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Saturday, March 24, 2012

1935-36 Detroit Red Wings Mud Bruneteau Jersey

"Mud" Bruneteau had already played a season with the Detroit Olympics in the International Hockey League and was splitting time between the Olympics 23 games that season) and their parent club, the Detroit Red Wings (24 games) during the 1935-36 season when he was called up to the Red Wings near the end of the regular season. In his two dozen games, he had scored the first goal of his NHL career and was able to add a second before the conclusion of the regular season schedule.

Bruneteau Red Wings, Bruneteau Red Wings

Bruneteau, whose actual first name was Modere, remained on the roster as Detroit were to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Montreal Maroons in a matchup of the winners of the American and Canadian Divisions for a spot in the finals. Game 1 was scheduled for the Montreal Forum on this date in 1936.

Norm Smith was the starting goaltender for the visiting Red Wings, while Lorne Chabot got the start for the host Maroons. Both teams were anxious to start out with a victory as the format of the playoffs in those days called for a best-of-five series, making the first win all that more critical in the club's efforts to become the first to win three games.

Smith Red Wings, Smith Red Wings
Red Wings goaltender Normie Smith

Both teams were held scoreless in the first period as they settled into the contest, and the second period passed without a goal as well. Despite the efforts of both clubs, each goaltender stood tall as regulation time came to and end still tied at 0-0 as the game went into overtime.

Few in attendance expected what was to come, as neither Smith or Chabot could be solved and the first extra period passed into the second. Yet still the game continued when neither club got the break they were looking for as the second overtime concluded still scoreless.

Red Wings Maroons, Red Wings Maroons
Smtih in the Red Wings goal during the historic game against the Maroons

A third overtime came and went as the length of the game had now doubled from three periods to now six. The referees had even stopped taking their skates off between periods for fear that they would not be able to get them on again since their feet were so swollen.

The game was now beginning to move well up the list of longest games in league history as the fourth overtime marched on. By the nine minute mark the game had now become the second longest ever as it surpassed the 68:52 of extra time the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers had required six years earlier.

It was now well past midnight when the fifth overtime began as the tired players fought to end the epic, each careful of not being the one who would make a critical mistake in the exhausted condition.

Now at 100 minutes of overtime having been played as the sixth overtime began, the game was now within range of the all-time record, which arrived after another 4 minutes and 47 seconds, surpassing the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins playoff game from April 3, 1933.

Yet still the marathon continued with no finish line in sight as the halfway mark of the period passed while the quality of the ice continued to grow worse and worse with each passing period, raising concerns that a crazy bounce would lead to a turnover which would decide the game.

Finally, mercifully, it came to an end. Bruneteau, the rookie and youngest player on the ice with just two career goals to his name, became the unlikely hero and etched his name into the record books when he picked up a loose puck behind the Montreal defense and managed to get the puck past Chabot for the only goal of the game after a record 116:30 of overtime at 2:25 AM, nearly six hours after it's 8:30 PM faceoff. Adding in regulation time, the game fell just 13 and a half minutes short of the equivalent of three complete games.

"Thank God," Bruneteau said. "Chabot fell down as I drove the net. It's the funniest thing. The puck just stuck there in the twins and didn't fall on the ice."

Longest Game winning puck, Longest Game winning puck
The game winning puck from the longest game in NHL history,
part of the collection of the Hockey Hall of Fame

The winning goaltender Smith was credited with an absurd 90 saves, while Chabot made 66 despite recording 8 full periods of shutout hockey. Smith reportedly lost 12 pounds over the course of the game!

In the 76 years since that record setting night (and early morning), no game has ever reached the 100 minute mark of extra time, with only the May 4, 2000 game by the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins even reaching a fifth overtime, falling 24:29 short of the record, yet still good for third place on the all-time list.

Perhaps both physically and mentally drained because of their overtime loss, the Maroons would not put up much resistance over the next two games, as Smith shut them out again in Game 2 by a score of 3-0 and Detroit swept the series with a 2-1 win back at home to advance to the finals, where they captured the Stanley Cup 3 games to 1 over Toronto, which included an overtime Game 3 which thankfully ended after just 31 seconds!

Bruneteau would go on to have a 11 year NHL career, which included three seasons of 20 goals or more, with a high of 35 in 1943-44, the same season he set a career high with 53 points while serving as one of the team's captains. He would spend his entire career with the Red Wings, which included playing with his younger brother Ed Bruneteau from 1940-41 to 1945-46.

Ed Mud Bruneteau Red Wings, Ed Mud Bruneteau Red Wings
Ed and Mud Bruneteau

In addition to winning the Stanley Cup as a rookie, the Red Wings would repeat as champions again in 1927 and Bruneteau would have the pleasure of sharing one with his brother in 1943, during which he would score a hat trick in Game 1 of the finals against the Boston Bruins.

