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Saturday, December 17, 2011

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.

Friday, December 16, 2011

1975-76 Minnesota Fighting Saints Wayne Connelly Jersey

Right winger Wayne Connelly, born on this date in 1939, began his junior hockey career with the Kitchener Canucks of the Ontario Hockey Association, seeing action in 9 games. The Following season the Canucks relocated to Peterboro where they became the Toronto-Peterboro Transport Petes, later simplified to the Peterboro Petes. Connelly spent four seasons with the Petes, with his best season coming in 1958-59 when he scored 36 goals and 90 points. The following season he bettered his goal scoring mark with 48 in 47 games as he was named the recipient of the Red Tilson Award as the OHA's Most Valuable Player.

At the conclusion of the Pete's 1959-60 season, Connelly joined the Montreal Royals for the Eastern Professional Hockey League playoffs. He returned to the Royals for the following season, scoring 28 goals and 49 points in 64 games. He also made his NHL debut with a brief 3 game appearance with the Montreal Canadiens without scoring a point.

He was then traded to the Boston Bruins after starting the season with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens in the EPHL in 1961-62. He stepped into the Bruins lineup right away, scoring his first NHL points with 8 goals and 12 assists in 61 games. Connelly was unable to stick with the Bruins full-time and split the 1962-63 season between the Bruins (18 games) and the Kingston Frontenacs (34 games).

Connelly Bruins, Connelly Bruins

After 26 games with Boston to begin the 1963-64 season, Connelly was sold to the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League. He performed well for the Seals over the next two and half seasons, scoring 188 points in 175 games, including a 45 goal season in 1965-66.

Connelly was back in the NHL with Boston for the 1966-67 season and had a solid season with 30 points but then life changed for Connelly, as well as many other players having trouble sticking in the NHL, for that was the final season of the Original 6. For the 1967-68 season the NHL expanded to twice it's previous size, creating at least 120 new jobs for players at the top level. Connelly suddenly went from a fringe player with 172 games of experience to being considered a desirable NHL veteran.

He was selected by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft and instantly became a team leader in the locker room and on the ice, leading the club in scoring with 35 goal and 56 points. Following the season Connelly was named The Hockey News West Player of the Year.

Connelly North Stars, Connelly North Stars

During his second season with Minnesota, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, the club which with he set an NHL career high with 59 points in 1969-70. During his third season with the Red Wings, Connelly was again moved, this time to the St. Louis Blues as part of a large trade which brought Gary Unger to St. Louis for Red Berenson and Tim Ecclestone.

Connelly's time in St. Louis was brief, as he was only there for the final 28 games of 1970-71 and the first 15 games of the following season before being to the New York Rangers, who then sent him to the Vancouver Canucks the very next day. He had a fine season with Vancouver once the dust had settled, scoring 34 points in 53 games in 1971-72.

Now and NHL regular, but having an unstable career, five different clubs in six seasons, fate smiled on Connelly once more when the hockey world underwent a seismic change with the arrival of the World Hockey Association. 240 more jobs were created, and at a much higher rate of pay, as the WHA sought to buy the best talent available in an effort to compete head to head with the NHL from day one.

Connelly signed a lucrative, guaranteed three year contract with the Minnesota Fighting Saints. Life back in Minnesota agreed with Connelly, as he immediately went out and scored 40 goals and 70 points to lead the team in scoring. Playing with new arrival, the high scoring Mike Walton, who led the WHA in scoring that season, Connelly's totals took another leap upward. He matched his goal output with 42, but his assists took off, rising from 30 to 53 for a 95 point season. He then added another 13 points in 11 playoff games.

Connelly Fighting Saints, Connelly Fighting Saints

Connelly's third season in St. Paul finished with 38 goals and 71 points as well as another 12 in 12 playoff games. The Fighting Saints financial situation was an unsettled one, and when it all came to an end during Connelly's fourth season with the club, through 59 games he stood at 24 goals and 47 points. When the Fighting Saints folded in mid-season, Connelly signed on with the Cleveland Crusaders to finish out the season.

