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Saturday, June 6, 2015

1978-79 Chicago Black Hawks J. Bob "Battleship" Kelly Jersey

Born in what was then Fort William, Ontario, later renamed Thunder Bay, Bob "Battleship" Kelly was born on this date in 1946. Kelly was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs with the 16th choice in the 1967 NHL Amateur Draft. Born John Robert Kelly, he was also referred to as J. Bob Kelly to differentiate him from former Philadelphia Flyer Bob "Hound Dog" Kelly who was active during the same time period.

His road to the NHL would take some time though, being first assigned to the Port Huron Flags of the IHL for the 1967-68 season. There, in 65 games, Kelly scored 11 goals and 26 assists but served notice of his toughness to go along with his 6' 2" 190 pound frame with 216 penalty minutes.

He divided the following season between Port Huron and the Columbus Checkers, but remarkably in 59 games he was only whistled for 55 penalty minutes. He spent the next two seasons with the AHL's Providence Reds, the first of which in 1969079 saw him only score but 2 goals and 7 points while his penalty minute total sank to just 28 minutes.

Halfway through his second season with Providence, Kelly became a member of the Des Moines Oak Leafs back in the IHL. Combined between the two teams that season, he scored 18 points while accumulating 89 penalty minutes.

Then a remarkable thing happened in 1971-72 when Battleship Kelly found his offensive game, He played three games with the Omaha Knights, scoring twice, and six games with the Oklahoma City Blazers, adding another goal before a return to Des Moines where his 26 goals in 55 games equalled his total from his entire career up to that season. He accomplished this while being a physical force, racking up 124 penalty minutes in his 55 games with the Oak Leafs.

He duplicated the feat the following season with 27 goals for the Rochester Americans under head coach Don Cherry, who certainly appreciated the element of toughness Kelly brought to the club. At season's end, Kelly's 62 points were second on the team while his 206 penalty minutes were tops for the Americans and second overall in the AHL.

That performance earned Kelly his first shot at the NHL when he became a member of the St. Louis Blues in 1973, making his NHL debut on October 10, 1973. After 37 games with the Blues, which included his first NHL goals with 9, Kelly was part of a six player trade at the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft, oddly held in January of 1974 in an effort to prevent the rival WHA from tampering with the NHL club's draft choices.

His destination was the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final 30 games of the season. There he equalled the 17 points he had scored in St. Louis while adding 78 penalty minutes to the 45 he accumulated earlier in the season.

Kelly Penguins

Kelly was a great fit for the Penguins, finishing second in the team in penalty minutes with 120 while his 27 goals were an NHL career high and fifth on the team and his +6 rating showed his value at both ends of the ice. He duplicated that effort again in 1975-76 with 25 goals, an NHL career best 55 points and 149 penalty minutes and a +4 rating.

Kelly Penguins

After one more season in Pittsburgh, where he led the club in penalty minutes with 115, Kelly was signed by the Chicago Black Hawks as a free agent where he played in 1977-78 and 1978-79 to bring his NHL career to a close.

Kelly Black Hawks

He finished his playing career with two games apiece with the Houston Apollos and Cincinnati Stingers, both of the CHL, in 1979-80 before retiring.

His final NHL totals were 425 games played, 87 goals and 109 assists for 196 points as well as both 687 penalty minutes and one of the best nicknames in league history.

Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 Chicago Black Hawks J. Bob "Battleship" Kelly jersey. This jersey is from Kelly's final NHL season and has had the nameplate removed, probably in anticipation of the jersey being reused either in training camp the following season or by another player.

The basic red Black Hawks sweater with the indian head logo first came into being back in 1955-56. It began to evolve almost immediately with changes to the secondary logo size and placement, changes to the main crest, changes to the number of sleeve stripes, changes in the style of collar, the addition of black trim around the white numbers until arriving at today's featured style in 1973-74 plus the addition of names on the back in 1977-78.

Chicago Blackhawks 1978-79 jersey photo Chicago Blackhawks 1978-79 F jersey.jpg
Chicago Blackhawks 1978-79 jersey photo Chicago Blackhawks 1978-79 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1973-74 Pittsburgh Penguins J. Bob "Battleship" Kelly jersey. This jersey was worn for only one season, as the Penguins darkened this jersey from it's original shade of powder blue to a medium blue for one season prior to changing to a all new, more modern striping template the following year.

One unique thing about the early Penguins jerseys were the fact their team logo was black, white and yellow, while the club's jerseys were powder blue and navy blue. It would take until 1980 before the teams jerseys would match the color of their logo and we cannot think of another instance where a team's logo was an entirely different set of colors than their sweaters.

Pittsburgh Penguins 73-74 Jersey

Here is Kelly, regarded as one of the best fighters while in the NHL, slugging it out with the Bruins hair pulling villain Jonathan Wensink.

Here Kelly, while with the Penguins, takes on Hank Nowak. Check out how they go down yet get back up again to throw some more haymakers. They don't let them fight like that anymore in today's scripted fights which adhere so closely to "the code".

Friday, June 5, 2015

The First NHL Draft - 1974-75 Vancouver Canucks Garry Monahan Jersey

The first NHL Amateur Draft was held on this date in 1963 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The draft was instituted by NHL President Clarence Campbell as a way to bring to an end the sponsorship of amateur team by NHL clubs as a means to lock up emerging talent and provide a more level playing field in regards to each team having an equal opportunity to acquire future star players.

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Queen Elizabeth Hotel

Being a new process, some things we take for granted today were not yet in effect however. The draft order, for example, was not simply based on the reverse of the previous season's finishing order, with the last place team choosing first. Instead, the team that finished last in 1962-63, the Boston Bruins, were instead given their choice of which position they wanted to pick, a subtle but important difference, as the Bruins chose to pick third!

