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Saturday, February 22, 2014

1998 Czech Republic Jaromir Jagr Jersey

The Olympic hockey tournament changed like never before in 1998 when the the National Hockey League players were allowed to compete for the first time. Prior to the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, professional players were allowed to participate, but with the Games taking place in February, the highest caliber players obligated to their ongoing NHL seasons, preventing them from even dreaming of taking part in the Olympics.

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Starting in 1920, the Olympic gold medal was essentially the property of Canada, winning 6 out of 7 possible gold medals through 1952. With the arrival of the Soviet Union on the scene in 1956, the balance of power was radically changed. Through 1992, when the Soviet trained players skated together one final time as the Unified Team, the Soviets won 8 to of 10 golds, with only the Americans winning twice at home preventing a clean sweep over the course of 4 decades by the Soviets.

Sweden took the gold in 1994 over Canada, but the form charts needed to be thrown away with the sudden availability of the stars of the NHL, who were now going to be on hand for the first time since their formative years, if not the first time ever for some, most notably Wayne Gretzky of Canada. With the NHL season on hold, interest in the tournament was tremendous.

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Jaromir Jagr would be making his first Olympic appearance in 1998

The tournament began with Kazakhstan winning Group A and Belarus taking Group B, with the two former Soviet states advancing to the First Round at the expense of Slovakia, Italy, Austria, Germany, France and Japan, whose tournaments were now over after just three games of the Preliminary Round.

The tournament format now called for two groups of four teams to play a round robin schedule to determine their seeings when they all would advance to face an opponent from the opposite group in the single elimination Final Round playoffs.

Kazakhstan was placed in Group D along with the Czech Republic, Finland and Russia, who were all placed into the First Round directly based on their IIHF world ranking prior to the tournament, the same as Canada, Sweden and the United States in Group C, who were joined by Belarus.

In Group C, Canada finished first with a perfect 3-0 record to give them hope of returning to the top place on the medal stand for the first time since 1952 now that the controversy between their best amateurs versus the Soviet "amateurs" had now been finally removed, leveling the playing field on the Olympic stage for the first time in decades.

Canada's opponent as the first seed in Group C was the fourth place finisher in Group D, Kazakhstan. Sweden finished second thanks to a 4-2 win over the Americans, which paired them with Finland in the quarterfinals.

Group D winning Russia drew overmatched Belarus from Group C, while the Czech Republic's second place in Group D saw it facing the United States.

Group winners Canada and Russia held serve with a pair of easy 4-1 wins over Kazakhstan and Belarus as expected. The under achieving United States ran afoul of the Czech Republic, also by a 4-1 score. The only upset in terms of seeding came with Finland's exciting 2-1 defeat of Nordic rivals Sweden in a tense game that was scoreless after two periods.

The parings for the semifinals saw Canada drawing the Czech Republic. The Canadians were armed with some of the finest firepower in all of the world, including forwards Wayne Gretzky, Theo Fleury, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman, boasted a defensive hall of fame with Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, Al MacInnis, Chris Pronger and Scott Stevens, with the legendary Patrick Roy in goal. Amazingly, the Canadian team General Manager Bobby Clarke chose Rob Zamuner to be on the Canadian roster over Mark Messier and Lindros as captain rather than Gretzky, Bourque or Yzerman!

Going into their game against Canada, the Czechs had won three and lost one, but goaltender Dominik Hasek was in top form, having surrendered only 5 goals in 4 games, with their only loss being a 2-1 decision to Russia in the First Round.

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The Czech Republic losing to Russia 2-1 in Group D play

The first two periods passed without a goal by either side, as Roy and Hasek traded saves. Finally halfway through the third period, Jiri Slegr beat Roy with an assist from the veteran Pavel Patera. The Canadians pressed hard for the equalizer, but the Czech defensive system stood tall and Hasek took care of the rest as time would down. Finally with just 1:03 remaining in the game, Trevor Linden solved Hasek with an assist from Lindros.

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Jaromir Jagr battles Joe Niewendyk of Canada

Following a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout to determine who would advance to the gold medal final. Fleury, Bourque, Nieuwendyk, Lindros and Shanahan were all stopped by the on-form Hasek, while Robert Reichel's opening goal in off the pipe proved to be enough to win the game for the Czechs.

