Saturday, January 14, 2017

CSKA Moscow - The Civil War - A Tale of Two Teams With the Same Name

Following yesterday's look at the brief, but memorable, period of the Russian Penguins, Part 2 today looks at the aftermath following the Pittsburgh Penguins withdrawal of support of CSKA Moscow and the subsequent fallout over the next seven seasons.

The Civil War
A Tale of Two Teams With the Same Name

After dominating the world of Soviet ice hockey from 1946 through 1989, which included all but six championships from 1955 to 1898 and 13 consecutive from 1977 to 1989, the Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA Moscow) saw it's advantage begin to erode when, first, some of their older star players were allowed to leave for the riches of the NHL (in a not so transparent effort to generate some much needed income), followed by key defections of prime up and coming talent.

Their situation nose dived with the breakup of the Soviet Union and their subsequent loss of government backing. By the time the International Hockey League replaced the former Soviet Championship League for the 1992-93 season, Central Red Army (CSKA Moscow) plummeted to an overall record of 9-42-11 and a last place finish in the 12 team Western Conference. How the mighty had fallen.

With the Russian Department of Defense no longer able to fund the team, 1993-94 saw a new partnership with the recent back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, which resulted in a new logo and North American marketing savvy brought on board in order to bring in new sponsorships to revitalize the team. The renewed efforts on behalf of the club paid off with a 21-20-5 record that saw CSKA Moscow rise to 14th place out of 24 and a return to the playoffs.

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1994-95 had the Russian Penguins finish with a winning record at 25-20-7 and another playoff appearance. But it also signaled the end of the Pittsburgh organization's involvement (as we detailed yesterday) as the Russians now felt they could run the show on their own. Motivated by greed, team management wanted to keep all the anticipated sponsorship dollars for themselves, without having to split it 50/50 with the North Americans any longer. They were also delusional to think they could retain the sponsors brought in by the Pittsburgh marketing staff in light of the interference in their operations suffered at the hands of the Russian Mafia, who went so far as to kick the team's sponsors out of the arena's luxury boxes as well as being responsible for the deaths of as many as three of the team's staff!

Predictably, CSKA Moscow fell to 8-13-5 in the first round of the 1995-96 season, finishing 11th out of 14 teams in the Western Conference. For the second round of the season, they were grouped with the other non-automatic playoff qualifiers and faired well, finishing atop the group comprised of the lower half of the league with a 19-4-3, earning one of the two available playoff spots as the 15th seed. Their reward for their efforts was drawing long time rivals and 2nd seed Dynamo Moscow, who eliminated CSKA Moscow 2 games to 1.

The upheaval following the 1995-96 season was seismic, as the team found itself barred from their facilities, the water and electricity shut off and the long time and highly decorated Viktor Tikhonov out as head coach of CSKA Moscow, the team he led with an iron fist since 1977.

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Viktor Tikhonov

Tikhonov responded by forming a new club, the incredibly similarly named HC CSKA Moscow and taking his case to court, where the actions of Colonel Alexander Baranovsky in ousting Tikhonov were found to be illegal. Tikhonov's new club were granted access to the arena, but order was not necessarily restored, as locks were cut off lockers, electricity, water and phones were cut off and access to the training base was blocked. The upheaval cost both Tikhonov's new club and the existing CSKA Moscow team much needed players, as they did not want to be caught in the middle of the fight between Tikhonov and the army and opted to play elsewhere.

The situation became even more muddled when the established CSKA Moscow found itself relegated to the Yysshaya Liga, the second level of Russian hockey, for the 1996-97 season. The established club opted to return to the classic "UCKA" lettering underneath a red star on the front of their jerseys, while Tikhonov's upstart operation stayed with the Russian Penguins logo and joined the newly formed Russian Superleague, meaning the old guard and former dominant powerhouse team, CSKA Moscow, was in the formerly unfathomable position of playing in the second division, while Tikhonov's upstart "Red Army" club (HC CSKA Moscow) started out life in the top division!

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CSKA Moscow opted for the classic crest

Russian Penguins logo photo RussianPenguins_logo1994.jpg
Tikhonov's new HC CSKA Moscow retained the Russian Penguins logo
despite the departure of the Pittsburgh Penguins partnership

CSKA Moscow fared well in 1996-97, winning promotion by finishing first in the Western Conference of the Vysshaya Liga, while Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow was a first round playoff exit.

This set up an even more confusing situation for the 1997-98, as the new HC CSKA Moscow and the established CSKA Moscow were now both competing in the Russian Superleague at the same time. One can only imagine the difficulty broadcasters and reporters must have had when the two Red Army clubs met during the course of the regular season and the intensity the games must have had during this Civil War of Red Army vs. Red Army!

The established CSKA Moscow side finished 8th in the Western Conference while Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow side came 12th out of 14. CSKA Moscow missed out on the Superleague playoffs, while HC CSKA Moscow failed to survive the relegation schedule and was demoted to the Vysshaya Liga for 1998-99, separating the two clubs once again. Clear as mud, right?

For the next three seasons Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow side finished mid-pack in the Yysshaya Liga, but a strong 2001-02 season saw them earn a promotion back to the Russian Superleague by finishing with a combined 49-12 record with 1 overtime win, 6 ties and 2 overtime losses over the course of the two halves of the split season.

Meanwhile, CSKA Moscow soldiered on in the Superleague, managing to avoid relegation by the barest of margins, winning a tiebreaker over Vityaz Podolsk in 2000-01 to avoid the drop, but the 2001-02 season saw them slip to depths of a new level, as they completed a dismal season at 10-36-4 with an overtime win to finish 17th out of 18, a single point out of last place for the once mighty Red Army, but not enough to avoid relegation to the Vysshaya Liga for 2002-03, an especially bitter pill considering Tikhonov's HC CSKA team were to be promoted into the very spot they were vacating.

