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Saturday, September 17, 2016

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey Preview

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins today in Toronto, where eight teams will face off for the World Cup for the first time in 12 years.

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The first World Cup, held in 1996 to replace the Canada Cup. The event took place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Prague, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Vancouver, New York and Montreal. The World Cup won by the United States 2 games to 1 over Canada. After the Canadians put the USA on the ropes with a win in Philadelphia to begin the best-of-three final, the Americans came back to win the next to game in Montreal to pull off the come from behind victory.

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The USA celebrates its 1996 championship

The next World Cup came in 2004. Games were held in Prague, Cologne, Helsinki, Stockholm, St. Paul, Montreal and Toronto. The final this time was a winner-take-all single game final held in Toronto, where Canada prevailed 3-2 over Finland.

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Canada won the second World Cup in 2004

The 2016 edition, put on by the NHL and the NHL Players Association, will be played to NHL rules with all games sadly at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto after the previous two editions were shared with cities across Europe and North America. We can certainly see the logic in having a condensed tournament from a logistical and economic standpoint, but most certainly enjoyed our opportunity to attend the 2004 tournament thanks to our proximity of one of the host cities and find it surprising the organizers chose to not have games in Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia or Boston.

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The tournament has a more compact field than the Olympics (12 teams) or the World Championships (16 teams), with eight teams taking part. The "usual suspects" are taking part, Canada, Russia, the United States, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, but rather than include the two teams that finished last and winless in their groups in 2004, Slovakia and Germany, or a another nation such as Switzerland, Belarus or Latvia, the organizers have chosen to take a different route.

The final two teams are Europe and North America. The Team Europe squad is open to players not on any of the other four European rosters and consists of players from Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland, France, Norway, Slovenia, Austria and Denmark, which should make for a more competitive team with increased depth.

The main benefit of such a move is to allow popular NHL stars into the tournament rather than having players such as Anze Kopitar on the sidelines as well as giving fans more players from their local NHL teams to have a rooting interest in. 14 different NHL teams are represented on Team Europe.

Team North America consists of players from both the United States and Canada who are 23 years old or younger. 11 of  their players hail from Canada and 12 from the United States. Brandon Saad is the oldest, who turns 24 in six weeks, and Auston Matthews is the youngest by a fair amount, as he turns 19 today and is eight months younger than team captain Connor McDavid. Jack Eichel is the only other 19 year old on the team, as the rest are 20 and older.

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European captain Anze Kopitar and North America's Auston Matthews,
two players who would not have been a part of the tournament
under the old eight country format

It will be interesting to gauge the fan's interest in the young guns team since, on the one hand they will be underdogs, which alone will gain them some fans, but on the other hand, the team is made of players from two different countries, so it will be interesting to see how that concept is embraced since American and Canadian fans already have a team of their own full of established veteran star players they've cheered for for years.

Group A consists of Canada, the Czech Republic, Team Europe and the United States, while Group B is made up of Finland, the North American 23 and under team, Russia and Sweden.

Play begins today and sees double headers every day at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM Eastern Time through Thursday the 22nd. The top two teams in each group will advance to the Semifinals, which will be played one each next Saturday and Sunday with the winners advancing to the best-of-three Final scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday September 27th, 29th and Saturday October 1st if necessary.

In Canada, games will be broadcast on Sportsnet and the CBC in English and TVA Sports in French. In the United States, ESPN will air games on it's family of channels, including ESPN2 and ESPN News.

Many experts are picking this as Canada's tournament to lose, as they are loaded from top to bottom with outstanding players, and the numbers back that up. Adding up the NHL salaries of the eight teams, the Canadians lead with $155 million, followed by the United States at $134 million. Sweden tops $100 million at $109M. Russia and Europe are close at $88M and $87M. The North American youngsters are at $79M, Finland at $72M and the Czech Republic trail the back at $58M, nearly $100M less than the Canadians.

Still, the United States as seen my others as having a great opportunity to win as well. If both teams advance to the Semifinals as expected over Team Europe and the Czechs, the crossover format of the Semifinals gives us a terrific chance at a USA vs Canada final.

Group B is more wide open, but Sweden should be expected to survive. Any one of Russia, North America or Finland could take the other playoff spot. Sweden has also been favored by some to win it all, but the survivor of the other three will in all likelihood not be expected to reach the Finals.

The 2016 World Cup also sees the return of Adidas to the ice as the tournament jersey provider, having once been the supplier to the IIHF in the mid 1980's. All new jerseys and several new logos have been created for the clubs for the event.

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The jerseys all have the traditional Adidas three stripes running up the sides in a manor reminiscent of the striping on the original Nike Swift jerseys for the 2006 Olympics. They are an effective way to convey the Adidas brand without being overly intrusive.

Here is a gallery of the new jerseys to be worn, although the crest on the Czech jersey has since reverted to a more familiar style since this graphic was released, along with a few comments on the looks.

