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Saturday, May 7, 2016

1999-00 New Jersey Devils Brian Rafalski Jersey

Rafalski's career began like many other future NHLers when he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin for the 1991-92 season, after which he was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team. That same season he also earned a bronze medal at the World Junior Tournament, the first of seven international tournaments the Michigan native would play for the United States.

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Rafalski during his days as a Badger

The 1992-93 season saw him continue at Wisconsin as well as making a return to the World Juniors. As he gained experience and confidence, his point totals began to increase, up from 13 to 23 for 1993-94 and nearly doubling to 45 for 1994-95, a season during which Rafalski was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and to the WCHA First All-Star Team and helped Wisconsin win the WCHA playoff title. Following the completion of his college career, Rafalski once more skated for the United States, this time at the 1995 World Championships, his first at the senior level.

Despite his noteworthy resume, Rafalski, at 5' 10", was considered too small and went undrafted by the NHL. Still eager to continue his hockey career, he joined Brynas IF in Sweden for the 1995-96 season.

After one season in Sweden, he moved to HPK in Finland. There, he had a solid offensive season for a defenseman with 35 points in 49 games and was given the Pekka Rautakallio Trophy as Best Defenseman in the SM-Liiga.

Establishing a knack for choosing the right situation throughout his career, Rafalski joined HIFK of Helsinki and promptly won the SM-Liiga championship in 1998. He was once again named Best Defenseman in the league in 1998-99, as he scored 53 points, an average of a point per game for HIFK. In a vote of the players, he was also awarded the Golden Helmet as the best player overall.

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Rafalski while with HIFK in Finland

Having proven himself as a capable player, including being named by The Sporting News as "the best hockey player in the world not playing in the NHL", Rafalski realized his dream to play in the NHL when he signed a free agent contract with the New Jersey Devils on this date in 1999 and finally began the delayed start to his NHL career as a now 26-year-old rookie for the 1999-00 season.

With the Devils, Rafalski was paired with team captain Scott Stevens, whose strong defensive skills allowed Rafalski the opportunity to take more risks offensively, resulting in 32 points by season's end.

Once more, his change in clubs paid immediate dividends, as the Devils captured the Stanley Cup at the end of Rafalski's first season in the NHL, which included being named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was at least four and as many as seven years older than any of the other five members of the rookie team!

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A fine end to Rafalski's delayed rookie season

Rafalski would go on to play seven seasons with the Devils, which included another Stanley Cup championship in 2003 and an appearance in the NHL All-Star Game in in 2004 and a second one in 2007. His best offensive season with the Devils was his last, 2006-07, when he totaled 55 points.

During his time with New Jersey, the Devils annual playoff appearances left little opportunity for him to play in the World Championships, but he was chosen to participate for the United States at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he won a silver medal. Two years later, he was again chosen to play for the US, this time at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. His second Olympics came in 2006 in Torino, Italy.

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Rafalski during the 2006 Olympics

For the 2007-08, Rafalski signed with his hometown Detroit Red Wings in another change to a club that would, for the third time in Rafalski's career, conclude with a championship in his very first season with a new team. With the high powered Red Wings, Rafalski set a career high with 59 points in 2008-09 after back to back 55 point seasons, which included an NHL career high 13 goals in 2007-08.

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Rafalski's third cup came with Detroit in 2008

His career would finish with two more seasons with the Red Wings. which would bring his final career totals to 833 NHL games played, 79 goals and 436 assists for 515 points. In all, Rafalski would play 11 NHL seasons despite the late start as a result of his going undrafted. He has more than proven the scouts wrong who thought him too small, as in addition to his three Stanley Cups and over 500 points, Rafalski qualified for the playoffs in each of his 11 seasons and registered an additional 100 points over the course of his career.

Rafalski was again named to Team USA for the 2010 Olympics, earning his second silver medal as well as being named Best Defenseman of the competition.

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Rafalski was recognized for his outstanding play
in the 2010 Olympics as Best Defenseman

Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 New Jersey Devils Brian Rafalski jersey as worn when the Devils captured the Stanley Cup Rafalski's rookie season in the NHL.

Of note, this jersey has the NHL 2000 patch, which all the players wore that season, plus the addition of the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals patch. Also worth noting is that this jersey is made by ProPlayer, who supplied jerseys to NHL clubs for only the 1999-00 season.