The fifth place New York Rangers then chose to pick fourth, the fourth place Detroit Red Wings chose second, the third place Montreal Canadiens chose first. Then the second finishing Chicago Black Hawks chose fifth and the first place Toronto Maple Leafs were left to pick sixth and last, as one would expect.

This first draft would set the order for the foreseeable future, as the plan was that each team would move up one place in the picking order the following year, with the first picking team moving to last - regardless of the finishing order in the standings going forward. This system would remain in effect for four years until the great NHL expansion of 1967.

For the first two drafts in 1963 and 1964, the talent pool was limited to players 16 years of age who would reach 17 between August 1, 1963 and July 31, 1964. Players already on sponsorship lists under the previous system were not eligible. Additionally, teams were not allowed to even talk to their selected players about turning professional until they turned 18 years old, some 15 to 27 months later!

The draft consisted of four rounds, but not many top prospects were available, due to many of them being already assigned to NHL clubs through sponsored junior teams from the previous system. Teams were also allowed to pass on their turn if they felt there was no player of interest to them.

The Canadiens kicked off the proceedings by selecting center Garry Monahan of the St. Michael's Buzzers. Detroit followed by choosing right winger Peter Mahovlich, whose older brother Frank Mahovlich was already playing in the NHL for Toronto. Boston, the Rangers and Chicago all chose players who never made it to the NHL, despite the rapid expansion of the league by the time the chosen players would be turning 20.

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The first ever NHL draft pick, Garry Monahan

Toronto picked last in Round One and made a good choice with Walt McKechnie, who would play more professional games than any other player chosen in 1963.

None of the players chosen in the Second Round would ever make it to the NHL. In the third round, the Red Wings passed on their opportunity to make the 14th pick, standing pat with their first two choices. With the last choice in Round Three, Toronto chose Jim McKenny, the only player of the entire 1963 draft to play in the NHL All-Star Game.

The fourth and final round saw both Detroit and Chicago pass on their picks and once more, Toronto showed the others how it was done when they selected Gerry Meehan, the fifth and final player chosen in 1963 to play in the NHL out of the 21 selections made. With McKechnie, McKenny and Meehan, Toronto saw three out of their four choices make it to the NHL.

Of note, every player selected was a Canadian and by position, 7 were centers, 3 were right wings, 2 were left wingers, 2 were listed simply as a forward, 7 were defensemen and no goaltenders were chosen.

The draft would be held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel for the first ten years of the draft and 12 times total. The draft would be held in various Montreal locations (the Mount Royal Hotel, the NHL Montreal Office and the Montreal Forum) through 1984 before the draft moved to Toronto for 1985.

For the 1964 draft, all 24 picks were made, with nine of those reaching the NHL, including the first Hall of Famer chosen in the draft, goaltender Ken Dryden, who was chosen not by Montreal, with whom he would achieve his fame, but by the Bruins! When Dryden informed Boston of his intentions to attend Cornell University in the United States, Boston traded his negotiating rights to Montreal, who had to patiently wait seven years until the 1971 playoffs for Dryden to play his first game with the Canadiens.

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Ken Dryden

In 1965, the rules were changed to increase the minimum age for eligible players to 18 with the negotiating age raised to 19. With many players already being on sponsored teams or already having turned professional, only 11 picks were made and just two of those ever made it to the NHL, with Toronto not making any picks at all!

1966 saw all 24 possible picks made, with 14 reaching the NHL, highlighted by Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park, who was picked second overall by the Rangers.

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Brad Park

The six new expansion clubs who were to join the NHL for the 1967-68 season found the cupboard bare in the 1967 draft, as only ten picks were made in Round One, seven in Round Two and a lone player chosen in "Round Three" for a total of 18 among 12 clubs, with a mere three ever seeing time in the NHL.

It was more of the same in 1968 with 24 picks over just three rounds with nine making it to the NHL. Of note, Montreal held the first three picks overall! Also noteworthy was the selection of Regina, Saskatchewan-born and Rhode Island raised Curt Bennett by the St. Louis Blues 16th, the first American chosen in the six years of the draft. He was immediately followed by Herb Boxer, the second American chosen with the 17th pick, who was born in Hancock, Michigan.

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The first American draft pick, Curt Bennett from Brown University

Finally, a new era in the NHL Amateur Draft arrived in 1969, as this was the first draft held after the NHL ended team's direct sponsorship of junior teams. The results were dramatic, as 84 players were chosen over 10 rounds, 49 of which made the NHL, highlighted by future Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke.

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Bobby Clarke

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Vancouver Canucks Garry Monahan jersey, as worn by the first player ever selected in the NHL Amateur Draft. Monahan would take five years to make his NHL debut with Montreal before being traded to Detroit for the player drafted immediately behind him, Peter Mahovlich!

His career would also include stops with the Los Angeles Kings, Maple Leafs, Canucks and back to Toronto again. After his NHL career ended in 1979, he then played three additional seasons of pro hockey in Japan.

The Canucks joined the NHL for the 1970-71 season and played in their original specification jerseys for two seasons until a changed in sleeve striping and coloring in 1972-73 which lasted until 1977-78 until being replaced by the radical and controversial black, yellow and orange "Flying V" jerseys.

Vancouver Canucks 1974-75 jersey photo Vancouver Canucks 1974-75 F jersey.jpg
Vancouver Canucks 1974-75 jersey photo Vancouver Canucks 1974-75 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1975-76 Montreal Canadiens Peter Mahovlich jersey as worn by the second player ever selected in the NHL Amateur Draft.  Mahovlich made his NHL debut with three games in 1965-66. He was traded to Montreal in 1969 and played for the Canadiens until 1977, winning four Stanley Cups and scoring 100 points twice. He was then traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins before finishing his NHL career back in Detroit in 1980-81.