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Hasek stops Shanahan to seal the victory for the Czech Republic

Russia advanced to face their long-time rivals with a dominant 7-4 win over Finland, setting up a rematch of their earlier First Round game, which was won by the Russians 2-1.

The championship final, held on this date in 1998, was a predictably low scoring affair, as each team looked to exploit any mistakes by their opponent, while both teams kept their game simple and looked to avoid any unnecessary mistakes. Just like in their first meeting, the opening period passed with no scoring and moved on to the second.

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Action from the second meeting between Russia and
the Czech Republic, only this time for the gold medal

Again, Hasek in goal for the Czechs and Mikhail Stalenkov stood tall in goal for the Russians as both teams failed to solve the other. As the game approached the midway point of the third period, a faceoff took place in the Russian zone to the right of Stalenkov. Martin Prochazka won the draw back to his winger Patera, who simply slid the puck back to Petr Svoboda on the point, who teed up the puck and fired it on goal. It passed through a tangle of traffic still hooked up following the faceoff and flew past Stalenkov and into the net for a 1-0 Czech Republic lead with 11:52 still remaining.

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Hasek holding off the Russian attack

The goal was enough for Hasek however, as he and his teammates finished off the shutout to capture the first gold medal of the full participation Olympic hockey tournament, making Hasek a household name around the world and Svoboda an instant and unlikely hero, as in 1,028 NHL games, the defensive defenseman had only scored 58 goals, less than 3 1/2 per season, with a career high of 8.

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Jagr's gold medal earned him a meeting with Czech President Vaclav Havel

Today's featured jersey is a 1998 Czech Republic Jaromir Jagr jersey as worn during the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. This style of jersey was first introduced for the 1998 Olympics by Nike, who produced new uniforms for each of the participating teams in that year's Games.

The Czech Republic jerseys, while somewhat similar to Canada and Belarus, with it's arched striping from the collar to the armpits, employed a unique font for the numbers as well as the bold color blocks inspired by the flag of the Czech Republic to set it apart from the others, but left no doubt as to who it belonged to with the ultra bold CZECH emblazoned across the lower back!

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Czech Republic 1998 jersey photo CzechRepublic1998RB.jpg

Our first video today are quick highlights from the Czech Republic's gold medal performance at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. Gooooooaaaaaaallllllll!!!!

Up next is the tense shootout between Canada and the Czech Republic in the semifinals, highlighting the sprawling, twisting, unorthodox style used by Hasek to full effect.

This next video contains extended highlights from the goal medal final, won by the Czech Repbulic 1-0 over Russia.

Friday, February 21, 2014

1995 Canada National Team Ryan Smyth Jersey

Having scored 50 goals and 105 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL during the 1993-94 season, Ryan Smyth was named to the Canadian World Junior squad for the 1995 tournament, held in Red Deer, Alberta, just 2 1/2 hours from his birthplace of Banff.

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Smyth played his junior hockey for the Moose Jaw Warriors

Canada rolled to a perfect 7-0 record to give Smyth his first gold medal upon his international hockey debut. Smyth was tied for seventh in team scoring with 2 goals and 5 assists in the seven games.

Following the World Juniors, Smyth would return to Moose Jaw to finish the 1994-95 season, and when the Warriors were eliminated from the WHL playoffs, Smyth would make his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers, appearing in three games.

After playing four seasons for the Oilers, including two Conference Semifinals appearances in 1997 and 1998, the Oilers were eliminated quickly from the 1999 playoffs, freeing up Smyth for his first World Championships, which were held in Norway. Canada missed out on a medal by dropping the bronze medal game to Sweden 3-2.

Smyth returned to the World Championships again in 2000 in Russia. Canada suffered through a rough First Round, losing to both Norway and the Czech Republic, but advanced to the Second Round, where they righted their ship with wins over Finland, Italy and Slovakia to advance to the Final Round knockout playoffs. Despite defeating Switzerland, they again fell to the eventual champion Czechs prior to losing in the bronze game for the second year in a row in a rematch with Finland. Smyth's final stats were 3 goals and 9 points in 9 games, which would prove to be a career high.