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New Jersey Devils 1999-00 SCF jersey photo NewJerseyDevils1999-00BSCFjersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2002-03 New Jersey Devils Brian Rafalski jersey as worn when the Devils captured their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Sharp eyed readers will note that the Devils jersey hasn't changed much since 2000, and that's because it hasn't changed since being introduced in 1992, and if Devils president Lou Lamoriello  has it's way, it will still be the same in 2092, as New Jersey has resisted all pressure to add a third jersey or redesign their current home and road set, even during the transition to the new Reebok Edge jerseys in 2007, when vertical stripes were in and horizontal stripes were out.

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Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 2008-09 Detroit Red Wings Brian Rafalski jersey as worn by the defending Stanley Cup champions Red Wings following the third NHL championship of Rafalski's career.

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Detroit Red Wings 2007-08 jersey photo DetroitRedWings2007-08Bjersey.jpg

Today's video segment begins with an interview with Rafalski while still a member of HIFK just prior to the 1999 SM-Liiga Finals while knowing he had already signed with New Jersey. There is also some very artistic footage of him eating a McDonald's hamburger.

Nest is a compilation of goals scored by Rafalski while playing in Finland.

Finally an interview with Rafalski as he talks about his career, starting with Wisconsin and how he ended up playing in Europe. It then continues with the time he has spent with soldiers and veterans of the armed forces.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The 2016 IIHF World Championships - 1992 Russia National Team Alexei Kovalev Jersey

The 2016 IIHF World Championship begins today in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia.

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The 16 teams are divided into two groups, with Group A consisting of hosts Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Latvia, Norway, Denmark and Kazakhstan, with all games being played at the 12,100 capacity VTB Ice Palace in Moscow.

Group B sees Canada, Finland, the United States, Slovakia, Belarus, France, Germany, and Hungary playing their games at the 7,300 capacity Yubileyny Sports Palace in Saint Petersburg.

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The tournament mascot, Laika

This will be just the third time the World Championships have been held in Russia since the break up of the Soviet Union, with the previous two times being in 2000 (Saint Petersburg) and 2007 (Moscow). Prior to that, the Soviet Union hosted the World Championships in 1957, 1973, 1979 and 1986, with all four taking place in Moscow.

The format of the tournament calls for each team to play the other seven teams in it's group in the Preliminary Round, which extends from today, May 6th through May 17th. The current format, as opposed to the old one in which there were four groups of four, favors the higher ranked teams, as a single loss is less devastating when playing a seven game schedule in the opening round as opposed to the earlier format's three games.

Once the Preliminary Round has been completed, the last place teams in each group will be relegated to Division I Group A for the 2017 season, unless either France or Germany finish last in Group B, as they are guaranteed a place in next year's World Championships as co-hosts of next year's event.

While Slovenia has secured their place in the 2017 Worlds by winning the recently completed Division I Group A, Italy will be anxiously awaiting the results of the Preliminary round in Russia, as they will be promoted to the 2017 Top Division tournament - unless both France and Germany finish 7th and 8th in Group B, in which case Italy will lose its promotion.

The top 4 teams in each group will advance to the Quarterfinals on May 19th with the winners meeting in the Semifinals on May 21st. The losers of those games will meet the next day on May 22nd for the bronze medal while the winners will face off for the IIHF World Championship later the same day.

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The World Championship trophy

Today's opening day begins with Sweden taking on Latvia in Group A, while Group B wastes no time as the United States begins their schedule with no less than Canada. Later today host Russia faces the Czech Republic in Group A in Moscow and the other Group B match sees Finland open against Belarus.

Saturday sees a massive six games on the schedule as the rest of the 16 teams begin play before the day concludes with the United States playing Belarus in Saint Petersburg. There are also six games on Sunday, by the end of which all teams will have played twice.

For fans in Canada, TSN will show, for the first time ever, every game of the World Championships. Viewers in the US can watch all of the American games, two Quarterfinals, both Semifinals and the Bronze and Gold Medal games on the NBC Sports Network, but note that some of the games will  only be streamed on NBC Live Extra and not all of them will be on NBCSN. With the time difference between North America and Moscow, games will air live between mid morning and early afternoon eastern time.

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The Russia National Ice Hockey Team is currently ranked 2nd in the IIHF World Rankings and played their first international game in April of 1992 after breakup of the Soviet Union and the subsequent games as the Confederation of Independent States and The Unified Team as late as February of 1992 during the Winter Olympics. Quite literally, the Soviet Union ceased to exist during the 1992 World Junior Tournament while the Soviet team was competing.

