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Saturday, January 9, 2016

1982-83 Verdun Juniors Pat Lafontaine Jersey

John Lafontaine was a Canadian from Tecumseh, Ontario who worked for Chrysler, who transferred him to St. Louis, Missouri where his son Pat Lafontaine was born in 1965.

It was in St. Louis where Lafontaine first learned to skate. His father was transferred once again, this time to Waterford, Michigan, just 33 miles from Detroit when Pat was seven. He was able to get in plenty of ice time as the Lafontaine's lived on Williams Lake. He also played on his older brother's team, with kids that were a year or two older than he was, which pushed him to improve his game to keep up with the older boys.

With the end goal of American kids being to play college hockey in those days, the thought of turing pro hadn't even occurred to him until he was fifteen, following the success of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic team's gold medal performance, as well as that of American Bobby Carpenter of Massachusetts, who turned pro with the Washington Capitals in 1981.

Lafontaine was clearly no ordinary talent, as while Carpenter was just turning pro in 1981-82, Lafontaine scored an Earth-shattering 175 goals and 149 assists for a stunning 324 points in a 79 game season with Detroit Compuware of the midget AAA Michigan National Hockey League, an average of over four points per game!

No doubt influenced by his father's Canadian roots, the decision was made that the best place for Lafontaine to continue to progress was Canadian junior hockey rather than an American college. With that, Lafontaine left home at age 17 and moved to the Montreal suburb of Verdun to play for the Verdun Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the 1982-83 season.

"Our coach, Pierre Cramer, put me together with Jean-Maurice Cool and we traded for Gerard Gallant. We gelled together," Lafontaine recalled.

Lafontaine Verdun
Pat Lafontaine while with Verdun

Lafontaine began the season with a goal and two assists at Chicoutimi. He duplicated that in his second game at home to Saint Jean. His first hat trick came four games later to extend his point scoring streak to six. Eight games later Lafontaine had his second hat trick as well as four assists for a seven point night.

November 1st saw the streak reach 20 games at Laval with a pair of assists. Four games later Hull was victimized by Lafontaine's fourth hat trick and second seven point game.

He reached the 30 game mark November 26th with a goal and three assists against Drummondville. He surpassed 100 points on December 3rd in his 32nd game of the season and Game 35 of the consecutive point streak on December 10th was an impressive showing, as Lafontaine raised his season high with an eight point night courtesy of a two goal, six assist performance.

Game 40 was achieved December 21st with a goal. After a two week break for the World Junior Tournament, Verdun returned to the ice on January 5th and Lafontaine picked up where he left off with back to back hat tricks (numbers 6 and 7 of the season) on the 5th and the 7th. The point scoring streak now reached 43 games, as well as a total of 142 points, on this date in 1983 when Lafontaine had a pair of goals and an assist versus Chicoutimi.

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Lafontaine preparing before a game with Verdun

For the first time all season, Lafontaine was held scoreless at Shawinigan on January 12th, but began another scoring streak of 26 games that would carry through to the end of the season.

He set a season high with four goals on the 18th, only to raise that to five on the 28th of January. Lafontaine reached the 200 point barrier on the 23rd and equalled a season high with eight points on February 25th, which included his 11th hat trick. He finished the regular season strongly with a hat trick and three assists for six points on March 11th and then repeated those totals the very next game on March 13th.

He then put an exclamation point on his amazing season when he pumped in five goals as well as three assists for his third eight point night of the season to score 20 points in his final three games, giving Lafontaine points in 69 of the Juniors 70 games that season as well as 15 total hat tricks.

Lafontaine Verdun
Lafontaine had a 43 game point scoring streak in 1982-83
and scored in 69 of his team's 70 games

In addition to his three eight point games, he had three seven point games, four with six and five games of five points apiece. His final totals were 104 goals and 130 assists for 234 points to lead the league in scoring and earn the Jean Beliveau Trophy with the second highest total in league history at the time. He had 15 more assists than his next closest competitor, Claude Verret, whom he beat by 46 points in the scoring race. Lafontaine also won the goal scoring crown by a full 20 goals over future NHL superstar Mario Lemeiux, who came third in the points race a full 50 points back of Lafontaine.

Lafontaine's remarkable season sees him still third on the single season goal scoring list as well as third on the single season point scoring record more than 25 years later.