This classic Montreal home white jersey was first introduced back in 1941-42 and was worn by Mahovlich during the Canadiens championship season of 1975-76.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

In today's video section, friend of Third String Goalie and Sportsnet's Jeff Marek looks back at the first NHL Draft in 1963, which includes recollections from first ever draft pick Monahan himself.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

1936-37 Chicago Black Hawks Earl Seibert Jersey

After first playing junior hockey for the Kitchener Greenshirts of the Ontario Hockey Association in 1927-28 and 1928-29, Earl Seibert joined the Springfield Indians of the Canadian-American Hockey League for the 1929-30 season. Seibert, a defenseman, scored just 5 points in 40 games his first season with Springfield, but using the confidence gained that first season tallied 16 goals and 27 points in 1930-31. While in Springfield he suffered a serious concussion and became one of the earliest to adopt a helmet, which he wore for the rest of his career.

That performance caught the attention of the New York Rangers of the NHL, who signed Seibert for the 1931-32 season where he developed under the tutelage of defensive partner and future Hall of Famer Ching Johnson. During his career, Seibert, known for his rugged physical play and leadership, would rarely miss a game, and over the next four seasons with the Rangers he played a 185 out a possible 192 games, which included every game of the 1933-34 and 1934-35 seasons.

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Seibert broke into the NHL with the New York

During Seibert's first season in New York, the Rangers won the American Division and defeated the Montreal Canadiens to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals eventual champion Toronto Maple Leafs. That experience served him well as the Rangers finished third in the American Division in 1932-33, which necessitated a longer playoff route. In the Quarterfinals, they again defeated Montreal, this time 8 goals to 5 in a two-game, total goals series. They then dropped the Detroit Red Wings 6 goals to 3 to advance to face the Maple Leafs in a rematch of the 1932 finals. This time the Rangers prevailed, winning the best-of-five series 3 games to 1 to capture the Stanley Cup in only Seibert's second season.

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The 1932-33 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers

After scoring just 10 and 5 points his first two seasons, Seibert cut loose the next two seasons, first scoring 13 goals and 23 points in 48 games in 1933-34 and then 25 points in 1934-35, solidifying his reputation as a great puck mover as well as a good shot blocker.

Seibert, known for his tough contract negotiating had worn out his welcome with New York management, and after 17 games of the 1935-36 season, was traded to the Chicago Black Hawks for fellow All-Star defenseman Art Coulter, who had clashed with Chicago management.

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A young Seibert in Chicago

After joining Chicago in 1936, the Black Hawks would stun the hockey world in 1937-38. They would scrape into the playoffs with by far the worst record of the six qualifying teams out of the eight that made up the NHL with a 14-25-9 record for 37 points, just two more than the Red Wings. They then ousted the Canadiens 2 games to 1 before doing the same to the New York Americans to advance to the finals against Toronto, who had a 24-15-9 record for 57 points. Chicago would win Game 1 by a score of 3-1 with a replacement goaltender, who was ruled ineligible and not allowed to compete in Game 2, which Chicago lost.

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Seibert defending during the 1938 finals

Their regular goaltender Mike Karakas returned for Game 3 with a protective steel toe to protect his injured foot and backstopped the Black Hawks to consecutive wins 2-1 and 4-1 to take the best-of-five series 3 games to 1. The lowly Black Hawks win was so unexpected that the NHL didn't even have the Stanley Cup on hand for the two games in Chicago and the team had to celebrate their championship without the cup!

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The shocking 1937-38 Stanley Cup winning Black Hawks

The championship was the second of Seibert's career, which allowed him to join the exclusive club of only four players to have ever won a Stanley Cup with both Chicago and the Rangers, with the others being the man he was traded for, Coulter (Chicago 1934 and New York 1940) and Paul Thompson and Taffy Abel (New York 1928 and Chicago 1934).

In 1940-41 Seibert would be named the captain of the Black Hawks and have his fourth 20 point season with 20 and follow that up with a 21 point season in 1941-42 when he was again the team captain. He would then top 30 for the first time with 32 from 5 goals and 27 assists in 1942-43 and then set a career high with 3 points from 8 goals and 25 assists in 1943-44.

Each year from 1935 through 1944 Seibert was named to either the first (4 times) or second (6) NHL All-Star Team at the conclusion of the season.

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Seibert resplendent in Chicago's barberpole sweater

He was on pace for another 30 point season the following season of 1944-45 when he had 15 points after 22 games of the 50 game schedule when he was traded to Detroit on January 2, 1945 after the death of team owner Major McLaughlin. Seibert was so popular in Chicago that McLaughlin had given Seibert an ownership stake in the club, but Chicago General Manager Bill Tobin refused to recognize the deal and instead traded Seibert. He ended up with 29 points for the year but added 3 more in the playoffs as the Red Wings defeated Boston in seven games before losing to Toronto in seven games of the finals.

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Seibert is welcomed to Detroit by owner Charles Adams

He split the next season between Detroit of the NHL (18 games) and the Indianapolis Capitals of the AHL (24 games). In 1946-47, Seibert played the final 19 games of his career before concentrating on head coachnig, returning to where is career began in Springfield to become head coach of the Indians for five seasons.

Seibert was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame on this date in 1963, joining his father Oliver Seibert to become the first father-son combination of players in the Hall of Fame. Seibert was also named as one of the Top 100 Ranger Greats and The Hockey News Top 100 Greatest Hockey Players.

