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Friday, February 28, 2014

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.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

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.

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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.

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Forsberg while with Modo

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.

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Forsberg at the 1992 World Juniors

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 on 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.

Forsberg's famous Golden Goal

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."

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Another angle of Forsberg's spectacular shootout goal

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

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Salo stops Karyia to seal 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.

The inaugural class of the Triple Gold Club

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.

For collectors  the 1994 Reebok jerseys are much scarcer than the Tackla jerseys from 1988 to 1993, which can be found as game worn, some replicas with names and blank jerseys, which were apparently made available for purchase by fans, while the Reebok jerseys appear to never have been made for retail sale, as we have only seen game worn examples on the market and in photos, generally with sponsor patches from the World Championships, as evidenced by our inability to find standard collector photos of the front and back of any 1994 Reebok Sweden Olympic jersey to illustrate today's post.

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

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2006 Sweden National Team Mats Sundin Jersey

Looking to atone for their shocking defeat in 2002 at the hands of Belarus, Sweden came into the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy ranked second in the IIHF world rankings.

They were grouped with Slovakia (ranked 3rd), the United States (6th), Russia (7th) and qualifiers Kazakhstan and Latvia.

The Swedes opened their tournament on February 15th with a strong 7-2 win over Kazakhstan to get themselves off to an important fast start. They ran into a buzzsaw the very next day and were soundly thrashed by the Russians by a score of 5-0.

Fortunately for Sweden, overmatched Latvia was up next two days later and Sweden regained some confidence and momentum with an easy 6-1 victory. 24 hours later they had another one in the win column after a narrow 2-1 defeat of the United States. This set up a final Group B game against Slovakia with first place in the group on the line.

Unfortunately things went as poorly for Sweden as possible, as they went down to defeat 3-0 at the hands of the Slovaks, their second shutout in five games. That, combined with Russia's 5-4 win over the Americans, dropped Sweden down to third place in the final Group B standings and a Quarterfinal matchup with the second place team in Group A, who already had scored surprising defeats of both Canada and the Czech Republic in the preliminary round of group play.

However, Switzerland has also shown themselves to be inconsistent, having allowed winless Germany and Italy to tie them. They also showed they were entirely beatable in their 5-0 loss to Finland.

Sweden answered the challenge in fine style and easily ousted the Swiss from the tournament with a 6-2 win, again giving their confidence a boost when they needed it most. Next up for Sweden was the Czech Republic, who impressed no one in the preliminary round by losing three times, beating only Germany and Italy to do just enough to advance. Given a new life in the Quarterfinals, The Czechs upset Group B winners and rivals Slovakia 3-1 after an empty net goal with three seconds remaining.

Sweden earned their shot at a gold medal with a solid 7-3 trouncing of the Czechs.

Meanwhile in the other half of the bracket, the Russians had eliminated the previous gold medal winning Canadians, while Group A winners Finland ousted the United States 4-3 and then dumped Russia easily by a score of 4-0 to set up the gold medal showdown with their classic rivals Sweden.

Opening faceoff
The gold medal final opening faceoff

The red hot Antero Niittymaki got the start in goal for unbeaten Finland, while Henrik Lundqvist was named the starter for Sweden. Each team survived a penalty in the first period before Jorgen Jonsson was sent off at 14:15 for hooking. 30 seconds later Kimmo Timonen put Finland ahead with an assist from Teemu Selanne when his shot from the point trickled through Lundqvist's legs for a rather soft goal. Sweden was again penalized a little over a minute later, but held fast and the first period concluded with Finland ahead 1-0 on the scoreboard but trailing in shots 9-7.

Timonen scores
Saku Koivu watches the puck squirt through Henrik Lundqvist

The intensity picked up in the second period when Toni Lydman of Finland was penalized at 3:52 which allowed Sweden to equalize at 4:42 when Henrik Zetterberg banked one in off of Niittymaki's leg as he came out from behind the net from Mikael Samuelsson and Christian Backman.

Henrik Zetterberg celebrates
Zetterberg celebrates Sweden's first goal

A trio of Finnish penalties followed and during the third one called at 13:00 on Saku Koivu, Sweden was able to take the lead at 2-1 just 24 seconds later when defenseman Niklas Kronwall pinched in from the point and received a pass from Zetterberg. He temporarily lost the puck when a Finnish defender arrived at the same time, but he was able to recover the puck and fire a quick, hard wrist shot past Niittymaki for the goal.

