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Saturday, October 25, 2014

1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs Wendel Clark Jersey

Toronto Maple Leaf fan favorite Wendel Clark was born on this date in 1966.

Clark played two seasons with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL during which he averaged 27 goals, 50 assists, 77 points and 239 penalty minutes per season, catching the eyes of NHL scouts everywhere.

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Clark with the Blades during his junior days
while wearing the notorious Cooperalls long pants

The rugged Clark was drafted first overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto and made his debut for the Maple Leafs later that year. He actually played defense in junior hockey, but was converted to a forward by the Maple Leafs, a club he would return to again and again during his career.

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1985 first overall draft pick Wendel Clark

A true heart and soul player, the tireless Clark became a hugely popular player with the Toronto faithful for putting everything he had in to every shift, every game. Plus, he sported one of the top, yet underrated mullets in hockey history. Clark rocked the hockey hair in 1996 like few others before or since, not to mention the classic hockey mustache to go with it.

Wendel Clark mullet
Clark with the buzz cut mullet in 1996

While it may lack the sheer volume of the Jagr or the overexposure of the Melrose, the ratio of the shortness of the buzz cut on top to the length of the "mud flap" out back ranks it among the greatest mullets in NHL history.

Clark would announce his presence in the league with 227 penalty minutes in during his rookie season in addition to his 34 goals despite a broken foot limiting  him to 66 games. The legend of Clark's toughness would begin to grow as the broken foot happened when he was hit in the skate by a teammate's slapshot, but he continued to play the rest of the game before it was diagnosed. Clark would raise his reputation the following year by increasing both totals to 37 goals and 271 penalty minutes.

Clark Maple Leafs photo ClarkMapleLeafs4.jpg

A back injury suffered after being cross-checked into the crossbar during the 1987-88 season would limit him to 28 games and his physical style would take its toll as he would see the ice in just 15 games the following season and only 38 in the following, mainly due to recurrent episodes of his back problems.

His games played would increase over the next four seasons of 1990-91 to 1993-94, but he would still average just under 60 games with 59 per season during that time period. After campaigns of 18, 19 and 17 goals, he would explode for a career high with 46 in 64 games of the 1993-94 season. His drive and leadership were recognized when he was named team captain in 1991. The Maple Leafs would make it as far as the memorable conference final seven game series against the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings in 1992-93, with Clark scoring a hat trick in Game 6 as part of his 20 points in 21 playoff games that season.

The summer after his 46 goal season, with his trade value at it's highest in years, the physically aggressive but physically unreliable Clark was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in a blockbuster deal which brought Mats Sundin to Toronto.

Clark would begin to frequently move from team to team for the remainder of his career, being traded by the Nordiques to the New York Islanders after just one season with Quebec following a contract hold out which meant Clark never played in Colorado when the Nordiques moved there for the 1995-96 season despite two years remaining on his contract. He would only play 58 games with the Islanders before another deal saw him finish the season back in Toronto.

Clark Islanders photo ClarkIslanders.jpg

Two more seasons in Toronto, of just 65 and 47 games, would be followed by a 65 game stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, during which he scored an impressive 30 goals to prove he had not lost his offensive skills. It was not enough to afford him any level of stability however, as he was again traded, this time to the Detroit Red Wings at the deadline. His 12 games with Detroit gave him a total of 77 for the season, easily his highest total in 12 years.

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Clark scored 30 goals during his brief time in Tampa Bay

He would begin his final NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks, but once more return to the Maple Leafs to finish out his career with a final 20 games in Toronto where it all began.

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Clark during the final 20 games of his career back in Toronto

Clark's final career totals were 793 games played (an average of just 53 per season) 330 goals, 234 assists, 564 points and 1.690 penalty minutes. Such was the impact of injuries on Clark's career totals, his 147 goals scored during his four seasons of 30 goals or more accounted for 45% of his career total at an average of 37 goals per season, while his remaining 11 seasons saw him average just 17 goals.

Clark had his #17 jersey raised to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre in November of 2008, the 16th player to have his number honored by the Maple Leafs.