Once the playoffs began, Lafontaine kicked off the postseason with four assists as Verdun swept Trois-Rivieres on the strength of Lafontaine's ten points. Shawingan fell in six after shutting out Lafontaine in Game 1 although he came back to score 12 points in the final five games. Verdun then won the President's Cup and qualified for the Memorial Cup by defeating Longueuil four games to one thanks to 13 points from Lafontaine, which earned him the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as QMJHL playoff MVP after leading the playoffs in scoring with 35 points in 15 games, which added the Guy Lafleur Trophy to his ever growing hardware collection.

Additionally, Lafontaine collected the Mike Bossy Trophy as Best Pro Prospect of the Year, the Michel Bergeron Trophy as Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Frank J. Selke Memorial Trophy as Most Sportsmanlike Player thanks to his total of just 10 penalty minutes for the entire regular season.

One more award came Lafontaine's way, as he was named the Canadian Hockey League's Player of the Year for 1983.

Despite being named the Best Pro Prospect in the QMJHL, Lafontaine was drafted third overall that season behind the Minnesota North Stars first overall selection of Brian Lawton and the Hartford Whalers choice of Sylvain Turgeon second before the New York Islanders grabbed Lafontaine.

Lafontaine would only play for Verdun for a single season, one in which he dominated and proved he was ready to move up to play against a higher level of competition, which he did by spending a season with the United States National Team in preparation for the 1984 Olympic Games.

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Lafontaine wearing the colors of the United States

Once the Olympics were concluded, Lafontaine then joined the Islanders for the final 15 games of the 1983-84 season, which included scoring a hat trick and two assists in only his second NHL game. He also gained valuable experience in 16 playoff games as the Islanders made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to see their dynasty end as the Edmonton Oilers began theirs.

Lafontaine would go on to prove the North Stars and Whalers wrong by having a 15 season NHL career during which he would score 468 goals and over 1,000 points, appear in five NHL All-Star Games, have his #16 retired by the Buffalo Sabres and eventually be inducted into both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

Today's featured jersey is a 1982-83 Verdun Juniors Pat Lafontaine jersey. The Verdun Juniors franchise can be traced back to 1933 when they began life as the Montreal Junior Canadiens, a name they retained until 1972. Name changes then ensued, going from the Montreal Bleu Blanc Rouge to the Montreal Juniors, the Verdun Juniors, and the Verdun Junior Canadiens, all of which explains why their jerseys copied the Montreal Canadiens template so directly.

Eventually the club relocated 35 miles east to Saint-Hyacinthe where they became knows as the Saint-Hyacinthe Laser in 1989 where the Canadiens look was continued. They remained there until 1996 when they moved once more, this time 421 miles northwest to Rouyn-Noranda where they became known as the Huskies and continue to play there to this day, but finally broke their ties to the Canadiens jersey template.

Verdun Juniors 83-84 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1984 United States National Team Pat Lafontaine jersey as worn at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. Before joining the NHL, Lafontaine spent a year with the United States National Team, playing a schedule of 58 games during which he scored 56 goals and 55 assists for 111 points in preparation for the 1984 Olympics. During the Games, Lafontaine scored 5 goals and 8 points in 6 games for the Americans after which he would make his NHL debut for the New York Islanders never having played a game in the minor leagues.

This diagonally lettered jersey was first used by the United States in 1981 and was used through the 1984 Olympics before being replaced by a new design later that year for the 1984 Canada Cup. Note the odd treatment of the filled in center of the "O" in his name and the "6" on the sleeve.

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While today's post focused on Lafontaine's junior hockey dominance, video of that era was impossible to find, so we present to you Lafontaine's top ten goals.

Friday, January 8, 2016

1993-94 Detroit Red Wings Dino Ciccarelli Jersey

On this date in 1994, Dino Ciccarelli of the Detroit Red Wings scored his 500th goal in a 6-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Ciccarelli was an undrafted free agent due to suffering a severely broken leg in junior hockey. The North Stars had noticed him the year before when he was too young to be eligible for the draft, so when he went through the 1979 draft with out being selected, the North Stars had him checked out by a doctor and signed him to a contract.