Today's featured jersey is a 1935-36 Detroit Red Wings Mud Bruneteau jersey. Notice the ornate chain stitching on the winged wheel crest of the sweater, which was first adopted just four seasons earlier in 1932-33 when the franchise changed their name from the Falcons to the Red Wings when the club was purchased by James Norris, whose family eventually owned the team for 50 years.

Detroit Red Wings 35-36 jersey, Detroit Red Wings 35-36 jersey

Today's "video" segment is a brief clip of the radio call of Bruneteau's game winning goal in the longest game in NHL history.

Friday, March 23, 2012

1982-83 New York Islanders John Tonelli Jersey

Born on this date in 1957, left winger John Tonelli first played junior hockey for the Toronto Marlboros in the 1973-74 season, scoring 55 points in 69 games at the age of 17. He exploded the following season with 49 goals, which added to his 86 assists, gave hime 135 points in 70 games played.

His skill and age made him a prime target for the new World Hockey Association, which was seeking an advantage in it's battle with the NHL for players. While the NHL would not allow a player into the league until they had reached 20 years of age, the WHA's thinking was that if a player was a legal adult at the age o 18, they would have no problem signing them to a professional contract, a strategy which would give them a two year head start on adding the newest, most exciting young players to their league in need of all the attention they could get.

Tonelli's signing with the Houston Aero, became the first test case for the WHA's underage player strategy when he was sued by the Ontario Hockey Association for breach of contract. The court eventually ruled in Tonelli's (and therefore the WHA's) favor because Tonelli was of legal age.

He joined the Aeros and, at the age of 18, was teamed with none other than Gordie Howe and his son Marty. Tonelli recalled, "My first camp I just remember Gordie Howe. I was just 18-years-old and the first couple of days he was just zipping by me. Gordie at the time was 48 and he was blowing by me and said: "Hurry up kid, let's get going." "

His first season was a learning experience and Tonelli scored 17 goals and 31 points. By the playoffs, he had gained confidence and it showed with 14 points in 17 playoff games as the Aeros made it all the way to the Avco Cup Finals.

He would spend two more seasons with the Aeros, which included seasons of 24 and 23 goals as his point totals rose to 55 and then 64 points. He also gained more valuable playoff experience, 17 games over two seasons, which would serve him well in the near future.

When the Aeros were unable to gain entry into the NHL following the 1977-78 season, ownership threw in the towel and folded the franchise, leaving Tonelli with the option of signing with another WHA club or joining the New York Islanders, who owned his NHL rights after selecting him in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft following his second season with Houston.

"I still owe something to the WHA," said Tonelli. "If I had gone to the Islanders right out of junior, I probably would have had to spend some time in the minors. Because of the WHA, I had three years of pro experience when I went to New York."

Now with the Islanders, Tonelli joined a roster on the verge of greatness, which included the likes of Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, Clark Gilles, Bob Nystrom and both Billy Smith and Chico Resch in goal.

Tonelli was a solid contributor to the Islanders stellar lineup, his first three seasons, scoring and average of 17 goals and 51 points as the Islanders would begin their Stanley Cup dynasty by capturing their first championship in 980, Tonelli's second season with the club.

Tonelli Stanley Cup, Tonelli Stanley Cup

After winning a second title in 1981, Tonelli was teamed with Trottier and Bossy beginning in the 1981-82 season. The trio complimented each others strengths, with Tonelli's role being to go into the corners and dig the puck out for the two prolific goal scorers on his line. The impact on Tonelli's offensive numbers were immediately apparent, as he netted a new career highs of 35 goals and 58 assists for 93 points while the postseason saw the Islanders capture their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

Another 30 goal, 70 point season followed in 1982-83, as did a fourth consecutive championship for Tonelli and the Islanders, cementing their place in NHL history.

Tonelli Isladners, Tonelli Isladners

After scoring just 67 points the following season, Tonelli was selected as a member of Team Canada for the 1984 Canada Cup tournament in September. He nearly turned down the invitation, but went on to score 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points in 8 games, including an assist on Bossy's overtime winner in the semifinals. Following the Canadian victory over Sweden, Tonelli was named the tournament MVP.

Tonelli Bossy Canada, Tonelli Bossy Canada
Bossy hugs Tonelli after Tonelli assisted on the goal that eliminated the Soviet Union from the 1984 Canada Cup, the Soviets first loss in four years

That success helped springboard Tonelli to a career best season while teamed with Bossy and Brent Sutter in 1984-85, scoring a career high 42 goals and tying his personal best with 58 assists for the only 100 point season as a professional.