He would play one more season of pro hockey, but first his rights were traded by Cleveland to the New England Whalers during the off season, yet before the schedule could begin, the Calgary Cowboys acquired his rights. After 25 games with the Cowboys, Connelly was again traded for the third time seven months, this time to the Edmonton Oilers to finish out his career.

His final NHL totals were 543 games, 133 goals and 307 points, while his WHA points closed out at 366 games, 167 goals and 329 points, a third of a point per game higher average in the wide open WHA. Combined, Connelly scored exactly 300 professional goals and another 93 in the WHL prior to the NHL expansion. While Connelly benefited from both the expansion of the NHL in the late 1960's and the creation of the WHA in the early 1970's, had he scored 400 goals all in today's expanded NHL, his career reputation would be at a much higher profile than his fractured career history divided among three leagues.

Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Minnesota Fighting Saints Wayne Connelly jersey. After starting their first season with a large "S" logo and the occasional appearance of a gold jersey, the team introduced the "little saint" crested set of jerseys midway through their first season.

This style of sweater would remain the only style they would wear for the remaining 2 1/2 seasons of play. It was revived in a manner when the Cleveland Crusaders relocated to St. Paul and adopted the Fighting Saints identity, only in red and yellow instead of the original franchise's blue and yellow. That franchise would last less than one season before also folding midseason.

Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey, Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey
Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey, Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey

Today's video selection is Connelly, while with the North Stars, shattering the glass behind the Chicago Black Hawks goal with a powerful slap shot. Note just how much shorter the glass was back then, even behind the goals.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1917-18 Montreal Wanderers Harry Hyland Jersey

The morning of December 6, 1917 was like any other day in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax had been founded by the British military as a fortress to protect their interests against the French back in the late 1700s thanks to its large and deep natural harbor as well as its strategic location.

Halifax Before, Halifax Before
Early 20th Century Halifax

With World War I raging in Europe, the factories, foundries and mills in both Halifax and nearby Dartmouth were working at full capacity, keeping the harbor busy with with shipping convoys taking goods and supplies across the Atlantic, destined for the war effort in Europe.

Ferries to and from Dartmouth, located on the opposite side of the harbor, civilian shipping, as well as fishing boats and pleasure craft all competed for space with the military shipping traffic on the harbor adding to the congestion.

Meanwhile, the French vessel the Mont-Blanc was loaded with 228,000 kilos of TNT, 2.1 million kilos of wet and dry picric acid, a toxic substance used in the making of munitions and explosives, 223,000 kilos of Benzol, a highly flammable liquid similar to gasoline, and "guncotton", a highly flammable substance used in firearms, all of which made the Mont-Blanc a floating bomb of the highest order.

The Mont Blanc, The Mont Blanc
The Mont-Blanc

Unable to cross the Atlantic solo due to the risk of a German u-boat attack, the Mont-Blanc sailed out of New York for Halifax in order to join a convoy of other ships congregating in Halifax Harbour in the interests of safety. While the ship arrived in late afternoon on December 5th, it was too late in the day to enter the harbor, as the anti-submarine nets had been closed for the night, forcing the Mont-Blanc to spend the night outside the harbor.

Meanwhile inside the harbor, the Belgian relief ship Imo was forced to delay its scheduled departure that day due to the supply of coal for its boilers arriving too late for it to leave for New York in order to collect emergency supplies for civilians in war ravaged Belgium prior to the harbor gates being closed.

At 7:30 in the morning on December 6th the navy opened the gate in the nets, allowing the Mont-Blanc to head into the harbor, traveling at a speed of four knots, under the limit of five knots. At the same time, the Imo headed toward the Narrows to begin its voyage south. As the Imo increased its speed to seven knots, it encountered the first ship entering the harbor. That incoming ship went against the usual rules of passing on the left. The two ships exchanged horn blasts to signal their intent, which resulted in the Imo passing the other ship on the right, putting the Imo on the wrong side of the harbor in the Dartmouth channel.