Eventually, after several failed attempts over the years, the reality of the situation finally was too much for all involved to continue to deny - one strong CSKA club was a far better and more commercially viable option than two mediocre, financially struggling teams. An agreement was finally reached, which included Tikhonov at the helm of the reunited club, which would use HC CSKA's spot in the Superleague for the upcoming 2002-03 season.

The merger also signaled and end of the "Russian Penguins" logo, which far outlived it's intended purpose as the logo for the joint effort between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Central Sports Club of the Army, an arrangement which came to an end seven years prior.

The reunited CSKA Moscow rose as high as third in 2007-08, the final Superleague season, and won  division titles in the Tarasov Division of the Kontinental Hockey League, in 2008-09 and 2012-13. In 2014-15, CSKA not only won the Tarasov Division, but finished with the best record in the KHL with 139 points from a stellar 49-9-1-1 record, 16 clear of traditional rivals Dynamo Moscow and SKA Saint Petersburg, only to lose in the Conference Finals to Saint Petersburg in seven games.

In 2015-16, CSKA repeated as the regular season champions with a 43-14-1-2 mark for 127 points. For the first time while a member of the KHL, the club advanced to the Gagarin Cup Finals, winning 12 of 13 games in the process, only to lose Game 7 to Metallurg Magnitogorsk 3-1 to deny CSKA their first championship since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 HC CSKA Moscow Sergei Samsonov jersey. Tikhonov's Red Army club continued to use the Russian Penguins logo, only now with the Cyrillic characters "XK" added to the chest of the penguin to differentiate it from CSKA Moscow, while the original club used the classic UCKA crest below the red star.

Samsonov played two seasons for CSKA Moscow but left Russia for the North American minor leagues amidst all the strife surrounding the two warring Red Army clubs, choosing instead to play for the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. Following the 1996-97 season, he was drafted 8th overall by the Boston Bruins and would go on to play eight seasons with Boston before bouncing around the NHL, with stops in Edmonton, Montreal and Chicago before settling in with the Carolina Hurricanes for four seasons before wrapping up his career with 20 games with Florida in 2010-11. He would play 888 games, score 235 goals and 571 points, reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with Edmonton in 2006.

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Bonus jersey:  Today's bonus jersey is a 1996-97 HC CSKA Moscow Alexei Kasatonov jersey. This jersey is from Kasatonov's final season when he returned to Russia following the conclusion of his NHL career. Note the name on the back in Cyrillic lettering.

While the original CSKA Moscow "Red Army" club returned to their previous star logo, the upstart new HC CSKA Moscow adopted the "Russian Penguin" identity as their own, creating much confusion among jersey collectors, as the Penguin logo was used for eight consecutive seasons, but by two separate, but nearly identically named clubs.

The CSKA Moscow "Russian Penguins" jerseys were red with black and white trim. The HC CSKA Moscow "Russian Penguins" jerseys were also red with black and white trim with LG sponsorship and the letters XK (Cyrillic for HC to differentiate themselves from CSKA Moscow) added to the upper chest of the penguin logo before a change to red jerseys with blue and white trim as shown in today's bonus jersey.

After six seasons of two separate "Red Army" clubs, they were merged for the 2002-03 season, bringing to an end the use of the Russian Penguins logo.

Russian Penguins 96-97 jersey
Russian Penguins 96-97 jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2001-02 HC CSKA Moscow Maxim Koryakin jersey as worn by Tikhonov's HC CSKA Moscow during their final season as an independent club, separate from the original CSKA Moscow team.

HC CSKA, as denoted by their use of the Russian Penguins logo with the addition of the "XK" to the chest of the penguin in the logo to differentiate themselves from the CSKA Moscow club, would earn promotion from the Vysshaya Liga at the conclusion of the 2001-02 season.

Their subsequent merger with the original CSKA Moscow team prior to the start of the 2002-03 season would bring to an end the use of the "Russian Penguins" logo, which lasted well beyond the two years of the operating agreement between CSKA Moscow and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.

HC CSKA 2001-02 jersey photo HCCSKA2001-02Fjersey.jpg
HC CSKA 2001-02 jersey photo HCCSKA2001-02Bjersey.jpg

Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 2002-03 CSKA Moscow Dimitri Kosmachev jersey as worn by the reunited CSKA Moscow team in the Russian Superleague, the first season the two rival Red Army clubs were merged into a single entity once more.

CSKA Moscow 2002-03 jersey photo CSKAMoscow2002-03Fjersey-1.jpg
CSKA Moscow 2002-03 jersey photo CSKAMoscow2002-03Bjersey-1.jpg

Today's first video is a feature on a young Samsonov from 1994, which if you look closely during the interview, has the classic UCKA logo on the chest, with the Russian Penguin logo on Samsonov's left torso.



Finally, CSKA Moscow lives on, now only in the KHL.


Friday, January 13, 2017

1993-94 Russian Penguins Sergei Brylin Jersey

In 1993, seeking a more direct pipeline to the abundance of talent formerly locked away behind the Iron Curtain, Pittsburgh Penguins owner Howard Baldwin purchased a 50% share in the formerly all-conquering Russian Red Army club.

The Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA Moscow) had ruled the world of Soviet hockey with 32 championships in 48 seasons, including 13 in a row between 1977 and 1989. However, the fall of the Soviet Union in December of 1991 meant the once dominant club were no longer financed by the state and fell onto hard times - and in a big way.

That's when Baldwin saw an opportunity to combine savvy North American sports marketing with the best known club in the world outside of the NHL located in the largest city in Russia in an effort to not only make some money in the newly capitalist Russia, but also have the inside track on finding the best players Russia had to offer, which in 1993 was all the rage, as players such as Alexander Mogilny, Sergei Fedorov and Pavel Bure were tearing up the league.