Finland countered at the 15:00 mark when Jussi Jokinen swooped in behind the net and sent a quick pass to Ville Peltonen who was streaking toward the net. Peltonen was able to direct a backhander past Lundqvist to even the score at 2-2. Olli Jokinen received the second assist for Finland.

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Ville Peltonen evens the game at 2-2

There was no scoring for the remainder of the second period despite a pair of power plays for Finland, the second of which was cut short by an interference penalty on Jussi Jokinen just 20 seconds into the Finnish power play. As the second period ended, the shots on goal again favored Sweden, this time by a narrow 11-10 margin.

Before the fans could settle into their seats, captain Mats Sundin won the opening faceoff of the third period and Peter Forsberg took the puck and skated over the Finnish blueline to the left side of the ice. Once across the ice he sent a pass back to Sundin trailing him over the line. Sundin then moved along the boards down to the left side of the faceoff circle and sent a backwards pass out to the blueline where a wide open Niklas Lidstrom was arriving with a full head of steam. He put everything he had into his shot which found the back of the net just over Niittymaki's shoulder only ten seconds into the period to regain the lead for Sweden at 3-2.

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Lidstrom receives congratulations after his goal early in the third period

Sweden killed off penalties at the 3:33 and 11:50 marks as Lundqvist shut the door in goal, as the Finns outshot Sweden 10-8 for the period, to carry Sweden to the gold medal.

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Sweden celebrates their gold medals

For the tournament, Daniel Alfredsson led Sweden in scoring with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 8 games, followed by Sundin's 3 goals and 5 assists, good for 8 points. Lundqvist played in 6 of Sweden's 8 games and finished with a 5-1 record and a 2.33 goals against average with a .907 save percentage.

Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Sweden National Team Mat Sundin jersey. 2006 was the year that Nike introduced the brand new Nike Swift jerseys, first seen at the World Junior Tournament on the USA and Canada. Each of the 12 participating countries in the 2006 Olympics wore the new Swift designs, except for Switzerland and the eventual gold medal winning Sweden, who were somehow able to overcome the truck-like weight and aerodynamics of the old style jerseys when compared to the new technologically advanced jerseys the rest of the field was outfitted with.

A unique addition to the Swedish jerseys from their previous sweaters was an attempt to create a "lace up" collar style, which was simply a few slits cut into the existing yoke collar and threading a white elastic threat through it, which did not actually have to be tied, as it was a single continuous piece.

Another unique feature of the jerseys Sweden wore during the 2006 Olympics was the Swedish Olympic logo added to the right shoulders, which was not added to the retail version of this jersey we purchased. After some much appreciated assistance from a friend who created an embroidery file and a helpful embroidery shop, we were able to add this vital detail to our jersey and were quite pleased with the results shown below.

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The Swedish Olympic logo added to their jerseys at the 2006 games

Given the opportunity, Sweden always opts for their traditional bright yellow jerseys with blue crowns, stripes, names and numbers, but for this contest they captured gold in their road blue sweaters.

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Today's video selection are highlights, including all the goals, from the 2006 Olympic gold medal final between Finland and eventual champions Sweden.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

1999-00 New York Islanders Eric Cairns Jersey

After playing for the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors of the Ontario Hockey League, and recording 237 penalty minutes in 64 games during the 1991-92 season, defenseman Eric Cairns was drafted by the New York Rangers in the 3rd round of the 1992 NHL Entry Draft.

He would play two more seasons of junior hockey with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings in 1992-93 and 1993-94 before turning professional, first with the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL, but after just 11 games, he was promoted to the Binghamton Rangers of the AHL.

He was back with Binghamton for the majority of the 1995-96 season, but also suited up for the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL for a half a dozen contests that same season.

Cairns made his NHL debut on October 8, 1996, playing a total of 40 games, scoring a single assist and 147 penalty minutes. During the season he would play 10 games in Binghamton, but returned to New York for the final four months of the season as well as appearing in three Rangers playoff games.

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The 1997-98 season was a carbon copy for Cairns, as he played 39 games with 3 assists and 92 penalty minutes for New York as well as spending 7 games with their newly relocated affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL.

Early into the 1998-99 season, Cairns was waived by the Rangers, having played just 11 games of the Hartford Wolf Pack season. He was subsequently claimed by the nearby New York Islanders, who assigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, where he would spend the majority of his season, but did play nine late season March games with the Islanders, scoring 3 assists.

Cairns set a career high in penalty minutes during the 1999-00 season with 196 but also  scored the first goal of his career on this date in 2000 against Chris Osgood of the Detroit Red Wings at 1:25 of the second period, with an assist from Dave Schatchard to end he longest goal scoring drought from the start of a career in NHL history at 134 games.