"I think I have always worked hard on my game," Tonelli said. "The thing that I know for a fact, I'm not the most talented player in the world. I believe I can do things, but I have to work at them."

He became the first holdout in Islanders history prior to the start of the 1985-86 season, but rejoined the team in time for the start of the regular season. Still, his dispute with the club likely led to the trade which sent him to the Calgary Flames in March of 1986.

Tonelli Flames, Tonelli Flames

He would spend two seasons with the Flames, averaging 55 points before signing as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings, where he enjoyed two 30 goal seasons while seeing an increase in scoring to 64 and then 68 points in 1989-90.

The final season of his career came in 1991-92 when Tonelli signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played 33 games, including the 1,000th game of his career, before being dealt to the Quebec Nordiques for the final 19 games of his career before retiring from the NHL.

Tonelli Blackhawks, Tonelli Blackhawks
Tonelli reached 1,000 games while with Chicago

Tonelli's final NHL totals were 1,028 games played, 325 goals and 511 assists for 836 points. Additionally, the Islanders playoff dominance in the early 1980's allowed him to score an additional 40 goals and 75 assists for 115 points in 172 games.

Today's featured jersey is a 1982-83 New York Islanders John Tonelli jersey as worn during the fourth of the Islanders consecutive Stanley Cup championships. The Islanders adopted this jersey style in 1978-79.

While very similar to the sweaters which came before, this variant saw them add white stripes to the arms and flip the colors of the waist stripes, creating a consistency for the first time between the arm stripes and the waist stripe. This style would remain in use throughout their championship dynasty until 1994-95 when they made the unfortunate change to the much maligned "Fishsticks" jersey.

New York Islanders 82-83 jersey, New York Islanders 82-83 jersey
New York Islanders 82-83 jersey, New York Islanders 82-83 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1976-77 Houston Aeros John Tonelli jersey as worn during Tonelli's time in the WHA as an underage player at the start of his professional career.

Houston Aeros 76-77 jersey, Houston Aeros 76-77 jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1984 Team Canada John Tonelli jersey from the tournament in which Tonelli was named the Most Valuable Player.

Canada 84 jersey, Canada 84 jersey

Today's video section begins with Tonelli's days with the Houston Aeros of the WHA.

Next, is Tonelli getting an assist on the game winning goal in overtime of the 1984 Canada Cup semifinal victory over the Soviet Union.

Finally, the hardworking Tonelli wins Game 7 in overtime to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins from the 1982 playoffs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1992 Czechoslovakia Jan Caloun Jersey

Jan Caloun was an offensive talent from Czechoslovakia who first made a name for himself at the European Junior Championships in 1990 with 7 points in 6 games. He then graduated from the HC Litvinov junior team to the senior club, which participated in the Czech Extraliga.

As a 19 year old, Caloun he impressed with 28 goals and 47 points in 50 games. The next season he was limited to 37 games, but averaged a point per game with 32 goals and 37 assists. During the postseason, he contributed 13 points in 9 games. He was also a member of the Czechoslovakia National Team at the 1992 World Junior Tournament where he scored 8 of the Czech's 28 goals in 7 games to lead the tournament in goals.

Caloun Czech

Following the season, Caloun was selected 75th overall by the San Jose Sharks in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft.

He remained with HC Litvinov for two more seasons, scoring 44 goals and 67 points in 47 games in 1992-93 to lead the team in scoring and the league in goals at the age of 21. He also made his debut at the World Championships that year, earning a bronze medal playing for the newly formed Czech Republic, which had separated itself from Slovakia on January 1st of 1993.

Caloun Czech Republic

After one final season with Litvinov, still averaging more than a point per game with 42 in 38 games, Caloun came to North America and was assigned to the Kansas City Blades of the IHL. There he picked right up where he left off in Europe, scoring 34 goals and 39 assists for 73 points in 76 games to lead the Blades in scoring as a rookie.

Caloun Blades

Bizarrely, despite finishing 16th out of 17 IHL clubs, the Blades qualified for the playoffs with 76 points, 44 points behind the league leading Denver Grizzlies, with only the Indianapolis Ice with 72 points failing to qualify for the postseason.

The Blades opened the playoffs against the 4th place Detroit Vipers and stunned them with a 4-3 win in Detroit during the decisive Game 5 of their opening round series. Next up for the Blades was the 3rd place Peoria Rivermen, whom they dispatched in 5 games.

The 4th place Kalamazoo Wings were up next, and once more the feisty Blades eliminated a club who finished much higher than them in the standings, this time with an easy 7-3 win in Game 7 on the road once more to advance to the Turner Cup Finals where their Cinderella run finally came to and end to the 1st place Denver Grizzlies. During their 21 playoff games, Caloun came second in team scoring with 13 goals and 23 points.