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Canada has clean and effective jerseys, with their best feature being the maple leafs on the lower half of the sleeves, a nod to Canada's 1972 Summit Series jersey, making it our favorite. The compressed look of the lower portion of the maple leaf logo is something we cannot get used to after a lifetime of seeing the proportions of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Hockey Canada versions.

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Czech Republic

The Czech Republic jerseys are also both quite nice, particularly the dark version with its colored shoulders, making it our second favorite. As we mentioned before, the coat of arms on the front has been changed to the style they have worn since the breakup of Czechoslovakia in the early 1990's. If only it were being worn by the absent Jaromir Jagr...

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Team Europe

We're not sure what kind of constraints and considerations Adidas was under when choosing the colors of the Team Europe. Having one color to stand for each of the many nations represented would have certainly resulted in a mess of a jersey, so a blue palette has been employed. They have created a nice crest, but the two tone split dark jersey and the aqua/dark blue split of the white jersey makes the European's jerseys our least favorites of the eight teams.

We do like the flags of each player's home country on the sleeves. Perhaps swapping the dark blue and teal for red to create more contrast between the shades and worked better for our personal tastes, particularly since each country represented does have red in its flag.

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 Finland's clean jerseys in blue and white with a dash of red from the coat of arms crest is a home run in our book. Having seen them in action, the only addition we'd like to see is the continuation of the chest stripe all the way around the jerseys and having the numbers stand out from the same color stripe with the use of an outline around them. They have a classic look, reminding us instantly of the turn of the century Quebec Bulldogs of the early 1900's.

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North America

Adidas again had a blank sheet of paper when it came to the North American U23 team, opting for a menacing black, orange and grey look, with the grey having a textured look to it. The jerseys give the team a unique look and we don't mind the experimentation of the woven texture look to the grey since the jersey has an overall classic striping pattern. The grey does look darker in photos we've seen of the actual jerseys worn in the exhibition games though.

About the only thing we'd like to see is a white outline around the crest, orange back numbers and the sleeve numbers, which are grey outlined in orange on the on ice jerseys to increase the contrast and lighten the overall very dark look Adidas has created for Team Darth Vader.

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Another home run is the vibrant jerseys from Russia. The blue shoulders on both the home and road jerseys paired with the bold, twin sleeve stripes check all the boxes, capped off by the Adidas stripes on the sides make the Russian jerseys a real winner.

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What can you say about the Sweden jerseys? Design your template, plug in the colors, add the three crowns and you're done. Looks good, especially the blue jerseys with the yellow waist stripe.

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United States

Overall, a very nice combo for the Americans. We like the template of the white American jersey a bit more than the blue one, while we prefer the newly created shield crest for dark jersey over the modern font for the cresting of the white jersey. We'll hold off on deciding which one to purchase based on which one the team is wearing when they hoist the championship trophy on October 1st.

Today's video section is a look at both the European and North American jerseys in action from a pre-tournament game.

Friday, September 16, 2016

1991 Team Canada Wayne Gretzky Jersey

The 1991 Canada Cup was the fifth and final Canada Cup, which rose out of the success of the 1972 Summit Series, which pitted the Canadian professionals against the best of the Soviet Union for the first time, as the Canadians were not permitted at the time to compete in the Olympics and the vast majority of them were occupied by the NHL playoffs during the annual World Championships.

Canada won the first edition in 1976 against Czechoslovakia, followed by the Soviet defeating Canada in 1981. Canada then defeated Sweden in 1984. The Canadians got their revenge on the Soviets in their thrilling 1987 rematch.

Four years later the final Canada Cup tournament began on August 31st with a field that included the host Canadians, Czechoslovakia, Finland, the Soviet Union, Sweden and the United States.

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The tournament opened with a shocker, as Finland tied the Canadians 2-2. The United States announced their intentions to be a factor with a 6-3 win over the Swedes followed by another apparent surprise, the Czechs having an easy time of it with a 5-2 win over the Soviets.

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A young Jaromir Jagr, wearing #15, had just one NHL season under his belt

The Soviets though, were in a period of turmoil at home politically, the fall of the Soviet Union was less than a year away and the sporting authorities feared further defections of some of their star players. Additionally, some players simply declined to play for the team, such as Alexander Mogilny, who was now in the NHL and didn not want to play for his former head coach Viktor Tikhonov. Missing from the 1987 roster were Slava Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov, Igor Larionov, Valeri Kamensky, Sergei Makarov and left at home to prevent them from defecting were Pavel Bure and Vladimir Konstantinov.

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Sergei Fedorov

The United States got a reality check when Canada won handily 6-3 on September 2nd. Sweden kicked the Soviets while they were down 3-2 and Finland prevailed in a tight 1-0 win over the Czechs.

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Teemu Selanne prior to his record setting NHL rookie season

Three days later on the 5th, Canada survived as the lone unbeaten team with a 4-1 defeat of Sweden while the Soviets pummeled the Finns 6-1. The USA righted their ship with a 4-2 win over the Czechs.

