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Friday, March 1, 2013

Icelandic Beer Day

Beer Day, or "Bjórdagurinn" is celebrated in Iceland ever year on March 1st in recognition of the end of 74 years of prohibition on the sales of beer. Originally the law, passed by a public referendum, went into effect on January 1, 1915 and banned all alcoholic drinks.

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The complete ban was partially lifted to allow the sale of wines due to economic pressure from Spain in 1921, which refused to buy any of Iceland's main export, fish, unless Iceland bought Spanish wines. Another vote in 1935 lifted the ban on spirits, but strong beer was not included in the vote to please the temperance lobby, which believed that since beer was cheaper than hard liquor, it's consumption would be greater and lead to more drunkenness and depravity.

Beer Day arrived on this date in 1989, after a nationally televised live 13-8 vote in Iceland's Parliament, and was celebrated by crowds despite the 14º F temperatures for their first taste of real beer. The day went without incident, despite predictions to the contrary.

The number of liquor licenses in Reykjavik rose by 47% the first year and total alcohol consumption rose by 23%, with the most popular brands of beer being Viking followed by Thule.

In a country ranked #1 in economic opportunity and quality of life, it doesn't get any better than Beer Day, as the country with the longest work week in Europe lets down it's hair and samples a variety of different brews as celebrations are held in pubs, restaurants and clubs, continuing long into the night.

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While team handball is considered to be the national sport of Iceland, having won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, soccer is also popular.

Hockey in Iceland was first played around 1950, but artificial ice did not arrive until 1987 and the first of three indoor rinks not until 1997.

The most famous group of Icelandic hockey players were immigrants to Canada, who were discriminated against by the Canadians. Having taken up the game of hockey, they were forced to establish their own teams within the Icelandic community in Manitoba. In 1909 they established a single club, the Falcon Hockey Club, and a new league, the Manitoba Independent League, which included teams not allowed into the established Winnipeg City League.

The City League responded by allowing the best teams from the MIL into the WCL to diminish the upstart league. The Winnipeg Falcons would persist, and applied to participate in the Canadian Amateur Championship for the Allan Cup, awarded to the senior men's champions of Canada. After being repeatedly rejected, they were finally admitted in 1919-20 and won the championship in their first try, earning the right to represent all of Canada in the 1920 Olympics, the first appearance of ice hockey at the Olympics.

The Falcons defeated Czechoslovakia 15-0 in the quarterfinals, the United States 2-0 in the semifinals and easily handled Sweden 12-1 to become the first Olympic hockey champions with a team made up of Icelandic players.

The Iceland National Hockey Team is currently ranked 35th in the world out of the 47 ranked nations and has 64 registered senior male players. They played their first international game at the senior level on April 14, 1999 at the lowest rung of the IIHF ladder system, Pool D.

Iceland U18 National Team

Iceland hosted the Pool D championships in 2000, placing 5th of the 9 teams. With the reorganization of the system, Iceland was now in Division II in 2002, where they finished 5th and then 6th in 2003 and were placed in then newly created Division III for 2004, where they won promotion to Division II with a 3-0-1 record, which included a 30-0 win over Armenia.

They finished 6th and last in 2005, dropping back down to Division III for 2006, where they once more earned a promotion back to Division II with a 4-0 record. They finished 4th to maintain their place in Division II, where they finished 5th in 2008 and 2009 and rose to 3rd for their highest finish in the history of the program in 2010, which they repeated again in 2011.

When the IIHF reconfigured their ladder system for the 2011-12 season, Iceland not only was placed in the upper half of Division II, Group A, they hosted the tournament in Reykjavik at Laugardalur Arena. Facing tougher competition that with the previous system, Iceland still fared well, winning their first two games and finishing fourth to maintain their place in the group for 2013.

The team is primarily made up of players from the now six clubs in Iceland, but the 2012 team did have nine players who were playing outside of Iceland, one in Canada in junior hockey, three in Denmark, one in Norway, one in Austria and three in Sweden, up from just three in 2009 and a real a sign of progress for the Icelandic hockey community.

Iceland also competes at the Division III level of the men's U20 Junior Championships and Division II of the U18 Junior Championships, and has 467 registered junior players, a sign that the growth of Icelandic hockey is well underway.

The logo for Ice Hockey Iceland tells an interesting story, featuring the Icelandic Falcon, the largest wild Falcon in the world. The white represents a glacier and the bottom is fire, to represent a volcanic eruption, which is in the shape of a maple leaf to honor the Winnipeg Falcons, the 1920 Olympic hockey champions who were of Icelandic decent.

The domestic Icelandic Hockey League dates back to 1991 and is comprised of six teams, four of which are in Reykjavik, with the other two in Akureyri in the north, home of the league's most dominant team Skautafélag Akureyar, who have won 15 championships to date. As recently as 2009, the league was just three clubs, but has now expanded to double it's previous size.

