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Saturday, December 12, 2009

1976-77 New York Rangers Rod Gilbert Jersey

On this date in 1976, Rod Gilbert of the New York Rangers celebrated his 1,000th game with New York, only the second player to reach that mark for the Rangers, with three assists in a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden.

Rod Gilbert's career almost never happened, as during the 1959-60 season in junior hockey, with one game left in the season, he slipped on some trash thrown on the ice and fell backwards into the boards, fracturing his back and was paralyzed for two months and underwent spinal fusion surgery. He also got an infection in his tibia, raising talk of an amputation, and a staph infection in his back. In total Gilbert required eight months of recovery time.

Fully recovered, he began his career with the Rangers in 1960-61, getting into one game following the conclusion of his junior hockey season. His first NHL goal came in the playoffs following the 1961-62 season when he scored 5 points in 4 games before cracking the Rangers lineup the following season and getting into 70 games in 1962-63, scoring 11 goals and 31 points.

He really made strides in 1963-64, more than doubling his point total from the year prior, with 24 goals and 64 points and playing in the first of eight NHL All-Star Games, followed by another 25 goals and 61 points the next season and another All-Star Game appearance, all while playing with a back brace.

Another back surgery, and an incident while recovering in the hospital when he choked as a result of acute indigestion and was clinically dead for four minutes before being revived, caused him to miss more than half the season in 1965-66, but for the next 11 seasons Gilbert would play in a minimum of 64 games, with 9 of those seasons being 70 games or more.

Gilbert, teamed with center Jean Ratelle, whom Gilbert had played with as early as age 10, and team captain Vic Hadfield on left wing, would form the GAG Line, which stood for "Goal A Game" and would play together in the late 1960's and early 1970's, averaging over a goal a game.

In 1971-72 Ratelle, Hadfield and Gilbert would finish third, fourth and fifth in the NHL scoring race, which included Ratelle missing a month with a broken ankle! The trio was broken up in 1974 when Hadfield was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gilbert's best seasons were 1971-72, with 43 goals, his career high, and 54 assists for 97 points and his only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and 1974-75 with 36 goals and 61 assists for a matching 97 points.

The 1975 trade of lifelong friend and linemate Ratelle took away some of Gilbert's spirit and likely hastened the end of his career, as Gilbert only played two more seasons following the trade.

He would finish his career after 19 seasons with 1065 games played, 406 goals and 615 assists for 1,021 points. He had his #7 retired by the Rangers in 1979, astonishingly, the first Ranger to ever have his number retired! Gilbert was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

Internationally, Gilbert played for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 games, and again for Canada in the 1977 World Championships with 4 points in 9 games.

Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 New York Rangers Rod Gilbert jersey from his final season in the NHL. This jersey style was first introduced by General Manager John Ferguson Sr. in the 1976-77 season and was the first departure in club history from the iconic diagonal "RANGERS" cresting.

After proving unpopular with the tradition bound Rangers fans, this style was only used for two seasons, the first without names on the back of the road jerseys and, thanks to a new NHL rule requiring them, with them on the back for the 1977-78 season. Names were always worn on the home white jerseys.

After being let go by the Rangers in 1978, Ferguson became the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and reprised the exact same jersey template for the Jets beginning with their inaugural NHL season in 1979, with the only differences being the font for the name and numbers and, naturally, the team logo. The Jets would use this style all throughout the 1980's.

In today's Third String Goalie Police Blotter, a painting of Rod Gilbert by the late Andy Warhol, as part of his ten painting Athlete Series, was stolen between September 2 and 3, 2009 from the Los Angeles residence of collector Richard L. Weisman along with the remainder of the series, which includes Muhammad Ali, OJ Simpsion, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Pele.

A $1 million reward has been offered for information leading to their recovery and anyone with information about this theft or whereabouts of the missing paintings is asked to contact the Art Theft Detail of the Commercial Crimes Division of the LAPD at (231) 485-2524.

This image is the accurate color version of the missing painting which was
produced in several variations

Today's video is one of the always excellent "Legends of Hockey" profiles, this one of Gilbert.

Friday, December 11, 2009

1995-96 Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson Jersey

Daniel Alfredsson, who was born on this date in 1972 and not drafted until the sixth round, 133rd overall, made his NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators at the start of the 1995-96 season, one of dramatic change for the Senators.

