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Saturday, December 19, 2009

1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes Jersey

It was on this date in 1917 that the first games of the National Hockey League were played. The league was formed for one basic reason - for the owners to rid themselves of fellow team owner Eddie Livingstone!

Livingstone was the owner of the Toronto Shamrocks of the National Hockey Association (NHA) and had a contentious relationship with his fellow owners, primarily Sam Lichtenhein of the Montreal Wanderers, with whom he often butted heads with. At one point, Lichtenhein even offered Livingstone $3,000 to abandon his team and walk away, but the cheeky Livingstone countered with a $5,000 offer for Lichtenhein to do the same!

Prior to the 1915-16 season, Livingstone purchased the Toronto Blueshirts, giving him both Toronto NHA franchises - and an unwelcome two votes in league matters. When Frank Patrick and Lester Patrick, owners of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHA) Seattle Metropolitans raided the Blueshirts roster, Livingstone transferred Shamrocks players to the Blueshirts. The league seized the Shamrocks franchise from Livingstone, as had been demanded by the league only a week earlier, not wanting one owner with whom they did not get along with having two votes, when there was now nothing left for Livingstone to sell since the club had no players. It also angered the other owners that they were now a five team league, forcing one club to be idle each week and that road trips to Toronto would be for one game instead of the more economical two, as in the past.

In 1916-17, the 228th Battalion of the Canadian Army formed a team in the six team NHA, taking the place of the Shamrocks. Unfortunately, the 228th received their orders to head overseas to join the fighting in World War I and had to withdraw from the league during the season. This gave the other four owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators the opening they needed, and they held a meeting without Livingstone and voted to suspend his remaining Blueshirts franchise with the excuse of wanting to keep the league with an even number of teams.

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A rare shot of the 228th Battalion Hockey Team

Livingstone field suit against the league as a result. The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens were then given three weeks to separate itself from Livingstone by the NHA or the other owners would operate without a club in Toronto and thus the arena would lose it's tennant. The feisty Livingstone of course refused to sell his club, and therefore, at their annual meeting in November, the NHA announced it was suspending league operations due to the difficulty of running a five team league and also blaming player shortages due to World War I.

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The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens

A week later, all of the owners, minus Livingstone naturally, announced they had formed a brand new league, the National Hockey League (NHL), which consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs. The new league also claimed to have retained the contracts of the suspended Toronto Blueshirts players!

With the Quebec Bulldogs suspending operations due to financial difficulties before the new NHL could even begin the 1917-18 season, the Arena Gardens were awarded a temporary NHL franchise, managed by Charlie Querrie, making the fledgling NHL a four team league once again. The league also assigned the Blueshirts players on a lease basis to the temporary Toronto franchise. To further complicate matters, many of the players had signed contracts with both Livingstone and the Arena.

The season, and the league, would kick off on this date in 1917 when the Ottawa Senators lost to the Montreal Canadiens 7-4 and Toronto lost to the Montreal Wanderers by a score of 10-9. The Canadiens would win the first half of the season to earn a spot in the postseason championship playoff, while the Wanderers would cease operations following the fire that burned down their home, the Montreal Arena.

The Toronto club had no official nickname, but the "Blueshirts" were successful on the ice, winning the second half of the season schedule and earned the right to play Montreal for the championship. Toronto was led by Reg Noble, who scored 30 goals and 10 assists in 20 games for 40 points, third overall in the league behind the prolific Joe Malone of the Canadiens who scored a spectacular 44 goals in just 20 games as part of his league leading point total. Corbett Denneny and Harry Cameron also were standouts for Toronto, with 29 and 27 points respectively, for fifth and sixth in league scoring. Toronto's Harry "Hap" Holmes came in second to Georges Vezina of Montreal in the goaltending department with a goals against average of 4.80 in 16 games.

Toronto defeated the Canadiens for the league championship in a two games, total goals series 10-7, capturing the O'Brien Cup. Toronto then faced off against the Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA and won the Stanley Cup by 3 games to 2, causing Livingstone to again head to court to file suit for the revenue earned by "his" championship squad of players.

As a result of this lawsuit, the Arena Gardens formed a new company, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company, to own and run a hockey team separate from the Arena Gardens business in order to protect the Arena business from Livingstone's lawsuits. The NHL then awarded a "new" franchise to the Hockey Club Company. This club was officially named the Toronto Arenas and, not surprisingly, was stocked with the same players from the 1918 championship club. When his players were once again not returned to him for the 1918-19 season, Livingstone sued the Arena Gardens.

Once again, the players were uncertain who would prevail in the courts and covered their bases by signing contracts with both the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company and Livingstone.

Livingstone did prevail in the courts sometimes, but not always. Two rulings in his favor of $20,000 and later $100,000 sent the Arena Gardens into bankruptcy. Despite the company's legal wranglings at the time, the arena would continue to operate for 77 years until closing in 1989.