Today's featured jersey is a 1936-37 Chicago Black Hawks Earl Seibert jersey as worn during his first full season in Chicago. This is a very rare style of Black Hawks jersey, only worn for two seasons. Chicago played their first season of 1926-27 in white jerseys with multiple black stripes. They reversed the colors of the jersey for 1927-28 to black with white stripes for the next seven seasons.

In 1934-35 they created what would be a transition style for one year, keeping their black and white logo and changing to a single, wide white band trimmed in red across the chest with matching sleeve stripes. The jersey evolved into today's featured style in 1935-36, changing to a colored main crest for the first time in team history and changing the white stripes to a cream color.

While it only lasted two seasons, today's featured jersey would be the inspiration for the throwback jerseys the Blackhawks would first wear for the 2009 NHL Winter Classic outdoor game, which would then be worn as their alternate jersey for two seasons beginning in 2009-10.

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1944-45 Chicago Black Hawks Earl Seibert jersey, worn during Seibert's final season in Chicago. This style replaced today's featured jersey and would remain in use from 1937-38 until 1954-55.

This style would be revived by Chicago for the 1991-92 season when the Original 6 clubs each wore a Turn Back the Clock jersey for the NHL's 75th anniversary season, the first throwback jerseys in NHL history.

Chicago Blackhawks 1944-45 jersey photo Chicago Blackhawks 1944-45 F jersey.jpg
Chicago Blackhawks 1944-45 jersey photo Chicago Blackhawks 1944-45 B jersey.jpg

Today's video section is a look at the 1932-33 champion New York Rangers, who are interviewed by legendary broadcaster Foster Hewitt.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

1897 Ottawa Hockey Club Alf Smith Jersey

Born on this date in 1873, Alf Smith was an early hockey pioneer who began his career with the Ottawa Hockey Club of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC) in 1895 at the age of 22. He played three seasons for the club, recording a total of 24 goals in 24 games.

1985 Ottawa Hockey Club
The 1895 Ottawa Hockey Club with rookie Smith
seated on a stool second from the left

During the 1898 season Smith was playing for the Ottawa Capitals in a lower division of the AHAC but was ruled ineligible to compete when it was discovered he had accepted a $100 bonus for playing for the Capitals lacrosse team. The ruling kept Smith off the ice for the next three years but not away from hockey, as he coached the Ottawa Hockey Club to the 1901 Canadian Amateur Hockey League championship.

1901 Ottawa Hockey Club
The 1901 Ottawa Hockey Club with coach Smith
pictured in the bottom left corner

Smith returned to active play as a professional in 1902 as a member of the Pittsburgh Athletic Club of the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League in fine style, scoring 11 times in 14 games.

He returned to his hometown of Ottawa in 1903 and coached the Ottawa Hockey Club, now nicknamed "The Silver Seven" to their first Stanley Cup against the Montreal Victorias with a dominant 9-1 margin in their two-game, total-goals series.

Smith was then reinstated as an amateur for the 1904 season, but also retained his duties as the team's coach while playing right wing. This was the beginning of a run of success for Smith and the legendary Silver Seven, as they retained the Stanley Cup in ten consecutive challenges from March of 1903 to March of 1906, defeating the Rat Portage Thistles (2 games to 1 just days after defeating the Victorias), the Winnipeg Rowing Club (2 games to 1 in January 1904), the Toronto Marlboros (2 games to none in February of 1904) and retained the cup after a challenge by the Montreal Wanderers was abandoned. In a complicated turn of events, the first game of the total goals series was tied at 5-5, but Montreal refused to play overtime! The Wanderers demanded that the game be declared a no-contest and proposed that the series start over as a best of three, but the trustees of the cup decreed that the series continue as scheduled and Montreal refused to travel to Ottawa to continue the series, allowing Ottawa to retain possession of the cup.

Alf Smith Ottawa
The reinstated Smith in the Silver Seven's iconic barberpole sweater

With that bit of ugliness behind them, the Silver Seven defeated Brandon Wheat Cities 2 games to none nine days later in March of 1904. In one of the stories that made the Stanley Cup famous, the Dawson City Nuggets travelled 4,000 miles to Ottawa all the way from the Yukon, including by bicycle, train, steamship and even dogsled as well as having to walk several hundred miles on foot, only to be greeting by the greatest team of the era, who slaughtered the visitors 9-2 followed by a score of 23-2.

Smith and the Silver Seven retained the rights to the cup by winning the 1905 Federal Amateur Hockey League championship and then withstood a challenge from the Rat Portage Thistles 2 games to 1 in March of 1905.

1905 Ottawa Silver Seven Pictures, Images and Photos
The 1905 Ottawa Silver Seven, with player and coach
Alf Smith sitting astride the Stanley Cup

The next to fail to unseat Ottawa was Queen's University, who went down 2 games to none in February of 1906 followed a week later by the Smiths Falls Hockey Club, again 2 games to none.

During the period of the Silver Seven's dominance, Smith scored 34 regular season goals in 22 games as well as 32 goals in 18 playoff contests. Ottawa lost their grip on the Stanley Cup following a second place finish in the Eastern Canada Hockey Amateur Hockey Association's 1907 season although Smith scored 17 times in 9 games.

With his ECAHA season over, the Kenora Thistles attempted to add Smith to their roster for the Stanley Cup series against Brandon Wheat City, but he was excluded by the trustees. For their series against the Montreal Wanderers on March of 1907, Smith was again added to the Thistles roster and again ruled ineligible. However, the series began with Smith playing and the trustee. Mr. Foran, was informed that Montreal had dropped it's protest, which was actually not the case. The trustee then threatened to take the cup back to Ottawa, but the teams played the series anyway, with Montreal winning.