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Today's featured jersey is a Nike 1998 Iceland National Team Hallur jersey worn in the U20 Junior Championships and features the IIHF 90th Anniversary patch worn in 1998 in the various IIHF championships that year. The name is sewn on twill, while the numbers are heat sealed onto the jersey.

While Iceland is not at the level of the World Rankings that we normally limit our collection of international jerseys to, this highly attractive jersey, especially with the addition of the anniversary patch, was just too nice to pass up and is one of the most unique jerseys in the Third String Goalie Collection.

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As one would expect, footage of the Iceland National Team is not the easiest thing to come by, but we think we have managed to assemble some items of interest for you in today's video section.

But wait! Check this out, Greece taking on Iceland in the 1999 World Championships in Division III. Youtube totally rocks.

Good seats still available by the way. Be sure not to miss Mr. Chest Hair and Gold Chains at the 3:14 mark. We suspect he's a supporter of Greece for some reason...

A commercial for Thule beer and a history lesson on the Cod War. Who knew a beer commercial could be so educational?

Apparently they drink more than beer in Iceland, as proven by this commercial.

Speaking of lessons, here is an introduction to the Icelandic language with the lovely Natalja.

Finally, our favorite Icelandic export, Lazy Town!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

1960 Team USA Herb Brooks Jersey

The 1960 United States Olympic Team had played together in preparation for their entry into the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. Feeling that the team wasn't good enough to win after completing their training schedule of games, coach Jack Riley said to Walter Brown, "Walter, do you want to go into the Olympics with a chance to win or no chance to win?"

Brown responded "I want a chance to win." to which Riley replied "Then I have to bring in the Clearys."

"Do it," said Brown.

Prior to the arrival of the Bill Cleary, a top scorer on the 1956 Olympic team, and his brother Bob Cleary, the players said they were not going to compete if the Clearys were added to the team.

"Let them quit," Riley said. "Find out where they want a plane ticket and get them out of here."

The addition of the Clearys cost Bob Dupuis and Herb Brooks, due to his lack of international experience, their roster spots.

The Cleary brothers were given the cold shoulder by the remainder of the team, unhappy with the late addition, which cost two of their friends and teammates their roster spots despite having been with the team for months. One of the reasons the players were upset was, while there was no doubting the talent of Billy, they did not feel his brother Bob would have been on the team if not for Billy insisting they come as part of a package deal and Riley agreeing to it in order to get Billy on the team.

Before their first game, Bill Cleary addressed the team concerning their treatment of him. "I didn't come three thousand miles to lose. We don't have to hug and kiss. I just want you to pass me the puck."

Goaltender Jack McCartan agreed. "We've worked too hard to let this get in the way." McCartan had, in fact, been cut from the team at one point when coach Riley didn't like his playing style, but when he gathered the players at one point to ask how they could improve the team, the players told him to bring back McCartan.

John Mayasich, another top scorer in 1956, was also added to the team, but Riley had told the team all along that Mayasich would be a late addition to the roster. So late, that he didn't meet the team until the day before the Olympics.

Mayasich and the Clearys were added to the team so late they had to be retouched into the team photo, with their heads added to the bodies of the players they replaced on the roster! Notice how Billy Cleary's head in the front row differs in contrast and lighting from the other front row players in particular.

Once the games started, The United States defeated favored Czechoslovakia 7-5 in their opening game after trailing 4-3 after two periods. Despite only having one practice with the team, the supremely talented Mayasich had a hat trick, all unassisted!

They next routed Australia 12-1. Their two wins advanced them to the medal round, a round robin schedule of give games to determine the medal winners.

First up for the Americans in the first televised Olympics was Sweden, who they defeated 6-3 behind a hat trick from Roger Christian. Germany was the next team to fall, 9-1 thanks to four goals by Billy Cleary.

The Soviets had fallen a point behind the standings due to a tie with Sweden, leaving the US and Canada tied at the top of the table with 4 points each before their vital game. The Canadians were heavily favored before the game, but the Americans came out on the attack. Bob Cleary scored on a rebound of a Mayasich shot to give the US the confidence they could play with the Canadians. Later, the US went up by two when Paul Johnson, who Riley had been advised not to play because of his defensive play, scored on a slap shot while on a breakaway.

Although Canada scored one goal, McCartan held the Canadians at bay to hold on for the victory and put the Americans at the top of the table by themselves.

Coach Riley said about the Canadians, "If we played the Canadians 10 games, they'd win nine of them."

Things did not get any easier for the United States, with the Soviet Union next on the schedule, a team they had never beaten.

The Soviet Union had been involved in international hockey since 1954, winning the World Championships on their debut and then taking the gold medal in their first try at the Olympics in 1956, beginning a dynasty that would last until 1991.

The 85oo seat covered, but open air, Blyth Arena overflowed with 10,000 people, including some sitting on the player's bench! Notice the shadows on the ice from the sun coming through the east side of the arena, which was open to the elements.

