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Friday, November 9, 2012

2007 Poland National Team Jaroslaw Rzeszutko Jersey

To update our previous post about the 2014 Winter Olympic Preliminary Qualification Phase, in which Croatia advanced to the Olympic Pre-Qualification Phase, Groups G, H and J will take place this weekend, with competition in Groups H and J having already begun and the winners determined in all groups on Sunday.

33 teams applied for the 12 spots in the Olympics, with 9 of those places being already guaranteed to the nations ranked 1-9 following the World Championships earlier this year, meaning the remaining 24 must participate in a qualification process to determine which fortunate three others will have the thrill of participating in the actual Olympic Games in Sochi.

Croatia (currently ranked 30th in the IIHF World Rankings) advanced to Group G with three easy wins, 9-2 over Mexico (34th), a 15-2 blowout over Israel (40th) and secured their place in the next phase with a 6-2 win over Serbia (31) in Group K back in September at home in Zagreb, narrowing the field to 30 clubs at present.

Serbia Israel 2012, Serbia Israel 2012
Serbia and Israel began the road to Sochi in the opening game of the Preliminary Qualification Phase

Group G now consists of host Hungary (ranked 19th), the Netherlands (24), Lithuania (25) plus Croatia, who currently compete in Division IIA, one level below the Netherlands and Lithuania and two below Division IA Hungary in the IIHF World Championships ladder system, making Croatia's chances of advancing a long shot. Play in Group G gets underway today, Friday, in Budapest.

“It will be a lot different from this tournament because here we were the best team and in Budapest we will have stronger opponents,” Croatian forward Petar Trstenjak said back in September, “but I hope we will have a bigger roster and that we won’t lose by high scores.” in a quote which illustrates the reality of the enormous task and long odds of Croatia advancing.

Play in Group H began yesterday among hosts Ukraine (20), Poland (23), Estonia (26) and Spain (29) with Poland thrashing Estonia 8-0 putting them on course to square off against Ukraine on Sunday following Ukraine's 7-0 romp over Spain.

Poland Estonia, Poland Estonia
Action from Poland's win over Estonia

Poland and Spain meet in todays early game, followed by Estonia vs. Ukraine in the second game in Kiev. 

Ukraine Spain, Ukraine Spain
Hosts Ukraine began their Olympic quest in fine style over Spain

Group J began earlier today in Japan, with Great Britain (21) losing in a shootout to South Korea (28) 5-4 after Great Britain led 3-1 after one period.

Korea Great Britain, Korea Great Britain
Korea scores in the shootout to defeat Great Britain

Hosts Japan (22) defeated Romania (27) 2-0 in the second game. Japan now takes on rivals South Korea Saturday evening in Nikko, preceded by Romania against Great Britain.

Romania Japan, Romania Japan
Japan pressures Romania on their way to a victory

The winners of Groups G, H and J will not be advancing to the Olympics just yet, however, as they must participate in another phase of the competition, the Final Olympic Qualification, which will take place from February 7th to 10th in 2013.

Things get much tougher for those teams advancing from the Pre-Qualification Round Groups G, H and J, as they are slotted into Groups D, E and F, where teams ranked 10-18 await.

Group D is being hosted by Germany (10) and will consist of Austria (15) and Italy (16) plus the addition of a winner from the previous round, to be determined by their ranking.

Group E sees Latvia (11) hosting France (14) and Kazakhstan (17) plus a qualifier while Group F will take place in Denmark (12) with Belarus (13) and Slovenia (18) waiting the final qualifier.

Only then will the winners of those three groups gain an entry into the actual 2014 Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi a year later where Russia (1), Slovakia (6) and the United States (7) in Group A, Finland (2), Canada (5) and Norway (8) in Group B and the Czech Republic (3), Sweden (4) and Switzerland (9) in Group C await the final three survivors of the three step qualification process which began in September 2012 in Croatia.