Back with Ottawa, now using their final name of the Senators, for the 1908 season, Smith had a strong campaign, scoring 12 goals in nine games. The next season was an eventful one for Smith as he returned to Pittsburgh to join the Duquesne hockey club of the WPHL only to be suspended after three games for rough play. He next joined the Pittsburgh Bankers, only to suffer the same treatment, again being suspended for rough play after just two games. Clearly not a fit for the WPHL, he returned to Ottawa and joined a Federal Hockey League team he founded also named the Senators.

He also coached the Ottawa Cliffsides to the Allan Cup championship that same season. With his playing days over, Smith then concentrated on his coaching career, which included managing the Renfrew Millionaires, the Ottawa Hockey Club, now known as the Senators and was the first coach of the New York Americans of the NHL in 1926.

In all, Smith played in 107 games over 15 seasons, scoring 135 goals. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

Today's featured jersey is an 1897 Ottawa Hockey Club Alf Smith jersey. The Ottawa Hockey Club would evolve through a series of white sweaters while they were loosely known as the "Generals", which included this simple white sweater with a plain black "O" with beveled corners. Their sweaters became slightly more elaborate with red sleeves and a rounded red "O" before returning to their iconic red, black and white barberpole jerseys around 1904 when they became known as "The Silver Seven".

Ottawa Hockey Club 1897 sweater

While this is the best photo we can find of Smith wearing this style, here is an illustration of the complete, simple sweater.

Ottawa Hockey Club 1897 illustration

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Festa della Repubblica

Today is Republic Day, or "Festa della Republica" in Italy which commemorates the nationwide vote in 1946 when the Italian population decided which form of government the country would adopt going forward after the fall of Benito Mussolini's Fascist government at the end of World War II.

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Given the choice between continuing the monarchy, which had ruled Italy for 85 years and supported Mussolini, which in turn led to Italy's participation in World War II along side the Nazis of Germany, or becoming a republic, a vote was held on this day in 1946 and the Italian people voted 12.7 million (54%) to 10.7 million (46%) in favor of becoming a republic. As a result, the male members of the royal family, the House of Savoy, were exiled from the country, a ban which remained in effect until 2002.

In celebration of the birth of the Italian Republic, each June 2 a military parade along the via dei Fori Imperiali, consisting of the various branches of the Italian armed forces, police and fire departments as well as the Italian Red Cross, is held in Rome and is presided over by the President, with the Prime Minister and other officials also in attendance.

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The Italian President's guards, The Corazzieri,
perparing for a Republic Day parade

Prior to the parade, a laurel wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Rome's Piazza Venezia while jets fly overhead, leaving plumes of smoke in the colors of the Italian flag.

Republic Day fly over

The parade then proceeds past the presidential viewing box and down the boulevard, which is lined with flag-waving spectators, towards the Colosseum as additional jets fly overhead throughout.

Coloseum Republic Day

The Italy National Hockey Team made it's international debut in 1924 and first appeared in the World Championships in 1930, with a best result of 4th in 1953. From the 1950's through the early 1990's, Italy generally competed in the "B" Pool if the IIHF ladder system, with occasional drops down to the "C" Pool in the 1970's only to immediately return to the "B" Pool.

In 1991, they earned a promotion back to the Top Division, where they were able to remain for 11 consecutive years, including an excellent 6th place in 1994. It took three years to regain Top Division status in 2005, where they stayed for three years, until beginning their current down, up, down cycle between the Top Division and Division I were they currently find themselves in caught in the struggle to remain in the Top Division but a favorite for promotion while playing in Division I, Group A.

Italy's Olympic hockey participation began in 1936 and they have managed to qualify on nine occasions, including a best three in a row in 1992, 1994 and 1998, a particularly strong era of Italian hockey. Historically, the Italian National Team is sprinkled with Canadians of Italian heritage, including former Hartford Whalers goaltender Jason Muzzatti. Of the 23 players on the squad for their most recent Olympics in 2006, six were Canadians and two were Americans.

One of the better known Italian hockey players was Gaetano "Gates" Orlando, who was born in Canada and eventually made it to the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres for parts of three seasons prior to continuing his career in the top level of Italian hockey, the Serie A, where he won four championships prior to moving to the Swiss National League A, where he won another pair of titles. Orlando also competed for Italy in 10 World Championships and two Olympic Games.

The Italian Elite A is the top national hockey league of Italy and was founded in 1924 and currently consists of ten teams, concentrated in the far northeast corner of the country with no teams surprisingly in the capital of Rome or other major cities such as Turin, Palermo, Genoa or Naples.

Today's featured jersey is a 2000 Italy National Team Manuel de Toni jersey which was worn in both the 2000 and 2001 World Championships where Italy competed in the Top Division and finished in 12th place both times.

De Toni, a center, has had a long career in Italian hockey, beginning back in 1994 with HC Alleghe where he still competes today.

Marco De Toni

Additionally, he has skated for Italy on 19 different occasions, including the European Junior U18 Championships, the World Junior U20 Championships, the World Championships and the Olympics hosted by Italy in 2006 and was named captain of the national team in 2011.

Marco De Toni

This jersey is in the familiar blue color as worn by the more familiar "Azzurri" of the Italian National Soccer Team, as blue was the color of the royal House of Savoy, a well established tradition which remains in use today despite the end of the monarchy over 60 years ago.

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Italy 2000 jersey photo Italy2000B.jpg

Today's video segment begins with a look at the military parade that highlights Republic Day in Italy.

Next, some action from Serie A, with HC Alleghe taking on HC Val Pellice followed by a series of player interviews, beginning with De Toni and concluding with goaltender Juliano Pagliero, a Canadian who apparently didn't learn much Italian while growing up in Alberta.