Once past the first ship, the Imo continued to steam along on the wrong side of the channel, allowing it to avoid a tug boat towing a pair of barges which had just pulled away from the Halifax shore on the right of the Imo.

The Mont-Blanc and the Imo were now in the same channel as they continued to travel toward each other. The Mont-Blanc blew its whistle first to signify that it had the right of way and would be maintaining course, implying the Imo would have to move to the right to clear the way. The captain of the Imo however, had other thoughts, and blew his whistle twice to signify his intent to hold his course. The Mont-Blanc then moved slightly to its right closer to the Dartmouth shore to give the Imo additional room for clearance, hoping the Imo would respond in kind by moving to its right in order to give the two ships adequate distance between them for safe passage. When the Mont-Blanc again blew its whistle once, the Imo responded with two blasts of his horn, indicating it would not be changing course.

The sailors who knew what the repeated signals meant realized trouble was brewing and gathered to watch the two ships. Finally, as the Mont-Blanc and the Imo were bearing down on each other, the Mont-Blanc turned hard left into the center of the channel to avoid a collision with the Imo, as it could not move any further toward shore for fear of running aground while loaded with such dangerous cargo.

Unfortunately for all concerned, the Imo now finally chose to change course by reversing engines, which swung the ship to its right - and into the path of the Mont-Blanc. If only one of the ships had made its evasive maneuver, nothing more than a close call would have been the result. However, they both were now aimed for the same spot and the resulting collision caused the Imo to penetrate nine feet into the hull of the Mont-Blanc at 8:45 AM. The Imo then pulled away to extricate itself from the Mont-Blanc, causing enough sparks to ignite the lethal combination of picric acid and vapors from the ruptured drums of benzol, producing an uncontrollable fire at the forward end of the damaged Mont-Blanc.

Fearing an immediate explosion, the captain of the Mont-Blanc ordered the crew to abandon the ship, which was spewing a large column of oily, black smoke. As the public gathered on the streets or stood at the windows of their homes to watch the spectacular fire and exploding barrels of benzol rocketing into the air.

The rescuers, as well as those on the shore, had no idea of the danger contained inside the Mont-Blanc, as any outward warnings of the dangerous cargo in the form of red flags were not displayed on the Mont-Blanc for fear of drawing unwanted attention from the Germans while at sea. As boats rushed to their assistance, the crew of the Mont-Blanc attempted to warn them off as they rowed furiously ashore in their lifeboats, but they were unable to be understood, as the crew spoke only French as they reached the Dartmouth side and ran for the woods and to safety.

The hastily abandoned ship was now not only ablaze, but also adrift and moving toward Halifax's Richmond neighborhood and into Pier 6, which then caught fire as well. The boat was then met by the Halifax Fire Department, with its one motorized truck and a dozen horse-drawn wagons, who were all unaware of the ship's highly dangerous contents.

And then it happened.

The Mont-Blanc erupted with a force stronger than any man-made explosion in world history prior to the atomic age. The ship shattered and was blown sky-high, 980 feet into the air. Red hot pieces of its hull came falling back to Earth as lethal shrapnel rained down all over Halifax and Dartmouth. A 1,140 pound piece of the ship's anchor landed 2 1/2 miles away while the Mont-Blanc's gun barrel flew over three miles, landing clear across the harbor in Dartmouth.

Halifax Explosion, Halifax Explosion
This photo was taken just seconds after the explosion of the Mont-Blanc

The fireball rose over 6,200 feet over the harbor, symbolizing the hell that had just descended on the area. The smoke from the fire reached 20,000 feet while buildings shook and items fell off of shelves as far as 80 miles away with the shock wave being felt 200 miles away as 400 acres in the immediate vicinity were completely destroyed by the blast.

Halifax damage map, Halifax damage map
Halifax damage map

Homes, apartments, business and the sugar refinery were all destroyed in an instant. Every building within a 10 mile radius, 12,000 in all, were badly damaged, if not destroyed.

