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Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Year of the Rat - 1995-96 Florida Panthers Scott Mellanby Jersey

Every flood begins with one drop and such was the case of perhaps the most unusual goal celebration in NHL history.

Prior to the Florida Panthers home opener on this date in 1995, a rodent scurried across the Panthers locker room floor and forward Scott Mellanby fired it across the room, killing it with a "one-timer" slap shot. Later that night Mellanby netted a pair of goals in the Panthers 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames, which teammate John Vanbiesbrouck dubbed "a rat trick" when talking to reporters after the contest about Mellanby's two goals combined with his earlier extermination of the locker room rat.

"We were all dressed, ready to go on the ice for the first home game of the season," said Mellanby. "The rat came into the room. Understandably, there was a lot of commotion. Everyone got pretty nervous and excited. I got nervous and excited. I guess I just reacted. I one-timed it. I wasn't even thinking."

Following the story in the paper of "The Rat Trick", the torrent that became "The Year of the Rat" began with that single drop as two games later a fan threw a rubber rat on the ice after a Panthers goal. Then in the next game 16 more fans threw rubber rats and the game after that the total number of rats was 50 and the unique goal celebration was on it's way while Panthers did their part as they kept on winning.

Quickly a 100 rats would be tossed by the fans and by the time the season was 20 games old, as many as 200 rats bounced across the ice a night and the celebration was embraced by the team. This led to "exterminators" in Orkin Pest Control uniforms coming onto the ice to clean up the rats, which were now appearing on t-shirts and the Panthers dressing room was renamed "The Rats Nest."

Rat Trick 95-96 Panthers
Orkin Pest Control got in on the fun, outfitting the rat clean up crew

After 20 games, the Panthers were an excellent 14-5-1. They maintained that outstanding pace and by game 50 they were 31-14-5 as the rats continued to rain down on the ice. A rough stretch saw them go 10-17-5 over their last 32 games left Florida with 92 points and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, good enough for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, an impressive showing for a team in only it's third season.

The Panthers would meet the Boston Bruins in Round 1, who they defeated 4 games to 1. With all the favorites winning in the first round the Panthers drew the top seeded Philadelphia Flyers and proceeded to knock them out 4-2, launching the rat throwing to new heights as the Panthers playoff bandwagon grew. The Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals by outlasting the Pittsburgh Penguins in a tough seven game series 4-3.

Rat Trick 95-96 Panthers
Penguins goalie Ken Wregget seeing refuge from the flying rats

Once in the finals against the Colorado Avalanche, the rat throwing was a flood unlike anything seen before in NHL history, as each goal was greeted by a peak of 3,000 rats blackening the ice as they flew from every direction.

The games were now being affected by the lengthy delays as an ever growing crew of "exterminators", now having reached 40 in number, did their best to clean up the ice as quickly as possible, no longer able to pick them up by hand, but scooping them up with shovels as the goaltenders retreated into their nets for protection against the flying projectiles.

Rat Trick 95-96 Panthers
Just a part of the large clean up crews gathering the hoard of rats

In the finals, Colorado won Game 1 at home 3-1 and Game 2 by 8-1. Now back in Florida, the Panthers scored in the twice in the first period of Game 3, and the fans unleashed a torrent of rats in celebration both times. Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy refused to acknowledge the rats, standing tall and refusing to retreat into his goal while the rubber rodents rained down all around him. During the first intermission, Roy promised his team there would be "no more rats" and kept the Panthers off the board for the remainder of the game, which went to Colorado 3-2.

Rat Trick 95-96 Panthers
Patrick Roy heads to the bench while the rats rain down

Game 4 was a scoreless through regulation as well as two overtime periods until German Uwe Krupp scored the cup winning goal for Colorado at 4:31 of the third overtime as Roy made good on his word to keep the puck out of the net and the rats off the ice.

With the rat tossing celebration having gone from clever to fun to excessive to annoying, the NHL ruled in the off season that if fans threw debris onto the ice, the referee was within his power to call a delay of game penalty against their club, putting an end to The Year of the Rat.

