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Saturday, February 15, 2014

2010-11 Traktor Chelyabinsk Evgeni Kuznetsov Jersey

One year ago today, a meteor blazed across the skies of Siberia, appearing as a dramatic fireball in the early morning sky. With a blinding flash and booming shockwave, it exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs. Over 1,000 people were injured and windows were blown out all over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

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NASA estimated the meteor was the size of a bus, weighed approximately 7,000 tons and was traveling at an estimated 40,000 mph when it entered the atmosphere about 9:20 in the morning Chelyabinsk time. It exploded at an altitude of about 14 miles and left a trail of debris and damage 300 miles long. It was the largest recorded meteor strike to hit the Earth in more than 100 years since the Tunguska meteor of 1908, which flattened and estimated 80 million trees, also in Russia.

"There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud, thundering sound," a resident was quoted as saying.

3,000 buildings in Chelyabinsk were damaged, including more than 1 million square feet of broken glass caused by the force of the shockwave. Additionally, part of the roof of a zinc factory collapsed. Due to all the flying glass, 1,100 people sought medical with 48 having to be hospitalized as many people rushed toward windows to see what had caused the bright flash of light, only to have the shockwave then blow the windows in on them a few minutes later. Yekaterina Melikhova, a high school student, said "After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors. ... The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us." Despite all those who were wounded, there were no fatalities reported.

Outside of Chelyabinsk, a fragment of the meteor left a 26 foot wide hole in the ice of lake Chebarkul, where a five foot diameter fragment was pulled out of the water eight months later.

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Russian television ran video of athletes at a city sports arena who were showered by shards of glass from huge windows. Some of them were still bleeding. Other videos showed a long shard of glass slamming into the floor close to a factory worker and massive doors blown away by the shock wave. Some elderly women started crying out that the world was ending. "I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," a resident said. "I felt like I was blinded by headlights.”

The many broken windows exposed residents to the bitter cold as temperatures in the city were expected to plummet to -20º C (-4º F) that night and the regional governor put out a call for any workers who knew how to repair windows.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist leader, blamed the United States. "It's not meteors falling. It's the test of a new weapon by the Americans," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying!
One of the buildings affected by the blast was Traktor Arena, home of Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), which was temporarily shut down due to damage from the meteor shower.
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The KHL released a statement at the time, which read:
The meteor shower which struck Chelyabinsk and its environs has also caused some disruption to the hockey season schedule. The emergency services have confirmed that the walls of the Arena Traktor were among those structures to suffer damage, and therefore large-scale events at the stadium have been postponed. 
The sporting facilities will undergo an inspection by experts to assess the readiness of the arena to return to full operational use. 
The results of the assessment will be made public on Monday, after which it will become clear whether the Chelyabinsk club can stage the first games of the play-offs. The knockout stages of the Gagarin Cup get underway on Wednesday, and as Traktor is already assured of a top four place in the Eastern conference, the team is due to start the play-offs with home games on the 21st and 22nd of February. 
At this time, the meteor shower has not affected Traktor’s schedule, as the Chelyabinsk men finish their regular season campaign with a trip on the road to Magnitogorsk on Sunday. However, three events -today’s and tomorrow’s Youth Hockey League games between Belye Medvedi of Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk’s Stalnye Lisy and Saturday’s planned opening of the Traktor’s museum – have had to be postponed.
At the time, Traktor had one game remaining on the road two days later, but there were concerns about the first round of the playoffs being affected the following week, however three days later after inspections were completed, the arena was declared structurally sound and their playoff games against Barys Astana went on as planned.
Traktor Chelyabinsk was founded in 1947 and were originally called Dzerzhinets until 1953 and Avangard from 1954 to 1958 before becoming known as the Traktor Ice Hockey Club in 1959.
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They were relegated to the second division in 1965 and returned to the top division in 1968. In 1973 they reached the finals of the Soviet Cup. Their best result up to that time came in the form of a bronze medal in 1977. During that time period Traktor were also silver medalists at the 1973 Spengler Cup.
Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Traktor moved from league to league as the structure of Russian hockey attempted to sort itself out. They first played in the Russian International Hockey League (finishing 3rd in 1993 and 1994) and then the Russian Superleague. 1998 saw them relegated to the Vysshaya Liga, the second division of the current system. It took until 2006 for Traktor to win the Vysshaya Liga championship and return to the Superleague for it's final two seasons, which was then replaced by the current KHL.
2008-09 saw the club move into their new home. Traktor Arena. In 2011-12, Traktor came into the season with a revamped roster and finished the regular season with the best overall record in the KHL, earning them the Kontinental Cup. During the playoffs, they would ultimately finish as the bronze medalists.
Most recently, Traktor finished third in the KHL overall standings before beginning a memorable playoff run, coming from behind 3 games to 1 during three consecutive playoff series to advance to the finals for the first time in their 67 year history, only to fall short to the defending champion Dynamo Moscow.
Notable players to have played for Traktor include future World Champions and Olympic gold medalists Sergei Makarov, Sergei Starikov and Vyacheslav Bykov. In more recent times, Alexander Semin played for Traktor before becoming a member of the Washington Capitals.
Today's featured jersey is a 2010-11 Traktor Cheylabinsk Evgeny Kuznetsov jersey. With their team nickname of the "White Bears", Traktor was able to create a memorable team logo and some attractive black, red and white jerseys. 2010-11 was the final season that KHL teams wore Cyrillic names on the back of their jerseys, which are now done in Latin characters.
Kuznetsov still currently plays for Cheylabinsk despite having been drafted by the Washington Capitals 26th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He won a gold medal at the 2011 World Junior Championships where he finished second in tournament scoring. with 11 points in 7 games. In 2012, he captained Russia at the World Juniors to a silver medal and had a 9 point game in a 14-0 win over Latvia, the second highest total in a single game. Following the tournament, he was named it's Best Forward and tournament MVP. Later that spring, Kuznetsov won a gold medal at the World Championships where he contributed 6 points in 9 games during his first appearance with the senior squad.
Kuznetsov has led Traktor in scoring in both 2011-12 (19 G, 22 A, 41 Pts) and 2012-13  (19 G, 25 A, 44 Pts), where he finished 6th in the KHL scoring race.
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Our video section today is a report by Russia Today, which contains many different versions of the meteor and the flash of light captured by amateur and surveillance cameras.
Next is the recovery of a piece of the Cheylabinsk meteor, the largest meteor piece one ever recovered.

