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Saturday, December 26, 2015

The 2016 IIHF World Junior Tournament

Today is Boxing Day in Canada, which signals the beginning of the 11 day national holiday known as the IIHF World Junior Championships.

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This years tournament will take place in Helsinki, Finland at the 8,200 seat Helsinki Ice Hall and the 13,349 capacity Hartwall Arena. Ten nations will participate in this years competition, divided into the customary two groups. Group A consists of the defending champions from Canada, Sweden, the United States, Switzerland and Denmark. All games in Group A will take place at the Helsinki Ice Hall.

Meanwhile, over at the Hartwall Arena, Group B features Russia, hosts Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Belarus.

The tournament kicks off at 2 PM local time, 7 AM Eastern, 6 AM Central with the Czech Republic facing Russia. Two hours later Switzerland and Sweden battle in Group A. Host Finland will be a heavy favorite against Belarus at 11 AM Eastern and the day ends with a heavyweight bout between Canada and the United States at 1 PM Eastern and Noon Central, a game normally scheduled to finish group play on New Year's Eve.

Other highlights on the schedule arrive on Monday the 28th with Sweden vs. the USA and the vital game for the home Finns when they take on Russia. So, what did the organizers save for the final day of the Preliminary Round on New Year's Eve? The Finns will face the Czechs and Canada will take on Sweden in the final games to set the playoff seedings. Not exactly the US vs. Canada we've come to expect to be honest.

The tournament takes it's traditional break on New Year's Day before the Quarterfinals on Saturday,  January 2nd followed by the Semifinals on Monday, January 4th and the bronze and gold medal games on Tuesday, January 5th.

While Canada is the odds on favorite to repeat this year, Sweden returns a number of players from last year and has strong goaltending and will be in the running while the United States can certainly repeat their first ever World Junior gold medal won in Helsinki in 2004. Russia, also regarded as having some of the best goaltending available, and Finland are also favored by some and all five have won gold in the last five years.

Canada brings great depth as always but has a young roster short on returning players and suffers from having such a talent level that, as always, a number of eligible players won't be in Finland because they are currently employed in the NHL. Watch for returnees Brayden Point, Lawson Crouse and defenseman Joe Hicketts to lead the Canadian effort to repeat.

The United States, coached by former NHL head coach Ron Wilson, features Auston Matthews, considered by many as the top prospect in the entire tournament and a probable first overall pick in the next NHL Draft, winger Matthew Tkachuk and defenseman Zach Werenski all are worth following.

All eyes in Finland will be on Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine, two highly regarded, draft eligible forwards.

Viewers in the United States can watch 17 games on the NHL Network, including all the Group A games, covering all the United States and Canada preliminary round games, as well as all 8 Playoff Round contests.

In Canada, coverage has already begun on TSN with the airing of all three of Canada's exhibition games and will continue with all of the Preliminary Round games as well as all 8 of the Playoff Round games.

Today's featured jersey is a 2015 Canada National Team Connor McDavid jersey as worn in last year's World Juniors as Canada would go on to win the gold medal.

Canada introduced new jerseys with a throwback feel for 2015 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their governing body, Hockey Canada. The jerseys are loosely based on those worn by Team Canada at the lesser known 1974 Summit Series of 40 years ago, where the stars of the WHA took on the Soviet Union following the success of the 1972 Summit Series.

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Legends Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull during the 1974 Summit Series

Perhaps the nicest part of the package is the attractive 100th Anniversary logo patch, which features a large maple leaf similar to the one worn back in 1924 as well as the enduring red and black Hockey Canada logo surrounded by the dates 1914 and 2014.

The Canadian appetite for hockey sees the Canadians introducing new jerseys more frequently than most countries and special one off jerseys on occasion, many of which are auctioned off, as is the case with this jersey from anticipated NHL star Connor McDavid, which sold for $19,600 Canadian dollars.