For the 2001 World Championships, Smyth was named team captain for the event in Germany. While Smyth contributed 2 goals and 5 points in seven games, A Quarterfinal loss to the United States left Canada out of the medals with a 5 place finish.

Smyth, born on this date in 1976, was named to the 2002 Canadian Olympic Team for the games in Salt Lake City, his first Olympic appearance. The Canadians stumbled out of the gate, losing to Sweden 5-2 in their first game, eked out a narrow 3-2 win over Germany and then tied the Czech Republic, but came alive in the final round playoffs, first defeating Finland 2-1 before being handed a gift when Belarus shockingly eliminated the number one ranked Swedes. With Belarus demolished 7-1, Canadian confidence was high and they captured the gold medal with a 5-2 win over the host United States just three days shy of Smyth's birthday.

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Smyth is exuberant after winning the 2002 Olympic gold medal

Two months later, Smyth was back at the World Championships, again as team captain. Smyth contributed 4 goals as the Canadians cruised to a 4-1 record before losing by a goal to the eventual champion Slovaks in the Quarterfinals.

Smyth was back again for the 2003 World Championships in Finland. They reached the playoffs with a 4-0-1 record and defeated Germany 3-2, the Czech Republic 8-4 and then downed Sweden 3-2 to claim the title and Smyth's first World Championship gold medal, as he had the honor of hoisting the championship trophy as the team captain. The gold medal was Canada's first since 1997. Smyth totaled 2 goals and 4 points in the effort.

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Smyth with the World Championship trophy in 2003

He was back again as captain in 2004 and, following 3-1-1 early results, Canada knocked out Finland 5-4, got by Slovakia 2-1 and then claimed back-to-back world championships by defeating Sweden for the second year in a row, this time 5-3. Smyth again had 2 goals and 4 points during the tournament.

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Smyth shares a moment with his daughter
after winning the 2004 World Championships

Later that same year, Smyth once again was putting on the maple leaf for his country, this time at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey where he contributed 3 goals and 4 points. Playing in front of the home fans in Montreal and Toronto, Canada won the North American pool with a 3-0 record before a dominating 5-0 win over Slovakia, followed by a 4-3 overtime thriller against the Czech Republic before capturing the championship with a 3-2 win over Finland.

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Ryan Smyth congratulated after a goal during the 2004 World Cup

With the NHL players being locked out by the owners preventing the NHL season from taking place after the World Cup, Smyth was available for World Championship duty in Austria that spring. He was named team captain for the fifth consecutive year, which earned him the nickname "Captain Canada". After going 3-0 in the First Round, a 1-1-1 Second Round saw Canada needing to regain their form, which they did with wins over Slovakia (5-4) and Russia (4-3) before losing in the finals to the Czechs, which gave Smyth his first sliver medal, having won gold in his previous five finals.

Smyth made his second Olympic appearance at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy but the Canadians fell short in the Quarterfinals to Russia 2-0 to finish out of the medals.

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Smyth at the 2006 Olympic Games

The 2002-07 season was Smyth's 12th with the Oilers, but after 53 games he was dealt to the New York Islanders in an emotional moment for Smyth. He would finish the season with the Islanders before moving to the Colorado Avalanche for the next two seasons and then joined the Los Angeles Kings for the 2009-10 season. Following the regular season, Smyth was call upon by Canada for the first time in four years for the World Championships in Germany, where he was named team captain for the sixth time. Unfortunately for Smyth, he suffered an ankle injury during the Canadians first game, which kept him out of the remainder of the competition.

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Smyth wore his emotions on his sleeve when he left Edmonton

After another season with Los Angeles, Smyth returned to the Oilers for the 2011-12 season, but the start of the 2012-13 season was delayed after New Year's by another lockout. With no NHL season occupying his time at the close of 2012, Smyth was once more wearing not only the red and white of Canada, but the familiar captain's "C", only this time for the Spengler Cup tournament, held each year in Davos, Switzerland.