He returned to Kansas City for another season in 1995-96 and topped his goal total from the year before, with 38 goals in 15 less games, as Caloun was called up by the Sharks on March 18th for their game against the Boston Bruins. It was a memorable debut for Caloun that evening, as he scored on his first shot on goal in the NHL with an important goal, on the power play no less. The goal was the Sharks second of the game after spotting the Bruins a 3-0 lead before coming back to eventually tie the game 3-3.

Two nights later the dream start to Caloun's career continued when he scored his second NHL goal at 2:11 of the second period in his first shot of the game to give the Sharks a 3-0 lead over the Winnipeg Jets. At exactly the same 2:11 mark of the third period, Caloun remarkably scored on his next shot of the game, giving him 3 goals on 3 shots since being called up. The Sharks eventually won the game 7-1 over the Jets.

The Sharks next game came on this date in 1996 versus the Calgary Flames on the road. After the Flames scored first, Caloun's remarkable start continued, when the NHL rookie scored 7:23 remaining in the third period on a one-timer to tie the game on Caloun's first shot of the game, giving him an incredible 4 goals on the first 4 shots of his NHL career! The streak would later end, as his second shot on goal of the game was saved by Calgary's Rick Tabaracci. The Sharks eventually won the game in overtime thanks to Caloun's equalizer.

Caloun would eventually score a noteworthy 8 goals in 11 games for the Sharks that season. Despite that initial promise, Caloun was assigned to the Kentucky Thorougblades of the AHL for 1996-97 and led the club with 86 points in 66 games, 26 more than his next closest teammate. Caloun was also called up for a pair of games with the Sharks that season but could not duplicate his amazing offensive production of the year prior.

With the handwriting on the wall concerning his future with the Sharks, Caloun signed to play with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish SM-Liiga for 1997-98 where he led the club in scoring with 48 points, good for third overall in the league. He would go on to lead the league in playoff scoring with 17 points in nine games as HIFK captured the league playoff championship.

Caloun HIFK

In February, Caloun was a member of the Czech Republic Olympic Team which captured the gold medal in Nagano, Japan, the first Olympics which featured NHL players.

Caloun, simply tore up the SM-Liiga following season, amassing 81 points in just 51 games to lead the league in scoring by a full 23 points over his next closest challenger. He repeated as the top scorer in the playoffs as HIFK again returned to the finals.

Following the Finnish season, Caloun participated in his second World Championships and contributed 4 goals in 6 games as the Czechs captured the gold medal as tournament champions.

In 1999-00 Caloun led HIFK in scoring for the third consecutive season. His 72 points in 44 games placed him second in the league scoring race.

He returned to North America at the start of 2000-01, where he joined the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets of the newly expanded NHL, which created roughly 50 new jobs for players with the addition of Columbus and Minnesota. In 11 games, Caloun scored three assists before securing his release, which allowed him to rejoin HIFK in time to play 24 games that season.

For 2001-02, he joined the Espoo Blues for the next three seasons, leading the Blues in scoring all three seasons and the entire league in 2002-03 for his second SM-Liiga scoring title.

Caloun Blues

His 2004-05 season was an unsettled one, as he competed for four different clubs, Severstal Cherepovets (5 games) and Sibir Nobosibirsk (1 game) of the Russian Hockey League and a return to familiar territory with HC Litvinov (24 games and 39 points) and Slovan HC of the Czech second division for a pair of games. His next home was HC Pardubice of the Czech Extraliga. In 2005-06 he led Pardubice in scoring with 39 points in 48 games.

Caloun Pardubice

After one more season with Pardubice he rejoined Slovan HC for the next two seasons, the first of which was in the Extraliga and the second one down in the second level after being relegated.

Caloun Slovan

For 2009-10, Caloun remained in the Czech second division with HC Vrchlabi and scored 13 goals and 27 points before he retired as a player after 19 seasons, 940 games, 515 goals and 499 assists for 1,014 points at all levels combined.

Today's featured jersey is a 1992 Czechoslovakia National Team Jan Caloun jersey from the final year of participation by Czechoslovakia in international hockey prior to dividing into the Czech Republic and Slovakia with the start of 1993.

This jersey is made by Tackla and features the familiar Tackla diamond shapes on the shoulders. Tackla a made jerseys for the member clubs of the IIHF in international tournaments from 1988 through 1995, although the final two years they were branded with large Reebok logos on the shoulders.

Caloun Czech

Today's video section begins with Caloun's return to HIFK after leaving the Blue Jackets and returning to Finland.

