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Saturday, August 2, 2014

1976 Czechoslovakia Vladimír Dzurilla Jersey

While he did not become known to hockey fans in North America until his performance in the 1976 Canada Cup, Vladimir Dzurilla's playing career began many years earlier when he first took to manning the net for HC Slovan Bratislava in his native Czechoslovakia for the 1960-61 season where Slovan finished as runners-up in the Czechoslovak Extraliga.

Two seasons later Dzurilla made his international debut for the Czechoslovakia National Team at the 1963 World Championships where he played in four of their seven games to earn his first medal, a bronze.

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In the following season of 1963-64, Dzurilla continued his career with Slovan Bratislava, finishing second for the third time in his four seasons. He then made his Olympic debut at the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, Austria, playing in two games and earning his first Olympic medal, again a bronze.

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Another runner-up finish with Bratislava was followed by another appearance at the 1965 World Championships, where Dzurilla played in five games with a 1.26 goals against average and a silver medal behind the dominant Soviet Union. Dzurilla was named to the tournament All-Star Team and was recognized as the tournament's Best Goaltender.

1965-66 was another season with Slovan Bratislava, where the club came home third for the second time in his career, the other being 1962-63. He then earned a second silver medal at the 1966 World Championships in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia.

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Injury curtailed his 1966-67 season, with just 9 games played in the Czechoslovakia Extraliga, but Dzurilla bounced back in fine style with a new career best goals against average of 2.47 in 1967-68 which earned him a second trip to the Olympic Games. He was limited to just one game in Grenoble, France, but the team took second place to earn the silver medal.

The 1968-69 season saw another season with Slovan and a goals against under 3.00 at 2.91 and another third place in the league. The 1969 World Championships were a politically charged affair following the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in August of 1968 following the Prague Spring, a period of liberalization and greater freedoms in Czechoslovakia under Alexander Dubček

Prague Spring
Soviet tanks invade Prague

The 1969 World Championships were originally scheduled to be held in Prauge, but were relocated to Stockholm, Sweden due to the ongoing invasion in Czechoslovakia.

began on March 15th, when the Czechs defeated Canada by a resounding 6-1 score. Sweden beat Finland 6-3 and the Soviet Union destroyed the United States with a 17-2 pummeling also on day one which would prove vital later in the tourament. Entering the tournament the Soviet Union had won the last six World Championships as well as the last three out of four Olympic Games.

On March 21st, the Czechs and Soviets met in day six of the tournament with the Soviets at 4-0 with a 34-6 edge in goals scored up to that point, while the Czechoslovakians were 3-1 following a 2-0 loss to Sweden.

To the Soviet team this was just another hockey game, but not to the Czechs. With 70,000 Red Army soldiers still occupying their country, it was about much more than just hockey.

“We said to ourselves, even if we have to die on the ice, we have to beat them,” said team captain Jozef Golonka many years later. “We received hundreds of telegrams from fans back home when we arrived in Stockholm. Almost all of them said: ‘Beat the Soviets. You don’t have to beat anyone else. Just beat the Soviets.’”

Following a scoreless first period, defenseman Jan Suchý scored his fifth goal of the competition at the 13 minute mark of period two to put the Czechs on top. Josef Černý added a second goal at the seven minute mark of the third period while Dzurilla held the Soviets at bay for a 2-0 shutout, sending thousands of Czechoslovakians into the streets back in Prague in celebration.

Czechs celebrate
The Czechs celebrate their win over the Soviet Union

The Czechs then wrapped up three more wins until they were matched up against the Soviets for the second time, as the tournament format was for each of the six teams to face the other five two times each. The Soviet Union meanwhile marched through their three subsequent games as expected, setting up the rematch with both teams now at 7-1.

Jiří Holík opened the scoring at 15 minutes to put the Czechs ahead 1-0 after one. Vaclav Nedomanský gave the Czechs a 2-0 lead in the first minute of the second, but Valeri Kharlamov responded for the Soviet Union two minutes later and Anatoli Firsov tied the game at the 13 minute mark.

Josef Horešovský delighted the Czech fans with a go-ahead goal at the nine minute mark of the third period before Jaroslav Holík sent them into rapture with another Czech score just two minutes later. Alexander Ragulin got one back for the Soviets with less than two minutes to play, but it was not enough as Czechoslovakia held on for a 4-3 win, becoming the first team to ever defeat the Soviet Union twice in a single IIHF tournament.

CSSR vs USSR 1969
Once again, the Czechs are euphoric following their
second win over the Soviet Union in 1969

Once again, a reported half a million Czechoslovakians took to the streets across the country in what was first a celebration of their hockey team's victory, but, particularly in Prague, evolved into a protest against the Soviet military which had continued their occupation of Czechoslovakia since the previous August.

From Time Magazine April 11, 1969:
Overcome by a vicarious sense of triumph, a huge and excited crowd swarmed into Prague’s Wenceslas Square. One happy hockey fan carried a poster that read BREZHNEV 3, DUBČEK 4. The crowd chanted, “We’ve beaten you this time!” Someone shouted, “The Russian coach will go to Siberia!”
Those particular protests turned violent when not only Soviet military units were attacked and their vehicles burned, but the offices of the Soviet airline Aeroflot were ransacked in what became known at the Czechoslovak Hockey Riots.

The uprising was suppressed by the Czech military, which was now under control of hardliners from the Communist Party, and the events were used as a pretext to oust the remaining leaders of the Prague Spring from power, Dubček in particular.