Loaded with otherwise unavailable NHL caliber talent, such as Jason Spezza, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Matt Duchene and Patrice Bergeron, Canada opened with an overtime loss to Adler Manheim of Germany, but won the group with a 5-0 win over HC Davos. They built off that momentum and advanced to the finals with a 5-1 win over HC Fribourg-Gotteron of Switzerland and won the Spengler Cup with a second 5 goal win over Davos, this time by a score of 7-2 as Smyth scored twice in the final, including the game winner.

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Ryan Smyth lifts the Spengler Cup

To date, Smyth has competed at one World Junior tournament, eight World Championships, captaining the team six times, two Olympics and one World Cup for a total of 85 games played scoring 20 goals and 44 points. He has now won an Olympic gold medal, two World Championship gold medals and one silver, a gold at the World Juniors, the World Cup and the Spengler Cup during his international career.

Today's featured jersey is a 1995 Canada National Team Ryan Smyth jersey from his first international tournament, the 1995 World Juniors where he earned his first gold medal out of four. This jersey would mark the first appearance of the red and black Hockey Canada logo on a Canadian National Team jersey. This style of jersey was only used for one year, having been used for the World Juniors and World Championships until Reebok was replaced by Nike as suppliers of jerseys to the IIHF beginning in 1996.

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Canada 1995 WJC jersey photo Canada1995WJCB.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2006 Canada National Team Ryan Smyth jersey as worn at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. The new Nike Swift styles made their international debut at the 2006 World Junior Championships with Canada and the USA in advance of being the predominant style worn at the Olympics five weeks later.

In Torino, every team, save Sweden and Switzerland, were wearing the new Swift styles, with all teams having changed over by the World Championships in May.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Our video section today begins with highlights of the gold medal game of the 2003 World Championships, Canada's first since 1997.

Next up is Smyth captaining Canada to back-to-back world championships with a victory in 2004.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2002 Belarus Vladimir Tsyplakov Jersey

On this date in 2002, Belarus shocked the hockey world with a stunning upset victory over heavily favored Sweden at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The format of the tournament called for only the top six teams automatically entered into the final eight, with the remaining eight countries obligated to play in the Preliminary Round, with the two survivors advancing to the Final Round of group play.

The NHL did not even bother to suspend league play for the Preliminary Round, which so severely hampered the efforts of countries like Latvia and Slovakia, whose star players were obligated to stay with their NHL clubs, that the Olympic format in 2006 was changed to prevent such an injustice from happening again.

Belarus started the tournament in Group B of the Preliminary Round with Ukraine, Switzerland and France and only one NHL player on their roster, Ruslan Salei.

They began their group play with a key 1-0 win over Ukraine and were aided when France managed a tie with Switzerland, leaving Belarus alone on top of the standings after just one game.

Belarus defeated France 3-1, while Ukraine downed Switzerland 5-2. All Belarus needed was to win or tie against Switzerland to win the group and advance, but they lost 2-1, while Ukraine tied them in the standings with 4 points apiece after their win over France 4-2, with Belarus advancing due to their head-to-head victory over Ukraine.

The Belarusian's reward for advancing, to only their second Olympic hockey tournament, was to be placed in a group with Russia, Finland and the United States.

There, things went pretty much as expected with losses to Russia 6-4, Finland 8-1 and the US 8-1, leaving Belarus last in the group with 6 goals for and 22 against.

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Fortunately for Belarus, all of the teams advanced to the Medal Round of knockout games, and, as the last place finisher in Group B, Belarus was paired with the winners of Group A, the heavily favored Swedes, who had just gone undefeated against Germany, the Czech Republic and Canada.

Sweden started out the game with a Nicklas Lidstrom power play goal at 3:10 of the first period, but then Belarus tied the game with a shorthanded goal by Oleg Romanov less than five minutes later. Dmitry Dudik then scored during a 5 on 3 advantage later in the first period to take the lead.

The confidence that goal gave Belarus showed as they counterattacked aggressively to take advantage of Sweden pushing one defenseman forward into the offensive play. Sweden tied the score after two periods with a goal by Michael Nylander.

