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Saturday, August 20, 2011

The United States Hockey Hall of Fame

Recently we made a pilgrimage to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minnesota and wanted to share with you our visit to the hall and the jerseys on display in particular.

United States Hockey Hall of Fame Sign

Having arrived on the Iron Range after the 3 1/2 hour drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul, the US Hall of Fame is easy to find, located on a frontage road along highway 53 as you arrive in Eveleth.

USHHOF exterior
Our mite player Nick outside the US Hall of Fame

Upon entering the hall, visitors are greeted by a pair of jerseys in the lobby, one from Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks which he wore while setting the all-time fastest hat trick by an American player when he scored three goals in 2 minutes and 21 seconds on January 8, 2009 in Los Angeles.

Ryan Ducks jersey

Opposite the Bobby Ryan jersey is a Dallas Stars jersey which once belonged to the all-time leading American born player in NHL history, Mike Modano.

Modano Stars jersey

After viewing a film on the "Miracle on Ice" in the hall's theater, we made our way into the main gallery on the first floor, where you are greeted by a number of displays, including an early Zamboni, jerseys of notable American players, including Eveleth native and Stanley Cup champions Frank Brimsek, Pat Lafontaine and the legendary 1960 Olympic gold medalist John Mayasich. Additionally there is a display on the history of ice skates and of course the plaques of the inductees of the US Hockey Hall of Fame.

There is one other subject which dominates the main floor gallery, the coach of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic hockey team, Herb Brooks. Aside from his role in the 1980 Olympics, Brooks involvement in the United States National Team dates back to his being the final cut from the eventual gold medal winning 1960 United States Olympic hockey team, his later participation in five World Championship and two Olympic teams for the United States and his coaching the 2002 edition of Team USA at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City which resulted in a silver medal.

Hanging high above the main gallery are the 2011 championship jerseys, featuring the NHL champion Boston Bruins followed by those of the various NCAA men's and women's champions and the various classes of the Minnesota State High School League as well as a Wayne Gretzky New York Rangers farewell game jersey.

Moving up to the second floor a display case is dedicated to Minnesota's entry in the NHL, the Wild.

The NHL's Minnesota Wild

Once on the second floor, a gallery of hockey themed art work greets the visitor, with many of the works being themed around the Miracle on Ice, which naturally dominates much of the museum, and rightfully so, as it was named the Top Story of the Century by the International Ice Hockey Federation and the team featured a number of Minnesotans on the roster.

The US Hockey Hall of Fame's art gallery

The US Hockey Hall of Fame's art gallery

Also located in the art gallery is a reproduction of a 1950's John Mayasich University of Minnesota jersey, the only player to have his number retired by the Golden Gophers.

John Mayasich University of Minnesota jersey

Once through the art gallery, the main exhibit on the second floor begins with the timeline tunnel, which tells the story of the birth and evolution of ice hockey in the United States, with several displays of vintage memorabilia followed by a small sheet of artificial ice, which kept our mite entertained for quite some time as he shot pucks at the light up target as we slowly studied the various displays and took plenty of photos of not only the origins section, but the area dedicated to the United States Olympic hockey history which lies beyond and includes a broadcast of the Miracle on Ice, which plays continuously throughout the day.

After taking a break to watch some of the Miracle on Ice game, leaving the Olympic area brings you to a variety of jerseys on display.

While our youngster continued on to the puck speed shooting challenge, the video games and his personal favorite, the bubble hockey game, we ventured over to the high school jersey display, which naturally was focused on Minnesota schools, but also included one from North Dakota as well.

The former St. Paul Vulcans junior hockey club was featured, as were a number of United States college hockey programs with several nice jerseys on display.

Two real show stealers were the 1924 and 1927 jerseys from traditional collegiate rivals Wisconsin and Minnesota.

An amazing 1924 University of Wisconsin jersey
An amazing 1924 University of Wisconsin jersey

A 1927 University of Minnesota sweater
A 1927 University of Minnesota sweater and skates
worn by the great John Mariucci

American minor league hockey gets it's due, as well as a nod to international hockey outside of the Olympics, which includes the annual World Championships and prestigious World Junior Championships. A highlight for us was the plaques of team photos of the many US National Teams from 1981 to 2003, a great resource for researching the timeline of jersey styles worn by Team USA for over 20 years.

Of course, no trip to Eveleth would be complete without a trip downtown to see The World's Largest Hockey Stick, a 10,000 pound 110 foot long stick built using the identical process as a standard size hockey stick. Just the blade alone is 17 feet long. This stick, built in 2002, is actually the second such stick to reside in Eveleth, replacing the original stick which was on display from 1995 to 2001.

The accompanying puck is 5 feet across and nearly 2 feet thick, weighing 700 pounds, while across the street is a mural of a goaltender guarding a net, poised to stop the giant puck.

The Hockey Plaza is backed by a fence built to look like regulation hockey boards to complete the scene. Hockey Plaza is also located a few blocks from Eveleth's famous rink, the Eveleth Hippodrome, the oldest rink in Minnesota which dates back to 1922.