Heading into the final two days of the tournament, Czechoslovakia led with an 8-1 record, while the Soviet Union, thanks to their two losses to the Czechs were 7-2 and Sweden was 6-2 after a pair of losses to the Soviet Union. Sweden climbed into a tie with the Soviets thanks to taking their turn pounding the winless United States 10-4.

On March 30th, the Czechs let the gold medal slip from their grasp following a 1-0 loss to Sweden while the Soviet Union made it a three way tie atop the standings at 8-2 thanks to their 4-2 win over Canada. Since the Czechs beat the Soviets twice who beat the Swedes twice who beat the Czechs twice, the medal placings were decided by goal differential, giving the Soviet Union the gold with a +36, the Swedes silver at +26 and the Czechs bronze at +20, which mattered little to the fans back at home following their joy at beating the country of their occupying forces not once, but twice. ”You sent us tanks, we send you goals” was the celebratory cry.

For the 1969-70 season, Slovan Bratislava earned yet another second place finish in the Extraliga behind Dzurilla's career best 2.15 goals against average in 34 games played, which was his career high at the time. Later that season Dzurilla would earn his third World Championship bronze medal.

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Dzurilla in 1970

The 1970-71 season would be a limited one for Dzurilla, seeing action in just 19 games and would not compete in the World Championships for only the second time in his career, the other being 1967.

He would make up for it with a busy 1971-72 season, as he would play 29 games of Bratislava's regular season, capped off with Slovan's second place finish yet again, the fifth of his 12 years with the club.

Internationally, Dzurilla competed in his second Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan where he earned his third Olympic medal and second bronze. 

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1972 also marked the first time that the World Championships were played separately in the same year as the Olympics, and were held in Prague for the first time since 1959, thanks to their relocation three years earlier due to the Soviet invasion.

The Czechs opened the tournament in dominating fashion, defeating Switzerland 19-1 and then scored wins against Sweden (4-1) and West Germany (8-1) before crafting a 3-3 tie against the Soviets. They then reeled off wins against Finland (5-3), Switzerland (12-2), Sweden (2-0), West Germany (8-1), the Soviet Union (3-2) and finally Finland (8-2) to not only earn the first gold medal of Dzurilla's career, but just the third the history of Czechoslovakia and first since 1949. There was also a certain level of satisfaction in being the ones to end the ten consecutive World Championship and Olympic gold medal streak of the Soviets which dated back to 1963.

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Dzurilla would play his 13th and final season for Slovan Bratislava in 1972-73, which included Slovan would traveling to Switzerland, where Dzurilla and the team would win the annual Spengler Cup tournament.

He would then move to HC Kometa Brno for the next five seasons, from 1973-74 through 1977-78. During that time period, Dzurilla would return to the World Championships for the first time since 1972's gold medal winning team. And it was a successful return as the Czechs again captured the gold in Katowice, Poland with a perfect 7-0 record for the second gold medal of Dzurilla's career.

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Dzurilla celebrating the gold medal at the 1976 World Championships

Later that year he gained his first real exposure to North Americans when he competed in the 1976 Canada Cup tournament with a strong performance, posting a 2.36 goals against playing in all five games for the Czechs, which saw them open with a 5-3 win over the Soviet Union followed by an 8-0 pounding of Finland. A 4-4 tie with a scrappy United States was followed by a stunning 1-0 shutout over Canada in front of a sold out Forum in Montreal and millions watching on television, which cemented Dzurilla's legacy as a stellar international goaltender in what many immediately called one of the greatest games of all time.

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Dzurilla standing guard against Bobby Clarke of Canada in 1976

While the Czechs lost to Sweden 2-1 in their final round robin game, they still advanced to the best-of-two final against Canada, where the Canadians chased him from the nets with four goals in the first period of Game 1. After Jiří Holeček let in two goals in the first 3:09, Dzurilla came in and held the Canadians to one power play goal as the Czechs stormed back to take the lead 4-3 with four minutes remaining only to see Canada tie the game with just 2:12 left in regulation when Dzurilla sent a clearing attempt right to Canada's Bill Barber, who buried the puck into the unattended goal.

The game would then go to overtime with both Dzurilla and Rogie Vachon making great saves at either end before Canada would take the title with a goal 11:33 into overtime with Dzurilla recording 29 saves in over 68 minutes of relief.

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Darryl Sittler, Maurice Richard and Dzurilla following the 1976 Canada Cup

Following the 1976-77 regular season, Dzurilla would close out his international career in fine style, playing seven of the Czechs ten games with a 2.70 goals against average. The Czechs would defeat the Soviet Union and Sweden in the Final Round to defend their championship from the previous year thanks to a 7-2-1 record, one point better than Sweden and the Soviet Union at 7-3 thanks to their 3-3 tie against Canada earlier in the competition.

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Dzurilla would play one final season in Czechoslovakia for Brno, which included traveling to North America to backstop the Czechs during their games against teams from the World Hockey Association which unusually counted in the WHA regular season standings.

From there, Dzurilla would spend the final four seasons of his 22 year career in Germany, first for Augsburger EV (Augsburger Panthers) in 1978-79 and then three seasons with SC Riessersee, which saw him named Germany's Best Goaltender in both 1980  and 1981.

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Jaroslav Halak pays tribute to Dzurilla on his mask at the 2010 Olympics

Following his career, Dzurilla was named the Czech Hockey Hall of Fame and in 1998, the IIHF Hall of Fame. His final medal total was three gold, three silver and four bronze at the World Championships and one silver and two bronze at the Olympics.