The Russians have participated in the Olympics in ice hockey six times since 1994. Their best result was a silver medal in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. Their only other medal was a bronze in 2002 in Salt Lake City.

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Pavel and Valeri Bure with their silver medals in 1998

Since 1992, Russia has been regular participants at the World Championships. After finishing fifth in 1994, they won their first World Championship gold medal in 1993 in  Germany. After a lackluster First Round, where they opened with a 2-2 tie against Italy and a later both a 5-2 loss to Sweden and a 3-1 loss to Canada, they came alive in the Playoffs with a 5-1 win over Germany and a confidence boosting 7-4 win over Canada, which put them in the gold medal game, where they got their revenge on Sweden 3-1 to become World Champions for the first time as Russia.

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Ilya Byakin, Andrei Khomutov, Vyacheslav Bykov and
Vyacheslav Butsayev after winning the 1993 World Championship

The Russians entered a down period following their championship in 1993, finishing either fourth or fifth at the World Championships for the next six years, followed by a disastrous tournament in 2000 when they finished a shocking 11th, which included losses to the United States, Switzerland, Latvia and Belarus, made even worse by the fact it was as hosts in Saint Petersburg.

The program showed signs of life when they returned to the medal podium in 2002 with a silver medal, but 2003 and 2004 saw them again finish a distant 7th and 10th.

 Things began to change with a bronze in 2005 and again in 2007 in Moscow before a satisfying undefeated run through the 2008 tournament, which concluded with a 5-4 win over Canada in Canada to claim their first championship in 15 years, something unimaginable during the days of the Soviet Union's Big Red Machine.

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Alexander Ovechkin never passes on a chance to play for Russia
and is seen here with the 2008 World Championshp trophy

Their 2008 gold medal was shown to not be a fluke when they repeated as gold medalists again in 2009, a second consecutive unbeaten run that concluded with another one goal victory over Canada.

Since then the Russians have been a force to be reckoned with, earning their fourth consecutive medal in 2010 with a silver, a fourth place in 2011 and a return to gold with a championship again in 2012, this time not only undefeated, but all coming in regulation without giving up a point in the standings.

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Russia celebrating their perfect run through
the 2012 World Championships

After a sixth place in 2013, they won their fifth gold medal as Russia in 2014  behind another ten consecutive regulation wins without a single game even going to overtime.

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Russia accepting their 2014 World Championship Trophy

Last year they won a second straight medal, in the form of a silver, their third since 2002 to go with a pair of bronze and four gold, a total of nine medals in the last 14 years.

Today's featured jersey is a 1992 Russia National Team Alexei Kovalev jersey as worn during the 1992 World Championships during the earliest days of the Russian National Team following the breakup of the Soviet Union in December of 1991.

When competing at the 1992 Olympics in February of 1992, Russia competed as the Unified Team, a joint team from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Armenia, wearing the last of their old Soviet Union jerseys, only with a blank space where the CCCP lettering used to reside on the front.

By the time the World Championships arrived in late April, Russia now had their own separate hockey program and were decked out in their stunning new jerseys which featured a bold design based on the onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square.

For some reason, these great jerseys had a unexpectedly short life span, having only been used for the 1992 World Championships and the 1993 World Juniors before being replaced by a new style.

Kovalev was one of the most skilled players in the history of Russian hockey and played 19 seasons in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers, making him one of the first four Russians to ever have their name engraved on the cup.

Internationally, he played twice for the Soviet Union at the European Juniors, as part of the Unified Team at the 1992 World Juniors and Olympics, winning gold both times, and for Russia eight times, three World Championships, earning a bronze in 2005 (when he was named the Best Forward), the World Cup of Hockey twice, and two more Olympics, winning bronze in 2002.

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1993 Russia National Team Alexei Yashin jersey like those worn at the World Championships held in Germany where Russia defeated Sweden 3-1 to win the only World Championship gold medal of Yashin's career.

This Tackla jersey filled a narrow gap between the Tackla jerseys of the Soviet Union and the change to Reebok branding for all teams in 1994.

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Russia 1993 WC jersey photo Russia 1993 WC B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2009 Russia National Team Ilya Kovalchuk jersey as worn when Russia captured the gold medal at the 2009 World Championships as Kovalchuk was named the tournament's MVP after scoring 14 points in nine games.

Kovalchuk, who normally wears #17 in NHL competition in honor of former Soviet great Valeri Kharlamov, regularly wears #71 when playing for the National Team due to #17 being retired by the National Team in the late Kharlamov's honor.