"I broke my femur badly enough in my second year of junior hockey that the doctors didn't give me much chance of ever being able to play professionally. I had scored 72 goals the previous season, but my injury wiped me off everyone's draft list in 1979. I wasn't going to let that stop me. I had to go through a year and a half of rehabilitation, but I was determined to do everything I could to live out my dream and play in the National Hockey League. I was totally frustrated when I recovered from the injury, scored 50 goals in my last season of junior and was passed on for the second time at the 1980 draft." recalled Ciccarelli.
"Lou Nanne of the Minnesota North Stars finally gave me an opportunity when he signed me as a free agent. He sent me to Oklahoma City to see how I'd fare in the minors. Things went well, and three-quarters of the way through the season, I was called up to Minnesota for a few games." said Ciccarelli.

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After proving himself in the minors, Ciccarelli would play in 32 regular season games with the North Stars, doing quite well for a rookie scoring 18 goals and 30 points, but would really catch fire during the playoffs. Teamed with fellow rookies Neal Broten and Brad Palmer, Ciccarelli would set the rookie playoff scoring records for goals, with 14, and points, with 21, in 19 games as the North Stars would reach the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. Ciccarelli quickly became a fan favorite with the North Stars fans for his willingness to stand in the crease and absorb all manner of abuse from defenders and goalies alike and they responded by waving inflatable dinosaurs during home games at Met Center.

He would follow up his outstanding playoff performance of the previous year by leading the 1981-82 North Stars in goals with 55 and penalty minutes with 138. He would also surpass the 100 point mark, finishing with 106, the highest single season total of his career. He would also put any doubts about his leg to rest by playing 76 games or more his first three seasons.

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He would play nine seasons for Minnesota, leading the team in goals five times while totaling 332 regular season goals for the North Stars, including another season of over 50 goals with 52 and 103 points in 1986-87, before being traded to the Washington Capitals late in the 1988-89 season.

In Washington, Ciccarelli would continue to park himself in front of the net, absorbing all manner of abuse in the days when the defense was allowed to cross-check him at will. Still, he would score 112 goals for the Capitals in the three plus seasons in Washington, leading the team in scoring in 1989-90 with 79 points.

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In the summer of 1992, Ciccarelli was traded to the Detroit Red Wings, where he would proceed to score 41 goals during his first season in Detroit, his sixth and final season scoring 40 goals or more. 

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After four seasons in Detroit, which included scoring his 500th goal on this date in 1994, just the 19th player in NHL history to do so, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in time for the 1996-97 season as part of a youth movement in Detroit.

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Ciccarelli played one full season in Tampa, scoring 35 goals and was dealt to the Florida Panthers half way through the 1997-98 season. It was with Florida that Ciccarelli would score his 600th NHL goal on February 3rd, 1998, only the ninth player ever to reach the 600 mark, in a 1-1 tie with the Red Wings.

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He would be limited to just 14 games of the 1998-99 season, due to chronic back problems from a career absorbing punishment while camped out in front of the opposing goal, scoring 6 goals and 1 assist to finish his career with exactly 1200 points from 608 goals and 592 assists. In addition, he scored 73 goals and 118 points in 141 playoff games. His 608 goals are the most ever scored by a draft-eligible player who was not drafted by an NHL team and he retired ranked ninth in league history in goals scored.

Internationally, Ciccarelli appeared for Canada in the 1980 World Junior Tournament, and the 1982 and 1987 World Championships, with his opportunities for more participation limited by his team's frequent qualification for the Stanley Cup playoffs each spring. In the first 16 NHL seasons, Ciccarelli reached the playoffs 14 times.

Ciccarelli was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010

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Today's featured jersey is a 1993-94 Detroit Red Wings Dino Ciccarelli jersey as worn during the season in which Ciccarelli scored his 500th career goal on this date in 1994.

The Red Wings jersey is a true NHL classic and has remained essentially unchanged since it was introduced back in 1932 when the club changed their name from the Falcons, as they had been known for the previous two seasons.

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1987-88 Minnesota North Stars Dino Ciccarelli jersey. This jersey features the "JM" patch worn in honor of John Mariucci, "The Godfather of American Hockey".

The North Stars added the black trim to their white jerseys back in 1981, but did not update their green road sweaters to include black until the 1988-89 season, seven years after "toughening up" their home whites. This white home jersey would be worn for ten years through the 1990-91 season.

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Extra Bonus Jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1982 Canada National Team Dino Ciccarelli jersey as worn during one of only three international tournaments he participated in during his lengthy NHL career.

This seldom seen Canada style was first worn in 1980 shortly after Canada returned to the international stage in 1977 following their refusal to compete with amateur players in the face of the full time "amateurs" of communist Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. This style was worn through the 1982 World Championships.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions
Here is a prime example of the kind of treatment Ciccarelli received throughout his career standing in front of the opposition's goal.