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A collection of Dzurilla's medals from the World Championships

Today's featured jersey is a 1976 Czechoslovakia Vladimír Dzurilla jersey as worn in the 1976 Canada Cup when Dzurilla shutout Canada in Montreal in a dramatic 1-0 win, considered one of hockey's greatest games.

This particular jersey wound up in the possess of Canada's goaltender Vachon when the teams traded jerseys after the contest in the European tradition.

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Vachon and Dzurilla sharing a moment after
swapping sweaters after the 1976 Canada Cup

This striking jersey is an all-time classic, with the simplicity of the striping, lace up collar, heraldic main crest as well as the unique font for the numbers, which are then drop shadowed and outlined, a treatment which is also carried over to the lettering on the back, which is then radially arched.

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Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a late 1960's/early 1970's Czechoslovakia Valdimir Dzruilla jerseyWhile many would expect Czechoslovakia to wear red, they have in fact, worn blue off an on during their history, including periods of use in the 1930's, 40's and 50's as well as from 1965 to 1974 before a permanent change to red jerseys in 1975.

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photos courtesy of Classic Auctions

Here is a special treat, footage of Czechoslovakia beating the Soviet Union at the 1969 World Championships, showing footage from the game as well as the heroes welcome they received when they returned home.

Friday, August 1, 2014

2006 Switzerland National Team David Aebischer Jersey

Today is Swiss National Day, first celebrated in Bern in 1891 on the 600th anniversary of the Federal Charter of 1291, also known as the Letter of Alliance, which documented the union of three "cantons" in what is now central Switzerland, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden. The three regions allied for defense purposes and eventually grew into modern Switzerland.

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Following a public vote in 1993, it was made an official holiday in 1994 and is celebrated each year with paper lantern parades, bonfires, hanging strings of Swiss flags and fireworks.

The Swiss National Ice Hockey Team is a founding member of the International Ice Hockey Federation which is headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland. While not considered one of the elite hockey nations when it comes to gold medals and championships, the Swiss are a knocking on the door of being in the top echelon and are currently ranked 7th in the 2014 IIHF rankings, ahead of Slovakia, Latvia, Norway and Germany.

Despite not having won a medal in the World Championships since 1953, they are not a team one dares to overlook, as they defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 and shutout traditional hockey power Canada 2-0 two days later during the 2006 Olympics in Turin, making it as far as the quarterfinals.

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The Swiss celebrate at the 2006 Olympics

More recently, they put together a great performance at the 2013 World Championships and defeated Sweden, Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Denmark, Norway and host Belarus to win Group S before defeating the Czechs again and the United States before falling to Sweden in the final to earn the silver to earn their first medal since 1953 and equal their best ever finish, which came back in 1935.

The goaltender for Switzerland during their 3-2 win over the Czechs in 2006 was former Colorado Avalanche netminder David Aebischer, one of the best known players ever from Switzerland, along with goalies Martin Gerber and Jonas Hiller, forward Nino Niederreiter and defenseman and Swiss National Team captain Mark Streit.

Aebischer was chosen 161st overall by Colorado in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft while playing for HC Fribourg-Gottéron in the Swiss National League A. He played a couple of seasons for the Hershey Bears of the AHL before moving up to join the Avalanche in 2000-01 where he would have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as a backup to Patrick Roy. He would become the Avs #1 goalie for the 2003-04 season, following the retirement of Roy after the 2003 playoffs, and have a fine season, finishing with a 32-19-9 record and a goals against average of 2.09.

Following the lockout season of 2004-05, when Aebischer played for HC Lugano of Switzerland, he would return to the Avalanche for the 2005-06 season, only to be traded to the Montreal Canadiens at the trading deadline. He would play one full season in Montreal before signing a free agent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, only to lose out in the crowded goaltending battle and find himself briefly in the AHL before returning to HC Lugano on loan, where he has now played two seasons.

In Switzerland, SC Bern traditionally leads all of Europe in attendance figures, last season averaging 16,172 fans per game, with no other club over 13,800 and only five over 10,000. The next highest Swiss club is Champions League winners ZSC Lions at #12 with 7,720. SC Bern has lead all of Europe in attendance for eight consecutive seasons. The Swiss National League A as a whole ranks second in Europe with an average of 6,073, second only to Sweden's Elitserien's 6,260 and ahead of the top leagues in Germany, Russia, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Today's featured jersey is a 2006 Switzerland National Team David Aebischer jersey as worn in the 2006 World Championships in Riga, Latvia. This jersey was originally purchased with "Swiss" wordmark logos on the shoulders as worn in 2005, but we instructed our customizers to create the Swiss flag patches out of twill (seen here more clearly on a white jersey). We also added some of our custom made "Tissot" sponsorship patches to give it the look of a sponsored World Championship jersey. The IIHF new logo patch on the rear hem completes the look of one of our favorite jerseys in our collection.

Some of our other favorite elements of this jersey are the retro feeling of the lace-up neck collar and the distinctive number font used by only Switzerland and Finland during this time period.

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Today's video selections begin with highlights of Switzerland's victory over Canada at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.

Next up is a highlight video Switzerland from the 2008 World Championships, including their 4-2 win over Sweden. Be sure to notice their throwback jerseys from the first game versus France.

Here is an impressive display by the Swiss fans prior to a game in where else but Bern, prior to a game vs. Germany in the 2009 World Championships hosted by Switzerland chanting "Hopp Schwiiz! Hopp Schwiiz!", the traditional Swiss fans cheer of support.