Day four of the competition on September 7th saw the Canadians continue to roll with a 6-2 win over the Czechs followed by something that had never happened before, as the United States defeated the Soviets 2-1, their first win over the Soviet Union in five Canada Cup tournaments. Finland prevailed 3-1 over Nordic rivals Sweden in the day's third game.

The final day of the round robin portion saw Canada finish without a loss and eliminate the Soviets with a 3-3 tie. The United States defeated Finland 4-4 to tie Canada with 8 points from a 4-1 record. Sweden beat the Czechs 5-2 to place in the top four and qualify for the playoffs and send the Czechs packing.

The Semifinals  on September 11th saw the United States qualify for it's first final with a resounding 7-3 hammering of Finland, while the Canadians did the same, easily dispatching Sweden 4-0 to set up the first all North American final, which was a best-of-three format.

Game 1 in Montreal, Quebec was played on September 14th and saw the hosts get out to a 1-0 lead after one period on a goal by Eric Desjardins at 4:22. Steve Larmer then put Canada up 2-0 at 5:20. This was followed by a hit by Gary Suter on Canadian captain Wayne Gretzky, who he checked from behind into the end boards, knocking the Canadian captain out of the tournament. Even more infuriating to the Canadian fans, Suter responded with a goal for the US at 10:31 to keep the United States in the game heading into the third down by just one.

Suter's goal turned out to be the only one the Americans would get past Canadian goalie Bill Ranford. The Canadians would get two more goals by Mike Richter from Mark Messier and Brent Sutter to cement the victory for Canada.

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American goaltender Mike Richter

Game 2 was played in Hamilton, Ontario and was a must-win for the United States. Both teams had good chances early, but new Canadian captain Messier opened the scoring at 13:39. Just 20 seconds later, Steve Larmer set the US back on their heels with a second Canada goal in a relative blink of the eye.

Down, but not out, the Americans rallied with goals by Jeremy Roenick at 3:45 on the power play, and after keeping Canada off the board, tied the game at 11:02 when Kevin Miller beat Ranford to make it 2-2.

With the game tied over halfway through the third period, Larmer broke in on Richter shorthanded and scored to put the Canadians back up by one at 3-2, giving them a lead they would never relinquish.

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Canadian hero Steve Larmer and Chris Chelios of the USA

The US was unable to solve Ranford and the Canadian defense and a Dirk Graham empty net goal at 19:18 provided the final 4-2 margin, giving Canada their fourth Canada Cup in five tries and making them the only team to go through an entire Canada Cup undefeated at 6-0-2.

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Mark Messier hoists the Canada Cup

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Tournament MVP Ranford

Despite missing the final game, Gretzky led all scorers with 4 goals and 12 points in 7 games, followed by hero Larmer, who had 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points. Brett Hull and Mike Modano led the United States in scoring, each with 2 goals and 9 points to tie for third in tournament scoring.

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Wayne Gretzky led all scorer despite missing the final game

Today's featured jersey is a 1991 Team Canada Wayne Gretzky jersey. Canada would wear this style jersey for all five of the Canada Cup tournaments with it's half-maple leaf crest done in the same style as the tournament trophy. Both the home white and road red jerseys would feature a heavily screen printed crest and sleeve logos rather than a sewn on twill crest.

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In today's video section, the final few minutes of the final game plus the trophy presentation and post game celebrations of the final Canada Cup game ever.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

1976 Team Canada Darryl Sittler Jersey

With Canada dissatisfied with the state of international hockey, owing to the controversy over the amateur status of the Soviet players, the Canadians withdrew from both the World Championships and the Olympics from 1970 to 1977.

The Canadians got what they wanted in 1972 with the wildly successful Summit Series, an eight game "friendly" competition between the best Canadian professionals versus the finest the Soviet Union had to offer. As the tournament progressed, the Soviets, looking like they would finish with a better record declared their intentions to claim "victory" in the series only to have the Canadians come out on top with a dramatic late goal by Paul Henderson in the final game of the series.

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Paul Henderson scores the dramatic winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series

Following the 1974 Summit Series, which featured a team of WHA All-Stars who were soundly defeated by the Soviets, an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle once more led to the formation of the 1976 Canada Cup tournament.

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The 1976 Canada Cup program cover

The tournament was expanded beyond the two-team competition of the Summit Series format to include not only Canada and the Soviets, but Czechoslovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United States, with each team playing the other five clubs in a round robin format with the top two then meeting in a best-of-three final.

The games were played in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Quebec in Canada and Philadelphia in the United States and would take place prior to the NHL season, removing any eligibility or scheduling conflicts for players, such as those faced by the Olympics and World Championships, making the all the top players worldwide available to compete.

The Canadian team was given top priority in Canada, as the political restrictions the roster faced due to the NHL/WHA rivalry that affected both the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series were also removed.

