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Saturday, February 20, 2016

1994-95 Detroit Red Wings Mike Ramsey Jersey

After graduating from Minneapolis Roosevelt High School, where he was considered the top defenseman in Minnesota, Mike Ramsey joined the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers for the 1978-79 season.

Ramsey Roosevelt, Ramsey Roosevelt
Mike Ramsey of the Roosevelt Teddies

Ramsey scored 24 points in 34 games as a college rookie as Minnesota would go on to win the NCAA national championship under the guidance of head coach Herb Brooks.

During that season Ramsey also participated in the 1979 World Junior Championships for the United States. Later that spring, Ramsey was chosen 11th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, the first Minnesotan ever taken in the first round.

Rather than return to Minnesota for a second season, Ramsey became the youngest member of the United States Olympic Hockey Team under his college coach Brooks. The Americans shocked the world by upsetting the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" and then completed their quest by winning the gold medal with a win over Finland.

Ramsey USA, Ramsey USA
Ramsey demonstrating his tough defensive style

Following the Olympics, Ramsey immediately turned professional and joined the Sabres for the final 13 games of the season followed by an equal number of playoff games, a total of 89 games played that season including the Olympic Team's training schedule, a huge number of games for someone two years removed from high school hockey.

Ramsey, buoyed by his high pressure Olympic experience against players much older than himself, adapted to the faster and stronger players in the NHL, playing over 150 games in the NHL over the course of the next two seasons. With Buffalo quickly eliminated from the playoffs, Ramsey was free to once again wear the red, white and blue of the United States at the 1982 World Championships.

The 1982-83 NHL season was one of Ramsey's finest offensive seasons, as he scored 8 goals and 38 points while posting a +20 rating. The following season Ramsey's offensive total dipped to 31 points, but he set a career high with 9 goals, as well as having a +27 rating.

Ramsey Sabres, Ramsey Sabres

Before the 1984-85 NHL season could begin, Ramsey competed in the 1984 Canada Cup tournament, scoring a goal and an assist in six games as the United States finished second in the round robin portion of the tournament before losing in the semifinals.

Another strong 30 point season followed as Ramsey set a career high with a +31 rating. Two more seasons with Buffalo saw Ramsey extend his streak of 72 or more games played to seven, and set a career high in 1986-87 with 30 points. Ramsey was also named an NHL All-Star in 1987 when the usual All-Star Game format was put on hold as the NHLers faced off against the Soviet Union in the two-game series known as Rendez-Vous '87.

The 1987 Canada Cup came next for Ramsey prior to the 1987-88 NHL season, the first of six more solid defensive seasons with the Sabres which included being named captain of the Sabres in 1991-92. Then, after 14 seasons in Buffalo, Ramsey was traded to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins where he was reunited with his old Sabres coach Scotty Bowman.

Ramsey Penguins, Ramsey Penguins

There was no third Stanley Cup however, and after playing the following season of 1993-94 with the Penguins, Ramsey signed as a free agent with the Detroit Red Wings. His time there was spoiled by injuries which limited him to just 33 games in 1994-95, but it included his 1,000th NHL game on this date in 1995, a 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, becoming just the 99th player to ever do so. The season was capped by the Red Wings making to the Stanley Cup Finals. The next season again saw Ramsey's time limited by injury and he only saw action in 47 games that season.

Ramsey Red Wings, Ramsey Red Wings

He retired over the summer, but returned for a pair of games in February of 1996, but felt he wasn't up to standards and retired for good after 18 seasons, 1,070 games, 79 goals and 266 assists for 345 point and but one season with a negative plus/minus rating all while never playing a single game in the minors.

Ramsey played in four NHL All-Star Games and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.

Today, he will be behind the bench once again, having served as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Wild, as one of the coaches for the combined Minnesota North Stars and Wild alumni team as they take on a squad of veteran Chicago Blackhawks players in advance of tomorrow's Stadium Series outdoor game between the Wild and Blackhawks.

Today's featured jersey is a 1994-95 Detroit Red Wings Mike Ramsey jersey. Ramsey wore this jersey during the Stanley Cup Finals the same season during which he played in his 1,000th NHL game on this date in 1995.

The Red Wings have worn this style jersey since 1961 when they changed the sleeves on their white jerseys from white with a red stripe to red with a white stripe.

Detroit Red Wings 1994-95 jersey photo Detroit Red Wings 1994-95 F jersey.jpg
Detroit Red Wings 1994-95 jersey photo Detroit Red Wings 1994-95 B jersey.jpg

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1987 United States National Team Mike Ramsey jersey. This blue road jersey was worn during the 1987 Canada Cup tournament.

