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Saturday, December 19, 2015

1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes Jersey

It was on this date in 1917 that the first games of the National Hockey League were played. The league was formed for one basic reason - for the owners to rid themselves of fellow team owner Eddie Livingstone!

Livingstone was the owner of the Toronto Shamrocks of the National Hockey Association (NHA) and had a contentious relationship with his fellow owners, primarily Sam Lichtenhein of the Montreal Wanderers, with whom he often butted heads with. At one point, Lichtenhein even offered Livingstone $3,000 to abandon his team and walk away, but the cheeky Livingstone countered with a $5,000 offer for Lichtenhein to do the same!

Prior to the 1915-16 season, Livingstone purchased the Toronto Blueshirts, giving him both Toronto NHA franchises - and an unwelcome two votes in league matters. When Frank Patrick and Lester Patrick, owners of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHA) Seattle Metropolitans raided the Blueshirts roster, Livingstone transferred Shamrocks players to the Blueshirts. The league seized the Shamrocks franchise from Livingstone, as had been demanded by the league only a week earlier, not wanting one owner with whom they did not get along with having two votes, when there was now nothing left for Livingstone to sell since the club had no players. It also angered the other owners that they were now a five team league, forcing one club to be idle each week and that road trips to Toronto would be for one game instead of the more economical two, as in the past.

In 1916-17, the 228th Battalion of the Canadian Army formed a team in the six team NHA, taking the place of the Shamrocks. Unfortunately, the 228th received their orders to head overseas to join the fighting in World War I and had to withdraw from the league during the season. This gave the other four owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators the opening they needed, and they held a meeting without Livingstone and voted to suspend his remaining Blueshirts franchise with the excuse of wanting to keep the league with an even number of teams.

 photo 1917-18 228th Battalion Team.jpg
A rare shot of the 228th Battalion Hockey Team

Livingstone field suit against the league as a result. The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens were then given three weeks to separate itself from Livingstone by the NHA or the other owners would operate without a club in Toronto and thus the arena would lose its tenant. The feisty Livingstone of course refused to sell his club, and therefore, at their annual meeting in November, the NHA announced it was suspending league operations due to the difficulty of running a five team league and also blaming player shortages due to World War I.

 photo Mutual_Street_Arena_interior.jpg
The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens

A week later, all of the owners, minus Livingstone naturally, announced they had formed a brand new league, the National Hockey League (NHL), which consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs. The new league also claimed to have retained the contracts of the suspended Toronto Blueshirts players!

With the Quebec Bulldogs suspending operations due to financial difficulties before the new NHL could even begin the 1917-18 season, the Arena Gardens were awarded a temporary NHL franchise, managed by Charlie Querrie, making the fledgling NHL a four team league once again. The league also assigned the Blueshirts players on a lease basis to the temporary Toronto franchise. To further complicate matters, many of the players had signed contracts with both Livingstone and the Arena.

The season, and the league, would kick off on this date in 1917 when the Ottawa Senators lost to the Montreal Canadiens 7-4 and Toronto lost to the Montreal Wanderers by a score of 10-9. The Canadiens would win the first half of the season to earn a spot in the postseason championship playoff, while the Wanderers would cease operations following the fire that burned down their home, the Montreal Arena.

The Toronto club had no official nickname, but the "Blueshirts" were successful on the ice, winning the second half of the season schedule and earned the right to play Montreal for the championship. Toronto was led by Reg Noble, who scored 30 goals and 10 assists in 20 games for 40 points, third overall in the league behind the prolific Joe Malone of the Canadiens who scored a spectacular 44 goals in just 20 games as part of his league leading point total. Corbett Denneny and Harry Cameron also were standouts for Toronto, with 29 and 27 points respectively, for fifth and sixth in league scoring. Toronto's Harry "Hap" Holmes came in second to Georges Vezina of Montreal in the goaltending department with a goals against average of 4.80 in 16 games.

Toronto defeated the Canadiens for the league championship in a two games, total goals series 10-7, capturing the O'Brien Cup. Toronto then faced off against the Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA and won the Stanley Cup by 3 games to 2, causing Livingstone to again head to court to file suit for the revenue earned by "his" championship squad of players.

As a result of this lawsuit, the Arena Gardens formed a new company, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company, to own and run a hockey team separate from the Arena Gardens business in order to protect the Arena business from Livingstone's lawsuits. The NHL then awarded a "new" franchise to the Hockey Club Company. This club was officially named the Toronto Arenas and, not surprisingly, was stocked with the same players from the 1918 championship club. When his players were once again not returned to him for the 1918-19 season, Livingstone sued the Arena Gardens.

Once again, the players were uncertain who would prevail in the courts and covered their bases by signing contracts with both the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company and Livingstone.

Livingstone did prevail in the courts sometimes, but not always. Two rulings in his favor of $20,000 and later $100,000 sent the Arena Gardens into bankruptcy. Despite the company's legal wranglings at the time, the arena would continue to operate for 77 years until closing in 1989.

When the Toronto Arenas did take to the ice in the 1918-19 season as Stanley Cup Champions, they did not play like it. Forced to sell most of their star players due to mounting legal bills, the Arenas record for the season was 5 wins and 13 losses, attendance was low and several players left the team. Finally, the team wrote to the league requesting that the season be ended when each of the three clubs had reached 18 games played and then officially withdrew from the league. This left only the Canadiens and Senators to play for the championship of the NHL and the right to meet the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champions for the Stanley Cup, which Montreal won 4 games to 1.