Here is a highlight video of some spectacular saves by David Aebischer while playing for not only Colorado, but also HC Lugano and Switzerland.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

2007-08 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Erick Cinotti Jersey

July by the Numbers makes our first ever visit to Iowa for jersey #31.

The oldest hockey team from the Hawkeye State we can find records for is the 1951-52 Sioux City Sunhawks, a senior amateur club in the American Amateur Hockey League. The Sunhawks lasted but one season but had a rather successful one, finishing second. This league was a precursor to what would eventually become the United States Hockey League.

The Sunhawks would be followed in the AAHL by the Des Moines Ice Hawks (1958-1960) and the Des Moines Oak Leafs in 1961. After two seasons in the USHL, the Oak Leafs would join the International Hockey League beginning in 1963. They would make the playoff finals twice in their nine seasons in the IHL prior to changing their name to the Des Moines Capitols in 1972. In 1973-74, they would finish with the best regular season record and go on to defeat the Saginaw Gears to win the Turner Cup as IHL champions, but after one additional season, the club would fold, ending their 14 year run.

The Waterloo Black Hawks joined the league, now renamed USHL, in 1962 and won championships in five consecutive seasons from 1964 to 1968 and then another trio of titles in 1975, 1978 and 1979, the final season the USHL operated as a semi-professional league.

Waterloo Black Hawks

The Sioux City Musketeers arrived in the USHL in 1972 and remained in the league when it changed it's focus to an all junior league for the 1979-80 season and have continued to play in the league to this day, making them the longest running franchise in the state of Iowa, now at 40 seasons of play. The Musketeers have won the Clark Cup as USHL champions in 1982, 1986 and 2002 and also went on to win the Gold Cup as national junior champions in 1986 as well.

Sioux City Musketeers

The conversion of the USHL from a semi-pro to a junior league in 1979 opened up new opportunities which led to some changes and additions, as Waterloo relocated to Dubuque and were renamed the Dubuque Fighting Saints in 1980, where they remained for 21 seasons. The Fighting Saints won the Clark Cup in their very first season in Dubuque and added titles every other year for championships in 1981, 1983 and 1985.

Gary Suter Dubuque
Future NHL Rookie of the Year, Stanley Cup winner and US Olympian
Gary Suter captained the Fighting Saints to a Clark Cup title in 1983

Waterloo was not left without hockey though, as a Minnesota franchise immediately moved into the vacated Waterloo market and kept alive the traditional Black Hawks name. This new iteration of the Black Hawks has won the Clark Cup once, that coming in 2004.

After a five year absence, hockey returned to Des Moines when the Des Moines Buccaneers joined the USHL for the 1980-81 season and have proven to be a big success, having just completed their 31st season with USHL championships coming in 1992, 1995, 1999 and 2006 and national championships coming in 1992, 1995 and 2006.

Des Moines Buccaneers
The Des Moines Buccaneers playing in front of a packed house

Mason City became home to the North Iowa Huskies in 1983 and they would remain there through the 1998-99 season, 16 in all, before relocating and becoming the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders beginning with the 1999-00 season. The RoughRiders have now completed their 12th season with a Clark Cup championship in 2005.

While not technically based in Iowa, the history of hockey in the Quad Cities must be mentioned in any discussion of Iowa hockey, as the Quad Cities consist of Rock Island and Moline in Illinois and Bettendorf and Davenport on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. The main arena serving the metro area is located in Moline and was home to the Quad City Mallards of the minor professional United Hockey League from 1995 to 2007, who drew fans from both states.

Quad Cities Map
Map of the Quad Cities

The Mallards were quite successful during their 12 seasons, winning the Colonial Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2001 as part of a run of success which included making the finals five consecutive years and six times out of seven. They also had the league's best regular season record four times from 1998 to 2002. The Mallards lasted until the end of the 2006-07 season.

Hockey made it's return to Dubuque in 2001 in the form of the Dubuque Thunderbirds as a member of the junior Tier III Central States Hockey League, two steps below the USHL. The Thunderbirds won the Hurster Cup in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and continued to play until 2010.

Also of note, the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, who were founded in 1986, played their home games at an arena across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa from 2002-03 to 2008-09, including the first two while being known as the River City Lancers before changing their name back to Omaha and moving into a new home rink back in Nebraska.

After being without top level minor league hockey since 1975, the American Hockey League came to Iowa for the first time with the arrival of the Iowa Stars to Des Moines in 2005-06. The Stars played for three seasons as the top minor league affiliate of the Dallas Stars wearing some of the classiest jerseys in all of hockey.

Mike Smith Iowa Stars
Future NHL goaltender Mike Smith while with the Iowa Stars

Unfortunately, the Stars agreement with Dallas ended and the team signed an affiliation agreement with the Anaheim Ducks, which resulted in their being rebranded as the Iowa Chops, whose name and angry boar logo were among the worst to ever take to the ice. The Chops lasted just a single season until financial problems brought an end to the franchise and their dreadful identity.

Iowa Chops

The AHL returned to Des Moines for the 2013-14 season when the Minnesota Wild of the NHL moved their Houston Aeros affiliate much closer to the Twin Cities and renamed them the Iowa Wild.

That same season the Stars arrived in Des Moines, hockey also returned to Mason City with the arrival of the North Iowa Outlaws in the North American Hockey League, a Tier II junior hockey league, Iowa's first entry in the NAHL. Their time in Mason City lasted five seasons before relocating out of state.

