History of Jersey 83-93 Banner sm photo History of Jersey 83-93 Banner sm.jpg

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Montreal Canadiens Centennial Celebration Jersey Retirements

The Montreal Canadiens surprised those in attendance last night when they retired the numbers of #16 Elmer Lach and #3 Émile "Butch" Bouchard after previously stating they had no plans to retire any further sweater numbers from the past.

"Not only were they star players in their day, but emile Bouchard and Elmer Lach are widely considered to be two proud Montrealers who dedicated their lives to their team and to their community. They are most deserving of this honour," said Montreal Canadiens President, Pierre Boivin.

Bouchard, a defenseman, was nicknamed the "Rock of Gibraltar", was a four time All-Star and in 1948 became the captain of the Canadiens, the first Quebec-born player to do so. During his career he would win the Stanley Cup four times, twice while as team captain, and would go out on top, retiring after winning the Stanley Cup in 1956.

The QMJHL's Defenceman of the Year Trophy is named in his honor and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.

Here is team captain Bouchard being presented the 1953 Stanley Cup

Elmer Lach was part of "The Punch Line", along with Maurice Richard and Toe Blake, and led the NHL in scoring twice and was awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1945. He would win three Stanley Cups in his 14 year career and score the Cup-winning goal in overtime in 1953 and have his nose broken by Richard's stick when he leapt into his arms in celebration!

He retired in 1954 as the league's all-time leading scorer up to that point and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, also in 1966 along with Bouchard.

The "Punch Line" - Richard, Lach & Blake

Updating yesterday's post, while the Canadiens had already retired Lach's #16 in honor of Henri Richard, the retirement of Bouchard's #3 now means the Canadiens have taken seven of nine single digit sweater numbers out of circulation and 12 numbers under #20. Only #6 and #8 remain in the single digits and the 15 retired numbers in honor of 17 players is by far the most of any NHL team, with Boston's 10 being the next highest.

During the raising of Bouchard's #3 banner, current Canadien Ryan O'Byrne reprised Ray Bourque's surrendering of his #7 jersey to Phil Esposito by removing his current #3 jersey and presenting it to Bouchard, revealing his new #20 sweater.

The first video, following Jean Beliveau, is the introduction of Lach and Bouchard and the announcement that their jersey numbers will be retired, followed by the second video which shows the raising of the banners, along with O'Byrne surrendering his #3 sweater.

2002-03 Florida Panthers Olli Jokinen Jersey

Born on this date in 1978, Olli Jokinen was drafted 3rd overall in he 1997 NHL Entry draft by the Los Angeles Kings while playing for HIFK in Helsinki of the Finnish SM-liiga.

Jokinen made his NHL debut later that season, playing in eight games for the Kings and scoring no points before returning to HIFK for the remainder of the year where he scored 39 points in 30 games. He added nine points in nine playoff games, including the series clinching goal in overtime of Game 3 to give HIFK the championship, earning him the Jari Kurri Trophy as playoff MVP.

He played 66 games for the Kings the following season, registering his first NHL goal on his way to a 21 point campaign, but was dealt to the New York Islanders in a trade that brought Ziggy Palffy to the Kings. In his only season on Long Island, Jokinen scored 21 points in 80 games, a total that made the Islanders consider him expendable and he was traded, along with Roberto Luongo, to the Florida Panthers for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha.

During his first two seasons in Florida, Jokinen would score just 15 goals and 30 assists for 45 points in a combined 158 games, making what happened the next season a complete surprise.

36 goals and 29 assists for 2002-03 would more than double his previous season's point total and was four times his previous season's goal total, and six times more than two seasons prior.

He would prove 2002-03 was no fluke by scoring 26 goals and 32 assists for 58 points in 2003-04.

The lockout season of 2004-05 would see him move from EHC Kloten in Switzerland (8 games) to Södertälje SK in Sweden (23 games) and a return to HIFK back in his home country of Finland for 14 games and 5 playoff contests.

Back in Florida after the lockout would see him put up consecutive seasons of 38, 39 and 34 goals, including a 91 point season, his career best in 2006-07. His reward for his offensive consistency was a trade to the Phoenix Coyotes, with Florida receiving Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a 2nd round draft pick.