Meanwhile, Livingstone was busy was attempting to overthrow the NHA management, purchased the dormant Quebec Bulldogs franchise, and began an unsuccessful attempt to start a rival league, the Canadian Hockey Association and threatened to file an injunction to stop the NHL from operating. He also made unsuccessful attempts to start new leagues in 1920, 1924 and 1926, none of which ever played a single game.

Finally, the Toronto Arenas franchise was sold to the St. Patricks Hockey Club of Toronto, who ran the successful senior amateur St. Patricks team in the Ontario Hockey League, which included Arenas team manager Querrie in the four-man ownership group, in December of 1919.

The new owners renamed the club the Toronto St. Patricks and the $5,000 sale price was supposed to go to Livingstone to settle the purchase of his NHA club, for which he had once demanded $20,000 for after they had won the 1918 Stanley Cup. However, Livingstone never received the money, which many believe was kept by NHL president Frank Calder.

The Toronto St. Patricks were members of the NHL through the 1926-27 season, when Querrie, having been sued by none other than Livingstone, was forced to sell the St. Patricks. He reached an agreement to sell the club to Conn Smythe, who renamed the club the Toronto Maple Leafs and constructed Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931.

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes jersey as worn during the inaugural season of the National Hockey League. Their jerseys would change for the second NHL season with the addition of white stripes around the arms and the word "Arenas" across the front, bisected by the large T crest from the previous season.

Holmes would win the Stanley Cup four different times, and with four different teams. He first joined Eddie Livingstone's Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA in 1912, winning the cup with them in 1914. He joined the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA in 1915 and won the cup with Seattle in 1917.

In his only season with the Toronto Blueshirts, he would win his third Stanley Cup before returning to Seattle the following season. After the Metropolitans folded four seasons later, Holmes would join the WCHL's Victoria Cougars in 1924 and go on to win his fourth Stanley Cup, the last cup won by a non-NHL team. After one more season in Victoria, the entire WCHL folded and the Victoria Cougars players were sold to the new Detroit NHL franchise, which took the name the Cougars as a tribute to the Victoria club before eventually becoming the Red Wings. Holmes would play his final two seasons in Detroit and conclude his career with 408 games played, 198 wins, 40 of which were shutouts, 192 losses and 14 ties.

Holmes was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and the American Hockey League award for the top goaltender each season is named the Hap Holmes Memorial Award.

Friday, December 18, 2015

1964-65 Chicago Black Hawks Bobby Hull Jersey

One of the most dynamic and prolific scorers in NHL history, Bobby Hull played his junior hockey for the St. Catharines Teepees in the Ontario Hockey Association from 1954-55 to 1956-57, a season in which he scored 33 goals in 52 games, giving a glimpse into the future as to what was to follow.

He made his NHL debut with Chicago at the age of 18 and finished second in the rookie of the year voting following his 13 goal, 47 point season, which included the first of over 600 NHL goals (and over 900 professional when his days in the WHA are taken into account).

His second season was a repeat of the first, with his goals and points edging upwards to 18 and 50. His game really took flight in 1959-60 when he more than doubled his previous goal total to 39 along with 42 assists to lead the league in both categories and capture the first Art Ross Trophy of his career with 81 points.

Hull and the Black Hawks would achieve even greater heights in 1960-61. Although Hull would relinquish the scoring title, he would still top 30 goals with 31, but his 14 points in 12 playoff games would help the Black Hawks to their first Stanley Cup championship in 23 years.

Bobby Hull 1961 Stanley Cup
Hull with the 1961 Stanley Cup

Individual honors would return to Hull's trophy case in 1961-62 when he again led the NHL in both goals and points when he became just the third player in NHL history to reach 50 goals in a single season on his way to 84 points. Hull again added 14 points in the playoffs as Chicago again reached the finals, but fell short in six games.

Bobby Hull 50 goals
Hull celebrates goal #50 (wearing #7)

After a 31 goal season in 1962-63, Hull once more led the league in goals in 1963-64 with 43 and came in second to teammate Stan Mikita in the points chase 89-87.

The 1964-65 awards ceremony had more in store for Hull, as he took home the Hart Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player as well as the only Lady Byng Trophy of his career. In the postseason, Hull led Chicago in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 17 points in 14 games as the Black Hawks took the Montreal Canadiens to the full seven games before succumbing.

He really turned on the jets beginning in 1965-66 when he led the league in goal scoring for the first of four consecutive seasons with his second 50 goal season when he netted an NHL record 54 goals as part of his league leading 97 points, which garnered Hull his third Art Ross Trophy and second Hart Trophy.

The next two seasons he again led the league in goals with 52 and then 44 before breaking his own NHL single season record with a career high 58 goals and his first 100 point season when he amassed 107 in 1968-69 as the NHL entered a new era in scoring, at which Hull was at the forefront. At the time, Hull owned four of the six 50 goal seasons in NHL history.

Limited to 61 games the following season, Hull still scored 38 goals and passed the 500 career goals mark, on the third player after Maurice Richard and Gordie Howe to reach that milestone. His final season with the Black Hawks in 1971-72 saw him surpass the 600 goal mark during yet another 50 goal season, his fifth, while only Phil Esposito had more than one to his credit with two.

It was then that the upstart World Hockey Association came calling with an offer too good to refuse, and Hull joined the Winnipeg Jets, becoming the centerpiece of the WHA and giving the league an instant shot of credibility.

Hull's jersey #9 was retired by the Black Hawks in recognition of his outstanding career on this date in 1983 in a ceremony at the legendary Chicago Stadium.

Today's featured jersey is a 1964-65 Chicago Black Hawks Bobby Hull jersey from the season Hull won both the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP and the Lady Byng Trophy as well as leading all playoff scorers with 17 points as the Black Hawks took the Montreal Canadiens to a Game 7.