The first goal of the game was scored by Bill Cleary on an assist from his brother Bob. The Soviets came right back and evened the score and then added a second to take the lead at 2-1. After another close call when Mayasich cleared a puck off the line, Bill Christian evened the score for the United States from his brother Roger Christian at the end of two periods.

The third period saw the United States pressure the Soviets and score with 5 minutes remaining to edge back into the lead when Bill Christian scored his second of the game on an assist from Roger Christian and Tommy Williams from right in front of the net.

The US, behind the stellar goaltending of McCartan, held on for the 3-2 victory and put themselves in position to lock up the gold medal in a rematch with Czechoslovakia in a game scheduled for 8 AM the following morning! The organizers had assumed the gold medal would come down to a game between Canada and the Soviet Union and scheduled that contest for the prime spot later in the day.

Riley told his squad that a key to the game was keeping the Czechs from scoring early and not letting them get into the game. The boys must not have been awake yet to hear him, as the Czechs won the opening faceoff, skated down the ice and promptly scored the first goal of the game with just eight seconds elapsed!

The teams swapped goals and completed the first period tied at 3-3. Czechoslovakia scored the only goal of the second period and led 4-3 at the second intermission. While the team was in the locker room preparing for the third period, the captain of the Soviet team, Nikolai Sologubov, came into the American locker room to suggest the team breathe oxygen between periods to re-energize at the high altitude of Squaw Valley, presumably in an effort to ensure that the Soviets would finish in the medal placings, prevent the Czechs from finishing ahead of them and keep the Canadians from winning the gold.

Roger Christian tied the game five minutes into the third followed by a pair of goals from Bob Clearly. Roger Christian deflected in a shot from Mayasich to complete a hat trick. The rout continued when Bill Clearly went coast-to-coast, splitting the defense in the process, and walked around the sprawling Czech goaltender for the easiest goal of his life. Roger Christian later completed the scoring with his fourth of the game, and the United States sixth of the period, to secure the gold medal with a 9-4 final score and a unbeaten 7-0 record for the tournament.

Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, Brooks watched the gold medal game at home on television with his father. When the United States won gold, his father Herb Sr. turned to him and said "Well, it looks like they cut the right guy."

Brooks would go on to play for both the 1964 and 1968 United States Olympic teams, as well as six other US National teams, coach the University of Minnesota to three national championships and then lead a team of college kids to defeat the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" and then capture the gold medal two days later with a victory over Finland.

Today's featured jersey is a 1960 United States Herb Brooks jersey. This 1960 gold medal jersey features Brooks number 5 as worn while he was still with the team and a wonderfully reproduced shield with embroidered Olympic rings and sewn on stripes and USA lettering.

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Here is actual game footage of the United States defeating the Soviet Union 3-2 in Squaw Valley.

This next clip is from the final game of the tournament when the United States captured the gold medal against Czechoslovakia.

Here, 1960 Olympic gold medalist John Mayasich is interviewed at the Vancouver Olympics.

Finally, here is the trailer for the movie "Forgotten Miracle" about the 1960 team in the words of those who lived it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1994 Sweden National Team Peter Forsberg Jersey

The 1994 Winter Olympic hockey tournament, held in Lillehammer, Norway will always be remembered for one defining moment, Peter Forsberg's memorable gold medal winning shoot out goal.

Forsberg had debuted with the Modo Hockey junior team in his hometown of Örnsköldsvik in 1989-90 and made one appearance with the senior club later that same season. The following year he split time between the junior club and the senior club, getting into 23 games and scoring his first goal in the Elitserien. He was also drafted 6th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers during the NHL Entry Draft that year, although he would remain in Sweden for an additional three seasons, in part to play in the 1994 Olympics, at a time when he felt it would be his only Olympic opportunity prior to the NHL suspending it's season to allow it's players to participate in the games, something that wouldn't begin until 1998.

Forsberg moved up to the senior club full time the following year, scoring 28 points in 39 games. As his experience and confidence grew, so did his point totals, and in 1992-93, Forsberg averaged more than a point per game for the first time, with 47 points in 39 games and was named as both the the MVP of the Elitserien as well as the Swedish hockey Player of the Year.

He would win both awards again the next season after 44 points in 39 games.

Internationally, Forsberg first appeared for Sweden in the 1991 European Junior Championships, followed by both the World Junior Championship and World Championship in both 1992 and 1993.

Already considered by that point to be the best player in the World not in the NHL, Forsberg would make himself known to hockey fans all across North America with the events of this day in the 1994 Olympic Gold Medal Final.

Sweden was placed in Group B for the Preliminary Round with Canada, France, Italy, Slovakia and the United States and tied in their first game 4-4 with Slovakia, making their first ever Olympic appearance. They easily handled Italy 4-1 and France 7-1 before defeating the United States 6-4 before losing to Canada 3-2 to finish their group in third place behind Slovakia and Canada.