While little publicized and virtually unknown in North America, the Olympic qualification tournament can provide some some of the most dramatic moments, particularly in Groups D, E and F with an actual berth in the Olympics on the line, as making it to the games in as good as a gold medal for the participants of the lower ranked nations and is a source of tremendous pride for all involved to compete at the highest level on sport's biggest stage against the world's best.

The most memorable game in Olympic qualification history took place in January of 2005 to decide who would advance to Torino, Italy in 2006. Group B held in Riga, Latvia saw Belarus gain two points in the standings by defeating Poland, while Latvia knocked off Slovenia 2-1. Belarus took care of Slovenia the next day 7-2 while Latvia kept pace by beating Poland 3-1, setting up the final winner-take-all game against Belarus.

Belarus opened the scoring of the deciding game at 5:16 of the first and stretched their lead to two at 12:06 before Latvia answered at 18:33. The second period was played even, with each team scoring one with Belarus going back up by two at 1:49 before former Boston Bruin Grigori Panteleev scored 18 seconds later to return the margin to one in favor of Belarus.

Belarus put themselves in a good position to win the group and advance with a goal at 9:11 of the third to make the score 4-2 for Belarus.

Now in desperation mode, Latvia pulled goalie Edgars Masalskis during a Latvian powerplay with just six minutes remaining in the game and down by 2 goals. The gamble paid off as Latvia scored at the 15:11 mark to reduce the margin again to 1.

1:47 later the Latvians thrilled the home crowd by getting the equalizer at even strength, leaving just three minutes to decide who would claim the final remaining spot in the Olympics. Alexsandrs Semjonovs then sent the home fans into rapture by finishing the comeback and punching Latvia's ticket to Italy just 33 seconds later to complete the three goal outburst in two minutes and twenty seconds in what would become known as "The Miracle in Riga", considered by some the greatest achievement in Latvian sports since they regained their independence in 1991.

Today's featured jersey is a 2007 Poland National Team Jaroslaw Rzeszutko jersey. This jersey was first worn during the 2007 IIHF Division I Group A World Championships, which were held in Innsbruck, Austria. The jerseys were then re-used in the IIHF's Group D Olympic Qualification Tournament, which was held in Sanok, Poland from November 6th to 9th, 2008.

Poland 2007 jersey, Poland 2007 jersey
Poland 2007 jersey, Poland 2007 jersey

This particular jersey is from our friends at WorldHockeyJerseys.com, the number one source of game-worn jerseys from national teams of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Nick and Mike have supplied us at Third String Goalie with a number of our jerseys, including those from Estoina, Belgium, Great Britain, Hungary, Iceland, Poland, the Netherlands and Spain. To view their home page on ebay and check for any upcoming auctions, please click here.

Today's video is the magnificent Latvian comeback that would become known as "The Miracle in Riga" which would propel them into the 2006 Winter Olympic hockey tournament.

At the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Latvia was placed in Group B with Slovakia, Russia, Sweden, the United States and fellow qualifier Kaszakhstan. Goaltender Arturs Irbe played brilliantly and held the United States to a 3-3 tie in their opening game, but they were then defeated four straight times to finish last in their group. They ended the tournament classified 12th out of 12 teams, but nothing could erase the excitement of "The Miracle in Riga" and no one, and we mean no one, has a better time at the games than the fans from Latvia, who were only there thanks to a miracle.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

1978-79 Los Angeles Kings Marcel Dionne Jersey

After entering the NHL and playing four seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Marcel Dionne was traded to the Los Angeles Kings for the 1975-76 season and was signed to the richest deal in hockey history at the time.

Dionne Kings

Dionne brought his offensive skills to the Kings and immediately scored 40 goals and 94 points in his first season is Los Angeles. The following season he set a new personal bests with the first 50 goal season of his career with 53 and 122 points to come in second in the NHL scoring race. He was also named the recipient of the Lady Byng Trophy for the second time in his career.