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Canada's stellar roster included Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin and Bobby Clarke

While many hoped for an anticipated a Canada vs. Soviet Union final, the Soviets did not field their best possible team, leaving several key players at home, including Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov, Alexander Yakushev and Valdimir Shadrin for reasons subject to speculation, but thought to be a combination of a power struggle between the Soviet Canada Cup coach and the Soviet Olympic Team coach, as well as a desire to downplay the importance of the new tournament, claiming their focus was on the World Championships and the Olympics, where they knew they would have the advantage of a full roster, while Canada would have the majority of it's best players occupied with the Stanley Cup playoffs during the World Championships or unavailable as professionals during the Olympics. The Soviets were also most notably without Valeri Kharlamov, who was out due to injuries suffered in an auto accident.

Canada opened with a strong statement, as they blitzed Finland 11-2. The following day. September 3rd, the Czechs beat the Soviet Union 5-3. Two days later the Soviets had to settle for a 3-3 draw with Sweden and the Czechs hammered Finland 8-0 while the Canadians got past the USA 4-2.

On September 7th, the Soviets took their turn pummeling Finland 11-3 as the USA held the Czechs to a 4-4 draw and Canada stayed undefeated with a 4-0 win over Sweden.

The Soviet Union stayed alive with a 5-0 win over the USA and the Czechs claimed the top spot in the standings with a close-fought 1-0 triumph over Canada.

On September 11th, Sweden gave the Soviets hope by narrowly edging Sweden 2-1 but they were eliminated from a berth in the finals when Canada got the satisfaction of ending their arch-rivals tournament with a 3-1 win over the Soviet Union, setting up a Canada - Czechoslovakia final.

The finals kicked off with a game in Toronto on September 13th, with Canada making it clear they were out to set the record straight as to who was the best hockey nation with a 6-0 pounding of the Czechs. Gilbert Perrault, scored just 1:05 into the game to give Canada an early lead, and their first goal against the Czechs after being shut out by them in their round robin matchup. Denis Potvin increased the lead to 2-0 at 7:56 and Bobby Orr made it 3-0 on the powerplay at 13:34. Guy Lafleur added another at 17:01 to give Canada a dominant 4-0 lead before the first period was even over.

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Canada celebrates a goal during the 1976 Canada Cup finals

There were no goals in the second and Canada added a pair in the third, with Orr scoring again at 11:35 and Darryl Sittler just before the final whistle at 19:56 for a final six goal margin as Rogie Vachon recorded the shutout for Canada.

The second game of the finals was held in Monteal on this date in 1976 and started out very much the same as Game 1, with Canada up by two after only three minutes, as Perreault scored early once more at 1:25, followed by Phil Esposito at 3:09.

The Czechs would respond this time though, with a goal in the second at 9:44 from Milan Novy.

The dramatic third period would see five goals, with the first coming at 2:14 as the Czechs evened the score at two when Jaroslav Pouzar scored. Bobby Clarke would give Canada the lead at 7:48, only to have Josef Augusta tie the game once more at 15:01.

The Czechs would then surprise the Canadians by taking the lead for the first time when future NHLer Marian Stastny scored less than a minute later at 16:00. Canada would force overtime when Bill Barber even the game at 4-4 with a goal at 17:48.

As the game moved into overtime Canada put two pucks into the Czech net, only to have them both disallowed. The first was on a shot by Lafleur, which got by the Czech netminder Vladimir Dzurilla, only to have Ivan Hlinka knock the net off its pegs before the puck could cross the line, earning a penalty, but no goal.

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Druzilla holding off Clarke and Canada

Guy Lapointe then scored at the ten minute mark, but the rules stated that the teams had to change ends halfway through the period, so the horn sounded, negating Lapointe's goal, much to the dismay of the Canadians and their fans.

Finally at 11:33 of the overtime, the clock struck midnight for the Czechs, as Sittler deked Druzilla, who had a habit of some very unorthodox play (no doubt influencing a young Dominik Hasek) and had come way out of his net, allowing Sittler to score the game winner, (finally) giving the Canadians the championship in front of the home fans in what was the most watched program in Canadian TV history at the time.

"This has got to be the biggest thrill of my life," Sittler said. "I'm not cut out to be a hero; if I was going to do it, I was going to do it. But playing with these guys on the greatest team for the greatest country is something that will remain with me forever."

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Darryl Sittler, Maurice Richard and Dzurilla following the 1976 Canada Cup

Orr, who missed the 1972 Summit Series due to one of his many knee surgeries, was able to play in 1976 following his fifth knee operation. "It was Bobby's last hurrah," said Esposito. "Orr didn't show up the first week of training camp because of his knee problems, and we had some pretty imposing defensemen there. But when he arrived it was the man with the boys. He was just head and shoulders above the rest of us," said Bobby Hull.

Clarke said "I used to watch him. After the games he could hardly walk, and then he'd go out there again and play like hell. I think he played on straight determination. It's amazing what he did."

Orr finished the tournament with 2 goals and 7 assists for 9 points, tied for most in the tournament with fellow Canadian Potvin and Soviet Viktor Zhulktov, and was named Tournament MVP. Orr's performance in the 1976 Canada Cup would be ranked as #56 in the IIHF Top 100 Stories of the Century.

