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Saturday, February 9, 2013

2014 Final Olympic Qualification Update

We told you so!

We had originally planned on posting a simple progress update on the 2014 Final Olympic Qualification tournaments with a complete wrap-up of the winners on Monday, but as we promised, the Olympic qualification tournament can provide some some of the most dramatic moments and we certainly had one of those today!

Beginning with Group E in Riga, things have gone as expected, with #11 ranked Latvia winning an easy one over #21 Great Britain 6-2 and putting themselves in a position to advance with a follow-up 3-2 win over #17 Kazakhstan. It was not without it's drama however, as the game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third period. Latvia scored just 40 seconds into the period and needed to fend off the Kazakhs for the remainder of the period thanks to being unable to put any more distance between them, which included the Kazakhs  pulling their goaltender for most of the final minute of the game.

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Latvia hopes this celebration is just a rehearsal for a similar scene on Sunday

In the other games, Kazakhstan defeated France 3-2, while France rebounded with a 4-2 win over Great Britain. This leaves Latvia needing only to get to overtime against France on Sunday to clinch their place in Sochi.

Group D in Germany began as expected with #15 Austria edging #15 Italy 3-2 and the #10 Germans easily defeating the long shot #24 Netherlands 5-1 on Friday. Today saw Austria take care of business against the Netherlands by jumping out to a 5-0 lead after one period before cruising to a 6-1 win in the early game.

In the second game of the day, the Italians got on the board first at the half way point of the first period only to have Germany respond a little over three minutes later to tie the game at 1-1. 

German goaltender Dennis Endras, the MVP of the 2010 World Championships, kept Italy off the board for the remainder of regulation time, but got no support from his offense, who were unable to solve Adam Dennis, a Canadian who has been playing professionally in Italy since 2009. As the game moved to overtime, Germany was called for a holding penalty and it would take Italy just nine seconds to covert their advantage into the game winning goal by Nathan di Casmirro, another Canadian playing professionally in Italy, which sent the German fans home in dismay.

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Eventual Italy hero Nathan di Casmirro checking a German player

The results so far leave the Austrians in the diver's seat with 6 points, followed by Germany's 4, setting up a winner-take-all game between the two clubs - if Germany can win in regulation. Should the Austrians gain a point from taking the game into overtime, they would win the group and the berth in the 2014 Olympics. Despite their win, it was only worth 2 points to Italy, which leaves them too far behind Austria's 6 points and eliminates them from advancing.

Group F in Denmark saw #18 Slovenia score the first upset of the Final Olympic Qualifications when they opened with a fine 4-2 win over #13 Belarus, thanks to two third period goals. The #12 Danes meanwhile, made their intentions to qualify for the first Olympic hockey tournament in their history by shutting out #20 Ukraine 2-0.

Belarus kept their hopes alive in the early game today by hammering Ukraine 6-0. The second game between Denmark and Slovenia saw the first period end scoreless despite Denmark outshooting Slovenia 13-10. David Rodman got everyone's attention with a backhand goal for Slovenia at the 3:33 mark of the second period, but Nichlas Hardt stuck back for the home Danes less than one minute later with his goal at 4:16.

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David Rodman celebrates one of his two goals for Slovenia

David Rodman put the Slovenians back on top though with a goal at 16:28, which included an assist from his brother Marcel Rodman. The remainder of the period passed scoreless as Slovenia outshot Denmark 12-6.

The third period belonged to the goaltenders, as Robert Kristan for Slovenia and Frederik Andersen stood fast as Slovenia pressed for a third goal with 12 shots, while Denmark sought the equalizer with 10 of their own. Denmark pulled Andersen for all but 17 seconds of the final 1:35, but Slovenia held on for not only the unexpected win, but actually clinched first place in the group to punch their ticket to Sochi after just two games!

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Robert Kristan keeping Denmark at bay for Slovenia

Yes, shockingly, with Denmark and Belarus scheduled to play each other tomorrow, even if Slovenia were to lose to winless, goalless Ukraine, they hold the tie breaker over both Denmark and Belarus, who could only tie Slovenia at 6 points.

"This is a miracle," Slovenia head coach Matjaz Kopitar, father of the Los Angeles Kings Anze Kopitar, was quoted as saying afterwards. "A great success, not only for our sport, but for our nation."

Goal scorer Rodman was quoted as saying, "I am speechless. Nobody expected this from us. We came here as the third-ranked team. We have beaten both the favorites and we are going to the Olympics."

Don't forget, despite the dramatics Friday with the upset of Germany by Italy and Slovenia's qualification for Sochi, there are still two more places up for grabs on Sunday in both Germany and Latvia, which could only lead to further fireworks, particularly Germany's game against Austria.

Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Slovenia National Team Anze Kopitar jersey. Slovenia will be making it's first appearance in the Olympics. 2006 was the first season of the new Nike Swift jerseys and future NHLer Anze Kopitar wore this style, with the #13 rather than his now customary #11, when Slovenia competed in the Top Division of the World Championships for the fourth of only six times to date.

In Sochi in 2014, Slovenia will be seeded in Group A with powerhouses Russia, Slovakia and the United States, but no matter the results, making the Olympics for the first time was as good as gold for this emerging hockey nation.

To put the scope of their accomplishment into perspective, the entire nation has one professional team, which plays in the Austrian Hockey League and has a total of 140 senior or professional players.

Their program dates back to 1992 after the breakup of Yugoslavia. They started out life in Pool C of the IIHF World Championship ladder system. It would take until 1997 for a promotion to Pool B. They would remain there through 2000 and in 2001, they were assigned to the new Division I, Group B, a tournament they hosted in the capital of Ljubljana.

After Great Britain pounded Kazakhstan 9-0, Slovenia responded with a 12-0 demolition of Estonia to win the group based on goal differential (38-33 over Great Britain) and earn their first promotion to the Top Division of the IIHF.

Since then it has been an up and down run for the Slovenians as they seek to establish themselves as a regular Top Division nation. After staying up in their first World Championship in 2002, they were relegated back to Division I in 2003, promoted again in 2004, relegated again in 2006, promoted immediately in 2007, relegated again in 2008, promoted in 2010 only to be relegated in 2011 and promoted yet again in 2012, their fifth promotion in six tries since 2001.

While their odds of a medal in Sochi are frankly none, qualifying for their first Olympics will hopefully have the effect of energizing the nation, attracting more and better players, generating more funding for development and supply the national team with an infusion of talent which will enable Slovenia to maintain a regular place in the Top Division at the World Championships as well as become a regular participant at future Olympics.

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Today's video section is a report from the Final Olympic Qualification, featuring highlights from all the action on Friday's Day Two, including Italy's upset win over Germany and Slovakia's emotional triumph.

Friday, February 8, 2013

1963-64 Detroit Red Wings Terry Sawchuk Jersey

Goaltender Terry Sawchuk idolized his older brother Mitch, who wanted to be a goaltender. Sadly, at just seventeen years of age, Mitch died of a heart attack. After inheriting his older brother's goalie equipment Terry began playing hockey in a local league and began to excel to the point that at age 14 a local scout for the Detroit Red Wings had Sawchuk work out for him and later signed Terry to an amateur contract to play for their junior team.

Sawchuk turned pro with Detroit in 1950, filling in for the injured Harry Lumley, who would return in time to lead the Red Wings to the 1950 Stanley Cup championship. Despite winning the championship, Lumley was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks, promoting Sawchuk to the Red Wings goaltending job in time for the 1950-51 season despite having only seven games of NHL experience.

The Red Wings faith in Sawchuk would immediately pay off, as he would record a record of 44 wins, 13 losses and 13 ties with 11 shutouts and a goals against average (GAA) of 1.99 in his first full season, earning the Calder Trophy.

The 1951-52 season saw even more success, as he would again win 44 games, post 12 more shutouts and lower his goals against to 1.90, which would earn him his first Vezina Trophy. The Red Wings would advance through the playoffs and capture the Stanley Cup as NHL champions that season.

Terry Sawchuk and Red Wings captain Sid Abel celebrate winning the 1952 Stanley Cup

Sawchuk would earn another Vezina Trophy in 1953, a second Stanley Cup championship in 1954, both the Vezina and another Stanley Cup in 1955, giving him three of each in just his first five seasons in the league.

Feeling they had a new goaltender on the rise in Glenn Hall, the Red Wings would trade Sawchuk to the Boston Bruins prior to the 1955-56 season. He would record just 22 wins for Boston that season after having had a minimum of 32 during his time in Detroit. In his second season in Boston, Sawchuk was diagnosed with mononucleosis, but returned to the team just two weeks later. His play was poor, as he was weak from the illness and he announced his retirement from hockey early in 1957.

With Hall having fallen out of favor with the Red Wings, they traded Johnny Bucyk to Boston to reacquire Sawchuk for the start of the following season. He would play seven seasons for the Red Wings during his second stint in Detroit. While in Detroit, he would begin wearing a mask for the first time during the 1962-63 season after accumulating over 350 stitches up to that point in his career.

On this date in 1964, Sawchuk would set the NHL record for the most career games by a goaltender, when he appeared in his 804th game, a 3-2 win over Boston on this date.

He would post between 22 and 29 wins in five of those seven seasons and add 23 more shutouts to his career total, eventually passing legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender George Hainsworth's career total of 94 set in 1936, a record that had stood for 28 years.