Here arch-rivals the North Stars and Chicago Black Hawks, both of the "Chuck" Norris Division engage in a bench clearing brawl in 1983 at the 2 second mark you see Denis Savard up close as he challenges the Minnesota bench and Ciccarelli responds at the 6 second mark, emptying both benches.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

1984-85 St. Louis Blues Mike Liut Jersey

While attending Bowling Green University from 1973-74 to 1976-77, goaltender Mike Liut was named to the CCHA First All-Star Team twice and named the CCHA Player of the Year in 1977. Also while at Bowling Green, Liut was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft.

Liut, born on this date in 1956, chose instead of join the Cincinnati Stingers of the rival World Hockey Association for the 1977-78 season and played in 27 games as a backup.

Liut Stingers

For 1978-79 he took over as the number one goalie for the Stingers and won 23 games in 54 appearances in what was the last season of the WHA.

Liut Stingers

His rights were reclaimed by the Blues as part of the provisions of the merger between the NHL and WHA and Liut was immediately installed as the Blues starter, a position he held down for the next five seasons. He introduced himself to the NHL with 32 wins in his first season to lead the league and 33 wins the next, which led to a runner-up finish in the Hart Trophy voting for league MVP. He was however, awarded the 1981 Lester Pearson Award for league MVP as voted by the players. He also appeared in the 1981 NHL All-Star Game where he was named the game's MVP.

Liut Blues

On the heels of his outstanding regular season, Liut was named the starting goaltender for Team Canada for the 1981 Canada Cup, where he led Canada to the finals with a 4-1-1 record in six games.

For the next three seasons with the Blues Liut played strongly and averaged 25 wins per season. He was on his way to a repeat of those numbers when he was traded to the Hartford Whalers midway through the 1984-85 season.

As the Whalers lead goaltender Liut continued his solid play, leading the league in shutouts with four in 1986-87, no mean feat during the high scoring 1980's. In his first season with the Whalers, Liut recorded 27 wins and then topped 30 for the third time in his career with 31, followed by 25 more in 1987-88.

Liut Whalers

In the 1989-90 season Liut led the league with the lowest goals against average of 2.53 despite a late season trade to the Washington Capitals. For the final two seasons of Liut's career he shared time with incumbent Don Beaupre before being forced to retire due to back problems.

Liut Capitals

Throughout his career he became recognized for both his #1 sweater he wore during his entire career, as well as his distinctive snow white mask, which remained unadorned throughout his NHL career despite his flashy mask worn while in the WHA.

Liut Blues mask

Liut finished his career with 294 wins and 25 shutouts in 14 NHL seasons in addition to the 31 wins and 4 shutouts he recorded in the WHA.

Today's featured jersey is a 1984-85 St. Louis Blues Mike Liut jersey as worn by Liut for the first half of the season prior to being traded to Hartford. This was the first season for this simpler, more modern jersey, the first in team history to feature the team name over the bluenote. This jersey is also is an early example of a manufacturer logo on the rear hem, in this case Rawlings, who only supplied St. Louis that season.

This exact style would only be worn one season, as in 1985-86 the waist striping was moved upwards so that a white stripe would now appear below the yellow and blue stripes. Additionally, the waist and sleeve stripes would now also be trimmed in red so that the striping better matched the names, numbers and cresting, which were trimmed in red in 1984-85, while the stripes oddly were not.

The updated version with the red trim would only be worn for two seasons after which the "Blues" wordmark above the bluenote would be discontinued. The version with the bluenote as the main crest would then be worn through the 1993-94 season.

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1984-85 Hartford Whalers Mike Liut jersey. This would be the only season Liut would wear this specific style of jersey, as the next season Pucky the Whale would disappear for good from the shoulders of the jerseys and the green stripe at the bottom of the jersey would also vanish, making the bottom of the sweaters white from then on.

Hartford Whalers 84-85 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video selection is a run down of the 1988-89 Hartford Whalers and their many pornstaches.

Next is video tribute to Liut upon the occasion of his being inducted into the Connecticut Hockey Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

2006-07 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin Jersey

On this date in 2007, the Toronto Maple Leafs participated in the Teammates for Kids patch program, during which every player in the NHL wore a Teammates for Kids patch on their jersey for one home game between January 4th and January 13th.