Finally, a highlight video of Kuznetsov showing off his offensive skills for Traktor.

Friday, February 14, 2014

1996 Czech Republic National Team Petr Svoboda Jersey

After beginning his career with CHZ Litvinov in Czechoslovakia, Petr Svoboda, born on this date in 1966, got his feet wet on the international scene by appearing in the European Junior Under 18 Championships in 1983. In 1984, he was a member of the Czechoslovakian team at the Under 20 World Junior Championships and then made a second appearance at the European U18 Championships  held in West Germany, where after playing in five games, Svoboda left the Czech team and defected to the West.

He was then drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, who chose him 5th overall in the first round of the 1984 NHL Entry Draft, shocking the entire NHL, who had idea Svoboda had not only defected already, but was already there in Montreal hiding in a hotel in the days leading up to the draft so he would be available to pull on a Canadiens sweater in person!

He made his NHL debut later that year with a pair of assists in his very first game. Svoboda played in 73 games that season, missing time due to having his hand stepped on my an official who was trying to break of a fight Svoboda was involved in. Despite missing some time, he still put up 31 points from 4 goals and 27 assists.

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He would play seven more seasons with Montreal, which included setting career highs in goals (8), assists (37) and points (45) during the 1988-89 season. During the postseason, he would also set career marks with 11 assists and 12 points as the Canadiens made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

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Svoboda during the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals

During his first five seasons in Montreal, Svoboda would never finish with a lower plus/minus rating than +14, was in the +20's three times and had a career best of +46 in 1987-88.

Svoboda was then traded to the Buffalo Sabres late in the 1991-92 season. He played a full season with the Sabres in 1993-94, but the lockout during the 1994-95 season saw Svoboda return to what was now the Czech Republic, following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia with the dawn of 1993. He rejoined Litvinov, then renamed HC Chemopetrol Litvinov for 8 games before returning to the Sabres for 26 games before another move, this time to the Philadelphia Flyers.

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Svoboda during the 1991-92 season with Buffalo

Svoboda fit into the strong Flyers teams well, posting consecutive seasons of +26, +10 and +19. It was also during this time period that the Flyers made a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1997, Svoboda's second.