This style was only worn for the 2009 World Championships before it was immediately replaced by a new style for 2010.

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Russia 2009 jersey photo Russia 2009 WC B.jpg

In today's video section, Kovalchuk scores the winning goal in overtime of the 2008 World Championships, defeating the host Canadians.

Next are highlights from Russia's 2012 World Championship.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

1996-97 New York Islanders Ziggy Palffy Jersey

Born on this date in Czechoslovakia in 1972, Zigmund "Ziggy" Palffy came of age at the ideal time, just after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

After a season in the Czechoslovakian Extraliga with HK Nitra, scoring 34 goals and 50 points in 50 games and earning a bronze medal in the 1991 World Junior Championships, scoring 7 goals and 13 points in 7 games, Palffy was drafted in the second round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.

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Palffy as a member of the Czechoslovakia National Team

He remained in Czechoslovakia for two more seasons with Dukla Trencin, leading the club in points in 1991-92 with 47 points and adding another 26 points with an amazing 18 goals and 26 points in just 13 playoff games to lead Trencin to the league championship, their first championship since their founding in thirty years of trying. If that were not enough, the following season Palffy not only led Trencin in scoring with 38 goals and 79 points just 43 games, but won the league scoring championship in the process.

Now clearly ready to make the move to North America after dominating his domestic league, Palffy began his path to the NHL with a season with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the IHL in 1993-94, where he averaged exactly a point per game with 57 points in 57 games. He also made his NHL debut with the Islanders, seeing action in five games, but failed to impress by being held pointless. He did have a better showing at the 1994 Olympics, skating for the now independent nation of Slovakia following the breakup of Czechoslovakia at the start of 1993.

Palffy began the 1994-95 season with 33 games as a member of the Denver Grizzlies of the IHL, and after putting up 43 points in 33 games, he was recalled by the Islanders after the season began late due to the labor issues which delayed the start of the season. He would play in 33 games which included his first NHL points, finishing with 10 goals and 17 points.

Palffy hit his stride in 1995-96, which included a change in jersey number from 68 to 16, when he led the Islanders in scoring with 87 points and his first 40 goal season with 43. Following the season, as the lowly Islanders failed to make the playoffs, Palffy competed for Slovakia at the 1996 World Championships.

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Palffy in the controversial "fishsticks" jersey. Note the italicized
assistant captain's "A" used in the second half of the 1996-97 season

Prior to the start of the following NHL season, Palffy once again skated for Slovakia in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. The next season saw more of the same as Palffy reached 48 goals and 90 points to once more lead the Islanders in scoring as well as making his first NHL All-Star Game appearance. His final season on Long Island saw him limited to just 50 games, during which he scored 50 points. Following the season, the sixth in a row during which the once great Islanders would miss the playoffs, Palffy was again free to compete at the World Championships for Slovakia.

In a move that was unpopular with the already disgruntled Islanders fans, Palffy was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. His first three seasons with the Kings saw Palffy continue at a point per game average, including nearly equalling his career high, falling just one point short in 2000-01 with 89.

The 2001-02 season was particularly busy for Palffy, as he played in 63 games for the Kings, made a single appearance for Slovakia in the 2002 Olympics, although too little too late to help Slovakia escape the Preliminary Round due to a scheduling flaw that forced Slovakia to compete without the vast majority of it's NHL players for most of the round, and was a contributor to Slovakia's greatest hockey moment when they rebounded a few months later when they captured the gold medal at the 2002 World Championships after the Kings were eliminated in seven games in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Palffy assisted on Peter Bondra's gold medal clinching goal with less than two minutes remaining in the championship final.

Palffy celebrates Slovakia's gold medal in 2002

Another strong season in 2002-03 with the Kings saw him total 85 points as well as having a strong World Championships with 15 points in 9 games.

During the NHL lockout of 2004-05, Palffy split his time between HK 36 Skalica in Slovakia and HC Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic as well as making yet another appearance at the World Championships. For the 2005-06 season, Palffy signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but retired unexpectedly halfway through the season due to a shoulder injury.

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Palffy while a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins

To the surprise of many, Palffy returned to active play after sitting out the rest of the 2005-06 season and all of the 2006-07 season when he rejoined HK 36 Skalica.