With all the players only wearing the patches for home games, all Teammates for Kids patched jerseys are therefore only dark colored jerseys.

All of the approximately 650 jerseys were then auctioned off for charity, with the patched Pittsburgh Penguins jersey worn by Sidney Crosby on January 7, 2007 selling for $12,131. In all, the auctions raised $385,730 with Sundin's jersey receiving the highest bids among the Maple Leafs at $1,608.

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Mats Sundin on January 6, 2007 wearing the Teammates For Kids patch

The Teammates for Kids Foundation was founded by country music star Garth Brooks in 1999 to contribute to nonprofit organizations that serve and benefit children. The concept has pro athletes contribute based on performances in games, such as $500 for each goal scored, which the foundation then triples. To date over $80 million has been distributed.

"This league-wide jersey auction highlights the level of commitment that the players, the NHLPA, the NHL and its Member Clubs have towards improving the lives of children,"  Brooks said. "I'm very grateful to the fans who have supported this auction and children's charities."

This was the third such program where NHL jerseys carried an additional patch for the purpose of being auctioned later on to raise funds for charity, following the Hockey Fights Cancer patches worn by only the team captains in January of 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2008 and the NHL Cares patch worn at the start of the 2005-06 season to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans, Louisiana two months earlier.

Today's featured jersey is a 2006-07 Toronto Maple Leafs Mats Sundin jersey with the addition of the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation patch as worn on January 6, 2007 in a 4-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.

The Maple Leafs changed to this jersey template of twin white stripes on the arms and waist back in 1992-93 following the positive reception of their Turn Back the Clock jersey worn during the NHL's 75th Anniversary season in 1991-92.

The 1992-93 jersey incorporated a vintage, multi-pointed maple leaf as the secondary shoulder patches. A new modern font for the name and numbers was first employed in 1997-98 and in 2000-01, the shoulder patches changed to a "TML" monogram became the secondary logo, as well as a change to a three color block font for the numbers, while the modern font for the names was retained.

The three color monogram and numbers saw the introduction of a third color to the Maple Leafs jerseys, a subtle silver outline. This was the first time since 1948 that a Maple Leafs jersey was anything other than blue and white, as the name "Toronto Maple Leafs" was executed in red on the main crest for three seasons in the late 1940's.
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Today's first video is a look at the Teammates for Kids Foundation.

Apparently not everyone is a fan of Sundin.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Punch-up in Piestany - The 1987 World Junior Championships

In anticipation of today's 2016 World Junior Championship Gold Medal Game, we take a look back at perhaps the most famous, and notorious, moment in World Juniors history - "The Punch-up in Piestany".

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The scene was the final game of the 1987 World Junior Tournament in Piestany, Czechoslovakia. At the time the tournament used a simple round-robin format, with the final standings determining the medalists, unlike today's knockout playoff system.

Canada brought a 4-1-1 record into the final game, while their arch-rivals the Soviet Union were out of medal contention at 2-3-1 and could only hope to spoil Canada's chance at the title.

To capture the gold over Finland, the Canadians needed to beat the Soviets by five goals to equal Finland's record of 5-1-1 and surpass them on the goal differential first tie-breaker. Had Canada won by less than five, silver would have been theirs and even a loss would have seen them still take home bronze.

Going into the game, the Canadians were worried about the choice of the inexperienced Hans Ronning as the referee, and sought to have the assignment changed due to an earlier incident in the tournament which involved a pre-game fight between the Canadians and Americans, in which Canadian team captain Steve Chaisson was ejected by Ronning, despite Ronning not even present on the ice at the time. Thanks to his ejection, Chaisson was not only disqualified from the game versus the United States, but their following game against Sweden as well.

The opening faceoff of the game between Canada and the Soviets was met with elbows and a retaliatory cross-check, neither of which were penalized and set the tone for the escalation of hostilities that were to follow.

Five minutes into the game, Theo Fleury scored for Canada and celebrated by sliding across center ice on his knees, using his stick as a machine gun, "firing" at the Soviet bench. The first period would conclude with Canada ahead 3-1, with slashes going uncalled and tempers on both sides getting short.