This style served the US well, first being worn during 1984 through 1993, having been made by both CCM from 1984 to 1988 and by Tackla for IIHF tournaments from 1989 to 1993.

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United States 1987 CC jersey photo United States 1987 CC B jersey.jpg

In today's video section, a great clip, as Ramsey levels a Montreal Canadiens player with a clean, hard hit and is then jumped by Mario Tremblay. Not only does Ramsey land a dozen heavy rights, but the two of them would go on to be assistant coaches together with the Minnesota Wild!

Here, Ramsey risks his life and career by actually checking Wayne Gretzky - during the NHL All-Star Game! Yes, he didn't put Gretzky in the fourth row of seats like he could have, but still, it's the last hit we recall in an all-star game!

Finally, here is Ramsey being interviewed a in 2009 between periods of a Minnesota High School girls hockey game in which his daughter Rachel was playing.

Friday, February 19, 2016

2016 Hockey Weekend Across America and the 2016 NHL Stadium Series

Today is the start of the 9th annual Hockey Weekend Across America.

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Activities begin today with Wear Your Favorite Jersey Day. Fans are not only encouraged to wear their favorite jersey, but submit photos to the USA Hockey Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Saturday is "Try Hockey Day", which is sponsored by the NHL. More than 300 rinks in 45 states will host Try Hockey For Free clinics, during which thousands of kids will get an opportunity to experience hockey for the first time. This event has it's own dedicated webpage, TryHockeyForFree.com, which allows you to find the nearest location for you to. Near us, there are 14 rinks to choose from.

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Sunday is "Celebrate Local Hockey Heroes Day", which encourages all involved in hockey to develop ways to honor their local hockey heroes. Again, fans are invited to submit stories and photos to USA Hockey's Facebook and Twitter pages.

Sunday is also NBC's Hockey Day in America, which begins at noon Eastern time with a tripleheader of games, including the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Buffalo Sabres followed by the Stadium Series game from Minneapolis between the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Minnesota Wild, both on NBC. The third game, the Detroit Red Wings at the New York Rangers, will air on NBCSN. The coverage will include special features showcasing hockey at all levels in the United States.

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For those living in the St. Paul-Minneapolis Twin Cities area, there is more hockey than you can possibly fit into one weekend. Friday sees the Semifinals of the Minnesota Girls State High School Tournament taking place at the home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, the Xcel Energy Center, with Class A at 11 AM and 1 PM, with Class AA at 6 PM and 8 PM.

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The boys sectional playoffs continue with four games divided between Aldrich Arena and Parade Ice Garden, each holding a double header at 6 and 8 PM.

The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers women's team has the crown jewel of it's schedule this weekend, with the #3 ranked Gophers (27-3-1) hosting the #2 Wisconsin Badgers (30-1-1) at Ridder Arena on the U of M campus. Wisconsin has won both meetings in Madison this season, but the Gophers now have former Kazmaier Award winner and US Olympian Amanda Kessel back in the lineup. Game time is 7 PM Friday.

Saturday sees no less than 20 boys high school sectional playoffs games taking place around the state, starting at 11 AM and starting hourly in various locations through 8 PM.

Saturday also sees the girls high school Class A and AA State Tournament finals taking place with Class A at 4 PM and Class AA at 7 PM to crown two state champions.

The Gophers and the Badgers play their second game at 3 PM at Ridder Arena. Ridder is a five minute walk from TCF Bank Stadium, where Saturday sees the combined team of Minnesota North Stars and Minnesota Wild alumni taking on a team of Chicago Blackhawks alumni in a highly anticipated game at 4 PM.

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Players scheduled to take part in the game include Brian Bellows, Neal Broten, Andrew Brunette, Dino Ciccarelli, Dennis Maruk, Gilles Meloche, Mike Modano, Gordie Roberts, Brian Rolston, Bobby Smith and Wes Walz for the Minnesota side, while Chicago has Murray Bannerman, Chris Chelios, Dave Christian, Jack O'Callahan, Jeremy Roenick, Denis Savard and Jimmy Waite in a game with five Hockey Hall of Famers (Ciccarelli, Modano, Chelios, Savard and Blackhawks team coach Tony Esposito) and four members of the 1980 Miracle on Ice United States Olympic team (Broten, Christian, O'Callahan and Wild/North Stars team coach Mike Ramsey).