The Calgary Flames decision to relocate their top AHL affiliate from Omaha to the Quad Cities brought and end to the first incarnation of the Mallards for the 2007-08 season. The relocated AHL team was named the Quad City Flames and played just two seasons without qualifying for the playoffs, despite a pair of winning records, before financial losses led to the team moving out of town to look for greener pastures.

It's unfortunate that the Iowa Stars/Chops and Quad City Flames could not have both survived, as their presence in the top level of professional minor league hockey should have developed into a fierce rivalry with both teams being in the same division of the AHL and located just 170 miles apart along Interstate I-80.

Also beginning play in 2007-08 were the Quad City Junior Flames, who were based in Davenport, Iowa. The Junior Flames were members of the CSHL at the same time as the Thunderbirds in Dubuque and lasted through the 2-12-13 season before relocating to Madison, Wisconsin.

The loss of the AHL's Quad City Flames led to the revival of the Quad City Mallards for the 2009-10 season, only by now the UHL had been renamed the International Hockey League, which after just one season of play for the new Mallards, merged with the Central Hockey League and the combined leagues now operate as the CHL, of which the Mallards are still a part.

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The Quad City Mallards playing to a full house on their return in 2009

The demise of the Thunderbirds was brought on by the return of the USHL to Dubuque when a new edition of the Dubuque Fighting Saints came on the scene for the 2010-11 season, which had a fairytale ending when they first year franchise captured the Clark Cup as league playoff champions in their first attempt, returning the cup to Iowa for the 13th time in 32 years and the first time since 2006. Dubuque then repeated as Clark Cup champions in 2012-13.

Hockey returned once more to Mason City for the 2011-12 season, as the North Iowa Bulls joined the NA3HL and proceeded to win back to back Silver Cups in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

The lineup of teams scheduled to play in Iowa for the upcoming season are the Mason City Bulls of the junior Tier III NA3HL, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Des Moines Buccaneers, Dubuque Fighting Saints, Sioux City Musketeers and Waterloo Black Hawks of the Tier I USHL in junior hockey, the Quad City Mallards of the CHL and the AHL's Iowa Wild in minor professional hockey.

One final note concerning hockey in Iowa comes at the college level, as the Iowa State University Cyclones play in the Central States Collegiate Hockey League in Division 1 and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes compete in the Mid-American Collegiate Hockey Association of Division 2 of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, the body which organizes non-varsity college hockey in the United States outside of the top level administered by the NCAA.

As you can summarize from the lack of long term success of top level minor professional hockey in Iowa, especially when compared to the long term stability and success of the various Iowa based clubs in the USHL, Tier I junior hockey in Iowa is alive and well and has proven very popular with the fans of Iowa for decades now.

While the main goal of the USHL is to provide the opportunity for players to obtain college scholarships, many recognizable names have spent time in Iowa playing in the USHL on their way to reaching the NHL, including Justin Abdelkader (Cedar Rapids), Andrew Alberts, Jason Blake and Joe Pavelski (Waterloo), Erik Cole and Kyle Okposo (Des Moines), Ruslan Fedotenko and Rotislav Kesla (Sioux City) and Gary Suter (Dubuque),

Joe Pavelski Waterloo
Future San Jose Shark Joe Pavelski while captaining the Waterloo Black
Hawks to a championship in 2004 while being named Player of the Year

Today's featured jersey is a 2007-08 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Erick Cinotti jersey. This jersey sticks to tradition with a colored shoulder yoke and simple stripes around the arms and waist. A shield shaped logo decorates the front with a perhaps too finely detailed logo, but it does avoid being too cartoonish.

The back features a two color name and three color numbers, the same as those used by the Vancouver Canucks as well as Nike for their international jerseys in the most recent Olympics in 2010 for teams such as the United States.

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 07-08 jersey
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 07-08 jersey

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

1974-75 Houston Aeros Wayne Rutledge Jersey

July by the Numbers makes it's way down to the Lone Star State for jersey #30.

The Houston Aeros of the WHA were originally slated to play in Dayton, Ohio, but never got off the ground, so owner Paul Deneau moved the club to Houston, Texas in time for the inaugural World Hockey Association season of 1972-73.

The Aeros, led in scoring by Gord Labossiere's 96 points in 78 games, had a cast of inexperienced journeymen players with an absolute minimum NHL experience, unlike other teams like the Quebec Nordiques, who could boast of long-time Montreal Canadien J. C. Tremblay or the Winnipeg Jets star Bobby Hull. Still, the Aeros finished second in the West Division and qualified for the playoffs and won a round before their season ended.

1972-73 Houston Aeros
The 1972-73 Houston Aeros

Things changed, and in the biggest way possible, for the 1973-74 season. The Aeros had signed brothers Mark and Marty Howe to a pair of four-year, $400,000 contracts in early June of 1973 and two weeks later, they lured the boys' father and NHL legend, the 45-year-old Gordie Howe, who had already been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame following his retirement from the Detroit Red Wings after 25 seasons. It's safe to say that Howe's 1687 games of NHL experience was greater than the rest of the Aeros roster combined.

"My only regret is I'm sorry I'm not the Gordie Howe I was ten years ago to fulfill the goals the Aeros have in store for me. It's not too often an individual gets a second chance and that's what the Aeros have given me," Howe said. "A chance to play with my sons."

Mark,Gordie and Marty Howe

Gordie had surgery to improve his bad wrist and relished the opportunity to play with his sons. The elder Howe's well-earned reputation for toughness ensured that his son's would have plenty of time and space to learn their craft professionally, as any player who laid a big hit on Mark or Marty was sure to be paid back with interest by Gordie at the first available opportunity!