This particular style was worn in the 1962-63 season when the Black Hawks went from five sleeve stripes down to the three white-black-white pattern of today's featured jersey. This style would remain in use for just three seasons, after which the lace-up collar would change to a v-neck collar.

Hull originally broke into the NHL wearing the #16. He would later change to #7 before adopting his familiar #9. Eventually, back in the NHL following the WHA's merger with the NHL, during the final season of his career he would join Gordie Howe on the roster of the Hartford Whalers and once more wear the #16 in deference to Howe.

Chicago Blackhawks 64-65 jersey, Chicago Blackhawks 64-65 jersey
Chicago Blackhawks 64-65 jersey, Chicago Blackhawks 64-65 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's first video is a trip down memory lane, with a look at Munro's Bobby Hull table hockey game. Love the automatic puck dropping scoreboard with the flags. Rod hockey at it's finest. Check out the teams too, Chicago vs. Minnesota. Perfect, and a nice break from Montreal vs. Toronto.

Forgive the quality of the video taping of the TV screen on this video, but the historical nature of Hull scoring goal #600 makes it worth it.

In this next video, Hull wins the only Stanley Cup of his career in 1961.

Finally, a recent interview with Hull on the occasion of becoming a part of the Blackhawks organization once more after far too long of an absence.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

1987-88 Minnesota North Stars Frantisek Musil Jersey

Born on this date in 1964 in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia, Frantisek Musil was drafted 38th overall by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. He could have been drafted earlier, but there was uncertainty at the time if he would be able to leave Czechoslovakia due to the political climate in the early 1980's.

He would continue to play in Czechoslovakia before coming to North America in 1986 after completing his mandatory military service time. It was then that he obtained a holiday visa to travel to Yugoslavia. There, he met with North Stars general manager Lou Nanne and agent Ritch Winter who brought him back to Minnesota.

In 1983 I drafted Czech defenseman Frantisek Musil in the second round. I had watched him play in the World Championships, and he looked like a terrific young player. The Quebec Nordiques at that time has the Stastny brothers, who had defected from Czechoslovakia, and they were tearing up the NHL.

I drafted Frantisek, went to the World Championships in Munich, and talked to him about defecting. I said, "After the last game of tournament, I'll have a police escort get up to the airport and take you back." He says, "Let me think about it, and I'll talk to you later in the week." They always had security watching the Czech team. He didn't come with us in '83. THen in 1984, the third Canada Cup came along, and Musil was playing on the Czech team and I was managing the U. S. team. I'd call him every day and try to encourage him to defect at the end of the tournament. Again, it didn't happen.

Finally, I went to Toronto and hired the same Czech contact who had helped get the Stastnys out of Czechoslovakia. He said if he personally go Musil out, it would cost $250,000, with $25,000 up front for expenses.

That had been his price to get the Stastnys out, too. I said, "OK." Back then, you didn't have to pay the defectors a signing bonus, so it was almost like a wash. I gave him the $25,000, and for the next two years, he'd fly over to Europe and watch them play in different championships, and he'd say, "He's coming, he's coming."

In 1986, I got a call from Rich Winter in Edmonton, and Rich says, "Louis, I'm the agent for Frantisek Musil." Winter had convinced him to defect.

He says, "Musil's going to be vacationing in Umag, Yugoslavia, starting tomorrow." I said, "I'll fly over and meet him in Zagreb at the American Consulate, and I'll get him out from there." He says: "OK, I'm coming, too, but you'll have to give me a little time. We'll meet there in two days." I made airline reservations to fly to Trieste, Italy, which is right on the Yugoslavian border. Bob Bruce, from KSTP, was around the office while all this was going on, and he says, "Louie, do you mind if I come with a cameraman?"

I said, "What are you going to do?" He says; "I'd just like to film it. I won't say anything, won't do anything - I'll stay out of the way." I said, "You better, because I'm not looking after you." He says, "Just tell me what flight you're on."

So we ended up in Trieste, and I rented a car. I said to Bruce and his cameraman,"I'm going to make a dry run to Umag tonight to see what I have to do to drive through the border, so see if I'm going to have to put him in the trunk to sneak him out tomorrow."

We drove to Umag, couldn't find him, and drove back. As we're coming back across the border, I see the Yugoslav guards all have guns and that they stop you and check the car. I see the Italian gate - just a wooden gate - 100 yards farther down, and I figure I can drive slowly and then just gun it and go right through the wooden arm and be on the other side, if that's what I gotta do.

So the next day we drive down to Zagreb. We get to the American Consulate, and I go up to the door, and there's a Marine sitting behind a bulletproof window. I said to him: "My name's Lou Nanne. I'm supposed to meet Frantisek Musil here." He says, "We don't know any Frantisek Musil." I said, "He's a Czech guy who wants to defect, and he should be here with Rich Winter."

He says, "We don't have anybody here." I said, "Would you let me talk to the consulate? "So he rings upstairs, gives me the phone, and I ask the guy if a Frantisek Musil has come here with Rich Winter. "Yeah," he says, "but I sent them to Belgrade."

I said: "Belgrade? What did you do that for?" He says, "Well, that's where they process people who want to defect."

I said: "You've gotta help me. This guy who wants to defect is a hockey player." He says, "Sorry, I can't help you."

Fortunately for me, I had Bruce and his cameraman there. I said; "Would you come down here for a minute? I've got a person from ABC here with a camerman, and if you don't come down we're going to do a story on how you won't give any help to an American citizen who needs it here in Zagreb."

He comes down and I said, "Do you want to go on camera and say you won't help me?"

He says; "No, I'll help. What do you want me to do?" I said: "Make a call, stop them from being processed there, and tell them to drive back here. Otherwise it will take two years to get him out of that holding area."