In some respects, it's unfortunate that the women's game could not have been made the preliminary to the Alumni game outdoors rather than having the two games overlap within a stone's throw of each other. Still, it's probably for the best that this vital women's game between these two highly ranked teams is being played indoors without any concerns about playing conditions due to ice quality or weather conditions. Even so, it would have been nice if the women's game early enough at 1 PM to allow fans to attend both if they so desired.

The weekend's main event is Sunday's NHL Stadium Series game where the Wild take on the Blackhawks in the first NHL outdoor game in Minnesota at 2:30 PM.

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The slumping Wild fired their head coach last weekend and promoted John Torchetti from their AHL affiliate in Iowa. Torchetti will be making his first appearance as the Wild's head coach in Minnesota on the team's largest stage of the season - outdoors and on national TV! The change behind the bench has ignited the Wild, who have now won three in a row heading into Sunday's game against the team that has eliminated them from the playoffs the last three seasons.

Chicago, meanwhile, have had quite a busy week of their own. First on Monday they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-2 at home, traveled to Madison Square Garden in New York City where they defeated the New York Rangers 5-3 on Wednesday, met with President and Blackhawks fan Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D. C. on Thursday before making their way to Minnesota for the Stadium Series this weekend.

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Today's feature jerseys are the 2016 Minnesota Wild Stadium Series Zach Parise jersey and the 2016 Chicago Blackhawks Stadium Series Jonathan Toews jersey. These jerseys feature oversized numbers on the back and sleeves as well as bolder striping, wider than the average NHL jersey, all scaled up in size for increased visibility in the larger football stadium setting.

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Blackhawks 2016 Stadium Series jersey photo Blackhawks 2016 Stadium Series jersey.jpg

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2004 Switzerland National Team Martin Gerber Jersey

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy the 12 teams were placed in two groups of six, with the top four in each group advancing to the Medal Round.

Switzerland was not among the top eight ranked teams in the 2004 IIHF World Rankings, and therefore did not have a reserved a place in the tournament, forcing them to participate in the Qualification Tournaments for the chance to earn one of the four remaining spots in the field of 12.

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The Swiss were placed in Group A with Japan, Denmark and Norway, and completed their group schedule with a 3-0 record to advance to Torino.

Once in Italy, they found themselves in Group A with #1 ranked Canada, #4 the Czech Republic, #5 Finland, #8 Germany and hosts Italy.

The Swiss opened their tournament with a resounding loss to Finland by a score of 5-0 on February 15. The very next day, they pulled off a stunner, defeating the Czech Republic by a score of 3-2. Switzerland opened the scoring at 5:11 of the first period on a goal by Thomas Zigler, but Jaromir Jagr tied the game for the Czechs at 2:55 of the second. Switzerland again took the lead at the midway point of the second on a shorthanded goal by Theirry Paterlini and the period would finish 2-1.

One minute into the third the Czechs pulled level on a goal by Marek Zidlicky. NHLer Mark Streit would score on the powerplay for Switzerland just under six minutes later. After killing off a penalty with nine minutes remaining, the Swiss held off the Czechs behind the goaltending of David Aebischer to complete the upset victory.

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Switzerland held off the Czechs for a surprising win

Two days later, on this date in 2002, the Swiss would face off against the top ranked Canadians.

Sixty minutes later, the greatest Olympic upset in Swiss hockey history was complete.

Paul DiPietro scored the first goal at 18:19 after Canada had gone 0-5 on the powerplay during the first period.

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The second goal came while Canada was down two men after penalty calls just 47 seconds apart. DiPietro capitalized on the golden opportunity just 10 seconds into the two man advantage at 8:47 of the second to put the Swiss up by two, but with the crowd still expecting the Canadians to come roaring back at any moment.

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DiPietro's second goal eludes a desperate Brodeur

The Swiss started the third having to kill off a Canadian powerplay three minutes into the period, which they did successfully. Then Martin Gerber's controversial save on Rick Nash while on the powerplay prevented Canada from not only scoring their first goal that many felt was inevitable, but also robbed Canada of some much needed momentum that a goal would have certainly generated.

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Martin Gerber

Canada would have an opportunity to go on the powerplay one final time with exactly two minutes remaining, only to have a penalty called against them just seven seconds later, negating Canada's last, best chance.

The frustrated Canadians would finish the game 0-11 on the powerplay and, as hard as the shutout loss was for the Canadians to grasp, what made it worse was that the goal scorer DiPietro was born in Canada! Gerber had 49 saves for the Swiss, who fielded a team with just two NHL players on their roster and managed only 18 shots in the victory, which would be ranked as the #87 story in the IIHF 100 Top Stories of the Century.