When the Toronto Arenas did take to the ice in the 1918-19 season as Stanley Cup Champions, they did not play like it. Forced to sell most of their star players due to mounting legal bills, the Arenas record for the season was 5 wins and 13 losses, attendance was low and several players left the team. Finally, the team wrote to the league requesting that the season be ended when each of the three clubs had reached 18 games played and then officially withdrew from the league. This left only the Canadiens and Senators to play for the championship of the NHL and the right to meet the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champions for the Stanley Cup, which Montreal won 4 games to 1.

Meanwhile, Livingstone was busy was attempting to overthrow the NHA management, purchased the dormant Quebec Bulldogs franchise, and began an unsuccessful attempt to start a rival league, the Canadian Hockey Association and threatened to file an injunction to stop the NHL from operating. He also made unsuccessful attempts to start new leagues in 1920, 1924 and 1926, none of which ever played a single game.

Finally, the Toronto Arenas franchise was sold to the St. Patricks Hockey Club of Toronto, who ran the successful senior amateur St. Patricks team in the Ontario Hockey League, which included Arenas team manager Querrie in the four-man ownership group, in December of 1919.

The new owners renamed the club the Toronto St. Patricks and the $5,000 sale price was supposed to go to Livingstone to settle the purchase of his NHA club, for which he had once demanded $20,000 for after they had won the 1918 Stanley Cup. However, Livingstone never received the money, which many believe was kept by NHL president Frank Calder.

The Toronto St. Patricks were members of the NHL through the 1926-27 season, when Querrie, having been sued by none other than Livingstone, was forced to sell the St. Patricks. He reached an agreement to sell the club to Conn Smythe, who renamed the club the Toronto Maple Leafs and constructed Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931.

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes jersey as worn during the inaugural season of the National Hockey League. Their jerseys would change for the second NHL season with the addition of white stripes around the arms and the word "Arenas" across the front, bisected by the large T crest from the previous season.

Holmes would win the Stanley Cup four different times, and with four different teams. He first joined Eddie Livingstone's Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA in 1912, winning the cup with them in 1914. He joined the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA in 1915 and won the cup with Seattle in 1917.

In his only season with the Toronto Blueshirts, he would win his third Stanley Cup before returning to Seattle the following season. After the Metropolitans folded four seasons later, Holmes would join the WCHL's Victoria Cougars in 1924 and go on to win his fourth Stanley Cup, the last cup won by a non-NHL team. After one more season in Victoria, the entire WCHL folded and the Victoria Cougars players were sold to the new Detroit NHL franchise, which took the name the Cougars as a tribute to the Victoria club before eventually becoming the Red Wings. Holmes would play his final two seasons in Detroit and conclude his career with 408 games played, 198 wins, 40 of which were shutouts, 192 losses and 14 ties.

Holmes was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and the American Hockey League award for the top goaltender each season is named the Hap Holmes Memorial Award.

Friday, December 18, 2009

1991-92 Utica Devils Jim Dowd Jersey

On this date in 1993, Jim Dowd, the first native of New Jersey to ever play for the New Jersey Devils, scored his first NHL goal in a 6-2 victory over the Quebec Nordiques in Quebec City.

Dowd, from Brick, New Jersey, helped his high school capture the state title in 1986 and in his senior year broke the national scholastic scoring record with 375 points in his four years.

He was drafted 149th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. Following being drafted he played college hockey at Lake Superior State of the CCHA for four seasons, including a National Championship in 1988. Dowd was named the CCHA Player of the Year in 1991 and during the 1989-90 season Dowd scored 25 goals and 67 assists for 92 points in 46 games.

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Jim Dowd, Craig Hewson and Tim Breslin celebrate the national championship in 1988

Following his college career, Dowd played two seasons with the Devils top minor league club, the Utica Devils in the AHL during 1991-92 and 1992-93, getting into one game with the parent club both seasons. 1993-94 saw him play the majority of the season with the Albany River Rats, 15 games with the New Jersey Devils in which he scored his first NHL goal on this date in 1993. Dowd also was part of the Devils playoff run in 1994, seeing action in 19 games, scoring 8 points.

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The 1994-95 season was one of highs and lows for Dowd. The NHL lockout shortened the regular season and Dowd then suffered a shoulder injury which limited him to only ten regular season games. Things improved for him when the playoffs arrived when he scored the game winning goal in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals as part of a four game sweep over the Detroit Red Wings, getting the New Jersey native his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

The next season would be one of change for Dowd, as the Devils would trade him to the Hartford Whalers, who then dealt him the same day to the Vancouver Canucks for the second half of the season. The Islanders claimed him in the NHL Waiver Draft prior to the 1996-97 season, but his time with the Islanders was minimal, as he spent the vast majority of the season with Utah of the IHL and Saint John in the AHL.