So he did that.

I said: "I'll tell you what. I want to take you and your whole staff out to dinner. Pick the best restaurant in Zagreb."

They said great. So there's six of us, and we're eating and drinking wine, and we're having a real good time. All of a sudden I get tapped on the shoulder, and there's a guy dressed like a maitre d' in a black suit and tie. I tried to order cheesecake from him.

Finally, the consulate says: "Louis, that's the Secret Police. They want to see your passport." Then the consulate pulls out his green passport and says: "Diplomatic group here. They're with me."

I ask: "How do I get this guy out? I'm willing to put him in the trunk and drive through the border." He says: "No, you don't have to do that. Just get him a visa. If you can get a visa for him immediately, we can just put you on a plane. Tomorrow morning you call back to the States and get an OK for an immedate H-1 visa, then you take him to get a passport picture."

I said, "Let's get on the phone right now, and I'll call Senator Dave Durenberger." I called and said, "Senator, this guy is going to tell you what I need," and then he told the senator what I had to do. I called my secretary, Sue Thomas, and said: "Go down to Immigration right now, get this kind of visa, Write up a contract for Musil with these figures on it, so they know he's got a job and he's got money. Fax everything back to this guy's office so we have it in the morning."

Which they did. Musil got in at midnight. The consulate said, "There's a 1:30 flight out of here tomorrow to London," and we decided to try for it, and then get a ticket in London to Minnesota.

The first thing in the morning, Musil and I went to get his passport picture. I walked in and said to the guy, "I need a passport picture." He says, "Come back at four." I said, "No, no, I need it right now." He says, "I can't do it." So I pull out my wallet, give him $20, and he says. "I'll have them in five minutes."

The next sticking point was the Ford Taurus, my rental car from Italy. I didn't know what to do with it, so I drove over with Musil to Hertz. I said to the guy, "Can you drop off cars?" and he says, "Yes." I said, "Here's my car," and I gave him the keys. He walks outside with me and says, "I can't take that - it's from Italy, we're in Yugoslavia." I said, "I don't care if I end up owning it." A Taurus was only worth $4,200 or $5,200 in the States at that time, and I've got a player I'm saving $250,000 on. I gave him $20 and the keys.

When I got the drop-off charges, the bill was only $427.

We went straight to the airport, got on the plane, and sat there waiting nervously with Rich Winter, Bob Bruce and the cameraman, In a communist country, there are police all over the airport, all around the airstrip, and I'm wondering if anybody will notice that he's leaving for London. Finally, the plane takes off, and we open a bottle of wine to celebrate.

We get to London, we're going through British immigration, and we discover Musil hasn't got the visa he needs - he's got one for the States but not for England.

I said, "This kid's defecting, and he's going to be a professional hockey player back in Minnesota, we're taking him there." They guy was sympathetic, and he says: "Listen, we'll hold him right here. You got get two tickets on the next flight out of England to the United States, and we'll let him go."

I went upstairs and the next flight was on the Concorde to Canada, so I got two tickets on the Concorde. Our other three traveling companions got tickets on the same flight, and we all left. In the air, the pilot announced we had a guy defecting from Czechoslovakia, a hockey player, and they made a big thing out of it - they were toasting Musil and taking us for a tour of the cockpit.

When we landed, we were met by immigration officials, and they just whisked us through Customs and out to a waiting car. They drove us to La Guardia in New York City and got us to Minnesota.

Musil is escorted through the Minneapolis airport on
his arrival from Czechoslovakia 
Oddly enough, about half a year later, my son Marty made the U. S. A. World Juniors team, and the World Championships were in Pistany and Trencin in Czechoslovakia. My wife and I wanted to go see our son play, and I wanted to scout the tournament, so we went.

When we got there I knew we might have a little trouble, because some people were very upset, so as soon as we landed we went right to the rink where the U. S. was ready to play. I went right up into the director's office, because I know the Czech officials from World hockey. And I'll never forget, I walk in, and Miro Schubert, the top Czech hockey official, looks at me and says, "Oh Louie, how could you come back here after what you did to us?" I said, "I didn't do anything to you." He says, "You stole our player." I said: "No, your player just wanted to defect and play hockey. In America, we have freedom of choice. He made the choice. He just happens to play for me." So they were kind to me and everything was OK.

Then a few months later, in June, I drafted two guys for the following year, Dusan Pasek and Igor Liba, By the following July, an agreement was in place between the NHL and Czechoslovakia, and you could buy a player's rights to get him out of the country.
 photo Musil Nanne North Stars.jpg
Musil being introduced to the media
by Nanne following his risky defection

A defensive defenseman, Musil played for the North Stars for four seasons before being traded to the Calgary Flames early in a fifth season. His first season with the Flames saw him set a career highs with 7 goals and 21 points. He would play for the Flames for five seasons before another trade saw him join the Ottawa Senators in 1995 for two seasons.

His final NHL stop was with the Edmonton Oilers, were he played for two seasons before missing the 1999-00 season and the beginning of the 2000-01 season while recovering from a spinal cord injury suffered during training camp. Once back, he would suffer a neck injury which would limit his final NHL season to just 13 games. He would wrap up his career with HC Dukla Jihlava in the second division of the Czech League.

His final NHL totals show 797 games played with 34 goals and 106 assists for 140 points and a +91 rating.

Internationally, Musil played for the Czechoslovakia National Team in the European Junior Championships twice, the World Junior Championships three times, the World Championships five times, winning silver in 1983 and gold in 1985 plus a bronze in 1992. He also participated for Czechoslovakia in the Canada Cup twice, in 1985 and 1992. He also represented the Czech Republic at the World Championships in 1994.