Up until that point the expansion Senators last overall (and 29 points behind the other first year club, the Tampa Bay Lightning), last by 20 points, and last yet again by 12 points in the lockout-shortened 48 game season.

Prior to the start of the season, Brian Smith, a former professional player with the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota North Stars and and Houston Aeros of the WHA, who was now working as a TV sports anchor was on his way to a charity fund-raising event when he left the station and encountered an escaped mental patient who had gone to the TV station because he thought the station was broadcasting messages in his head. Smith was the first broadcast personality the madman recognized, who shot and killed Smith. The Senators honored Smith by wearing the Smitty 18 patch on their jerseys for that season. As a result of the killing, Brian's Law was passed to make it easier to commit allegedly dangerous patients.

More changes were in store for the Senators, as they got off to a good start with a 6-5-0 record, only to lose their next eight games, which resulted in head coach Rick Bowness being let go in November, replaced by Dave Allison.

In the midst of a 2-22-1 stretch under head coach Allison, general manager Randy Sexton was let go, replaced by Pierre Gauthier.

The 2-22-1 catastrophe would cost Allison his job after only 25 games, and he would then be replaced as head coach by Jacques Martin in January, the Senators third head coach of the season. The club would finish the year 10-24-4 under Martin.

One change in January for the Senators was a positive one, as the moved into their new home, the 19,153 seat Palladium, since renamed the Corel Centre and currently Scotiabank Place, which replaced the Ottawa Civic Centre, which held only 10,585.

There were also numerous changes in team personnel, as Martin Straka, Jaroslav Modry, Steve Duchesne, Tom Chorske, Damian Rhodes and Wade Redden all arrived in trades, as Craig Billington, Don Beaupre, prospect Bryan Berard and both Martin Straka and Jaroslav Modry were all dealt before season's end.

Despite the losses, turnover and turmoil there were three notable bright spots for the Senators, with the move to their brand new arena, the arrival of Jacques Martin, who would provide some much needed stability as he would coach the Senators for nine seasons and the arrival of future team captain Daniel Alfredsson, who would lead the team in goals, assists and scoring with 61 points, 22 more than the next closest teammate, playing in the NHL All-Star Game and win the Calder Trophy.

While the Senators would finish last yet again in 1995-96, key pieces had now arrived and the Senators would not only climb out of the basement with a 36 point improvement in 1996-97, but qualify for the playoffs for the first time ever beginning a run of 11 playoff seasons in a row.

Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1995-96 Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson jersey, as worn by Alfredsson during his Calder Trophy winning rookie season. This jersey features the Brian "Smitty" Smith Memorial patch worn by the Senators that season.

This style of jersey was first used by the Senators in their inaugural season with black in between the red arm stripes and red numbers with white trim. They changed the numbers to white with red trim for greater visibility for the next two seasons before arriving at this jersey in 1995-96 when the area between the red arm stripes was changed to white, a white waist stripe was added above the newly lowered red waist stripe and the sleeve numbers were changed to three color white numbers for two seasons. The final change to the jersey was rotating the sleeve numbers color to black for the final two seasons of the jersey until it was replaced as the primary home jersey by the red alternate introduced in 1997-98.

Ottawa Senators 95-96 F
Ottawa Senators 95-96 B
Ottawa Senators 95-96 P

Today's first video is a look at Alfredsson, the long-time captain of the Senators.

Next, the Ottawa Senators draft Bryan Berard first overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. Berard would be dealt away before ever playing a game for the Senators after informing them he would not report to the Senators, despite the commentary in the video.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

1974-75 Montreal Canadiens Henri Richard Jersey

Henri Richard knew at a young age what he wanted to do in life, but it's easy to be influenced by your older brother when he plays for the Montreal Canadiens.

"I was positive that I, too, was going to play for the team, although I never imagined playing with Maurice. Our age difference was 15 years. I hardly knew him; he married when I was a boy, and then he was so busy with hockey. He was more like and uncle than a brother. It's funny, but Maurice never talked to me about hockey, even when were were teammates. We did our talking on the ice," Richard recalls.