He signed as a free agent for the 1997-98 season with the Calgary Flames and split time between the NHL and the AHL. He was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers, who assigned him to the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL for 1998-99 before he played the next season in Edmonton, when he had his best season to date, scoring 23 points in a career high 69 games.

Dowd's career took a turn when he was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft which gave him some much needed stability after playing for eight different teams in three separate leagues over five seasons. with Minnesota, he set career highs with 13 goals and 30 assists for 43 points in 2001-02. During his fourth season with the Wild, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.

After playing in Germany during the 2004-05 lockout for the Hamburg Freezers, he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks for 2005-06, only to be moved to the Colorado Avalanche at the end of the year. He returned to the Devils for the 2006-07 season and signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for the final season of his NHL career of 2007-08.

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Down during his return to his home state Devils in 2006-07

His final NHL totals are 728 games played, 71 goals and 168 assists for 239 points. In addition, he played in 99 playoff games with 9 goals and 17 assists for 26 points and one Stanley Cup championship.

On a personal note, we met Dowd several times while he was with the Wild and always found him to be an especially friendly player, paarticularly with children. During every single warmup at the Xcel Energy Center Dowd was responsible for at least a dozen pucks finding their way into the hands of children, primarily through the hole in the plexiglass cut for photographer's lenses.

Today's featured jersey is a CCM 1991-92 Utica Devils Jim Dowd jersey. This jersey was worn by Dowd during his first professional season in the American Hockey League. The Utica Devils were founded in 1987 and played in Utica until 1993 before relocating to Saint John, New Brunswick, where they changed their affiliation to the Calgary Flames and were renamed the Flames.

Before the days when teams realized the power of merchandising to generate income, and came up with their own unique identities, minor league clubs would often simply take the name of their parent club, as did the Utica Devils. It is fun to see the minor league club's variations on their parent club's jerseys, in this case the "U-devil" logo worn on the chest in the classic Devils green and red colors.

Here is Dowd's game winning goal from Game 2 of the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals.

Next up is a chatty Jim Dowd wearing a mic during a game in 2007.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

1987-88 Minnesota North Stars Frantisek Musil Jersey

Born on this date in 1964 in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia, Frantisek Musil was drafted 38th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He could have been drafted earlier, but there was uncertainty at the time if he would be able to leave Czechoslovakia due to the political climate in the early 1980's.

He would continue to play in Czechoslovakia before coming to North America in 1986 after completing his mandatory military service time. It was then that he obtained a holiday visa to travel to Yugoslavia. There, he met with North Stars general manager Lou Nanne and agent Ritch Winter who brought him back to Minnesota.

In 1983 I drafted Czech defenseman Frantisek Musil in the second round. I had watched him play in the World Championships, and he looked like a terrific young player. The Quebec Nordiques at that time has the Stastny brothers, who had defected from Czechoslovakia, and they were tearing up the NHL.

I drafted Frantisek, went to the World Championships in Munich, and talked to him about defecting. I said, "After the last game of tournament, I'll have a police escort get up to the airport and take you back." He says, "Let me think about it, and I'll talk to you later in the week." They always had security watching the Czech team. He didn't come with us in '83. THen in 1984, the third Canada Cup came along, and Musil was playing on the Czech team and I was managing the U. S. team. I'd call him every day and try to encourage him to defect at the end of the tournament. Again, it didn't happen.

Finally, I went to Toronto and hired the same Czech contact who had helped get the Stastnys out of Czechoslovakia. He said if he personally go Musil out, it would cost $250,000, with $25,000 up front for expenses.

That had been his price to get the Stastnys out, too. I said, "OK." Back then, you didn't have to pay the defectors a signing bonus, so it was almost like a wash. I gave him the $25,000, and for the next two years, he'd fly over to Europe and watch them play in different championships, and he'd say, "He's coming, he's coming."

In 1986, I got a call from Rich Winter in Edmonton, and Rich says, "Louis, I'm the agent for Frantisek Musil." Winter had convinced him to defect.

He says, "Musil's going to be vacationing in Umag, Yugoslavia, starting tomorrow." I said, "I'll fly over and meet him in Zagreb at the American Consulate, and I'll get him out from there." He says: "OK, I'm coming, too, but you'll have to give me a little time. We'll meet there in two days." I made airline reservations to fly to Trieste, Italy, which is right on the Yugoslavian border. Bob Bruce, from KSTP, was around the office while all this was going on, and he says, "Louie, do you mind if I come with a cameraman?"

I said, "What are you going to do?" He says; "I'd just like to film it. I won't say anything, won't do anything - I'll stay out of the way." I said, "You better, because I'm not looking after you." He says, "Just tell me what flight you're on."

So we ended up in Trieste, and I rented a car. I said to Bruce and his cameraman ,"I'm going to make a dry run to Umag tonight to see what I have to do to drive through the border, so see if I'm going to have to put him in the trunk to sneak him out tomorrow."