Rat Trick 95-96 Panthers
Vanbiesbrouck, the man who coined the phrase "Rat Trick",
navigates through the eventual results of his cleverness

Mellanby was originally drafted by the Flyers and played for them for six seasons, which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1987, before two seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. He was left unprotected by the Oilers and was claimed by the Panthers in the 1993 NHL Expansion Draft, making him an original member of the Panthers and scored the first goal in franchise history on October 9, 1993. As one of the veterans on the expansion Panthers, he became a team leader and a fan favorite, especially after his famous "rat trick" and the young team's strong showing on the ice in 1995-96. He was named the Panthers captain in 1997 and remained so for the remainder of his time in Florida.

After seven and a half seasons in Florida, which included a career high 32 goals and 70 points during the magical 1995-96 season, Mellanby was traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2000-01. He was a member of the Blues for three and a half seasons, including a 57 point season in 2002-03, his best since 1995-96. He then signed with the Atlanta Thrashers as a free agent for the final two seasons of his career, where he was again a team captain both seasons, before retiring after 21 seasons, 1431 games, 364 goals and 476 assists for 840 points and 1 rat.

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Florida Panthers Scott Mellanby jersey. The lettering specification for the jerseys from 1993-94 to 1997-98 was one color straight lettering for the names, which was later changed to three color, vertically arched lettering from 1998-99 through 2005-06 on the white jerseys (and two color letters on the red and blue jerseys) after the departure of Vanbiesbrouck and his extended surname which apparently allowed the Panthers design department more freedom with the lettering style of the jerseys!

Florida Panthers jersey
Florida Panthers jersey

Today's video highlight is a look at Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals as the Panthers gamely stave to fight off elimination.

Here come the Rats! Highlights from the Panthers vs. Bruins Game 1 They don't go out of their way to show the rats, but by this point in the season the excessive amount of rats had become an issue with the disruption they were causing to the games.

Finally, a most unusual compilation, the Top 10 things ever thrown on the ice during a hockey game.

Friday, October 7, 2016

2001-02 New York Rangers "New York" Mark Messier Jersey

On this date in 2001, the Buffalo Sabres traveled to Manhattan to take on the New York Rangers in the Rangers emotional home opener at Madison Square Garden, the first Rangers home game following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center less than a month earlier.

Further making this game unique was that both the Sabres and Rangers wore special tribute jerseys that evening with the regular team cresting replaced with "NEW YORK" diagonally across the chest.

Sabres 9/11 New York Jersey,hockey jersey
Messier attacking the Sabres Bob Essensa

The special jerseys were worn for just that one contest and auctioned off afterwards to raise money for The Twin Towers Fund to aid victims of the terrorist attacks.

The game was played after a moving pre-game ceremony that honored the men and women in uniform who died trying to save lives in the World Trade Center attack as the New York Police Department and Fire Department of New York hockey teams lined up on the ice and the Rangers skated between them during their introductions.

FDNY team member Larry McGee had brought the Fire Department's late Chief of Special Operations Ray Downey's firefighters helmet with him with a picture of Downey tucked into the brim of the helmet. He noticed that of all the players, only Rangers captain Mark Messier had not worn his hockey helmet during the pre-game ceremonies.

As the Rangers were lined up at the blueline, McGee sensed the moment was right and skated over to Messier with the helmet and told him it would be an honor if he would wear it. Messier responded, "Sure, whatever you need" and donned the helmet of the still missing Downey as the Madison Square Garden crowd roared it's approval.

Messier Firehelmet 10/7/01
Mark Messier wearing Chief Downey's helmet prior to the Rangers first home game following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Note the special "New York" jersey worn only for that game.

"For me, personally, it was very emotional for a lot of reasons," said Messier, "Obviously, with all the people being honored - the firefighters, the police, the rescue workers, the volunteers, the entire city - and all our fans. All on a day when we started fighting back as a country."

Once the game began, the Rangers Eric Lindros opened the scoring at 8:13 of the first period on the power play in his first game at Madison Square Garden and J. P. Dumont evened the score for Buffalo a little over a minute later at 9:38.

Stu Barnes was credited with the Sabres second goal at just 1:59 of the second and Vaclav Varada stretched the Sabres lead to 3-1 at 14:46. The Rangers struck back late in the second with a pair of goals in the final minute to send the game into the third period even at 3-3 when Michal Grosek put one in at 19:12 and Andreas Johansson got the Rangers third with just a tick of the clock remaining at 19:59.

The Rangers too their first lead of the night at 3:11 of the third when Radek Dvorak beat the Sabres Bob Essensa on a breakaway but Slava Kozlov tied the game once more at 4:58 when he beat Rangers goalie Mike Richter.