This next interview with Caloun, a Czech being interviewed by a Finn, is conducted conveniently in English.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

1989-90 Calgary Flames Lanny McDonald Jersey

After turning professional in 1973-74 with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lanny McDonald began his NHL career somewhat slowly with 14 goals as a rookie, followed by scoring 17 in 1974-75. He began to pick up steam the following season with 37 before reeling off three straight seasons in the 40's, with 46, 47 and 43 goals.

McDonald Maple Leafs, McDonald Maple Leafs

The following season was a tumultuous one for the Maple Leafs, as Punch Imlach was named the club's new General Manager and immediately had issues with the team's captain, Darryl Sittler. Imlach wanted to trade Sittler, but when he refused to waive his no trade clause, Imlach responded by trading teammates who were close to Sittler. McDonald, who was also himself in conflict with Imlach due to his role as the club's player representative for their union, was one of those dealt, banished to the hinterlands of the American west to the moribund Colorado Rockies.

The trade was a shock to high scoring and popular McDonald, the Maple Leafs fans, the team's coach Floyd Smith and Sittler, who resigned as team captain in protest.

The veteran McDonald was named the Rockies captain and did his best to lead a struggling club, but his stay in Colorado was relatively brief. He arrived half way through the 1979-80 season, scored 81 points to lead the team in scoring the following season, yet 16 games into the 1981-82 campaign, he was gone, having been traded to the Calgary Flames.

McDonald Rockies, McDonald Rockies

McDonald, an Alberta native, was immediately embraced by the fans in Calgary and responded with 34 goals over the remainder of the season. The next season saw him produce by far his best offensive season, as he equalled his career high of 47 goals by the all-star break, leading Wayne Gretzky for the league lead by two. McDonald eventually finished with 66 goals, still the Flames franchise record and the fourth highest total in NHL history at the time. His 98 points were were also a career high for McDonald, who was named the recipient of that season's Masterton Trophy.

He was named a team captain for the 1983-84 season, but injuries limited him over the next two seasons. He rebounded with a healthy 1985-86, playing in 80 games that season, which included his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals during a postseason run which saw him score 18 points in 22 games.

His age began to take it's toll on McDonald, but he would play in his 1,000th career game in the 1986-87 season.

The 1989-90 season saw McDonald reach the 1,000 point mark, followed by scoring the 500th goal of his career two weeks later on this date in 1989 on a wraparound goal against the New York Islanders in a remarkable game which also saw teammates Joey Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk each score their 50th goals of the season.

Mullen McDonald Joe N, Mullen McDonald Joe N
Following a remarkable game, McDonald poses with his 500th goal puck, along with Mullen and Niewendyk, who each scored their 50th goals during the same game

The Flames finshed the season with the best record in the league that season, but had to battle the Vancouver Canucks through a full seven games in the opening round before prevailing 4-3 in overtime to advance. The Flames hit their stride and required just nine games to defeat both the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks to earn a place in the finals to set up a rematch of 1986 against the Canadiens.

McDonald, now 36, was scratched from the lineup periodically during the playoffs, including sitting out games 3, 4 and 5 of the finals. However, Flames head coach Terry Crisp felt that if they were to win the cup, currently leading 3 games to 1, McDonald, who had never won a cup, deserved to be on the ice. The decision paid off handsomely, when McDonald, who had just left the penalty box, joined what was now a 3-on-1 break into the Canadiens zone. McDonald took a pass from Nieuwendyk and fired a shot past the Canadiens goaltender Patrick Roy to give the Flames a lead they would never relinquish on their way to a 4-2 win and the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in what would prove to be the final game of McDonald's career.

McDonald Flames Stanley Cup, McDonald Flames Stanley Cup

In all, McDonald would play 1,111 games over the course of 16 seasons while scoring exactly 500 goals and 506 assist for 1,006 points.

Internationally, McDonald represented a victorious Canada during the 1976 Canada Cup, played for the NHL All-Stars during the 1979 Challenge Cup against the Soviet Union and again skated for Canada at the 1981 World Championships, scoring 3 goals in 8 games.

McDonald Canada, McDonald Canada
McDonald during the inaugural 1976 Canada Cup tournament

On March 17, 1990, McDonald became the first player in Flames history have his number retired, followed by becoming the first Flames player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame n 1992.

McDonald Banner, McDonald Banner

Today's featured jersey is a 1989-90 Calgary Flames Lanny McDonald jersey as worn during McDonald's final season during which he scored his 1,000th point and 500th goal, as well as going out in style by hoisting the Stanley Cup as the Flames captain in his final game.

Calgary Flames 1988-89 jersey, Calgary Flames 1988-89 jersey

In today's video section, highlights of Game 6 of the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals, including McDonald scoring the Flames second goal of the game.