The third period began with Belarus taking the lead once more at 2:47 with a goal by Andrei Kovalev and once more Sweden came back when Mats Sundin tied the game at 7:54, leaving 12 minutes to decide the game. Belarus killed off a penalty at the halfway point and Sweden had to do the same at 14:46.

Now down to the final five minutes, Sweden still fully expected to find the goal they needed to advance, but then the unthinkable happened...

Vladimir Kopat came up the ice with the puck, crossed the center red line and let go a 70-foot shot at the Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo, who won the gold medal for Sweden in 1994 when he stopped Paul Kariya's final shootout attempt for Canada. The puck continued to rise as it travelled toward the goal and, as Salo lost sight of the puck and then awkwardly jumped up and tried to catch it next to his head instead of just reaching up and gloving it, the puck hit him in the mask near his neck, bounced up and dribbled into the goal behind him for a 4-3 Belarus lead with just 2:24 to play.

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Belarus circled the wagons and kept Sweden at bay for the remainder of the game, including the final 56 seconds with and extra attacker on for Sweden. While Kopat will go down in history as the man who scored the improbable goal, goaltender Andrei Mezin starred for Belarus with 44 saves, keeping them in the game despite being outshot 47-27. "For sure, it is a miracle for us," Mezin said. "But sometimes a gun without bullets can shoot, and that was us. We've made our place in history."

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"He played the game of his life," Sweden coach Hardy Nilsson said.

"It's a devastating loss for us and our country," Swedish forward Markus Naslund said.

"I don't understand how we could lose against this team. We should have put this team away in the first or second period," Swedish captain Sundin said.

The victory was immediately ranked as one of the top three upsets in Olympic history, along with the United States victory over the Soviet Union in 1980 and Great Britian's defeat of Canada in 1936.

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Kopat, who scored the winning goal, was asked, ''Do you believe in miracles?'' ''Yes,'' he replied. ''Of course. It was just a shot from the red line and ... well, that's what happened," he said, as incredulous about the goal as anyone.
Even Salei said afterward, "It was a lucky goal."

Belarus would finish the tournament classified fourth.

Today's featured jersey is a 2002 Belarus National Team Vladimir Tsyplakov jersey as worn during their famous upset over Sweden at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Belarus first introduced this jersey style in 1998 with "Belarus" on the front in Latin characters which went at a diagonal, upwards to the left. For 2002 the cresting changed to Cyrillic horizontally across the front. This final version would remain in use through 2005.

Tsyplakov was originally drafted 59th overall by the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL and played for the Kings in five seasons and parts of two more seasons with the Buffalo Sabres before returning to Russia, where he played an additional four years before retiring. His final NHL totals were 331 games, 69 goals and 101 assists for 170 points.

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Belarus 2002 jersey photo Belarus2002B.jpg

Here are the final few minutes of Belarus' shocking upset victory against Sweden in the 2002 Olympics.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

1976-77 New York Rangers Rod Gilbert Jersey

Rod Gilbert's career almost never happened, as during the 1959-60 season in junior hockey, with one game left in the season, he slipped on some trash thrown on the ice and fell backwards into the boards, fracturing his back and was paralyzed for two months and underwent spinal fusion surgery. He also got an infection in his tibia, raising talk of an amputation, and a staph infection in his back. In total Gilbert required eight months of recovery time.

Fully recovered, he began his career with the Rangers in 1960-61, getting into one game following the conclusion of his junior hockey season. His first NHL goal came in the playoffs following the 1961-62 season when he scored 5 points in 4 games before cracking the Rangers lineup the following season and getting into 70 games in 1962-63, scoring 11 goals and 31 points.

Rod Gilbert Rangers

He really made strides in 1963-64, more than doubling his point total from the year prior, with 24 goals and 64 points and playing in the first of eight NHL All-Star Games, followed by another 25 goals and 61 points the next season and another All-Star Game appearance, all while playing with a back brace.

Another back surgery, and an incident while recovering in the hospital when he choked as a result of acute indigestion and was clinically dead for four minutes before being revived, caused him to miss more than half the season in 1965-66, but for the next 11 seasons Gilbert would play in a minimum of 64 games, with 9 of those seasons being 70 games or more.