As a result of their third place finish, they drew Germany (second place in Group A) in the first round of the Medal Round playoffs and easily eliminated them 3-0. Next up was the surprisingly down Russians, who were feeling the effects of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the resulting turmoil in their hockey program. Having lost to the Finns 5-0 and the Germans 4-2 in Group A, Sweden ended their tournament 4-3 to advance to the Gold Medal Final against Canada, who knocked out the Czech Republic 3-2 and Finland 5-3 for their shot at gold.

The scoring was opened by Sweden at 6:10 of the first period on the power play on a goal by Kenny Jonsson from Hakan Loob and Peter Forsberg. There was no additional scoring until Canada got on the board with a goal by Paul Kariya from Chris Kontos and Greg Johnson at 9:08 of the third.

Canada went up by one when defesman Derek Mayer scored an unassisted goal at 11:43. Canada was able to keep their lead until Brad Werenka was called for a penalty at 17:50 and Sweden made them pay the price when Magnus Svensson scored on a shot from the point with assists from Forsberg and Jonsson at 18:11 on the resulting power play.

The game would finish deadlocked at 2-2 and the following ten minute overtime failed to settle the score, moving the game to a deciding shootout.

Petr Nedved opened the shootout with a goal for Canada, while Loob missed for Sweden. Kariya then converted for Canada and Svensson matched that with a goal of his own to keep Sweden within one.

Dwayne Norris was stopped by Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo and Mats Nasulnd was kept off the scoreboard by Canadian Corey Hirsch. Unlike today's three round shootouts, this one was scheduled to go five rounds.

Greg Parks missed for Canada and Forsberg evened the shootout at 2-2 for Sweden. After Johnson missed for Canada, Roger Hansson failed to win it for Sweden and the shootout moved into sudden death.

With players now allowed to shoot again, Svensson missed for Sweden before Nedved had Salo beaten but put the puck wide during his chance to win gold.

The 13th shooter would see the 20-year-old Forsberg take his second attempt with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and using a move that would be immortalized on a Swedish postage stamp, faked to his forehand (having gone to the right on his first shootout goal) before nearly skating past the net on his left, drawing Hirsch to the side of the crease, as Forsberg fully extended his right arm and gently tucked the puck into the center of the net on his backhand around the outstretched Hirsch.

It was a shot Forsberg had recalled seeing when he was 15 while watching Kent Nilsson on a breakaway during the 1989 World Championships against American John Vanbiesbrouck.

"I liked it right away," Forsberg recalled. "The goalie ended up in the stands."

When Salo laid himself out in the crease and blocked Kariya's final attempt, Sweden had captured the gold medal.

With the gold medal victory, Loob, Naslund and Tomas Jonsson became the first players to win the World Championship, the Stanley Cup and the Gold Medal, an accomplishment that would become known as the Triple Gold Club. Forsberg would eventually join the exclusive club in 1996, which currently consists of just 22 players in the history of the sport.

Today's featured jersey is a 1994 Sweden Peter Forsberg Jersey. These jerseys are very similar to the Tackla branded jerseys used in 1992, including the same distinctive block numbers with the 3-D geometric "drop shadow" effect for the numbers, with the obvious addition of the overly large Reebok logos on the shoulders and additional piping that runs down the arms. These jerseys are a medium weight mesh and all the graphics dye-sublimated.

Here is the complete Gold Medal Final shootout, in two parts.

Here is Nilsson's original goal which inspired the young Forsberg in 1989.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Steve Payne Jersey

Founded in 1967, the Minnesota North Stars still had never won a game in the Boston Garden fourteen years later. Going in to the contest on this date in 1981, the North Stars were 0-27-7 at The Garden, where they were routinely intimidated by the Big, Bad Bruins, who featured a lineup with noted tough guys Terry O'Reilly (223 penalty minutes that season), Mike Milbury (222), Stan Jonathan (192), Keith Crowder (172), Brad McCrimmon (148) and Brad Park (111).