The year he spent in Phoenix would see him score 21 goals and 21 assists in 57 games and... a trade to the Calgary Flames at the end of the season, the fourth trade of his career, and be reunited with his coach from Florida, Mike Keenan. 19 games in Calgary saw 15 points, giving him 57 for the season, followed by 5 more points in 6 playoff games.

Jokinen's international resume is filled with medals and looks to be a great one in the making. Starting with a gold medal at the 1998 World Junior Championship, Jokinen then rattled off a silver in the World Championships later that spring, another silver in 1999 and a bronze in 2000. He also played in the World Championships for Finland in 2002, 2003 and 2004 before claiming a silver medal at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

He would make another World Championship appearance in 2005 before earning another bronze in the 2006, this shortly after winning a sliver at the 2006 Winter Olympics. Another bronze would be added to his growing collection at the 2008 World Championships, now giving him a gold, four silver and three bronze medals - eight in all.

Today's featured jersey is Starter 2002-03 Florida Panthers Olli Jokinen jersey. This jersey is from Jokinen's offensive breakout 36 goal season and sports the 2003 NHL All-Star Game patch. The patch is unusual in that it lacks any text identifying the year or location of the game or even the phrase "All-Star". If it weren't for the NHL logo, a hundred years from now no one would even know it was a hockey patch.

This highly attractive modern jersey was used by the Panthers beginning in their debut season of 1993-94, first with straight, one color white letters through the 1997-98 season, before changing to the always classy vertically arched two-color letters, a welcome and unexpected upgrade in the look, as many teams tend to simplify their look over time, rather than making them more complex.

The 2003-04 season saw the red home jersey designated at the Panthers alternate jersey and along with that came a revised crest, now getting the version formerly used on the blue alternate jersey which featured the leaping panther crest now breaking a hockey stick in half. 2006-07 saw the inevitable simplification occur, as the names on the back were once again straight across, although still in two colors. The now long-serving Panthers red jersey would fall victim to the new Reebok Edge jerseys the following year, ending a fourteen year lifespan for one of the nicer jerseys in the NHL.

Florida Panthers 02-03 F
Florida Panthers 02-03 B
Florida Panthers 02-03 P

Today's video is the NHL player profile on Jokinen, highlighting his charity giving.

Next, a nice tribute to Jokinen following his trade to Phoenix.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2009-10 Montreal Canadiens 1909-10 Centennial Jerseys

It was on this date in 1909 that John Ambrose O'Brien founded "le Club de Hockey Canadien", the oldest team in the NHL, who today are celebrating their 100th Anniversary.

O'Brien, in Montreal for business was asked by the then owners of the Renfrew Creamery Kings to apply to join the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA). After being turned down, he met Jimmy Gardner, the manager of the Montreal Wanderers hockey club. The pair hatched the idea of starting their own league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), using O'Brien's teams in Cobalt and Haileybury, the Wanderers and founding a new club to appeal to he French-speaking fans in Montreal as a rival to the Wanderers.

1909-10 Montreal Canadiens future Hall of Famers Cattarinich, Laviolette &
Pitre shown wearing the Canadiens original sweaters

O'Brien only owned the team for one season because he was sued by George W. Kendall, the owner of the Club athéltique Canadien, who claimed he had the legal rights to the Canadiens name. As part of the settlement, Kendall bought the team from O'Brien for $7,500.

They remain the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey team and the only NHL club older than the league itself. During their history, they have held the Stanley Cup 24 times, including their first in 1916, a year before the founding of the NHL.

While the rivalry with the Wanderers fell by the wayside in 1918 when their arena burned down and the club folded, the Canadiens new cross-town rivals arrived in 1924 with the founding of the Montreal Maroons. Two seasons later the Canadiens would move into their home of 70 years, the Montreal Forum, which they would share with the Maroons until their demise in 1938.

By 1949 the Canadiens had won but six Stanley Cups in their first forty years, hardly the dominant franchise the hockey world would soon come to know, as the Canadiens would make it to the finals in 1951, the first of ten consecutive appearances in the final series.

The arrival of Boom Boom Geoffrion in 1951 to compliment Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Doug Harvey and Dickie Moore set the ball in motion and soon the Canadiens embarrassment of riches would grow into a full-fledged dynasty with the additions of Jean Beliveau and Jacques Plante in 1953, Henri Richard in 1954, Claude Pronovost in 1955. Ten seasons later, the Canadiens would double the number of Stanley Cups won, with six in ten years.