Today's featured jersey is a 1986-87 Toronto Maple Leafs Wendel Clark jersey. The Maple Leafs ushered in the 1970's with a brand new jersey style for the 1970-71 season featuring a new modern style with a full length arm strip and matching, single, bold waist stripe. It still carried over a classic lace-up collar. The jersey changed to a v-neck in 1972-73 but then reverted back to the lace-up collar in 1973-74 for two seasons. The v-neck was reinstated permanently starting in 1975-76. Begrudgingly, names on the back arrived on the blue jerseys late in the 1977-78 season and the whites followed in 1978-79.

This style would remain unchanged through the 1991-92 season, a run of 22 seasons but with very little on ice success, advancing past the second round of the playoffs just once and missing the postseason seven times.

This 1986-87 jersey features the King Clancy Memorial patch in honor of the Maple Leafs legend. Five different patches were worn on this style, the first being in 1983-84, the first patch ever worn on a Maple Leafs jersey in their long history, that being the City of Toronto 150th Anniversary patch.

In addition to the King Clancy patch in 1986-87, the home white jerseys also had the "Heart and Stroke" patch that same season to raise awareness of health issues. 1990-91 saw another memorial patch, that for Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard. The final patch worn during this jersey's final season was the NHL 75th Anniversary patch, worn by all players league wide, the first time every player in the NHL would all wear the same patch.

Toronto Maple Leafs 1986-87 jersey photo Toronto Maple Leafs 1986-87 jersey 2.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1995-96 New York Islanders Wendel Clark jersey, representative of the frequent changes in teams Clark was subjected to during the second half of his career, with stops in Quebec, Long Island, a return to Toronto, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Chicago and a final return to Toronto.

The unfortunate Fishsticks jersey was derided by the fans, media and players upon it's introduction. While Clark only had to wear it for 58 games, the Islanders were forced to wear it for two seasons before a hybrid version with the classic Islanders crest replaced it full time in 1997-98.

New York Islanders 1995–96 jersey photo NewYorkIslanders1995ndash96F.jpg
New York Islanders 1995–96 jersey photo NewYorkIslanders1995ndash96B.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs Wendel Clark jersey. Following the success of the Maple Leafs Turn Back the Clock jerseys worn by the Original Six teams the prior season in celebration of the NHL's 75th anniversary, the Maple Leafs redesigned their jerseys for the 1993-94 season, finally ending the run of their previous jerseys which had been worn since 1970.

The Maple Leafs went back to 1934 for the simple but classy jersey template which had been worn through 1966-67, only now mated with the modern maple leaf crest first used in 1970 and the throwback maple leaf crest from the TBTC jersey of the previous season now used as the secondary shoulder logos.

This style has remained in use by Toronto ever since, with a few minor tweaks and a variety of number fonts, even surviving the loss of the waist stripes with the introduction of the new Reebok Edge jerseys in 2007, supposedly due to the original concept of the jerseys being tucked in.

Still, the waist stripes returned in 2010-11, as did the retro maple leaf secondary logos, which had been discontinued in 2000-01.

Toronto Maple Leafs 1993-94 jersey photo TorontoMapleLeafs1993-94jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra bonus jersey is a 1999 NHL All-Star Game Wendel Clark jersey as worn during the 1999 edition held in Tampa, Florida for the second of Clark's two all-star games, with the other being in 1986 although he was named to the 1994 game, but was forced to withdraw due to an injury.

This style was worn for twice, first in 1998 and again in 1999 during the era of the World vs. North America format, with the North Americans wearing red, while the World wore white trimmed in blue.

NHL All-Star Game 1999 jersey photo NHL All-Star Game 1999 jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Normally we research the daily video section just hoping to find some relevant video of an NHL player or perhaps something, anything, on an obscure European player, but not today. Oh, no. Clark was so popular in Toronto, and had we had an embarrassment of riches to choose from.

 If you are not familiar with Clark, we urge you to watch today's first video clip to truly understand the type of player he was, as just statistical numbers don't capture the spirit of a player like Clark. Without further delay, strap on your helmet for The Best of Wendel Clark!

Hell yea! Now that was some Old Time Hockey!

Here is a profile of Clark which looks back on his rookie season.