Richard arrived on the scene with the Montreal Canadiens at the ideal time, as the club was loaded with talent and had won the Stanley Cup as recently as 1953. Richard kicked off his career with five consecutive Stanley Cup Championships from 1956 to 1960. He was an immediate producer, scoring 40 points as a rookie in 1955-56 and just two seasons later set his career high with 80 points from 28 goals and 52 assists in 1957-58.

"We had quite the team and won the Stanley Cup in my first five years. We almost got bored winning. It was better to win after a loss, much more enjoyable."

After taking a backseat to the Toronto Maple Leafs run of cups in the early 1960's, the Canadiens were back on top again in with back-to-back championships in 1965 and 1966, and again in 1968 and 1969.

Richard was a model of consistency and durability during his 20 year career. From 1957 to 1970 he scored between 50 and 80 points in 13 out of the 14 years, playing no less than 53 games every season. His highest goal total was 30 in 1960 and his career-best 52 assists in 1958 and 50 in 1963 lead the NHL both times.

Richard would win the Stanley Cup again in 1971, one he considers the sweetest. "I had had a few arguments with coach Al McNeil but went on to score the tying and winning goals in the seventh game," said Richard. This after being benched in Game 6 of the finals by McNeil.

He would win the cup one final time in 1973, giving him a total of 11, more than any other player in NHL history. "I won 11 Cups in total, a record that may never be broken. The structure of the league, with the draft and free agency, prevents the creation of dynasties like the one we had in Montreal," Richard speculated.

Richard was named captain of the Canadiens in 1971 after the retirement of Jean Beliveau. "The oldest player usually got the "C," and at the time, it seemed a normal transition to be voted captain. I never said much to the players, but I had always tried to lead by example. Now that my playing days are over, I see the tradition, the honor, more clearly."

Richard laments, "In all my years with the Canadiens, I never played a shift on the power play. With the great teams we had, I couldn't get on that line." He continues, "I might have had that chance on another team, and though I was tempted by a large contract offer from Houston of the WHA, I'm thankful to have finished as a Montreal Canadien."

Richard retired in 1975 after 1256 games, 358 goals and 688 assists for 1046 points. He participated in the playoffs an astounding 20 times in 22 seasons, totalling 180 games, 49 goals and 80 assists for 129 career playoff points along with his 11 Stanley Cups. That's championships in half of the seasons he played in! Richard was also named the winner of the Masterton Trophy in 1974.

"I saw the younger guys coming on and retired when I knew I wouldn't play regularly anymore. After my retirement, the team went on to win four more cups in a row. I had declined a contract offer from Montreal for those years. I opened a tavern, and the guys would come for a beer and tease me with, "We really missed you out there, Henri." But I've no regrets."

The Canadiens retired Richard's #16 on this date in 1975 and he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame shortly afterwards in 1979.

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Montreal Canadiens Henri Richard jersey worn in his final game and features the captain's "C" on the left chest. This jersey sold at auction in February, 2005 for $16,252.

Today's first video selection is the "Legends of Hockey" profile of Henri Richard with commentary by both Henri and Maurice Richard, along with Jean Beliveau, a real treat to see.

Next up are highlights of the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, where Richard scores both the tying and winning goals as the Canadiens come from behind to win the championship.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Stan Mikita Jersey

On this date in 1973, Stan Mikita of the Chicago Black Hawks played in his 1,000th career game in a 5-3 win over the Minnesota North Stars. In doing so, Mikita became only the third player to appear in 1,000 games with Chicago.

Additionally, on the same date in 1978, Mikita became only the second player in NHL history to register 900 career assists in a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.

Mikita's story is unlike probably any other player in the long history of the NHL. Born Stanislaus Gouth in Sokolce, Czechoslovakia in 1940, Mikita's family, fearing the political changes in the late 1940's as the Soviet Union's influence over Eastern Europe grew, sent the eight-year-old Stan, who was unfamiliar with hockey, to live with relatives in Canada just as the Iron Curtain closed and he took the family name Mikita of his aunt.

The Iron Curtain photo IronCurtainmap.png
A map showing Czechoslovakia behind the Iron Curtain

"Hockey was the biggest help in making the adjustment to a new life," Mikita recalled. "I was sitting on the front porch, and eventually I got enough nerve to go down onto the sidewalk to watch. One day they were short a guy, so they motioned for me to come and join them."