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Palffy returned to the ice with HK 36 Skalica

Now once more in top form after his year and a half away from the game, Palffy scored 75 points in 46 games in 2007-08 and added 24 more in 13 playoff games to lead Skalica to an appearance in the championship finals.

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Palffy's career found a second life with HK 36 Skalica

He raised his game once more in 2008-09, leading the league in goals with 52, 21 more than his next closest competitor! With his 47 assists added on, his 99 points in 53 games easily gave him the league scoring title.

One supposedly final season with HK Skalica had Palffy in top form with 53 points, although his was limited to 36 games. He also made his first appearance for the Slovakia National Team in five years when he participated in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

After skipping the 2010-11 season, Palffy was once again back on the ice for HK Skalica for the 2011-12 season, where he showed no rust, scoring 26 goals and 83 points in 48 games followed by another 16 goals and 73 points in 39 games of the 2012-13 season, his last at the age of 40.

His final NHL totals were 329 goals and 713 points in 684 games. Internationally, he played in 18 games for Czechoslovakia and later 49 games for Slovakia, scoring a combined 86 points during two World Juniors and a Canada Cup for the Czechs and five World Championships, a World Cup and three Olympics for Slovakia.

Today's featured jersey is a 1996-97 New York Islander Ziggy Palffy jersey. This style jersey was first introduced in 1995-96 with the notorious and much ridiculed "fisherman" logo. The Islanders were in a state of turmoil at the time, having had a steep decline in competitiveness and several controversial personnel moves.

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The Islanders reviled "fisherman" logo

The fisherman jersey had the unfortunate double whammy against it, of not only replacing the jersey worn during the team's Stanley Cup dynasty, but arriving during a period of fan discontent with ownership and management, which led to the jersey and logo becoming the lightning rod for all of the fans anger and frustration.

During the 1996-97 season, the wave style jersey was paired with the classic Islanders logo as a hastily created "alternate" jersey in an effort to undo some of the damage done by the "fishsticks" jersey, as New York Ranger fans chanted at the Islanders while wearing the fisherman logo jerseys.

1997-98 saw the fisherman logo dropped completely and the club wear the alternate version with the classic Islanders crest full time for this jersey's final season prior to changing to a somewhat modernized version of their classic jerseys for 1998-99.

The "fisherman" jersey was worn with three distinctive fonts used for the assistant captain's "A", with the version on today's featured jersey being used for the first two seasons with the Fisherman logo of 1995-96 and 1996-97 as well as the first three months of 1997-98 until a change to the second style in January of 1997.

For more on the story of the "Fishsticks" jersey, please see this post about it's creation and the controversial reception it received.

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New York Islanders 1996-97 R jersey photo NewYorkIslanders1996-97RB.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1994-95 Denver Grizzlies Ziggy Palffy jersey. This jersey features the IHL 50th Anniversary patch worn by the Grizzlies during their only season in Denver, which concluded with the team winning the Turner Cup as IHL champions. The club was then forced to move out of Denver due to the arrival of the NHL's Quebec Nordiques who would be renamed as the Colorado Avalanche.

The team would relocate to Salt Lake City where they would become known as the Utah Grizzlies. They would again win the Turner Cup during their first season in Utah, which concluded with setting a minor league attendance record of 17,381. The team would play six seasons in the IHL and be granted entry into the AHL for the 2001-02 season when the IHL folded. They would play another four seasons in the AHL before being sold and relocated. Of note, an ECHL franchise then was formed using the Utah Grizzlies identity the following season who continue to play in Utah to this day.

By far and away the most unique part of this jersey is the bear claw slash marks not only across the front and back of the body, but embroidered into the back numbers as well. The copper trim around the numbers is also executed with a metallic twill that adds a nice detail to the numbers and a needed dash of color to the back of the jersey.

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Our first video today shows Palffy wearing the original Islanders jersey as well as his original number 68.

Next is a collection of Palffy highlights while a member of the Los Angeles Kings.

Next, Palffy scores his 50th goal of the season to set a new Slovak Extraliga record in 2008-09.

Finally, Palffy scores just 12 seconds into the start of the first game of the 2008-09 Slovakian championship finals, only no one saw it because they were reading all the ads painted on the ice.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The United States Medals for the First Time in 34 Years - 1996 United States National Team Brian Rolston Jersey

The United States competed in the first Olympic hockey tournament held back in 1920 at the Summer Games. They opened with a 29-0 win over Switzerland before being handed a 2-0 loss by Canada. They then defeated Sweden 7-0 and Czechoslovakia 16-0 to claim the silver medal.