The Red Wings, feeling Sawchuk was expendable due to the promising Roger Crozier, left Sawchuk exposed in the waiver draft and was claimed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, where the 35-year-old would share goaltending duties with forty-year-old Johnny Bower.

The pair responded by winning the Vezina Trophy in 1965, Sawchuk's fourth, perhaps in part to their decreased workload keeping them fresher on the days they did play, as they both went from 50+ games played down to the mid-30's that year. They were the first pair to share the Vezina, then awarded statistically to the goaltender for the team that gave up the least number of goals and not a vote for who is considered the best goaltender, as it is today.

Two seasons later, in 1966-67, the Maple Leafs would capture the most recent Stanley Cup in their history, and the fourth and final one of Sawchuk's career.

Once more a championship season for Sawchuk was rewarded by being let go by his club, as he was left unprotected in the 1967 expansion draft, and was claimed by the Los Angeles Kings. He would play 36 games for the Kings in 1967-68, adding two more shutouts to his total. The Kings would trade Sawchuk to the Red Wings for 1968-69 and he would play the final season of his career with the New York Rangers, where he played in eight games and recorded the final shutout of his career, giving him a final total of 103.

His final NHL totals were 971 games over 21 seasons, an NHL record 447 wins, 330 losses and 172 ties (also an NHL record), with 23% of his wins coming via shutouts. In addition to his 103 regular season shutouts, he would also record 12 more in the playoffs.

Sawchuk would die at age 40 in 1970 just after the conclusion of the hockey season due to a pulmonary embolism as the result of an accidental injury suffered in a conflict with his Rangers teammate and housemate Ron Stewart. In 1971 he was named the winner of the Lester Patrick Award and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. His #1 retired by the Red Wings in 1994.

Sawchuk's record for most wins lasted for 30 years until being broken by Patrick Roy on October 18, 2000 and his 103 shutouts stood as the record for 39 years until being surpassed by Martin Brodeur in December of 2009.

For further reading, several books have been written on the tumultuous life of Terry Sawchuk.

Today's featured jersey is a 1963-64 Detroit Red Wings Terry Sawchuk Jersey as worn during the season in which Sawchuck set the all-time NHL record for the most shutouts and career games played.

The Red Wings jersey is a true classic in the NHL and has remained essentially unchanged since it was introduced back in 1932 when the club changed their name from the Falcons, as they had been known since 1930.

From 1932 to 1937, the jerseys had red numbers on the back trimmed in white before changing to the one color white numbers for 1937-38. The next real change of note was the addition of sleeve numbers in 1961.

This Legends of Hockey profile covers Sawchuk's career from the time of his youth through the end of his career and premature death at age 40.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

2014 Final Olympic Qualification

While the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia are still a year away, the Final Olympic Qualification tournaments begin today, lasting through Sunday, to determine the final three teams to join those countries which already secured their places due to automatic qualification due to their place in the IIHF World Rankings.

33 teams applied for the 12 spots in the Olympics, with places being already reserved for the top 9 nations in the IIHF World Rankings following the 2012 World Championships earlier this year, meaning the remaining 24 were required to participate in the qualification process to determine which three nations will have the thrill of participating in the actual Olympic Games in Sochi.

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Germany just missed out on an automatic berth following a poor showing at the 2012 World Championships with a 12th place finish, which allowed them to be passed by both Slovakia and Norway. The Slovakians took home the silver medal with a fine second place finish to leap up from 10th to 6th, while Norway made the Playoff Round to finish in 8th place to move up from 9th to 8th. The Germans dropped from 8th to 10th, forcing them into this weekend's Final Olympic Qualification.

To recap what has happened to date, Croatia won the Olympic Preliminary Qualification Phase back in September of 2013 to advance to the Olympic Pre-Qualification Phase in November of 2013. There, Ukraine won Group H, Great Britain won Group J in Japan and the Netherlands pulled an upset when they won Group G with a shootout victory over hosts Hungary.

In what could prove to be some of the most exciting games of the year, Group D begins play today in Germany, and will consist of Germany (ranked 10th), Austria (15), Italy (16), and longshot the Netherlands (24).

Austria has not qualified since 2002, which ended a run of three straight Games. Italy was given a spot in the 2006 Olympics as the host nation after failing to qualify in 2002. Prior to that, they did skate in the 1992, 1994 and 1998 Games. The Netherlands only participation came in 1980, and it would be a shocking result if they were to advance from this experienced group which includes the highest ranked team not automatically qualified.

Group E in Riga will consist of hosts Latvia (11), France (14), Kazakhstan (17) and Great Britain (21). Latvia will be trying to participate in their fourth consecutive Olympic Games, and the organizers in Sochi can only hope they qualify, as the Latvian fans travel in droves and make more noise and have more fun than any other fan base in international hockey. 