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During his third full season for the Flyers, Svoboda was finally able to return to international hockey for the first time since his defection 14 years earlier when he joined the Czech Republic for the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan for the first Games during which the NHL suspended it's season to allow it's best players to compete.

In the First Round, the Czechs won two, over Finland and Kazakhstan, but suffered a narrow 2-1 loss to Russia.  The Final Round saw them paired with the United States in the quarterfinals, where they won convincingly 4-1. They next famously defeated Canada in the Semifinals 2-1 following a shootout behind the goaltending of an on form Dominik Hasek.

Now playing for the gold medal against Russia, the game continued scoreless through two full periods and into a third before a pass back to Svoboda at the point saw him wind up and fire a shot which found the back of the net to give the Czechs a lead with 11 minutes left to play.

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Action from the gold medal game at the 1998 Olympics

The goal would be all that Hasek would require, as the game finished 1-0 in favor of the Czech Republic, with Svoboda scoring the only goal of the contest to send the nation into wild celebrations back home in Prague.

1998-99 saw Svoboda begin the season with Philadelphia, but after 25 games he was on the move once again after a trade sent him south to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he would play 34 games to finish the season. He would play 70 games of the 1999-00 season, his highest total since 1996. Those 70 games included Svoboda becoming the first Czech player to play in over 1,000 NHL games.

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 His final season of 2000-01 saw Svoboda limited to just 19 games mainly due to a concussion which caused his retirement from hockey at the age of 36.

Due to the circumstances of his defection as a teen, which meant he was not going to be able to compete internationally for the duration of the existence of Czechoslovakia and untimely injuries and the regular playoff appearances of both the Sabres and Flyers, meant Svoboda was never able to play for the Czech Republic internationally outside of his memorable Olympics which saw him score likely the the most important goal in the country's history, and also perhaps it's most unlikely, as Svoboda totaled just 58 goals in 1,028 career games, never scoring more than 8 in any one season and scoring 2 or less eight times in his 17 year career.

Today's featured jersey is a 1996 Czech Republic National Team Petr Svoboda jersey. Attentive readers will notice that Svoboda only skated for the Czech Republic once, that coming two years later in 1998. This particular jersey was made in anticipation of Svoboda playing in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, a tournament he ended up not taking part in.

This jersey is a good reminder to collectors to do their homework in advance of any purchases of game worn jerseys, as there are circumstances where jerseys are made for players, full professional models with all the correct tagging and patches, but never actually worn, something that can be confirmed with a simple check of statistics on the internet. While still a very attractive and desirable jersey, it's value as a team issued jersey will be less than that of a genuine game worn jersey, and one should avoid overpaying for a jersey in such circumstances. This one was sold by Classic Auctions as a game issued jersey with full disclosure of it's origins, but could resurface again without such a forthcoming description and it's up to the buyer to protect themselves by doing their proper homework before completing any transaction.

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photos courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1988-89 Montreal Canadiens Petr Svoboda jersey as worn during the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals, as evidenced by the Stanley Cup Finals patch on the left shoulder, the first time the two teams competing in the finals would wear a commemorative patch and the only time both teams would wear the patch on their shoulder, as the following season the patch would move to the right chest.

The only other time the patch would be worn on the shoulder was the 1993-94 New York Rangers, whose diagonal "Rangers" cresting interfered with the right chest location. Of note, the Canadiens patch in 1989 was in English, while they wore a French version of the patch on their return to the finals in 1993.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with Svoboda finding a permanent place in Czech hockey history with his gold medal winning goal at the 1998 Olympics.

Next, a longer look at the Czech team in 1998.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fan Apparel - Then and Now

While looking through our copy of "The Hockey Book" by Sports Illustrated, we were struck by the well known photo of Bobby Orr flying through the air in celebration of his overtime Stanley Cup winning goal in the 1970 finals.

The text of the book encourages us to "look closely at the photograph" to study the joy on Orr's face. We however, noticed not Orr, but the sea of spectators in the background also leaping for joy vertically, rather than horizontally like Orr. This difference in trajectory brings to light one unescapable fact.

There is not a Bruins logo of any kind visible in the crowd. Not one cap, one t-shirt, sweatshirt and certainly not a single jersey.