Brian Leetch would win the game for the Rangers with a slapshot with 2:15 remaining in the overtime to give the Rangers a come-from-behind win in their home opener on a dramatic evening.

At the conclusion of the auction, the highest bids received were $20,010 for Mark Messier's Rangers jersey, $15,010 each for Richter and Leetch of the Rangers, $9030 for Theo Fleury's Rangers jersey and $8030 for the Rangers Lindros with the highest Sabres jersey being Barnes at $5885. In total, 44 jerseys were auctioned off and over $215,000 was raised.

Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 New York Rangers "New York" Mark Messier jersey. This jersey features Messier's captain's "C" as well as the special "New York" cresting, which replaced the normal "Rangers" wordmark for this one game only. In addition, this jersey is completed with the 9/11 memorial ribbon patch on the left shoulder, which was worn by the Rangers for the entire 2001-02 season.

To create this special jersey, a blank Rangers CCM was first purchased and a 9/11 memorial ribbon patch obtained via ebay. The jersey was then sent in for customizing, with not only  Messier's name and number, but also the addition of the special "New York" cresting recreated in the same font as a standard Rangers jersey. The project was then completed with the addition of the  9/11 memorial ribbon patch on the left shoulder.

While at first glance it appears to be a standard Rangers jersey, sharp-eyed expert viewers will be rewarded by noticing the alternate "New York" cresting.

New York Rangers 2001-02 9-11 jersey photo NewYorkRangers2001-029-11F.jpg
New York Rangers 2001-02 9-11 jersey photo NewYorkRangers2001-029-11B.jpg
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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2001-02 Buffalo Sabres "New York" Stu Barnes jersey. This jersey features Barnes' captain's "C" as well as the special "New York" cresting, which replaced the normal Sabres logo for this one game only.

Similar to the Rangers jersey, a blank Sabres CCM was first purchased. After locating the proper Sabres shoulder patches on ebay, the jersey was then sent in for customizing, with not only Barnes name and number, but the "New York" cresting recreated in the same font used for the Sabres names on the back.

Unlike the more subtle change from "Rangers" to "New York" in the same font in today's featured jersey, this Sabres jersey replaces their usual buffalo head logo with the diagonal "New York" lettering, making this particular jersey stand out more from the usual Sabres jerseys of the day.

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In today's video section, here is a brawl from the October 7th, 2001 game when the Sabres and Rangers wore their special "New York" jerseys. You can see the Sabres jersey at the start before the players tie up. The 9/11 memorial ribbon patch can clearly be seen on the Rangers player's shoulder during the fight and you do get a clear look at both fighters jerseys at the end of the video when the fight is broken up and they are leaving the ice.

Plus, any day we get to post a video featuring Sabres announcer Rick Jeanneret is a good day.

Just because we can, some more Jeanneret excitedly calling a few goals by Barnes in the way only he can.

Finally, Messier recalls his memories of 9/11.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

1989 Soviet Union National Team Sergei Mylnikov Jersey

Born on this date in 1958 in the Soviet Union, Sergei Mylnikov began his professional career with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the Soviet League but first gained recognition by winning consecutive gold medals at the 1977 and 1978 World Junior Tournament. He would play three additional seasons with Traktor before he tended the nets for SKA Leningrad in both 1980-81 and 1981-82 but returned to Chelyabinsk the following year.

During his second stint with Traktor, Mylnikov made his World Championship debut in 1985 winning bronze medal, competed in the Izvestia Cup tournament and then a second World Championships in 1986 where he earned a gold medal.

1987 proved to be a busy year for Mylnikov, as he was a member of the Soviet National Team for Rendez-Vouz '87 against the NHL All-Stars and the 1987 World Championships (silver) before becoming the starting goaltender at the 1987 Canada Cup later that year where he led the Soviets to the finals against Canada which included the epic three game final, all with 6-5 scores, including two overtime games and the winner coming with less than a minute and a half remaining in Game 3.

After participating in the Soviet League for Chelyabinsk, he made his next international appearance at the 1988 Olympic Games as the Soviets number one goaltender, going 7-1 on the way to backstopping the Soviets to their final Olympic gold medal.


For the 1988-89 season, Mylnikov played for Traktor for the seventh consecutive season, was added to the roster of the Soviet Red Army club for their tour of North America and concluded his season with his fourth World Championships and another gold medal following a perfect 7-0 record.