Here's a good one. From the Sabres final game at the Memorial Auditorium, Muzzatti loses his mind and takes on Gary Galley as called by Third String Goalie favorite Rick Jeanneret

We conclude today with some exciting highlights of the Italy National Team in action.

Monday, June 1, 2015

2014-15 Worldwide Hockey Attendance Report

The Chicago Blackhawks were the most watched team on the planet for the seventh consecutive season in 2014-15, drawing a total of 892,532 fans for an average of 21,769 fans per game which was 110.4% capacity at the United Center. They were also the road attendance leaders as the NHL's top drawing card, averaging 18,630 for their road games, which was 105.8% capacity of the visiting arenas.

Blackhawks salute fans
The Blackhawks salute the world's largest fanbase

Runners up were the Montreal Canadiens at 21,286 which was 100.1% capacity at the Bell Centre.

Montreal fans
Montreal fans are among the most passionate in the NHL

The Detroit Red Wings were third with 20,027 per game (100%), followed by the Philadelphia Flyers, who drew 19,270 on average. The Flyers are the first team on the list to play to less than 100% capacity at 98.6%.

The fifth placed Washington Capitals were this year's beneficiaries of hosting the Winter Classic, which drew 42,832 to rise their average attendance to 19,009 and 105.8% of capacity. For comparison, last year the Capitals drew and average of 18,054 at 97.6%, which was 14th best in the league last season.

The Calgary Flames were 6th at 19,097 (99%) followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs, (19,062/101.3%) and the Minnesota Wild (19,023/106%) in 7th and 8th place.

The Tampa Bay Lightning (18,823/98%) and Vancouver Canucks (18,710/98.9%) rounded out the Top 10 worldwide.

Vancouver's Green Men
Vancouver's fans are unlike any other

The San Jose Sharks were 11th at 18,707 (109.2%) thanks to a boost from the 70,205 who attended their Stadium Series game at Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL. They were followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 12th with an average of 18,617 (101.3%).

Considering their poor record on the ice, the Buffalo Sabres were an impressive 13th at 18,580 (97.4%) with the St. Louis Blues in 14th with 18,545 (96.8%). The defending champion Los Angeles Kings (18,265/100.2%) were 15h and the Ottawa Senators 16th at 18,246 (95.3%).

The New York Rangers (18,006/100%) and the Boston Bruins (17,565/100%) both played to full houses at 16th and 17th, limited by the smaller capacities of their arenas but the last two over the league average of 17,497.

Bruins Fans
Bruins fans like to be a part of the action

The Dallas Stars were the first of the teams to play to less than an 18,000 average at 17,350 which was 93.6% in 19th place. The Anaheim Ducks complete the Top 20 at 16,874 at 98.3% capacity.

The Nashville Predators at 21st drew an average of 16,854 (98.5%) at home, but were the poorest draw on the road at 17,006, down to 93.4%. The Edmonton Oilers, whose overall attendance was limited by the size of the 41-year-old Rexall Place, which seats just 16,839, did play to 100% capacity for 22nd. The Colorado Avalanche were the first NHL team to play at less than 90% capacity as they averaged 16,176 for 89.8% in 23rd place worldwide.

The first overseas club makes the list at #24, as traditional European attendance leaders SC Bern easily lead all non-NHL teams with an average of 16,164 (94.4%). Not only do they lead all of Europe by over 2,000 fans per game, they are also a well organized and intimidating presence unlike anything seen in North American rinks.

Back to the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets at 85.5% capacity for an average of 15,511 at 25th. The vastly improved New York Islanders may have also benefitted from fans who wanted to take in a final game at Nassau Coliseum as they played to 94.8% capacity for an average of 15,334 for 26th overall, up from last in the NHL at 11,059 in 2010-11.

The New Jersey Devils are 27th at 15,189 (86.2%) while the Winnipeg Jets faithful sold out every game for a 100.2% capacity at the tiny MTS Centre (capacity 15,004) to place 27th in the NHL and 28th worldwide at 15,037.

Of the seven Canadian NHL franchises, Toronto leads at 101.3% capacity, followed by Winnipeg at 100.2%, Montreal at 100.1%, Edmonton at 100%, Calgary at 99% with Vancouver just behind at 98.9% and Ottawa at 96.3%, showing that the passion and interest in the game in Canada is alive and well, making a good case for the putting a franchise back in Quebec some day, either through expansion or relocation.

It's back to Europe for KHL leaders Dynamo Minsk of Belarus at 14,120 (93.6%) in 29th followed by the Arizona Coyotes at 13,345, the first NHL team under 80% capacity at 77.9% for 30th worldwide. German DEL leaders Eisbaren Berlin (Berlin Polar Bears) are 31st at 13,018 (91.7%), another European club whose supporters who put the "fan" in fanatic.

The Carolina Hurricanes ranked 32nd at 12,594 at just 67.4% of capacity, far below Arizona's 77.9%.

KHL champions SKA Saint Petersburg were the top club in Russia (second in the KHL) at 12,125 at 97% for 33rd.

Next is a shocker at #34, the University of North Dakota of the NCHC, who led all of NCAA college hockey at an average of 11,516 green-clad faithful, outdrawing every professional club in the world outside of the NHL, save four, and an NHL club at their Ralph Englestad Arena, playing to 99% capacity as the 34th ranked team worldwide. All the team needs now is a nickname for the fans to get behind...

Adler Manheim of the DEL is 35th at 11,320 (83.2%), ahead of the last placed club in the NHL and 36th overall in the world, the Florida Panthers, who played to just 66.1% of capacity at 11,265 per game, less than a Swiss team, two KHL clubs, two DEL clubs and even a college hockey team.