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Bobby Orr thrills the fans in Boston, 1970

It wasn't much different when national pride was on the line either. The first photo below is from Game 2 of the 1972 Summit Series when the Canadian professionals took on the best of the Soviet Union for the first time, certainly an occasion to show your national pride. Yet not one hint of a Canada hat, shirt or jersey.

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Even as the series moved to the Soviet Union, 3,000 Canadians made the trip to Moscow, and while they packed a few flags, only one child in the lower right can be spotted with a t-shirt with a red maple leaf on it. Again, no jerseys or caps anywhere to be found, as even the capitalist North Americans had yet to discover sports merchandising or even simply treating your country as a brand.

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Da, da Canada! Nyet, nyet Soviet!
but still not a single jersey to be found

Fast forward to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice". Again, look closely at the photograph. This, mind you, was taken at the Olympics during the single most nationalistic game of hockey ever held on the planet. Yet each and every person in the background of this shot bears not a single cap or sweatshirt emblazoned with even a simple "USA", much less a jersey in support of the Boys of Winter.

The fans look as if they dressed for dinner and a movie, not the meeting of "us" against "them" with our nation's pride and Olympic gold on the line. In amongst the winter sweaters and plaid flannel shirts, we're hard pressed to even find anyone who seems to have purposely dressed in either blue or red in support of the Americans, although we wouldn't recommend red for a game against the Soviet Union.

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Aside from the flag, you wouldn't know this game
was even held in the United States by looking at the fans

Things started to change following the 1980 Olympics when jackets, t-shirts and sweatshirts began to be more heavily marketed, with much of the initial credit going to the sportswear brand Starter. Companies such as CCM and ProJoy had already began to make replica jerseys specifically for fans to wear to the games. We purchased our first jersey, a Minnesota North Stars jersey, in 1982 or 1983, a nice weight mesh jersey with quality sewn on logos. The problem was, our local sporting goods store used the wrong font for the number on the back, a battle we've been fighting for 30 years now!

The CCM replicas of the late 1980's and early 1990's were light weight, see through efforts that benefitted from having nothing else to compare to. Our 1991-92 NHL 75th anniversary season Turn Back the Clock Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Boston and New York Rangers jerseys were prime examples of these undersized, semi-transparent replicas - that at the time we were thrilled to own.

It was the later arrival of the CCM 550 line of jerseys brought the quality of those formerly tissue paper thin jerseys up to an entirely new level. Soon, sales really began to take off with the rise in quality and acceptance of team jerseys being worn to games by fans to show their support for their favorite club - and things would never look the same in an NHL arena.

Now let's take a look at the fans of today. Fans in Calgary, Alberta and known around the league for "The "C" of Red". We believe that no other fans wear a greater percentage of jerseys to games than the fans of the Flames, with red obviously being the color of choice.

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The Flames fan's "C" of Red

Hockey is alive and well in Washington, D. C. as the Captials fans "rock the red" for each home game. While the percentage of jerseys are less than those in Calgary, the amount of t-shirts and sweatshirts combined with the jerseys paint the arena with an equal amount of color.

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Capitals fans "Rock the Red". See if you can
spot the Penguins fans in attendance.

Capitals fans
Alexander Ovechkin leads the chorus of those wearing red

No other fans in the NHL travel as well as those of the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they often arrive en masse in rival buildings sporting their traditional blue and white.

Maple Leafs fans
This photo is actually from a game in Boston

Even fans of teams that no longer exist wear the logos and colors of their beloved teams, such as the Minnesota North Stars, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques. While we don't have the numbers to back up our suspicions, we would not be surprised to learn that more Quebec Nordiques merchandise has been sold since the franchise moved to Denver, Colorado than they did in the 23 seasons they were located in Quebec thanks to the rise of sports merchandising and marketing.

Nordiques fans
Nordiques fans invade the New York Islanders'
Nassau County Colosseum in December, 2010

During the playoffs, tradition in some cities dictates that all fans dress alike, a tradition began in 1985, first Calgary with the "C" of Red (also known as the "Sea of Red") and later in Winnipeg with the "White Out". The tradition has now also found it's way to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where the Flyers fans opt for orange as their color of choice.