The Red Army club was rechristened the "Russian Penguins" and a new logo was created to reflect the new arrangement with the recent back-to-back Stanley Cup champions.

Russian Penguins logo photo RussianPenguins_logo1994.jpg

In addition, staff from Pittsburgh was sent over to Moscow to oversee the club's transition to the modern, NHL way of selling the game by selling sponsorships and building private suites.

What could possibly go wrong?

The person sent over by the Pittsburgh was Stephen Warshaw, a sports marketing consultant given the responsibility to oversee the turnaround of the Russian franchise. Here is a fascinating interview with Warshaw from the PBS television series Frontline, which ran back in October of 1999.

Over the years, the Central Red Army team produced some of the greatest hockey players in history. What did you see when you got there? 
Well, we first got there, the team was so downtrodden and so bankrupt that they couldn't even afford to buy jerseys for their teams. They had one set of uniforms for six different teams. So, one team would come off the ice, their jerseys ringing wet with sweat, and give it to the next guy, and he'd put it on. And I can't tell you how bad the locker room smelled, I mean you could smell that clear to Vladivostok from the East Coast of Russia. Very bad, and [North American hockey equipment manufacturer] CCM came to the rescue and provided all of our teams with jerseys. The youth teams, the big teams, and beautiful jerseys, and we bought them a washing machine, and they wanted their jerseys washed every game now. All of a sudden they were very concerned with hygiene after the washing machine and their new jerseys. 
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The 1993-94 Russian Penguins in their sparkling new CCM jerseys
What happens to old Russian hockey players. . . I mean some of the great stars -- what was their stake when you get there? 
Well, it's very sad. They retired making $5 a month, $10 a month.
These would be the Gretzkys of their --  
The top stars of the day, this is the equivalent of the Espositos and Orrs, Bucyks, Howes, all the top guys. And basically the government has just left them for dead, and, pathetically, they show up at the arena drunk, very drunk just to get through the cold winters. Nobody knows where they live and it was sad. I mean we had one guy, Vikolaf, one of the legends of CSKA, double gold medal winner, had one of his fingers bitten off before one of the games by a bear that was making a between-periods promotion for us and he was drunk, he just kept pushing the bear saying: Ploho medved. Bad bear, bad bear. And the next thing his finger was gone. And there's no treatment for the players. There really should be, again, part of the NHL progra--there should be a veterans legends program to take care of all the great stars of Russia that the Soviet government denied any dollars to.
How did you manage to transform the environment of Russian hockey from that drab thing we remembered, to the glitz? 
Well it was actually quite easy, because no one had tried it before. So there was no benchmark. We really had free rein to do everything. [Central Red Army Coach] Viktor Tikhonov at the beginning was very reticent to let us try out some of the promotions. And he took about a month until they let us actually do what we wanted to do.

What did you want to do? 
Well, the opening night we wanted to have a woman come down on a rope, to start the game, give the puck to the referee. And I remember Viktor Tikhonov said to me, 'I'll only let you do it if you're the guy on the rope.' And I said okay, I'll do it, I know how to climb. He said--'Good, 'cause I'll be up there with a pair of scissors cutting you down.' So he had a good sense of humor, and I think that the cultural difference was big problem at first, but after a while they started to get a kick out of the insanity.

Tell me about the insanity, what kind of gimmicks did you come up with?
Well at the very beginning we had an empty building, so we had to fill it quickly. And everybody loves beer, around the world, so we had a few free beer nights from our big sponsor, Iron City Beer. We had strippers, we had all the normal things that attract men. As soon as the building was full, we started to gear up towards families. And that's when we could go to Disney, after we had the families. So we got rid of some of the real crazy stuff, and then we started to market very professionally, we would give premiums every night to the fans. We had car giveaways from Chrysler. We had trips to the United States to see the Stanley Cup finals courtesy of Delta Airlines. Every sponsor got in on it, and these were real big prizes. And even on the off nights we had free shaving cream and razors from Gillette. Even that was enough to draw fans.
Russian Penguins ticket photo RussianPenguinsticket.png 
And what went wrong?
We did it too well. And the criminal element started to come to our games, started to enjoy our games, started to evict our corporate sponsors out of their super boxes. And we had a real high class problem, we had too much interest, not enough super boxes. Our partners, Viktor Tikhonov and Valery Gushin were afraid to confront the mafia.

The mafia, these were like hoods?
These were guys with the sawed off shotguns down their long coats, and smoking away just like you'd imagine in movies, and this was sort of good news that we were attracting the money. Unfortunately, it was a rough crowd. My suggestion was--'Hey, let's build them their own super boxes, let's talk to them, and I'm sure they'd have no trouble paying the twenty-three thousand dollars for the season. ' And the comment that I got from my partners was--'You go ask them for the money, 'cause if you do, you're gonna be hanging from the rafters by your thumbs. . . '

When did you first become convinced of the reality of the danger of violence in Russia? 
Personally, I had my heart skip a few beats at the end of the second season when one of the Mafia partners, with our Russian partners, came up to me and offered me a job with his company -- suggesting that I leave the Pittsburgh Penguins and work for them, that there was no need for the Americans anymore as long as I was there. And I asked him how much they'd pay me, uh, through a translator of course, and he didn't speak a word of English. And then finally, when I told him it wasn't enough money, he started to laugh. . . And he said well, we'll kill you for 6,500 dollars. I said 6,500 dollars for me? You shouldn't be paying more than three grand. He laughed, tweaked his neck, which means let's drink in Russian, and then started speaking perfect English to me for the rest of the night. Never saw him again.

Kill you for 6,500 bucks.
That's all.

You mentioned the fact that seeing the mafia at the hockey game. How did you know you were seeing mafia, they didn't wear jerseys?
I think the guns were a tip off...