By the halfway point of the second period each team had another goal, making the score 4-2 in favor of Canada. With two players in the penalty box for each team following a scuffle, Canadian Everett Sanipass and Sergei Shesterikov of the Soviet Union collided after a faceoff, and a fight broke out between the two of them. Things got worse when Pavel Kostichkin hit Fleury with a two-handed slash, which lead to a second fight breaking out. The situation then escalated to the point that all the players on the ice were brawling before the situation spiraled completely out of control when Evgeny Davydov left the Soviet bench to come to the aid of a teammate.

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This opened the floodgates, as nearly all the players from both benches spilled onto the ice, and a dozen separate fights broke out. Greg Hagwood's nose was broken by a head-butt and Stephane Roy was beaten by two Soviet players. This was in part due to two Canadians, Jimmy Waite and Pierre Turgeon remaining on the bench, resulting in a numbers advantage for the Soviets on the ice.

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Overmatched and unable to control the situation, Ronning and his linesmen then shockingly left the ice and tournament officials famously turned off the arena lights in a desperate attempt to end the brawl!

Eventually the combatants tired themselves out and the fighting ceased, but by that time the IIHF ordered the game suspended and then held an emergency meeting, with the nine delegates voting 8-1 to expel both teams from the tournament, costing Canada a medal of any sort.

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With the expulsion of Canada and the Soviet Union, Finland took home the gold, with Czechoslovakia and Sweden being awarded the silver and bronze.

The Canadians were extended an invitation to join the tournament banquet and medal ceremony, but stated they were not interested. Officials responded by ordering Canada out of the arena within a half-hour and they were subsequently escorted out of Czechoslovakia by armed soldiers!

Charges flew in the aftermath, as Alan Eagleson claimed the voting would have been different if the Soviets were in line for a medal as well, while Don Cherry suggested the brawl was a deliberate Soviet conspiracy to get Canada disqualified.

The event spawned our all-time favorite hockey quote ever:

"You don't like to see 20 kids punching 20 other kids.
It's not a disgrace. It's hockey." - Michael Farber

The events of that day have been chronicled in the book, When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game.

Today's featured jersey is a 1990-91 Soviet Red Army Pavel Kostichkin jersey from his days in the Soviet Hockey League. Kostichkin was eventually drafted in the tenth round by the Winnipeg Jets in 1988, but spent his career in Europe outside of a season with the Moncton Hawks of the AHL. He would eventually play in leagues in Russia, Denmark, Finland and Belarus before retiring in 2005.

With it's bright colors, hammer and sickle logos and name on the back in Cyrillic, it's a prime example of what a hockey jersey should look like and represents the most powerful club in hockey outside of North America.

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Bonus Jersey: Todays bonus jersey is a 1996 Canada National Team Theo Fleury jersey as worn during the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Fleury played internationally for Canada on eight occasions, the first being the notorious 1987 World Juniors. He skated in a second World Juniors in 1988, winning a  gold medal. He made his World Championship debut in 1990 and took home a silver on his second try in 1991, the same year he won a gold medal at the 1991 Canada Cup later in the year.

He was a member of the inaugural Canadian World Cup of Hockey roster in 1996 and then made his Olympic debut in 1998, the first year the NHL took a mid-season break to allow it's players the chance to participate. He concluded his international career on a high note, winning a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1987 Canada National Team World Juniors jersey of the same style worn by Canada during the "Punch-up in Piestany". The junior teams wore the  "three maple leaf and hockey stick" crest during this era rather than the "leaf within a leaf" crest worn by the senior team. There was no player assigned #28 for the 1987 World Juniors, so this jersey was either worn by an unknown player during exhibition games or simply an extra jersey on hand in case of a later roster addition or other need for an emergency spare.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Our video selection today features footage of the brawl between Canada and the Soviet Union, followed by Cherry's postgame comments and then the debate between Cherry and Farber which spawned our favorite quote.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The First NHL Club to Defeat a Soviet Team - 1975-76 Buffalo Sabres Rick Martin Jersey

Following the success of the 1972 Summit Series between Team Canada and the Soviet Union, more opportunities were sought for competition between teams of North American professionals and Soviet squads. The second such series took place in 1974, when a team of players representing the World Hockey Association, who were not allowed to participate in the 1972 version, faced off against the Soviet National Team.

In 1975, a new idea came to the fore, the "Super Series", in which the best two club teams from the Soviet League would travel to North America to play exhibition games against NHL member clubs, no doubt motivated by the opportunity to profit financially from the interest in seeing the exotic and still mysterious teams of human robots from behind the Iron Curtain.