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With just three games remaining in the season Cairns would score his second goal of his career to finish the season with 2 goals and a career best 9 points. He also suited up for the Providence Bruins of the AHL for 4 games that season, where he also scored a goal.

He would play four more seasons for the Islanders, scoring 2, 2, 1 and 2 goals.

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With the NHL players locked out during the 2004-05 season, Cairns played for the London Racers in England where his was involved in an incident with fellow NHL refugee, Wade Belak which ended with Cairns punching a referee and being suspended for the remainder of the season.

For the 2005-06  season, Cairns signed with the Florida Panthers where he played 23 games before being acquired by the Pittsburgh Penguins to strengthen their defense and provide some protection for star Sidney Crosby. Cairns began his time in Pittsburgh in unexpected fashion, scoring a goal against his former club, the Islanders in his first game with the Penguins.

It would prove to be his last NHL goal, however, as after finishing the season with 27 games with the Penguins, Cairns would play 2 games with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins of the AHL and a lone game with Pittsburgh in the NHL before being forced to retire due to post-concussion issues.

His final NHL totals were 457 games, 10 goals and 42 points and 1,182 penalty minutes.

Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 New York Islanders Eric Cairns jersey as worn when he scored his first NHL goal after beginning his season with an NHL record 134 game long scoreless streak. Following on the heels of the disastrous Fisherman jerseys of 1995-96 to 1997-98, the Islanders returned to an updated version of their classic jersey from their Stanley Cup dynasty.

A darker shade of blue than the original and now with three color numbers, this jersey was a welcome relief for Islander fans and featured a patch on the right shoulder with four stripes symbolizing the franchise's four Stanley Cup championships. This jersey remained in use through the 2006-07 season until being replaced by a similar Reebok Edge version.

Today's jersey features the NHL 2000 patch worn by all teams during the 1999-00 season in recognition of the upcoming Millennium, with each team wearing a patch in a team color, which made for many variations of the patch, particularly the multiple shades of blue.

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Today's video section begins with an interview with Cairns about his playing in England during the locked out season.

Next is the notorious Cairns incident where he got himself suspended for the remainder of the 2004-05 season in England.

Finally, a compilation of Cairns fights from throughout his career.

Monday, February 24, 2014

1980 United States Olympic Team Dave Christian Jersey

While everyone recalls the "Miracle on Ice" from February 22, 1980, many do not recall that the United States' victory over the Soviet Union was not the gold medal winning game.

In fact, the tournament format in 1980 did not even have a gold medal final, as the teams were not placed in a single elimination bracket, as is the case with the Olympics and World Championships of today. Back in 1980, the format had the top two teams from both the Blue and Red Divisions of First Round group play then placed into a new four team Final Round group.

Once placed in the Final Round group, each advancing team was scheduled to play the two surviving teams from the opposite group, with their earlier game against the team advancing from their First Round group carrying over into the Final Round standings.

What this meant for the United States in 1980 was their tournament opening tie against Sweden carried over to the Final Round, as did the Soviet Union's 4-2 win over Finland. This meant the standings heading into the final four matches stood at;
  1. Soviet Union 2 pts
  2. Sweden 1 pt.
  3. United States 1 pt.
  4. Finland 0 pts.
The United States first game was their historic matchup with the Soviets, which they famously won 4-3 and later was named the Top Story of the Century by the International Ice Hockey Federation, only it guaranteed the United States absolutely nothing.

Fortunately for the United States, nordic rivals Finland and Sweden tied in their game the evening of the 22nd, (yes, the United States game versus the Soviet Union was not even in prime time on US television despite the game being played in the United States!) and the standings heading into the final two games on this date in 1980 were now:
  1. United States 3 pts.
  2. Sweden 2 pts.
  3. Soviet Union 2 pts
  4. Finland 1 pt.
Heading into the final two games on Sunday, the worst case scenario for the United States was if Finland were to defeat them by two goals while Sweden and the Soviet Union tied, the gold would go to the Soviet Union and the United States would drop out of the medals altogether since all four teams would have the same 3 points with the USA having the worst goal differential!

Still, the victory over the Soviet Union left the United States with their fate in their own hands, as a victory over Finland would elevate them to an unreachable 5 points and earn them the coveted gold medal. Oddly, the USA was scheduled to play at 11AM in Lake Placid.

1980 Olympics USA vs Finland

Unfortunately for the United States, Jukka Porvari got Finland out on top with the first goal of the game at 9:20 of the first period with a one-timer slapshot over USA netminder Jim Craig's glove. The period would end with the USA leading 14-7 in shots on goal, but trailing on the scoreboard 1-0, the sixth time in seven games they had fallen behind.

