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Thursday, September 4, 2014

1997-98 Florida Panthers John Vanbiesbrouck Jersey

When the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim participated in the 1993 Expansion Draft, the 24 other clubs were allowed to protect one goaltender, five defensemen and nine forwards. With the first choice, the Florida Panthers selected John Vanbiesbrouckborn on this date in 1963, who had spent the previous ten seasons with the New York Rangers.

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Vanbiesbrouck while still with the Rangers

The Rangers, knowing that they would lose either Vanbiesbrouck or Mike Richter in the expansion draft, traded Vanbiesbrouck to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations. The Canucks then left him exposed in the expansion draft when they protected Kirk McLean.

After a solid first season in which the Panthers posted a 33-34-17 record, missing the playoffs by just a single point, the second Panthers season was essentially a shortened duplicate, finishing with a 20-22-6 record again good for ninth place, again one point out of a playoff spot in the lockout reduced season.

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Vanbiesbrouck adapted well to life in Florida

1995-96 however, would see the team reach unexpected heights in a memorable run through the playoffs. "The Year of the Rat" started on the night of the Panthers home opener, as a rat scurried across the Florida locker room, Scott Melanby "one-timed" the rat against the wall with his stick, killing it. Later that night Mellanby scored two goals, which Vanbiesbrouck called "a rat trick" with the addition of the earlier incident in the locker room.

During the next game, one clever fan threw a rubber rat on the ice in celebration of a goal and a phenomenon was born. By the Panthers third home game, 16 rats reached the ice in celebration. Eventually over 100 were tossed for a goal. Once the Panthers reached the heights of the playoffs, at one point over 3,000 rats rained down after every goal, stopping the games for an extended period of time as the ice, blackened with piles of rubber rats, was cleaned up.

Vanbiesbrouck navigating the many celebratory rats

The Panthers finished the 1995-96 regular season fourth in the Eastern Conference and faced off against the Boston Bruins in the opening round of the playoffs, defeating them 4 games to 1. The Philadelphia Flyers were dispatched in six games before the Pittsburgh Penguins took them to a full seven games. Florida would win Game 7 on the road by a 3-1 score to move onto the Stanley Cup Finals versus the Colorado Avalanche, where they would fall in four games after a dramatic, scoreless Game 4 that would extend into a third overtime before being decided in favor of the Avalanche, giving Colorado the Stanley Cup.

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Roy and Vanbiesbrouck meet following their epic duel in Game 4

Prior to the next season, the NHL passed a rule aimed squarely at the Panthers, due to the lengthy delays in cleaning up the rats, which would result in a delay of game penalty against the home team for excessive celebration of a goal by throwing objects on the ice.

After the Panthers trip to the finals, Vanbiesbrouck would play two more seasons in Florida, which included recording his 300th career victory.

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Vanbiesbrouck's distinctive Panthers mask

He would then sign with the Flyers, where he would play for two seasons before heading back to New York, only this time with the Islanders. The Islanders would subsequently trade him to the New Jersey Devils late in the 2000-01 season, where he would spend the majority of his time as a backup to Martin Brodeur. He would retire at the end of the season, only to return late in the following season to once more back up Brodeur before retiring for good.

Vanbiesbrouck's final NHL totals would show 882 games played, 374 wins and 40 shutouts with a goal against average of 2.97. He won the Vezina Trophy in 1986 while with the Rangers and his 374 wins and 40 shutouts are records for the most victories and shutouts by an American-born goaltender.

Vanbiesbrouck would also carve out a varied international hockey career, which included participation in the World Championships for the United States in 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1989. He would see action in both the 1987 and 1991 Canada Cups but was unable to compete in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey due to a shoulder injury after being named to the team. He would make the 1998 United States Olympic Team for the tournament held in Nagano, Japan. Following his career, he was named to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

Today's featured jersey is a Starter 1997-98 Florida Panthers John Vanbiesbrouck jersey, which features the Florida Panthers 5th Anniversary patch.

The lettering specification for the jerseys from 1993-94 to 1997-98 was one color straight lettering for the names, which was later changed to three color, vertically arched lettering from 1998-99 through 2005-06 after the departure of Vanbiesbrouck and his extended surname apparently allowed the Panthers design department more freedom with the lettering style of the jerseys!

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Today's video highlights include round one of the 1996 playoffs versus the Boston Bruins.