In advance of his number being honored, Clark revisits Maple Leaf Gardens and recounts some of his favorite memories as a Maple Leaf in a very well done piece.

Next is the ceremony where the Maple Leafs honored Clark's #17 in 2008.

Finally, here is Clark's first game back in Toronto to begin his second stint with the Leafs. Feel the love people, feel the love...

Friday, October 24, 2014

1977-78 Edmonton Oilers Joe Micheletti Jersey

Joe Micheletti, born on this date in 1954, won a Minnesota state high school championship in 1973 while playing for the Hibbing Blue Jackets. Micheletti had a dominating tournament, scoring 7 goals and 11 points in just three games, which included a pair of hat tricks, with one coming in the championship final.

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Joe Micheletti celebrates a victory for the Hibbing Blue Jackets

Following his high school career, Micheletti moved down to the Twin Cities to join the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers under their legendary Herb Brooks. His freshman season of 1973-74 ended with the Gophers winning the NCAA national championship over the Michigan Tech Huskies.

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The NCAA champion 1973-74 Minnesota Golden Gophers

After scoring 20 points in 1974-75, Micheletti's game to a step forward with 31 points in 33 games during the 1975-76 season, which concluded with the Gophers winning a second national championship, again defeating Michigan Tech on a roster than included future "Miracle on Ice" Olympians Bill Baker, Steve Janaszak, Phil Verchota and future NHLer Reed Larson.

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The 1975-76 Gophers won Minnesota's second title in three years

For his final college season of 1976-77, Micheletti was named the Gophers team captain and continued to increase his offensive production with  9 goals and 39 assists for 48 points in 39 games.

Although he was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft, Micheletti chose to join the Calgary Cowboys of the WHA for the latter part of the 1976-77 season once his final college season ended. During 14 games with the Cowboys, he scored 3 goals and 6 points.

Following the conclusion of the WHA season, Micheletti was selected to play for the United States at the 1977 World Championships, where he had 5 assists in ten games.

He was then traded just days before the Cowboys franchise folded to the Winnipeg Jets, but prior to the start of the regular season he was again traded, this time to the Edmonton Oilers. He would play two seasons in Edmonton, first scoring a career best 48 points after being limited to 56 games by a knee injury, followed by 47 in 72 games of the 1978-79 season. The Oilers would make it to the Avco Cup Finals with Micheletti contributing 9 assists in 13 games.

Another trade would send Micheletti to the St. Louis Blues of the NHL for the 1979-80 season. He would play two and a half seasons in St. Louis, with his best campaign for the Blues coming in 1980-81 with 4 goals and 27 assists in 63 regular season games and a fine playoff performance with 12 points in 11 playoff games.

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Micheletti while with the Blues in the NHL

His time in St. Louis would come to a close with a trade that sent him to the Colorado Rockies in a deal which sent former Gophers teammate Baker to the Blues. He would play in 21 games for tColorado, scoring 8 points for the offensively challenged Rockies, the lowest scoring team in the NHL.

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Micheletti during his final season with Colorado

That season would also see Micheletti play 17 games for the Fort Worth Texans of the Central Hockey League, scoring 17 points in 17 games, as well as making his second appearance for the United States at the 1982 World Championships, which would prove to be the end of his playing days.

His final combined WHA and NHL totals were 300 games played with 42 goals (31 in the WHA), 130 assists and 172 points.

After two seasons of work on the Blues radio broadcasts, from 1987-88 to 1990-91 Micheletti was an assistant coach for St. Louis and then returned to broadcasting where he has established himself as a recognizable and knowledgeable figure, often appearing on national NHL telecasts as well as the Olympics on four occasions.

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Micheletti has gone on to a successful broadcasting career

Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Edmonton Oilers Joe Micheletti jersey as worn during his career best season of 48 points, scored in just 56 games. The Oilers began life during the inaugural WHA season of 1972-73 as the Alberta Oilers using orange as their predominate color, as the white jerseys had an orange shoulder yoke and orange arm and waist striping while the road jerseys were primarilty orange.