Guns?
Long sawed-off shotguns, down their side of their coats. They travelled in groups, and beautifully dressed businessmen -- beautifully dressed with security forces. They'd come in with the limousines with the dark windows, disobeying our parking rules, disobeying our smoking rules, disobeying everything. And, basically, our partners said, Just back off, don't get involved here, we'll take care of this. And, again, we had no way of knowing if they were getting paid by the Mafia, or if they too were afraid. This is the issue.

How far did they go in terms of taking over the corporate boxes side of it. What happened there?
Well, basically we couldn't build the superboxes fast enough. We only had about eight to start, and we started selling them quickly to multinational corporations, to Ernst and Young, to Delta, to Philip Morris, to Coca Cola, all the major concerns that were sponsors. And they quickly got thrown out of their boxes, which I thought was a good problem, until I realised we couldn't even build the boxes for them. Our partners couldn't get it done quickly enough and, therefore, we were basically reneging on our sponsorship deals. And that's when I realised if we can't honor our commitments to our multinational sponsors, because of the Mafia's influence in taking over their prime seating, we're in trouble.

So they just walk into the box --
Took it --

Point a gun, somebody would say, "Get out."
They said this is our box, yeah, get out. That was it. We've had situations where we had Nike coming in from Germany and from Beaverton, and two in the morning I was paying a painter to spraypaint the Nike logo into the ice as part of their sponsorship deal. At eight in the morning it had been cut out of the ice by our partners. And I said, what are you doing? That's $100,000 to us, which you get $50,000. He said no one asked us for permission. This was when we knew we had a problem . . .

What about the killings, and how close were they to the hockey scene?
Well, it was frightening, in about a six month period, a player was killed on our team, Alexander Osache, who was a San Jose Sharks pick. The team assistant coach, Vladimir Bouvich, was killed. And our team photographer Felix Oliviov, were all killed. Two of them gunned down Mafia-style, five bullets to the head in front of their wives. The player, we're still not sure how he died. He died in his room, in his apartment . . .

When did you learn this fact of life about doing business in Russia?
Well it was always there. I think any time you have a new capitalist structure, there's always the chance for criminal elements. I mean, look at the the twenties in Chicago, with Prohibition, and this is the "Wild East." There's lawlessness, I've seen kiosk owners dragged out of their kiosks at high noon and beaten by four guys because they didn't pay their twenty percent to the mafia. Most mafias, as you know, the traditional image of a mafia is that they control certain industries. Construction, carting, the fish industry, contracting. However, in Russia, they don't really make anything. They just take everything. And they wanted twenty percent of everybody's action. And the tax police wanted their money. And then the minor criminals wanted their money. So it became impossible for companies to actually make money over there, because, by the time you sold the can of beer or a chocolate bar, it already cost more to bring it in than it does to sell it.

So, are you telling me that like this remarkable marketing success, was written off in a matter of months?
We had two really beautiful seasons, and we were lucky enough to get some great media from all over the world. German television, Canadian television, the US was very high on it. Disney came in, I think that was the biggest part of the whole deal is when Disney became our partner. And then I think the problem was after the second year they felt that they learned enough from us, they saw how we did it, and they figured they could take over. Why cut us in for fifty percent when they could have the whole thing? And I think it was at the end of the second season that we knew that we were ghosts. We were dead.

We, being?
The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Did it ever cross anybody's mind to basically tell these people to go away?
Well. You can't do that over there. It's their country. And we always had to realize that we were the imperialist capitalist dogs that Stalin and Brezhnev and Lenin and everyone had told the Russians that we were. We had to be on best behavior. And we had to respect the authorities; we had to respect everyone over there. As a matter of fact that's why we became successful, is because we paid tribute to all the deceased legends of the Red Army. Guys that had never received ten dollars from the government, and we retired their jerseys, brought their widows onto the ice, their children. And in Russia, remember, it was never about individuals, it was always the team. And it was a system, it was a machine, an evil machine that would dehumanize people. So what we did is we started to make people human. To show the human side, through promotions, through entertainment at our games. And I think it was too much of a good thing too fast. 
So, tell me, what did you think when the guys with the shotguns showed up?
I wondered if they were kalashnikovs or American made, I didn't know at first. I naively went up to these big guys in the super boxes owned by Philip Morris and I asked them if I could help them. And they just sort of laughed at me. And I brought Sergei Starykof's kid who was eight years old with me so that they really couldn't do much in front of a little kid. And [the kid] said to me, Steven, I don't think you're gonna wanna hear what they're saying in Russian. And I said, No, tell me. And that's when I realized that we became so popular so fast, that we really had no safeguard against this criminal element. We did bring in security, but you gotta understand that the security forces in Russia, the police, are ineffective, they're useless against the new rich, the new Russians. They have their own security forces that come into the building hours in advance, check it out, make sure it's okay for their big guns to come in.

I heard that they actually bought [advertising] space on the boards [around the rink]. What was that all about?
Well it's very strange. We had a deal with the partners that we would sell about eighty percent of the rink boards and leave twenty for them to sell. Because we wanted to have Russian sponsors, not just multinationals. And one game I looked down and I saw a company that I'd never heard of. And I asked one of our partners -- who is this? What do they make? He said, Don't ask. Again, you'll be hanging from the rafters by your thumbs. And this became sort of the easy way out for our partners that if something was a problem, it was always mafia. So we never knew if it was a hundred percent mafia, fifty percent mafia, or perhaps made up by greedy partners, we could never really find out.

You're talking partners Tikhonov and Gushin.
Right.

These weren't boy scouts.
No.

Tough guys.
These are hard-line Communist.