The playoff highlights continue with the peak of the rat throwing, the Panthers first goal at home during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Next, a look at Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, featuring the goaltending duel between Vanbiesbrouck and Patrick Roy which stretched into a third overtime.

Here is an extended interview with Vanbiesbrouck on NHL Live, which covers a wide range of topics,  beginning with his memories of playing the first modern NHL outdoor game, an exhibition in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2004 Czech Republic Jaromir Jagr Jersey

The Czech Republic played five games in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, with their first three games taking place in the European Pool of the opening group stage of the tournament.

They opened with a 4-0 loss to Finland in Helsinki on August 30, 2004, followed by a narrow loss to Sweden 4-3 on September 1st in Stockholm, both times while wearing their white jerseys.

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They returned home to Prague on this date in 2004 to face Germany and donned their red jerseys for the one and only time. Marek Zidlicky opened the scoring on the power play at 2:56 of the second period. Jiri Slegr scored a minute and a half later to increase the Czech lead to 2-0 at 4:27. Jaromir Jagr continued the scoring for the Czechs within another 90 seconds with a goal at 5:52.

Milan Hejduk added another power play goal five minutes later for a 4-0 lead to chase Germany goaltender Robert Muller from the net. Patrik Elias ended the second period barrage at 15:48 to put the game firmly in Czech control with their fifth goal of the period when he scored on relief goalie Oliver Jonas.

Tino Boos broke through for Germany at 3:55 of the third which was countered by Martin Havlat at 10:59.

Jochen Hecht scored a second goal for Germany at 17:19 and Vaclav Prospal made the final margin 7-2 with an assist from Jagr at the 18:36 mark. Tomas Vokoun got the win for the Czech Republic which allowed them to advance to the playoff round and a quarterfinal rematch with Sweden.

In a surprising turnaround, the Czechs blasted the Swedes 6-1 in Stockholm to reach the semifinals and a matchup with eventual champions Canada, who ended the Czech's tournament with a 4-3 win in overtime.

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Havlat led the Czech Republic in scoring with 3 goals and 3 assists for 6 points in 5 games.

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Czech Republic Jaromir Jagr jersey as worn on on this date in 2004 in the Czech Republic's 7-2 victory over Germany in Prague, the only time the Czechs would wear their red jerseys during the tournament.

Aside from the 2004 World Cup of Hockey logo patch worn on all players jerseys during the tournament, the Czech Republic's jerseys also had a #21 memorial patch for Ivan Hlinka, the Czech hockey legend who was to have been the Czech Republic's coach during the tournament. Hlinka, who had once coached the Pittsburgh Penguins, was killed in a car accident just two weeks prior to the tournament. Czech Republic captain Robert Reichel, who normally wore #21, changed to #22 for the tournament out of respect for Hlinka.

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Our video section today are highlights of the Czech Republic's game versus Germany where today's featured jersey was worn for the only time in the tournament.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2004 Team USA 1932 Throwback Chris Chelios Jersey

On this date in 2004, the United States faced off against Russia in St. Paul, Minnesota as part of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, with the US wearing throwback jerseys in honor of the silver medal winning 1932 United States Olympic Team.

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The 1932 United States Olympic Team

The 1932 US Olympic Team would open the double-round robin tournament on February 4th, 1932 in Lake Placid, New York with a 2-1 overtime loss to Canada and then defeated Poland 4-1 the next day before going on a roll that would see them post consecutive shutouts against Germany (7-0) on the 7th, Poland (5-0) on the 8th and Germany again (8-0) on the 10th before skating to a tie with Canada 2-2 to close out the tournament on February 13th.

Here is a photo of an actual game worn United States sweater from the 1932 Olympics.


Russia would win the 2004 matchup against the United States by a 3-1 score on goals by Dainius Zubrus, Alexei Kovalev and Viktor Kozlov, while Keith Tkachuk would score the lone goal for the US.

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This would be the one and only game that Team USA would wear the 1932 throwbacks, although the US World Junior team would also wear these throwback jerseys during the 2005 World Juniors three months later in Grand Forks, North Dakota, only this time with the individual player names on the back.

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Team USA 1932 Throwback Chris Chelios jersey as worn during the 2004 World Cup of Hockey on September 2, 2004 in St. Paul, Minnesota versus Russia.

This jersey features the 2004 World Cup of Hockey patch on the upper left chest, along with Chelios' captain's "C". The jerseys were customized with a distinctive, oversized number font with a pronounced white outline and were worn without names on the back.