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A "White out" in Phoenix

Penguins whiteout
The Penguins version of the "White out"

Flyers orange
The Flyer faithful opt for orange - even if the team didn't!

Finally, it must be noted that while many, many fans in cities all across the NHL buy and wear t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies and jerseys of all kinds, not everyone choses to participate,

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Shirtless Buffalo Sabres fans at the 2008 Winter Classic

even though those sitting around them sometimes wish they would...

Lightning fans shirtless
Tampa Bay Lightning fans who
"gotta support the team" opt for body paint instead

Oilers fans who are no doubt lubricated also
opt for the "body paint jersey" approach

With clearly plenty of money on the line with the higher prices charged these days for replica and especially retail authentic jerseys, it's disappointing and baffling how Nike in particular cannot seem to be bothered with making the current 2014 Winter Olympic jerseys available in anything other than the most basic choices. A check of River City Sports in Winnipeg and Ice Jerseys in Montreal shows only the three Canada and red Russia jerseys for sale, while one has to really search to even be able to buy the United States jerseys!

Apparently gone are the days when Nike at least made the colored road jerseys from each team for retail with the more popular nations occasionally in the home white, such as in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics when even a Belarus jersey was yours for the asking. The supply began to tighten up in 2006 with the introduction of the new Nike Swift styles and by 2010 if you didn't have your jersey ordered by the time the games started, you considered yourself extremely fortunate to find anything other than a Canada or US jersey, and if by chance you were actually able to track down something as obscure as Norway, that was quite an accomplishment. It appears that this time around, Nike has all but turned it's back on the international jersey market, leaving fans admire their new favorite style on TV, but not in their closet. Any die-hard Los Angeles Kings fan hoping to stand out from the crowd by wearing an Anze Kopitar Slovenia jersey is going to be disappointed.

Today's featured jersey is a 1969-70 Boston Bruins Bobby Orr jersey, the style worn while he was flying through the air like Superman in 1970, which shows how much things have changed in the world of sports merchandising.

At the time Orr scored his famous overtime Stanley Cup winning goal, no such thing existed for fans and collectors to buy, as if there even was such a thing as a memorabilia collector back then.

While jerseys had become available for sale to fans by the late 1980's, things changed in a dramatic way with the arrival of the auction site ebay in 1995. Fans  could now list their old jerseys they no longer needed, giving fans and collectors a chance to buy things no longer commercially available.

One trend in particular was the prices being paid for some of the early, lower quality jerseys from defunct clubs such as the Minnesota North Stars, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques. These original jerseys often reached triple digits for the scarce examples, particularly in the larger sizes, as the older ones ran a size smaller than the current CCM 550's of the day and more of the smallest ones were originally unsold and more readily available now that there was a chance to market them.

Eventually, sensing an opportunity was at hand, CCM introduced "The Vintage Line", reprising long out of production styles which were now up to modern quality standards, as well as making some pre-1980 jersey styles available for the first time ever, such as today's featured Orr Bruins style.

The idea was a hit, as a brand new, available on demand CCM Vintage Line replica jersey was around $80, some 20% less than some of the prices being paid for the semi-transparent, quasi-accurate original releases with the often undersized main crests. There were also authentic model CCM 6100 jerseys, the same as worn on the ice by current NHLers, complete with fight straps for those seeking the most authentic jersey possible, something never before available for the vintage styles.

With the first group of a dozen or so Vintage Line jerseys selling very well, the following year saw a new selection made available, again reprising old styles that were ebay favorites or past jerseys of highly collected players of the day, such as All-Star jerseys worn by Wayne Gretzky and Pittsburgh Penguins Mario Lemieux jerseys from the Penguins back to back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. For several years CCM continued to produce a new group of jerseys each year, which were quickly snapped up by those hungry for the older styles which brought back so many great memories, such as your favorite player flying through the air in celebration of winning a Stanley Cup 30 years ago.

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In the days before modern marketing, merchandising, product placement, movie tie-ins and endorsements, Orr scores the game winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, and there's not a single ad on the dasher boards or souvenir shirt, cap or jersey to be found.

Next is the final minute of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" between the United States and Soviet Union, which, if held today, would generate $1,000,000 in retail sales at the arena.

Here is footage of Calgary's Sea of Red.

White outs in Winnipeg, later Phoenix and more recently Pittsburgh.