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Canada 2015 WJC McDavid jersey photo Canada 2015 WJC McDavid B jersey.jpg

Today's video segment begins with highlights of last year's gold medal game between Canada and Russia.

Next, here are highlights of last year's entire tournament.

Finally, an introduction to this year's tournament in Helsinki.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Hockey Jesus

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Apparently the hockey season.

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Many anticipate the Second Coming of Jesus, although we have uncovered evidence he may already be here and has won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins while still sporting his trademark long hair...

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

1973-74 Minnesota Fighting Saints George Morrison Jersey

Born on this date in 1948, George Morrison became a star for the University of Denver Pioneers of the WCHA and later played in the NHL and the WHA.

In his freshman season at DU, Morrison scored 58 points on 40 goals and 18 assists in just 32 games, leading the WCHA in scoring. Denver would reach the NCAA National Championship game against Cornell and their goaltender and future NHL star and Hall of Famer Ken Dryden. Morrison would score the Pioneers second goal of the game enroute to a 4-3 victory and the title.

A young Morrison with the Denver Pioneers

"It's funny how I wound up at Denver," Morrison said. "I'd played around my home town [Scarborough, Ontario], but I had no particular plans. Then a friend who had gone to Denver asked me if I'd like to play hockey in college. I said sure. Within a few days I was out here taking exams. It all happened only a few weeks before school started, and I couldn't be happier."

The next season was more of the same for Morrison, as he led the WCHA in scoring with 30 goals in 32 games and a 57 point season and being named a WCHA First Team All-Star and NCAA All-American for the second consecutive season.

Morrison was a NCAA All-American with Denver

He would sign as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues in September of 1970 and score 15 goals and 10 assists as a rookie in 1970-71. Morrison was on the ice for Bobby Orr's famous cup winning goal in overtime and has joked "I was covering my man."

Morrison made his NHL debut with St. Louis

The following season with the Blues, Morrison would score 13 points in 42 games, but missed a number of games due to a bout of mononucleosis and then sat out the end of the season following a trade to the Buffalo Sabres when he refused to report to their minor league club in Rochester.

His career took a turn when he was selected by the Minnesota Fighting Saints in the 1972 WHA General Draft. With an opportunity for more playing time, Morrison signed with the Fighting Saints for the 1972-73 season.

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Morrison is introduced as the newest Fighting Saint by Glen Sonmor
photo courtesy of VintageMinnesotaHockey.com

He would score 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points in 70 games in St. Paul, including his first goal against Winnipeg at the brand new St. Paul Civic Center on January 7, 1973. He would add another goal in five playoff games that season. 

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A publicity shot of Morrison in the Fighting Saints original "S" logo jersey,
which was only worn for the first half of the 1972-73 season

It was during the next season that George would achieve the finest season of his professional career and cap it off in stunning fashion. Going into the final game of the 1973-74 season against the Vancouver Blazers, Morrison had 36 goals, needing four to join teammates Mike "Shakey" Walton and former Blues teammate Wayne Connelly with 40 or more goals.

The speedy Morrison in flight for the Fighting Saints against
a background of the clear dasherboards used at the St. Paul Civic Center,
the only rink in North America to install them.

During that final game of the season, Morrison scored a power play goal at 15:42 of the second period and then rapidly got another one - just 14 seconds later after splitting the defense. No one expected what happened next, as Morrison completed a hat trick in a WHA record 43 seconds at 16:25, with all three goals coming on assists from Connelly and Bob MacMillan.

Of course, when you're hot like that your teammates will try to set you up for the rest of the night, especially knowing you need one more to reach 40, which George was later able to get for a four goal night to finish his season in style, joining Connelly (42) and Walton (57) as those who hit 40 for the Fighting Saints that year.

Sadly, that remarkable record died with the WHA and is a forgotten achievement today, although Morrison's stick from that game does reside in the archives of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Morrison would add another 5 goals and 10 points in 11 playoff games as the Fighting Saints would defeat the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs 4 games to 1 before losing to the eventual champion Houston Aeros in a memorable six game series that featured as much mayhem as hockey.