Later that year, thanks to the change in the political situation in the Soviet Union, Mylnikov was drafted in the 7th round of the NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques. He found the transition to North America to be a difficult one, and it reflected in his performance, as in 10 games he posted a regrettable 1-7-2 record in what amounted to a lost season.


He rejoined the national team for the World Championships, where he regained his form with a 4-1 record and a 1.71 goals against average which earned him his third World Championships gold medal in his final international appearance.

He would rejoin Traktor for the 1990-91 season before joining Torpedo Yaroslavl for the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. His playing days would conclude with two seasons with Säters IF in the Swedish third division before his retirement.

Mylnikov was inducted into the Russian and Soviet Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.

Today's featured jersey is a 1989 Soviet National Team Sergei Mylnikov jersey as worn during the World Championships where Mylnikov was a perfect 7-0 on his way to the second of his three World Championship gold medals.

After wearing the spartan red and white style at the 1988 Olympics with CCCP straight across the chest and contained within a pair of horizontal lines, this new, modern style was introduced with the lettering as well as sleeve and waist stripes not only going up with a diagonal slant, but for the first time the addition of a third color, yellow.

This would be the final jersey worn by the Soviet Union, which included the infamous occasion where the Soviet World Junior team would start the 1992 World Junior Tournament only to have their country cease to exist while they were away winning gold!

This same style was worn at the 1992 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, only with the "CCCP" lettering removed, but the chest stripes still perfectly outlining the absent lettering.

Soviet Union 1989 jersey
Soviet Union 1989 jersey

Today's video section contains action from the Soviet Union against the United States from the 1988 Olympics in Calgary with Mylnikov in goal for the Soviets and a nice goal by Slava Fetisov.

This next clip is from the 1987 Canada Cup, where Mylnikov was in goal for the Soviets during the epic Game 3 of the finals, a dramatic 6-5 win for the Canadians on home ice.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vaclav Havel and the Velvet Revolution

Born in Prague in 1936, after serving in the military, Vaclav Havel began to work in the theater and soon was writing plays, which were ultimately banned by the communist Czechoslovakian government in 1968 following the suppression of the Prague Spring uprising. Unfortunately for those in power who banned his works, now no longer able to freely pursue his passion for the theater, Havel became more active in the realm of politics, helping create Charter 77 in January of 1977, which called for the Communist Government to adhere to international standards for human rights.

Vaclav Havel, Vaclav Havel
Vaclav Havel

Havel continued to write however, with his works critical of the government now being distributed via underground channels across Czechoslovakia, and his reputation as a leading voice among dissident revolutionaries was now on the rise. He was the bold and brave enough to co-found the Committee for the Defense of the Unjustly Prosecuted in 1979, which led to constant government surveillance, questioning, arrests and multiple incarcerations. His longest stay in prison was from June of 1979 to January of 1984, 4 years and 7 months. As a writer, he naturally documented his confinement as a book of letters he wrote to his wife, "Letters to Olga".

In 1989, Havel, a passionate supporter of non-violent resistance, was a leading figure in the Velvet Revolution, which occurred from November 17th to December 29, 1989, during which student and citizen demonstrations against the ruling Communist Party took place, first in Prague and then later all across Czechoslovakia.

On November 17th, International Students Day, a peaceful demonstration of 15,000 students chanting anti-communist slogans was suppressed by riot police, spawning false rumors that one student had been killed. Students and theater employees and actors went on strike in protest of the violence, as posters were used to spread the word since the government controlled media would suppress any such stories.

Velvet Revolution, Velvet Revolution
Student demonstrators on International Students Day

The inaccurate reports of a student death having occurring on the 17th added to the unrest among the general population and the strike began to spread to other cities beyond Prague. Havel and other leaders of opposition groups established the Civic Forum on the 19th to unify the protestors and then call for the dismissal of those responsible for the violence of the 17th as well as the release of all political prisoners.

On the 20th, the Civic Forum added the abolition of the guarantee that the Communist Party would hold the ruling position of Czechoslovakia from the nation's constitution. At the same time, non-communist newspapers began publishing information which differed from that of the government controlled newspapers and the first mass demonstration, attended by 200,000 people, occurred in Prague, while other demonstrations began in Bratislava.