The success would continue through out the 1960's despite the retirement of Rocket Richard after the 1960 championship. The club would capture an astounding ten titles in fifteen seasons from 1965 to 1979, including four straight to finish the run with star players such as Jacques Laperriere, J. C. Tremblay, Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, Peter Mahovolich, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson.

The club continued it's streak of at least one championship in every decade from the 1910's by winning the title in 1986 behind the goaltending of rookie Patrick Roy and again in 1993.

The team became the first in NHL history to reach 3,000 victories on December 29, 2008 with a win over the Florida Panthers, a team no one could have imagined in 1909.

To celebrate the club's centennial several uniform numbers have been retired, including those of Moore & Cournoyer (both #12), Geoffrion (5), Savard (18), Dryden (29), Robinson (19), Gainey (23) and Roy (33), leaving them with 15 retired numbers, 11 of them under the #20, forcing current Montreal players to wear some of the highest numbers in the league, a visual oddity for one of the most traditional franchises in sports.

In addition to other events, such as the issuing of commemorative coins and stamps, the construction of a "Centennial Plaza" outside the Bell Centre and a concert, the Canadiens hosted the 2009 NHL All-Star game as well as the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Our favorite tribute to the historic team's past has been the wearing of the Centennial Jerseys, six in all.

The first occasion was on October 20, 2008 when they paid tribute to their 1971 championship season, but they frankly took the easy way out, wearing their current road white jerseys, which are no different than their home white jerseys from 1971. They also had the "100 Seasons" patch worn on the shoulder of the standard home and away jerseys, rather than the "Centennial" patch worn on all the other Centennial jerseys in the program.

Things picked up on November 15, 2008 when they wore their beautiful 1945-46 jerseys, which had been used by the club as their third jerseys as recently as 2006-07. This was the debut on ice of the "Centennial" patch worn on the shoulders of the special throwback jerseys.

A year ago today, the Canadiens opened their Centennial Plaza and wore their 1915-16 jerseys, as worn when they first captured the Stanley Cup. These jerseys featured a darker shade of red and the "CA" logo on both the chest and sleeve with the familiar blue stripe across the chest.

They really got people's attention on February 1, 2009 with the debut of their 1912-13 "Barberpole" jerseys. "Prison Uniforms" was the most common reaction to the multi-striped jerseys, which were paired with equally busy socks. The jerseys were ruled "a distraction" by then coach Bob Gainey and he passed on their second scheduled wearing on March 31, opting for the more traditional looking 1915-16 Centennial jerseys.

February 21, 2009 was designated as another 1970-71 jersey night for the current road jerseys to be worn at home, and the remainder of the 2008-09 season saw the 1945-46 jerseys again on March 14 and the 1915-16 jerseys worn on their scheduled March 21 and again on March 31 in place of the controversial 1912-13 "Barberpole" jerseys.

The 2009-10 Centennial Jerseys kicked off appropriately on Halloween night with the unexpected return of the 1912-13 Barberpole jerseys against Toronto Maple Leafs, making every player on both teams decked out with a maple leaf on their chest.

Their gorgeous 1910-11 red jerseys with the green maple leaf crest debuted on November 10, 2009 against Calgary and may very well be the nicest of the Centennial jerseys. In case you missed them the first time out, they are to be worn once more on January 23, 2010 against the New York Rangers.

Most recently, their 1909-10 blue jerseys from the first season in franchise history were worn on November 21 against Detroit. We must take a moment to wonder why they didn't debut the 1909 jerseys tonight, on the date of the actual 100th anniversary of the franchise tonight against the Boston Bruins and also wonder why they didn't schedule the even more appropriate Maple Leafs as their opponent. The blue 1909-10 jerseys will be worn one more time on February 13, 2010 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

It's the jersey from the Canadiens first season that is today's featured jersey, the   2009-10 Montreal Canadiens 1909-10 Centennial jerseys, as worn on November 21, 2009 against the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-2 shootout loss.

Brad Stuart opened the scoring at 12:41 of the first for Detroit in that game, followed quickly by Pavel Datsyuk at 14:42. The second period was scoreless before Mike Cammalleri quickly got one back for Montreal at just 9 seconds of the third period and Cammalleri got his second of the game at 8:45 to tie the game at 2-2. After a scoreless overtime, Cammalleri was stopped in the shootout while Datsyuk scored for Detroit against Carey Price for Montreal. Tomas Plekanec had his attempt saved by Jimmy Howard for Detroit and Henrik Zetterberg then earned Detroit the extra point by scoring for the Red Wings.