We drove to Umag, couldn't find him, and drove back. As we're coming back across the border, I see the Yugoslav guards all have guns and that they stop you and check the car. I see the Italian gate - just a wooden gate - 100 yards farther down, and I figure I can drive slowly and then just gun it and go right through the wooden arm and be on the other side, if that's what I gotta do.

So the next day we drive down to Zagreb. We get to the American Consulate, and I go up to the door, and there's a Marine sitting behind a bulletproof window. I said to him: "My name's Lou Nanne. I'm supposed to meet Frantisek Musil here." He says, "We don't know any Frantisek Musil." I said, "He's a Czech guy who wants to defect, and he should be here with Rich Winter."

He says, "We don't have anybody here." I said, "Would you let me talk to the consulate? "So he rings upstairs, gives me the phone, and I ask the guy if a Frantisek Musil has come here with Rich Winter. "Yeah," he says, "but I sent them to Belgrade."

I said: "Belgrade? What did you do that for?" He says, "Well, that's where they process people who want to defect."

I said: "You've gotta help me. This guy who wants to defect is a hockey player." He says, "Sorry, I can't help you."

Fortunately for me, I had Bruce and his cameraman there. I said; "Would you come down here for a minute? I've got a person from ABC here with a camerman, and if you don't come down we're going to do a story on how you won't give any help to an American citizen who needs it here in Zagreb."

He comes down and I said, "Do you want to go on camera and say you won't help me?"

He says; "No, I'll help. What do you want me to do?" I said: "Make a call, stop them from being processed there, and tell them to drive back here. Otherwise it will take two years to get him out of that holding area."

So he did that.

I said: "I'll tell you what. I want to take you and your whole staff out to dinner. Pick the best restaurant in Zagreb."

They said great. So there's six of us, and we're eating and drinking wine, and we're having a real good time. All of a sudden I get tapped on the shoulder, and there's a guy dressed like a maitre d' in a black suit and tie. I tried to order cheesecake from him.

Finally, the consulate says: "Louis, that's the Secret Police. They want to see your passport." Then the consulate pulls out his green passport and says: "Diplomatic group here. They're with me."

I ask: "How do I get this guy out? I'm willing to put him in the trunk and drive through the border." He says: "No, you don't have to do that. Just get him a visa. If you can get a visa for him immediately, we can just put you on a plane. Tomorrow morning you call back to the States and get an OK for an immedate H-1 visa, then you take him to get a passport picture."

I said, "Let's get on the phone right now, and I'll call Senator Dave Durenberger." I called and said, "Senator, this guy is going to tell you what I need," and then he told the senator what I had to do. I called my secretary, Sue Thomas, and said: "Go down to Immigration right now, get this kind of visa, Write up a contract for Musil with these figures on it, so they know he's got a job and he's got money. Fax everything back to this guy's office so we have it in the morning."

Which they did. Musil got in at midnight. The consulate said, "There's a 1:30 flight out of here tomorrow to London," and we decided to try for it, and then get a ticket in London to Minnesota.

The first thing in the morning, Musil and I went to get his passport picture. I walked in and said to the guy, "I need a passport picture." He says, "Come back at four." I said, "No, no, I need it right now." He says, "I can't do it." So I pull out my wallet, give him $20, and he says. "I'll have them in five minutes."

The next sticking point was the Ford Taurus, my rental car from Italy. I didn't know what to do with it, so I drove over with Musil to Hertz. I said to the guy, "Can you drop off cars?" and he says, "Yes." I said, "Here's my car," and I gave him the keys. He walks outside with me and says, "I can't take that - it's from Italy, we're in Yugoslavia." I said, "I don't care if I end up owning it." A Taurus was only worth $4,200 or $5,200 in the States at that time, and I've got a player I'm saving $250,000 on. I gave him $20 and the keys.

When I got the drop-off charges, the bill was only $427.

We went straight to the airport, got on the plane, and sat there waiting nervously with Rich Winter, Bob Bruce and the cameraman, In a communist country, there are police all over the airport, all around the airstrip, and I'm wondering if anybody will notice that he's leaving for London. Finally, the plane takes off, and we open a bottle of wine to celebrate.

We get to London, we're going through British immigration, and we discover Musil hasn't got the visa he needs - he's got one for the States but not for England.

I said, "This kid's defecting, and he's going to be a professional hockey player back in Minnesota, we're taking him there." They guy was sympathetic, and he says: "Listen, we'll hold him right here. You got get two tickets on the next flight out of England to the United States, and we'll let him go."

I went upstairs and the next flight was on the Concorde to Canada, so I got two tickets on the Concorde. Our other three traveling companions got tickets on the same flight, and we all left. In the air, the pilot announced we had a guy defecting from Czechoslovakia, a hockey player, and they made a big thing out of it - they were toasting Musil and taking us for a tour of the cockpit.

When we landed, we were met by immigration officials, and they just whisked us through Customs and out to a waiting car. They drove us to La Guardia in New York City and got us to Minnesota.