And how big a part of the problem were they?
Well, I think that at the very beginning, they really had to swallow a lot of pride, to get the cash from the Pittsburgh Penguins. And it really hurt them in a strange way, to see the building full. They were happy that they were making money, but they were embarrassed that it took Americans to come in to Russia and show them how to do it. And I think that success really hurt us. I mean it happened so fast. I remember one great story when I first got there. That Valery Gushin said to me that--'not even Jesus Christ could fill this building.' And I remember two months after the opening game, against Dynamo, we were full. And I went up to him, I said -- 'Have you seen a guy with long hair and sandals? ' And he didn't laugh. You know. This is -- there's no humor in Russia. No matter how evil rival factions are, they're always more attractive than the Americans.

What impact did this have on this little brief hockey renaissance that you saw?
Well it killed the future of Russian hockey, and the [NHL/Russian] partnerships, because the Detroit Red Wings were watching us very intently. Michael Ilitch who owns Little Caesars and the Detroit Red Wings had already put a restaurant in Prague, and he was already looking at Moscow and we figured what a perfect venue to introduce his pizza. So they sent their staff over to Moscow to consider purchasing the Krilya Sovietov team which is the Soviet Wings, a perfect match with the Red Wings. And they got greedy. Which seems to be the problem for the country is that the greed is so great, they asked for five million dollars from the Detroit Red Wings. [The Red Wings] countered with a million. Which was a million more than we gave to the Red Army -- we only gave them marketing dollars, and expertise. And they left. The Russians got too greedy, they didn't take the million, and, today, they owe money, and there's tax collectors and bill collectors and no fans. And again, this is, I think, the biggest tragedy: I think that everybody was watching the Penguins and the Red Army and if this worked, perhaps every Russian elite team would have an NHL affiliate. But they killed the goose.

Didn't the NHL also kill the golden goose by taking the best players developed under the Soviet system and not doing anything to cultivate a future crop of promising Russian players?
Well, I think the NHL has lost its conscience. I think that they have neglected their responsibility to replacing the trees that they've cut down in Russia. It's not different than a rain forest that's been denuded by a greedy paper company, and they leave for the next rain forest. And I think it's very shortsighted by the NHL, considering that almost twenty percent of the players in the league are from the former Soviet Union, including the top stars of the game. I think that American business is sort of a slash and burn, rape and pillage mentality, just to get you to the next quarter for your stockholders' meeting. And I think that from the commissioner on down to the general managers, they have to succeed each quarter. They don't think about five, ten years from now. Russia] used to be a hatchery for the NHL. They would just breed 'em, like little fish. And now, the hatcheries are drying up.

During the two seasons as the Russian Penguins, the club came over to North America to play a series of games against teams from the International Hockey League, with those during the 1993-94 season counting in the IHL standings. The Russian Penguins returned again in 1994-95, but those game were treated as pure exhibition matches.

Russian Penguins pennant photo RussianPenguinspennant.jpg

The 1993-94 games saw the Russian Penguins finish a dismal 2-9 with 2 additional losses in overtime in their 13 games, one each against each IHL club. They did bring a couple of players that would eventually become familiar to fans in North America, future long time New Jersey Devil Sergei Brylin and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, both of whom would win Stanley Cups.

Andrei Vasilyev was the star of the show, scoring 10 goals and 16 points in 13 games. He would also eventually appear in the NHL, playing 15 games over three seasons with the New York Islanders and one with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Russian Penguins returned again in 1994-95 to play against teams from the IHL, but those games were treated as exhibition matches and were not counted in the standings.

Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 Russian Penguins Sergei Brylin jersey as worn during the Russian Penguins schedule of games against teams from the IHL. These CCM jerseys are miles ahead of the standard lightweight mesh jerseys with sublimated or heavily screen printed logos worn by teams during the days of the Soviet Union.

This jersey can be dated by the Iron City Beer patch on the upper right chest, while the set worn during the 1994-95 tour had Gillette sponsorship.

Brylin, born on this date in 1974, was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the 1992 NHL Draft. He came to North America for the 1994-95 season and first played for the Albany River Rats of the AHL while the NHL season was delayed by labor issues. He then joined the Devils once the season got underway, playing in 26 of their 48 games. He also was active for 12 of the Devils 20 playoff games, which concluded with the Devils winning the Stanley Cup in Brylin's first season in the NHL!

He would eventually play 13 seasons for the Devils before returning to Russia in 2008-09 with SKA St. Petersburg for three seasons prior to joining Metallurg Novokuznetsk for 2011-12. In all, he played in 765 NHL games, scoring 129 goals and 308 points and would win Stanley Cups again in 2000 and 2003.

Russian Penguins 1993-94 jersey photo RussianPenguins1993-94Fjersey.jpg
Russian Penguins 1993-94 jersey photo RussianPenguins1993-94Bjersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1994-95 Russian Penguins Vladimir Zhashkov jersey as worn by the Russian Penguins during their second and final season. The Gillette sponsorship has now replaced the Iron City Beer, and in an unavoidable manner with not only a logo on the front, but a large banner ad across the back.

Russia Russian Penguins 1994-95 jersey photo RussiaRussianPenguins1994-95F.jpg
Russia Russian Penguins 1994-95 jersey photo RussiaRussianPenguins1994-95B.jpg

While the formal arrangement with the Pittsburgh Penguins came to an end after two seasons, the Russian Penguin logo continued on for many years - and in a most confusing manner, which will be the subject of tomorrow's entry"The Civil War - A Tale of Two Teams With the Same Name."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

1989-90 Boston Bruins Cam Neely Jersey

Cam Neely played his junior hockey for the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League. He gained recognition for his 56 goal, 120 point season in 1982-83 when he led the Winter Hawks to the Memorial Cup championship with 20 points in 14 playoff games, which earned him a 9th overall selection by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.