From then North Stars coach Glen Sonmor's book "Old Time Hockey";
We started out playing some solid hockey that year and just kept getting stronger as the year went on. There was one game toward the latter part of the season, however, that really had an impact on the psyche of this team. It was against Boston on February 26, on the road at the Garden. We had never beaten Boston in that arena, ever, in the history of our franchise. We were something like 0-27-7 over the past 14 seasons. They had absolutely owned us, it was ridiculous. The bad blood had started several years earlier when one of their tough guys, John Wensink, had skated over to our bench during a game one time and challenged every guy on the team to come out and fight him. Well, nobody budged. 
Anyway, I was tired of those sonsofbitches intimidating us, so I decided that the "Curse of the Bruins" was going to come to an end right then and there. By that point I knew that we were going to wind up facing  them in the first round of the playoffs that year and I really wanted to make a statement. I wanted to instill a new attitude of toughness into our guys and really encourage them not to take any sh-- from those a-- holes. That is so important in hockey, not to be intimidated or disrespected by your opponents. I remember just before the game a reporter asked our enforcer, Jack Carlson about the "Wensink incident." He asked him what would happen if something like that happened again. Jack just smiled and said "I would jump over the boards in a hurry and go after the guy because I would hate to have my coach beat me to him!" 
As it turned out, we would wind up losing the game, 5-1, but I didn't care about the score at all. I wanted to send a message that we weren't going to be pushed around anymore. So, I told our guys before that game that we had to make a stand right there. I told them that we were never going to beat them until we stood up for ourselves. I even held up a Boston newspaper that had an article in it about how the Bruins had dominated us and that we were basically a bunch of pussies. I told them that they were questioning our manhood. I really tried to get them riled up and mad as hell. My instructions to them in the locker room just prior to the opening face-off were simple. I told them that not the second time, or the third time or even the fourth time, but on the first time that any Bruin tried to intimidate one of them, that they were to drop the gloves. I told them that we were going to war that night and that we were going to keep going to war until the game was over. Period. 
We had a ton of tough guys on tour team. In addition to Jack Carlson, who was probably the toughest heavyweight in all of pro hockey at the time, we had Brad Maxwell, Dave Richter, Al MacAdam and Gordie Roberts. So, I felt pretty good about matching up with the "Big-Bad Bruins." It wasn't those guys I was talking to about dropping the gloves though, it was everybody else. I wanted  everybody to get into the action and really let their emotions out. I wanted them to experience just how good it felt to stand up for yourself and stop being bullied. 
Well, sure as sh--, just seven seconds into the game our star player, Bobby Smith, who was anything but a fighter, dropped the gloves. Steve Kasper, one of their top agitators, had cracked him right under the chin with his stick during the opening face-off and that was just what the doctor ordered. As soon as Bobby dropped 'em, everybody else did too and we were off to the races. It was beautiful. That was how it was all night too. There was one fracas after another. I was never so proud to see at one point during the game, there were five fights going on and we were winning them all! I remember seeing Al MacAdam just beat the crap out of one of their toughest guys, Stan Johnathan. It was a blood bath. I mean there were over 340 penalty minutes in the first period alone, not to mention a total of 12 ejections. By the end of the game, there were 42 penalties, including seven game misconducts, and an NHL record 406 total penalty minutes. It just went on and on, it was really something. We only had about five guys apiece on the bench when it was over because so many guys had been thrown out of the game. 
In the end we wound up losing the game, but I could not have cared less. I was so proud of our guys, I could barely contain myself. Then after the game I got into a shouting match on the bench with their coach, Gerry Cheevers. The next thing I knew my players were holding me back from trying to go after him. Hell, I wanted a piece of him. Sure, why not? I took a few swings at him from sort of an odd angle where I was punching up towards him as he was leaning over the glass. 
Anyway, down in the locker room after the game we were all pretty fired up. I was a scene straight out of a war movie, like we had all just returned from battle. I was great. The reporters couldn't wait to talk to me and get some quotes about what the hell I was up to. So, I am out talking to them and one of the reporters reads me a quote from Cheevers, who basically said that I was behind it all and that I had no character. I just smiled and said to the reporter and said, "OK, I have a message that you can take back to Gerry. Tell him to meet me between the dressing rooms the next time we play each other and we'll settle this like men. We'll see whose got character then." And then I added "Oh, and by the way, tell him to bring a basket to carry his f---ing head home in!" 
I tell you what, we barely made it out of the Garden alive. Their fans came down and started rocking our bus, trying to bust the door down to have at us. It was scary, it really was. I thought we might have a riot on our hands, but luckily the cops showed up and escorted us out of there. It was a great flight home though. I remember looking at everybody with their fresh stitches, it was marvelous. We were victorious in my eyes because that just set the stage for our eventual meeting with them in the playoffs. The bad part of it all was that the league president called me into his office shortly thereafter and I caught hell from him. He asked me if I had incited my guys to play that way that night and I said "absolutely." I told him that we needed to make a stand and that I wasn't going to apologize for that. I got fined for it, but [North Stars general manager] Louie Nanne gladly paid it for me. He knew what I was up to and was behind me 100%. 
Back on the ice, we finished up the 1980-81 regular season and went on to meet Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Now, just before we hit the ice at the Garden, I did something that I had never done before. I put on my eye patch, just like the old pirates used to wear. It is a crazy story of how I decided to put it on too. You see, just before I left for the airport from my house in Hopkins, I got a letter from a fan that somehow caught my attention. I was in a hurry, but for some odd reason I took a second to open it up and read it. I was from a woman in White Bear Lake who said that she was a psychic. She said that she had a vision of me standing behind the bench in the Boston Garden with an eye patch on and that she saw us beating what she called the "Curse of the Garden." Her name was Amy Puckett, as in hockey puck, so I figured it had to be a good omen. Hell, I figured I could use all the good karma I could get at that point, so I ran back into the house and grabbed my eye patch [Sonmor had suffered a career ending eye injury as a player when hit by a slap shot and had a glass eye]. Anyhow, I put that patch on right before we hit the ice and I remember screaming out just like a general leading his troops into battle: "Boys, the curse ends tonight!" 
We walked out onto the ice and the atmosphere in there was just electric. We had still never on out there up until that point, but thankfully that all ended in Game One when Steve Payne score the game-winner at the 3:34 mark of overtime to give us a thrilling 5-4 victory. The curse had officially been lifted and we were on top of the world. We were expecting another blood bath, but they played us straight up and it ended up to be a hell of a series. We then followed that up with a 9-6 victory in Game Two, behind our backup goalie Donny Beaupre. From there, we came home to Bloomington for Game Three and it was just louder than hell in there. I mean the walls in the locker room were literally vibrating. It was insane. We were really confident in ourselves at that point and we went out there and finished them off by the final score of 6-3 to sweep the series. After the game legendary radio analyst Al Shaver said it was the biggest upset in Stars history. I would whole-heartedly agree, it was huge. More importantly, we had earned Boston's respect.