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Paul DiPietro shakes hands with Martin Brodeur following
Swtizerland's memorable upset victory

Today's featured jersey is a 2004 Switzerland National Team Martin Gerber jersey as worn during the 2004 World Championships. This particular style of jersey was first worn by the Swiss in 1998 and would remain in use through 2004 with only a minor change to the collar for 2001, going from a v-neck to a yoke style. 

Gerber began his career with several seasons in the Swiss league and one in Sweden before joining the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for the 2002-03 season. After two seasons there and the lockout season of 2004-05, Gerber would join the Carolina Hurricanes for 2005-06, where he would get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, the second Swiss player after fellow goaltender Aebischer to earn that honor.

In the 2008-09 season Gerber would move to the Ottawa Senators for two seasons. During the third season in Ottawa, Gerber would be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs. For 2009-10, Gerber signed a contract with Atlant Moscow of the Russian KHL but would return to North America in 2010-11 to close out his career with 42 games with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL and three final NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers.

Internationally, Gerber would play for Switzerland ten times, beginning with the 2000 World Championships, his first of eight, with the remaining two being the 2002 and 2006 Olympics. He would finish with a 20-24-2 record in 46 games with a 2.37 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.

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Here is Gerber making an astounding, and controversial, save against Rick Nash during his shutout of the Canadians during the 2006 Olympics.

And finally, the last minute of the game as the Swiss players celebrate their upset victory, something they will be looking to repeat in Vancouver.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

1972-73 Montreal Canadiens Frank Mahovlich Jersey

Frank Mahovlich joined the Maple Leafs for three games in 1956-57 and during his first full season of 1957-58 would score 20 goals, beating out Bobby Hull for the Calder Trophy. Three seasons later in 1960-61, Maple Leafs coach Punch Imlach would put him on a line with Red Kelly and Bob Nevin. The three of them would be the team's top three scorers that season, with Mahovlich's 48 goals setting a Maple Leafs record that would stand for 21 years.

Mahovlich, "The Big M", would lead the Maple Leafs in goal scoring during the next three seasons in which the Maple Leafs would win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships in 1962, 1963 and 1964.

Mahovlich Toronto
Mahovlich won three straight Stanley Cups with Toronto

He would lead the Maple Leafs in scoring in 1964-65 and again in 1965-66 before the Mahovlich and the Maple Leafs would win another Stanley Cup in 1967, the fourth of his career.

"It was truly amazing that we won again in 1967. When I look back at that team, I wonder how the hell we did it. A lot of the players were new to the team since our win in 1964. About eight or nine guys were around 40 years old. You can't find eight players that old in the entire NHL today! It gives you an idea of their talent, and that was in the six-team era," said Mahovlich.

Twice during his career in Toronto, Mahovlich would be hospitalized for depression and stress, a reaction to the negative way he was treated by the Maple Leafs fans during his time in Toronto and his conflicts with the Maple Leafs coaches and management despite the four championships and having led the team in scoring multiple times.

"In Toronto, we always had problems that we couldn't solve. There was always something going on. It's amazing that we won four Stanley Cups while I was there. As players, we had no control over these problems. Punch Imlach practiced us too hard. We left our game on the practice rink half the time. Despite having great teams, we placed first only once in the regular season. I think that the management orchestrated a lot of the criticism I faced from the fans. I was relieved to be traded from Toronto in 1968, but I always lived there and still do. I wear my Stanley Cup ring from the Maple Leafs every day," said Mahovlich.

More in need of a change of scenery that just about any player ever, Mahovlich would be traded to the Detroit Red Wings on March 3, 1968 in a blockbuster trade that would send four players to Detroit with four heading back to Toronto in return, including Paul Henderson.

"... Toronto never understood me or my game. I would have been better off being traded earlier. My career blossomed after I left Toronto. Detroit and Montreal didn't contain me with rules or restraints. They said, "You're talented, go do your thing."

During his first full season in Detroit, Mahovlich would set a career high in goals with 49 while playing on a line with Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio. He would also get to play some with his younger brother Peter Mahovlich, "The Little M".

Mahovlich Detroit

A season and a half later in 1970-71, Mahovlich was on the move once more as Detroit entered a rebuilding phase, this time being dealt to the Montreal Canadiens, where he was reunited with his younger brother Pete who had joined Montreal in the season before.

The move to Montreal was a good one for Mahovlich, as he would finish the season by adding another Stanley Cup to his resume after contributing a league leading 14 goals and 27 playoff points.

"The 1971 playoffs were the highlight of my career. The record I set for the most points in a playoffs for a Montreal Canadien, 27 points, still stands more than 25 years later," Mahovlich stated.