Gordie immediately led the team in scoring with an even 100 points, good for third place in the league, as the Aeros had the best record in the league by 11 points. Additionally, Gordie was also named the league's Most Valuable Player in 1974, a trophy that would be renamed in his honor in 1976, while he was still an active player! In the playoffs that season Houston swept the Jets in four and survived an all out war with the Minnesota Fighting Saints in six games to advance to the Avco Cup Finals.

Aeros Saints brawl
Ted Taylor and Gord Gallant battle it out during the
memorable Aeros/Fighting Saints 1974 playoff series

Once in the finals, the Aeros swept the Chicago Cougars in four straight, giving the Aeros their first WHA title and Howe his first championship since 1955 with Detroit.

The original expectation in 1973 was that Gordie Howe, who also signed a four-year contract, would play one year and then move into the team's front office. That was not to be however, as Gordie returned for a second WHA season. While Larry Lund led the club with 108 points, Gordie duplicated his output from the season prior with 99 points while Mark Howe contributed 76 points from the blueline after 79 the year before.

The Aeros again won the West Division with the league's best record by 14 points and dispatched the Cleveland Crusaders in five and the San Diego Mariners in four prior to sweeping the Nordiques in the finals to defend their title and become the first repeat winner in WHA history.

Howe would once again lead the Aeros in scoring in 1975-76 with 102 points, 26 clear of his son Mark and Frank Hughes, but would only place 10th in the scoring race in the now wide-open WHA. Still, the Aeros were a solid all around team and once more led the league in regular season points with 106 points. The gap was narrowed to the rest of the league however, as Winnipeg tied them with 106, coming on one less win, and the Nordiques just two back at 104.

The battle tested Aeros knocked out the Mariners in six and the New England Whalers in seven, the first time anyone went the distance with Houston, to return to the finals for the third consecutive season in a row. The high powered Jets won a pair of one goal games in Houston and pulled away to win a pair of games back at home in Winnipeg to end the Aeros reign as league champions.

The following season saw Gordie Howe limited to 62 games and 68 points, yet once again the Aeros had the best regular season total for the fourth year in a row. After defeating the Oilers in round one, the Jets once again ended the Aeros championship aspirations in six games in the semifinals.

Prior to the 1977-78 season, with their four year contracts having now expired, all three Howes moved en masse to the Whalers and the high scoring Andre Lacroix now led the Aeros offensively. The Aeros finished third in the regular season standings and fell to the Nordiques in the first round four games to two.

Their loss in Game 6 at Quebec would be the final game in Aeros history, as the Aeros, who were included in merger talks with the NHL in 1977, were left out of the 1978 proposal and elected to fold on July 6, 1978.

While the Jets, Nordiques, Oilers and Whalers all survived to join the NHL for the 1979-80 season, the Aeros certainly can be viewed as one of the most successful clubs in the WHA, having finished with a winning record in each of their six seasons, four of which saw them with the best record in the league, and a pair of championships. The addition of the Howes gave the league a huge boost in credibility and exposure while allowing the legend of "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe to continue to grow.

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Houston Aeros Wayne Rutledge jersey. This classic jersey combines a vintage font running diagonally across the front in the time-honored manner paired with a simple striping pattern topped off with a star on each shoulder proving less is more when it comes to an effective and timeless hockey jersey.

Houston Aeros 74-75 jersey
Houston Aeros 74-75 jersey

Today's video section has plenty of great footage and begins with Gordie discussing his coming out of retirement to join Houston with baseball great Tom Seaver.

Were very excited to share this rare footage of the Aeros winning the 1974 Avco Cup over the Chicago Cougars.

Here is some classic WHA game action between Houston and Winnipeg with Gordie scoring a goal and later getting ejected from the game!

Don't miss the exciting, miraculous conclusion of the same game between the Aeros and Jets on December 5, 1975.

Here is footage from the 1979 WHA All-Star Game, when Gordie famously played on a line with Wayne Gretzky.

Here is Gordie, along with Mark and Marty making an appearance on the game show "What's My Line?"

Finally, Gordie shows the kids how it's done.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

1995-96 Cincinnati Cyclones Jeff Greenlaw Jersey

July by the Numbers returns once again to Cincinnati for jersey #29.

When the owner of the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones was awarded a new International Hockey League franchise for the 1992-93 season, he retained the Cyclones identity for his new IHL franchise while moving his ECHL club to Birmingham, Alabama and renaming that club the Bulls.

The new IHL club missed the playoffs in year one, something that would never happen to them again.

Center Len Barrie arrived for the 1993-94 season and led the club with 116 points (second in the IHL) while Patrick Lebeau's 47 goals led the Cyclones in that category. The team made a great stride forward, leaping from 27 wins and 61 points to 49 wins and 107 points while Pokey Reddick went 31-12-6 in goal. Cincinnati then won their first ever playoff series by defeating the Kalamzoo Wings 4-1 before losing in the next round.

Reddick Cyclones
Pokey Reddick

They equalled their 49 wins in 1994-95, but raised their point total to 113, led by Dave Tomlinson's 110 points, which was also good for second in the IHL. The again won a playoff round by defeating cross-state Cleveland.