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Jim Craig in goal for the Americans

The United States evened the score at 4:39 of the second period on Steve Christoff's unassisted goal on a backhander that went through Finnish goaltender Jorma Valtonen's pads only to have Finland regain the lead less than two minutes later when Mikko Leinonen put a second shot past Craig at 6:30 on the power play. Once again, the United States held the edge in shots on goal at 8-6, but had just twenty minutes to get out of the hole they found themselves in to a team that had never won a medal, nor beaten the United States in Olympic hockey.

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The United States still had to face Finland before claiming the gold medal

With Finland leading 2-1 after two periods, a furious US head coach Herb Brooks warned the team during the final intermission that "If you lose this game, you will take it to your f***ing grave." He then walked almost all the way out of the room before turning around and repating "To your f***king grave."

"He didn't have to say much more than that. We knew he was right," USA forward Mark Johnson recalled.

Properly motivated, just over two minutes into the third period USA defenseman Dave Christian skated from his own zone into the Finnish end, drew the defense toward him and passed to left wing Phil Verchota who fired a wrist shot just inside the right post to tie the game at 2-2 at 2:25.

Less than four minutes later the United States struck again when Johnson, behind the Finland goal, passed the puck to Rob McClanahan, who saw Valtonen start to go down put the puck in between his gaping legs for a 3-2 lead for the USA at 6:05, sending the arena into bedlam, as loud as it had been against the Soviets two days earlier, as the United States led for the first time all game.

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Mclanahan gave the United States their first lead of the game

Before the United States could relax, Neal Broten took a hooking penalty at 6:48 followed by Christian's tripping penalty at 8:54. The USA successfully killed off both penalties only to have Verchota whistled for roughing at 15:45 with the game still in doubt.

With both Broten and Christoff keeping Finland in their own zone during the power play, the puck was shot out toward the blueline, where it was intercepted by Johnson, who skated in, beat a defender, and made a backhand attempt, which Valtonen saved. The rebound however, went right back to Johnson who quickly smacked the puck over Valtonen's right skate for a shorthanded goal to give the United States a 4-2 lead with 3:35 left to play.

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Johnson celebrates his goal with Christoff

The Americans were now on a roll with their ultimate goal in sight and kept up the pressure, nearly scoring twice more on one shot that hit the pipe and another off the crossbar. Finally time ran out and the United States had secured their gold medal in a game many do not even remember, especially given the attention history has focused on the game against the Soviet Union and the "two days later the miracle was made complete" treatment it received in the movie "Miracle" - all of five seconds of game footage.

The final buzzer set off a new round of celebrations, as the United States successfully completed not just a seven game tournament, but a journey that began months earlier, as Brooks transformed them from rival college kids into Olympic champions.

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The United States celebrates winning the gold medal following their victory over Finland

Still, somewhat unbelievably, there was another game left to play on the schedule between the Soviet Union and Sweden at 2:30PM. Following the Soviet's demolition of Sweden 9-2, the final placings were now set and the medal ceremony could take place on the ice with Sweden still wearing their jerseys from their game.

1980 Medal Ceremony

1980 Gold Medal

Following the presentation of the medals and the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, team captain Mike Eruzione famously called the rest of the team up onto the top level of the victory podium, which miraculously was just large enough, barely, to hold each and every member of the team.

1980 Medal Podium

Today's featured jersey is a 1980 United States Olympic Team Dave Christian jersey as worn in the gold medal clinching game against Finland on the final day of the 1980 Olympic tournament, the sixth time the United States had come from behind during their seven games.

The blue jerseys are the lesser known jerseys from the tournament, as it was the white ones they were wearing when they defeated the Soviet Union and the style which has been much more heavily marketed since then.

United States 1980 Road jersey photo USA198023RF.jpg
United States 1980 Road jersey photo USA198023RB.jpg

Our video section begins with Rob McClanahan's game winning goal at 6:05 of the third period.

This next clip is the final minute of the game along with the subsequent eruption of joy as the United States completed their gold medal performance. Well, except for coach Brooks, who can be seen leaving the bench with nary a smile at the final horn.

In recognition of the United States memorable gold medal victory in 1980, our friends at Gettysburg Flag Works have generously donated a Team USA banner with the mounting hardware for us to give to one of our readers from the United States It's a nylon, 27" x 37" large made for outdoor use and comes with the mounting hardware if you do not have a horizontal pole mount on your home.