"I had no idea how to play hockey, so the first time a guy went around me, I chopped his legs out from under him. I didn't understand a word of English, but one of the older fellows told me, in sign language, "No, we don't play hockey like that." He showed me how to hold the stick and stickhandle. That was my introduction to hockey and where I learned the English language. Needless to say, my vocabulary was limited and included quite a few cusswords."

He made his NHL debut with the Black Hawks in 1958-59 season, becoming the first ever Czechoslovakian-born player in NHL history and scoring his first point and the first of many penalty minutes. He would become a regular the following season, appearing in 67 games, scoring his first NHL goal and racking up 119 penalty minutes, as he employed a rough and feisty style in part due to his smaller size.

"I hadn't completely eliminated the language factor, and kids made fun of me. That made me determined to be better than those kids as a hockey player, but I was also in a lot of scraps. When I got to the NHL in 1959, I was still fighting. My first left-winger was Ted Lindsay, who, at 5 foot 8 inches and 152 pounds, was about my size. I asked Teddy, "You've played 16 years in the league. How did you ever survive?" He answered, "Hit 'em first." I followed that advice and made sure everyone knew that I was tough enough for the NHL," said Mikita.

Stan Mikita rookie card photo MikitaRookiecard.jpg
A Stan Mikita rookie card from 1960

Mikita would improve his game in 1960-61, more than doubling his goal total to 19 and nearly doubling his assist total to 34 for a 27 point increase in points to 53 in 66 games along with another 100 penalty minutes. Following the regular season, he led all goal scorers with six and helped the Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1938.

1960-61 Chicago Blackhawks team photo 1960-61ChicagoBlackhawksteam.jpg
The 1960-61 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks

Another leap in production in 1961-62 saw him in the 20's for goals scored with 25 and 52 assists for 77 points, tied for third overall in the league with Gordie Howe, seven behind Chicago teammate Bobby Hull. While the Black Hawks would not repeat as champions, Mikita had 21 points in 12 playoff games as the Black Hawks again made it to the finals.

After another 76 point season, Mikita would capture his first Art Ross Trophy in 1963-64, leading the league in scoring with a career high 89 points on 39 goals and 50 assists, along with 146 penalty minutes, third overall and just 5 behind the league leader.

Mikita would again lead the league in scoring in 1964-65 with 87 points and 154 penalty minutes plus 10 more points in 14 playoff games as they again reached the finals.

Then an amazing thing happened. Mikita returned home from a road trip and his wife told him that their daughter was watching the last road game on TV and asked "Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?" It was at that point that Mikita thought about how to explain to a three-year-old how her father took a penalty he shouldn't have and was being punished for it. He also figured out where his penalty minutes were coming from and made a conscious decision to eliminate "lazy" penalties such as holding, hooking and tripping, as well as his misconduct penalties and began to play a different style of hockey and keep quiet with the referees.

The results were dramatic.

1965-66 saw a drop in penalty minutes to 58, yet he still managed 78 points, second overall.

Mikita's reinvention of his style continued in 1966-67 as he scored 35 goals and 62 assists tying the single season league record of 97 points to capture his third Art Ross Trophy, yet even more surprising was his mere 12 penalty minutes, 142 less than just two seasons prior, which earned him the Lady Byng Award. Had you suggested such a thing was even possible the first six seasons of his career, you would have been laughed at. Mikita is fond of saying, "I realized that you need an awfully long stick to score from the penalty box." The scoring title, along with reinventing his style in play, resulted in Mikita winning the Hart Trophy as well, the first player to ever win all three trophies in a single season.

Mikita poses with his record setting trio of trophies in 1967

He would repeat the triple trophy feat in 1967-68 with a career high 40 goals, 47 assists for 87 points and just 14 penalty minutes and be named the winner of the Lady Byng, Hart and Art Ross trophies his fourth scoring title in five years.

Although his point total increased the following season to 97, tying his career best, he would finish fourth in the scoring race. The next six seasons Mikita's consistent production saw him average 78 points per season, with none lower than 65. During that time period the Black Hawks would make it to the finals in 1970-71 (18 points in 18 games) and 1972-73 (20 points in 15 games).