The 1974-75 season was another successful one for George, with 31 goals and 60 points in 76 games with another 14 points in 12 playoff games as Minnesota defeated the New England Whalers before losing to the Quebec Nordiques in six games.

Morrison was traded by the Fighting Saints to the Calgary Cowboys for John McKenzie just prior to the 1975-76 season and scored 25 goals and 32 assist for 57 points followed by 11 goals and 19 assists for 30 points in his final season as a professional in 1976-77. His final combined NHL and WHA totals are 476 games played with 140 goals and 163 assists for 303 points.

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Morrison finished his playing days with the Calgary Cowboys of the WHA

Following his playing career, he was active in sports management and was a volunteer coach for the Union College women's team in Schenectady, New York. “He was everything to our team — a leader, a mentor, a teacher, a father figure and a coach,” said Union head coach Claudia Asano.

Sadly, Morrison passed away on November 12, 2008 at age 59 from a brain tumor.

Today's featured jersey is a 1973-74 Minnesota Fighting Saints George Morrison jersey as worn during the season he scored 40 goals, the highest total of his career. This jersey features our all-time favorite logo in sports history. The Little Saint is a real classic, with his Dennis the Menace look, bent wire halo and untied skates in juxtaposition to his angelic wings. One can only imagine how much money could have been made with that logo combined with today's marketing expertise if it had been introduced in the last 10 years.

It was this jersey that inspired the look of the Charlestown Chiefs jerseys of the movie Slap Shot, as the real Johnstown Jets were a minor league affiliate of the Fighting Saints and used the Fighting Saints jersey colors and template for their jerseys at the time the movie was made.

The logo on today's featured jersey is accurate to the originals with it's white skates, no halo and without the "Saints" name on the mascot's chest, unlike many other reproductions based on the version of the logo used for the team's letterhead and merchandise, which had the team name in the "S" logo, black skates and the bent wire halo over the little saint's head, none of which were found on the actual Fighting Saints jerseys.

While the company who produced our jersey is no longer around, you can purchase your own high quality Fighting Saints jersey from our friends at VintageMinnesotaHockey.com. They even offer the original variation in blue and gold as worn by the Fighting Saints during the first half of their inaugural season in 1972.

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It's impossible to do any story on Morrison without relating "The Hot Dog Incident", as told by George himself.

"I was never coach Scotty Bowman's favourite player," said Morrison, "and I was even less popular with him after a caper I pulled during a game at the Los Angeles Forum." "During the game in L.A. it looked like the same old story — I was told to suit up but not to count on getting much ice time." 
"It was late in the game and I'd warmed the bench all evening. Suddenly I realized I was very hungry. Well, next to me at the end of the bench I saw an usher eyeing my hockey stick. So I whispered to him, 'Pal, get me a hot dog, will you, and I'll give you my stick after the game.' The usher was back in a flash with the hot dog, and I was just sneaking my first bite (I waited until Scotty was looking the other way) when Bowman yelled at me, 'Morrison, get out there and kill that penalty!' "

"What to do? As I leaped over the boards, I stuffed the hot dog down the cuff of my hockey glove. I didn't know what else to do with it. And wouldn't you know, seconds later, someone slammed into me in front of our net. Hit me so hard the hot dog popped free of my glove and flew up in the air. Our goalie made a stab at it and tried to knock it to one side while the other players ducked the flying relish and mustard."
In today's video section, a look back at the Minnesota Fighting Saints first season, featuring the late Glen Sonmor, which shows both the early season gold "S" jerseys and the later white "Little Saint" jerseys. Sharp eyed viewers will be able to spot #9 Morrison during the video.