Next, the Legends of Hockey profile of McDonald, which chronicles his career back to his days with the Maple Leafs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1967-68 Pittsburgh Penguins Bill Speer Jersey

Born on this date in 1942, Bill Speer played his junior hockey with the St. Catharines Teepees for the 1959-60 season. A defenseman, Speer scored 1 goal and 6 assists in 43 games. He added a single assist in 16 OHA playoff games before shocking everyone with 4 goals in during the Memorial Cup playoffs as the Teepees defeated the Edmonton Oil Kings 4 games to 2.

The would play two additional seasons for St. Catharines with somewhat more offensive contributions of 27 and then 30 points. After the conclusion of his junior career, Speer, who also operated his own barbershop, began the customary trek through the minors in an effort to make it to the NHL, with his first stop coming in Knoxville, Tennessee with the Knights of the Eastern Hockey League for the 1962-63 campaign. He acclimated himself to the professional game in sort order, scoring a career high 10 goals and 44 assists for 54 points.

He earned a step up the ladder for the 1963-64 season, joining the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League, but was limited to just 28 games that season. For 1964-65, Speer became a member of the Cleveland Barons, where he played all but three games over the course of the next two seasons, which included an appearance in the Calder Cup finals in 1966.

Speer Barons, Speer Barons
Speer while a member of the Barons

His next stop was with the Buffalo Bisons, where he had a fine offensive season with 31 points, the second highest of his career at any level. It was at this point that the hockey world would undergo an upheaval unlike any other, as the NHL expanded from is longstanding six franchises to now a dozen for the 1967-68 season, creating roughly 250 more jobs for players at the game's highest level.

The expansion Pittsburgh Penguins signed Speer for one of those roster spots and he seized the opportunity, playing in 68 of their inaugural season. Also during 1967-68, Speer suited up five times for the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL, registering 5 assists.

Speer Penguins, Speer Penguins
NHL rookie Bill Speer

His 1968-69 season was an unsettled one, which saw him play 34 games for the Penguins, 13 games for the Clippers and 7 games for the Amarillo Wranglers of the Central Hockey League.

Prior to the start of the 1969-70 season, fate smiled on Speer, as he was selected by the Boston Bruins in the intra-League draft, joining a defensive corps which also included Bobby Orr, who happens to share a birthday with Speer, having been born on the same date three years later.

Speer Bruins, Speer Bruins

While Speer did play 19 games with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the Western Hockey League that season, he was with the Bruins for 27 regular season games as well as 8 of the Bruins 14 postseason games as they defeated the New York Rangers in 6 games prior to sweeping the Chicago Black Hawks and St. Louis Blues to capture the Stanley Cup.

1969-70 Boston Bruins team, 1969-70 Boston Bruins team
The 1970 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins

Speer would spend quite nearly his entire 1970-71 season in the AHL, dividing his time between the Hershey Bears (27 games) and the Providence Reds (25 games) as well as one game with the Bruins. He played in the postseason with the Reds, who made it to the Calder Cup finals for the second time in his career.

It was back to Boston for the 1971-72 season, only this time with the Boston Braves of the AHL, with whom Speer skated for 7 games, but he was back with Providence for the bulk of the season, 52 games in all, as well as five in the post season.

Fate once again smiled in Speer in a fashion, as the 1972-73 season once again saw the world of professional hockey expand in a way never seen before with the creation of the World Hockey Association, which gave Speer a second chance to escape the minors to play at a top level, although he had the somewhat misfortunate luck to land a job with the New York Raiders, who forced to play their games at a nearly empty Madison Square Garden, a situation not helped by sharing an arena with the long-established Rangers, as well as competition from the expansion New York Islanders of the NHL, who were able to gain a lease at the Nassau County Coliseum, the Raiders first preference for where they wanted to play, but were rejected by the powers that be who did not consider the WHA to be a major league.

While their ownership situation was far from settled, with the league taking over ownership of the franchise midway through their first season, Speer saw plenty of ice time, appearing in 69 games and scoring 26 points, second among defensemen on the Raiders.

For the 1973-74 season, new ownership was in place, as was a new team name, the New York Golden Blades. 20 games into the season, drawing a mere 500 fans in an 18,000 seat arena, the franchise was turned over to the league once again after just 20 games. The league then found the wisdom to move the team out of Manhattan to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, just across the river from Philadelphia, where the team was named the New Jersey Knights.

There, the Knights were forced to endure playing in perhaps the least suitable arena ever inhabited by a professional hockey team, as the visiting teams had to leave the arena in their still wet gear to change into their clothes back at their hotel because of the inadequate situation with the locker rooms there. Worse, the ice surface sloped uphill toward one end and a hump in the ice would cause a sliding puck to suddenly leap up and take flight, reportedly knocking out one Knights player who was nailed between the eyes by a unexpectedly airborne puck!