It was just prior to the 1972-73 season that Mikita would have a homecoming while part of Team Canada. After completing the grueling Summit Series against the Soviet Union, Team Canada travelled to Prague to play the Czechoslovakian National Team. Mikita was named team captain for the contest, which was the first time he was able to play in front of his parents and siblings.

"The welcome I received from the crowd was the proudest moment in my life," said Mikita.

 photo MikitaTeamCanada.jpg
Mikita as a member of Team Canada in 1972

His production would drop from the 80's to the high 50's, partly due to back problems which would eventually cause him to retire in 1980 as the second highest NHL career scoring leader, behind only Howe, with 1,467 points from 541 goals and 926 assists in 1,394 games, the 7th most in league history at the time. His games, assists and points were all Black Hawks records and he would finish his career with 4 Art Ross Trophies, 2 Hart Trophies, 2 Lady Byng Trophies. In addition to his trophy collection, Mikita would appear in nine NHL All-Star Games - 1964, 1967-1969 and 1971 through 1975.

Howe, Mikita & Hull-1967 ASG photo HoweMikitaampHull-1967ASG.jpg
Mikita played on a line with Howe and Hull in the 1967 All-Star Game

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Slovak Hall of Fame in 2002.

In addition to all his scoring exploits, Mikita was also an innovator of hockey equipment, both intentional in unintentional. Following a concussion in 1972-73, Mikita began wearing a helmet designed especially for him with it's distinctive round crown and even put it into production for others to purchase.

Mikita wearing the Northland dome helmet

Having even more of an impact on how the game is played, Mikita is credited with the innovation of the curved stick blade in the early 1960's.

"My invention of the curved stick came by accident. One day, I cracked my stick in practice, forming an angle in the blade. I was tired and angry at the thought of climbing the 21 stairs to the dressing room to get another stick. I fired a puck in frustration, and the way it left my stick and the sound it made against the boards caught my attention. Before the stick finally broke, I had taken a half a dozen shots, and each time, it was the same."

"After that, I intentionally bent my stick. I broke a lot before I figured out how to make the wood pliable with heat and soaking. I experimented in practice for a month or two before I used a curved blade in a game."

Handyman Mikita ushering in the curved stick era

The curve gave the puck a fluttering path like a baseball knuckleball, moving unexpectedly. Once put into use by Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull, and combined with Hull's notoriously hard slapshot, the curved stick blade quickly became adapted league wide and by 1963 rules were put in place to limit the amount of the curvature to lessen the effect.

Apparently not everyone agrees with this rule...

Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Chicago Black Hawks Stan Mikita jersey from the season in which he played his 1,000th game. This was the first season that the Black Hawks numbers were two colors, previously being one color white numbers. The Black Hawks would not being using names on the back of their jerseys until 1977.

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1960-61 Chicago Blackhawks Stan Mikita jersey from his rookie season. Unlike today's featured jersey, this earlier sweater has the trappings of a 1950's style with the lace-up collar, one color numbers and no name on the back.

This Indian head logo sweater, so revered today and often topping Best Jersey Lists, came into being in the 1955-56 season, replacing the previous style which had a small indian head of a different design contained in a circle logo. The 1955-56 version had no sleeve numbers and a slightly different main crest design before the logo changed to today's more familiar version and sleeve numbers were added in 1957-58. Note today's jersey has two sleeve stripes and long black cuffs, which were changed to three stripes to match the waist striping for the 1963-64 season.

Chicago Black Hawks 1959-60 jersey photo 
Chicago Black Hawks 1959-60 jersey photo 

We hope you have some time on your hands today, as we mine a rich vein of video about Stan Mikita and his lengthy career.

First up, highlights of the 1961 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6 where Mikita assisted on the game winning goal, the last Stanley Cup won by the Blackhawks to date and the only one of Mikita's career.

Here is an interview with Mikita who discusses the creation of the helmet he wore and the incident that led to the development of the curved stick and gives you a glimpse of his self-depreciating sense of humor.

Here is a fine montage of Stan Mikita highlights set to some more of that jazzy seventies music. It's brief, but notice at the 15 second mark Mikita rising up the 21 steps that led to the Black Hawks dressing room in the lower level at the old Chicago Stadium.

This nice career retrospective on Stan Mikita is from the Versus network.

In one of the nicer stories in hockey of the last few seasons, here is Mikita talking about rejoining the Chicago Blackhawks family as an ambassador for the team followed by the long overdue Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita Night.