Finally, this kid's got it all covered, the jersey and the shirtless/body paint angle.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Sochi Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Tournament Schedule

Today, February 12th, begins the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games Men's Ice Hockey Tournament.

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The opening games will be the Czech Republic and Sweden on the USA Network and Latvia taking on Switzerland on MSNBC in Group C, with both starting at 12:00 PM Eastern Time.

The 10 hour time difference rears it's ugly head the next day, February 13th when a full slate of games dictates the first game of the day between Finland and Austria (NBC Sports Network (NBCSN)) airs live at 3 AM. The host Russians begin play against Slovenia at 7:30 AM on MSNBC while at the same time, the United States begins play against Slovakia on NBCSN. The day concludes with Canada vs. Norway on USA at 12 noon.

A similar schedule follows on Friday the 14th, with the Czech Republic vs. Latvia at 3 AM (MSNBC), Sweden vs. Switzerland (NBCSN) at 7:30 AM and a pair of games at noon, Canada vs. Austria (USA) and Norway vs. Finland (MSNBC).

Saturday the 15th has Slovakia vs Slovenia at 3 AM on MSNBC followed by the United States vs. Russia matchup on NBCSN at 7:30 AM (which you think would have been worthy of the main NBC Network) followed by the final Group C games at noon, Switzerland vs. the Czech Republic (NBCSN) and Sweden vs. Latvia (USA).

This raises the question, wouldn't 9 PM Moscow time and noon in North America be a better time for the United States vs. Russia game than 4:30 PM Moscow time and 7:30 AM in North America? Doesn't Russian TV have "prime time"? Honestly, 7 PM in Moscow is 10 AM in North America. Doesn't NBC pay enough to dictate at least a better start time for the United States vs Russia or wouldn't the host Russians prefer their game to be on at a later time than 4:30 in the afternoon?

The final day of group play arrives on Sunday the 16th. Austria plays Norway at 3 AM on USA, Russia meets Slovakia at 7:30 AM on USA in Group A as the United States meets Slovenia at the same time on NBCSN. Preliminary Round play concludes with Finland vs. Canada on USA at noon.

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The sweaters of the many Chicago Blackhawks competing in Sochi

Following the Preliminary Round, things get serious on February 18th, as the teams ranked 5th through 12th, who have not earned byes in the Preliminary Round, are all paired off in a one day series of knockout games, called the Qualification Playoffs, to determine who advances to the Quarterfinals. The day hockey begins at 3 AM (NBCSN) with games following at 7:30 AM (USA) with two more at noon (NBCSN & MSNBC) and is a day primed for upsets, with the lower ranked teams fighting for their lives with everything to gain and nothing to lose. A goalie on his day can eliminate a genuine medal contender in a format such as this and is a day of hockey not to be missed. We must question though, why two games are being held at the same time, rather than four consecutive games as in 2010 in Vancouver?

The process is repeated the very next day on February 19th when the Quarterfinals occur on the same time schedule, 3 AM NBCSN, 7:30 AM NBCSN and noon USA & MSNBC, another day of drama as the surviving teams from the day before take on the top four clubs, who will have been resting up for two days. Any of the major teams who slip into the Qualification Playoffs will be looking to correct any earlier slip-ups and keep their tournament alive in another day of elimination games. The matchups on this day will feature winners of each group in the Preliminary Round and all their associated star players in action.

The Semifinals occur on February 21st at 7 AM and noon, both on NBCSN, when the four surviving teams meet to determine which two will play for the bronze medal on Saturday, February 22nd on NBCSN with the gold medal final on Sunday, February 28th, finally on the main NBC network itself.

Here is a link to a nice grid of the matchups, times and networks for all the 2014 Olympic hockey games for the United States, and here is a day-by-day listing for Canada, which will have games on SportsNet, SportsNet1, TSN, TSN2 and the CBC, who will have the honors of carrying the bronze and gold medal games.

Dasherboard: With the Olympic Games starting today, it's not too late to get your hockey name with our Third String Goalie Hockey Name Generator. Choose from Canadian, Finnish, French-Canadian, Russian or Swedish!