The first period of the game on February 25 took an hour and 31 minutes and saw 12 players ejected and 67 penalties called, including a North Stars team record 39 minutes for Steve Payne.

By the end of the game, each team was called for 42 penalties and they totaled an NHL record 406 minutes. The North Stars alone were penalized for 211 minutes from 18 minors, 13 majors, four ten-minute misconducts and seven game misconducts.

Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Steve Payne jersey from the year of the North Stars infamous brawl with the Boston Bruins. Payne was drafted in the second round of the 1978 NHL draft after the North Stars had drafted his junior hockey linemate Bobby Smith with the first overall pick in the draft. The two would be teammates for five seasons before Smith was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens.

Payne would eventually play ten seasons, all with the North Stars, but his final three seasons would be severely curtailed by injury. He would finish his career with 613 games played, 228 goals and 238 assists for 466 points and 435 penalty minutes, 9% of which came in the one notorious game verus Boston! Payne's 39 minutes in that game on this date in 1981 were five minutes short of being half of his total for the entire season.

Here is footage of Wensink challenging the North Stars bench previous to the record setting penalty minute game. You can also see the brutality the Bruins dished out to the North Stars that had coach Sonmor so fed up.

Here is the mayhem from the record setting 406 penalty minute brawl game when the benches clear and the fighting spills into the off ice area in between the benches.

When Sonmor did the color commentary for the University of Minnesota Gophers he made no apologies for wearing his love of the Gophers on his sleeve. In this clip, Sonmor has had enough of the fans in Madison, Wisconsin booing Madison native Phil Kessel all game long for his decision to spurn the Badgers and choose to play for Minnesota and lets his feelings be known when Kessel has the last laugh by scoring a goal.

Here is a two part interview with the always entertaining Sonmor, a true Minnesota hockey legend, as he talks Gophers, Minnesota Fighting Saints hockey, including discovering the Carlson Brothers, who would star in the movie Slap Shot as the Hanson Brothers, and the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA.

Monday, February 25, 2013

2013-14 NHL Realignment

With the subject of NHL realignment coming up again, it's time to revisit what has proven to be a popular post we made earlier regarding our thoughts on NHL realignment necessitated by the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers from the southeastern United States to central Canada where they became the Winnipeg Jets.

First, let's take a look at where things stand right now.

NHL 2011-12 NHL Division Map, NHL 2011-12 NHL Division Map
Current 2012-13 NHL Division Map

The things to note are the compactness of the Northeast and Atlantic Divisions, especially compared with the Northwest and Pacific Divisions in the Western Conference. Also of note are the distances from both Minnesota and Dallas, both located in the Central Time Zone, from all the other teams in their divisions, none of which are even located in the same time zone.

Obviously, with all the issued related to hammering out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Winnipeg Jets were forced to remain in the Southeast Division this season, a situation that all agree needs to be rectified.

Absurdly, with teams only playing within their conferences during this shortened season, Minnesota and Winnipeg will not be playing each other, despite being only 385 miles apart, while the Wild will be making six trips out to the Pacific coast to face Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim, all 1,400 to 1,500 miles away, including one time they follow a game in Vancouver with one in Detroit and another where a game against the Kings sees them playing their next game in Columbus, Ohio!

As far as the new attempt at realignment after the previous proposal was tabled as a part of the labor negotiations, one often repeated is the fact Detroit wants to move east and has apparently been promised by the NHL that they will be moved when the first opportunity arrives, but Jeff Marek of Sportsnet in Canada mentioned last year that the late Chicago owner Bill Wirtz was also promised that Chicago would never be separated from Detroit, in direct conflict with any promises made to the Red Wings.

With that in mind, let's look at our proposal for 2013-14. To oversimplify, currently the continent west of the Mississippi River is essentially divided horizontally into a northern group (the Northwest Division) and a southern group (the Pacific Division). What we propose is to make the divisional alignments based on vertical divisions, rather than the current horizontal alignments. Additionally, we also would embrace the American Hockey League model, reducing the number of divisions to just four, which was some fairly radical thinking when we first proposed it in June of 2011.