The following season of 1971-72 saw Mahovlich set a career high with 96 points from 43 goals and 53 assists.

Before the next NHL season began, Mahovlich was a member of Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

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Mahovlich was a member of Team Canada in 1972

In 1972-73, he would come close to equaling his point total from the year before with 93, which included scoring his 1,000th point on this date in 1973. His assist in Montreal's game against the Philadelphia Flyers made Mahovlich just the eighth player in NHL history to reach the 1,000 point milestone. Just over a month later he would score his 500th goal to join that exclusive club. He would then add another 23 points in 17 playoff games as the Canadiens would capture another Stanley Cup.

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Mahovlich celebrates his 500th goal

One more season in Montreal would see Mahovlich close out his NHL career by scoring 80 points to finish with 1,181 games played, 533 goals and 570 assists for 1,103 points and six Stanley Cups.

For 1974-75, Mahovlich would accept a lucrative offer to join the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association and participate in the 1974 Summit Series, which matched the stars of the WHA against the Soviet Union. Offensively, his two seasons with the Toros were successful, with 82 points in 1975 followed by 89 in 1976.

The Toros would relocate to Birmingham, Alabama of all the unlikely places, and be renamed the Bulls. The Bulls seemed more inclined to fight than score in order to attract fans. The aging Mahovlich was put on a line with tough guys Frank "Never" Beaton and Dave Hanson, one of the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slap Shot. Naturally, Mahovlich's point production plummeted, and when asked by a reporter what was wrong, he brilliantly replied, "I don't know, but I seem to play better with Howe and Delvecchio."

He retired at age 40 in 1978 with WHA totals of 237 games, 89 goals and 143 assists for 232 points, giving him over 600 goals, 700 assists and 1300 points combined as a professional in his 22 seasons.

Mahovlich was inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981 and would later be appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Today's featured jersey is a 1972-73 Montreal Canadiens Frank Mahovlich jersey from the season Mahovlich recorded both his 1,000th point and 500th goal.

The Canadiens red sweaters with the blue band around the chest date back to before the formation of the NHL in 1917 and this exact variation with the lace up collar and white numbers inside the arms stripes dates back to 1966-67 and remained in use through 1974-75 when it was replaced by a new v-neck collar.

Montreal Canadiens 72-73 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1968-69 Detroit Red Wings Frank Mahovlich jersey from the finest season Mahovlich had with the Red Wings when he scored a career high 49 goals.

Detroit introduced this jersey when the changed their name from the Falcons to Red Wings back in 1932 and it has remained essentially unchanged ever since, with only minor detail changes worth noting.

 Detroit Red Wings 1968-69 jersey photo Detroit Red Wings 1968-69 F.jpg
Detroit Red Wings 1968-69 jersey photo Detroit Red Wings 1968-69 B.jpg

Today's featured video is the "Legends of Hockey" profile on Mahovlich, featuring Frank himself.

Our next video is a recap of Frank's career, told at 1000 miles per hour by Paul Hendrick, who really should consider weekend work as an auctioneer. Follow along if you can.

Next, Mahovlich scores for Canada against the Soviet Union's Vladislav Tretiak in Game 2 of the 1972 Summit Series.

Finally, a real treat, footage of the first Toronto versus Detroit game following the blockbuster trade which send Mahovlich to the Red Wings, highlighted by a goal from The Big M.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

1968-69 Detroit Red Wings Alex Delvecchio Jersey

Alex Delvecchio left no doubt that he was ready to play in the NHL following his first and only season in junior hockey when he led the Ontario Hockey Association in assists with 72 in just 54 games. Not only a playmaker, the talented Delvecchio also scored nearly a goal a game for the Oshawa Generals as well. His 49 goals added to his league leading 72 assists gave him an impressive 121 points for the season and second place in the scoring race.

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Delvecchio while a member of the Oshawa Generals

He made his NHL debut that same season with a single game for Detroit.

The following season of 1951-52 could not have gone any better for Delvecchio. After six games in the minors, in which he scored nine points, he was called up to Detroit. He scored his first NHL goal, as one of the 15 he would score that season, and played 65 games with the Red Wings before advancing to the playoffs, where they would sweep eight straight games to earn Delvecchio his first Stanley Cup in his first full season of play.

"That was a great team we had and I felt proud to be among so many players that were true stars of the game. Terry Sawchuk was in goal and in those eight playoff games against Toronto and Montreal, he only gave up six goals. We had Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel, Gordie Howe, Glen Skov, Tony Leswick, Metro Prystai and Marty Pavelich up front. Marcel Pronovost, Red Kelly and Bob Goldham were three of our defensemen," Delvecchio remembered.