Oddly enough, about half a year later, my son Marty made the U. S. A. World Juniors team, and the World Championships were in Pistany and Trencin in Czechoslovakia. My wife and I wanted to go see our son play, and I wanted to scout the tournament, so we went.

When we got there I knew we might have a little trouble, because some people were very upset, so as soon as we landed we went right to the rink where the U. S. was ready to play. I went right up into the director's office, because I know the Czech officials from World hockey. And I'll never forget, I walk in, and Miro Schubert, the top Czech hockey official, looks at me and says, "Oh Louie, how could you come back here after what you did to us?" I said, "I didn't do anything to you." He says, "You stole our player." I said: "No, your player just wanted to defect and play hockey. In America, we have freedom of choice. He made the choice. He just happens to play for me." So they were kind to me and everything was OK.

Then a few months later, in June, I drafted two guys for the following year, Dusan Pasek and Igor Liba, By the following July, an agreement was in place between the NHL and Czechoslovakia, and you could buy a player's rights to get him out of the country.
Musil is escorted through the Minneapolis airport on
his arrival from Czechoslovakia

A defensive defenseman, Musil played for the North Stars for four seasons before being traded to the Calgary Flames early in a fifth season. He would play for the Flames for five seasons. Another trade saw him join the Ottawa Senators in 1995 for two seasons. His final NHL stop was with the Edmonton Oilers, were he played for two seasons before missing the 1999-00 season and the beginning of the 2000-01 season while recovering from a spinal cord injury suffered during training camp. Once back, he would suffer a neck injury which would limit his final NHL season to just 13 games. He would wrap up his career with HC Dukla Jihlava in the second division of the Czech League.

His final NHL totals show 797 games played with 34 goals and 106 assists for 140 points and a +91 rating.

Internationally, Musil played for the Czechoslovakia National Team in the European Junior Championships twice, the World Junior Championships three times, the World Championships five times, winning silver in 1983 and gold in 1985 plus a bronze in 1992. He also participated for Czechoslovakia in the Canada Cup twice, in 1985 and 1992. He also represented the Czech Republic at the World Championships in 1994.

Today's featured jersey is a 1987-88 Minnesota North Stars Frantisek Musil jersey. This jersey features the "JM" patch worn in honor of John Mariucci, "The Godfather of American Hockey". Mariucci played at the University of Minnesota and five seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks when American players in the NHL was a rarity, and then spent four more seasons playing in the various minor leagues of the day before retiring and entering the world of coaching.

Mariucci coached the University of Minnesota for 12 seasons with another spent as the coach of the US Olympic team, earning a silver medal in 1956. He would also coach Team USA at the 1976 and 1977 World Championships. The home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mariucci Arena, is named for John and he is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey, North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey
North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey, North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey

Here is a scrap between Musil and Trevor Linden, who gets quite bloodied, either by a stick before the fight or in the exchange of haymakers they both throw. Either way, it's evidence of Musil's ruggedness that allowed him to make a career in the NHL at a time when Europeans were often tested for their toughness.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2004 Kazakhstan National Team Roman Kozlov Jersey

Kazakhstan had been a part of the Soviet Union since 1920 and between 1926 and 1939 lost 22% of it's population to starvation, violence and mass emigration. Many Kazakh writers, poets, politicians and historians were killed on orders from Joseph Stalin as part of plans to suppress Kazakh identity and culture. During the 1930's and 1940's millions of people exiled from other parts of the Soviet Union ended up in Kazakhstan, in many cases in large labor camps. By 1959, Kazakhs were a minority in their own country, accounting for only 30% of the population, while 43% were Russians.

One of the most controversial elements of Soviet control over Kazakhstan was the Soviet leadership's decision to use lands in Kazakhstan for testing of nuclear weapons starting in 1949, causing catastrophic ecological and biological effects felt generations later, causing even greater anger toward the Soviet system when the long term effects became known.

Growing tensions within the Soviet Union led to a demand for political and economic reform in the 1980's, and came to a head in the early 1990's. When the Soviet Union dissolved, Kazakhstan declared it's independence on this date in 1991, the last Soviet republic to do so in part because of Kazakhstan's leadership feeling that the various republics of the Soviet Union were too interdependent economically to survive separation from each other.

Kazakhstan's Independence Day is normally celebrated for two days, December 16th and 17th with speeches, songs and performances, dressing in traditional clothing and setting up a yurt, a large tent used by nomad Kazakhs, where meals are served. Visits to friends and relatives are made, with gifts of flowers or candies given. Tournaments with traditional games and races are held, and accompanied by other activities that one would normally find at a festival.

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Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world and the largest landlocked one. It is located primarily in Asia. It's population mix has swung back toward Kazakhs, who now make up 67% of the population, with Russians at 21%.