Also absent was the IIHF logo patch, normally worn on the back bottom right hem of all the jerseys during the 2004 World Cup, with the only other exception being the 1920 Winnipeg Falcons throwback jerseys worn by Team Canada during the tournament. 

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Here is some video footage of the 1932 USA throwback jerseys in action during the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. Don't miss one of the all time great goals by the sublime Alexei Kovalev.

Monday, September 1, 2014

1909-10 Montreal Canadiens Didier Pitre Jersey

With the formation of the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey Association on December 4, 1909, player-coach Jack Laviolette was put in charge of assembling a roster of French-Canadian players.

The first man he signed was former teammate Didier Pitre, with whom he had played on the American Soo Indians of the original International (Professional) Hockey League in Michigan from 1904 to 1907.

Renowned as a great skater and possessing the hardest shot in hockey, Pitre was an important acquisition for Laviolette and the upstart Les Canadiens as they sought to establish themselves as the team for the French speaking population of Montreal while in the same league with the Montreal Shamrocks and the Montreal Wanderers.

Laviolette paired himself and Pitre with Newsy Lalonde to form a line known as "The Flying Frenchmen" for 7 of the next 9 seasons. While the Canadiens finished last in their first season with a 2-10 record, Pitre managed to average just under a goal per game, with 11 in 12 contests. Pitre exceeded a goal per game average for the next three seasons with Montreal, who changed their name to the "Montreal Canadiens" for their third season, as he first put up 19 goals in 16 games to tie Lalonde for the team lead in scoring as the Canadiens finished second with an 8-8 record. Pitre then an impressive 27 goals in 18 contests, good for second place in the NHA, followed by 24 markers in the 17 games of the 1912-13 campaign to finish one behind Lalonde on the Canadiens and sixth overall.

Following the 1912-13 season, Pitre moved to the west for the 1913-14 season with the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey League, where he scored 14 goals and 2 assists in 16 games in his only season with the Millionaires to tie for seventh in scoring.

Pitre returned to the Canadiens for the 1914-15 season in time to post the finest offensive season of his career when he scored 30 goals, plus 4 assists, in 20 games after moving from defense up to forward.

After scoring 24 goals in 24 games during the 1915-16 NHA season, fourth in the NHA, Pitre led the league champion Canadiens by contributing 4 more goals in 5 playoff games against the Portland Rosebuds as Montreal won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Pitre's share for winning the only Stanley Cup of his career amounted to $238.

Montreal again finished atop the NHA the following season to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second consecutive year after Pitre recorded his fifth consecutive 20 goal season in the NHA. His 21 goals in 20 games placed him sixth in the final season of the NHA.

For the 1917-18 season, the Canadiens became charter members of the brand new National Hockey League and Pitre would continue to play with Montreal for six more seasons, averaging 15 goals a season for the first four years while in the NHL.

The Canadiens would return to the Stanley Cup Finals one more time during Pitre's career in 1919, but the series was cancelled after five games had been played with Pitre leading all playoff scorers at the time due to the flu epidemic which would claim the life of Pitre's teammate Joe Hall.

For the final two seasons of Pitre's career, he would move back to play defense in the spot vacated by the passing of Hall.

Pitre would eventually play 20 seasons of hockey, 13 of those with the Canadiens with whom he would score 220 goals and 59 assists for 279 points in 255 games and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

Today's featured jersey is a 1909-10 Montreal Canadiens Didier Pitre jersey. This blue jersey with a white horizontal chest stripe and large "C" on the chest was worn by Les Canadiens during their first ever season while members of the NHA.

This jersey style lasted only a single season, as was the norm for the Canadiens during their formative years. In their first 16 seasons, Montreal would use 11 different jersey styles, including five in their first four seasons, in stark contrast to their tradition of keeping their same iconic style with only minor detail alterations since 1925.

Montreal Canadiens Didier Pitre 1909-10 jersey

Bonus Jersey: The Canadiens revived their original 1909-10 jerseys as part of their centennial celebrations during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. This was one of six different styles worn as part of the centennial jersey program.

This particular style was worn on November 21, 2009 in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Mike Cammalleri scored both Canadiens goals during the game.

This jersey was scheduled to be worn one additional time on February 13, 2010, but the centennial jersey program was discontinued by the Canadiens new ownership with two games left on the schedule, with the other being on January 23, 2010 when their red and green 1910-11 jerseys were to have been worn, making these two styles the only ones to have been worn just once.

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Our video selection today takes a look back at the formation of Les Canadiens in 1909.


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