Additionally, the early season footage of the gold jerseys shows the team playing in the antiquated St. Paul Auditorium while the finishing touches were being put on the new St. Paul Civic Center, easily identifiable by its clear boards.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

1995-96 Toronto Maple Leafs Doug Gilmour Jersey

Doug Gilmour's junior hockey career was spent with the Cornwall Royals, which included winning the 1981 Memorial Cup and leading the OHL in goals (70), assists (107) and points (177) in 1982-83, which included a 55 game point scoring streak which still stands to this day. His 177 point season remains the third highest in league history and earned him the league's Most Outstanding Player award in 1983. Still, concerns over his size caused NHL teams to shy away from him before the St. Louis Blues drafted Gilmour in the seventh round of the 1982 NHL Entry Draft after he was passed over entirely when he was first eligible in 1981.

Originally a defenseman in junior hockey, St. Louis signed Gilmour for the 1983-84 season with the thought he could be a defensive forward. His first three seasons with St. Louis saw Gilmour score in the 50 point range before becoming the first player in league history to lead the NHL in playoff scoring without making the Stanley Cup Finals when he registered 21 points in 19 games in 1986. Having demonstrated his offensive skills, he was give the opportunity to move up to one of the Blues top lines and responded with a career high 42 goals on his way to a 105 point season in 1986-87.

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Gilmour as a rookie with St. Louis in 1983-84,
the final year of this jersey style

His breakout season earned Gilmour a spot on the Team Canada roster for the 1987 Canada Cup where he scored 2 goals as the Canadians won the championship.

The Blues and Gilmour parted ways when he was dealt to the Calgary Flames prior to the 1988-89 season, which proved beneficial for both Gilmour and the Flames, as he was a key contributor to the Flames first and only Stanley Cup championship that season. He finished tied for second with 85 regular season points and his 11 goals and 11 assists in 22 playoff games were good for third on the club.

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Gilmour's move to Calgary would be
immediately rewarded with a Stanley Cup

He would play two and half more seasons in Calgary, including a best of 91 points while with the Flames in 1989-90 before being traded once more, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he was reunited with his former Calgary General Manager Cliff Fletcher in a gigantic 10 player deal. Gilmour was immediately productive in Toronto, scoring 49 points in 40 games.

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Gilmour after being traded to Toronto in 1991-92,
also the final year for this long-lived jersey style

His second season with the Maple Leafs proved to be the finest of his career. While Gilmour notched 32 goals during the season, his playmaking skills produced assists and a tremendous clip. He would continue to pile up the points, eventually pushing the mark up to 127 total points, which still stands as the club record, now 23 years later. Gilmour's 95 assists that season were easily more than double his next closest teammate Glenn Anderson's 43. Following the season Gilmour was named the winner of the Selke Trophy and finished second in voting for the prestigious Hart Trophy. Additionally, he became extremely popular with the fans in Toronto thanks to his all-out, two-way style of play, evidenced by his accumulation of scars nearly as quickly as points.

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Gilmour during his record setting second season with the Maple Leafs

During the postseason, Gilmour led the Maple Leafs to the conference finals following Game 7 wins over both the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues before stretching the Los Angeles Kings to a seventh game as he scored an impressive 35 points in 21 games, second most in the league despite not advancing to the finals.

The following season Gilmour finished the season fourth in the NHL in scoring, with his 111 points only one back of Adam Oates' 112. Gilmour again continued to excel in the postseason with 28 points in 18 games, ten more than any other Maple Leaf, as the again returned to the conference finals after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in 6 and the San Jose Sharks in 7 before falling to the Vancouver Canucks in 5.

The following NHL season was delayed with labor issues until January of 1995, and in the meantime Gilmour kept himself occupied by playing for Rapperswill-Jona in the Swiss National League A for a nine game stint before joining Wayne Gretzky's all-star hockey tour of Europe and then returning to Canada and taking part in the NHLPA's Four-on-Four Tournament, where his Team Ontario won the championship. With the labor issues finally settled, Gilmour returned to Toronto where he was named as the club's new captain, a rank he would hold for the remainder of his time with the team. With the season finally underway, Gilmour would score 33 points in 44 games.