Rumor has it that the franchise was named the "Knights" because that was the only jersey style a local sporting good store had enough stock on hand following the team's sudden relocation from Manhattan.

Despite all the uncertainty and upheaval, Speer played 66 games with the Golden Blades/Knights, putting up a fine season of 26 points. For the 1974-75 season, the troubled franchise took flight for San Diego, California, but Speer played one season of senior hockey in southern Ontario rather than southern California before calling it a career.

In all, Speer played 130 NHL games and 135 more in the WHA, scoring 9 goals and 46 assists for 149 points and won a Stanley Cup while with the Bruins in 1970.

Remembered for giving his teammates haircuts in the locker room, Speer sadly died young when his snowmobile plunged through thin ice when he was 46.

Today's featured jersey is a 1967-68 Pittsburgh Penguins Bill Speer jersey as worn during the Penguins inaugural season of play in the NHL. The Penguins would only wear this style sweater for a single season, completely revamping their jerseys for their second season, changing the striping, logo and unique font for the numbers, retaining very little beyond the light blue color and navy lace-up collar and cuffs.

While the jersey was only used for one season, being the first Penguins sweater, it does have a place of honor in team history and has been an influence on future designs on more than one occasion, the first being in 1992-93, when the diagonal "Pittsburgh" cresting was revived for the team's striking new black road jerseys as worn by stars Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

This jersey was also the basis of the Penguins Winter Classic jersey worn when they acted as hosts for the event in 2011. While the colors were reversed, but the multiple "radiator" stripes were brought back, as well as the unique drop shadowed font for the numbers. This sweater was paired with an early version of the Penguins logo with the bird wearing a scarf, never before used on a jersey. This jersey remained in use after the event as an alternate jersey beginning in 2011-12.

Pittsburgh Penguins 67-68 jersey, Pittsburgh Penguins 67-68 jersey

Monday, March 19, 2012

1980-81 Buffalo Sabres Gilbert Perreault Jersey

On this date in 1981, the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs. Starting in goal for the Maple Leafs that evening was Michel "Bunny" Larocque.

He would not finish the game.

The game started out ordinarily enough, with the first notable event being a minor penalty to Wilf Paiement at 2:13 of the first period. Toronto was later called for having too many men on the ice at 5:16, still in the first. During the ensuing power play John Van Boxmeer would capitalize on the man advantage for Buffalo with his 16th goal of the season, unassisted, at 6:25. That would remain the only goal of the period, despite subsequent penalties to Toronto's Barry Melrose at 11:02 and the Sabres Larry Playfair at 17:48. The period would end with Buffalo being credited with 8 shots on goal while Don Edwards made saves on all 6 of Toronto's shots.

Van Boxmeer Sabres, Van Boxmeer Sabres
John Van Boxmeer

Melrose picked up his second minor of the game at exactly 2 minutes of the second period, which the Maple Leafs killed off successfully. Gilbert Perreault then put the Sabres up 2-0 with his 14th goal of the season at 4:27, shortly after Melrose's penalty had expired. At 6:01, Buffalo's Steve Patrick and Ian Turnbull of Toronto were both sent off for matching minors. Derek Smith then extended the Buffalo lead to 3-0 when he scored his 20th goal of the season with assists from Tony McKegney and Jim Schoenfeld at 8:46, which was a precursor for things to come, and come they did in rapid succession.

Smith Sabres, Smith Sabres
Derek Smth

Ric Seiling's 25th goal of the season, from Craig Ramsey and Andre Savard at 10:27 pushed the Sabres lead up to 4-0 at 10:27 as all hell broke loose. Perreault followed with his second goal of the period, unassisted, at 11:12. Darryl Sittler responded with the first Maple Leafs goal 11 seconds later from Paiement to make it 5-1, only to have Terry Martin net another for Toronto 31 seconds later, from Paiement and Turnbull for the fourth goal in under a minute and a half.

Seiling Sabres, Seiling Sabres
Ric Seiling

Ramsay took back some of the Maple Leafs momentum another minute and a half later with his 22nd goal from Seiling and Savard at 13:24. Bill Hajt was sent off for two minutes at 13:37 but Toronto only needed less than 30 seconds to capitalize when Sittler scored his second of the period and 43rd of the season from Borje Salming and Turnbull at 14:06, the first power play goal of the eight scored so far in the second period which now saw the score at 6-3 for the home Sabres.

The offensive fireworks were not over though, as Savard's 25th, from McKegney and Seiling at 15:50 was followed by Perreault completing his hat trick in a span of 13:15 from Van Boxmeer and Playfair at 17:42. The Sabres captain and eventual leading scorer for the season Danny Gare finally got into the act with his 39th goal from Smith and Lindy Ruff at 18:51 to tie the NHL record for Most Goals in a Period with 8.