In hockey, the Kazakhstan National Team made their World Championships debut in 1993 in "Pool C", the third level at the time, finishing 3rd. They have made a steady climb from their early days, and in 1996 they won "Pool C", earning promotion to the "Pool B". Seven years later, Kazakhstan won the Division 1, Group A (the equivalent to the old "Pool B") in 2003, earning a place in the Top Level for 2004.

After two years of avoiding relegation, they were relegated in 2006 back to Division 1, and finished first in Division 1, Group A early in 2009, earning a promotion back to the Top Level for the upcoming 2010 World Championships to be held in Germany in the spring of 2010.

Kazakhstan has competed at the 1998 and 2006 Winter Olympics, finishing in 8th place in 1998. They did not qualify for the upcoming 2010 games in Vancouver, finishing third out of four in their qualifying group behind winners Norway and also Denmark. They also did not qualify in 1994 and 2002.

Nikolai Antropov became the first ever Kazakh player drafted by the NHL when he was picked in the first round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1998.

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Nik Antropov

The other notable Kazakh in the NHL is San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, although he is a Russian citizen and currently chooses to play for Russia in international competitions, he did play for Kazakhstan in the 1994 World Championships.

The best known club hockey team of the seven in Kazakhstan is Barys, based in the capital city of Astana, which competes in the primarily Russian Kontinential Hockey League (KHL). They played in the Kazakhstani Championship until 2007, spent the 2007-08 season in the Supreme League prior to gaining acceptance into the KHL.

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Barys Astana

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Kazakhstan National Team Roman Kozlov jersey as worn in the 2004 World Championships featuring a pair of our custom made Zepter sponsorship patches on the sleeves. Kazakhstan did end up in the relegation round after three preliminary round losses, but successfully defended their place by winning the group with victories over France and Japan along with tying Ukraine.

This well travelled jersey was purchased by us on ebay from a seller in Australia of all places. It arrived already customized, but given the choice, we would have opted for one of the much longer names frequently found on the national team's roster, with names of 10-14 letters long being common.

Kozlov has competed for Kazakhstan on seven different occasions, including the European Junior Championships in 1999, the World Juniors in 2001 and the World Championships every year from 2001 to 2005 with a record of 27 games, 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points and has spent his professional career in the Vysshaya Liga, the second level of Russian hockey.

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Kazakhstan 2004 jersey photo Kazakhstan2004B.jpg

This brief video shows Kazakhstan qualifying for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

1929-30 Chicago Black Hawks Teddy Graham Jersey

On this date in 1929, the Chicago Black Hawks played their first game in the new Chicago Stadium, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 before 14,212 fans as Vic Ripley scored twice in 35 seconds to lead the Black Hawks.

When it opened in 1929, Chicago Stadium was the largest indoor arena in the world, with a capacity of 16,600 fans at the time. It was built by Paddy Harmon, who lost out on owning the Black Hawks franchise when it was first awarded, but figured if he couldn't own the team, he would at least own the stadium in which they would play.

Chicago Stadium cost $9.5 million to build and was the first arena with air conditioning, such as it was at the time, as the arena was prone to bouts of fog during late-season games.

The stadium, known as "The Madhouse on Madison" was known for it's close quarters, many quirks and unique features, including two of the steepest, close to the action balconies in sports. Watching from the top level has been compared to clinging to a mountain face and watching goats on a ledge below.

The dressing rooms were located in the lower level of the building and players had to walk down a long hallway and then negotiate a cramped climb up 22 narrow steps, while wearing skates mind you, to reach the rink. Once on the ice, it's surface was only 185 feet long, 15 feet shorter than a standard rink of today.

These steps were indirectly responsible for the invention of the curved stick, as Stan Mikita, angered at the thought of having to descend these steps and make the trek to the dressing room to retrieve a new stick after cracking his old one, fired a puck into the boards with the cracked stick and noticed the difference that the curved blade made, which led to him developing a proper curved stick blade.

The stairs which led up to the ice surface behind the goal, complete with a
"smash your head" overhang

Here is the intimidating flight of stairs seen from above at ice level

It also contained the last scoreboard with analog clocks, which the visiting announcers could never figure out. Some of the dials even ran backward to a normal clock, confusing those unfamiliar with it to no end. The analog scoreboard was installed in 1943 and not replaced until 1974, far outliving it's usefulness.

Chicago Stadium as also well known for its loud cheering during the national anthem sung by Wayne Messmer aided by a Barton pipe organ with 3,663 individual pipes. "The worst part is that I can't be in the crowd, experiencing it myself," said Messmer.

Speaking of noise, Chicago Stadium was also well known for it's intensely loud goal horn, which was the foghorn removed from the Wirtz family yacht and installed under the center ice scoreboard that reportedly brought more than one visiting player to his knees.

The stadium hosted the 1948, 1961, 1974 and 1991 NHL All-Star Games, as well as being home to the Chicago Bulls of the NBA from 1967-1994, the 1973 and 1988 NBA All-Star Games, five political conventions for both Democrats and Republicans, many concerts, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Pressley, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and boxing matches, featuring at times Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, among the many events held there.