Neely Winter Hawks
1983 Memorial Cup champion Cam Neely

He began the next season with Portland, but after 19 games he made the jump to the NHL with the Canucks, scoring 31 points in 56 games, as well as gaining his first NHL playoff experience with four games in which he scored a pair of goals.

Neely Canucks
Cam Neely in the Canucks "Flying V" jersey

The next two seasons with Vancouver saw Neely play over 70 games and score 39 and 34 points, Additionally, he showed his rugged side with 137 and 126 penalty minutes. He was however, playing behind veterans Stan Smyl and Tony Tanti and Canucks coach Tom Watt was not a fan of Neely's defensive game, which combined to make Neely expendable in the eyes of the Canucks, who dealt him to the Boston Bruins along with their first pick in the 1987 draft, for former 100 point scorer Barry Pederson.

The change in scenery saw an immediate rise in Neely's production and he scored more goals in his first season with Boston than he did points the previous season in Vancouver, more than doubling his point total from 34 to 72, as the Bruins coaching staff gave him more playing time which led to more confidence.

The 1987-88 season saw a rise in goals to 42 and the first deep playoff run of Neely's career as the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, a run that saw Neely contribute 17 points in 23 games. After a then career best 75 points in 1988-89 before exploding with 55 goals and 92 points in 1989-90 prior to the Bruins making a return to the Stanley Cup Finals later that season. Neely had an excellent playoff season, with 28 points in 21 games.

Proving his 55 goal season was no fluke, Neely lit the lamp 51 times in 1990-91 and registered a second consecutive 90 point season with 91. A knee injury suffered during the conference finals that year would change the course of Neely's career and limit him to just 22 games over the next two seasons combined.

Neely Bruins throwback
Cam Neely in the 1991-92 Bruins throwback jersey

He rebounded in 1993-94 with 50 goals in his 44th game of the season, a mark only Wayne Gretzky has surpassed. Still suffering from injury problems, Neely was limited to just 49 games that year, leaving many to wonder what his goal total could have reached had he played a full season that year. His ability to return to such a high level of play after essentially missing the previous two seasons earned Neely the Masteron Trophy for 1994.

After two more seasons limited to 42 and 49 games, along with a drop in production to point levels in the 40's, led Neely to call it a career due to a degenerative hip condition.

Neely's #8 was retired by the Bruins on this date in 2004 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.

Today's featured jersey is a 1989-90 Boston Bruins Cam Neely jersey as worn during Neely's finest season in which he set personal highs with 55 goals and 92 points.

This particular jersey was worn during the finals and features the 1990 Stanley Cup patch, only the second season that the cup final patch was worn and the first that it was worn on the chest, having been worn on the left arm the previous season when it was introduced.

This long-serving Bruins jersey style was first used back in 1974 and quickly gained secondary shoulder logos and names on the back by 1977 and then remain essentially unchanged through it's retirement at the end of the 1994-95 season.

Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey, Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey
Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey, Boston Bruins 89-90 SCF jersey

Our first video is a very well done look at highlights of the career of Cam Neely.


Here is a unique look at Cam Neely's 50 goals in 44 games - all 50! - in the 1993-94 season.


Finally, Cam Neely shares his favorite work out routine and then expresses his feelings in no uncertain terms regarding the debut of ESPNews.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2003-04 Phoenix Coyotes Brian Boucher Jersey

On this date in 2004, Phoenix Coyotes goalie Brian Boucher established the modern day NHL record for the longest shutout streak at 332 minutes and 1 second. The modern era began in 1943-44 with the addition of the center red line to the ice.

At one point earlier in the 2003-04 season Boucher had slipped to third on the Coyotes depth chart and was left unprotected in the waiver draft by Phoenix and could have been claimed by any team. He was no longer even practicing with the team, but then a groin injury to backup goalie Zac Bierk moved Boucher up to the #2 spot on the Coyotes depth chart behind Sean Burke.

The previous modern day record was set by the Montreal Canadiens Bill Durnan in 1949 at 309:21 and included four consecutive shutouts. (There are two longer shutout streaks in the record books from back in the 1920's, when the forward pass was not allowed in the attacking zone in the NHL, making for an entirely different kind of game)

Durnan Montreal Canadiens photo BillDurnan.jpg
The previous record holder Durnan, playing with out a mask and wearing
the captain's "C", the last goalie to ever be a captain in the NHL

The streak for Boucher began on December 22, 2003 when Boucher gave up a goal at 19:15 of the second period to the Nashville Predator's Scott Walker. He held Nashville scoreless through both the third period and the following five-minute overtime of the 3-3 tie for 25:45 of scoreless hockey on 10 saves.

Burke started the next three games for the Coyotes on December 23rd, on opening night in their new arena in Glendale, Arizona on December 27th before starting again on December 29th. Boucher's next start, and the first shutout of the streak, came on New Year's Eve as Boucher made 21 saves to defeat the Los Angeles Kings. It was Boucher's first shutout in more than two years.

Boucher vs Kings photo BouchervsKings.jpg
The Kings were held scoreless against Boucher and the Coyotes

"It feels good," Boucher said. "I mean, it's equivalent to scoring a hat trick for a forward, so it's nice to get the win, but it feels good to pitch a shutout."

The next 60 minutes of the streak came in Dallas on January 2, 2004 against the Stars on Boucher's 27th birthday in a 6-0 win. 35 saves later he was quoted as saying "It's nice to contribute any way you can. It's a nice feeling. So when I get in, I certainly want to do my part. I got an opportunity and I'm trying to play."

January 4 saw a 3-0 victory for Boucher and the Coyotes on the road in Carolina. Boucher's 26 saves to extend the streak to 205:45.