France has not been in the Olympic tournament since 2002, while the Kazakhs were part of the the 1998 and 2006 games. Great Britain was an early participant, having won bronze in 1924 and a memorable gold in 1936, but has not been in the Olympics since 1948, a streak quite likely to continue.

Group F sees Denmark (12) hosting Belarus (13), Slovenia (18) and Ukraine (20) in what looks to be the hardest to predict of the three groups. It would be a real story if the Danes were to survive this group while playing at home, as they have never qualified for the Olympic hockey tournament in their history. It's a program on the rise, having sent a few notable players to the NHL as of late, and competing in the Olympics could only boost a program which has been in the Top Division of the IIHF World Championships since 2003.

Belarus has made the Olympics three out of four possible times since gaining their independence from the Soviet Union, with their most famous result coming in 2002 when they knocked Sweden out of the tournament. Ukraine has had the opposite results, with 2002 being their only Olympics in five tries. Slovenia has yet to make the Olympics in five tires and qualifying would be a tremendous boost to their national team program similar to Denmark's, as they are looking to establish themselves as a constant Top Division nation, as nine out of the 12 years has seen them either promoted from Division I or relegated from the Top Division.

Only after surviving this weekend will the winners of those three groups gain an entry into the actual 2014 Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi 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.

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Today's featured jersey is a 1998 German National Team Uwe Krupp jersey. Germany, as the highest ranked team in this weekend's Final Olympic Qualification Phase and hosts of Group D, will be looking to keep intact a streak of Olympic participation which dates back to 1928.

The Germans best finishes have been a bronze medal in 1932 and again in 1976 (as West Germany). Following World War II when the country was divided into East Germany and West Germany, they participated as the Unified Team of Germany in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

In 1968, both the West Germans and East Germans sent separate teams to the Games for the only time prior to the East Germans downgrading their support for team sports in favor individual sports for economic reasons. For the 1972, 1976, when they won a bronze medal, 1980, 1984 and 1988 Olympics, only West Germany participated prior to German reunification in time for the 1992 Olympics.

For the 1998 Games in Japan, the NHL took a break in it's schedule for the first time, allowing the best professional players in the world to participate for the first time. As they are hoping to do this weekend, Germany won Group 1 of the Final Olympic Qualification to advance to Nagano. There, they went 2-1 in Group B of the Preliminary Round, losing to Belarus to be denied a place in the First Round of the main competition. They were then able to defeat Slovakia 4-2 for a final classification of 9th place.

Krupp played for West Germany from 1983 to 1990, participating in the World Juniors and the World Championships twice each. He then skated for the reunified Germany at the 1998 Olympics. Additionally, he had a long career in the NHL, playing for the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, Quebec Nordiques, who became the Colorado Avalanche, the Detroit Red Wings and finally the Atlanta Thrashers in a career which spanned from 1986 to 2003, highlighted by scoring the cup winning goal in the third overtime of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. He was later a member of the cup winning 2002 Detroit Red Wings.

He was the first German-born and trained player to win the Stanley Cup and play in an NHL All-Star Game, later becoming head coach of the German National Team in 2005.

Germany 1998 OLY jersey, Germany 1998 OLY jersey
Germany 1998 OLY jersey, Germany 1998 OLY jersey

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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

1955-56 Montreal Canadiens Doug Harvey Jersey

The story of Doug Harvey begins in 1945-46 when he began to play for the Royal Montreal Hockey Club of the Quebec Senior Hockey League. During his second season with the club, he helped the Montreal Royals capture the prestigious Allan Cup as senior champions of Canada.

He joined the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League for the 1947-48 season, and after 24 games the defenseman then made his NHL debut with his hometown Montreal Canadiens for the remaining 35 games of the season.

Harvey Rookie Card

Harvey, playing in an era where defenseman did not rush up the ice with the puck, never put up the same kind of offensive numbers seen in today's game in the post-Bobby Orr era. He was however, a key factor in the Canadiens offensive attack of the day, as he utilized his speed and passing ability to help make Montreal into a championship squad and earn him the recognition as the NHL's first offensive defenseman, paving the way for the likes of Orr.

Another way Harvey changed the game was by controlling the tempo of the action, either by making a rush up the ice or a quick pass to speed up the Montreal transition to offense, or by holding onto the puck and slowing the tempo of the game to slow down an opponent and give his teammates a chance to catch their breath. Harvey, Eddie Shore and Orr are widely regarded as the three men who had the greatest impact on the position of defense over the history of the NHL.

Harvey Canadiens

During Harvey's fourth NHL season of 1950-51, he would make his first of ten consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup finals. The 1951-52 season would see Harvey gain recognition as one of the game's best, as he would make his first of 11 straight NHL All-Star Game appearances.