Today's featured jersey is a 1987-88 Minnesota North Stars Frantisek Musil jersey. This jersey features the "JM" patch worn in honor of John Mariucci, "The Godfather of American Hockey". Mariucci played at the University of Minnesota and five seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks when American players in the NHL was a rarity, and then spent four more seasons playing in the various minor leagues of the day before retiring and entering the world of coaching.

Mariucci coached the University of Minnesota for 12 seasons with another spent as the coach of the US Olympic team, earning a silver medal in 1956. He would also coach Team USA at the 1976 and 1977 World Championships. The home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mariucci Arena, is named for John and he is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The North Stars introduced this style for the 1978-79 season. While they added black as a trim color to the white version in 1981, for some unexplainable reason, black was not added to the green road jerseys until the 1988-89 season seven years later!

North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey, North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey
North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey, North Stars Musil 87-88 jersey

In today's video section, here is proud father Frantisek on the occasion of his son David Musil being drafted back in 2011.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

1975-76 Minnesota Fighting Saints Wayne Connelly Jersey

Right winger Wayne Connelly, born on this date in 1939, began his junior hockey career with the Kitchener Canucks of the Ontario Hockey Association, seeing action in 9 games. The Following season the Canucks relocated to Peterboro where they became the Toronto-Peterboro Transport Petes, later simplified to the Peterboro Petes. Connelly spent four seasons with the Petes, with his best season coming in 1958-59 when he scored 36 goals and 90 points. The following season he bettered his goal scoring mark with 48 in 47 games as he was named the recipient of the Red Tilson Award as the OHA's Most Valuable Player.

At the conclusion of the Pete's 1959-60 season, Connelly joined the Montreal Royals for the Eastern Professional Hockey League playoffs. He returned to the Royals for the following season, scoring 28 goals and 49 points in 64 games. He also made his NHL debut with a brief 3 game appearance with the Montreal Canadiens without scoring a point.

He was then traded to the Boston Bruins after starting the season with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens in the EPHL in 1961-62. He stepped into the Bruins lineup right away, scoring his first NHL points with 8 goals and 12 assists in 61 games. Connelly was unable to stick with the Bruins full-time and split the 1962-63 season between the Bruins (18 games) and the Kingston Frontenacs (34 games).

Connelly Bruins, Connelly Bruins

After 26 games with Boston to begin the 1963-64 season, Connelly was sold to the San Francisco Seals of the Western Hockey League. He performed well for the Seals over the next two and half seasons, scoring 188 points in 175 games, including a 45 goal season in 1965-66.

Connelly was back in the NHL with Boston for the 1966-67 season and had a solid season with 30 points but then life changed for Connelly, as well as many other players having trouble sticking in the NHL, for that was the final season of the Original 6. For the 1967-68 season the NHL expanded to twice it's previous size, creating at least 120 new jobs for players at the top level. Connelly suddenly went from a fringe player with 172 games of experience to being considered a desirable NHL veteran.

He was selected by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft and instantly became a team leader in the locker room and on the ice, leading the club in scoring with 35 goal and 56 points. Following the season Connelly was named The Hockey News West Player of the Year.

Connelly North Stars, Connelly North Stars

During his second season with Minnesota, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, the club which with he set an NHL career high with 59 points in 1969-70. During his third season with the Red Wings, Connelly was again moved, this time to the St. Louis Blues as part of a large trade which brought Gary Unger to St. Louis for Red Berenson and Tim Ecclestone.

Connelly's time in St. Louis was brief, as he was only there for the final 28 games of 1970-71 and the first 15 games of the following season before being to the New York Rangers, who then sent him to the Vancouver Canucks the very next day. He had a fine season with Vancouver once the dust had settled, scoring 34 points in 53 games in 1971-72.

Now and NHL regular, but having an unstable career, five different clubs in six seasons, fate smiled on Connelly once more when the hockey world underwent a seismic change with the arrival of the World Hockey Association. 240 more jobs were created, and at a much higher rate of pay, as the WHA sought to buy the best talent available in an effort to compete head to head with the NHL from day one.

Connelly signed a lucrative, guaranteed three year contract with the Minnesota Fighting Saints. Life back in Minnesota agreed with Connelly, as he immediately went out and scored 40 goals and 70 points to lead the team in scoring. Playing with new arrival, the high scoring Mike Walton, who led the WHA in scoring that season, Connelly's totals took another leap upward. He matched his goal output with 42, but his assists took off, rising from 30 to 53 for a 95 point season. He then added another 13 points in 11 playoff games.

Connelly Fighting Saints, Connelly Fighting Saints

Connelly's third season in St. Paul finished with 38 goals and 71 points as well as another 12 in 12 playoff games. The Fighting Saints financial situation was an unsettled one, and when it all came to an end during Connelly's fourth season with the club, through 59 games he stood at 24 goals and 47 points. When the Fighting Saints folded in mid-season, Connelly signed on with the Cleveland Crusaders to finish out the season.

He would play one more season of pro hockey, but first his rights were traded by Cleveland to the New England Whalers during the off season, yet before the schedule could begin, the Calgary Cowboys acquired his rights. After 25 games with the Cowboys, Connelly was again traded for the third time seven months, this time to the Edmonton Oilers to finish out his career.

His final NHL totals were 543 games, 133 goals and 307 points, while his WHA points closed out at 366 games, 167 goals and 329 points, a third of a point per game higher average in the wide open WHA. Combined, Connelly scored exactly 300 professional goals and another 93 in the WHL prior to the NHL expansion. While Connelly benefited from both the expansion of the NHL in the late 1960's and the creation of the WHA in the early 1970's, had he scored 400 goals all in today's expanded NHL, his career reputation would be at a much higher profile than his fractured career history divided among three leagues.

Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Minnesota Fighting Saints Wayne Connelly jersey. After starting their first season with a large "S" logo and the occasional appearance of a gold jersey, the team introduced the "little saint" crested set of jerseys midway through their first season.

This style of sweater would remain the only style they would wear for the remaining 2 1/2 seasons of play. It was revived in a manner when the Cleveland Crusaders relocated to St. Paul and adopted the Fighting Saints identity, only in red and yellow instead of the original franchise's blue and yellow. That franchise would last less than one season before also folding midseason.

Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey, Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey
Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey, Minnesota Fighting Saints 75-76 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1961-62 Boston Bruins Wayne Connelly jersey worn during his rookie season in the NHL.

The Bruins first wore a gold jersey back in the early 1940's for four seasons. They reintroduced a gold jersey for the 1955-56 season while also redesigning their black sweaters, making them the first team in NHL history with a third jersey. This arrangement lasted two seasons until the black jerseys were discontinued.

The gold sweaters were tweaked twice until a redesign for 1959-60 arrived at today's featured jersey style, which had much thinner striping that it's predecessors. This style would be worn through the 1966-67 season, lasting just long enough to be worn by rookie Bobby Orr during his rookie year.

Of note, the Bruins also brought back a black jersey in 1959-60, once again giving them three styles from 1958-59 through 1964-65. Once today's featured jersey was dropped for 1967-68, the Bruins would not wear another gold jersey until the modern era of the alternate jersey arrived in 1995-96.

Boston Bruins 1961-62 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1961-62 F jersey.jpg
Boston Bruins 1961-62 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1961-62 B jersey.jpg

Today's video selection is Connelly, while with the North Stars, shattering the glass behind the Chicago Black Hawks goal with a powerful slap shot. Note just how much shorter the glass was back then, even behind the goals.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Glen Sonmor

In honor of former University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, Minnesota Fighting Saints and Minnesota North Stars head coach Glen Sonmor, who passed away yesterday, we are featuring the story of how Glen and his North Stars drew a line in the sand and refused to be intimidated by the Boston Bruins after years of futility in Boston.

Founded in 1967, the North Stars still had never won a game in the Boston Garden fourteen years later. Going in to the contest on this date in 1981, the North Stars were 0-27-7 at The Garden, where they were routinely intimidated by the Big, Bad Bruins, who featured a lineup with noted tough guys Terry O'Reilly (223 penalty minutes that season), Mike Milbury (222), Stan Jonathan (192), Keith Crowder (172), Brad McCrimmon (148) and Brad Park (111).