It was during their third season that the change was made to make blue the primary color while orange was reduced to the trim color as shown in today's featured jersey. This style jersey would remain in use for the remainder of the Oilers days in the WHA and it most easily identified by the low contrast blue letters against the orange background of the main crest on the home white jerseys and orange letters on a white background of the road jerseys, which also was not as visible as it could have been.

With their entry into the NHL for the 1979-80 season, the Oilers would finally make a change for the better by adopting a much higher contrast main crest with blue letters and an orange oil drop against a white background for both their home and road jerseys.

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Edmonton Oilers 1977-78 jersey photo EdmontonOilers1977-78Bjersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1981-82 Colorado Rockies Joe Micheletti jersey as worn during Micheletti's final NHL season. The Rockies wore the same jerseys as they did during their brief stay in Kansas City as the Scouts, only with the new mountain crest of the Rockies, whose team colors inherited from the Scouts conveniently matched the Colorado state flag, making it easy to incorporate its main elements into the main crest.

The only change the jerseys underwent was the addition of the players names onto the road blue jerseys for their second and final season of 1981-82.

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Colorado Rockies 1981-82 jersey photo ColoradoRockies1981-82B-1.jpg

In today's video section, Micheletti and Sam Rosen react to Sean Avery's unorthodox tactics against Martin Brodeur.

Here is a look at the 1974 Minnesota Gophers national championship team.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

1997-98 Vancouver Canucks Mark Messier Jersey

It was on this date in 1998 that Mark Messier, new to the Vancouver Canucks, scored his 600th NHL goal in a 5-0 win over the Florida Panthers, becoming a member of an exclusive club, as he was only the eighth player to ever reach 600 goals.

Messier had just joined the Canucks after six seasons in Manhattan with the New York Rangers, having famously won the Stanley Cup in 1994 to go along with the five he won as an Edmonton Oiler.

Messier Oilers Cup, Messier Oilers Cup

Messier, the only player to have captained two teams to the Stanley Cup, signed a three-year contract worth up to $20 million and was brought in with the intent that he would lead the Canucks to their first championship.

Messier Rangers Cup, Messier Rangers Cup

"Hopefully I can come in here and help out in any way that I can to bring Canada, bring Vancouver, what they're really hoping for - the Stanley Cup," Messier said when he was introduced as a Canuck. "I can't wait to get started."

It was a tall order for the first season, as the Canucks had failed to qualify for the playoffs the year before with a sub .500 record of 35-40-7 and were not selling out games either.

Vancouver beat the Rangers, Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings for Messier's services. It broke up the reunited Messier/Wayne Gretzky pairing that lasted only one season in New York.

Messier was made captain of the Canucks before ever playing in a game in Vancouver. His return to New York was an emotional event, as the Rangers played a tribute video to Messier on the scoreboard, which caused many, including the always emotional Messier, to shed tears. He would go on to score a goal for Vancouver later in the game, drawing applause from the fans in New York.

Messier Canucks, Messier Canucks

His final point total his first season in Vancouver was a lackluster 60 points in all 82 games. The next two seasons were curtailed by injuries, limiting him to 59 and 66 games with his point totals of just 48 and 54 suffering as a result.

The Canucks would finish the 1997-98 season with a 25-43-14 record for 64 points in the standings, worse than the previous season's 77, for last in the seven team Pacific Division as well as the Western Conference, despite the addition of Messier (60 points) and the presence of Pavel Bure (90 pts.), Alexander Mogilny (45 pts.) and Markus Naslund (34 pts.). The season included losing streaks of both ten and seven games and no more than three consecutive wins. The highlight of the Canucks season would have to be hosting the 1998 NHL All-Star Game in January.

1998-99 would turn out worse for Vancouver. Their record of 23-47-12 would net them just 58 points this time, again finishing in last place, only now in the four team Northwest Division, and next to last league wide. Coach Mike Keenan was fired midway through the season and replaced with Marc Crawford. Additionally, high scoring superstar Bure was holding out and eventually traded to Florida. The Canucks were able to make a trade for an additional high draft pick to go along with their original high pick as a result of their poor finish and draft both Daniel and Henrik Sedin with their second and third overall choices.