Here once more, with a review of the game, from HabsOrDie.com, it's your favorite and ours, Marie-Pier, giving her take on the night events. We assume.

Here is the shootout from the November 21st game when the Canadiens debuted their 1909-10 Centennial jerseys.

Finally, here is 100 years of hockey supremacy condensed into five and a half minutes. If this doesn't get your juices flowing and make you want to put on your skates on and pretend you're Richard, Beliveau or Lafleur, you have no pulse.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

1987-88 Boston Bruins Ray Bourque Jersey

In one of the most surprising, classy and memorable moments in Boston Bruins history, Ray Bourque shocked Phil Esposito and the Boston Garden on this date in 1987 during the ceremony to retire Phil Esposito's jersey #7 when he skated up to Phil to present him with a jersey customized with Phil's name and traditional #7, and after a brief pause, peeled off his own "Bourque #7" jersey, revealing his new Bourque #77 jersey and surrendered his #7 jersey to Esposito on the spot.

Esposito said in his book "Thunder and Lightning", "As for my scoring trophies, I have five or six of them, and I'm very proud of that, but you don't see them on my mantle. The one momento up on my wall that means a lot to me is my retired jersey from he Boston Bruins. That may have been the greatest thing ever to happen to me."

"When they held the ceremony Ray skated over to me wearing number 7, and he too his jersey off and handed it to me, and much to my surprise, underneath he was wearing 77. I had no clue he was going to do that. If you look at the tape of the ceremony, you can see Bourque come over and start to take off he sweater, and you can see me saying to him, "what are you doing?" When he took it off and I saw he was wearing 77 so that 7 would never be worn again in Boston, I was flabbergasted. I was close to tears. It was very emotional for me to see Wayne Cashman and Kenny Hodge pulling my number 7 uniform up to the top of the rafters of the Boston Garden along with those of Bobby Orr and the other guys there."

"I'll never forget what Bourque did for me. I don't know if I would have been as generous if I had been in his shoes. Maybe I would have. I don't know."

After viewing the video, notice a couple of points. Bourque is introduced as "the captain of the Bruins", but skates up to Esposito with an assistant captain's "A" prominently sewn on his sweater. The reason for this is because Bourque was sharing the Bruin's captaincy with Rick Middleton that season, and it was Middleton who as captain for the home games, while Bourque wore the "C" on the road.

Notice 36 seconds into the video, Esposito attempts to hand Bourque's original #7 jersey back to him, and Bourque declines. Esposito is later seen handing the jersey to someone at the 1:07 mark, never to be seen again. We wonder what the eventual fate of the surrendered Bourque #7 was, and must say that if Phil doesn't want it, we'd be happy to give it a good home!

Clearly, Esposito was caught off guard by the gesture and genuinely moved by the act of sacrifice, as he expected that Bourque would continue to be "grandfathered in" and wear #7 for the remainder of his career.

Bourque was originally assigned #29 during his first training camp with the Bruins, but when he made the team and arrived in the dressing room for his first regular season game, the club had changed his number to 7, the first time since the departure of Esposito that anyone had worn #7 for the Bruins.

"I just put it on," Boruque said. "Bobby Schmautz came up to right before the start of the game started and told me not to worry if I heard any hecklers. At that moment, I realized number 7 might be a tough number to wear. But the fans were great, and I never heard anything about it from anyone other than the press. I always said that it wasn't a number I asked for, and if the Bruins ever wanted to retire Phil's sweater, I'd have no objections."

The original plan was that Bourque would be allowed to wear the number for the remainder of his career, but at 1:30 in the afternoon on the day of the ceremony Bruins coach Terry O' Reilly suggested he change to #77 and Bourque liked the idea. Prior to the ceremony, only O'Reill, Bourque and the Bruin's trainer who had stitched up Bourque's new #77 jersey knew the surprise in store for Esposito.

"I was pleased to help make Phil Esposito Night even sweeter for him. What Phil accomplished for the Bruins deserved to be fully acknowledged by having number seven elevated, not still worn on the ice. It was the right thing to do."