Ron Smith took over as head coach of the Cyclones for the 1995-96season and would be the only coach to ever command the club from that point forward. Tomlinson again led the club in scoring as they recorded their third consecutive 100 point season, this time reaching a franchise record 51 wins. The Cyclones then went on a nice playoff run, sweeping Atlanta in three games, eliminating Kalamazoo (now renamed Michigan) in a hard fought seven game series before falling in the semifinals to Orlando in seven games, concluding with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss at home.

While the Cyclones would not top 100 points again, they would remain consistently competitive, totaling between 92 and 97 points for the remainder of their five seasons in the IHL.

The 1997-98 season saw Todd Simon lead the club with 105 points as, he too, finished second in league scoring. It would not be until the 1999-00 season that they Cyclones would escape the second round of the playoffs when they were one of six teams to receive a bye in round one and then downed Orlando 4-2 in the second round before dropping a series to Grand Rapids.

Their final season of 2000-01 saw the Cyclones raise their point total to 97, their highest since 1996, but their season came to a quick end with a 4-1 defeat by Orlando.

Following the 2000-01 season, the IHL ceased operations and six of the 11 remaining clubs joined the American Hockey League, but the Cyclones were not one of them due to the presence of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, members of the AHL since 1997, just seven miles up the road.

Don Biggs ended up as the franchise's all-time leading scorer with 412 points, leading Gilbert Dionne's 336 and Paul Lawless' 304. The best known Cyclones to go on to NHL careers include Erik Cole, Bob Boughner, David Tanabe and Jan Bulis.

Biggs Cyclones
Don Biggs

The decline of the league brought an end to the nine year run of the Cyclones in the IHL, but not the Cyclones identity, which was sold to the owners of the ECHL's Miami Matadors, who moved their then dormant franchise to Cincinnati for the 2001-02 season, where they continue to play today.

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Cincinnati Cyclones Jeff Greenlaw jersey. This shocking yellow jersey was the Cyclones alternate jersey, as their main dark jersey was black in color. For their first season of 1992-93, the Cyclones home jerseys were actually silver dazzle cloth before reverting to the traditional white in 1993-94. Their road jerseys also alternated between black and also red from season to season, with red also being used for alternate jerseys as well during their seemingly ever-changing looks.

Cincinnati Cyclones 95-96 jersey
Cincinnati Cyclones 95-96 jersey

In a moment straight out of the movie "Slap Shot", Cyclones coach Don Jackson scales the glass to get into a fight with the Atlanta Knights mascot!

Monday, July 28, 2014

1981 United States National Team Reed Larson Jersey

July by the Numbers jersey #28 sees a return to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

Even non-hockey fans know of the Miracle on Ice, the massive upset when the United States won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics under the brilliant training and tactics of the late Herb Brooks, who took a team of college amateurs into battle against the dominant veterans of the Soviet Union.

Miracle on Ice, Miracle on Ice

What followed was not so memorable...

The 1981 World Championships resulted in a 5th place finish, followed by a Semifinal loss to Canada at the 1981 Canada Cup> That preceded the disaster that was the 1982 World Championships, where a 0-6-1 record saw them relegated to the B Pool for 1983. The Americans then won the B Pool in their first try, earning an immediate promotion back to the A Pool.

There were no World Championships in 1984, as that was an Olympic year, with the games contested in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Expectations for the Americans were certainly high going into the tournament coming off the previous Olympics in 1980, but reality set in quickly as the US lost it's opening game to Canada by a score of 4-2 followed by a lackluster 4-1 loss to Czechoslovakia two days later. Desperately needing a win, the best the Americans could muster was a 3-3 tie against tiny Norway after being outshot 37-27, leaving them with a single point from three games. The US rebounded with a 7-3 win over Austria, but, already eliminated from medal contention, they closed out their tournament with another tie, this one against Finland. The United States finished with a 1-2-2 record, scoring 16 goals while giving up 17 and wound up classified a disappointing 7th. Members of the team included future stars Chris Chelios, Al Iafrate, Pat Lafontaine and Ed Olczyk.

USA 1984, USA 1984
Chris Chelios joining Pat Lafontaine and their US teammates to celebrate a goal in 1984

Later that fall, the 1984 Canada Cup saw the United States get off to a strong beginning with a 3-1-1 record in the Round Robin portion, but Sweden ended their tournament with a resounding 9-2 decision during their first game of the elimination playoffs.

1984 US Canada Cup Team, 1984 US Canada Cup Team
The 1984 US Canada Cup Team

The 1985 World Championships were a bright spot for the US, as they finished second in Group A with a 4-2-1 record to advance to the Final Round, but dropped all three games to Canada, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union to miss out on the medals with a final classification of 4th.

5 losses in 7 games sank the American hopes at the 1986 World Championships with consecutive defeats at the hands of Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Canada and the Soviet Union after starting the tournament an encouraging 2-1. An identical result followed in 1987, which included losses to Canada, Sweden, the Soviet Union and Finland in their first four games.

The 1987 Canada Cup was another disappointment, as the US lost 3 of 5 games, missing out on the Playoff Round entirely.

They hoped for better at the Olympics in 1988, as the games were in more familiar territory in North America in Calgary, Alberta. A more favorable schedule saw them begin with a confidence building 10-6 pounding of Austria to open their tournament, but once more the Czechoslovakians exposed the American defenses with a 7-5 win. There would not be another miracle in 1988, as the Soviet Union, in their first Olympic meeting since 1980, duplicated the Czechs with a 7-5 win. Norway fell 6-3 as expected, but any hope of advancing to the Final Round was dashed when the US fell flat against West Germany 4-1, to finish 2-3 and find themselves classified 7th once more. Members of this team included familiar names like Mike Richter, Brian Leetch and Kevin Stevens.