The 1978-79 season saw the arrival of Charlie Simmer, who was teamed with Dionne and Dave Taylor in what would become known as "The Triple Crown Line". The line would score a point in 56 consecutive games immediately upon being formed. Dionne again raised his personal bests with 59 goals and 130 points, again coming in second in the league. His efforts were rewarded by being voted the winner of the Lester Pearson Award by his peers.

Dionne Triple Crown line
The Triple Crown Line

Dionne set a career high in points with 137 points in 1979-80 from 53 goals and a career best 84 assists to finally capture the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer, as his 53 goals were two more than NHL rookie Wayne Gretzky, who tied Dionne in points. He also received his second consecutive Lester Pearson Award that season.

In 1980-81, the Triple Crown Line became the first line in NHL history where each member recorded over 100 points, with Simmer's 105, Taylor's 112 and Dionne's 135 as Dionne returned to his usual second overall in points for the third time in five years. They were also all named to the 1981 NHL All-Star Game held in Los Angeles and rather than being introduced as individuals, they were presented as a line.

“It was chemistry because nobody had a big ego. We complimented one another and we never had a bad game because we would also pick up the slack for each other on nights when it was needed,” said Dionne

Dionne Triple Crown 1981 All-Stars

After scoring 50 goals in 1981-82, Dionne extended his streak of 50 goal seasons to five consecutive with 56 in 1982-83 which included his 500th goal on December 14, 1982. His 51 assists also pushed his run of 100 point seasons to five as well. During that season's playoffs, Dionne and the Kings pulled off the greatest comeback in NHL playoff history, known as "The Miracle on Manchester", where the Kings came from down 5-0 after two periods to Gretzky and the Oilers to win 6-5 in overtime.

Dionne's streaks of 50 goals and 100 points came to an end in 1983-84 when he was limited to 66 games, yet still managed to post 92 points. Back in top form for 1984-85, Dionne played all 80 games, and while he fell a bit short of 50 goals with 46, his 80 assists pushed his point total to 126 and he reached the prestigious 600 goal plateau. After qualifying for the playoffs for the first seven of Dionne's seasons in Los Angeles, the Kings qualified for the playoffs that season for the first time in three years, but were ousted by the Edmonton Oilers in three straight.

Dionne Kings

Despite all his offensive success, Dionne grew increasingly frustrated with the Kings lack of playoff success, having won only three first round series in his now ten seasons in Los Angeles. After personally scoring 94 points in 1985-86, after which the Kings missed the playoffs, Dionne could see the Kings were in danger of missing the playoffs yet again in 1986-87 and demanded a trade, hoping to actually inspire the Kings to make some big moves to improve the team and keep him happy. The Kings however, surprised Dionne and, to his disappointment, dealt him to the New York Rangers, bringing to a close his 12 seasons with the Kings.

The Kings would honor Dionne on this date in 1990 when they retired his #16 in a pre-game ceremony before their game with his original club, Detroit. It would be only the second number retired by the Kings.

Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 Los Angeles Kings Marcel Dionne jersey. This was the first season the Kings wore names on the backs of this style road jersey, which was introduced back in 1967 with one color gold numbers. One season later they introduced a bolder font for the numbers, now outlined in white which remained in use for the remainder of the life of this style jersey through 1978-79, the year the names were first added.

This jersey is from the season The Triple Crown lined was formed and Dionne set personal bests in goals and points.

Los Angeles Kings 78-79 jersey
Los Angeles Kings 78-79 B jersey
Here's a moment we're sure they'd all like to have back. The Triple Crown Line doing their own music video! See how long you can last...

Next, a look at Dionne's career from the Legends of Hockey series.

Here's Dionne doing a commercial for CCM hockey sticks, and for an athlete, he's not half bad in front of the camera - as long as he's not signing, that is.

Oh. My. God.

Monday, November 5, 2012

1955-56 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau Jersey

On this date in 1955, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins squared off at The Forum in Montreal.

The Bruins jumped out to an early lead with an even strength goal by Leo Boivin at 1:35 of the first period. Before the period would end, Doug Mohns would add to the Bruins advantage with a power play goal at the 18:12 mark. Before the period would end, Cal Gardner of Boston would be whistled for a penalty with just ten seconds remaining that would put Montreal on the power play to start the second period.