The Third String Goalie
Hockey Name Generator!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

2014 Olympic Hockey Preview - Sweden

The Sweden National Hockey Team is currently ranked 1st in the IIHF World Rankings and will be looking to return to the top step of the medals podium, having won the gold medal at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. In addition, they are the current World Champions, having claimed the title in the spring of 2013 at home in Stockholm to become the first team to win at home since 1986, a span of 28 years without a host champion, which spawned talk of a "home curse". 

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Based on their status as one of the top nine ranked countries, Sweden was automatically entered in the 2014 Olympic tournament, allowing them avoid the qualification process for teams outside the top nine.

The Swedes have participated in hockey at the Olympics 20 of a possible 22 times since hockey first became an Olympic sport in 1920, with finishes in the medals coming in just under half of their appearances. Their best results have been gold medals in 1994, following Peter Forsberg's famous goal in the shootout of the championship game, and again in 2006 in Torino, Italy against rivals Finland. Additionally, Sweden has also captured silver medals in 1928 and 1964, with bronze medals coming in 1952, 1980, 1984 and 1988.

The postage stamp commemorating Forsberg's
1994 shootout goal against Canada

Sweden are regular participants in the World Championships, with their first appearance coming in 1931. Considered one of the World's elite hockey nations, Sweden has never been outside of the Top Division of the World Championships in their history, with medal winning finishes coming more often than not.

The Swedes have captured the World Championship nine times, the most recent being in the most recent championships held in 2013. They have also won silver 17 times and bronze an additional 15 times.

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Sweden celebrating their 2013 world championship

Considered one of the World's elite teams, they have also participated in the six team Canada Cup tournaments all five times it was held, with a best finish of second in 1984, and the eight team World Cup of Hockey twice, reaching the semi-finals in 1996.

Sweden enters the 2014 Olympics with 24 NHLers on it's roster out of 25 players, with the lone European based player being forward Jimmie Ericsson of Skelleftea AIK in Sweden.

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The Swedes look solid all around with the New York Rangers Henrik Lundqvist in goal, a veteran defensive group led by Erik Karlsson of Ottawa. The forwards are led by Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit plus Nicklas Bäckstrom of Washington and Daniel Sedin of Vancouver, with his brother Henrik Sedin being forced to miss the competition due to injury.

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With the format for this year's Olympics calling for the top four teams after the Preliminary Round to receive byes into the quarterfinals, the key for Sweden will be defeating the Czech Republic in their opening game on February 12 and then taking maximum points from Switzerland on the 14th in order to win Group C and avoid playing an extra knockout game the day before the quarterfinals on the 19th. Not only is this a realistic goal for Sweden, it is what is expected of them.

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Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Sweden National Team Mats Sundin jersey as worn in the 2006 Olympics where Sweden won gold. This style of jersey was one of the older style airknit jerseys, as Sweden and Switzerland were the only two nations in the field not to wear the new, supposedly performance enhancing Nike Swift jerseys for the first time.

Sweden's jerseys are the most traditional of all the national team jerseys, similar to the Montreal Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings in that they remain essentially unchanged with only minor tweaks throughout their history and are more resistant to manufacturer trends than other countries.

Note the detail of the Sweden Olympic logo added to the right shoulder jerseys, as well as the cosmetic "laces" in the neck yoke, two details which were unique to the jerseys worn in Torino, as Sweden then wore the Nike Swift style for the 2006 World Championships onward.

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Here is a look at the jerseys that Sweden will be wearing in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The Swedes can always be counted on to bring their usual understated class to any tournament with their three crowns, or "Tre Kronor", and minimal striping, regardless of the design trends of the day. These jerseys have even less striping than usual and also maintain their traditional, unique and preferred yellow home jersey paired with their less often seen blue roads.

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Sweden has a long and illustrious history to draw on for today's video selections, and we begin with a look at several of the gold medals Sweden has won since 1987.

Here is the conclusion of the shootout in the gold medal game at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, which included Forsberg's famous goal.

In 2006, Sweden became the first country to win both the Olympics and the World Championships in the same season. Here are highlights of the Gold Medal game against rivals Finland.

And here they celebrate the historic double by winning the World Championships three months later.

Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 Olympic Hockey Preview - Finland

The Finland National Hockey Team is currently ranked 2nd in the IIHF World Rankings and should be considered a medal contender in Sochi, having won the World Championship as recently as 2011.

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Based on their status as one of the top nine ranked countries, Finland was automatically entered in the 2010 Olympic tournament, allowing them avoid the qualification process for teams outside the top nine.