From Sonmor's highly entertaining book "Old Time Hockey: Memories and Musings of a Lifetime on Ice";
We started out playing some solid hockey that year and just kept getting stronger as the year went on. There was one game toward the latter part of the season, however, that really had an impact on the psyche of this team. It was against Boston on February 26, on the road at the Garden. We had never beaten Boston in that arena, ever, in the history of our franchise. We were something like 0-27-7 over the past 14 seasons. They had absolutely owned us, it was ridiculous. The bad blood had started several years earlier when one of their tough guys, John Wensink, had skated over to our bench during a game one time and challenged every guy on the team to come out and fight him. Well, nobody budged. 
Anyway, I was tired of those sonsofbitches intimidating us, so I decided that the "Curse of the Bruins" was going to come to an end right then and there. By that point I knew that we were going to wind up facing  them in the first round of the playoffs that year and I really wanted to make a statement. I wanted to instill a new attitude of toughness into our guys and really encourage them not to take any sh-- from those a-- holes. That is so important in hockey, not to be intimidated or disrespected by your opponents. I remember just before the game a reporter asked our enforcer, Jack Carlson about the "Wensink incident." He asked him what would happen if something like that happened again. Jack just smiled and said "I would jump over the boards in a hurry and go after the guy because I would hate to have my coach beat me to him!" 
As it turned out, we would wind up losing the game, 5-1, but I didn't care about the score at all. I wanted to send a message that we weren't going to be pushed around anymore. So, I told our guys before that game that we had to make a stand right there. I told them that we were never going to beat them until we stood up for ourselves. I even held up a Boston newspaper that had an article in it about how the Bruins had dominated us and that we were basically a bunch of pussies. I told them that they were questioning our manhood. I really tried to get them riled up and mad as hell. My instructions to them in the locker room just prior to the opening face-off were simple. I told them that not the second time, or the third time or even the fourth time, but on the first time that any Bruin tried to intimidate one of them, that they were to drop the gloves. I told them that we were going to war that night and that we were going to keep going to war until the game was over. Period. 
We had a ton of tough guys on tour team. In addition to Jack Carlson, who was probably the toughest heavyweight in all of pro hockey at the time, we had Brad Maxwell, Dave Richter, Al MacAdam and Gordie Roberts. So, I felt pretty good about matching up with the "Big-Bad Bruins." It wasn't those guys I was talking to about dropping the gloves though, it was everybody else. I wanted  everybody to get into the action and really let their emotions out. I wanted them to experience just how good it felt to stand up for yourself and stop being bullied. 
Well, sure as sh--, just seven seconds into the game our star player, Bobby Smith, who was anything but a fighter, dropped the gloves. Steve Kasper, one of their top agitators, had cracked him right under the chin with his stick during the opening face-off and that was just what the doctor ordered. As soon as Bobby dropped 'em, everybody else did too and we were off to the races. It was beautiful. That was how it was all night too. There was one fracas after another. I was never so proud to see at one point during the game, there were five fights going on and we were winning them all! I remember seeing Al MacAdam just beat the crap out of one of their toughest guys, Stan Johnathan. It was a blood bath. I mean there were over 340 penalty minutes in the first period alone, not to mention a total of 12 ejections. By the end of the game, there were 42 penalties, including seven game misconducts, and an NHL record 406 total penalty minutes. It just went on and on, it was really something. We only had about five guys apiece on the bench when it was over because so many guys had been thrown out of the game. 
In the end we wound up losing the game, but I could not have cared less. I was so proud of our guys, I could barely contain myself. Then after the game I got into a shouting match on the bench with their coach, Gerry Cheevers. The next thing I knew my players were holding me back from trying to go after him. Hell, I wanted a piece of him. Sure, why not? I took a few swings at him from sort of an odd angle where I was punching up towards him as he was leaning over the glass. 
Anyway, down in the locker room after the game we were all pretty fired up. I was a scene straight out of a war movie, like we had all just returned from battle. I was great. The reporters couldn't wait to talk to me and get some quotes about what the hell I was up to. So, I am out talking to them and one of the reporters reads me a quote from Cheevers, who basically said that I was behind it all and that I had no character. I just smiled and said to the reporter and said, "OK, I have a message that you can take back to Gerry. Tell him to meet me between the dressing rooms the next time we play each other and we'll settle this like men. We'll see whose got character then." And then I added "Oh, and by the way, tell him to bring a basket to carry his f---ing head home in!" 
I tell you what, we barely made it out of the Garden alive. Their fans came down and started rocking our bus, trying to bust the door down to have at us. It was scary, it really was. I thought we might have a riot on our hands, but luckily the cops showed up and escorted us out of there. It was a great flight home though. I remember looking at everybody with their fresh stitches, it was marvelous. We were victorious in my eyes because that just set the stage for our eventual meeting with them in the playoffs. The bad part of it all was that the league president called me into his office shortly thereafter and I caught hell from him. He asked me if I had incited my guys to play that way that night and I said "absolutely." I told him that we needed to make a stand and that I wasn't going to apologize for that. I got fined for it, but [North Stars general manager] Louie Nanne gladly paid it for me. He knew what I was up to and was behind me 100%. 
Back on the ice, we finished up the 1980-81 regular season and went on to meet Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Now, just before we hit the ice at the Garden, I did something that I had never done before. I put on my eye patch, just like the old pirates used to wear. It is a crazy story of how I decided to put it on too. You see, just before I left for the airport from my house in Hopkins, I got a letter from a fan that somehow caught my attention. I was in a hurry, but for some odd reason I took a second to open it up and read it. I was from a woman in White Bear Lake who said that she was a psychic. She said that she had a vision of me standing behind the bench in the Boston Garden with an eye patch on and that she saw us beating what she called the "Curse of the Garden." Her name was Amy Puckett, as in hockey puck, so I figured it had to be a good omen. Hell, I figured I could use all the good karma I could get at that point, so I ran back into the house and grabbed my eye patch [Sonmor had suffered a career ending eye injury as a player when hit by a slap shot and had a glass eye]. Anyhow, I put that patch on right before we hit the ice and I remember screaming out just like a general leading his troops into battle: "Boys, the curse ends tonight!" 
We walked out onto the ice and the atmosphere in there was just electric. We had still never on out there up until that point, but thankfully that all ended in Game One when Steve Payne score the game-winner at the 3:34 mark of overtime to give us a thrilling 5-4 victory. The curse had officially been lifted and we were on top of the world. We were expecting another blood bath, but they played us straight up and it ended up to be a hell of a series. We then followed that up with a 9-6 victory in Game Two, behind our backup goalie Donny Beaupre. From there, we came home to Bloomington for Game Three and it was just louder than hell in there. I mean the walls in the locker room were literally vibrating. It was insane. We were really confident in ourselves at that point and we went out there and finished them off by the final score of 6-3 to sweep the series. After the game legendary radio analyst Al Shaver said it was the biggest upset in Stars history. I would whole-heartedly agree, it was huge. More importantly, we had earned Boston's respect.

The first period of the game on February 25 took an hour and 31 minutes and saw 12 players ejected and 67 penalties called, including a North Stars team record 39 minutes for Payne.

By the end of the game, each team was called for 42 penalties and they totaled an NHL record 406 minutes. The North Stars alone were penalized for 211 minutes from 18 minors, 13 majors, four ten-minute misconducts and seven game misconducts.

Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Steve Payne jersey from the North Stars infamous brawl with the Boston Bruins and the player who scored the goal that ended the North Stars curse in Boston. 

Payne had an eventful night in Boston, as he was involved in the secondary brawl at the seven second mark with Crowder, which earned him a double minor unsportsmanlike conduct, a fighting major and a rare double misconduct. All of this should have kept Payne out of the action until well into the second period, yet he still managed to find himself involved in the fracas which erupted at the 8:58 mark of the first period and eventually carried over to the runway next to the Bruins bench, finally earning him a game misconduct before the first period had even reach the halfway mark. Payne finished the evening with 7 seconds of ice time and a total of 39 penalty minutes!

Payne was drafted in the second round of the 1978 NHL draft after the North Stars had drafted his junior hockey linemate Bobby Smith with the first overall pick in the draft. The two would be teammates for five seasons before Smith was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens.

Payne would eventually play ten seasons, all with the North Stars, but his final three seasons would be severely curtailed by injury. He would finish his career with 613 games played, 228 goals and 238 assists for 466 points and 435 penalty minutes, 9% of which came in the one notorious game verus Boston! Payne's 39 minutes in that game on this date in 1981 were five minutes short of being half of his total for the entire season.