For further viewing, this two part profile of Mikita from 1995 is also recommended. Part One. Part Two.

Finally, for fan's of the movie Wayne's World, no one should be without their own Stan Mikita's Donuts t-shirt.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs Felix Potvin Jersey

On this date in 1997 the Toronto Maple Leafs played their 5,000th game in team history, defeating the Dallas Stars by a score of 3-0.

The game left the Maple Leafs with an all-time record of 2,139 wins against 2,135 losses and 726 ties.

Igor Korolev opened the scoring with assists from Mats Sundin and Mike Johnson at 14:04 of the first period after Sundin centered a pass from behind the net, which Korolev put past Dallas goaltender Ed Belfour on his stick side.

Following a scoreless second period in which each team had a pair of powerplays, Sundin put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-0 from Rob Zettler at 1:27 of the third period on a backhander into the top left corner.

"I faked a shot and the defenseman went down so I tried to wait to find some room in the net," Sundin said. "I was almost down to the red line and I wanted to make sure I got it over his pad. It was a little fluky but a nice goal to get."

Dallas had one powerplay at 9:26 but failed to convert and Sundin got his second goal and third point of the night with an emptynetter from center ice at 18:49 to seal the victory.

Felix Potvin got the shutout for Toronto, his first since defeating the same Dallas Stars by the same score 21 months prior.

"We've been knocked down a lot of time this year, had some bad games and we've been bouncingback up," Sundin said. "The first and second periods tonight may have been our best periods of the year. They played good and we played really solid, it's big for Felix, really important for his confidence."

The loss ended a seven game winning streak for Dallas, who were leading the league in points at the time of the game.

"We played a solid game from the start to the end, it's a good game for our confidence," Potvin said. "It's nice to get a shutout, but even if it's 3-2 or 2-1, it's a good team to beat."

Today's featured jersey is a Nike 1997-98 Toronto Maple Leafs Felix Potvin jersey. In many ways, this jersey can trace it's origins back to the 1991-92 Turn Back the Clock jersey worn during the NHL 75th Anniversary Season, when the Original Six teams all wore throwback jerseys, with the leafs being inspired by their 1940 sweaters.

Due to the overwhelming positive response to the throwback jerseys and it's vintage Maple Leaf crest, the Maple Leafs debuted a brand new set of jerseys for the 1992-93 season, supplanting those worn since 1970, a run of 22 seasons and honestly due for a replacement.

The new jerseys had the same twin stripes on the arms and waist as the 1940-based throwbacks and the same one color block font for the numbers with the addition of white cuffs and the collar changed from white to blue. The major departure from the throwbacks was the continuation of the modern Maple Leaf crest, also introduced in 1970, which continues to be used to this day. The vintage Maple Leaf logo from the throwback was retained in a simplified version without any wording, for use on the shoulders as a secondary logo.

For the 1997-98 season, the font for the names and numbers on the back of the jerseys was changed to the thicker, much more curvaceous font, now done with twin outlines of blue and white. Personally, we never really embraced the change to this new specification for the numbers in particular, feeling that they were too bloated and cartoonish for a jersey based on a 1940's original.

Apparently someone else felt the same way, as this style only lasted three seasons before giving way in 2000-01 to a much classier modernized block font with blue trim and the addition of a silver outline, as well as a new "TML" monogram for the shoulder logos, replacing the vintage Maple Leaf that inspired the change to the jersey in the first place. The vintage Maple Leaf logo would live on however, being the primary logo on the Maple Leafs new third jersey introduced the same season.

While we are often disappointed when searching YouTube for player highlights and finding nothing but fight videos, there is something we love about goalie fights, and no search on YouTube for "Felix Potvin" will allow you to avoid this clip of Potvin duking it out with the Flyers Ron Hextall. Potvin does a great job giving it right back, even changing hands at one point. In the end he opens up a cut on Hextall, much to the delight of Tie Domi.

Descision Potvin.

Here is a well done tribute to Felix Potvin with more artistic flair than the usual highlight package and one we like very much.