Gilbert, teamed with center Jean Ratelle, whom Gilbert had played with as early as age 10, and team captain Vic Hadfield on left wing, would form the GAG Line, which stood for "Goal A Game" and would play together in the late 1960's and early 1970's, averaging over a goal a game.

The GAG Line waiting for another opportunity to score

In 1971-72 Ratelle, Hadfield and Gilbert would finish third, fourth and fifth in the NHL scoring race, which included Ratelle missing a month with a broken ankle! The trio was broken up in 1974 when Hadfield was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gilbert's best seasons were 1971-72, with 43 goals, his career high, and 54 assists for 97 points and his only trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and 1974-75 with 36 goals and 61 assists for a matching 97 points.

The 1975 trade of lifelong friend and linemate Ratelle took away some of Gilbert's spirit and likely hastened the end of his career, as Gilbert only played two more seasons following the trade.

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Gilbert in 1975-76 with the Rangers 50th anniversary patch on his jersey

He would maintain his high level of play though, with 86 points in 70 games in 1975-76 and 75 points in 77 games in 1976-77 which included his 1,000th game on December 12, 1976 and his 1,000th point on this date in 1977 during a game in which he scored a goal and an assist against the New York Islanders in his 1,027th game.

Rod Gilbert Rangers
As was the case with many players who began playing in the early 60's, his hair grew noticeably longer throughout his career!

He retire after playing 19 games of the 1977-78 season after 19 seasons with 1065 games played, 406 goals and 615 assists for 1,021 points.

Gilbert had his #7 retired by the Rangers in 1979, astonishingly the first Ranger to ever have his number retired in the then 53 years of Rangers history! He was later inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1982.

Rod Gilbert Rangers

Internationally, Gilbert played for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series, scoring 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 games, and again for Canada in the 1977 World Championships with 4 points in 9 games.

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Gilbert posing while wearing the 1972 Summit Series Canada jersey

Today's featured jersey is a 1976-77 New York Rangers Rod Gilbert jersey from his final season in the NHL. This jersey style was first introduced by General Manager John Ferguson Sr. in the 1976-77 season and was the first departure in club history from the iconic diagonal "RANGERS" cresting.

New York Rangers 76-77 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

After proving unpopular with the tradition bound Rangers fans, this style was only used for two seasons, the first without names on the back of the road jerseys as featured today, and, thanks to a new NHL rule requiring them, with names on the back for the 1977-78 season. Names were always worn on the home white jerseys of this style.

After being let go by the Rangers in 1978, Ferguson became the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and reprised the exact same jersey template for the Jets beginning with their inaugural NHL season in 1979, with the only differences being the font for the name and numbers and, naturally, the team logo. The Jets would use this style all throughout the 1980's.

Today's video shows the hight of Gilbert's fame and popularity, as he is featured in a commercial for Mercury cars in 1970.

Next, we are pleased to present the excellent "Legends of Hockey" profile of
Rod Gilbert.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2004 Switzerland National Team Martin Gerber Jersey

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy the 12 teams were placed in two groups of six, with the top four in each group advancing to the Medal Round.

Switzerland was not among the top eight ranked teams in the 2004 IIHF World Rankings, and therefore did not have a reserved a place in the tournament, forcing them to participate in the Qualification Tournaments for the chance to earn one of the four remaining spots in the field of 12.

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The Swiss were placed in Group A with Japan, Denmark and Norway, and completed their group schedule with a 3-0 record to advance to Torino.

Once in Italy, they found themselves in Group A with #1 ranked Canada, #4 the Czech Republic, #5 Finland, #8 Germany and hosts Italy.

The Swiss opened their tournament with a resounding loss to Finland by a score of 5-0 on February 15. The very next day, they pulled off a stunner, defeating the Czech Republic by a score of 3-2. Switzerland opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first period on a goal by Thomas Zigler, but Jaromir Jagr tied the game for the Czechs at 2:55 of the second. Switzerland again took the lead at the midway point of the second on a shorthanded goal by Theirry Paterlini and the period would finish 2-1.