The 1952-53 season saw Harvey's name engraved on the Stanley Cup for the first time following a 4 games to 1 defeat of the Boston Bruins.

A new trophy was introduced to the NHL for the 1953-54 season, the Norris Trophy, which would be awarded to the league's top defensive player. Harvey would become the second recipient of the award in 1955 and make it virtually his own, as he would win it for seven of the next eight seasons, including 1955, 1956, 1957 and 1958 thanks to his stellar defensive skills in addition to his offensive contributions, which made him a complete player unlike any other defenseman in the previous history of the league.

Harvey Canadiens

1955-56 would also see the beginning of not only another streak, but a dynasty, as the Canadiens would capture their first of a record five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960, giving Harvey a career total of six. During this streak of consecutive All-Star Game appearances, Norris Trophies and championships, Harvey would set a personal best in 1956-57 when he would set a personal high with the only 50 point season of his career from 6 goals and 44 assists. Recall, this was an era when the NHL schedule was shorter, at just 70 games.

With Harvey quarterbacking the deadly Canadiens powerplay, they would often score twice on a single penalty, as players were required to serve their entire two minutes as per the rules of the day, which were finally amended in 1956 to allow the penalized player to return to the ice once a goal was scored in response to the Canadians domination.

After teammate Tom Johnson won the Norris Trophy in 1959, Harvey reclaimed the award in 1960 and 1961.

After the retirement of Maurice Richard, Harvey would be named to the prestigious position as captain of the Canadiens for the 1960-61 season.

Harvey Canadiens Captain

It would be on this date during the 1962-63 season that Harvey would become only the second defenseman in NHL history to score 500 career points, just three months after Bill Gadsby became the first.

Harvey's time with Montreal would soon come to an end however, as he was an outspoken critic of the team's ability to own players for life, which kept them not only tied to their clubs, but keep their salaries low. Also questioning how players pensions were being handled and funded, he and Detroit's Ted Lindsay went so far as to attempt to organize the players association, which infuriated the Canadiens ownership to the point that they traded their perennial Norris Trophy winning All-Star to the lowly New York Rangers, who had not even qualified for the playoffs in a six team league for 8 of the last 11 seasons.

Harvey responded with winning his third consecutive Norris Trophy during his first season with the Rangers. After one more season in New York, he split the 1963-64 season between the Rangers (14 games), St. Paul Rangers (2 games) and the Quebec Aces of the AHL (52 games).

He spent all of 1964-65 with Quebec and moved to the Baltimore Clippers, also of the AHL for the 1965-66 season. 1966-67 was divided between the Clippers and the Pittsburgh Hornets, as well as making a brief return to the NHL when he appeared in two games with the Detroit Red Wings.

With the NHL doubling in size for the 1967-68 season by adding an additional six clubs, there were plenty of opportunities created, one of which was for Harvey, as the St. Louis Blues came calling for the playoffs after Harvey had been a player/coach during the regular season with the Kansas City Blues of the Central League. Harvey would see action in 8 of the Blues 12 playoff games, as they were the West Division's representatives in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Harvey would return to the Blues for the 1968-69 regular season at the age of 44, playing in the final 70 games of his long and illustrious NHL career.

Harvey Blues

His final NHL totals were 1,113 games, 88 goals and 452 assists for 540 points. In addition, he would appear in 137 playoff games, scoring 8 goals and 64 assists for 72 points on his way to six Stanley Cups and seven Norris Trophies, which still remains second all time after Orr's eight.

He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973 and became the first defenseman to ever have his number retired by the Montreal Canadiens when his #2 was lifted to the rafters in 1985.

Harvey Number Retirement

In 1998, The Hockey News ranked Harvey as the #6 player on their list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players. In 2000, he was honored by the Government of Canada by having his picture on a postage stamp.

Today's featured jersey is a 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens Doug Harvey jersey. Harvey was an NHL All-Star, Norris Trophy winner and Stanley champion that season.

The Canadiens would first adopt a red sweater with a blue band as far back as 1912-13 in order to differentiate their barberpole style jersey from that of the Ottawa Senators, five years before the formation of the NHL.

They would adopt the "CH" logo in 1916 and the jersey would remain essentially unchanged ever since.

Montreal Canadiens 55-56 jersey

Our video selection today is an excellent biography of Harvey with great video footage of him in action.

Next, a TV commercial where Doug and his son Doug Jr. battle it out for the household table hockey championship. Man, what we would give to be able to buy one of those today for $5!

Finally, a recap of the 1960 Stanely Cup Finals, Harvey's sixth and final championship.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

1967-68 Rochester Americans Don Cherry Jersey

Better known for his television commentary on "Coaches Corner" and his NHL head coaching career before that, Don Cherry had a 20 year career as a player prior to that.