Velvet Revolution, Velvet Revolution
The first mass demonstration of the growing Velvet Revolution

On the following day, November 21st, the Prime Minister had his first official meeting with the Civic Forum and personally guaranteed no violence would be used against the demonstrators, which had now swollen to 500,000, but he went on to assure the group that he would also protect socialism without debate.

Organizers of the protests began to spread the word to factories to attract even more participants as the mass demonstrations, which were now becoming a daily occurrence in not only Prague, but in other cities as well. Calls for a nationwide, two-hour general strike were being called for on November 27th, as was the demand for the release of political prisoner Ján Čarnogurský. That night, hard line government officials called in a 4,000 member paramilitary organization to crush the protests, but called them off at the last moment, likely losing their last, best opportunity to remain in power.

The daily protests continued, now aided by increasing media coverage of the events which depicted the government in an unfavorable light. On the 23rd Čarnogurský was released and he would later go on to become the Prime Minister of Slovakia. Also on that same day, the Minister of Defense issued a statement in which he stated that the army would never undertake action against the Czechoslovak people, despite the military informing the communist leaders of it's readiness to do just that.

Policemen_and_flowers, Policemen_and_flowers
Demonstrators giving policemen flowers as the protests stayed non-violent

On the 24th the entire executive committee of the government resigned with a more moderate communist named the new General Secretary. Meanwhile, Havel appeared on television for the first time, addressing details of the planned general strike, which was now to be joined by Czechoslovak TV and Radio, which led to the editorial staff of various newspapers now joining the growing movement.

The 25th saw 800,000 protestors and the 26th saw the first meeting between the Prime Minister Ladislav Adamec and Havel, as the demonstrations continued to swell.

Velvet Revolution, Velvet Revolution
The anti-government protesters in Wenceslas Square

The planned two-hour general strike was supported by 75% of the population, which solidified the Civic Forum as the representative of the people in its dealings with the government. Also on the 27th, the Ministry of Culture released anti-Communist literature in libraries, effectively ending government censorship.

Two days later on the 29th, the demand for the removal of the declaration of the Communist Party's leading role from the constitution was met when the Federal Assembly abolished that particular constitutional article.

On December 10th, President Gustáv Husák swore in a new government, the first in 41 years not dominated by the Communist Party. 19 days later Havel was elected as the new president of Czechoslovakia in a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly, bringing to an end the bloodless downfall of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. It was a role he insisted was more duty than aspiration.

Havel elected, Havel elected
Havel greeting the masses following his election in 1989

Havel's presidency was confirmed in a free election by the people in 1990 and one of his first acts was to grant a wide ranging amnesty which set many political prisoners free.

Havel and his supporters had peacefully brought to an end over four decades of communism in Czechoslovakia in a matter of a couple of weeks, but still had decades of communist rule to un-weave from the fabric of the country, as they converted the country into a free market society and integrated Czechoslovakia into the European and world community from which that had been so isolated.

In 1992, forces in the Slovak parliament adopted a Declaration of Independence of the Slovak nation, which would lead to the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, which Havel opposed. This opposition led to his resignation on July 20, 1992, as he did not want to preside over the breakup of his country. The peaceful separation into two distinct nations, known as the Velvet Divorce, occurred on January 1, 1993, giving birth to the new nations of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

25 days later Havel was elected as the first president of the Czech Republic, a post he would hold until early 2003 after serving two terms in office, during which his health began to be an issue, having previously had two bouts with lung cancer in the late 1990's.

In 1998, the Czech Republic, following their 1-0 win over Russia on a lone goal by Petr Svoboda, emerged victorious from the first Olympic Games to feature the stars of the NHL competing for their home countries.

Hasek Nagano Olympics 1998 photo Hasek1998Czech.jpg
Dominik Hasek stole the show in Nagano

Following the gold medal game, Havel, in attendance in Japan, visited the locker room of the victorious team to invite them all to his home for a party in celebration.

"He was there and after the game, we all flew to his house," Jaromir Jagr recalled. "He wanted all the team there. It was fun. Big house."

Jagr and Havel, Jagr and Havel
Jagr is congratulated by Havel following the 1998 Olympic victory

"If you look at the big picture, he was the main guy. Without him, nobody would play in the NHL from the Czech unless you defect. After the revolution, which he started, the borders were open and there was freedom. You could go anywhere you want." Jagr said.