Sabres Wings Program cover
Goal magazine program cover for the 1976 Super Series

The first of those games took place during the last week of December 1975 when both the famed Central Red Army (HC CSKA Moscow) and Soviet Wings (Krylya Sovetov Moscow) teams arrived to play four games each against NHL competition. Such was the continued importance of beating the teams from North America from a propaganda standpoint, that both Soviet clubs also had the addition of a few of the better players from other Soviet clubs. Central Red Army was bolstered by a pair of skaters from Dynamo Moscow, while the Wings added four members of Spartak Moscow to increase their strength.

Central Red Army got things underway with a game on December 28, 1975 when they throttled the New York Rangers 7-3 at Madison Square Garden. The Soviet Wings tour began the very next day with similar results when they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-4.

Next up for the dominant club of Soviet club hockey, Central Red Army, was their famed battle with the Montreal Canadiens, a team on the verge of a dynasty of four straight Stanley Cups. The game took place on New Year's Eve in 1975 and ended in a 3-3 tie between two of the finest clubs ever, both in mid-season form, which is often called the greatest game of hockey ever played.

Next on the schedule, on this date in 1976, was the meeting between the Soviet Wings and the host Buffalo Sabres. The game was played at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in front of 16,433 fans.

Buffalo was one of the NHL's top teams at the time, having just competed in the Stanley Cup Finals at the conclusion of the previous season. They were led by "The French Connection" line of Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert. They, and the rest of the Sabres, were under pressure to win, as the NHL was still winless after the first three games.

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The French Connection Line of Martin, Robert and Perreault

Sabres GM Punch Imlach fired his club up before the game, declaring, "If there ever was a game I want to win, this is the one I want to win."

Imlach had a plan to deal with the Wings to take advantage of something the Sabres had that they did not, size on defense. Jocelyn Guevremont, Bill Hajt, Jerry Korab and Jim Schoenfeld were all at least 6' 2" and more than 200 pounds were all instructed to hit the Wings hard and as often as possible and outwork the Wings.

The fans in Buffalo created an atmosphere that was simply electric as they sought to support not only their team, but the democratic way of life in the face of the communist system the Wings represented to them. "We came out onto the ice, and it had to be several minutes until it quieted down. We were so excited we could almost feel the ice shake," recalled Korab.

Soviet Wings
Krylya Sovetov Moscow

The four defensemen hit any and every puck carrier they could and Guevremont opened the scoring at 6:10 of the first period, which caused the Buffalo faithful to let out a thunderous roar. Exactly one minute later Perreault scored on Wings goaltender Alexander Sidelnikov to continue the celebration. Midway through the period Martin extended the Sabres lead to 3-0 but the Wings stemmed the tide when they scored a power play goal on the Sabres Gerry Desjardins at 13:45, but a little more than a half a minute later Martin struck again at 14:23. Sergei Kapustin closed out the period with a goal at 19:16 to keep the Wings within striking distance at 4-2 in favor of the Sabres. The period ended with the Sabres leading in shots on goal 17-9.

The second period was even more of a track meet as the Sabres extended their lead with a power play goal by Jim Lorentz at 4:32 followed by Robert a minute later at 5:32 to put Buffalo in a commanding 6-2 lead. The Wings' Vladimir Repnev kept the goals coming 27 seconds later to make the score 6-3. The teams again traded goals with Korab scoring on the power play at 8:26 and Victor Shalimov responding at 8:40. The seventh Sabres goal chased Sidelnikov from the Wings goal in favor of Alexsandr Kylikov. The Sabres then kept their foot on the gas when Danny Gare scored at 11:44 followed by Peter McNab, who made it 10-4 at 13:17 to continue the party in the stands as Kylikov's stay in the net ended after less than five minutes. The second period ended with the Sabres up 9-4 and now leading in shots 34-16.

Sabres-Soviet Wings 1/4/76 photo Sabres-Soviet Wings 1476.jpg
The Sabres celebrating one of their many goals against the Soviet Wings

The third period was more of the same as Kapustin got his second of the game for the Soviets at 3:28. Fred Stanfield added his name to the goal scoring roll call at 9:41 as the Sabres reached double digits followed by Yuri Lebedev for the Wings at 11:32.

The Sabres then hammered home their point when Gare scored at 14:04 and Brain Spencer finished off the worst loss ever by a Soviet team in international competition with his goal at 18:04 on another power play, the Sabres third of the game as they became the first NHL club to ever defeat a Soviet team. The final shots on goal for the evening were 46-25 in favor of Buffalo.