He began as a junior with first the Windsor Spitfires in 1951-52 followed by a move to the Barrie Flyers later that same season. A defenseman, Cherry played three seasons with Barrie, which concluded with a Memorial Cup championship in 1953.

Cherry turned professional with the AHL Hershey Bears in 1954, and following a full season with the Bears, made his one and only appearance in an NHL game with the Boston Bruins during the 1955 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Cherry Bruins, Cherry Bruins

The following two seasons were spent with the Bears before moving to the Springfield Indians, also of he AHL, where he clashed with cantankerous Indians owner and former legendary NHL defenseman Eddie Shore. Cherry would spend the next two and half seasons with the Indians before splitting the 1959-60 season with the Indians and the Trois-Rivieres Lions of the EPHL.

In 1960-61, he set a personal best of 39 points while skating for the Kitchner-Waterloo Beavers of the EPHL before moving on yet again, this time to the Sudbury Wolves in 1961-62 before finding himself back in Springfield for 11 games that same season.

A move west was in the cards for 1962-63, as Cherry joined the Spokane Comets of the Western Hockey League.

The 1963-64 season saw a move back east and a period of stability arrive when Cherry became a member of the Rochester Americans. Aside from 17 games with the Tulsa Oilers in 1965-66, he would spend the next six seasons with the Americans.

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Don Cherry with the Rochester Americans

In addition to stability, success was also part of Cherry's time in Rochester, as they would win the Calder Cup during his second season with the Americans after they defeated his former club Hershey 4 games to 1.

1964-65 Rochester Americans team, 1964-65 Rochester Americans team
1964-65 Calder Cup champion Rochester Americans 

Rochester went back-to-back when they defeated the Cleveland Barons 4-2 to claim the 1966 Calder Cup. Their streak of titles fell was stopped when they lost in the 1967 finals to the Pittsburgh Hornets but 1968 saw Cherry and the Americans take their third championship in four years when they defeated the Quebec Aces 4-2.

1967-68 Rochester Americans team, 1967-68 Rochester Americans team
1967-68 Calder Cup champion Rochester Americans 

He would play one more season, splitting time between the Americans and the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL to close out his playing days - for now.

For the next two seasons Cherry worked as a car salesman, construction worker and painter before tiring of a non-hockey life and making a comeback as a player for the 1971-72 season with the Americans. Rochester was not playing well and Cherry wasn't getting much playing time as the parent club dictated the team to go with younger players. In an attempt to change the club's fortunes, Cherry was made the new head coach in the middle of the season.

He was an instant success as a head coach, winning Coach of the Year honors. The next year he also became the club's General Manager and followed that with another Coach of the Year award in 1974.

That success earned him a promotion to head coach of the Boston Bruins, a position he would hold for five seasons, guiding he Bruins to two Semifinals and two Stanley Cup Finals while earning the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year in 1976.

Don Cherry Bobby Orr, Don Cherry Bobby Orr
Don Cherry with Bobby Orr

After being fired by the Bruins, Cherry landed a job as head coach of the Colorado Rockies, a tenure marked by several incidents which did not endear him to the club's management, including calling his own goaltender Hardy Âström "The Swedish Sieve"! His tenure in Colorado lasted but one season, bringing to an end his NHL coaching career.

Following the Rockies failure to qualify for the playoffs, Cherry was hired by the CBC as a studio analyst, starting him on the route to the career he is best known for today - along with his outlandish wardrobe!

Ron MacLean Don Cherry, Ron MacLean Don Cherry
Ron MacLean and Don Cherry on "Coaches Corner"

Today's featured jersey is a 1967-68 Rochester Americans Don Cherry jersey. The Americans were founded back in 1956 and have six championships to date. Their shield logo is an icon of minor league hockey and remains in use today.

This classic minimalist style from Cherry's playing days features a lace-up collar, simple arm stripes and just enough stars to create a perfect balance with the crest and stripes.

Rochester Americans 67-68 jersey, Rochester Americans 67-68 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video segment is a departure from the usual, as we bring you "Keep Your Head Up Kid - The Don Cherry Story" in two parts of 90 minutes each. It's a fantastic look at Cherry's trials and tribulations during his minor league career on his way to becoming a head coach and media icon.

We've watched this film more than once and can't recommend it enough. There are some hilarious scenes in the movie and Jared Keeso as Cherry is just fantastic.

Monday, February 4, 2013

2012-13 University of Minnesota Noora Räty Jersey

On Friday evening we had the pleasure of attending the top ranked NCAA women's team, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hosting the #10 University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs at Ridder Arena.