Rucinsky Havel 1998 photo Rucinsky Havel 1998.jpg
Martin Rucinsky presents Havel with a jersey after the 1998 Olympic victory

Jagr had been to the White House with Havel on three occasions, including the time Havel was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

Havel, Clinton and Jagr, Havel, Clinton and Jagr
Havel, President Bill Clinton and Jagr at the White House

After leaving the presidency, Havel continued his humanitarian works as well as staying active in the theater, which included the first complete festival of his plays, which was held in New York City in celebration of his 70th birthday. He also wrote his first new play in 18 years, "Leaving", which was published in November of 2007, later directing a film version of it which premiered in March of 2011.

Havel passed away on December 18, 2011, which elicited numerous tributes from leaders all over the globe.

Vaclav Havel, Vaclav Havel

Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Czechoslovakia National Team Richard Král jersey. Tackla was the sole supplier of jerseys to IIHF tournaments in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Their dye-sublimation process allowed for bright colors and bold designs not seen before. This is a surprisingly vibrant a flashy design, particularly for a staid communist country generally known for it's spartan and utilitarian designs. This waving flag effect was a foreshadowing of the bold Nike jerseys later worn at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

This was the final style of jersey worn by Czechoslovakia before the the division of the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. For the 1993 international season, the Czechs wore an identical jersey, only now with the main crest replaced by the Czech coat of Arms.

Czechoslovakia was founded at the conclusion of World War I and was divided up during World War II essentially between Germany and Hungary. The country was re-established at the conclusion of World War II and in February of 1948, power was seized by the Communists. During a brief period of liberalization in 1968 known as the Prague Spring, five countries, led by the Soviet Union, invaded Czechoslovakia to restore and maintain the Communist system and ideals. It is because of this invasion in 1968, also the year in which his grandfather died in prison, that Jagr wears #68.

Czechoslovakia played their first game of international hockey at the 1920 Winter Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, a 15-0 loss to Canada. The program would improve quickly, as they would record their largest margin of victory ever by 1939 in a 24-0 defeat of Yugoslavia, later matched several times in a 24-0 win over Belgium in 1947, a 27-3 drubbing of East Germany in 1951 and a 25-1 win over Japan in 1957.

Czechoslovakia would win the Olympic silver medal four times, in 1948, with gold going to Canada, and then again in 1968, 1976 and 1984, each time as runner up to the powerful Soviet Union. When they weren't winning silver, they were generally in contention, with bronze medals in 1920, 1964, 1972 and 1992.

They would also participate in five Canada Cups, with their best showing being second in the inaugural 1976 tournament.

They also had a long and successful history of competing at the World Championships, dating back to 1930, with six gold medals to their credit, which they won in 1947, 1949, 1972, 1976, 1977 and 1985 with 10 silver and 14 bronze to go along with their championships. They were the only country to break the stranglehold of the Soviet Union during the 24 years from 1963 to 1986, taking great delight at defeating their main rivals four times during the main era of Soviet dominance.

Czechoslovakia 1991-1992 jersey photo Czechoslovakia1991-1992F.jpg
Czechoslovakia 1991-1992 jersey photo Czechoslovakia1991-1992B.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 Czech Republic National Team Robert Reichel jersey as worn when the Czech Republic captured their first gold medal as an independent nation in 1996, in only their fourth year of play.

The Czechs won Group 2 with a 4-0-1 record, defeating Sweden and Finland in the process. They defeated Germany in the Quarterfinals 6-1 before dominating the United States 5-0 in the Semifinals. They drew Canada in the final and a dramatic goal by Martin Prochazka with 19 seconds remaining gave them a 3-2 lead before an empty net goal made for a 4-2 final score and their first World Championship as the Czech Republic.

This classically styled jersey was worn only once by the Czech Republic and resulted in a World Championship, making it a great combination of being both rare and historically desirable. Following the World Championships, the Czechs changed to the new "waving flag" style for the 1996 World Cup of Hockey later that fall.

1996 Czech Republic WC jersey photo 1996 Czech Republic F WC jersey.jpg
1996 Czech Republic WC jersey photo 1996 Czech Republic B WC jersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1998 Czech Republic National Team Dominik Hasek jersey as worn when the Czech Republic captured the Olympic gold medal in Nagano, Japan. This bold style of jersey was first worn in the 1998 Olympics and is associated with a golden era of Czech hockey, having been worn not only for the Olympic gold in 1998, but also for three consecutive World Championship gold medals in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

The Olympics in 1998 were the first with the full participation of NHL players, as the league suspended it's regular season schedule for the occasion, but the Czechs had the fewest NHL players on it's roster among the top six nations with 11.