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The 1920 United States Olympic Team,
the first medalists in US hockey history

They returned for the 1924 Games, now logically moved to the Winter Olympics. Wins over Belgium (19-0), France (22-0) and Great Britain (11-0) moved them into the Final Round where they defeated Sweden (20-0) before losing in the final game to Canada 6-1 to finish as the silver medalists once more.

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The 1924 United States Olympic Team

The United States did not compete at the 1928 Olympic hockey tournament, which also served as the third World Championships. In 1930, the first stand-alone World Championships were held in Chamonix, France, although the warm weather melted the ice and the final game of the Knockout Round and the Gold Medal Final were moved to Berlin, Germany. As in 1928, the United States did not participate in the event.

The Americans were back in action at the 1931 World Championships where they defeated Romania 15-0, Austria 2-1, Sweden 3-0, Czechoslovakia 1-0 and Poland 1-0 before again losing to Canada 2-0 in the final game to be classified second and earn their third silver medal.

The won another silver as hosts of the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York with a 4-1-1 record, with their only blemishes being a 2-1 overtime loss to Canada in the opening game and a 2-2 tie with Canada in the final game.

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The United States won silver in Lake Placid in 1932

At the 1933 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the United States was represented by the Massachusetts Rangers, which was made up almost entirely of college students led by goaltender Gerry Cosby. The US entered the tournament during the Second Round of play and advance to the Final Round with a 7-0 defeat of Switzerland, a 4-0 win over Poland and a 6-0 win over Czechoslovakia. In the Final Round Cosby posted his fourth shutout, a 4-0 blanking of Austria. They then won their first World Championship gold medal with a 2-1 overtime win against rivals Canada.

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The 1933 Massachusetts Rangers, who won the only
gold medal for the Untied States at the World Championships

Over the next 30 years the United States would win silver in 1934, bronze at the 1936 Olympics and silver in 1939 before the suspension of play due to World War II. After international play resumed in 1947, the US won bronze in 1949, silver in 1950 and again at both the 1952 and 1956 Olympics.

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1936 United States Olympic Team

Everything went right for the United States at the 1960 Olympics, held in Squaw Valley, California. The Americans opened with a come from behind 7-5 win over Czechoslovakia thanks to a four goal third period. After defeating Australia 12-1, the moved to the Medal Rounds and beat Sweden 6-3, Germany 9-1, Canada 2-1, the Soviet Union 3-2 and the Czechs again 9-4, again coming from behind after two periods with a 6 goal third.

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The 1960 USA Gold Medal team celebrates

Two years later in 1962 the Americans would win their final medal for 34 years when they won bronze on home ice in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the first non-Olympic World Championship held in North America. The American medal was aided in no small part by a boycott of the tournament by both the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia in response to the Americans and the Canadians skipping the 1967 World Championships in Moscow. Sweden won with a 7-0 record over 6-1 Canada while the United States lost to both of them to finish in third at 5-2.

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The 1962 World Champions Sweden, who benefited from
the boycott of the tournament my the Czechs and the Soviets

Other than their Olympic medals in 1952, 1956 and 1960, the boycott assisted medal in 1962 was the Americans first medal at a stand alone World Championship since 1949 and 1950, as Czechoslovakia and Sweden both improved after World War II, with the Czech taking seven medals between the resumption of play in 1947 through 1962 while the Swedes took eight during the same time period, having previously only winning a single silver in 1928 while the Czechs had only won three bronze medals before the war.

The biggest factor to explain the American medal drought was the shocking arrival of the Soviet Union on the international hockey stage in 1954, which earned them their first of 22 gold medals through 1990. To go with their near stranglehold on the gold, the Soviets also took with them seven silver medals and five bronze - going 34 for 34 between 1954 and 1991. Of note, the Olympics stopped counting as the World Championships in 1972 when a separate Olympic and World Championship tournaments were held in the same year for the first time. The only tournament during that time period without a Soviet medal was due to their boycott in 1962.

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The first Soviet World Champions in 1954

Following their bronze medal in 1962, the US finished 8th in 1963 and then either fifth or sixth for the rest of the decade. In 1969, Pool A shrank from 8 teams down to 6, with the Americans finishing last after going 0-10 and being relegated for the first time in their history to Pool B for 1970.