Ridder Arena, Ridder Arena

Ridder Arena, unlike the Gopher men's rink next door and it's international sized 200' x 100' sheet of ice, has a NHL sized 200' x 85' sheet and seats 3,400 fans. It's the first, and was for ten years the only, arena built specifically for a women's program in the United States. It will be host to not only the WCHA playoffs this season, but the women's Frozen Four national championships as well, having hosted the finals twice before. One unique feature is that Ridder and Mariucci are connected by an underground tunnel, allowing the two arenas to share such things as a Zamboni! Their proximity and differing ice sheets allow teams to have the option of which size rink to practice on based on their particular opponent that week.

Ridder opened in 2002 and has hosted seven WCHA conference championships, the Minnesota State High School Girls Hockey Tournament as well as pre-tournament games for the men's 2009 IIHF Under-18 World Championships held in Fargo, North Dakota.

It's a very attractive arena, with an increasing number of displays, including carrying over the Mariucci Arena tradition of adding the players named to the national All-American Team to a mural in the arena.

Ridder Mural AA, Ridder Mural AA

For jersey fans, there is a timeline of jerseys, although incomplete, the grace the walls of Ridder Arena. 

Ridder Jerseys, Ridder Jerseys

The Golden Gopher women's hockey team first took to the ice in 1997-98 and has won six regular season championships, four WCHA tournament titles and four national championships.

Ridder Banners, Ridder Banners

The Gophers have also had seven members of their program take part in the Olympics, six for the United States and one for Finland, who are commemorated on another wall of the arena.

Ridder Mural Olympics, Ridder Mural Olympics

Additionally, many Gophers players have skated in other international competitions for not only the USA and Finland, but also Canada, with those players highlighted with yet more jerseys on the wall.

This season, there is something special happening in Minneapolis, as heading into their game on Friday night, the Gopher women's team was undefeated at a stellar 27-0, also in the midst of a record setting streak of 34 wins dating back to February 18, 2012.

Duluth, meanwhile, came into Friday's game with a ten game unbeaten streak, having won six games in a row. The Gophers would open the scoring when Becky Kortum came off the bench and took a pass behind the UMD defense, broke in shorthanded on Bulldogs goaltender Kyla Black and pulled off a move worthy of any NHL shootout when she slammed on the brakes, snowed the goalie, who had gone down in anticipation, and simply reached around Black and put the puck into the wide open net on the right side for her 12th goal of the season. The period ended 1-0 in favor of the Golden Gophers, yet Duluth led in shots on goal 9-8.

Amanda Kessel, brother of former Gopher and current Toronto Maple Leaf Phil Kessel, extended the Minnesota lead to 2-0 with her 35th goal of the season at 8:04 after a slick behind the back pass from Hannah Brandt.

UM v UMD 2/1/13, UM v UMD 2/1/13
The Gophers celebrate Kessel's first goal of the night

Meanwhile, the Gopher defense kept the Bulldogs from getting any great scoring chances as the score remained 2-0 after 40 minutes.

UM v UMD 2/1/13, UM v UMD 2/1/13

Sarah Davis added to the Minnesota lead 2:10 into the third. Just 15 seconds after Kessel returned to the ice after a tripping penalty, she added her second goal of the game and 36th of the season a little over four minutes later as the Gophers began to pull away. The penalty to Kessel was the fourth Minnesota had successfully killed off during the game.

UM v UMD 2/1/13, UM v UMD 2/1/13
UM v UMD 2/1/13, UM v UMD 2/1/13
Despite no checking, who says women's hockey is not rough?

While Duluth outshot Minnesota 9-7 for the period and 24-22 for the game, the majority of the shots were from long range or without much force on them, as the Minnesota defense, led by captain Megan Bozek, prevented the Bulldogs from generating any sustained pressure or many close in scoring chances.

Bozek, Bozek
Captain Megan Bozak

Millica McMillen closed out the scoring with her 8th goal of the season with assist from Kessel and Davis to make the final score 5-0.

UM v UMD 2/1/13, UM v UMD 2/1/13
The Gophers celebrate clinching the league championship

Finnish Olympian Noora Räty (pronounced RAH-too) got the shutout in goal for the Gophers, who clinched the WCHA regular season title with the victory. Räty's 37th career shutout game her 101 career wins for sole possession of the NCAA record and leaves her two shy of the shutout mark.

UM v UMD 2/1/13, UM v UMD 2/1/13
Noora Räty blanked UMD on Friday

On Saturday afternoon, the Gophers won again, this time 6-2 after Duluth led 1-0 after the first period, only the third time Minnesota has trailed all season. Brandt and McMillen gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead after two, but Jenna McParland scored the first shorthanded goal Minnesota has given up all season to tie the score at 5:39 of third period.

Kessel then scored the game winner for Minnesota with her 37th of the year at 12:15 before the Gophers hit their stride with two more goals in a span of 1:45 and one more late one to seal their 36th consecutive victory and push their record to 28-0 for the season. Kessel leads the nation in scoring with 37 goals and 82 points, while teammate Brandt is second with 67.