37th in the world went to Kolner Haie (Cologne Sharks) of the DEL at 11,161, which was good for 3rd in their league but a lowly 60.3% in their massive 18,500 capacity Lanxess Arena.

Cologne Sharks supporters
Cologne Sharks fans show their support with soccer-style scarves

The first club from Finland, Jokerit Helsinki was 38th in the world following their first season of play in the primarily Russian KHL, drawing an average of 10,932 (80%), a healthy boost over their 9,252 as members of the Finnish domestic Liiga last year.

Despite a dismal 4-26-5 record last year, the University of Wisconsin Badgers led the Big Ten conference of the NCAA with an average of 10,931 (71.3%) partying, singing and chanting fans in the large 15,359 capacity Kohl Center in Madison and placed 39th.

Completing the Top 40 is the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers of the Big Ten at 9,982 which was 99.8% capacity, completing college hockey's big three, as the Gophers were 3,400 above the fourth place NCAA program in attendance.

Trailing just behind are the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at 9,698 in 41st place to lead all of Canadian major junior hockey.

The 42nd ranked team in the world are the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League, averaging 9,427 fans per game, tops in all of the North American minor leagues. It's back to Switzerland for the 43rd ranked club, the ZSC Zurich Lions at 9,331, followed by the Swedish attendance leaders, the Frolunda Indians of Gothenburg who topped the Swedish Hockey League with an average of 9,087 for 44th place.

The top team in the Ontario Hockey League ranks 45th, the London Knights, who drew 8,977.

Next are Slovan Bratislava, a member of the KHL from Slovakia (8,975) in 46th place, the Russian side Lokomotiv Yaroslavl also of the KHL at #47 at 8,928 (an impressive 98.7% of capacity), the DEL's Hamburg Freezers (8,906) in 48th place and Avangard Omsk again of the KHL at 8,666 per game in 49th position.

Completing the Top 50 worldwide are the Calgary Hitmen, the best attended club in Canada's Western Hockey League in Canadian Juniors in at 8,462. Only one other team in the three Canadian junior leagues, the QMJHL, OHL and WHL, drew over 7,000, that being the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads at 7,748 in 57th, although the Kitchener Rangers (OHL, 64th) were at 6,992, just shy of 7,000.

Also of note, second in the AHL were the Lake Erie Monsters of Cleveland, Ohio who played before 8,337 a night in 51st, HC Pardubice, best in the Czech Extraliga (8,298) in 52nd and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL were the final team to draw over 8,000 per game at 8,085 in 53rd place.

The ECHL leaders were the Ontario Reign at 7,656 in 59th, but they are swapping places and names with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL for 2015-16, which will hopefully see the fans in Ontario, California turn out in even greater numbers to see players another step higher on the development ladder.

60th place went to HK Sochi, a first year club in the KHL who drew 7,557. The top club in the United Kingdom's Elite Ice Hockey League were the Nottingham Panthers at 5,266, over 500 above the second place Belfast Giants. Also of note, KAC Klagenfurt at 4,761 led the Austrian EBHL.

In North America, the top team in the junior United States Hockey League was by far and away the Sioux Falls Stampede, who drew 6,376, over 2,800 more than the next best club in the USHL! In fact, the Stampede's outstanding numbers would rank them sixth in the NCAA and eighth if they were in the Canadian Major Junior system. The leaders of the Southern Professional Hockey League were the Peoria Rivermen at 3,788. The University of Connecticut Huskies led Hockey East with 5,396, the St. Cloud State Huskies were tops in the WCHA at 4,398, the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers at 3,307 were tops in Atlantic Hockey while the Quinnipiac Bobcats topped the ECAC at 3,123.

League-wise, the NHL rules the world with an average of 17,498, followed by the surprising Big Ten at 7,357, outdrawing on average every other professional league in the world! The Swiss National League A (6,762) is third overall and the best attended league in Europe followed by Germany's Deutsche Eishockey Liga (6,419), Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (6,324), the Swedish Hockey League (6,036), the top North American minor league, the American Hockey League (5,385), the Czech Extraliga (5,113) and the ECHL (4,520), while Canada's Western Hockey League rounds out the Top 10 with 4,435, just ahead of Finland's Liiga at 4,336 and the Ontario Hockey League at 4,087, the final league over 4,000.

While the NHL rules the world, one would expect the Russian KHL to have to rank higher up the list, certainly above leagues in Switzerland and Germany and most assuredly higher than a United States collegiate league, in order to be able to dole out some of the contracts they have lavished on players since the league's formation.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

1939-40 New York Rangers Art Coulter Jersey

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on this date in 1909, defenseman Art Coulter played junior hockey for his hometown Winnipeg Pilgrims from 1924-25 through the 1926-27 season. His next recorded stats are with the Philadelphia Arrows of the Canadian-American Hockey League in 1929-30. He scored 4 goals and 12 points for the Arrows in 40 games of the 1930-31 season as well as leading the league in penalty minutes with 109.

Coulter had 10 goals and 14 points through just 27 games of the 1931-32 season, which attracted the attention of the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL, who signed him in time for him to play 13 games during the remainder of the season as well as a pair of playoff games.

 photo Art Coulter Black Hawks.jpg
Coulter made his NHL debut with Chicago

Known for his strength and physical play, he remained with Chicago for the 1932-33 season, who paired him with veteran defensive partner Taffy Abel. Coulter played in 46 of the Black Hawks 48 games, which included scoring his first NHL goal on his way to 3 goals and 5 points.