"I knew I was going to surprise him and surprise a lot of people," Ray stated. "his reaction was very emotional. He said he'd never forget what I did. I'm sure he was shocked and surprised. It was probably the first time Phil was lost for words." Bourque would go on to score during the game that followed, his first goal in 24 games. "I wore number 7 for eight years," Ray said. "I like that number. I've had a lot of success with it. Now I've doubled it. Maybe I'll be able to have even more success with the double 7."

Bourque would have little trouble making #77 famous on it's own, and eventually win a Stanley Cup in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche to conclude his Hall of Fame career, and his #77 is now retired in not only Colorado, but now hangs alongside Esposito's #7 in Boston as well.

Today's featured jersey is a 1987-88 Boston Bruins Ray Bourque jersey that carries the #7 and assistant captain's "A" that Bourque would wear for home games that season. This is the jersey that Bourque famously peeled off and surrendered to Phil Esposito during Esposito's jersey number 7 retirement ceremony on this date in 1987.

The Bruins wore this jersey style for the first time in 1974-75, adding shoulder patches in 1976 and names on the back a year later. The jerseys then remained unchanged all the way through the 1994-95 season, and frankly never should have been replaced, as they would now be on the same plane as the unchanging sweaters of the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Rangers and Canadiens.

Boston Bruins 87-88 7 jersey photo BostonBruins87-887HF.jpg
Boston Bruins 87-88 7 jersey photo BostonBruins87-887HB.jpg

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

1996 Team USA Tony Amonte Jersey

Congratulations go out to Tony Amonte, who along with John LeClair, Tom Barasso and Frank Zamboni, was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame yesterday in Boston.

Amonte and LeClair were teammates on the Team USA that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, wearing some of the most sought after jerseys in the hobby, the Nike 1996 Team USA jerseys.

USA 1996 WCOH Road 10 F
USA 1996 WCOH Road 10 B

What makes this particular jersey unique is that the only ones sold at retail were the white ones. Apparently the only blue ones made were for use by the team. This particular one does have a fight strap, unlike any of the white ones sold to the public, regardless of whether they were tagged as authentics with numbered sizes, like 48 or 52, and came with names and numbers, or tagged as replicas and tagged with letters for sizes like L or XL.

Another unique factor for this particular jersey is that it has Amonte's name, but LeClair'snumber 10 on it. Both players wore #10 in the NHL, but LeClair's NHL debut came earlier, during the 1990-91 regular season with Amonte's not coming until the NHL playoffs that year after his final college season at Boston University was over, giving LeClair seniority when it came to first choice for jersey numbers. Amonte played in the World Cup as #11.

In this clip, you can see occasional glimpses of both #10 LeClair and #11 Amonte in action, with Amonte scoring Team USA's third, and game winning, goal, which gives a clear look at him at the 6:23 mark.

In addition to his play in the 1996 World Cup, Amonte also played for the United States in the World Junior Championships three times, in 1988, 1989 and 1990, the World Championships in both 1991 and 1993 and the Olympics in 1998 and 2002 in Salt Lake City where he earned a silver medal.

2002-03 Minnesota Wild Sergei Zholtok Jersey

Born on this date in 1972, Sergei Zholtok became the first Lativan to ever captain an NHL team when Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire named him captain for January, 2003 as part of his rotating monthly captaincy.

The first Lativan to play in the NHL also played in Minnesota, but with the Minnesota North Stars. Helmut Balderis was a right winger who originally played with Dynamo Riga, then with the Soviet Red Army for three seasons before moving back to Dynamo Riga. Benefitting from the new freedom granted to Soviet players, Balderis, who retired after an 18 year career in 1985, signed to play with Minnesota in 1990 - after four and a half years out of the game! He would see action in 26 games, scoring three goals and six assists for 9 points. He would return to Latvia the following season and play four more seasons before retiring for good in 1996. While his NHL career won't be getting him into the Hall of Fame, his international resume is impressive, having played for the Soviet Union in the 1976 Canada Cup, the World Championships from 1976 through 1979 and again in 1983 and the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid in 1980, including skating in the "Miracle on Ice" game.

Helmut Balderis

Next to make the move to North America was our personal favorite, Arturs Irbe, famous for his one set of pads that he would repair himself, he would make his NHL debut in 1991 with the San Jose Sharks and quickly became a fan favorite. The highlight of Irbe's career was making it to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2001 and becoming the first Lativan to play in the NHL All-Star Game in 1994. His 568 NHL games played ranks Irbe fourth among Latvians and one of only two Latvians to ever play goal in the NHL.