They got off to a good start by shutting out Finland 3-0 in their first game before demolishing Kazakhstan 8-2. They lost to Russia 2-1 in group play, but then bounced back with an easy 4-1 win to eliminate the Americans.

The semi-finals saw them matched up against Canada, a hard fought game that ended with a memorable shootout, as Hasek stonewalled all five Canadian shooters to advance to the gold medal game and a rematch against Russia.

Defenseman Svoboda scored the only goal of the contest at 8:08 of the third period as Hasek shut out the Russians to conclude the tournament with an amazing 6 goals allowed in 6 games against the top professionals from Finland, the United States, Canada and Russia - twice - to finish with a goals against average of 0.97.

After the medal ceremony, Hasek said, "When I saw the flag go up, I saw my whole career flash before my eyes from the first time my parents took me to a hockey game until now."

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Czech Republic 1998 H jersey photo CzechRepublic1998HB.jpg

Today's video section begins with Amnesty International's Steve Crenshaw paying tribute to Havel.

Next are news reports aired during the Velvet Revolution.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The 2008 NHL Premiere European Games

For the 2007-08 season, the NHL opened its regular season in Europe for the first time when the Anaheim Ducks played a pair of games versus the Los Angeles Kings at London, England's O2 Arena, with each team taking a 4-1 win.

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The Ducks met the Kings in London to open the 2007 season

The concept was expanded for the start of the 2008-09 season, as the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning all traveled to Europe to being the regular season in what was christened the NHL Premiere.

Premiere Prague_logo photo Premiere Prague_logo.jpg

Before the teams paired off for the games which would count in the NHL regular season standings, a series of exhibition games took place, starting with Tampa Bay taking on the Berlin Polar Bears (Eisbären Berlin) in Berlin on September 28th, a game won by the Lightning 4-1.

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Tampa Bay met the Berlin Polar Bears in Germany

Two games occurred on September 30th, as the New York Rangers faced SC Bern in Switzerland, a game that drew over 16,000 at the PostFinance Arena, an impressive number by the annual European club team attendance leader. After leading 2-0 after two periods, the Rangers put on a clinic and pulled away in dominating fashion with 6 third period goals for an eventual 8-1 win.

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The Rangers had an easy time against SC Bern

Also that same day, the Lightning took on Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia, a close game which went to Tampa Bay 3-2 in a shootout.

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Tampa Bay required a shootout to defeat Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia

On October 1st, the Rangers faced the 2008 European Champions Cup winner Metallurg Magnitogork in the first annual Victoria Cup at the PostFinance Arena in Bern. With higher ticket prices and the lack of a Swiss team, combined with the NHL not sending the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, the Victoria Cup drew 13,794, which was 80.5% of capacity.

Those in attendance were treated to a thrilling game, as Magnitogorsk came out determined to show they could compete at the NHL level, and did just that, as Denis Platonov beat the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist just 88 seconds into the game. They would add a second power play goal before the first period ended when Vladimir Malenkikh converted for a 2-0 lead after the first period. Metallurg would extend their lead to a surprising three goal margin at the game's halfway point when Nikolai Zavarukhin scored at 10:20 before the Rangers would pull one back with less than thirty second left in the second on a two-man advantage when Chris Drury got New York on the board to make it 3-1 for the Russians heading into the final twenty minutes.

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Chris Drury scores for the Rangers

In the third period the Rangers recognized the pride of the NHL was on the line and came roaring back, coming within one on another power-play goal at 5:45 when Dan Fritsche scored before Drury tied the game at 3-3 with yet another power play goal with 9:47 left to play. The Rangers would then win the game in dramatic fashion with the winning goal coming on a breakaway when Ryan Callahan intercepted a pass and scored against Andrei Mezin with just 20 seconds left in the game for a 4-3 win for the Rangers and the NHL.

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The Rangers pose with the Victoria Cup after their comeback win

The final two tune-up games took place on October 2nd in Scandinavia, as the Penguins defeated Jokerit Helsinki in Finland 4-1 while the Senators beat Frölunda Gothenberg by an identical 4-1 margin in Sweden to keep the NHL clubs undefeated against their European opponents.