Of note, 16 of the 21 Canadian players would eventually be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Today's featured jersey is a 1976 Canada Cup Darryl Sittler jersey. This unique jersey would make it's debut at the 1976 Canada Cup, with it's main design patterned after the Canada Cup trophy. This style would become an icon for Canadian hockey, as it was also used in the four subsequent Canada Cups in 1981, 1984, 1987 and 1991, something the marketing people would never allow to happen these days.

This style was revived once more, as it was the choice for the Canadian team in the 2005 World Championships when each country chose a throwback jersey from it's past.

The Canadian players participated in the ritual of exchanging jerseys after the game, a practice more commonly associated with European soccer, no doubt creating quite a challenge for collectors of game worn jerseys to locate and authenticate the set of jerseys worn in the final game after their departure for behind the Iron Curtain.

Canada 1976
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section features Sittler's cup winning goal in overtime of Game 2 of the finals.

Here is a tribute video to Team Canada with action highlights from throughout the tournament, with perhaps the cheesiest song ever written.

Enjoy these exciting highlights of the Canada vs. Soviet Union game from the round robin stage of the tournament with Tretiak in goal for the Soviets.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

1996 United States National Team Brett Hull Jersey

The 1996 World Cup of Hockey can trace it's roots to the 1972 Summit Series, which featured the Soviet National Team, whose vastly experienced players were considered amateurs and thus eligible for the Olympics, facing off against Team Canada, whose roster was made up of Canadian NHL professionals who were not allowed to participate in the Olympic Games at the time, clearing the path for Soviet domination of Olympic hockey.

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The Soviet Union won 8 of 10 Olympic gold medals from 1956 to 1992

The 1972 Summit Series concept of the best players each nation had to offer, regardless of amateur or professional stats, was expanded in 1976 with the creation of the first Canada Cup tournament, which saw teams from not only Canada and the Soviet Union, but the addition of teams representing Finland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and the United States.

The United States saw mixed results in the Canada Cup tournaments, finishing 5th out of 6 in 1976. A 4th place in the round-robin portion in 1981 saw them qualify for the semi-finals, where they were easily defeated by the host Canadians by a 4-1 score.

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Tony Esposito playing goal for the United States in 1981

A strong round-robin result had the USA finishing 2nd in 1984, including a 7-1 opening game defeat of Sweden, a 4-4 tie with Canada, a narrow 2-1 loss to the Soviet Union and a 6-4 win over West Germany for a 3-1-1 record. The United States would face off against Sweden in the semifinals and suffer a stunning 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Swedes, who scored on their first four shots on goal, a team the USA had so easily defeated just 11 days earlier.

In the 1987 edition, the United States completed the round-robin portion of the tournament with a 2-3 record to finish 5th and fail to advance to the playoff round.

Things improved in 1991, with the Americans taking second in the round-robin portion with an impressive 4-1 record. They opened the tournament by defeating Sweden 6-3, then lost to Canada 6-3 before running off a series of victories against Czechoslovakia (4-2), the Soviet Union (2-1) and Finland (4-3). The semi-finals saw a confident US take care of Finland again by a 7-3 score and advance to the finals versus Canada, who would defeat the US by scores of 4-1 and 4-2 to win the best-of-three finals.

For 1996, the tournament was renamed the World Cup of Hockey as a result of various behind the scenes business developments involving Canada Cup founder Alan Eagleson's legal troubles as a result of his fraud and embezzlement scandal. Instead of being run for the financial benefit of Hockey Canada as the Canada Cup was, the newly organized World Cup was a joint venture between the NHL and it's players union, the NHL Players Association (NHLPA).

1996 World Cup logo, 1996 World Cup logo

Taking a more global perspective, the competition now included eight teams, partially as a result of the political upheaval during the fall of communism in Eastern Europe which saw Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. There were now also games held in Europe for the first time.

The teams involved in the North American Pool included Canada Cup hold-overs Canada, Russia (no longer the Soviet Union) and the United States plus newcomer Slovakia. The games were held in Vancouver, Montreal, Philadelphia, Ottawa and New York.

The European Pool saw Sweden and Finland joined by the Czech Republic and Germany, which had participated in the Canada Cup once as West Germany in 1984. Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland, Prague in the Czech Republic and Garmisch, located in Germany, would all host games in Europe, with the top three teams advancing to the playoffs held in North America.

The North American Pool saw the United States come out on top with a 3-0 record and earn a bye directly into the semifinals, while Sweden won the European Pool for its trip to North America and a place in the semifinals.

In the quarterfinals Germany would fall to Canada 4-1 in Montreal and Russia would overpower Finland 5-0 in their game played in Ottawa.

The semifinals would see Canada take down Sweden 3-2 in two overtimes in a game held not in Canada, but Philadelphia! Canada held a 2-0 lead after two periods, only to see Sweden come back to tie the game in the third. Theo Fleury would score the game winner with just 13 seconds remaining in the second overtime to send Canada into the best-of-three finals.