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Gordie Roberts jersey. Roberts was also involved in the brawl in Boston, his fight being with the Boston's McCrimmon, who had already just fought Greg Smith, which earned Roberts a fighting major and the rest of the night off with a game misconduct of his own, as at this point referee Dave Newell finally started throwing players out of the game.

Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 jersey photo Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 Roberts F jersey_1.jpg
Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 jersey photo Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 Roberts B jersey.jpg

Here is footage of Wensink challenging the North Stars bench previous to the record setting penalty minute game. You can also see the brutality the Bruins dished out to the North Stars that had coach Sonmor so fed up.

Here is the mayhem from the record setting 406 penalty minute brawl game when the benches clear and the fighting spills into the off ice area in between the benches.

When Sonmor did the color commentary for the University of Minnesota Gophers he made no apologies for wearing his love of the Gophers on his sleeve. In this clip, Sonmor has had enough of the fans in Madison, Wisconsin booing Madison native Phil Kessel all game long for his decision to spurn the Badgers and choose to play for Minnesota and lets his feelings be known when Kessel has the last laugh by scoring a goal.

Here is a two part interview with the always entertaining Sonmor, a true Minnesota hockey legend, as he talks Gophers, Minnesota Fighting Saints hockey, including discovering the Carlson Brothers, who would star in the movie Slap Shot as the Hanson Brothers, and the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA.

Monday, December 14, 2015

1946-47 New York Rangers Joe Cooper Jersey

Born on this date in 1914, defenseman Joe Cooper made his junior hockey debut for the Winnipeg Columbus Club in 1931-32 with 2 games before an 11 game campaign in 1932-33. In 1933-34 he played for the Selkirk Fisherman junior club, scoring 12 goals in 13 games. He would also play one game for the Fishermen senior team.

He moved to the Eastern Hockey League's New York-Hamilton Crescents, posting 19 points in 21 games in 1934-35, earning First Team All-Star honors. The Philadelphia Ramblers of the Can-Am Hockey League was his next stop in 1935-36. He accumulated 86 penalty minutes in 48 games while scoring 15 points and again earning league First Team All-Star recognition.. His strong defensive play in Philadelphia captured the attention of the New York Rangers of the NHL, who gave Cooper a one game tryout that season, which earned him a contract for the 1936-37 season.

Cooper would spend the entire season with the Rangers, where he would play in all 48 games of the Rangers schedule, scoring his first NHL points with 3 assists. New York would make it to the Stanley Cup final that season as Cooper added a goal and an assist in 9 playoff games.

1936-37 New York Rangers team photo 1936-37 New York Rangers team.jpg
Stanley Cup finalists, the 1936-37 New York Rangers

He would score his first NHL regular season goal the next season of 1937-38 on his way to a total of 3 in 46 games, but offense was not the reason Cooper was in the NHL. At 6' 1" and 200 pounds he was one of the largest players of his day and his strength made him one of the toughest players in the league for opposing forwards to contend with.

 photo Cooper Rangers 1.jpg
Cooper established himself as an NHLer with New York

The Rangers traded Cooper to the Chicago Black Hawks for the 1938-39 season. He would play 17 games for Chicago, scoring 3 goals and 6 points, but spent the majority of the season back with the Philadelphia Ramblers, who were now in the International American Hockey League, where he scored 8 goals and 23 points in 35 games.

Cooper re-established himself as an NHL regular in 1939-40 and only missed 12 games for Chicago over the course of the next three seasons, highlighted by his first 20 point season in 1941-42.

World War II interrupted his career in 1942, but he found time to play 12 games with the Ottawa Commandoes of the Quebec Senior Hockey League. The Commandos advanced to the Allan Cup final against the Victoria Army team from British Columbia, who they defeated 3 games to 1 to claim the senior championship.

For the 1943-44 season, Cooper played 10 games with Ottawa before returning to the NHL with Chicago for 13 regular season games and 9 playoff contests as the Black Hawks advance to the Stanley Cup final.

Cooper Blackhawks photo Cooper Blackhawks.jpg
Cooper spent the majority of his NHL career with the Black Hawks

Cooper had the finest offensive season of his NHL career in 1944-45 when he had 4 goals and 17 assists for 21 points in 50 games. Before the following season began, he was claimed off waivers by the Boston Bruins, but before he could suit up, he was sold back to Chicago, where he would play his seventh and final season with the Black Hawks.

Chicago then sold Cooper back to the Rangers for the 1946-47 season. Back in Manhattan, he scored 10 points in 59 games in what would turn out to be his final NHL season. Cooper would play 24 games with the Cleveland Barons followed by 29 games for the Hershey Bears, both of the AHL, to conclude his hockey career.

Cooper Rangers photo Cooper Rangers 2.jpg
Cooper's final NHL season was spent back with the Rangers

HIs final NHL totals  were 420 games played with 30 goals and 66 assists for 96 points and 442 penalty minutes. Cooper is an Honored Member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.

Today's featured jersey is a 1946-47 New York Rangers Joe Cooper jersey. This rare and unusual jersey was only worn by the Rangers for a single season, the only time from their inception in 1926-27 through 1975-76 that the club would not wear their customary diagonal Rangers crest.

In 1976-77 the Rangers changed to a modernized set of jerseys which featured the Rangers shield logo as the main crest for two seasons before changing back to their diagonally lettered jerseys, which they continue to use to this day, making today's featured jersey one of only three seasons in Rangers history they did not have diagonally lettered jerseys.

Cooper, #12, is seen below in the rare one season only Rangers 1946-47 jersey with teammate #11 Bryan Hextall, who was father of Bryan Hextall Jr. and Dennis Hextall and grandfather of goaltender Ron Hextall.

 photo New York Rangers 1946-47 jersey.jpg

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