Last up today are the Top 10 Goalie Masks in Maple Leafs history, although we'd rate Potvin in the top three after Cujo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

1974-75 New York Islanders Clark Gillies Jersey

Clark Gillies was drafted 4th overall by the Islanders in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft after he helped the Regina Pats win the Memorial Cup. Gillies was also drafted by the Edmonton Oilers, who were still playing in the WHA at the time, but chose to sign with the Islanders, a "can't miss" decision that would seemingly have resulted in multiple Stanley Cups either way! We should all have such choices forced upon us.

1973-74 Regina Pats team, 1973-74 Regina Pats team
The Memorial Cup champion 1973-74 Regina Pats

He would make the Islanders in his first training camp and complete his 14-year career without ever playing a single game in the minors. In his first season he would score 25 goals and 22 assists for 47 points, but was more than just a goal scorer, bringing an element of toughness to his game that made him valuable beyond just offensive statistics.

Playing on a line with Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier, Gillies would score over 30 goals in six of the next seven seasons, aided by his durability, as he would skate in at least 70 games in each of his first ten seasons with the Islanders.

gillies-trottier-bossy, gillies-trottier-bossy
Gillies, Trottier and Bossy

During his fourth season with the Islanders, 1977-78, Gillies was named team captain, a position he would hold for two seasons.

1979-80 would see the Islanders frequent long playoff runs pay off and the Islanders would win the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups. Gillies would contribute 16 points in 21 games in 1980.

15 points in 18 playoff games in 1981 helped the Islanders win their second Stanley Cup and was followed by an almost identical 14 points in 19 games and a third consecutive championship.

Gilles Cup, Gilles Cup

The forth Stanley Cup of the Islanders dynasty came in 1983 and Gillies would compete in only 8 playoff games that season, registering but two assists.

The following season saw a drop in his production during the regular season, with just 12 goals in 76 games and less than 30 points on the season, his first time under 40 points in 10 seasons, but a strong rebound in the playoffs, leading all scorers with 19 points in 21 games.

The next two seasons with the Islanders saw unmistakable declines in games played, goals and points, finally dropping to 4 goals and 14 points in 55 games in 1985-86. As a result, he was left unprotected in the NHL Waiver Draft and was subsequently chosen by the Buffalo Sabres, where he would play the final two seasons of his career.

His final NHL totals were 958 games played, 319 goals, 378 assists and 697 points. He would also total 164 playoff games, the equivalent of two additional seasons, scoring 47 goals and 47 assists for 94 points and four Stanley Cups.

Gillies also played in the 1978 NHL All-Star Game and was on the NHL All-Star Team in the 1979 Challenge Cup and skated for Team Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup.

Gillies Challenge Cup, Gillies Challenge Cup
Gillies barrels through the Soviets during the 1979 Challenge Cup

His annual playoff duties with the Islanders precluded any participation in the annual World Championships held each spring during the NHL playoffs, as Gillies clubs made the playoffs in 13 of his 14 seasons, including every one of his 12 years on Long Island.

Gillies #9 jersey was retired by the Islanders on this date in 1996.

Nassau Coliseum, Nassau Coliseum
Gillies number hanging from the rafters on Long Island

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 New York Islanders Clark Gillies jersey from his rookie season in the NHL. This jersey sold at auction in 2008 for $3,723. Despite being the 4th overall pick and the Islanders first round draft pick, notice that his name on the back is misspelled!

This is the first style of Islanders jersey, notable for the lace-up collar, and was worn from 1972-73 to 1976-77, although the numbers on the back were orange for the first season and we must question the name even being on the back of an Islanders jersey with the lace up collar, something that we believe should not have appeared until the change to the v-neck collar unless perhaps this jersey was worn for a televised national TV game.

photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1978 NHL All-Star Game Clark Gillies jersey from his only All-Star appearance. He was named to the game in 1977, but did not play due to sickness.

This jersey style was first used by the All-Stars in 1973 and had a long run by today's standards, as it was used through 1981, nine games in all.

NHL All-Star 1977 jersey, NHL All-Star 1977 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Here Gillies demonstrates his noted toughness and punches noted Boston Bruins tough guy Stan Johnatan into the middle of next week.

Next Terry O'Reilly beats up Clark Gillies' fist with his face.

Finally, some post game interviews, including Clark Gillies, following the Islanders clinching the Stanley Cup in 1981. Now can someone explain why Gillies was wearing a #24 jersey?


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