With the preliminaries now out of the way, the NHL Premiere got underway on this date in 2008 with the first game between the Rangers and the Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic, a 2-1 win for the Rangers. The game entered the third period with New York up 1-0 on a goal by Markus Naslund. At 3:37 of the final period Martin St. Louis evened the game at 1-1 but Brandon Dubinsky won it for the Rangers with a power play goal at 14:16 while Lundqvist held on the rest of the way to to seal the win for New York in front of 17,085 at the O2 Arena.

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Brandon Dubinsky scored the game winner for the Rangers

13,699 fans in Stockholm's Globe Arena were treated to Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh later that same day. Just 40 seconds into the game, Tyler Kennedy gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead but just before the halfway point of the first, Shean Donovan equalized for the Senators. Evgeni Malkin put the Penguins back up by one with a shorthanded goal at 3:18 of the second but goals by Dany Heatley at 12:15 on a power play and Jason Spezza's shorthanded goal at 17:55 gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

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Jason Spezza scored shorthanded for Ottawa

There was only one goal in the third period, as Rob Scuderi scored on assists from Sidney Crosby and  Miroslav Satan at 3:56. Neither Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh or Martin Gerber for the Senators could be solved for the game winner in regulation and the game moved to overtime tied at 3-3. With 25 seconds left in overtime, Kennedy got the game winner for the Penguins for a 4-3 final score.

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Tyler Kennedy celebrates for the Penguins

The very next day, October 5th, the Rangers and Lightning squared off again in Prague, with another 17,085 on hand. The Rangers won again by the same 2-1 score after Adam Hall got Tampa Bay off to a 1-0 lead at 18:17 before second period goals by Wade Redden on a power play followed by Scott Gomez scoring the game winner at 12:12. Lunqvist got his second win in two days by making 18 saves on 19 shots while the Rangers pumped 39 against Olaf Kolzig for the Lightning.

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Henrik Lundqvist held the Lightning to 2 goals while picking up 2 wins in two days

Another sellout of 13,699 in Stockholm was on hand for the second Senators vs. Penguins matchup. Heatley from Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson opened the scoring on a power play for the Senators at 13:07 of the second. Heatley's second of the game, again on a power play from Alfredsson and Filip Kuba, at 12:17 of the third was followed by Antoine Vermette extending the Ottawa lead to 3-0 when he beat Fleury at 15:50. With 2 seconds left in the game Alex Goligoski from Crosby and Malkin ruined Alex Auld's shutout, but it was far too little, far, far too late as the Senators got a split in their two games with the Penguins.

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Dany Heatley scored twice in the Senators win

The NHL Premiere series of games would return for the next three seasons before being put on hiatus and has yet to return and no other NHL games have taken place in Europe since 2011. Additionally, the Victoria Cup would only return once more in 2009 before it too, faded away.

Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 Ottawa Senators Dany Heatley jersey as worn during the NHL Premiere game on October 5, 2008 when the Senators defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 when Heatley scored two of the Senators three goals, which gave him 3 in Ottawa's first two games.

Each team played a game as the home team and the away team during the 2008 NHL Premiere while each jersey was adorned with a special commemorative patch indicating the dates of the two games and whether the series was held in Stockholm or Prague.

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins Ruslan Fedotenko jersey as worn by Fedotenko on October 5, 2008 when the Penguins faced the Senators in the second of their two games to open the NHL season in Sweden.

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Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 2008-09 New York Rangers Brandon Dubinsky jersey as worn by Dubinsky on October 4, 2008 when the Rangers faced the Lightning in the first of their two games in Prague to open the NHL season in the Czech Republic when New York won their season opener 2-1 thanks to a Dubinksy game winning goal on a breakaway late in the game.

As is often the case, the Rangers have placed their patches on one of their shoulders owing to their diagonal cresting of "Rangers" interfering with the traditional placement of patches on the upper right chest of their jerseys.

Since 1976, the Rangers have only worn three patches in the classic right chest location, while they have worn two on the left chest. Seven others have been on the left shoulder and 12 on the right shoulder, including the 2008 NHL Premiere patch.

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Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra bonus jersey is a 2008-09 Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson jersey as worn during the first Senators game on October 4, 2008 against Pittsburgh.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with highlights of the Rangers vs. the Lightning and their first game in Prague followed by the Senators taking on the Penguins in Stockholm in their first game on October 4, 2008.

Next, the second games between New York and Tampa Bay followed by Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh, both on October 5th.


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