The following season of 1999-00 would see the Canucks in a fight for a playoff spot all season long, but fall short once again when they were eliminated in the second to last game, denying Messier the opportunity to play in even a single playoff game as a Vancouver Canuck, the entire reason he was brought to Vancouver in the first place. Their record of 30-29-15 for 83 points was tenth in the conference, four back of a playoff spot.

Messier Canucks, Messier Canucks

At the conclusion of his third season in Vancouver, Messier was once again a free agent and chose to return to New York and the Rangers. While in Vancouver he would average just 69 games, 12 goals, 37 assists and 54 points a season. The 162 points he would score in three years as a Canuck were only 33 more than he scored in 1989-90 in Edmonton alone.

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Vancouver Canucks Mark Messier home jersey as worn during his first ever game as a Canuck. This jersey features not only the 1998 NHL All-Star Game patch, but the addition of the Game ONe '97 patch worn by the Canucks and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim when they opened the season in Toyko, Japan in advance of the first NHL participation in the Olympics, which was to be held five months later in Nagano, Japan.

The Canucks would prevail in the game 3-2 in front of a sold out crowed of 10,500. Messier would score a power play goal at 11:42 of the second period on a tap-in from from Naslund to give Vancouver a 2-1 lead at the time. He would miss the third period with a leg injury after a collision late in the second.

Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 jersey, Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 jersey
Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 jersey, Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 jersey
Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 P1, Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 P1    Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 P2, Vancouver Canucks M 97-98 P2

Here is Messier Top Ten moments of his career.

Messier extolling the virtues of the snack foods. He's actually quite comfortable in front of the camera, isn't he?

Finally, while known for his leadership and scoring capabilities, Messier was also capable of dropping the gloves when needed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

2005 Slovakia National Team Miroslav Šatan Jersey

Born on this date in 1974, Miroslav Šatan was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers 11th overall in round five of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft after playing professionally for Dukla Trencin in the final season of the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League of 1992-93 and then again in 1993-94 in the first season of the new Slovak Extraliga following the division of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Satan was a standout that season, scoring 32 goals and 48 points in just 30 games, no doubt pleasing the Edmonton Oilers who had drafted him the previous spring.

He played one well-travelled season in the minors in North America in 1994-95 with the Cape Breton Oilers  of the AHL (25 games), the Detroit Vipers (8 games) and the San Diego Gulls of the IHL (6 games) and even one game with the Detroit Falcons of the low level Colonial Hockey League.

He made his NHL debut with the Oilers in 1995-96 and scored 35 goals over the course of two seasons before being traded to the Buffalo Sabres near the end of the second season in Edmonton.

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Satan broke into the NHL with the Oilers

He would go on to play eight seasons with the Sabres, leading them in scoring six times with a career best 40 goals in 1998-99  and a career high 75 points in 2002-03. The Sabres would also make it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 for the first time in Satan's career.

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Satan played eight seasons with Buffalo

Following the NHL lockout of 2004-05, when he played 18 games back in Slovakia for Slovan Bratislava, he became a free agent and chose to sign with the New York Islanders where he would finish tied for first, second and then third in team scoring during his three seasons on Long Island, highlighted by his 35 goal 66 point season in 2005-06.

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Satan scored a high of 35 goals on Long Island

Satan would then sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 2008-09 season, scoring 36 points in 65 games before being placed on waivers on the trading deadline late in the season. After being assigned to the minors with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, he was recalled by the Penguins a month later and rejoined the Penguins during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He would appear in nine games and score a goal and four assists on his way to winning the Stanley Cup for the only time in his career.

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Satan celebrates the only Stanley Cup of his career in 2009

His final NHL season saw Satan sign with the Boston Bruins in early January halfway through the 2009-10 season. During that season's playoffs, Satan would score the game winning goal against his old club Buffalo in double overtime and then score the series clinching goal five days later.

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Satan spent half a season with Boston

After 14 NHL seasons, Satan would move back to Europe to continue his career. A shortened 2010-11 season saw him play 10 games with Slovan Bratislava and 6 more with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL.

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A rare shot of Satan with Dynamo Moscow

Satan would play a full season with Slovan Bratislava in 2011-12, a successful campaign that saw him average more than a point per game with 52 points in 49 games, capped off by leading all scorers with 22 points in 12 playoff games as Slovan captured the league championship.