Sabres Wings final scoreboard
The scoreboard shows the final score of the Sabres historic victory

Martin was voted the games first star following his two goal, five point night. "You could tell they didn't like the fact they got out skated. When we were out on the ice, they all had this dumbfounded look on their faces. They didn't expect that. When we saw that would could skate with them, we just went for it and it worked," Martin said afterwards.

 photo Sabres Soviet Wings headline.jpg
The Sabres dominant win even made headlines in Canada

So popular was the Sabres win with NHL fans that they received a two minute standing ovation before their next game - in Montreal!

Imlauch called the game "was the all-time high point for the Sabres"as well as the highlight of his lengthy career.

Sabres Wings pennant
Such was the significance of the Sabres victory that
a souvenir of the game was created following the contest

"I had never been so fired up for a game," said Martin. "I had played in a lot of big games, but that truly was the game I'll never forget."

The Wings rebounded from their crushing defeat by Buffalo to down the Chicago Black Hawks three days later 4-2 and conclude their North American foray with a 3-1 record after their 2-1 defeat of the New York Islanders.

Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Buffalo Sabres Rick Martin jersey. Martin led the Sabres 12 goal onslaught of the Soviet Wings with 2 goals and 5 points while wearing this first generation Sabres jersey, as noted by the Sabres original lace-up collar style, worn from 1970-71 through 1977-78 without names on the back.

You will notice however, that the Sabres did have names on the backs of their jerseys in the photo above, taken at the conclusion of the game against the Soviet Wings. Popular belief among team owners at the time was that names on the players backs would result in less sales of game programs, but common practice at the time was to add names for games that were nationally televised and this may have been the case for the game against the Wings, either for American audiences or perhaps even possible viewers back in Russia. The font used for the names does have serifs on the letters, while the standard font for names on the backs of Sabres jerseys beginning in 1977 was a simpler block font without serifs.

After names arrived by league mandate in 1977-78, the Sabres main logo would be placed on the shoulders the following season when the lace-up collar was replaced by a v-neck style.

Buffalo Sabres 75-76 jersey, Buffalo Sabres 75-76 jersey
Buffalo Sabres 75-76 jersey, Buffalo Sabres 75-76 jersey

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1975-76 Soviet Wings Alexander Yakushev jersey as worn by the Wings during the Super Series '76 when Yakushev was loaned by Spartak Moscow to the Wings for their series of games against the NHL, including the Sabres resounding victory over the Wings.

The "KC" initials on the front translate to "KS", standing for Krilya Sovetov, which in turn translates to "Wings of the Soviet". The cresting is done in felt on the wool sweater, while the nameplate has twill letters in English on nylon, which was added for the North American TV audiences.

Soviet Wings 75-76 jersey, Soviet Wings 75-76 jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1975-76 Buffalo Sabres Gerry Desjardins jersey, the winning goaltender is the Sabres victory over the Soviet Wings.

Desjardins began his NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings in 1968-69 and was later involved in a trade which sent him to the Chicago Black Hawks in 1969-70. Chicago actually traded him to the California Seals on September 9th, 1971, only to be sent back to Chicago in another trade five weeks later before ever playing a game for California!

The New York Islanders claimed him in the 1972 expansion draft from Chicago. He suffered through two losing seasons as the Islanders found their feet in the NHL. Desjardins sought greener pastures in the WHA, but signed for the 1974-75 season with the unstable Michigan Stags franchise, which became the Baltimore Blades mid-season, a move which triggered an escape clause in his contract, allowing him to sign with the Buffalo Sabres in time to appear in nine regular season games as well as the teams playoff run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

With Buffalo, he found not only stability, but success as well, easily setting career highs with 29 and then 31 wins as the Sabres number one goaltender before being forced to retire after being struck in the eye by a puck after playing just three games of the 1977-78 season.

Buffalo Sabres 76-77 jersey
Buffalo Sabres 76-77 jersey

Our video section today begins with the introductions of the conquering heroes, the Buffalo Sabres.

Pull up a chair and get comfortable, here are extended highlights of the goals from the Sabres win over the Soviet Wings, the first win for an NHL club over a Soviet team.

For those die hards with some extra time on your hands today, here is the complete game from January 4, 1976, which runs a shade over two hours.


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