1992 would see the cream of the crop of Latvians enter the NHL. Grigori Panteleev signed with the Boston Bruins and saw action in 50 games in Boston in three seasons, followed by four with the New York Islanders in 1995-96. The remainder of his long career reads like a travelog, with stops in the IHL in the United States, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and Italy before retiring in 2008. His 54 games ranks him 7th among games played by Lativans.

1992 also saw the debut of Sergei Zholtok, who also broke into the NHL with Boston, scoring his first NHL goal against friend and countryman Irbe! 25 games over two seasons with Boston would be followed by time spent with the Ottawa Senators (135 games over two seasons), the Montreal Canadiens (170 games over 2 1/2 seasons), the Edmonton Oilers (37 games in a half of a season), the Minnesota Wild (210 games over three seasons), where he would be named the first Lativan to captain an NHL team and set a career high with 42 points, and finally Nashville for 11 games to finish the 2003-04 season. Zholtok would die prematurely from heart failure while playing in Belarus during the NHL lockout in 2004. Zholtok's final NHL total of 588 games ranks him third all-time and his 258 points are good for second among Latvians in NHL history.

In terms of games played and points scored, the most accomplished Latvian in NHL history is without a doubt Sandis Ozolinsh, who, like Irbe, made his NHL debut with the Sharks. He quickly became an NHL regular, playing in 81 games in the 1993-94 season and join Irbe as the first Latvians to play in the NHL All-Star Game. He was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche in the 1995-96 season in time to win a Stanley Cup championship, the first Latvian to have his name engraved on the cup. After five seasons in Colorado, which included three All-Star Game appearances, Ozolinsh was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes. Stops with the Florida Panthers, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, the New York Rangers and a return to the San Jose Sharks would follow. His final NHL totals of 875 games, 167 goals and 397 assists for 564 points ranks first mong Lativans in games, goals, assists, points, All-Star Games (7) and his Stanley Cup stands as the only one won by a Latvian.

Irbe, Ozolinsh & Zholtok

Alexander Kerch played 5 games with the Edmonton Oilers in 1993-94, while Harijs Vitolinsh saw action in 8 games with the Winnipeg Jets the same season for their only NHL experience.

It would not be until 1997 that Peter Skudra would become the second Latvian goaltender to join the NHL, when he began his NHL career first with the Pittsburgh Penguins for 74 games over three seasons, a single game with the Buffalo Sabres in 2000-01 followed by 26 games with the Bruins later that same season. Two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks saw Skudra get into 46 games in two seasons before finishing his career with four additional seasons in Russia. Skudra ranks 6th in games played for Latvians.

Several players made their debuts in the 1998-99 season with Victor Ignatjevs playing 11 games with the Penguins and Herbert Vasiljevs getting into 51 games with Florida, the Atlanta Thrashers and Vancouver from 1998-99 to 2001-02 before continuing his career in Germany, but the best known of the group would be Karlis Skrastins.

Skrastins, a 9th round draft pick, would spend time in Finland before coming to North America and playing for the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL before making his NHL debut with the Nashville Predators for a pair of games in 1998-99. He would split time between Milwaukee and Nashville the next season before becoming an NHL regular in 2000-01 and play in all 82 games for three consecutive seasons. 2005-06 would see Skrastins join the Colorado Avalanche for two and a half seasons before a move to the Florida Panthers. He currently plays for the Dallas Stars and has surpassed his 700th NHL game played, currently ranking him second behind only Ozolinsh.

Karlis Skrastins

Kaspars Astashenko played 23 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning over the course of two seasons beginning in 1999-00 before a couple of seasons in the AHL prior to his return to Europe to continue his career.

2005 saw the debut of the rugged Raitis Ivanans, who patiently worked his way up through the minor league system, having played for 11 different teams in 4 different leagues, including the wonderfully named Macon Whoopee. His debut came with four games with Montreal, but he quickly became a regular with the Los Angeles Kings and is rapidly approaching 250 games played and is better known for his penalty minutes rather than points scored.

Janis Sprukts got into 14 NHL games with the Florida Panthers starting in 2006 and is currently playing in the KHL while Martins Karsums currently has 24 games to his credit with both Boston and Tampa Bay in 2008-09 and is currently playing in Norfolk of the AHL and hoping for a return to the NHL.