One of the most unusual events had to be the 1932 NFL playoff game moved indoors due to a snow storm on a field that was 80 yards of dirt, won by the Chicago Bears 9-0 thanks to a pass from Bronko Nagurski to Red Grange.

The 1932 NFL playoff game held inside Chicago Stadium

Chicago Stadium had a seating capacity of 17,317 at the end, but additional standing room tickets were sold. The largest crowd for a Blackhawks game was 20,069 for playoff game in April of 1982 versus Minnesota, a record for an NHL game that stood for 14 years.

The final Blackhawks game was held on April 28, 1994, a 1-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs that eliminated Chicago from the playoffs.

Today's featured jersey is a 1929-30 Chicago Black Hawks Edward "Teddy" Graham jersey as worn during the Black Hawks first season in the new Chicago Stadium. Notice the many windows visible from the seating area in the new stadium.

Graham played ten seasons in the NHL with Chicago, the Montreal Maroons, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Eagles, Boston Bruins and New York Americans.

Graham, a defenseman, finished his NHL career with 350 games played, scoring 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points and won a Memorial Cup in Canadian Junior hockey prior to joining the NHL.

This jersey style was first introduced in 1927 when the previous white jersey with black stripes had the colors reversed. This new black style was used through the 1933-34 season.

Chicago Stadium was renowned for the fans cheering loudly all throughout Wayne Messmer's stirring renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner before each Blackhawks game, none louder than the 1991 NHL All-Star Game.

Former Minnesota North Star Tom Reid calls the action in "The Madhouse on Madison" during a 1982 playoff game.

Here are the closing ceremonies at Chicago Stadium in 1994, in three parts.

For further viewing, we recommend "Remember the Roar", a five part history of Chicago Stadium.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why the Philadelphia Flyers Wear Orange Jerseys

Let us be up front with this right from the start.

We hate the Philadelphia Flyers.

Always have.

From their days as the Broad Street Bullies in our youth right up to today, we hate the Flyers.

From the time they punched, crosschecked and intimidated their way to the Stanley Cup Championship, we have detested the excessive intimidation and violence in hockey, the endless brawls and tedious scrums foisted on the great game of hockey by the goons in orange.

One guess as to which team the All-Time Single Season Penalty Minute Leader played for? Yep, The Philadelphia Flyers Dave Schultz set the record in 1974-75 with 472. That's nearly the equivalent of eight games spent in the penalty box and countless fights and fouls

A look at the annual NHL Penalty Minute Leaders in the 1970's reveals the following Flyers;

  • 1971-72 - #3 Gary Dornhoefer - 183 PIM's
  • 1972-73 - #1 Dave Schultz - 259, #2 Bob Kelly - 238, #4 Moose Dupont - 215, #5 Don Saleski - 205
  • 1973-74 - #1 Dave Schultz - 348, #4 Moose Dupont - 216
  • 1974-75 - #1 Dave Schultz - 472, #2 Moose Dupont - 276
  • 1975-76 - #3 Dave Schultz - 307, #7 Moose Dupont - 214, #8 Jack McIhargey - 205
  • 1977-78 - #5 Moose Dupont - 225, #7 Mel Bridgeman - 203. #10 Paul Holmgren - 190

Our Least Favorite Player of all time is Bobby Clarke, the criminal who broke Valeri Kharlamov's ankle in the 1972 Summit Series because he was too good of a player. Some describe him as "gritty and determined", but we think of him as the ringleader of a gang of thugs.

Our second Least Favorite Player of all time? Eric Lindros. Funny, another Flyer. This is the spoiled brat who thought he was bigger than the game and decided he was too good and too important to play for the team that drafted him first overall, the Quebec Nordiques, a stunt he had already pulled in junior hockey.

Fortunately the Nordiques were able to rob the Flyers blind and flip the over-hyped Lindros for Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, the beloved Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, two first-round draft picks (one of whom was Jocelyn Thibault, later included in the deal that brought the Avalanche Patrick Roy) and... $15 million! Oh yea, eight division titles and a pair of Stanley Cups for the Avalanche followed.

And what did the Flyers get in return? A four game sweep in the Flyers only Cup Finals appearance of Lindros' career, at the hands of the classy Steve Yzerman and the rest of the Detroit Red Wings, including all those Russians the Flyers refused to have anything to do with (one of our favorite Cup Finals ever, ever, ever) and drama and headaches as Lindros and his meddling family feuded with General Manager Bobby Clarke. Yes, the same ankle breaking Bobby Clarke from the Broad Street Bullies, who questioned Lindros' toughness and stripped him of his captaincy for criticizing team doctors.

Imagine that. Lindros feuding with Clarke. For us, that's like trying to decide between liver and brussel sprouts.