They responded well by sweeping the likes of West Germany, Norway, Yugoslavia, Japan, Switzerland, Romania and Bulgaria to return to Pool A for 1971. Despite the United States winning silver at the 1972 Olympics, their results at the World Championships later that spring were not nearly as successful, as their 2-8 record dropped them back to Pool B after a heartbreaking final game against West Germany, who they needed to beat by five goals. After leading 5-0 after two periods, the Germans got the goal they needed for survival in the third period to win the standings tiebreaker and send the Americans down.

It would take the United States three tries to earn a promotion back to Pool A in 1974. They did just miss out on a medal in 1976 with a 4th place but were again relegated back to Pool B in 1982 after a dismal 0-6-1 record, which included a loss to Italy with their only positive being a final day tie with West Germany.

At their first opportunity to earn a promotion back to the Top Division in 1983, the United States rolled to a 6-0-1 record, with their only blemish being a 4-4 tie with Austria.

For the next ten tournaments (the World Championships were not held in both 1984 and 1988), the best the US could muster were fourth place finishes in 1985, 1991 and 1994.

The 1995 tournament began well for the US, winning the competitive Group 2 with an undefeated 3-0-2 record, however, their "reward" for winning their group was a matchup with the fourth place team from Group 1 - Canada, who had somehow finished behind both Italy and France! The Canadians then ended the Americans tournament with a 4-1 win which resulted in a final classification for the United States of 6th.

The 1996 IIHF World Championships were held in Vienna, Austria and feature a field of 12 nations divided at first into two groups, with the United States being placed in the difficult Group 1. They opened with a 5-1 win over Austria followed by a 4-2 victory over Germany. They lost 3-1 to Russia but rebounded with a tight 4-3 win over Slovakia. They closed out group play with a meaningless 5-1 loss to Canada, as they had already clinched second place in the group.

1996 Austria logo photo 1996 Austria logo.jpg

The Quarterfinals saw the Americans paired with Sweden, which went the way of the US 3-2 and guaranteed that they would at least play for a medal. Their next opponent was the Czech Republic, who dashed the hopes of a gold or silver medal with a 5-0 thrashing of the United States on their way to claim gold.

Meanwhile, in the other Semifinal, Canada outlasted Russia in a shootout 3-2, which meant the United States would face the Russians for the bronze medal the next day.

First blood went to the Russians when Alexei Yashin scored just 2:58 into the game from Sergei Berezin and Vitali Karamonov. A minute and a half later the lead was 2-0 when Dimitri Kvartalnov scored Vladimir Vorobiev and Oleg Tverdovsky. Halfway through the second period Berezin put the Russians out to a commanding 3-0 lead with assists from Boris Mironov and Alexei Zhitnik at 9:49.

The Americans showed their first signs of life when Brian Rolston scored at 17:49 from Joe Sacco and Kevin Stevens. Just 29 seconds later the Americans had a second goal when Chris Tancill was set up by Tom Chorske at 18:18 of the second to make it 3-2 with plenty of time remaining.

I would take just 3:22 of the third period for the United States to pull even when Derek Plante scored unassisted. Neither team was able to find the game winner over the remainder of the third period and the game moved into overtime as the next goal would be worth the bronze medal.

The game and bronze medal winning goal came 4:48 into overtime when Sacco flew down the left side of the ice, picked up a loose puck and headed for the Russian goal. but just as he was being forced to go behind the net, he threw the puck back into the slot past a sprawling Russian defenseman to Rolston streaking up the middle. Rolston fired the puck past the Russian goaltender, burying it in the net and setting off a celebration of the first American medal since 1962.

"It was pretty dramatic," said Chorske. "It was a shorthanded goal by Brian Rolston, so that was pretty incredible. The Russian team was always good, and that was a time just after the heyday of the Red Army teams, so it was a big deal to beat the Russians. To be on this team was really something. It proved that USA Hockey was ascending to be one of the top teams in the world. It was a step forward in our success internationally for a long time to come."

"After we got that medal, I think guys started to realize there was something to play for, said Sacco. "It's a great tournament and it was a lot of fun. To bring home a medal in the process, the first in 34 years, you leave a mark when you do something like that."

The American roster consisted of Stevens, Rolston, Sacco, Adam Deadmarsh, Chorske, Craig Johnson, Dan Plante, Derek Plante, Darby Hendrickson, Marty McInnis, Brian Bonin, Chris Luongo, Tom Pederson, Mike Crowley, Paul Stanton, Mike Lalor, Tom O'Regan, Bobby Reynolds, Scott Lachance and goaltenders Tim Thomas, Guy Hebert, John Grahame and Parris Duffus, who did the bulk of the work, playing in seven of the eight American games.

