half seasons with a +9, +15 and +19 rating to go along with his 19, 21 and 16 points the first three seasons.

Kea Blues

After 46 games in 1982-83, Kea was sitting at just five assists with a -7 rating and was sent down to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the CHL, where during just his ninth game with the Golden Eagles, Kea would suffer a career ending severe head injury when his bare head struck the ice face first after a clean check, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious. He would require emergency major brain surgery to save his life two days later to relieve hemorrhaging, swelling and clotting and was left both mentally and physically disabled after beating 50-50 odds of surviving the surgery.

Worse yet, since he was playing in the minor leagues, the NHL benefits for catastrophic injuries did not apply to his case, and with his inability to support his wife and four children, times were very hard for the Kea family.

It was the handling of Kea's case in particular that appalled journalist Russ Conway, which led to him exposing the corruption of Alan Eagleson and his embezzlement of insurance payments meant for the players he represented as head of their union which led to Eagleson's conviction of fraud and embezzlement.

Kea survived the surgery and underwent therapy and rehabilitation and moved on to a life beyond hockey, but 16 years later tragedy struck again, and Kea died in 1999 at the age of just 51 when he drowned in the swimming pool at his family's summer cottage.

Of note, former NHLers Jeff Bukeboom and Joe Nieuwendyk are Kea's nephews.

Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Atlanta Flames Ed Kea jersey as worn by Kea during his rookie season in the NHL when he became the first player born in the Netherlands to score a point in the NHL. In his ten year career, Kea would score 30 goals and 145 assists for 175 points.

The Flames used the same jersey for each of their eight seasons in Atlanta and it remained intact after the relocation to Calgary, allowing for the obvious change in crest from the flaming A to the flaming C, all the way through the 1994-95 season, a 15 year run for this classic hockey template.

The Calgary Flames pay tribute to their past by using the original Atlanta Flames logo as the A worn to designate their alternate captains.

This jersey was worn without names on the back until 1977-78 when they became mandatory for all NHL jerseys.

Atlanta Flames 73-74 jersey
Atlanta Flames 73-74 jersey

Today's video hunt finds us with nothing but brawls to pick from, as the Flames apparently never actually scored any goals if we are to believe YouTube.

Note the Philadelphia Flyers reverse nameplates. They had one set made up for TV games and wore them on both the white and orange jerseys, a look they have recently revived.

This next collection of mayhem features the Flames and the Maple Leafs from 1979.

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