The Finns have participated in hockey at the Olympics 15 times since 1952, with finishes in the medals becoming a frequent result since 1988. Their best results have been silver medals in 1988 and 2006, with bronze medals coming in 1994, 1998 and 2010.

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Finland's captain Mikko Koivu is thrilled to hoist
the World Championship trophy

Finland are regular participants in the World Championships since 1949 and even had one appearance as far back as 1939. Considered one of the World's elite hockey nations, Finland has never been outside of the Top Division of the World Championships. While they did not medal from 1949 to 1991, they were regular finishers in places 4, 5 and 6, with 28 out of 33 tournaments seeing them falling in that range just below the medals, including six consecutive 4th place finishes in the early 1970's.

Once they broke through in 1992 with a silver medal, they have become frequent visitors to the awards ceremonies, with three bronze medals in 2000, 2006 and 2008, six silver medals in 1992, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2007 and earned their first gold medal and World Championship title in 1995 with a roster that included familiar names such as Janne Niinimaa, Sami Kapanen and the line of Saku Koivu, Ville Peltonen and Jere Lehtinen, nicknamed "Huey, Dewey and Louie".

They again returned to the top with a second World Championship in 2011, led by tournament leading scorer Jarkko Immonen, Mikael Granlund, who earned himself a place in Finnish history with a postage stamp to commemorate his shock goal against Russia, goaltender Petri Vehanen and captain Mikko Koivu.

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Considered one of the World's elite teams, they have also participated in the six team Canada Cup four times, with a best finish of third in 1991, and the eight team World Cup of Hockey twice, with a silver medal in 2004.

Finland enters the 2014 Olympics with 16 NHLers on it's roster, led by their always world class goaltending, this time represented by Antti NiemiTuukka Rask and Kari Lehtonen. Their defense is anchored by veterans Sami Salo (39) and Kimmo Timonen (38). 

The Finnish forwards are down a man, due to the injury to Mikko Koivu, who was unable recover in time from a foot injury to lead the team in Sochi. Leadership will now come from their captain, the evergreen Teemu Selänne (43) and Olli Jokinen (35). Other familiar names are Valtteri Filppula, Granlund, Jussi Jokinen, Lauri Korpikoski, and Tuomo RuutuOf their remaining players, six play in the Russian KHL and three play at home in Finland.

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Selänne will be playing in his 6th Olympic Games

The strength of the Finns, as always, will be their goaltending, with three fine netminders to choose from. Their lineup of Niemi, Rask and Lehtonen has the potential to keep any team off the scoreboard and will carry this team deep into the tournament. More feisty and hard-hitting than the other Scandinavian countries, Finland plays more of a North American style game than any other European country.

With the format for this year's Olympics calling for the top four teams after the Preliminary Round to receive byes into the quarterfinals, the key for Finland will be defeating Canada in their game on February 16th in order to win Group B and avoid playing an extra knockout game the day before the quarterfinals on the 19th. If they fail to win the group, taking Canada to overtime to maximize their points in the standings could earn Finland the final bye up for grabs.

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Today's featured jersey is a 1991 Finland National Team Teemu Selänne jersey. This short lived style with the cartoonish lion head was worn during the 1991 Canada Cup tournament. By 1993 Finland had adopted a more dignified heraldic lion shield logo.

This jersey was featured on Selänne's rookie card, which became a much sought after item when Selanne set records for Most Goals by a Rookie with 76 and Most Points by a Rookie with 132, which still stand today 20 years later - and while Selänne is still an active player in the NHL.

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Here is a look at the jerseys that Finland will be wearing in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The logo on the blue jersey is based on the jerseys originally worn in 1965 when Finland hosted the World Championships.

The white jersey on the other hand…

It's the strangest one Nike has unleashed upon the field playing at Sochi with it's full bleed flag design on the body, one seriously unconventional jersey which is sure to receive plenty of commentary once it takes to the ice during the Games.

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Today's first video is Finland's finest moment in hockey, winning their first World Championships in 1995 against their rivals Sweden and in Sweden.

Next up is Finland winning the 2011 World Championship.

Finally, a Finnish Nike commercial featuring Mikko Koivu, Ruutu, Selanne, Filppula and Peltonen.


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