Richmond School, Richmond School

Additionally, the water immediately surrounding the ship was evaporated by the intense heat of the explosion, which momentarily exposed the harbor floor! The shockwave from the blast sent water rushing violently outwards, creating a wave that spread toward both shores, rising as high as 60 feet. The wave carried the Imo onto the shore on the Dartmouth side of the harbor as the tidal wave washed up three blocks into the city.

The Imo, The Imo
The Imo, washed ashore on the opposite side of the harbor

Over 1,500 people died instantly, while 9,000 were injured by not only the blast, but falling debris from the shattered ship, collapsing buildings and shards of flying glass, which blinded 38 people with roughly 600 more suffering eye injuries while standing at their windows watching the initial blaze.

Many of those who survived the initial blast now had to hang on for their lives as the water rushed up onto the shore where they had gathered, claiming more victims who were in shock or injured and unable to withstand the surging waters. Miraculously, all but one of the crew of the Mont-Blanc survived the disaster.

Since it was wintertime, fires broke out all over as stoves, lamps and furnaces throughout the area were toppled, igniting blazes fueled by the debris, which claimed even more victims throughout the region, in part due to the majority of the firefighters having died in the initial blast, as well as the lack of standardized equipment from town to town which hampered the efforts when fire hoses could not be coupled together.

Halifax Explosion, Halifax Explosion
The damaged Halifax Exhibition Building

More fatalities occurred the following day when a blizzard dumped 16 inches of snow on the region, which included those still trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, those not yet tended to and those susceptible to the cold, as homes no longer had glass in the windows to contain any heat. In the days that followed, people moved into churches, temporary shelters and even railroad boxcars - anywhere warm and dry.

Halifax After, Halifax After
Halifax after the snowfall

The final death toll was 1,950 with 1,630 homes destroyed in the explosion and fires. 6,000 people were rendered homeless and 25,000 lacked adequate housing. Industry was essentially gone, as was the workforce.

Halfiax Herald Headline, Halfiax Herald Headline

In 1994 a study was conducted comparing 130 major, artificial, non-nuclear explosions by a team of scientists and historians and they concluded that "Halifax Harbour remains unchallenged in overall magnitude as long as five criteria are considered together: number of casualties, force of blast, radius of devastation, quantity of explosive material and total value of property destroyed."

Mont Blanc anchor, Mont Blanc anchor
The piece of the Mont-Blanc anchor, which was hurled over 2 miles by the blast

Nine days after the disaster, the first exhibition game in NHL history was contested between the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers played a benefit game for the victims of the explosion at Halifax Harbour.

The first NHL season was only four days away, as the league had only just been formed the previous month when the owners of the Canadiens, Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Arenas and Quebec Bulldogs, in an effort to rid themselves of contentious, difficult and abrasive fellow National Hockey Association owner Eddie Livingstone.

Livingstone, who owned both the Toronto Shamrocks and Toronto Blueshirts, had multiple disagreements with the NHA and his fellow owners over many matters, including his ownership of two clubs, which gave him two votes in league matters. He feuded with the Wanderers owner Sam Lichtenhein in particular, and at one point Lichtenhein offered Livingstone $3,000 to simply close up shop and walk away from the NHA, while Livingstone countered with a $5,000 offer if Lichtenhien would do the same!

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers Harry Hyland jersey. At their November, 1917 annual meeting, the NHA voted to suspend operations, supposedly "due to the difficulty in running a five team league", only to meet again in a weeks time, only this time without Livingstone, to form a new five team league, the National Hockey League, which was the NHA minus Livingstone but with the Toronto franchise in new hands.

The Wanderers, who had been formed back in 1903, had first taken possession of the Stanley Cup in 1906 by winning the ECAHA playoffs and won seven cup challenges and four league titles over the next five seasons. They then fell on hard times after entering the NHA, losing the only playoff series they contested over the next eight seasons. Their final three NHA seasons saw a string of fourth and fifth place finishes, thanks in part to the loss of players off to serve in World War I, putting the team in a fragile financial position as interest in the club among the anglophones waned.