Meanwhile, the United States would oddly have to travel to Ottawa to defeat Russia 5-2. Just 26 seconds into the game, Pat Lafontaine would put the Americans ahead and Brett Hull then scored on the powerplay to give the US a 2-0 lead just before the end of the opening period. The United States would extend its lead by scoring a pair of goals in the second, after giving up one to the Russians, to take a commanding 4-1 lead into the third. Sergei Zubov would pull one back for Russia less than two minutes into the third, but the United States would counter that with a goal at 14 minutes to re-establish their three goal margin and advance to the finals versus Canada.

Game One of the finals was held in Philadelphia and was a close fought battle. Eric Lindros would put the Canadians up 1-0 after one period. Defenseman Derian Hatcher would score a pair of goals in the second to give the USA the lead, only to have Claude Lemieux tie the game during the final minutes of the second.

Fleury gave the Canadians the lead half way through the third. The lead held up through the remainder of the period until the USA pulled their goaltender Mike Richter. The resulting man advantage caused the Canadians to ice the puck repeatedly, and with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, Joel Otto won the faceoff back to US captain Brian Leetch, who fired the puck at Canadian goaltender Curtis Joseph, who made the save only to have Eric Desjardins try to put the puck under his goalie Joseph and see it sneak through his legs and trickle over the goal line with 6.3 seconds showing on the clock.

Canada would dominate the resulting overtime, outshooting the US 6-1 before Steve Yzerman shot one past a screened Richter to give Canada the first game in the best-of-three finals.

Game Two in Montreal would see the United States come out on top with a 5-2 win. The teams would trade goals in the first period, but the United States would add a pair in the second from John LeClair, his second of the game, followed by a goal by Hull. Joe Sakic would cut the margin to one at 14:48 of the third, but the United States would put the game away with a pair of empty net goals in the last 1:08 of the contest, forcing a deciding Game Three, also to be held in Montreal on this date in 1996.

With Richter, playing at the top of his game, holding off the Canadian attack, the United States scored the first goal at 11:18 of the first on the power play as Hull would give the US a 1-0 lead after one. The lead would hold up almost the entire second period as Richter would continue his stellar play in goal for the US, making 21 saves in the second period before Lindros would even the score with just six seconds before the intermission. At this point, the Canadians had decisively outshot the Americans by a margin of 32-14.

Adam Foote would solve Richter at 12:50 of the third to give Canada their first lead in over 5 1/2 periods of hockey.

Hull would even the score when he deflected a high shot from the point by Leetch that would stand after a video review, tying the contest at 16:42.

Energized by the goal, the Americans continued to press and Tony Amonte gave them the lead with 2:35 remaining.

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Amonte celebrates after scoring to give the Americans the lead 

Derian Hatcher put the game out of reach with an empty net goal at 19:19 and Adam Deadmarsh drilled a long slapshot past Joseph with just 14 seconds left to give the USA a final 5-2 margin in a game that was tied with just 3:18 remaining.

 Richter would be named the First Star of the game after making 35 saves on 37 shots.
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Tkachuk, Leetch and Weight hoist the World Cup
along with presenter Jean Beliveau

Hull would finish the tournament with 7 goals and 4 assists for 11 points in 7 games to lead the tournament in scoring followed closely by teammate LeClair with 10 points from 6 goals and 4 assists. Doug Weight (7), Leetch (7) and Keith Tkachuk (6) would all finish in the top 10 in scoring for the Americans.

1996 Team USA World Cup, 1996 Team USA World Cup
The United States celebrates its greatest accomplishment since 1980

The tournament All-Star team would be made of of Forwards Mats Sundin (Sweden), Hull and LeClair of the USA, defensemen Calle Johansson of Sweden and Chris Chelios (USA) as well as goaltender Richter of the USA, who would also be named the tourament's Most Valuable Player thanks to finishing with a 5-1 record, with his only loss coming in overtime.

Richter MVP 1996 World Cup, Richter MVP 1996 World Cup
Richter accepting his reward as tournament MVP
Today's featured 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 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.

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 white sleeve stripes. The 1996 United States jerseys are very sought after and command a lot of attention when they come up for sale.

Unlike the white jerseys available for retail sale, the blue road jerseys were not sold to the public and can only be found as game worn or team issued jerseys, which are complete with fight straps and command premium prices on the rare occasions they become available. Since they were intended for used by the actual players, they are also only found in larger sizes, such as 54, 56, 58 and 60.

USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH R F_1.jpg
USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH R B_1.jpg
USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH R P1_1.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 United States National Team Mike Richter jersey as worn by the World Cup of Hockey tournament MVP.

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 no fight straps), while blank jerseys were sold as lettered sizes, such as L and XL, and with sublimated crests.

The blank examples are scarce, but do offer the collector the opportunity to have their jersey customized as a Hull, Tkachuk, Lafontaine, Amonte, LeClair or any other personal favorite from the victorious American roster.