His point total would jump from 37 to 59 in his second season, powered by 43 assists as he was paired with none other than Lindsay and team leader Howe on the second version of "The Production Line" following the trade of line member Abel. The 59 points would stand as his career high for seven seasons. While his personal point totals would drop in 1953-54, greater things were in store for Delvecchio than personal glory, as the Red Wings would win the second Stanley Cup of Delvecchio's career. He would contribute 9 points in 15 games in the postseason.

Delvecchio may have began to think that winning was easy following the 1954-55 season, as the Red Wings again marched through the playoffs to win their third championship in Delvecchio's four seasons as he chipped in 7 goals and 8 assists in 11 games for third in team playoff scoring.

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Alex Delvecchio in action

It would prove to be the final Stanley Cup of what would eventually stretch to a 24 year career.

The 1955-56 season saw him record the first 20 goal season of his career when he netted 25 . The Red Wings would once more reach the finals that season, but fell short against the Montreal Canadiens, who were just beginning a dynasty that stretch for five seasons.

1956-57 was cut short by injury, one of the rare seasons Delvecchio would play less than 70 games, although he was still productive while healthy, scoring 41 points in 48 games. Aside from 1956-57, Delvecchio would play in 1,050 out of 1,054 possible games between 1952-53 and 1967-68.

Following the 1958-59 season, Delvecchio would be named the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy following his 54 point season which saw him whistled for just 6 penalty minutes.

1960-61 was the beginning of six consecutive 20 goal seasons for Delvecchio. He was then named team captain of the Red Wings for the 1962-63 season, a post he would retain for 12 years, the longest in team history until eventually surpassed by Steve Yzerman.

The 1965-66 season was a memorable one for Delvecchio, highlighted by the only 30 goal season of his career, when he scored 31. That season would also be the fourth return to the Stanley Cup Finals in six seasons for Detroit. His season was capped off by being named the recipient of his second Lady Byng Trophy.

Three seasons later Delvecchio set a career high in points with 25 goals and 58 assists for 83 points, including the 1,000th point of his career on this date in 1969, only the third player in league history after Howe and Jean Beliveau to achieve the feat. His efforts were recognized with the 1969 Lady Byng Trophy, the third of Delvecchio's career.

The final four seasons of his career were as productive as any that came before, with the final full season seeing his second highest point total of his career. Although it was one of the rare seasons in which he did not score 20 goals, coming up just short at 18, he had his second highest assist total with 53 for 71 points.

Delvecchio retired as a player following 11 games of the 1973-74 season when he was chosen as coach of the team. At the time of his retirement, he had established an NHL record for the most games played in a career with only one team at 1,549. In those games, he scored 456 goals and 825 assists for 1,281 points. Additionally, he played in 13 All-Star Games, a total only five players have ever surpassed.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1977 and His #10 was retired by the Red Wings in 1991.

Delvecchio's #10 hangs in the rafters of Joe Louis Arena
with the other Red Wings honored greats

Today's featured jersey is a 1968-69 Detroit Red Wings Alex Delvecchio jersey. This jersey features the captain's "C", which Delvecchio wore longer than any other player at the time, and still remains the second longest tenure of any captain in Red Wings history.

This style of Red Wings jersey was first adopted in 1932 when the team changed their name from the Falcons to the Red Wings and remains essentially unchanged to this day.

Red Wings 68-69 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Here are highlights of the 1954 Stanley Cup, when the Detroit Red Wings battled the Montreal Canadiens as well as a lively panel discussion with members of both teams hosted by the great Curt Gowdy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

2018 Olympic Hockey Qualification Update

While the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea are still 2 years away, the competition has already begun to secure one of three available places in the tournament.

33 teams have applied for the 12 spots in the Olympics, with 9 of those places already being guaranteed to the nations ranked 1-8 in the IIHF World Rankings following the 2015 World Championships back in May of 2015 plus, somewhat controversially, the host nation South Korea, who are currently 23rd in the World Rankings.

After some debate, the IIHF granted the hosts a guaranteed place in the tournament in a two-pronged effort to use the South Korean participation in the Olympics as a catalyst to improve their hockey program as well as sell a few more tickets to the games involving the home team.

Surprisingly enough, the Olympic Preliminary Qualification phase for the Olympics, to be held in February 2018, began back in October of 2015 with a playoff game to determine which nation would join the full four team Group K. In that playoff game, the hosts Bulgaria defeated the nation of Georgia 9-1 to advance to Group K play, which took place in early November, 2015.