He returned strong in 1995-96 with a 32 goal season, his fourth and final 30 goal season of his career, on his way to 72 points, good for second on the team. His 72 points included 40 assists, which included  a pair on this date in 1995 during a 6-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers to give him 1,000 career points.

Gilmour's final season with Toronto came in 1996-97 when he played in 61 games before a trade to the New Jersey Devils, as the Maple Leafs had slipped from their two peak seasons of 99 and 98 points down to a season which would conclude with 68 points, necessitating a rebuilding effort for Toronto which saw Gilmour dealt for three players in return.

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Maple Leafs captain Gilmour during his final season in Toronto

Gilmour would then play another season for the Devils, two for the Chicago Blackhawks before a trade to the Buffalo Sabres, with whom he would play one season prior to two seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. During that period of his career, Gilmour's game, along with the style of play in the NHL, would see his point scoring limited to less than 60 per season. At the trade deadline of his second season with Montreal, he was traded back to Toronto, but fate would intervene as a collision during his second shift would result in a torn ACL, causing him to miss the remainder of the season and prior to Gilmour announcing his retirement prior to the start of the 2003-04 season.

Gilmour would finish with 1,474 games played during which he scored 450 goals and 964 assists for 1,414 points.

The Maple Leafs would honor Gilmour's #93 on January 31, 2009 and he would be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Toronto Maple Leafs Doug Gilmour jersey as worn during the game in which he scored his 1,000th NHL point, only the 44th player to ever reach that milestone in the then 79 year history of the NHL.

This jersey was first worn in 1992-93, as detailed below. This style would remain unchanged through the 1996-97 season after which a modernized font would be introduced for the names and numbers, ruining the classic retro feeling of the previous iteration.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1992-93 Toronto Maple Leafs Doug Gilmour jersey as worn during the game in which he broke the Maple Leafs single season scoring record. Following the well received Turn Back the Clock jersey worn by Toronto for select games during the previous season in honor of the NHL's 75th Anniversary, the Maple Leafs debuted a brand new jersey for the 1992-93 season, which featured a much more simple and classic style.

The twin white stripes on the arms and waist were first used by Toronto in 1934-35 and remained in use all the way through 1966-67. That basic jersey was paired with the Maple Leafs current, modern logo as well as the Turn Back the Clock jersey's retro style leaf logo as the new secondary shoulder patches. Despite changes in the fonts for the names and numbers for a period and the transition to the new Reebok Edge jerseys in 2007-08, this jersey has remained in use for as long as Gilmour's scoring record has stood.

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Toronto Maple Leafs 92-93 jersey, Toronto Maple Leafs 92-93 jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1991-92 Toronto Maple Leafs Turn Back the Clock Doug Gilmour jersey. This is the jersey which inspired the changes in the Maple Leafs jersey for 1992-93, ditching the previous style, which had frankly run it's course, in favor of the retro inspired new jersey.

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Toronto Maple Leafs 91-92 TBTC jersey, Toronto Maple Leafs 91-92 TBTC jersey

Today's video segment begins with Gilmour's 1,000th NHL point on an assist on a goal by Mats Sundin.

Next, the first part of the jersey honoring ceremony for Gilmour by the Maple Leafs.

No one is a bigger fan of "Dougie" than Don Cherry, and not just because they both hail from Kingston, Ontario. How many times do you think that he would be suspended for those hits in today's NHL?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

1920-21 Hamilton Tigers Joe Malone Jersey

After their peak in 1912 and 1913 when they were the holders of the Stanley Cup, the Quebec Bulldogs of the National Hockey Association ran into hard times. While posting winning records in 1914 and 1915, they failed to qualify for the playoffs both seasons. A losing record of 10-12 in 1916 foreshadowed the downfall that await the club. A dismal first half in 1916-17 saw the Bulldogs at 2-8, only to reverse their fortunes in the second half of the season at 8-2, yet fail to make the postseason once more.