One minute into the third the Czechs pulled level on a goal by Marek Zidlicky. NHLer Mark Streit would score on the powerplay for Switzerland just under six minutes later. After killing off a penalty with nine minutes remaining, the Swiss held off the Czechs behind the goaltending of David Aebischer to complete the upset victory.

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Switzerland held off the Czechs for a surprising win

Two days later, on this date in 2002, the Swiss would face off against the top ranked Canadians.

Sixty minutes later, the greatest Olympic upset in Swiss hockey history was complete.

Paul DiPietro scored the first goal at 18:19 after Canada had gone 0-5 on the powerplay during the first period.

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The second goal came while Canada was down two men after penalty calls just 47 seconds apart. DiPietro capitalized on the golden opportunity just 10 seconds into the two man advantage at 8:47 of the second to put the Swiss up by two, but with the crowd still expecting the Canadians to come roaring back at any moment.

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DiPietro's second goal eludes a desperate Brodeur

The Swiss started the third having to kill off a Canadian powerplay three minutes into the period, which they did successfully. Then Martin Gerber's controversial save on Rick Nash while on the powerplay prevented Canada from not only scoring their first goal that many felt was inevitable, but also robbed Canada of some much needed momentum that a goal would have certainly generated.

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Martin Gerber

Canada would have an opportunity to go on the powerplay one final time with exactly two minutes remaining, only to have a penalty called against them just seven seconds later, negating Canada's last, best chance.

The frustrated Canadians would finish the game 0-11 on the powerplay and, as hard as the shutout loss was for the Canadians to grasp, what made it worse was that the goal scorer DiPietro was born in Canada! Gerber had 49 saves for the Swiss, who fielded a team with just two NHL players on their roster and managed only 18 shots in the victory, which would be ranked as the #87 story in the IIHF 100 Top Stories of the Century.

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Paul DiPietro shakes hands with Martin Brodeur following
Swtizerland's memorable upset victory

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Switzerland National Team Martin Gerber jersey as worn during the 2004 World Championships. This particular style of jersey was first worn by the Swiss in 1998 and would remain in use through 2004 with only a minor change to the collar for 2001, going from a v-neck to a yoke style. 

Gerber began his career with several seasons in the Swiss league and one in Sweden before joining the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for the 2002-03 season. After two seasons there and the lockout season of 2004-05, Gerber would join the Carolina Hurricanes for 2005-06, where he would get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, the second Swiss player after fellow goaltender Aebischer to earn that honor.

In the 2008-09 season Gerber would move to the Ottawa Senators for two seasons. During the third season in Ottawa, Gerber would be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. For 2009-10, Gerber signed a contract with Atlant Moscow of the Russian KHL but would return to North America in 2010-11 to close out his career with 42 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL and three final NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers.

Internationally, Gerber would play for Switzerland ten times, beginning with the 2000 World Championships, his first of eight, with the remaining two being the 2002 and 2006 Olympics. He would finish with a 20-24-2 record in 46 games with a 2.37 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

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Switzerland 2004 WC jersey photo Switzerland2004WCB.jpg

Here is Gerber making an astounding, and controversial, save against Rick Nash during his shutout of the Canadians during the 2006 Olympics.

And finally, the last minute of the game as the Swiss players celebrate their upset victory, something they will be looking to repeat in Vancouver.

Monday, February 17, 2014

1968 Soviet Union National Team Anatoli Firsov Jersey

The 1968 Winter Olympics were held in Grenoble, France and saw eight teams  competing in a single round-robin format, with the top three places in the standings earning the medals.

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Play began on February 6 with Czechoslovakia defeating the United States 5-1, Canada downing West Germany 6-1 and the Soviet Union dominating Finland 8-0 to continue their unbeaten streak which dated back to March 10, 1963.

The Soviets had lost to Sweden 2-1 in the second game of the 1963 World Championships, but then won their final five games by a combined score of 43-6 to win their first of five consecutive World Championships leading up to the 1968 Games in Grenoble, which included the 1964 Olympics, which counted as that year's World Championships, as did the 1968 Games in France.