Host Estonia (currently ranked 29th), Mexico (32nd), Israel (33rd) and Bulgaria (39th) participated in a round robin schedule to determine which of the four teams would advance to play in Group H in the Olympic Pre-Qualification phase.

Estonia demolished the competition with a 19-1 win over Israel, a 26-0 blowout of Bulgaria and secured their place in the next round with a decisive 13-3 win over Mexico to make their final total 58 goals for and 4 against.

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Estonia listens to their anthem after their romp through Group K 

Meanwhile, Group L of the Preliminary Qualification stage took place in Spain and consisted of Serbia (30th), Spain (31st), Iceland (35th) and China (38th). Serbia needed a shootout to beat Iceland 5-4 in their first game, while Spain beat China 10-1 to take an early lead in the standings. Spain maintained it's one point advantage when they defeated Iceland 5-3 after Serbia beat China 5-1, setting up the final decisive contest. Serbia prevailed with a 5-3 over the Spaniards to win the Group 8 points to 6 and advance to the Pre-Qualification Group G.

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Serbia is joyous over the Group L championship

Marko Milovanovic does it all for Serbia, having scored the game winning goal against Spain with 2:34 left in a 3-3 game. He is not only the Serbian team captain, but president of the Serbian Ice Hockey Federation as well!

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Marko Milovanovic is the man with the plan

The Pre-Qualification games took place over this past weekend, beginning with Group G in Italy. There, Italy (18th), Great Britain (24th), the Netherlands (25th) and Group L winners Serbia (30th) faced off, with Great Britain narrowly defeating the Netherlands 6-5 in the opening game. Italy took full advantage of their higher ranking and home ice to shut out Serbia 8-0. Great Britain then beat Serbia 6-2 while Italy outlasted a game Netherlands 4-2 to set up the deciding game Sunday between the British and the Italians. Italy demoralized their opponents with a 3-0 lead after the first period and cruised home to a 6-2 win to take the group and advance to the next round.

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Italy celebrates a goal against Great Britain

Group J in Sapporo, Japan, site of the 1972 Winter Olympics, consisted of Japan (20th), Ukraine (21st), Croatia (27th) and Romania (28th). Ukraine and Japan posted matching 3-0 wins on day one over Romania and Croatia. They again both shutout their competition on the second day, Ukraine 6-0 over Croatia and Japan 7-0 over Romania, to set up their winner-take-all showdown. In a real nail-biter, the game entered the third period scoreless before Japan broke out on top with a goal at 6:19 of the third. They then extended their lead to 2-0 at 10:32 only to have Ukraine pull one back at 14:36, leaving Japan to defend their one goal advantage for the remaining 5 1/2 minutes. Former NHLer Yutaka Fukufuji was up to the task and finished with 32 saves to send Japan on to the next round.

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Japan in action vs. Croatia

Finally, Group H in Hungary (19th) saw them host Poland (22nd), Lithuania (26th) and dominant Group K winners Estonia (29th). While the teams to advance are usually no match for those awaiting them in the higher ranked groups of the next round, Estonia's utter dominance gave one hope that they would at least be competitive in Group H.

Poland started strong with a 6-2 win over Estonia, while Hungary matched that with a 4-0 defeat of Lithuania on the first day. Both Poland and Hungary won big the next day with the Poles romping to a 9-1 win over Lithuania, while Hungary downed Estonia 7-1 to once more set up a decisive game between the group's two highest ranked teams.

But first, Estonia showed they were not in over their heads by easily defeating Lithuania 4-1, becoming the first advancing team in the 2018 Olympic Qualification process to win a game.

The main event between Hungary and Poland saw the Hungarians outshoot Poland 11-4 in the first period and 13-10 in the second, but the second period ended scoreless. Hungary again had the advantage in shots in the third period 10-9, but regulation ended with no score, as did the overtime, which had Hungary once more with a 4-3 advantage in shots, but they were unable to solve Przemyslaw Odrobny in goal for Poland who made 38 saves versus 26 for his Hungarian counterpart Miklos Rajna.

The game and promotion to the Final Qualification round came down to a shootout. Odrobny saved the first Hungarian shot before Krzysztof Zapala scored for Poland. Both goalies traded saves in round two and when Frank Banham beat Odrobny but hit the pipe with Hungary's do-or-die third shot, Poland had scored the upset victory to win the group and advance, becoming the only team that was not the top seed so far to move on.

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Przemyslaw Odrobny propelled Poland to the next round

The winners of Groups G, H and J will next participate the Final Olympic Qualification, which will take place from September 1st through September 4th later this year.