The Quebec Bulldogs in brighter days with the Stanley Cup

After the conclusion of the 1916-17 schedule, the NHA disbanded, only to be reborn as the new National Hockey League, with the Bulldogs as one of the charter members, only with the stress of being the smallest city in the league and the troubled economic times of the World War I, Quebec chose to suspend operations for the inaugural NHL season of 1917-18.

Their situation did not improve in time for the 1918-19 season when the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic erupted, causing the Bulldogs to once again take a pass on the season.

New ownership allowed the club to return to on ice competition for the 1919-20 season. High scoring star Joe Malone was recalled from the Montreal Canadiens and proceeded to lead not only the team, but the league in scoring with 39 goals and 49 points in 24 games. That, however, would prove to be the only highlight of the season for the team, as their defense would prove to be nothing short of hideous, giving up a total of 177 goals in 24 games, an average of 7.4 goals per game. That total was so putrid, it was greater than the Ottawa Senators and Toronto St. Patrick's combined total of 170.

The Bulldogs finished 2-10 in the first half, and there would be no rebound in the second half as another 2-10 record awaited them. Prior to the start of the 1920-21 season, the NHL would take back the franchise and sold it to interests in Hamilton, Ontario.

The club would be christened the Hamilton Tigers and six Quebec players, including Malone, would carry over to the first Tigers roster that would play their first ever game on this date in 1920, a 5-0 shutout of the Montreal Canadiens.

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The 1920-21 Hamilton Tigers

The Tigers were led in scoring that night by future Hockey Hall of Famer Babe Dye, who scored the first goal in Tigers history at 12:30 of the first period to give Hamilton a 1-0 lead. Exactly five minutes later he would score his second of the period, both assisted by Joe Matte.

George Carey extended the Tigers lead to three at the four minute mark of the second, assisted by Moylan McDonnell, the only assist of the defenseman's 20 games that season. Matte made it three points on the night with his goal at the 16 minute mark of the period before Goldie Prodgers closed out the scoring at three minutes of the third period.

Howard Lockhart got the unlikely shutout in goal for Hamilton, considering that his only appearance for Quebec the previous season saw him let in no less than 11 goals! Lockhart would eventually play 59 NHL games over six seasons and record exactly one career shutout.

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Howard Lockhart

The Tigers opening night shutout remains the one and only time a club has blanked an opponent during it's NHL debut and was arguably the high point in the history of the franchise. Of note, it would be the one and only game opening night star Dye would ever play in a Tigers sweater, as he was recalled from his loan by the Toronto St. Patricks due to an injury suffered by another member of the St. Patricks.

The Tigers would miss Dye dearly, as he would go on to lead the NHL in goal scoring that season with 35 total goals after netting 33 in 23 games following his recall by Toronto. In the absence of Dye, Malone would lead Hamilton with 28 goals and 37 points in 20 games after missing the first four games of the season due to a contract dispute.

Hamilton would go 2-2 before the return of Malone, but his arrival would do little to change the fortunes of the club, as they completed the first half of the season in last place at 3-7 and closed out the second half of the split season in last place with a record of 3-11.

Additional last place finishes followed the next three seasons thanks to records of 7-17, 6-18 and 9-15. Malone would lead the club in scoring again during 1921-22 and Mickey Roach took top honors in 1922-23 before Billy Burch did the same in 1923-24.

Then the unexpected happened, the lowly Tigers rose to the top of the standings with a 19-10-1 record as Burch again led the team with 20 goals and 24 points. Their scoreless tie with Ottawa during mid-December provided the difference over the second place St. Patricks who finished right behind Hamilton at 19-11-0.

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The 1924-25 Hamilton Tigers

The excitement of their first place finish was quickly dashed in the most complete and utter way, as the entire roster of the Tigers went to their general manager on the train ride home following their final regular season game on March 9, 1925 and demanded the princely sum of $200 each for the six additional games the regular season had been extended that season due to the additions of two new clubs, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroons. Management responded with the argument that the player's contacts were based on playing from December 1st to March 30th, without regard to the number of games played.