Boucher Coyotes photo BoucherCoyotes.jpg
Boucher continued to stand tall in the Coyotes net

"Right now the puck looks like a beach ball to him," Phoenix coach Bob Francis said. "He's following it, squaring up, getting sound positionally and his concentration level is outstanding."

"Things are just going well and hopefully we can ride it for as long as possible," Boucher said.

People really began to take notice nationally as the Washington Capitals were the next to fall at home in a 3-0 loss as Boucher became the first goalie in 55 years to record four consecutive shutouts after his 27 save performance. His streak now stood at 265:45.

Boucher vs Capitals photo BouchervsCapitals.jpg
Boucher and his teammates fight to keep the shutout streak
going against Washington

"I've had some help along the way, but you need luck on your side too," Boucher said. "They hit some posts and guys have been blocking a lot of shots."

The Coyotes road trip continued in Minnesota on January 9 with a 2-0 win over the Wild. During the game Richard Park shot a one-timer midway through the second period that ricocheted off Boucher's right leg after a perfect set-up pass by Sergei ZholtokReplays showed Park turning around, wide-eyed in disbelief that his shot was denied.

"That's a goal 9.9 out of 10 times," Park said. "I got the shot off I wanted, but it's remarkable the swagger he's got in the net, the confidence."

Boucher set two separate records that night. First, early in the third period he passed Durnan's scoreless mark of 309:21. His second record arrived when he completed his fifth consecutive shutout after a 21 save performance, which drew an appreciative cheer from the Minnesota fans when the game concluded.

"It's just been unbelievable. It's just a great ride we're on right now. I still haven't really stopped to think about it too much. I mean, I can't explain what's going on," said Boucher following the game.

Boucher Coyotes photo BoucherCoyotes2.jpg
Boucher set the record for consecutive shutouts in Minnesota

"[The streak will] end at some point," Boucher said. "I'm not going into games thinking about shutouts. Winning is the most important thing."

The end came predictably on a fluky deflection 6:16 into the first period of the Coyotes next game against the Atlanta Thashers on this day in 2004 back at home in Glendale. Randy Robitaille's slap shot glanced off the chest of disappointed teammate David Tanabe.

"I don't think it would have hit the net if it didn't hit me," Tanabe said. "If it wasn't for that bounce, he could have had another shutout."

"A fluky goal," Boucher said. "That's how easily a goal can go in. The fact that it didn't happen for five-plus games is pretty amazing."

"I'm happy that it's over," Boucher said after the 1-1 tie. "It was a nice run, something that I'll never forget. But we're talking about one goal. I think it's good for the team that we don't have to answer questions about it anymore."

After the goal, the sold-out crowd gave Boucher a long standing ovation and the Phoenix bench emptied to congratulate him while the big screen showed highlights of the streak.

Boucher made 146 saves during the streak which stretched to 332:01 and included the record setting five consecutive shutouts.

Boucher award photo Boucheraward.jpg
Boucher was honored by the Coyotes on January 27th with
an award highlighting his five consecutive shutouts

Today's featured jersey is a 2003-04 Phoenix Coyotes Brian Boucher jersey as worn during his record setting streak. This was the first season for the Coyotes new jerseys to coincide with their move into their new arena. They replaced their original jerseys worn since 1996 after relocating from Winnipeg.

These jerseys featured a bolder main logo with about half as many colors as the one it replaced. Unusually, the Coyotes went with single-color numbers, a modern rarity seldom seen in the NHL outside of the Detroit Red Wings and throwback jerseys such as the Maple Leafs retro alternate of the time.

The last team to use single color numbers on their home and away jerseys other than the tradtion-bound Red Wings were the Maple Leafs of 1996-97 and the Winnipeg Jets of 1995-96. The last time a team actually went from multiple color numbers down to single color numbers were the Jets when they introduced their last jersey set in 1990-91.


Today's video selection is a look at the Brian Boucher's scoreless streak.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

1918-19 Montreal Canadiens Newsy Lalonde Jersey

The 1919-20 NHL season started quite late compared to today's October beginnings, and the Toronto St. Patricks began their season on December 23rd by being shut out by Clint Benedict and the Ottawa Senators 3-0.

The St. Patricks then returned home to the Arena Gardens to begin a three game homestand by first facing the Quebec Bulldogs, who they defeated 7-4, with Ken Randall leading the way with a pair of goals.

Mutual_Street_Arena_interior
Toronto's Arena Gardens

Next to visit the Gardens on New Year's Eve were the Montreal Canadiens, who the St. Patricks thumped 5-1, led by Corb Denneny's two goals to send their fans into the night in an even more celebratory mood.

Toronto then avenged their opening night loss with a 4-3 win over the Senators on January 3rd to complete their home stand with three straight wins.

They then took to the road for a pair of games, first dropping a 7-5 decision to Quebec, as a hat trick by Denneny was not enough to over come a four goal performance by the Bulldog Joe Malone.

1919-20 Toronto St Patricks team
The 1919-20 Toronto St. Patricks

Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens first game did not take place until Christmas Day in Quebec, a 12-5 win for Montreal.

The Canadiens apparently did not save enough goals for their next game, as it was their turn to be shut out by Benedict and the Senators 2-0 on December 27th in their first game at their brand new home, the Mount Royal Arena, which was built to replace the Jubilee Arena, which had burned down due to an electrical fire in the spring of 1919.

Mount Royal Arena Montreal
The Canadiens new home, Mutual Street Arena

As previously documented, Montreal then faced off against the Toronto St. Patricks on New Year's Eve in Toronto, where they lost 5-1.

The Canadiens were then beaten again by the Senators 4-3 in Ottawa on January 7th, leaving them at 1-3.

1919-20MontrealCanadiens
The 1919-20 Montreal Canadiens

That set up Montreal's next game on this date in 1920, when the St. Patricks paid their first visit to Mount Royal Arena.