The jerseys sold with player names from Nike were #35 Richter, #2 Leetch and #27 Jeremy Roenick. However, Roenick never actually played in the World Cup due to being a free agent and not being covered by health insurance at the time so those looking for authenticity should hold out for Richter or Leetch jerseys.

None of the retail jerseys were sold with the World Cup patch. Those would need to be added separately by their owners for proper authenticity as is the case with today's bonus jersey.

USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH 35 F.jpg
USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH 35 B.jpg
USA 1996 WCOH jersey photo USA 1996 WCOH 35 P.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1996 United States National Team Brian Leetch jersey as worn by the World Cup of Hockey tournament MVP.

In addition to the retail jerseys not being sold with the World Cup patch, the Leetch jerseys did not come with the captain's "C" either. That would also need to be added separately for proper authenticity as is the case with today's extra bonus jersey.

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

First up is LeClair tying Game 1 with less than seven seconds to play.

Here are highlights of the thrilling finale of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Evolution of NHL Jersey Numbers 1970-2016

On this day in 1940, the NHL board of Governors eliminated the requirement that only jersey numbers 1-19 be allowed to designate players in NHL games.

This opened up a can of worms that we're not sure the Board of Governors anticipated at the time. Traditionally, goaltenders always wore #1, while the defensemen commonly wore numbers 2 through 6, a tradition that continues to this day.

Traditionally, goalies always seemed to wear #1, #30 or #35, which was only popularized by Tony Esposito begining in 1969-70, and numbers such as Don Beaupre's #33, Ken Dryden's #29 or Gilles Meloche's #27 were out of the ordinary.

Myre 30, Vachon 1 and Dryden 29 photo Myre 30 Vachon 1 and Dryden 29.jpg
Phil Myre #30, Rogie Vachon #1 and Ken Dryden #29

We don't recall any regular skaters wearing anything higher than #29 when we were kids in the early 1970's. Then we became aware of fringe players wearing numbers in the 30's, which looked odd to us.

And then came the Phil Esposito trade to the New York Rangers in 1975. Esposito wore #7 with the Bruins, but when he arrived in Manhattan, #7 was already being worn by veteran Rod Gilbert, and Esposito doubled his #7 and became #77, while Ken Hodge did the same and became #88. There certainly may have been earlier examples of unusually high numbers, but for my then 13 year old mind, it was the first time I was aware of numbers over 35 for anyone.

Esposito 77 Hodge 88 Davidson 00 photo Esposito Hodge Davidson.png
Phil Esposito #77, Ken Hodge #88 and John Davidson #00

Then came Wayne Gretzky...

#99 was so far out of the norm and seemed to open the floodgates for "football numbers" in our teenaged recollection.

Brian Lawton followed with the unfortunate choice of #98, which would prove impossible to live up to due to it's implied expectations of being so close to Gretzky's #99. Mario Lemieux arrived bearing #66. Eric Lindros made #88 famous. Steve Heinze donned #57, as in Heinz 57 ketchup.

Lawton North Stars photo Lawton98.jpg
Lawton was given #98 in anticipation of his future success,
but later changed to #8 and then #11 while with the North Stars

Steve Heinze 57 photo Steve Heinze 57.png
Donald Audette and Steve Heinze celebrating

 Certain players found their preferred number taken and swapped digits leading to even more numbers which would be more at home on a linebacker than a goaltender. Ron Hextall's #27 was in use on Long Island, and he began to wear #72.

Hextall #72 photo Hextall 72.jpg
Ron Hextall with the Islanders

Speaking of goaltenders, Domink Hasek and his unconventional #39 influenced an entire generation (or two) of goalies who wore #39, such as Rick DiPietro, Dan Cloutier, Dan Ellis and Christobal Huet,

Hasek #39 photo Hasek 39.jpg
The Dominator with his recognizable #39

Now high numbers are obviously here to stay, especially when stars such as Rick Nash (#61), Phil Kessel (#81) and, of course, Sidney Crosby and his #87 all came into the league wearing high digits and making them their own right from the start, rather than switching to them mid-career for various reasons like Esposito, Hodge, Hextall and Ray Bourque all did.

Kessel 81 and Crosby 87 photo Kessel and Crosby.jpg
Young stars are now coming in the league wearing high numbers,
such as Phil Kessel #81 and Sidney Crosby #87

The storied and traditional Montreal Canadiens have now retired so many numbers that the players have little choice in the matter. With 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 16, 18, 19, 23, 29 and 33 all out of circulation, the Canadiens last season featured a roster with decidedly un-traditional numbers such as 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 51, 52, 53, 54, 67, 71, 74, 76, 77, 79, 81, 85 and 89 - 19 out of 45 players wearing #40 and above.

Compare that to the 1967-68 team, during the first year of expansion, when the highest number on the team was goaltender Rogie Vachon at #30 and no skater wore anything higher than #26.