The players held firm in their demands, refusing to participate in the postseason. The situation remained unresolved while the St. Patricks and Canadiens met in the semifinals. Once the Canadiens prevailed on March 13, league president Frank Calder met with Tigers management, who refused to change their position, and subsequently declared the Canadiens league champions, suspended the entire Tigers roster indefinitely and fined them $200 each, ending not only their season, but as it turns out the franchise itself!

Prior to the following NHL season, New York bootlegger Big Bill Dwyer purchased the Tigers roster for $75,000 to stock his expansion club, the New York Americans. It was a move the players did not mind, as they all received a pay increase, with some earning twice as much as before. The league officially revoked the Hamilton franchise on September 22, 1925, formally bringing to a close the story of not only the Hamilton Tigers, but NHL hockey in Hamilton, as the league has never returned.

Today's featured jersey is a 1920-21 Hamilton Tigers Joe Malone jersey. Their original jerseys feature vertical striping and the bold tiger head on a square patch. This style lasted but one season and was replaced by a new sweater which was adorned with a full-bodied walking tiger and horizontal striping.

The Hamilton Tigers jersey has taken on a legendary status since Sports Illustrated named the Hamilton Tigers jersey as one of "25 Lost Treasures of Sports", as no known surviving examples exist of any of the four different styles that were worn during their five seasons, despite reports that one was sold for $500 in the early 1990's in Hamilton to an unknown American collector and has never been seen since as reported in the documentary "Hunting the Last Hamilton Tiger" in 2009.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Hockey Solstice

While today might be the shortest day of the year, it ushers in some of the longest days of hockey viewing over the next two months.

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The hockey kicks off on December 26th in Finland with the start of the 2015 World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland, where ten countries face off in the annual holiday season tournament which runs through January 5th's Gold Medal Final.

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The teams are divided into two groups, with Group A stacked with the defending gold medal champions Canada, Sweden and the United States as well as Denmark and Switzerland, with the key matchups looking to be the opening day heavyweight bout between Canada and the United States on December 26th and Canada vs. Sweden on New Year's Eve. Also of note will be Sweden vs. the USA on December 28th.

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Canada will be looking to win it's second consecutive gold medal

Group B looks no easier with the hosts Finland having to face Russia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Belarus. Key games in the group are Russia opening the tournament right off the bat with the Czech Republic on December 26th and host Finland vs. Russia on Dec. 28th.

Viewers in the United States can watch 17 games on the NHL Network, including all the Group A games, covering all the United States and Canada preliminary round games, as well as all 8 playoff round contests.

In Canada, coverage has already begun on TSN with the airing of all three of Canada's exhibition games and will continue with 20 Preliminary Round games as well as all 8 of the Playoff Round games.

When the World Juniors takes a break on New Year's Day prior to the start of the Quarterfinals, the NHL steps into the void with the sixth Winter Classic, this year featuring the Boston Bruins (making their second Winter Classic appearance) taking on Original 6 rivals the Montreal Canadiens, just the second Canadian team to play in the Winter Classic. The game will be held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots of the National Football League.

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The festivities for the Winter Classic begin on December 31st with the team practices and the highly anticipated alumni game between veteran Bruins and Canadiens, which should be a virtual Hockey Hall of Fame on ice.

Once the Winter Classic concludes, things return to normal in the NHL until the NHL Stadium series begins with the February 21st game between the host Minnesota Wild and the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. That game will be followed six days later by the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings playing at Coors Field in Denver on February 27th.

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Decisions must be made by collectors, as each of the three NHL outdoor games will feature special one-off jerseys, with the ones worn by Boston and Montreal in the Winter Classic being by far the finest of the lot, as Boston drew inspiration from their inaugural season of 1924-25 and Montreal from the same 1924-25 season, the year they celebrated their status as world champion Stanley Cup holders by wearing a globe on the front of their jerseys, which will appear on their sleeves for the Winter Classic.

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