With the victory, Minnesota clinched the WCHA regular season title, their seventh, and were awarded the league championship trophy following the game.

Captains Trophy, Captains Trophy
Team captains Megan Bozek and Bethany Brausen hoist the WCHA trophy

Team photo trophy, Team photo trophy
The Gophers celebrate clinching the WCHA regular season championship

We find going to women's games very entertaining, as the skill level is impressive and the prices were very affordable, as an adult general admission ticket was $8 and our youth another $5. Ridder Arena is a very attractive venue and the sight lines were great with every seat close to the ice. Compare the $13 we spent to the $70 it would cost for two people to see a Gopher men's game next door, and the value is obvious.

The atmosphere is good too, as both nights there were over 3,000 in attendance, nearly filling the 3,500 seat arena, and the band was there to create the true college experience.

Ridder Band, Ridder Band

While Minnesota is running away with the race in the west, the next six teams in the national rankings are eastern clubs, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Cornell, Clarkson and Mercyhurst. The rest of the Top Ten are Wisconsin, North Dakota and Duluth, so regardless of where you are located, there should be a team near you worth checking out.

The one thing we would recommend though, is buying a program (we paid just $1 for a fact filled lineup card) to assist in identifying the players for reasons that became quite clear as the game progressed!

Pony Tails, Pony Tails
Perhaps the names on the back should go under the numbers in the style of some European leagues!

Today's featured jersey is a 2012-13 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Noora Räty jersey. The women's programs in NCAA hockey allow designers the opportunity to have some fun, creating new and different styles from those worn by the men's programs, often with very successful results not so tightly bound by the tradition of the men's programs.

This particular style is a good example of that, retaining the tradition of the University's hockey tradition with the block "M" logo on the front and a similar to the men's, but different, treatment for the stripes on the shoulders, while adding a secondary "skating Goldy" logo to the shoulders that the men's program has never used. Overall, it creates a fun, unique jersey for the women's team, while maintaining the tradition of the hockey program as a whole.

In addition to now holding the NCAA record for wins and closing in on the shutout mark, Räty has quite a resume, having been named Finland's Rookie of the Year in 2006, Best Goaltender in both 2006 and 2007 as well as Finland's Best Women's Hockey Player in 2007 and 2008.

Internationally, she won bronze medals at the 2010 Olympics, the 2008, 2009 and 2011 World Championships, where she was named Best Goaltender at all three tournaments as well as the 2008 tournament MVP.

While with Minnesota, he has been named a Patty Kazmaier Award Finalist in both 2010 and 2011 and a 2010 All-American. She was named the 2010 WCHA Goaltending Champion and earned 2010 WCHA All-Rookie Team and 2010 and 2011 WCHA First Team honors.

Minnesota Gophers 12-13 jersey, Minnesota Gophers 12-13 jersey
Minnesota Gophers 12-13 jersey, Minnesota Gophers 12-13 jersey
Minnesota Gophers 12-13 jersey, Minnesota Gophers 12-13 jersey

Today's video segment is "Get to Know Your Gophers" with Noora Räty and captain Megan Bozak.

While we enjoyed the skill level of the players, the arena, it's atmosphere and the team's home white and road maroon jerseys, we cannot conclude this article without calling out Nike and the university for the women's gold third jerseys, which are garish, hideous eye sores and quite likely the worst jerseys we have ever seen in person.

Gold jerseys, Gold jerseys

Taking all the worst design elements possible and combining them into one jersey will hopefully allow Nike to get it out of their system all at once so they won't have an excuse to repeat any of it's many mistakes again.

We detest the, the tacky lower arch treatment of the GOPHERS word mark on the front that looks like generic clip art, it's single, connected outline, the overly thick triple stripes down the arms  (wondering why Nike would copy a style so closely associated with Adidas!), and the bizarre maroon wrist cuffs, which travel pointedly up the back of the arms.

Gold front, Gold front

Then there are the chevron stripes along the sides, which really should match the arm stripes by being parallel for design consistency, and the utter lack of any white on the jersey, which should have been used instead of more gold to outline both the name on the front and numbers on the back, and probably in between the arm and hip stripes as well. It's as if one of the coach's kids were given just two crayons and told to design a jersey.

Gold back, Gold back

It's not that we dislike gold jerseys as a rule, as we think the one pictured above with GOPHERS diagonally across the front is especially nice, but this particular one seems to have grouped all the design elements we hated about the original Nike Swift jerseys from 2006, such as the stripes on the arms that start and stop for no reason rather than running the full length of the arms, and then added in even more bad design ideas combined with poor color choices to create a really, really bad jersey not worthy of a team playing so well.

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