Finally, Oskars Bartulis became the 16th Latvian in NHL history when he made his NHL debut this season with the Philadelphia Flyers and has recently made it to double digits, with 10 games played this season.

While several of these players were unable to become NHL regulars, they have all achieved something to be proud of, joining a select group of Latvians to have played in the NHL, and despite some of their low NHL games played and point totals, many have gone onto lengthy careers in Europe and have been regulars on the Latvian National Team, having competed in the World Championships man times, where Latvia is famous for it's rabid fan support, traveling en masse regardless of the location to provide the loudest fan support possible.

Today's featured jersey is a 2002-03 Minnesota Wild Sergei Zholtok jersey. This jersey has the captain's "C", proudly worn by Zholtok in January of 2003. It also features one of our custom made Hockey Fights Cancer patches, worn by each team's captain for one game only, in this case Minnesota's game on January 10th vs. the Phoenix Coyotes, and then auctioned off for charity during the subsequent NHL All-Star Game weekend later that season.

Minnesota Wild 2002-03 jersey photo MinnesotaWild02-03F.jpg
Minnesota Wild 2002-03 jersey photo MinnesotaWild02-03B.jpg
 photo MinnesotaWild02-03P.jpg

Here is a look at the history of Latvian hockey throughout time including their always emotional upsets against the hockey powers of the world and footage of some recent Latvian NHLers and of course, their passionate fans.

Speaking of their passionate fans, here is the complete report from NBC News aired during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Here is a compilation of goals by the Latvia National Team from various World Championships, showing the giant killers at their finest.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1996-97 New York Rangers Wayne Gretzky Jersey

Yes, it's yet another Wayne Gretzky milestone. Frankly, we're getting sick of them.

First to do this, first to do that, yadda, yadda, yadda. Seriously, every day there's another one to fend off, as we desperately search for something else, anything else, interesting and worthy enough to be that day's topic.

Well, it's a surprisingly slow day in hockey history considering we are in the heart of the NHL season and Gretzky's done it again, for on this date in 1996 Wayne Gretzky became the first player in NHL history to reach the 3,000 point mark, including playoffs.

Playoff points? Who includes playoff points? Well, today we do because it's the best factoid we've got to work with and we just happen to have a 1996-97 Gretzky jersey in the collection that ties into it perfectly. So there you go. Gretzky once again.

Wayne Gretzky started out in the WHA with the Indianapolis Racers, of all clubs, for a couple of weeks, scoring six points in eight games before being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers for the remainder of the season in which he scored another 104 points in 72 games with Edmonton. That year he added another 20 points in 13 playoff games for a grand total of 130 points.

Following that season the Oilers, along with three other surviving WHA teams joined the NHL, where Gretzky would play the remainder of his record shattering career.

He announced his 1979-80 arrival in the NHL by tying Marcel Dionne for the league lead in points with 137, losing out on the Art Ross Trophy on the first tiebreaker of goals scored, as Dionne had 53 goals to Gretzky's 51. The playoffs would see an additional 3 points in 3 games.

Making certain there was not going to be any tiebreakers the following season, Gretzky would win the title with 164 points, 29 more than Dionne, and set the all-time single season mark, eclipsing Phil Esposito's 152 set in 1971, for the first of his seven consecutive scoring titles. 21 playoff points would follow.

Gretzky would lay waste to the opposition in 1981-82 by leading the league in both goals and assists, with an all-time NHL record total of 92 goals, scoring 65 points more than Mike Bossy, for a total of 212, the first player to ever top 200 points in a single season and beating his own year old single season record by 48 points. He would add 12 points in the playoffs in 5 games.

1982-83 would see a reprise of the previous season, with Gretzky topping the charts in both goals and assists, finishing the season with 196 regular season points, beating Peter Stastny by an incredible 72 points. 16 playoff games would see an amazing 38 more points.

A return to the 200 point stratosphere followed in 1983-84 with 205 points and the most goals and assists once more as he outdistanced teammate and defenseman Paul Coffey by an astounding 79 points. 35 more points would follow in the playoffs as Gretzky and the Oilers would capture their first of four Stanley Cups.

Business as usual in 1984-85 saw another 208 point run to Gretzky's fifth consecutive Art Ross Trophy, leading once more in both goals and assists, this time 73 points up on another Oiler teammate, this time Jari Kurri. He would set the single season record for most points in the playoffs with 47 points in just 18 games on the way to another Stanley Cup.