He would play two additional seasons with Bratislava, who had now moved to the KHL for the 2012-13 season before retiring at the age of 39 following the 2-13-14 season.

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Satan as captain of Bratislava in the KHL

Satan's final NHL totals were 1,050 games played with 363 goals and 735 points with an additional 114 goals coming while playing in Europe.

Internationally, Satan has appeared for Slovakia in the World Championships 14 times, including helping the newly formed nation climb the international ladder system in the quickest time possible, as Slovakia was initially placed in the lower levels of the system while the Czech Republic remained at the top in Pool A after Czechoslovakia divided in two.

In his first World Championships, Slovakia won Pool C in 1994 (where Satan was named Best Forward), followed immediately by Slovakia winning the Pool B in 1995 to reach the Top Division in just two years. Satan was on the Slovak roster in 1996, their first in the Top Division.

He then earned a silver medal as team captain in 2000 (where he was again named Best Forward) and was captain again as Slovakia reached the pinnacle of winning World Championship gold in 2002.

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Satan hoisting the World Championship trophy

Satan was captain once more in 2003, winning bronze and appeared in the World Championships again in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012 (winning silver), 2013 and one final time in 2014.

Additionally, he has played in the World Juniors in 1994, the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 and 2004, again as team captain, as well as the 1994, 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. He was also named to the 2002 team, but with the NHL not suspending play during the qualification rounds, Slovakia was eliminated before he was able to participate.

In all, Satan would win one gold, two silver and a bronze at the World Championships while appearing in 180 games, scoring 86 goals while being a vital member of the of both the fledgling national team program which started life in the bottom rung "C" Pool and eventual world champions in the span of eight short years.

Satan Slovakia photo SatanSlovakia.jpg

Today's featured jersey is a 2005 Slovakia National Team Miroslav Satan jersey. For the 2005 World Championships in Austria, all the participating team's jerseys were redesigned, only to be quickly replaced by the new Nike Swift jerseys for the 2006 Olympics, leaving today's featured jersey with a all-too-brief lifespan of one year, making it quite rare.

This jersey features the IIHF patch, the Slovakia Ice Hockey Federation patch, Satan's captain's "C" and a pair of our custom made Skoda sponsorship patches, from the loyal sponsor of the IIHF World Championships.

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Slovakia 2005 jersey photo Slovakia2005HB.jpg

Today's first featured videos are from the 2002 World Championships when the Slovakian National Team excited the nation by capturing the gold medal.

Here is a compilation of goals scored by Satan. Do not miss the first one, shot between his legs and behind his back. A real beauty.

Last up is a highly professional look at Satan's national team career well worth your time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1979-80 New York Rangers Phil Esposito Jersey

On this date in 1979, Phil Esposito, then with the New York Rangers, scored a power play goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins for his 1500th NHL point, only the second player in NHL history after Gordie Howe to do so.

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Esposito scored his 1,600th point as a Ranger

After eight and a half seasons in Boston, which included winning the Stanley Cup twice, winning the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer five times and the Hart Trophy as league MVP twice, Esposito was traded to the Rangers along with Carol Vadnais for Brad Park, Joe Zanussi and Jean Ratelle.

Excerpted from Phil Esposito's book "Thunder and Lightning" (available used on Amazon.com in hardcover for less than a dollar!)