1988 US Olympic Team, 1988 US Olympic Team
The 1988 US Olympic Team

The 1989 World Championships saw the US finish 6 out of 8 with a 2-4-1 record before they improved to a 5th place in 1990, winning 3 but losing 4.

In 1991, the United States gutted out a 4-1 win over Czechoslovakia following an opening 4-3 loss to Canada. They took a point away from their game with Sweden after a 4-4 tie, but the hammer of reality came down upon them with great vengeance and furious anger when the Soviet Union won 12-2. Still, more points arrived with a 4-2 defeat of Switzerland, a 4-4 tie against Germany and a 2-1 win over Finland to put the US into the Final Round. But once again could not compete with elite nations, losing to the Soviets 6-4, Sweden 8-4 and Canada 9-4 to again place out of the medals.

The Canada Cup returned in the fall, and the US started out with a 6-3 win over Sweden, followed by a 6-3 loss to Canada. Then a 4-2 win over Czechoslovakia and 2-1 defeat of the Soviet Union and a 4-3 win over Finland propelled them to a second place finish in the Round Robin portion. In the playoffs, Finland fell easily 7-3, but hosts Canada won the Canada Cup with 4-1 and 4-2 wins in the best-of-three final. Like the Stanley Cup playoffs, only the winner received a trophy and no medals were awarded.

Albertville, France was the location of the 1992 Olympics and the US found themselves in the weaker of the two groups, avoiding Canada, Czechoslovakia and the Unified Team, made up of former members of the Soviet Union. They took full advantage of their schedule, reeling off wins against Italy 6-3, the now reunited Germany 2-0, Finland 4-1 and Poland 3-0 before a final tie against Sweden 3-3. This gave the US first place in Group A and a favorable draw against France in the Quarterfinals. The US took care of business 4-1 but fell to the Unified Team 5-2, which sent them to the bronze medal game. There, the deflated Americans were soundly handled by Czechoslovakia 6-1 for a final classification of 4th following their initial run of success. Their roster boasted Bret Hedican, Shawn McEachern and Keith Tkachuk.

1992 US National Team, 1992 US National Team
The 1992 US National Team

Later in the spring, the 1992 World Championships saw the US advance to the Quarterfinals, only to be slammed by the Czechs 8-1. 1993 was a repeat, advancing to the Quarterfinals before losing 5-2 to Sweden.

In order to get the Winter Olympics off of the same schedule as the Summer Olympics, the next Games were held just two years later in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. The first game for the United States set the tone for what was to follow, as the US came away disappointed following a 4-4 tie with France. Again, their game against Slovakia resulted in another deadlock, this one 3-3. While they would certainly have preferred a win, taking away a point from their 3-3 tie against Canada was somewhat less disappointing. A 6-3 defeat at the hands of Sweden put them in peril, but they US took full advantage of Italy to move on to the Final Round after a 7-1 win. Their medal hopes came to an abrupt end with a 6-1 hammering at the hands of Finland. Two additional losses to Czechoslovakia (5-3) and Germany (4-3) in the Classification Round saw the US classified as 8th. Well known names from the 1994 team were University of Maine teammates Mike Dunham and Garth Snow in goal, Peter Laviolette and Brian Rolston.

1994 US Olympic Team, 1994 US Olympic Team
The 1994 US Olympic Team

1994's World Championships had the US advance to the Quarterfinals with a winning 3-2 record, followed by a stunning 3-1 win over Russia, but again, a 8-0 pounding by Finland ruined the joy created by their win over the Russians. With a bronze medal on the line, once again the US did not answer the bell, taking the shine off their tournament with a 7-2 loss to Sweden.

United States hockey was now on the upswing as a new generation of players were now on the scene, and Group 2 of the 1995 World Championships went to the Americans with a 3-0-2 record. Their reward? A matchup with Canada, who had stumbled in Group 1 (finishing behind Italy and France), but came alive in a 4-1 win over the US to end their tournament.

The 1996 World Championships began as expected, as the US defeated Austria, Germany and Slovakia, but lost to Russia and Canada. Still, it was enough to advance again to the Quarterfinals, where they surprised many with a 3-2 victory over Sweden.

While Czechoslovakia dominated them with a 5-0 win in the Semifinals, this time the United States regrouped and earned their first medal in international competition since the 1980 Olympics with a 4-3 win over Russia when 1994 Olympian Rolston scored at 4:48 of overtime.

In addition to being the first medal of any kind for the US in 26 years, it was their first medal at the World Championships in 34 years, all of which puts the medal won in 1980 into a greater perspective, as the Americans were not regular medalists either prior to, or after, the 1980 Olympics. In fact, the US was in Pool B of the World Championships as recently as 1974 before rising to their unexpected and truly memorable gold in 1980.

Today's featured jersey is a 1981 United States National Team Reed Larson jersey. This style was worn by the United States in the 1981 Canada Cup tournament and was very similar to the template worn by the Winnipeg Jets, and to some degree the Toronto Maple Leafs, with it's full length arm stripes in red trimmed with white, which is repeated to great effect along the waist.

Simple stars on the shoulders give it a touch of patriotism and the diagonal USA cresting is in the classic style of the New York Rangers, making for a simple, effective and attractive design has has stood the test of time with ease.

1984 USA Canada Cup jersey photo 1984USACanadaCupjersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section is rare footage of Rolston scoring his overtime goal in 1996 to earn the United States their first medal in international competition in 16 years.


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