Things get much tougher for those teams advancing from the Pre-Qualification Round Groups G, H and J, as they are slotted into Groups D, E and F, where teams ranked 9-17 await.

Group D is being hosted by Belarus (9) and will consist of last year's qualification upset underdogs Slovenia (14), Denmark (15) and Poland (22).

Group E sees Latvia (10) hosting Germany (13), Austria (16) and Japan (20).

Finally, Group F will take place in Norway (11) with France (12), Kazakhstan (17) and Italy (18).

Only then will the winners of those three groups gain an entry into the actual 2018 Winter Olympic hockey tournament in Pyeongchang 17 months later later where Russia (2), the United States (5) and Slovakia (8) in Group B await the lowest seeded of the three qualifying teams and Sweden (3) and Finland (4) in Group C draw the first and second ranked survivors of the three step qualification process which began back in October, 2015 in Bulgaria. The final group, Group A, is already set, with Canada (1), the Czech Republic (6), Switzerland (7) and South Korea (23).

While little publicized and virtually unknown in North America, the Olympic qualification tournament can provide some some of the most dramatic moments, particularly in Groups D, E and F with an actual berth in the Olympics on the line, as making it to the games in as good as a gold medal for the participants of the lower ranked nations and is a source of tremendous pride for all involved to compete at the highest level on sport's biggest stage against the world's best.

The most memorable game in Olympic qualification history took place in January of 2005 to decide who would advance to Torino, Italy in 2006. Group B held in Riga, Latvia saw Belarus gain two points in the standings by defeating Poland, while Latvia knocked off Slovenia 2-1. Belarus took care of Slovenia the next day 7-2 while Latvia kept pace by beating Poland 3-1, setting up the final winner-take-all game against Belarus.

Belarus opened the scoring of the deciding game at 5:16 of the first and stretched their lead to two at 12:06 before Latvia answered at 18:33. The second period was played even, with each team scoring one with Belarus going back up by two at 1:49 before former Boston Bruin Grigori Paneleev scored 18 seconds later to return the margin to one in favor of Belarus.

Belarus put themselves in a good position to win the group and advance with a goal at 9:11 of the third to make the score 4-2 for Belarus.

Now in desperation mode, Latvia pulled goalie Edgars Masalskis during a Latvian powerplay with just six minutes remaining in the game and down by 2 goals. The gamble paid off as Latvia scored at the 15:11 mark to reduce the margin again to 1.

1:47 later the Latvians thrilled the home crowd by getting the equalizer at even strength, leaving just three minutes to decide who would claim the final remaining spot in the Olympics. Alexsandrs Semjonovs then sent the home fans into rapture by finishing the comeback and punching Latvia's ticket to Italy just 33 seconds later to complete the three goal outburst in two minutes and twenty seconds in what would become known as "The Miracle in Riga", considered by some the greatest achievement in Latvian sports since they regained their independence in 1991.

 Last year's qualification process was also noteworthy for upsets in the form of Austria (ranked 15th in 2012) defeating 10th ranked Germany in Germany and the amazing story of Slovenia (18th) defeating not only host Denmark (12) but also Belarus (13) to make their first ever Olympic hockey tournament.

Today's featured jersey is a  2006 Estonia National Team Dimitri Raskidajev jersey as worn during the 2006 Division I Group B World Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

While 29th ranked Estonia's long shot hopes of making it to the 2018 Olympics, they certainly put on a fine showing, utterly dominating their Group K opponents Israel, Mexico and Bulgaria by a combined +54 in just three games by an average score of 19-1.

They then beat 26th ranked Lithuania in Group H, a fine result for the Estonians.

Estonia began their modern life in the IIHF back in 1993 after the breakup of the Soviet Union, of which they once were a part. Since then they have participated mainly in the mid levels of the IIHF ladder system with success coming in 1994 when they won Group C2, 2002 when they won Division II Group A and in 2010, 2012 and 2014 when they rebounded from relegations from Division I in 2008, 2011 and 2013. In 2105 they defended their place in Division I Group B and will be looking to maintain that level once again in April of 2016.

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Estonia 2007 jersey photo Estonia 2006-07 B.jpg

Today's video is the magnificent Latvian comeback that would become known as "The Miracle in Riga" which would propel them into the 2006 Winter Olympic hockey tournament.

Here are highlights of the 2014 Olympic Final Qualifications from the day Slovenia defeated host Denmark to put a stranglehold on their bid to play in Sochi. The Slovenia highlights begin at the 11:22 mark. Note that Slovenia was still wearing their blue, white and red jerseys, as by the time they arrived in Sochi, they were now wearing their startling blue and neon green jerseys.


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