The hockey mural in downtown Eveleth
The mural across from Hockey Plaza

World's Largest Hockey Stick
The World's Largest Hockey Stick, measuring 110 feet long

Nick at the World's Largest Hockey Stick
Nick posing for scale next to the World's Largest Hockey Stick

We really enjoyed our visit to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, spending 3 1/2 hours there. While that certainly was longer than the average visitor, much of that was due to our documenting our visit photographically and only made possible by the number of activities on site to keep our mite player entertained for that length of time.

In order to plan your visit to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, visit their website at USHockeyHall.com and then see what the nearby Lake Superior port city of Duluth has to offer.

Here is a video tour of the US Hockey Hall of Fame, hosted by Doug Palazzari, executive director of the hall.

Here is a brief look at Eveleth and it's hockey history, the hall of fame and the World's Largest Hockey Stick.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Camp Shanny 2011

The NHL is holding it's "Research, Development and Orientation Camp", otherwise known as "Camp Shanny" in honor of NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, today and tomorrow to test potential rules changes, with the goal being to gather as much information as it can before any rules changes are proposed.

Each of the two days have been divided into two sessions to test various proposals. Wednesday morning includes trying no-touch icing, no line changes for teams committing an offside, faceoff variations, no icing allowed by teams playing shorthanded and overtime and shootout variations.

The afternoon session deals with such things as faceoff location after an offside, delayed penalty variations, line changes, removing the trapezoid, allowing hand passes in all zones and more shootout variations.

Thursday's morning session tests hybrid icing, more offsides and faceoff variations, serving the entire length of a minor penalty, Brian Burke's "bear hug" concept and more overtime and shootout variations.

The afternoon session promises to be fun, as the players will try out new ideas to be incorporated into the annual All-Stars Skills competition.

Some of these proposals we are in favor of, some we don't care too much for and one that really gets us wound up in a bad way.

If there's one rule in the NHL that we cannot stand is the allowing of the hand pass in the defensive zone.

Hand Pass

To us, hockey has always been a game of speed and flow, with high tempo games featuring end-to-end rushes making for the best games. Personally, we’ve been very pleased with the brand of hockey played since the return of the NHL following the lockout and the rule changes adopted at that time, the majority of which were designed, as commissioner Gary Bettman prefers to say, “to increase scoring chances.”

But one arcane rule somehow survived the revamping of the game at the time of the Shanahan Summit - the rule which allows any team to make a hand-pass in it’s own defensive zone.

The first issue we have with allowing the defensive hand-pass is that it helps the defense decrease scoring chances. The second issue is that it’s legal at one end of the ice but not the other. If it’s deemed illegal on 2/3rds of the playing surface, why allow it on the rest?

The main problems we have with the defensive hand-pass is that it is the worst looking play in all of hockey. It’s an aesthetic nightmare to watch. Awkward at best, and ugly at it’s most common, the hand-pass is also contrary to the most basic, elemental point of the grand game of hockey, to advance the puck toward the other team’s goal with one’s stick.

We once brought this up with commissioner Bettman himself during his weekly radio show, The NHL Hour with commissioner Gary Bettman (12/11/08), and he stated “you’re absolutely right” and said it was something that had been discussed and probably would be on the agenda at the spring (2009) general manager’s meeting when they discussed rule changes. He went on to say it was not the first time this had been discussed as a suggested rule change and “that it was not as skilled a play as we like to see our game played” and “an excellent point.” and Co-host Bill Clement agreed. Obviously the rule was not overturned at that meeting or any subsequent ones.

Now the NHL is testing allowing it in all zones!

The reason the hand-pass was originally allowed in the defensive zone was due to teams on the penalty kill deliberately making hand-passes to get a whistle which would allow them to get a cheap line change and likely the thinking behind keeping the rule in place.

This caving in to deliberate rule breaking was where the league erred in the first place, as the solution then, as it is now, would be to call any hand-pass by a team while shorthanded in their defensive zone a delay of game penalty. Under our proposal, the offending team would also be required to keep all of it’s remaining players on the ice at the time of the penalty, removing any incentive to attempt the hand-pass to get a line change.

With a team already down a man, an additional man in the box under this proposal would lead to the desired “increased scoring chances” on the subsequent two-man advantage, which should please the league and it’s fans.

The defensive hand-pass doesn’t happen with great frequency, but when it does, it’s the visual equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard and we really feel it’s a good idea to remove the worst looking play in hockey in order to maintain the integrity of one of the game’s most basic elements, advancing the puck with the stick, and stop capitulating to the deliberate rule breakers.

As Bill Clement said, “It’s an ugly play. Get rid of it.”

For the life of us, we cannot imagine why the NHL would consider allowing expanded use of the hand pass when it's so contrary to the basic fundamentals of the game and fear what the game would look like if the players were to take full advantage of the ability to shove, bat, toss or throw the puck at will.


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