With Montreal already with a man advantage, Hal Laycoe would be called for a penalty at the 16 second mark that would change the way the game would be played forever more. The Canadiens relished any opportunity to play with a man advantage, for the previous season they led the league in goals with 228 in 70 games, the only team to average more than 3 per game and 24 more than their closest pursuer thanks to their notoriously potent power play.

Montreal controlled the puck following the face-off and Doug Harvey fed Bert Olmstead who got the puck to center Jean Beliveau who redirected it past Bruins goaltender Terry Sawchuk at the 42 second mark to cut the Bruins lead to 2-1.

Beliveau scores four
Beliveau scores against the Bruins

After the ensuing face-off, with Montreal still on the power play, Maurice Richard worked to get the puck to Olmstead, who again fed Beliveau who again beat Sawchuk on a similar play just 26 seconds later to even the score at 2-2.

Now, in this day and age, the first Montreal goal would have freed Gardner from the penalty box while the second tally would have set Laycoe free, ending the Montreal man advantage, but this was not the case back in 1955, as any penalized player was required to serve the full length of his penalty, regardless of how many goals were scored while his full time was being served.

So, with both Gardner and Laycoe still serving their full sentence with no parole in the offing, Montreal remained on a two-man advantage with 42 second remaining. After controlling the puck once again, Harvey again found Olmstead who knew exactly what to do with it - get the puck to Beliveau. "Le Gros Bill" found the twine to complete his hat trick at 1:26, his third goal with the two man advantage, all coming in the span of just 44 seconds!

Gardner was finally able to escape the penalty box 24 seconds later after having to helplessly watch the carnage created by his departure, and Laycoe's freedom finally arrived 26 seconds later, but not until he was forced to watch a 2-0 Boston lead turned into a 3-2 lead for the Canadiens while he was away.

While there were no further power play goals during the contest, Beliveau would score his fourth goal of the night at 15:53 of the third period at even strength, assisted by Olmstead once again and Bernie Geoffrion for a final score in favor of Montreal 4-2 thanks to the talents of Beliveau and the remarkable Canadiens power play.

Beliveau scores four
Beliveau displays the four pucks from his stellar evening and is joined by Olmstead, who assisted on all four goals

Beliveau would go on to go on to win the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion and the Hart Trophy as league MVP at the conclusion of the season, thanks in part to the opportunity to score multiple goals on a single power play.

Such was the dominance of the Montreal power play, having scored more than once with the man advantage eight times that season, that a new rule was put into effect in time for the start of the 1956-57 season to minimize the distinct offensive advantage enjoyed by the Canadiens, as any penalized player serving a two-minute minor would be freed immediately following any goal scored against his team in an effort to keep games more competitive. Predictably, the vote was 5-1 in favor of the new rule change.

While Montreal was able to capture the Stanley Cup in 1956 with the ability to score seemingly at will with the man advantage, how did the new rule affect the competitive balance for the time period immediately after the new rule was put into effect? Very little, in fact, as the Canadiens would reel off four more consecutive titles from 1957 to 1960 for a dynasty like no other, as no team before or since would ever win five consecutive Stanley Cups.

Today's featured jersey is a 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau jersey. Believau was a ten time Stanley Cup champion with Montreal in his 20 years with the club. In addition to the Conn Smythe, Beliveau also won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 1956 and the Hart Trophy as MVP in 1956 and 1964. Had the Conn Smythe Trophy been in existence prior to the 1965 finals, odds are that Beliveau would have won at least one other one, particularly in 1956 when he led the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 19 points in just ten games.

This exact variation of the Canadiens jersey arrived in 1947 when the red shoulders no longer encroached into the blue arm stripes and would be worn until 1956 when further detail changes were introduced.

Montreal Canadiens 55-56 jersey

photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video selection is the wonderful Legends of Hockey profile of Jean Beliveau.


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