Jump ahead another 10 years to 1977-78 and Rod Schutt with #30 and Pat Hughes with #31 were the only skaters out of the 20's. Ten more years shows the trend creeping upwards, thanks in part to the influence of Gretzky who arrived in the NHL in 1979. The 1987-88 Canadiens now had John Kordic #31, Claude Lemieux #32, Mike McPhee #35, Sergio Momesso #36, Mike Lalor #38, Brian Skrudland #39, Vincent Riendeau #40 and Stephane Richer #44 on the roster for a total of 8 "high numbers", but you will note they are all still under #50.

1997-98 shows #34, #37, #38, goalie #41, #43, #44, #46, #48, #49, #51, #52, #55 and #71 for 13 high numbers and seven of those higher than any seen in 1988.

2007-08 saw numbers 31, 32, 36, 39, 40, 41, 44, 45, 46, 51, 54, 70, 71, 73, 74, 79 and 84 for 17 high numbers now in use and four of those higher than anything a decade earlier, which brings us to today with the "football numbers" in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and even now the 90's now being commonplace, as Ryan O'Reilly #90, Tyler Seguin #91and Steven Stamkos #91 all choosing numbers in the 90's and Vladimir Tarasenko #91, Evgeny Kuznetsov #92, Gabriel Landeskog #92, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93, Mika Zibinejad #93 and Connor McDavid #97 all taking numbers from the year they were born.

McDavid 97 photo McDavid 97.jpg
Numbers in the 90's are now commonplace thanks to a generation of rising
stars such as Connor McDavid choosing the number of their birth year

One oddity that we recall was the Vancouver Canucks of 2005-06, with #22 Daniel Sedin, #33 Henrik Sedin, #44 Todd Bertuzzi, #55 Ed Jovanovski and #77 Anson Carter, which has to be a record for doubled digit players on one team, especially with #66 virtually being and #99 officially being off-limits and #00 now outlawed due to causing problems with the NHL's statistics software. Too bad #11 Mark Messier had left for New York by then...

Sedin, Carter and Sedin photo Sedin Carter and Sedin.jpg
Daniel Sedin #22, Anson Carter #77 and Henrik Sedin #33

In case you were wondering, the Third String Goalie collection has all the numbers from #1 through #42 (as partially proven during our July by the Numbers theme), followed by numbers 44, 61, 66, 68, 71, 77, 80, 81, 83, 84, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 95, 96, 97 99 and 00 (which our database treats the same as "100"). We'd love to add a Neil Sheehy #0 Hartford Whalers jersey some day.

Here are some fun and interesting links related to hockey jersey numbers for you to check out today.

The A-Z Encyclopedia of Ice Hockey Jersey/Shirt Numbers (shirt? Please, it's a "jersey" or a "sweater"!) has a lot of information, but sadly, was last updated after the 2007-08 season.

This includes all the players who wore a particular number of your choosing, which players have had a particular number retired (an exhaustive list that includes leagues other than the NHL) and some odd-ball numbers including #0, #00 and a few three digit numbers from primarily European leagues, but again it hasn't been updated since July of 2008.

HockeyDB.com The Internet Hockey Database is another fairly good source for jersey numbers in addition to their excellent player stats. They don't always have the numbers listed, but often enough to be a valuable resource for who wore what when.

JerseyDatabase.com - Not limited to just hockey, this is a great way to lose a day of your life. With the advanced search feature you do have the ability to search for a particular number in a particular league, such as the good ol' NHL, but you get to see the jerseys the player in question wore with all manner of functionality for the images you find.

When Guillaume Latendresse took to the ice wearing #84 for the Montreal Canadiens in 2006, it was the last unworn number in NHL history, spawning a Sports Illustrated.com article, The Top 101, listing the best player to have ever worn each number from #00, #0 and #1 to 99, 101 in all. You may not always agree with the choices, Marian Gaborik's mere two weeks wearing #82 over Martin Straka?, and some players are "the best" because they are the only one to have worn a specific obscure number.

If you find lists like that fun, perhaps this book is for you, By the Numbers: From 00 to 99. It's often a frustrating book, as many of the players are pictured wearing a different number than the one being discussed, but still more fun than the single player per number list on the SI.com article, since they list the other significant players who shared the number with their chosen favorite and some stories about why certain players chose their numbers, which we always find interesting, unless it's the boring "that's the number they gave me and I'm just happy to be here" line.

Our favorite reasoning belongs to Sheehy, who claimed he wore #0 because "zero is the furthest number from 99, and talent-wise, I was as far away from 99 as possible!"

Today's featured jersey is a 2007-08 Montreal Canadiens Guillaume Latendresse jersey. When Latendresse first donned #84, it was the final jersey number between 0 and 99 to finally be worn in the NHL, which triggered any number of online lists and even books listing the best player to have worn each number in NHL history.

Montreal Canadiens 2007-08 jersey photo Montreal Canadiens 2007-08 F jersey.jpg
Montreal Canadiens 2007-08 jersey photo Montreal Canadiens 2007-08 B jersey.jpg

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