I was traded to the New York Rangers on November 7, 1975, in my mind a day that lives in infamy.
[Phil has just been offered a million dollar signing bonus and six-year contract at four hundred thousand dollars per season to join the Vancouver Blazers of the WHA]
[Bruins General Manager] Harry [Sinden] and I had been talking contract and he hadn't offered me very much. I went back to see him. I didn't have an agent. I never brought up he Vancouver offer. I didn't want to use that. I just told him "I don't want to leave Boston. Come on, let's have something here." He offered me a six-year deal at four hundred thousand dollars a year. I felt it was fair, considering what I had done.
"You want a no-trade clause, Phil?" he asked me.
"Harry," I said, "you and I have been through so much together, I don't need a no-trade clause. If you tell me you're not going to trade me, that's good enough for me.
As we shook hands he said, "Phil, you will be here as long as I'm here."
That was in October, just before the 1975-76 season began on the fourth, and I was happier than a pig in [slop].
We were on the road, and I was playing well even though I didn't particularly like Don Cherry's coaching style.
[At this point Esposito runs into Jim Pattinson who tells him he should have taken his offer to join the Blazers because Boston is going to trade him]
The next morning the phone rang, and [my roomate] Hank picked it up. Hank said, "Phil, it's Grapes." "Grapes" was out nickname for Don Cherry. I wondered, it's seven-thirty in the morning. We don't play until tomorrow. Why is he waking me up?
Hank handed me the phone.
Cherry said, "I've got to talk to you." I thought to myself, Oh, Jesus. I said, "If you want to talk to me, you're going to have to come up and see me." I hung up on him.
Hank said, "What's up?"
I said, "I think I've been traded."
There was a knock on the door, and in came Don Cherry and Bobby Orr. Don was wearing the ugliest pajamas I ever saw in my life. Don made a lot of money in Canada by wearing really ugly clothes. Bobby Orr was in a T-shirt and a pair of slacks.
I was sitting at the end of my bed in my underwear, hungover, and I had my head in my hands.
"What the [frick] is going on, Grapes?"
He said, "Phil, I ... well, I ..."
"Come on. Tell me. I've been traded, haven't I?"
He said, "Yeah."
[Frick] me," I said. "For who? And where?" He looked at me, and looked at Bobby, who was standing by the window. I said, "If you tell me New York, I'm going to jump out that window."
The New York Rangers were our arch-rivals. I hated New York. Whenever we went to play at Madison Square Garden, all we got to see was the dingy block between 7th and 8th Avenues and 33rd and 34th Streets. We never saw the hot spots. We would fly in on Eastern Airlines the day of the game, play, stay in the Statler Hilton, a rundown hotel right across the street, and fly out the next day. New York was filthy. It was the last place I wanted to go.
"Bobby, open the window," Grapes said.
That's how I learned I was going to New York.

On arrival in New York, Esposito found his familiar #7 taken by 16 year Rangers veteran Rod Gilbert and chose to simply double his customary #7 to the unusually high sweater number for the time of #77.

His first season of adjustment in New York would see Esposito play in 62 games and score 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points to go along with his 16 points in the first 12 games of the season he played in Boston. While not able to reach the lofty league-leading point totals of 125-150 points as he had done with Boston, while being the first player to ever score 100 points in a season, Esposito still averaged 35 goals a season while in New York and 80 points over the final five full seasons of his career and led the Rangers in scoring three times.

On November 4, 1977 Esposito would score his 600th NHL goal versus the Vancouver Canucks, becoming the first Ranger to reach that milestone and would then go onto to notch his 1500th point early in the 1979 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

When he retired in 1981, he was second to Howe in all-time league scoring with 1,282 games played, 717 goals and 873 assists for 1,590 points for an average of 1.24 points per game over 18 NHL seasons.

Esposito was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984 and had his original #7 famously retired by the Boston Bruins in 1987 when Ray Bourque, the then current wearer of #7 for Boston, pulled of his jersey to reveal a permanent change to #77 in Phil's honor.

Bourque Esposito photo BourqueEsposito.jpg
Ray Bourque surrenders his #7 to Phil Esposito

Today's featured jersey is a 1979-80 New York Rangers Phil Esposito jersey. This style Rangers jersey was first introduced in 1978 after the Rangers brief switch to a much more modern look worn for two seasons in 1976-77 and 1977-78.

It was the first Rangers jersey to ever have "New York" diagonally across the front in the history of the franchise. This style lasted nine seasons before the club reverted back to having "Rangers" diagonally across the front of their road jerseys again in time for the 1987-88 season.

hockey jersey
hockey jersey

First up todays is the "Legends of Hockey" biography on Phil Esposito.

Next up is the jersey retirement ceremony when the Bruins retired Esposito's #7 and Ray Bourque famously shocks Phil and the stadium by giving up his number #7 to Esposito.

Here is Esposito, along with Ron Dugay, Dave Maloney and Anders Hedberg in a moment we suspect they'd all like to forget ever happened.