The Soviets won again 9-0 over East Germany the next day as Anatoli Firsov led them with three goals, while the Czechs kept pace with a 5-1 victory over West Germany on the 8th. February 9 saw the United States fall to the Soviets 10-2 as Firsov scored his second consecutive hat trick and the Czechs outlasted Finland 4-3 on the 10th.

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Anatoli Firsov

The Soviets moved to 4-0 following an easy 9-1 win over West Germany and again the Czech answered with their own 10-3 triumph over the East Germans.

The dominating Soviets winning streak now reached 39 games with a narrow 3-2 win over the Swedes on February 13. Meanwhile, the Czechs fell behind 3-0 to Canada after two periods and, while they got to within 3-2, they could not find the equalizer and fell to the Canadians, perhaps looking forward to their next game with the Soviets.

That game arrived on February 15th and saw the Czech streak out to an unexpected 3-1 lead after one period, but there was still plenty of time for the Soviets to stage a comeback. Another 20 minutes passed with each team scoring once. While the Soviets did score twice, the Czechs got the goal they needed to preserve a 5-4 win, ending the Soviets winning streak less than a month shy of five years.

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The Czechs ended the five year long
Soviet wining streak in 1968

Of note, on this date in 1968, East Germany faced off against West Germany for the first and only time at the Olympics, as during the previous three Games, the two countries were represented by a single team known as the "Unified Team of Germany". For their 1968 face off, the West Germans prevailed 4-2 for their only win of the tournament, keeping the East Germans winless at 0-7.

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The historic meeting between East Germany (in red) and West Germany in 1968

But there was still the matter of the medals to determine. Not only did the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia enter the final day of competition with a 5-1 record, Canada had also kept pace over the course of the tournament with a 5-1 record of their own, defeating the Czechs and only losing in their second game to Finland.

Czechoslovakia would win to take gold even if the Soviet Union beat Canada, as the Czechs held the tiebreaker over the Soviets thanks to their head-to-head victory. However, if the Canadians were to defeat the Soviets, they in turn held the advantage over the Czechs! However, the tiebreakers were all rendered useless when the Czechs allowed the Swedes to score a third period goal for a 2-2 tie leaving the final game as a winner take all affair.

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The Soviet Union in the final game of the tournament against Canada

When the seasoned Soviet veterans cruised past the team of Canadian college students 5-0 in the final game of the tournament, gold was again theirs. Firsov led all scorers with 12 goals and 16 points in seven games, accounting for a quarter of all the Soviet goals. Teammates Viktor Polupanov, Viacheslav Starshinov and Vladimir Vikulov finished with 12 points each to lead a 1-4 Soviet sweep of the scoring race. 

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The Soviets celebrate their gold in a public display of emotion

The loss dropped Canada to a 5-2 record and the bronze medal while the Czechs were awarded the silver with a record of 5-1-1.

This would be the final Olympics for the Canadians until 1980, as a dispute about the rules of amateurism led to them withdrawing from international competition from 1970 to 1976, causing them to miss the Games in both 1972 and 1976 as well as all the World Championships during that time period, including the 1970 Worlds, which they were scheduled to host for the first time ever.

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The 1968 team was the last Olympic appearance by the Canadians until 1980

Today's featured jersey is a 1968 Soviet Union National Team Anatoli Firsov jersey as worn during the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France as the Soviet Union won their third gold medal in four tries and second consecutive. The Soviet Union first began wearing this basic, utilitarian style jersey as far back as 1964 and it would remain in use through the 1976 Olympics.

Firsov was a dominant force, leading the combined World Championships and Olympics in scoring four times (1967, 1968, 1969 and 1971) and was the MVP of the Soviet League three times, 1968, 1969 and 1971, and it's scoring champion in 1966. He would eventually win three Olympic gold medals, those coming in 1964, 1968 and 1972.

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Today's first video are highlights of the Czechs defeating the Soviets to end their five year long winning streak. Note the clear boards used in Grenoble!

Next, is a clip of the final game of the 1968 Olympics to decide the gold medal between the Soviet Union and Canada, as Firsov opens the scoring while the Soviets are shorthanded.


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