Gretzky would raise the single season scoring mark in 1985-86 by topping his own mark with 215 on the strength of 163 assists, setting an all-time record in that category. Gretzky would finally relinquish the goal scoring title that season, coming in sixth with 52, 16 behind Kurri, who obviously benefitted from Gretzky's record number of assists. Even teammate Glenn Anderson had more goals than Gretzky with 54. An early exit from the playoffs would see an additional 19 points in 10 games.

Despite a "dip" in production, 1986-87 would conclude with his seventh scoring championship, as Gretzky would lead the league in both goals and assists once again. His 183 points were 75 more than Kurri, but would break his run of 200 point seasons at three. A return to the Stanley Cup title saw another 34 points.

Only playing in 64 games would force Gretzky to relinquish his scoring crown, as his 149 points left him 19 back of Mario Lemieux despite leading the league in assists for the ninth consecutive season. The final Stanley Cup of Gretzky's career saw him in peak form with 43 points in 19 games.

1988-89 saw a return to the 50 goal club and his 114 assists would tie him for the league lead with Lemieux as he racked up another 168 points, placing second to Lemieux overall during Gretzky's first season in Los Angeles. 11 playoff games saw the opportunity to add 22 more points.

He would reclaim the Art Ross Trophy in 1989-90 with 142 points and yet another league leading assist total, this time with a mere 13 points over former Oiler teammate Mark Messier. 7 playoff games for the Kings had Gretzky add 10 points.

His 163 points in 1990-91 gave him 32 more than Brett Hull to once more win the scoring title, despite finishing outside the top ten in goals, and his 122 assists topped Adam Oates by 32 as well. 15 playoff points followed.

Lemieux's return to form would cost Gretzky the scoring title in 1991-92, but another 121 points were added to his career totals with Gretzky coming in third overall behind both Lemieux and his Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Kevin Stevens. His league leading 90 assists would give him his 13th consecutive league leading assist total. The playoffs saw the Kings eliminated early and Gretzky was unable to add more than 7 points, his lowest total since the Oilers first season in the NHL when they went three and out.

The following season would see Gretzky limited to 65 points in just 45 games before a return to the top in 1993-94 saw him capture his record setting 10th Art Ross Trophy with 130 points and a league topping 92 assists. Taking the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals gave Gretzky an additional 24 playoff games to put op another 40 points.

With his season split between Los Angeles and St. Louis, 1995-96 saw Gretzky put up a combined 102 points, the final 100 point season of his career. 13 playoff games with the Blues added 16 more points.

The final three seasons of his career were spent with the New York Rangers, finishing 4th overall in 1996-97, the season he reached the 3,000 point mark during his NHL career, with 97 points, leading the league once more in assists with 72. In the final playoffs of his career, Gretzky added another 20 points in 15 games before the Rangers were ousted. The final NHL playoff totals of Gretzky's career stand at 208 games, 122 goals, 260 assists for 382 points.

The 1997-98 season saw Gretzky put up another 90 points for third in the league. His 67 assists lead the league, clearing showing the change in the style of play in the NHL when just a few seasons earlier 67 assists would have placed a player outside of the top ten.

Gretzky's final season saw him log 70 games and 62 points.

He holds the career records for goals with 894, assists with 1963, points with 2857 in just 1478 games, a 1.93 point per game average.

His NHL totals show 1016 goals and 2223 assists for 3,239 points, and when combined with his season in the WHA, the grand total climbs to 3,369 points, a mark that may live forever.

Today's featured jersey is a Starter 1996-97 New York Rangers Wayne Gretzky home jersey. This jersey features the unique "double tagging" on the back.

Traditionally jerseys of the day carried the manufacturer's logo on only the lower right side, but due to Gretzky's preference to tuck his jersey into his breezers on the right-hand side, which dates back to his youth when playing with older boys his oversized jerseys would interfere with his stick. Not wanting to miss out on having their brand associated with Gretzky and his amazing accomplishments, and the resulting publicity, jersey manufacturers started adding their logo to the left side of Gretzky's jerseys to ensure their proper visibility.

New York Rangers G 96-99 F
New York Rangers G 96-99 B

Sure, we could post a hundred videos of Gretzky scoring a bunch of goals or lifting Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup, but why bother? We've all been there and done that. Let's go off the board today and see what the YouTube wheel of fortune brings us...


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