Each conference would be made of one seven and one eight team division. Having fewer divisions of more teams would allow more clubs to be accommodated as far as their desires to be paired with traditional rivals and will pay off again when the playoffs are discussed.

The method we would use to place the teams in each of the four divisions begins in the northeast and places Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto together, adding in Buffalo. The Northeast Division is then completed with the three New York/New Jersey teams as well as traditional New York rival Boston, who stay grouped with their historic rival Montreal.

The remaining seven teams in the east are the two Pennsylvania clubs Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as Washington, who belong in a division with nearby Philadelphia. The four remaining southern teams, Carolina, Nashville, Tampa Bay and Florida round out the Atlantic Division.

In the west, we simply group the eight teams which are the furthest west. The California clubs, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim are grouped with nearby Phoenix and the three western-most Canadian teams, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Colorado is the final team to complete the West Division, as they inhabit the Mountain Time Zone along with Edmonton, Calgary and Phoenix.

The Central Division is based on grouping Winnipeg, Minnesota and Dallas together since they are located in a relative vertical line. Traditional rivals St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit are then added. Columbus is included due to it's proximity to Detroit.

Yes, we would keep Detroit in the west, refusing to separate long standing Original 6 rivals Detroit and Chicago, two cities who are in the same division in the three other professional sports leagues, the NBA, NFL and MLB.

NHL 2012-13 NHL Division Realignment Map Proposal, NHL 2012-13 NHL Division Realignment Map Proposal
Our 2012-13 NHL Realignment 4 Division Proposal

How clean and simple is that? While we would be open to some minor tweaks, such as letting Nashville and Columbus swap places, even though we'd prefer to keep Detroit and Columbus together, this is our preferred arrangement, thanks in part to our not having to comply with any promises made to the Red Wings to move east or the Flyers to remain in a division with the Rangers since we don't have to concern ourselves with any influence or power wielded by Mike Ilitch in Detroit or Ed Snyder in Philadelphia.

The proposal we've seen online the last few days shows Colorado in a conference with Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg, which would isolate Colorado in the Mountain time zone, while we would prefer to keep them with Phoenix, Edmonton and Calgary in the same time zone.

As for the proposed conferences in the east, the one we've seen has Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington on one conference, which seems fine by itself, but then that leaves an awful looking mess with Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo and Boston in the northeast grouped with the two Florida clubs, the Panthers and Lightning, which is just plain awful. Any plan that does not have Tampa Bay and Florida with Nashville and Carolina just seems completely wrong to us.

Our proposal, shown in the map above, groups the teams in a much more logical geographic manner, including keeping some very great rivals grouped together as well as balancing the east and west with 15 teams each.

Furthermore, with our plan, the playoffs would return to the system once used by the NHL, where the first two rounds of the playoffs would be played exclusively within your own division among the top four clubs in each division. The benefit of this system would be the increased number of times clubs would face the same teams during the playoffs as the years would go by, and if there's one thing we will scream from the top of our lungs, it's that rivalries are created during the playoffs. Playing the same teams over and over during the regular season makes for repetitious boredom, while playing to end your opponent's season creates an intensity and drama you just can't get anywhere else.

Two rounds of playoffs among the same seven teams in your division gives you a 1-in-3 chance of facing the same team as the previous year, when compared to a 1-in-7 chance of repeating an opponent from the previous season as it stands now within a 15 team conference. In reality, the odds of facing the same team as a previous season actually improves in the short term when you factor in successful teams making the playoffs more often while they are in periods of greater success.

The NHL would likely then have the division winners in each conference face each other to determine a conference champion, but we'd like to see the final four teams seeded by points regardless of conference. This would have several benefits, the first being that if two strong teams advanced from one conference and the lowest two from the other, as happened in 2002-03, this system would increase the chances of the most competitive Stanley Cup Finals possible as well as allowing for the possibility of an occasional Philadelphia vs. New York or Boston vs. Pittsburgh final not possible now with the East vs. West format. The TV networks should also appreciate the chance for two huge eastern population centers facing off for the Stanley Cup now and then.

The good news is that the NHL apparently has seen things our way, as the previously approved proposal prior to the CBA negotiations did away with the idea of "divisions" and treated the four groups as separate conferences, allowing for annual mixing and matching of the final four clubs without regard to the geography of east vs. west. This also shrewdly allows for some flexibility on their part should a team such as Phoenix suddenly relocate across the continent to Quebec City, which would normally throw off the East/West balance, which would no longer apply.

After implementing this alignment, we'd also adjust the schedule to include playing every team in the league at home every year in the manner of the NBA schedule.

The breakdown would be;

If you are in the seven team division;
  • You play the 15 teams in the other conference twice a year = 30 games
  • You play the 8 teams in the other division of your conference twice a year = 16 games
  • You play the other 6 teams in your division 6 times a year = 36 games
If you play in the eight team division;
  • You play the 15 teams in the other conference twice a year = 30 games
  • You play the 7 teams in the other division of your conference twice a year = 14 games
  • You play the other 7 teams in your division 5 times a year = 35 games
  • You play the remaining 3 games in your division among the other 7 teams on a rotating annual basis = 3 games
Again, the idea that each team would play every other team home and away seems to be a part of every proposal we have heard, something we are very thankful for.