Perreault Sabres, Perreault Sabres
Gilbert Perreault

Less than a minute later at 19:47, Savard's second of the period and 26th of the season, from Seiling and Hajt gave Buffalo the outright record of nine goals scored in a single period to make the score 10-3 in favor of the Sabres, with all nine of the record setting goals coming at even strength and having been given up by the unfortunate Larocque on 19 Buffalo shots in the second.

Larocque Maple Leafs, Larocque Maple Leafs
The shell-shocked Bunny Larocque

The Sabres also equalled a record held by the 1970-71 New York Rangers as well as the 1974-75 Sabres (both of whom had 8 goals and 15 assists) when they registered their 23rd point of the period, led by Savard's 4 points, from 2 goals and 2 assists, Seiling's 4 points (1 goal and 3 assists) as well as Perreault's hat trick. Smith and Ramsay each had a goal and an assist, while McKegney was credited with a pair of assists as well. Gare contributed his goal, while Schoenfeld, Van Boxmeer, Playfair, Ruff and Hajt each had an assist in the second for a total of 23 points.

Mercifully, Larocque was given the rest of the night off to recover from his debacle, replaced for the third period by Czech Jiri Crha.

The remainder of the game saw ten minors and two misconducts as play got rough, which led to a pair of power play goals, the first for Toronto at 4:34 of the third. Smith's second goal at 10:47 also came with the man advantage from Gare and Van Boxmeer at 10:47. Gare struck again 36 seconds later for his 40th goal of the season from Van Boxmeer and McKegney at 11:23.

The scoring was wrapped up with a goal by Gilles Hamel from Savard and Playfair at 15:26 before Savard completed a hat trick of his own, his 27th of the season, from Playfair and Perreault at 18:49 to make the final score 14-4 in favor of the Sabres, much to the delight of the 16,433 Sabres faithful in attendance, but probably not the official scorekeeper and the public address announcer, who surely had trouble keeping up that evening!

In all, 13 Sabres featured in the scoring, led by Savard's 6 point night from 3 goals and 3 assists. Three other Sabres had 4 points, those being Perreault, Seiling and defenseman Van Boxmeer. Others with multiple point games included Smith, McKegney, Playfair and Gare with 3 and Ramsay with 2 points.

Edwards got the easy win in goal for Buffalo despite giving up 4 goals on 32 shots, while Larocque obviously got the loss thanks to allowing ten goals, while Crha let in 4 on 22 shots, as the Sabres did little to take their foot off the gas in the final period.

Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Buffalo Sabres Gilbert Perreault jersey as worn during his second period hat trick as part of the Sabres record setting 9 goal second period on this date in 1981. Obscured by the left arm of the jersey is the assistant captain's "A", as Perreault would not become the club's captain until the following season when current captain Gare departed via a trade.

The original 1970-71 Sabres jerseys had no names on the back and a lace up collar, with names arriving in 1977-78 by league rule. The Sabres logo was repeated on the shoulders beginning in 1978-79, the same season the collars changed to a v-neck.

Buffalo Sabres 80-81 jersey, Buffalo Sabres 80-81 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions
Today's video segment begins with a profile on the Sabres captain Gare.

Next, the Legends of Hockey profile of Perreault.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2012 NHL General Managers Meetings

The NHL General Managers met this week to discuss several proposed rule changes for next season, among them the high profile discussions regarding changes to the icing rules in an effort to reduce injuries, as well as modifications to both the trapezoid behind the goals and issues regarding the use of the center red line for two-line passes.

In the end, hybrid icing was finally recommended, but, thinking that the game has had enough changes recently, everything else was put on hold for now, which in the case of putting the red line back in is a good thing.

There was one addition rule proposal which we had not heard about in advance of the meetings, and it's inclusion really caught us off guard - the proposal by the Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis to not only eliminate the hand pass in the defensive zone, but penalize anyone making one with a two minute minor.

Regular readers of this website will remember our previous calls for such a rule change, as we've written about the topic before, both here and as a guest writer on Hockey Blog in Canada, because if there's one rule in the NHL that we cannot stand, it 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 somehow the hand pass rule survived the revamping of the game at the time of the Shanahan Summit.

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? That just seems wrong.

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.

The reason the hand-pass was originally allowed in the defensive zone was due to teams on the penalty kill deliberately making hand passes in order 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 a 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 Clement said, “It’s an ugly play. Get rid of it.”

Sadly, the rule did not have enough traction this time in order to get a recommendation from the General Managers, but we are more than pleased to hear an actual NHL GM not only propose banning the hand pass, but adopting the two minute minor as well. Hopefully this is not the end of it, and the issue will be revisited and gain enough traction next time around that it will sometime in the not too distant future be not only recommended, but adopted as well.


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