Be sure to visit Gettysburg Flag Works to check out their large assortment of many baseball, football and NASCAR flags and banners among the many products they offer.

To be the lucky winner of the USA banner, just send us an email at Spyboy1@gmail.com and be the first one to tell us how many total Olympic medals of all colors the United States has won since 1920. Be sure to include your address and good luck to all!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Canada Wins Olympic Gold

Canada won their second consecutive gold medal at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia with a dominating 3-0 defeat of Sweden, their second consecutive shutout.

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Canada celebrates it's 2014 Olympic gold

Jonathan Toews opened the scoring with his first goal of the Olympics when he redirected a centering pass from Jeff Carter past Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 12:55 to give Canada yet another lead, as they did not trail in any game of the tournament. Not once. The shots on goal after one period were 12-11 in favor of Canada, while both teams hit the post in other close calls which could have changed the complexion of the game.

Canada gold Toews photo Toewsgoal.jpg
Jonathan Toews looks to celebrate with Jeff Carter

While Sweden had the run of play early in the second period, a turnover near the blueline led to a Sidney Crosby breakaway. Crosby once again was the man in the right place at the right time with the right talent and nerves of steel and made it 2-0 Canada as he left Lundqvist sprawling at 16:43. It was also Crosby's first goal of the Olympics and, going into the game, you just knew that he and Toews were not going the entire tournament without each one of them a scoring a goal at some point. Apparently they understand the concept of saving their best for last… The shots after the second period stood at 23-20 in favor of the Canadians.

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Crosby rises to the occasion once again

While one hoped for a Swedish goal (or two) to make for a competitive and memorable finish, it was not to be as the Canadians extended their lead to 3-0 at the 9:04 mark when Chris Kunitz swooped in, stole the puck from Daniel Sedin at the blueline, skated into the zone and ripped a shot past Lundqvist using a Swedish defender as a screen to ice the game despite half a period remaining.

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Chris Kunitz extends Canada's lead to 3-0

Canada held Sweden to a mere four shots in the third period at a time when the Swede's needed to throw pucks at the net and crash the crease in an effort to get on the board and put a dent in the Canadian's ever increasing confidence. In the end, Canada outshot Sweden 13-4 in the third and 36-24 for the game, with goaltender Carey Price assuring himself a permanent place in Canadian hockey history with his dominating gold medal performance. In five games, Price allowed 3 goals on 106 shots for an unbelievable .972 save percentage.

Only Norway, Finland and Latvia managed to score on Canada during the tournament, with each managing a single goal. The last goal given up by Price came at 15:41 of the first period of their game against Latvia four days and 164:19 minutes of play ago to earn him Best Goalkeeper honors.

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Carey Price takes center stage after two consecutive shutouts

Today's featured jersey is a 2014 Canada National Team Carey Price jersey as worn on February 13th vs. Norway. Nike introduced all new jerseys for Canada for the 2014 Olympics, and while the red and white jerseys were criticized for resembling the logo of the Petro Canada gas stations, were certain that with a gold medal in hand, no one is complaining now. Based on recent history, expect to see these jerseys used again in the 2014 and 2015 World Championships at a minimum before a new style replaces them, perhaps at the rumored World Cup of Hockey in August of 2016.

This jersey is currently up for auction, along with 24 other men's jerseys and 22 women's jerseys of the same style on ebay to raise funds for the Hockey Canada Foundation and the Canadian Olympic Foundation. As of the time of this writing with 8-10 hours left in the men's jersey auctions, the Crosby jersey is at $14,621.67, by far and away the highest over the $4,851.72 for the Toews followed closely the Price at $4,807.69.

Canada 2014 Olympic Price jersey photo Canada2014OlympicPriceFjersey.jpg
Canada 2014 Olympic Price jersey photo Canada2014OlympicPriceBjersey.jpg

As a celebration of the Canadian gold medal victory in Sochi, our friends at Gettysburg Flag Works have generously donated a Canadian flag for us to give to one of our readers from north of the border. It's a nylon flag, 24" x 36", (61 cm x 91 cm) big and made for outdoor use, but you can certainly take it with you to your next Team Canada game and cheer on your squad, perhaps the next World Juniors in Toronto and Montreal.

Be sure to visit Gettysburg Flag Works to check out their large assortment of many baseball, football and NASCAR flags and banners among the many products they offer.

To be the lucky winner of the flag, which retails for $36.65, just send us an email at Spyboy1@gmail.com and be the first one to tell us how many Olympic gold medals Canada has now won. Be sure to include your address and good luck to all!

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