Once the inaugural NHL season began, the Wanderers, the team of Montreal's minority English speaking population, defeated Toronto in a thrilling 10-9 opening night contest attended by just 700 fans despite the offer of free admission for military personnel and their families. They were then manhandled by the Canadiens 11-2. Ottawa then took two games in a home and home set by scores of 6-3 and 9-2, with the second game begin played on December 29, 1917.

1917-18 Montreal Wanderers team, 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers team
The 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers

Four days later on January 2, 1918, the Wanderers were scheduled to play the Canadiens again, but a fire that began in the Montreal Arena's ice making plant, spread and burned the arena down to the ground. Team owner Lichtenhein had already made a request from the other clubs to loan the Wanderers better players to field a more competitive team in hopes of attracting more fans, but when the plan was rejected by his fellow owners following the fire, and with his club dealing with the loss of their home arena, Lichtenhein disbanded the club on January 4, ending the Wanderers fourteen year history.

Montreal Arena fire, Montreal Arena fire
The aftermath of the Montreal Arena fire

Harry Hyland was leading the Wanderers in scoring in 1917 when the club folded. He had a ten year career in hockey, playing first for the Montreal Shamrocks in 1908. He joined the Wanderers for two seasons, including as a Stanley Cup champion in 1910, before spending the 1911-12 season with the New Westminster Royals.

He returned to the Wanderers in 1912-13 and played six more seasons with the club with whom he averaged over a goal per game, scoring 158 goals in 134 games with a high of 30 in 18 games in 1914. His greatest single game came in 1912-13 when he scored 8 goals against Quebec.

Following the demise of the Wanderers, he joined the Ottawa Senators as a playing coach to finish the season and his career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

The Wanderers white sweaters with the red stripe around the center was adorned with the shield shape with the white "W" contained within for the 1905 season and would remain their only sweater throughout the rest of their days. Had the Wanderers survived, it is hard to imagine they would have ever changed their style, in a manner similar to the Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings. So closely was their distinctive sweater associated with the club, that the team was often referred to as "the Redbands".

Montreal Wanderers 17-18 jersey, Montreal Wanderers 17-18 jersey

Today's first video is a reenactment of the Halifax Explosion, which illustrates the incredible devastation of the largest man made detonation on Earth prior to the atomic age.

Today's second video is actual newsreel footage of the devastation and rescue work immediately following the disaster.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

1984-85 Vancouver Canucks Patrik Sundström Jersey

Patrik Sundtröm, born on this date in 1961, coincidentally the same date as his twin brother Peter Sundström, began his hockey career in typical European fashion, playing two hours down the road from his hometown of Skellefteå for IF Björklöven in Umeå beginning in 1978-79 with a single game before 26 games the following season. He also made his first appearance for Sweden at the World Junior Championships in 1980. Following the season, Sundström was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft in the ninth round.

Sundström had a very, very busy 1980-81 as he played in the Swedish Elitserien regular season for Björklöven, scoring 28 points in 36 games. He was also still eligible for the World Juniors, where he scored 7 goals in 5 games to earn the award as Top Forward of the tournament as he and his brother Peter helped Sweden win the championship, to date their only gold medal in World Junior history.

Sundstroms Sweden, Sundstroms Sweden
Sweden teammates Patrik and Peter Sundström in 1981

Patrik's performance was so impressive that later that spring he also competed for Sweden again, only this time at the World Championships, scoring 4 times in 7 games, earning a silver medal as runner-up to the powerful Soviet Union.

After a three month break, Sundström had the honor of playing for Sweden once again, this time at the 1981 Canada Cup just prior to the start of the 1981-82 Elitserien season, still with Björklöven. For the second consecutive season, Sundström was the second leading scorer on the club as he registered his first 20 goal season with 22 goals and 35 points and was named Swedish Player of the Year. He then made his second World Championship appearance with 7 points in 10 games.