Third Least Favorite? That would be Jarkko Ruutu, who picks fights with Latvians and bites people. The thing I can't understand about him is why he ended up at the Western end of Pennsylvania with the Pittsburgh Penguins instead of in the East with the Flyers since he's a perfect fit for them.

Our fourth Least Favorite has got to be Ron Hextall. What a psycho that guy was. Perfect for the city he played in. In his first three seasons in the NHL, Hextall totalled 104, 104 and 113 penalty minutes - as a goaltender!

Hextall hold the records for Most Career Penalty Minutes by a Goaltender with 584, Most Single Season Penalty Minutes by a Goaltender with 113, Most Career Playoff Penalty Minutes by a Goaltender with 115 and Most Single Season Playoff Penalty Minutes by a Goaltender with 43. A clean sweep for a man born to be a Flyer.

Is it any wonder the current active penalty minute leader Donald Brasher spent time in Philadelphia?

Want more nonsense and mayhem? The record for the Most Penalty Minutes in a Single Game belongs to, you guessed it, the Ottawa Senators vs. the... Philadelphia Flyers with 419 minutes handed out on March 5, 2004 in a game held, naturally, in Philadelphia. Five separate brawls in the final two minutes and 16 players were ejected when, guess who, Donald Brashear started the brawling by going after the Senators Rob Ray. And the Flyers general manager at the time? Yes, predictably, Bobby Clarke.

Fast Forward to 2007-08. By now the Flyers have a new General Manager in the form of Paul Holmgren, he of the seven consecutive seasons with 168 penalty minutes or more, including 306 in 1980-81.

Before the season even begins, Steve Downie, once suspended five games in junior hockey for cross checking in the mouth and fighting a 16-year-old teammate for refusing to take part in a hazing ritual which involved standing naked in a cramped bathroom on the team bus, was suspended 20 games by the NHL for his repugnant flying hit to the head on Dean McAmmond in a pre-season game.

Then, Jessie Boulerice, another stellar Flyers draft pick, who was once charged with assault for a stick swinging incident in junior hockey, received a 25 game suspension for crosschecking Ryan Kesler square in the face, the second longest suspension in league history.

This season the Flyers continue continue a pair of tradtions. The Team Where Goalies Careers Go To Die™ decided to put their trust and faith in Ray Emery, a goaltender who would rather be a boxer and a player so unstable he had to spend a year in exile in Russia. Or perhaps he's so unstable that he's now spending a year in exile in Philadelphia...

Which brings us to Daniel Carcillo, who was suspended four games for his recent sucker punch on Matt Bradley. Gross Misconduct Hockey said it better than we ever could.

Carcillo received a five-minute major for fighting, a two-minute instigator penalty (duh) and a two-minute minor for cross-checking. That’s a pretty hefty effort, especially when Matt Bradley picked up nothing… Since all he did was body check Daniel Carcillo cleanly. Carcillo also got spanked by the Wheel of Justice to the tune of four games, a number that somewhat makes sense because Carcillo is a rather notorious character at this point.

I get that it’s Carcillo’s job to fight and inspire his teammates and certainly that kind of play isn’t exactly frowned upon in Philadelphia but Carcillo is developing a bit of a habit of not choosing his moments wisely. Take a look at the playoffs last season where he decided to fight Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot and managed to not only inspire the Penguins but also the entirety of the Pittsburgh fan base. That kind of stuff is not what you’re paid to do if you’re Dan Carcillo.

I will say that my friends and I were initially amazed and impressed with Carcillo’s ability to consistently find his way to the penalty box and act out like an “old school” goon and while I’m not about to speak for them here, Carcillo isn’t from the same class of goon as those legends from the 80s and 90s. He’s a different sort of creature, perhaps a guy who came along 10-15 years too late, but it’s tough to even make that assessment about him because he plays the game with such little respect for others on the ice.

Let’s face it, Matt Bradley was about another five seconds away from dropping the gloves with him and indulging his wont to fight… but he didn’t wait and cold-cocked him instead. Much like Officer Farva from the movie “Super Troopers” Dan Carcillo’s shenanigans are cruel and tragic and above all else, ill-timed. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren can talk all he wants about how he disagrees with Carcillo’s suspension and there are some intriguing arguments to be found as to why it’s “too much” but the Flyers knew exactly what they were getting when they brought him aboard and to be surprised at all that he does things like this or to get kid glove treatment from the league is just completely stupid.

Perhaps someday the Flyers will get their act together and stop appeasing the meathead part of their fanbase and outfitting the team with more goons than talent but as long as Bobby Clarke’s shadow looms around the organization, the Broad Street Bullies image is going to be impossible to shake. Would Carcillo have fit in well with Dave Schultz and Bobby Clarke in the 70s? Absofrigginlutely. In today’s NHL though… Carcillo is a man out of his element and comes off more like a clown than an intimidator.

And now you know why the Philadelphia Flyers wear orange.


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