Mike Mitchell got the start in goal for the St. Patricks, while Georges Vezina countered for the Canadiens.

Vezina Canadiens
Georges Vezina

After a scoreless first few minutes, Didier Pitre opened the scoring with his first goal of the season at exactly 4:00. Newsy Lalonde then scored his sixth goal of the year exactly one minute later and then added his seventh two minutes after that at 7:00.

It was Pitre's turn next, as he scored his second goal of the game just 40 seconds later and then completed his hat trick at the 9:00 mark, chasing Mitchell from the St. Patricks goal as Montreal had streaked out to a 5-0 lead before the first period was even half over.

Pitre Canadiens
Didier Pitre had a hat trick in the game's first nine minutes

Billy Coutu was the first to solve Mitchell's replacement Howard Lockhart when he scored his first goal of the year at 13:30 followed by Odie Cleghorn's first goal of the season two and a half minutes later at 16:00 for a stunning 7-0 Canadiens lead.

The St. Patricks showed some signs of life when Mickey Roach solved Vezina at 16:50 to make it 7-1 for the Canadiens after the first period.

Just like the first period, the first goal of the second came at exactly the four minute mark when Cleghorn got his second of the game for Montreal. Lalonde then matched Pitre's hat trick with his third goal of the night a minute and a half later at 5:30 for a now 9-1 Canadiens lead.

Newsy_Lalonde_1
Newsy Lalonde

Toronto fought back with a pair of goals exactly one minute apart at 6:20 by Reg Noble and Denneny at 7:20.

Lalonde then went back to back with a pair of goals at 9:00 and then again at 10:30, his fourth and fifth of the game, which doubled his season total to 10, tied an NHL record and also put Montreal into double digits for the night.

Denneny then scored his second of the period thirty seconds later to make it 11-4 for the Canadiens after two periods.

Still, there was twenty minutes left to endure for Toronto and they attempted to make the best of it when Cully Wilson scored just thirty seconds into the third period. The nine and half minutes between Denneny's goal at 11:00 of the second and Wilson's goal was the longest stretch of the game without a goal.

Just 1:20 later, Bert Corbeau replied for the Canadiens at 1:50 for a now 12-5 score.

Lalonde then struck yet again with his sixth goal of the night at the 3:50 mark to set an NHL record for Most Goals in a Game. His six goals on the night now surpassed his total for the season to date.

Next to join the hat trick club on the night was Toronto's Noble, who netted a pair at 9:50 and again at 12:20.

Reg Noble St Patricks
Reg Noble became the third player with a hat trick on the night

The goal scoring parade finally came to a conclusion when Cleghorn became the fourth player on the night with a hat trick when he scored at 14:50 to give him a goal in each of the three periods.

Odie Cleghorn Canadiens
Odie Cleghorn was the fourth player to score
a hat trick during the record setting game

The final five minutes played out without any further goals, leaving the final at 14-7 for the Canadiens, which set an NHL record for Most Total Goals in a Game with 21, a record which still stands today, 96 years later.

Mitchell gave up 5 goals in the game's first 9 minutes, Vezina was tagged for 7 in the full 60 minutes while Lockhart was shelled for 9 in 51 minutes of relief play.

The record of 21 goals in a game by both teams was equaled by the high flying Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks on December 11, 1985 in a 12-0 win by the Oilers.

Lalonde's six goals bested the five scored by Malone three previous times during the NHL's first season when he was on loan to the Canadiens while the Bulldogs were on a hiatus, and Harry Hyland of the Montreal Wanderers. Of note, both Malone and Hyland's five goal games came on the first day of play in NHL history.

Lalonde's perch atop the NHL as the single game record holder was brief however, as Malone would score seven just three weeks later in a 10-6 win over the same St. Patricks.

Malone would go on to win the scoring title with 39 goals and 49 points in the 24 games of the 1919-20 season, closely followed by Lalonde, who was three points back with 37 goals and 46 points, the only two players with more than 30 goals. Only Frank Nighbor of Ottawa joined the pair with more than 40 points at 41.

QuebecBulldogs1912-13(1)
Joe Malone won the 1920 scoring title as well as
claiming the single game goal scoring record

Since Lalonde's six goals and Malone's seven in January of 1920, only three NHL players have scored six goals in a game. Detroit's Syd Howe in 1944, Red Berenson of the St. Louis Blues in 1968 and Darryl Sittler as part of his record 10 point night in 1976.

Today's featured jersey is a 1918-19 Montreal Canadiens Newsy Lalonde jersey. The Canadiens first red sweater with a blue chest stripe appeared in 1912-13 and featured just a "C" in white and was worn only against the Ottawa Senators due to the similarity between the Canadiens striped jerseys and the Senators red, black and white barberpole jerseys.
 
In 1913 a letter was added inside the "C", but not the familiar "H", but an "A". which would remain in use through 1916.

The "H" would appear for the first time in 1916-17. The logo then went through several subtle color and outline changes, including a red "CH" combination for 1919-20. Photos of the all red Canadiens "CH" logo from the year they helped set the single game scoring record are nearly impossible to find, and only the team collage photo above could be found after an extensive search.

The style of jersey featured today from the 1918-19 season concluded with the Canadiens competing for the rights to the 1919 Stanley Cup against the Seattle Metropolitans. The series was suspended after five games due to the Spanish Flu epidemic, which caused the remainder of the series to be cancelled and sent Lalonde, Coutu, Louis Berlinguette, Jack McDonald, Joe Hall and their manager George Kennedy to the hospital, with Hall dying of pneumonia five days later. Lalonde would fully recover and return to the Canadiens for the following season.
 
Newsy Lalonde

Today's video section shows Lalonde being honored in his hometown in Cornwall, Ontario with the naming of "Newsy Lalonde Way".


 

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