Unfortunately, it gets worse, as Esposito, Maloney, Hedberg and Ron Greschner take part in a sequel of even more embarrassing proportions.

We're not really sure what's happening here since this post was originally intended to be a tribute to the greatness of Phil Esposito's scoring abilities, but here's another skeleton from Phil's closet we just cannot keep to ourselves. His cohorts are Gil Gerard, Alan Thicke and The Unknown Comic. Why Phil is wearing a #14 jersey, we have no idea...

Monday, October 20, 2014

1978-79 Indianapolis Racers Wayne Gretzky Jersey

Back in 1978 the NHL was embroiled in a feud with the World Hockey Association, which included fierce competition for signing players. The WHA had already lured away many established NHL stars, such as Bobby Hull and Gerry Cheevers, with offers of big money deals. Even Gordie Howe was lured out of retirement for a chance to play with his sons Mark and Marty.

The next tactic that the WHA employed was to look to Europe for players, which led to Swedes Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson joining the Winnipeg Jets and Vaclav Nedomansky defecting from Czechoslovakia and playing for the Toronto Toros.

The third area the WHA would exploit to the fullest was flaunting the NHL rule which did not allow the signing of players under the age of 20. The Birmingham Bulls owner John Bassett signed as many young and talented players as he could, such as Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Rob Ramage, Craig Hartsburg, Gaston Gingras, Pat Riggin and Keith Crowder. It was a very good year to have been born in 1959, as all of the "Baby Bulls" were, except Goulet, who was the youngest of the lot, born in 1960, making him just 18 at the time.

Despite all the signings by the Bulls, the star prize in the race to sign underage players went to Nelson Skalbania, who snared a seventeen-year-old Wayne Gretzky for his Indianapolis Racers franchise. Gretzky wanted to play in the NHL, but was stymied by the 20 year old minimum age limit and did not think that another three years in junior hockey were necessary.

Gretzky THN Racers, Gretzky THN Racers

Other youngsters snapped up by the WHA included future stars Ken Linseman, Mike Gartner and Mark Messier, who also had a cup of coffee with the Racers (5 games and no points) before joining the Cincinnati Stingers and again showing little signs of the success that would follow when he scored but one goal and ten assists in 47 games.

It was on this date that Gretzky would score his first two goals as a professional, and two out of the three he would score in just the eight games he would play as a Racer. The first goal came against Dave Dryden of the Edmonton Oilers and would be followed by the second of his career - just moments later.

Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 Indianapolis Racers Wayne Gretzky jersey. The Racers joined the WHA for the 1974-75 season. Their basic jerseys remained unchanged throughout their five seasons of existence with only a change from two color names used through 1976-77 to one color names for 1977-78 and for 25 games of the 1978-79 season before folding on December 15, 1978.

K1 makes many unusual jerseys that are nice to be able to obtain, such as their many WHA jerseys, however, they do have the annoying habit of making their jerseys "to be worn with pads", meaning they consistently run a size larger than just about every other manufacturer under the sun. A family of four could comfortably live in the large, billowy arms of their jerseys. We generally make a habit of taking any K1 jersey our local tailor shop and have the width of the arms reduced to a more human proportion.

We at Third String Goalie prefer a size large in CCM, Starter or ProPlayer and can live with an extra large quite well, but when it comes to K1 jerseys, a medium is our first choice. A large is passable if the extra yard of material is removed from the arms, but an extra large is more suited for use as a circus tent.

hockey jersey
hockey jersey

In a frankly shocking and unexpected discover today, we found video of Wayne Gretzky scoring his first two goals as a professional for the Indianapolis Racers. It was a rare occurrence for any WHA games to be shown on TV in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area during our youth, and no one had a VCR in their home at the time, so to find video of a Racers game that has been posted on youtube was certainly a welcome and surprising treat.

I'm not sure how much hype there would have been for Gretzky to have joined the Racers in Indianapolis in 1978, but we were also frankly shocked at the size of the crowd at the game and their thunderous enthusiasm.

Here is another video, profiling Gretzky's career during his transition from junior hockey to the WHA with the Racers and his quick move to the Edmonton Oilers.


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