He then made the jump to the NHL, joining the Canucks for the 1982-83 season, where he acquitted himself well, scoring 23 goals and 23 assists for 46 points as rookie. The following season he led the Canucks in scoring with an impressive 38 goals and 53 assists for 91 total points to establish career highs in all three offensive categories.

Tanti and Sundstrom, Tanti and Sundstrom
Toni Tanti celebrates a goal with Patrik Sundström

That same season Peter joined him in the NHL, suiting up for the New York Rangers, where he had a nearly identical season to Patrik's rookie campaign, as he scored 22 goals and 22 assists for 44 points.

Peter Sundstrom, Peter Sundstrom
Peter Sundström

Patrik was reunited with Peter on the Swedish National Team during the 1984 Canada Cup before Patrik again led the Canucks offensively in 1984-85 with 25 goals and 68 points. He would play two more seasons with Vancouver, scoring 66 and 71 points respectively, before being traded to the New Jersey Devils just prior to the 1987-88 season.

His first season with the Devils concluded with his only deep playoff run in the NHL when the Devils reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 1988 which included his NHL record eight point night, coming from 3 goals and 5 assists in a 10-4 win over Washington, a playoff record which still stands today. His best season with New Jersey came with a high of 76 points in 1989-90.

Sundstrom Devils, Sundstrom Devils

That same season, Patrik was reunited once more with his brother Peter, who, after three seasons with the Rangers, spent a year back in Sweden winning a championship in 1987 with Björklöven and followed that by helping Sweden win the World Championship (the first not won by the communist Soviet Union or Czechoslovakia in 25 years) before returning to the NHL for a season and a half with the Washington Capitals before being traded to the Devils, where he played 21 games as a teammate to Patrik to finish his NHL career.

Peter would then return to Sweden, where he would join Malmo IF for the final five seasons of his career, winning Swedish championships in 1992 and 1994.

Meanwhile, Patrik would play two more seasons for New Jersey prior to returning to Björklöven to finish out his career.

Sundstrom Devils, Sundstrom Devils

Patrik's final NHL totals are 679 games played, 219 goals and 369 assists for 588 points, while Peter played in 338 NHL contests, scoring 61 goals and 83 assists for 144 points. Patrik would later have his jersey #17 retired by Björklöven.

Sundstrom #17 banner, Sundstrom #17 banner

Today's featured jersey is a 1984-85 Vancouver Canucks Patrik Sundström jersey. Before the 1978-79 season the Canucks hired a professional psychologist to redesign their uniforms. The old colors were said to be "too bland, too tranquil and did not inspire emotion." The result was the "V" design, suggesting "victory" according to the designer, one of the strangest, yet most unforgettable jerseys to ever see the ice in an NHL contest.

The bright orange was said to "evoke passion and aggression" while the black road jersey was supposed to instill fear in the opposition.

The Canucks introduced the jerseys, which none of the players had seen prior to the game, at the season opener in Minnesota. As Stan Smyl said, "I've never been ashamed to wear the Canuck's uniform, but that night none of us wanted to leave the dressing room."

They were met with much derision around the NHL and were often referred to as "those Halloween suits". Time has settled on the nickname of "The Flying V" for these jerseys.

The basic jersey produced in 1978 remained in use until the 1984-85 season, but with a few adjustments along the way, such as a change in color for the names on the back, relocating the very unconventional sleeve numbers from the wrists to the shoulders and eventually evolving from one color names and numbers to two colors for both.

Despite others often ranking this as one of the top three, if not the worst, jersey of all time, we are actually fans of the whole concept of trying to design a jersey in an effort to aid your team in victory. It took some bold thinking and a lot of guts for the designer to create this jeresy and then even more for the club to support the concept and stick with it for seven seasons.

The "Flying V" jerseys are a curiosity, as no other team followed them down the same path, leaving the "Flying V" as a truly unique chapter in NHL history.

Vancouver Canucks 84-85 jersey, Vancouver Canucks 84-85 jersey

Today's video section begins with Sundström's goals from his record setting 8 point playoff game in 1988.