1996_World_Championship_Team_USA photo 1996_World_Championship_Team_USA.jpg
The 1996 United States bronze medalists

The United States bronze medal set the table for the American victory at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey later in the fall of 1996, the greatest triumph for the USA since the 1980 Olympic Miracle on Ice.

USA 1996 World Cup celebration photo USA 1996 World Cup celebration.jpg
On the heels of the World Championship team,
the 1996 US team won the inaugural World Cup of Hockey

At the World Championships since their return to the medal podium in 1996, the US has won bronze medals in 2004 and recently in both 2013 and 2015.

Today's featured jersey is a 1996 United States National Team Brian Rolston jersey. This rare style of jersey was worn only at the 1996 World Championships, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1997 World Championships until an all new style debuted for the 1998 Olympic Games.

The American championship at the 1996 World Cup increased the demand for this jersey and it's short lifespan limited it's production numbers. Only the white ones were made for retail sales and any of the road blue jerseys were intended for game use by one of the national teams from that time period, which is evident by the considerably larger sizes when one does become available.

Of note, the white jerseys were sold as blank jerseys with sublimated crests and labeled with letter sizes (M, L, XL) and customized ones with sewn on twill crests as World Cup players #2 Brian Leetch, goaltender #35 Mike Richter and #27 Jeremy Roenick in numbered sizes (48,52).


Roenick never played in the 1996 World Cup due to the risk of injury during the tournament as his NHL contract had expired, leaving him uninsured should something catastrophic have happened. For reasons of historical accuracy, we would avoid purchasing any of the Roenick customized jerseys and would opt for the Leetch or Richter versions.

The 1996 World Championship jerseys carried the unique to the World Championships Warsteiner beer sponsorship patches on the upper arms, while the World Cup jerseys all had the small 3" version of the World Cup tournament logo on the upper left arm.

This style of USA jersey features dye-sublimated "waving flag" stripes on the waist that contain subtle stars in the red areas, as well as in the red sleeve stripes.

Rolston would play in 1,256 games, scoring 342 goals and 761 points during his 17 year NHL career, which included winning a Stanley Cup in 1995. Internationally, he would play in the World Junior Championships 3 times, the 1996 World Championships (earning a bronze), the 1996 (winning the championship) and 2004 World Cup and the 1994, 2002 and 2006 Olympics, winning silver in 2002.

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USA 1996 WC jersey photo USA 1996 WC P1.jpg

Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 United States National Team Brian Leetch jersey as worn when the United States captured the inaugural World Cup of Hockey championship.

The jersey features the smaller 3" size World Cup of Hockey logo patch worn on the left shoulder by the Nike-clad teams in the tournament, which included not only the USA, but Russia, Slovakia, Finland and Germany.

The larger 4" size patch was worn by the teams that wore Bauer jerseys, which were the Czech Republic and Sweden, who also wore the patch on the left shoulder, and Canada, who wore the patch on their right chest.

As was Nike's practice at the time, jerseys sold customized with player names and numbers featured sewn twill crests and were tagged with numbered sizes, such as 48 and 52, but without fight straps.

None of the customized Leetch, Richter or Roenick jerseys were sold with the World Cup patch and the Leetch jerseys also did not come with the captain's "C". Those with a desire for accuracy would need to have those added separately for proper authenticity.

The blue road jerseys were not available for retail sale and can only be found as game worn or team issued jerseys, which are complete with fight straps.

USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH 2 F.jpg
USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH 2 B.jpg
USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH 2 P.jpg

Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 United States National Team Brett Hull jersey as worn when the United States captured the inaugural World Cup of Hockey championship.

The blue road jerseys were not available for retail sale and can only be found as game worn or team issued jerseys, which are complete with fight straps.

 photo USA 1996 WCOH R F.jpg
 photo USA 1996 WCOH R B.jpg
 photo USA 1996 WCOH R P1.jpg

Today's video section begins with Rolston scoring shorthanded in overtime to earn the United States the bronze medal, their first medal at the World Championships in 34 years. Please excuse the quality of the video, we have yet to find any other footage of this game of better quality and this was posted by no less a source that USA Hockey themselves.

Next up is rare footage of the United States wearing their blue jerseys from the 1996 World Championships, mostly digging the puck out of their own net in a 5-0 loss against the eventual champion Czech Republic.


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