Realignment is a topic for which there are naturally many, many solutions to and opinions on, so feel free to add yours in the comments below.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mike Eruzione Auction Results

To follow up on our story on Friday concerning the Miracle on Ice and our preview of the auction of Mike Eruzione's jerseys, stick and other equipment and clothing related to the 1980 Olympics, the sale took place in New York on Saturday evening and the results are in - with one huge surprise.

Mike Eruzione jerseys photo Eruzione-collection.jpg

We must frankly admit we were shocked to see the price that his white jersey worn when he scored the winning goal against the Soviet Union sold for only $550,000. With the buyer's premium added on, the final cost to the buyer does rise to $657,250, but it is still a far cry from the $1.27 million that Paul Henderson's Team Canada jersey worn when he scored a late goal in Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

Perhaps the Canadians considered the Henderson jersey to be more of a national treasure and feared it falling into the wrong hands, such as those of one of the card companies who may have been tempted to cut it up into pieces and make trading cards out of it. Or perhaps there were simply two very well off people who really, really wanted Henderson's jersey and were willing to go to great lengths to acquire it. In the end, Henderson's jersey was secured by a benefactor, Mitchell Goldhar of Toronto, who obtained the jersey from it's American owner, and not only returned the jersey to Canada, but then sent the iconic jersey on a national tour of Great White North.

While there is no denying that Henderson's jersey is of the highest significance, arguably near to or even on par with Eruzione's jersey, there is no way we'd ever deem it to be worth twice that of Eruzione's. Case in point, the IIHF ranked the Miracle on Ice as the #1 story of the century and Game 8 of the 1972 Summit Series as #2, which you would think would put both jerseys on relatively even footing, value-wise.

Eruzione goal photo Eruzionegoal.jpg
Eruzione's life changed with this shot, as he
scored the winning goal in the Miracle on Ice

We also would have assumed that there would have been a larger demand for the USA jersey simply based on the size of the population of the United States vs. Canada and with the auction having a fair amount of advance publicity as well as taking place in New York, rather than being part of an hockey related auction located in Canada.

Among the other items in the auction, the results were as follows:

The stick used to score the winning goal in the Miracle on Ice - $262,900
His blue jersey worn in the gold medal clinching game vs. Finland - $286,800
His warmup suit worn during the medal ceremony - $26,290
The gloves he wore in the Miracle on Ice - $53,775
The pants he worn in the Miracle on Ice - $26,680

Many of the other items Eruzione offered up for sale do not conclude until later today, such as his cowboy hat and jacket and sweater from the opening ceremonies, parka, other sweaters, knit caps, hockey socks, gear bag, pads and Olympic Team watch.

While the blue jersey went for more than it's $200.000 estimate and the stick surprised by going for more than twice it's $100,000 pre-sale estimate, there clearly must be a certain level of disappointment on the part of Heritage Auctions and Eruzione and his his family when the white jersey failed to even approach the pre-sale estimate of a million dollars, particularly with Henderson's jersey as a yardstick for such a significant, high end jersey, particularly in light of just how rare the jerseys are (a 20 man roster) and how few of them have been offered for sale - Eruzione's being only the third white one and fifth overall (counting his blue one sold today) in 33 years.

eruzione jerseys photo Eruzionejerseys.jpg
Eruzione with his 1980 jerseys and the stick used to score his famous goal

It's hard to figure. When dealing with high end items such as this, it's difficult to blame "the economy", as the buyers for items such as this, the "super rich" always seem to have the wherewithal to spend on items like this. Additionally, the other significant items, the blue jersey and the stick, performed as good or better than expected, so it wasn't like all the lots across the board were down.

Honestly, as we stated in our preview article, we fully expected this jersey to surpass the Henderson jersey and would not have been surpassed to see it reach the $2 million mark and didn't think $3 million was out of the question if two or more determined buyers just had to have it, which is all you need at an auction to turn heads, something this auction apparently did not attract.

With Eruzione's jersey having now sold for "just" $657,250 and Ken Morrow's similar one selling for $104,328 one year ago, perhaps the Henderson jersey is the anomaly and not the benchmark after all.

It will be interesting to find out who the buyer was, for not only the white jersey but the blue one as well, and what their intentions are for the jerseys.

In the end, we feel the white jersey still went for less than it should have, and so does Heritage based on their pre-sale estimate, and that some day in the not-too-distant future, the buyer of the white jersey will be able to realize a healthy profit from their apparently well timed purchase. Consider that Wayne Gretzky and Bruce McNall paid $451,000 for a Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card in 1991 and the card sold in 2007 for $2.8 million.

That's assuming the buyer does not donate the white Eruizone jersey to a hall of fame or museum and it survives being cut into pieces by a card company…


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