Next, the jersey retirement ceremony of Patrik's #17 by IF Björklöven.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2004 Team Russia Igor Larionov Farewell Game Jersey

To celebrate Igor Larionov's retirement as a player after 27 years, a star-studded lineup of players from both sides of the hockey world gathered at Moscow's Luzhniki Arena on this date in 2004.

During his long and illustrious career, Larionov won two World Junior Championship gold medals, a Canada Cup gold medal, four World Championship gold medals, three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals (one of only four players to win all five), eight Soviet championships, eight European Club championships (one of only two men to win all seven titles) and was one of the first Soviet players to leave to play in the NHL.

Many of Larionov's former Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils teammates played for "Team World" against a team made up of Russian players of note with NHL experience.

An idea which originated with former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman saw Larionov play the first two periods of the game for "Team Russia" before being "traded" to Team World for Steve Yzerman, who went on to score two goals in the third period to lead the Russians to a 6-5 win!

Larionov World
Larionov sporting the colors of Team World following being "traded"

Players for Team World were goaltender Chris Osgood, Brendan Shanahan, Ray Whitney, Scott Gomez, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Mathieu Dandenault, Chris Chelios, Kirk Maltby, Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Martin Brodeur, Jiri Fischer, Steve Duschesne, Luc Robitaille, Jay Pandolfo, Martin Lapointe as well as captain Yzerman followed by Larionov with Team World coached by Bowman.

Those who skated for Team Russia were Sergei Gonchar, Sergei Fedorov, Oleg Tverdovsky, Sergei Brylin, Sergei Samsonov, Pavel Datsyuk, Valeri Kamensky, Slava Kozlov, Viktor Kozlov, captain Slava Fetisov, Evgeni Nabokov, Andrei Nikolishin, Boris Mironov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Vladimir Malakov, Danny Markov, Alexi Zhamnov, Sergei Nemchinov and, of course, Larionov plus Yzerman. Team Russia was coached by Russian legends Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov.

Larionov Russia 2
Larionov celebrates a goal with Zhamnov

During the game Nikolishin opened the scoring with a goal just 50 seconds into the first period. He then assisted on Samsonov's goal at 5:30 before McCarty cut the margin to 2-1 for Russia with a goal at 7:16. Team World evened the score at 1:30 of the second when Robitaille scored from Zetterberg only to have Russia regain a two goal lead with goals by the honored Larionov (from Malakov and Fedorov) at 5:19 and Kovalchuk (from Datsyuk and Samsonov) at 10:34.

Larionov scores
Larionov scores his goal during the second period while still a member of Team Russia

The "Russian" Yzerman pushed the lead to three when he scored at the 20 second mark of the third period from Fetisov.

Yzerman Russia
Yzerman wearing the blue of Team Russia in the third period

Fischer scored for Team World unassisted at 10:54 and Yzerman responded with an assist from Slava Kozlov at 16:27 before Lapointe's goal from the "traded" Larionov at 16:49 to get Team World back within two. Robitallie closed out the scoring at 17:01 to make the final margin 6-5.

Yzerman Larionov embrace
Yzerman and Larionov embrace following the contest

Larionov Farewell Game group photo
Both teams pose for a group picture after the game

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Team Russia Igor Larionov Farewell Game jersey as worn during the first two periods of his farewell game in Moscow on this date in 2004 when Larionov played for his home country.

This clever jersey was based on the style worn when the Soviet Union first entered the international scene at the 1954 World Championships where they immediately won a gold medal in Stockholm, Sweden while wearing blue jerseys prior to adopting their iconic red sweaters. The main difference, other than the obvious sponsorship logos, is the substitution of "Russia" in Cyrillic in place of the original CCCP cresting.

Larionov Team Russia 2004 jersey

Following the game the jerseys worn by the players were signed and auctioned off, raising $30,000 for the Larionov Youth Hockey Charitable Foundation to support amateur hockey players in both North America and Russia.

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2004 Team World Igor Larionov Farewell Game jersey as worn in the third period of his farewell game in Moscow after Larionov joined the World team to play a period with many of his former NHL teammates in exchange for Yzerman, who joined Team Russia.