For the 1933-34 season, Coulter established a career best with 5 goals. The Black Hawks finished second in the American Division and defeated the Montreal Canadiens in a two-game, total goals series 4-3. They then eliminated the Montreal Maroons 6 goals to 2 in their two game series to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Detroit Red Wings in a best of five series. Chicago won Game 1 2-1 in overtime and 4-1 in Game 2, both in Detroit. The Red Wings took Game 3 by a score of 5-2 and Chicago then captured the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history by a score of 1-0 after 30 minutes of overtime. Coulter contributed a goal during Chicago's eight playoff games.

 photo a600e525-a4d7-4637-b1ce-b96d3fe68fcd.png
The 1933-34 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Black Hawks

Coulter played another full season with Chicago in 1934-35, pushing his best season point total to 12, and then played the first 25 games of the 1935-36 season before being traded to the New York Rangers for future Hall of Famer Earl Siebert after he exchanged words with the Black Hawks team owner, who had come into the locker room to berate the players. Coulter played the final 23 games of the 1935-36 season and 47 of the Rangers 48 games. The Rangers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs and then the Canadiens to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.

Impressed with his defensive skills and competitiveness, the Rangers named Coulter their team captain prior to the 1937-38 season, during which he raised his career high to 15 points as well as equalling his career high of 5 goals. Coulter was only the second captain in Rangers history following Bill Cook, who had been the Rangers captain from their inception in 1926 until he retired in 1937 after 11 seasons wearing the C.

Prior to the start of the start of the next season, Coulter had the honor of being chosen to participate in the Babe Siebert Memorial Game to benefit the family of the late Siebert, who drowned during the offseason.

It all came right for Coulter and the Rangers in 1939-40, as they finished second during the regular season and then defeated the Boston Bruins 4 games to 2 before defeating the Maple Leafs 4 games to 2 in a hard fought series as three of the Rangers four wins came in overtime.

 photo 1939-40 New York Rangers team.jpg
The Stanley Cup champion 1939-40 New York Rangers

With the Rangers not winning another Stanley Cup until 1994 and Chicago going from 1938 to 1961 between cups, not many players can say they won the Stanley Cup with both the Rangers and Black Hawks. Only Earl Seibert (New York 1933 and Chicago 1938), Paul Thompson and Abel (New York 1928 and Chicago 1934) and Coulter (Chicago 1934 and New York 1940) can make that claim in the history of the NHL.

The following season of 1940-41 would see Coulter set a career high with 19 points from 5 goals and 14 assists, the third time he would score a career best 5 in a season. He would play one additional season for the Rangers, during which he set a career high with 16 assists in 47 games.

With the outbreak of World War II, Coulter, who had been wanting to obtain American citizenship, did just then when the war broke out. He became a naturalized American citizen, enlisted in the United States Coast Guard and joined their hockey team, the United States Coast Guard Cutters, who were stocked with NHLers and competed in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League in 1942-43 and 1943-44, winning the National Senior Open Championship both seasons.

1942-43 Coast Guard Cutters team photo 1942-43CoastGuardCuttersteam.jpg
The 1942-43 Coast Guard Cutters

The Cutters style of play and dominance over their opposition suited Coulter's game well, as he scored 13 goals and 33 points in 1942-43 and followed that up with 10 goals and 23 points in 1943-44. He also added a total of 10 goals and 19 points in two seasons of playoff games with the Cutters. The team was discontinued after criticism about their playing hockey while other servicemen were being sent overseas and into battle.

The discontinuation of the Cutters hockey program brought to an end Coulter's career, as he would not return to the NHL and instead chose to retire as a player.

Coulter Coast Guard Cutters photo Coulter Coast Guard Cutters.png
The Rangers captain Art Coulter was a drawing card for the Cutters,
who played to crowds numbering as much as 12,000 fans

His final career totals were 461 NHL games, scoring 30 goals and 112 points in 11 seasons, during which he won two Stanley Cups, one each for the Black Hawks and the Rangers.

Coulter was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1974. "He was a real smart player. He hardly ever made a bad play or a mistake. And he had leadership abilities that made him a good captain. The rest of the guys respected him and looked up to him," said his former defensive partner on the Rangers Muzz Patrick on the occasion of his induction.

Today's featured jersey is a 1939-40 New York Rangers Art Coulter jersey. The Rangers added the white outline to the Rangers on the front in 1928-29 and the sweaters remained the same through the 1940-41 season until the club changed to the serifed font still in use today.

 photo New York Rangers 1939-40 jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1943-44 United States Coast Guard Cutters Art Coulter jersey. This highly attractive star-spangled jersey features a large, detailed chenille crest and numerous stars, all individually sewn on, making for one very striking sweater which had an all-too-short life span.

 photo Coast Guard Cutters 1943-44 Art Coulter jersey.jpg

A challenge for people researching old black and white photos can be determining what colors were used on old hockey sweaters simply based on various tones of grey. These two photos illustrate a particular aspect of that challenge. The first photo was taken by a photographer who used a blue filter to shoot a formal team photo. The effect in black and white photography is that the blue filter lets the blue color of the Rangers sweater pass through the filter, while it blocks red lightwaves. As you can see, the blue of the Rangers sweaters appears much lighter, while the blocked red color has essentially turned black, increasing the contrast between the two tones in the black and white photo.

 photo Rangers Blue Filter.jpg
Blue Filter Used

The same technique also works in reverse, in that a red filter lets the red color of the Rangers cresting pass through the filter, while it blocks blue lightwaves of the sweater. Now, the blocked blue of the Rangers sweaters appears essentially black, while the red color has been lightened considerably, again increasing the contrast between the two tones in the black and white photo, only this time in the reverse of the blue filter, with the cresting now appearing lighter than the darkened sweater.

 photo Rangers Red Filter.jpg
Red Filter Used

Today's video section is a demonstration of colored filters in black and white photography to give you a better understanding of their various effects.


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