Scoring somewhat lower marks in the creativity department, the Team World jersey is a copy of the template used in the 2004 NHL All-Star Game held in January of that year.

Larionov Team World 2004 jersey

A DVD of the game was produced and today's video section is a preview of the DVD. Sadly, despite the banner on the video, IgorLarionov.com is no longer an active website.

In this next clip, Larionov scores in triple overtime in Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals.

This next feature is on the occasion of Larionov being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

No mention of Larionov would be complete without a mention of his daughters Alyonka and Diana, seen here singing prior to an outdoor legends game in Moscow's Red Square.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The 2011 United States Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Tonight in Chicago, the United States Hockey Hall of Fame will enshrine it's class of 2011 into the hall. The 39th annual ceremony will be hosted by ESPN's Steve Levy and take place a the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel at 7 PM. This is the first time the induction ceremony has been held in Chicago.

Joining the 148 members already in the hall will be broadcaster "Doc" Emrick, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and players Chris Chelios, Gary Suter and Keith Tkachuk.

Emrick has been broadcasting hockey for nearly 40 years, including 13 Stanley Cup Finals for NBC, Versus, Fox and ESPN. He has also called play-by-play for the Olympics and was the voice of the New Jersey Devils from 1993 to 2011. Other honors he has been granted include the Hockey Hall of Fame's Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, an Emmy Award, the Lester Patrick Trophy and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee.

Snider is the founding owner of the Flyers and the longest tenured individual owner in the NHL. He also founded the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation which provides underprivileged children an opportunity to learn and play hockey, as well as saving three inner city rinks in Philadelphia targeted for closing and funding and administering five of the city's rinks. He as also been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

Here is a capsule look at the players being inducted tonight.


2004 Team USA Chris Chelios Jersey
1983 NCAA Champion
1986, 2002 and 2008 Stanley Cup Champion
1989, 1993 and 1996 Norris Trophy
2007 Mark Messier Leadership Award
1996 World Cup of Hockey Gold Medal
2002 Olympic Silver Medal
11 time NHL All-Star
Chelios, a 26 year NHL veteran, holds the NHL record for Games Played by a
Defenseman (1,651) and is in the top ten in all-time scoring among
defensemen. He competed for the United States at two World Junior
Tournaments (1980 and 1982), four Olympics (1984, 1998, 2006 and 2006),
including the final three as team captain. Additionally, he was a member of the United States team at the 1984, 1987 and 1991 Canada Cup and the 1996 and
2004 World Cup of Hockey, including as team captain in 2004.

Calgary Flames 88-89 jersey, Calgary Flames 88-89 jersey

1988-89 Calgary Flames Gary Suter Jersey
1989 Stanley Cup Champion
1986 Calder Trophy
2002 Olympic Silver Medal
Four time NHL All-Star
Suter, a 17 year NHL veteran, was the first American to win the Calder Trophy and ranks 13th among American-born players and fourth among American
defensenmen. He also represented the United States at the World Junior
Tournament (1984) the World Championships (1985 and 1992), the Canada
Cup (1987 and 1991), the World Cup of Hockey (1996) and the Olympics (1998 and 2002).

USA 90-92 F
USA 90-92 B

1992 Team USA Keith Tkachuk Jersey
1992 World Juniors Bronze Medal
1996 World Cup of Hockey Gold Medal
2002 Olympic Silver Medal
5 time NHL All-Star
Tkachuk, a 19 year NHL veteran, is one of only four American-born players to score 500 NHL goals and was just the sixth American to score 1,000 points.
He scored 50 goals in a season twice, including 52 in 1996-97 to become the
first American to lead the NHL in goal scoring. Also, he became captain of the Winnipeg Jets in only his second season in the league. Additionally, he
competed for the United States at two World Junior Tournaments (1991 and
1992), four Olympics (1992, 1998, 2006 and 2006) and the World Cup of
Hockey (1996 and 2004), including scoring four goals in one game against
Russia in 2004.


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