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Friday, April 14, 2017

A Brief History of the Brief Ottawa Nationals - 1972-73 Ottawa Nationals Tom Martin Jersey

When plans began to take place for the inaugural season of the World Hockey Association in 1972-73, the league naturally wanted to have a club located in Canada's largest city Toronto, but they ran into a road block of the most stubborn kind in the form of Harold Ballard, the cantankerous owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the rival NHL and, more importantly, their arena, Maple Leaf Gardens.

When no deal was able to be reached with Ballard, the franchise earmarked for Toronto was instead placed in the capital of Ottawa after an attempt to locate the club in Hamilton. The Nationals failed to lure any top-flight NHL talent to Ottawa, such as Brad Park, Dave Keon or Eddie Shack, all of whom were on their draft list, due to their late start in finding a home.

Wayne Carlton was signed away from the California Golden Seals, one of several players the Seals lost to the upstart WHA, and Carlton went on to lead the club with 42 goals, 29 assists and 91 points.

The Nationals leading scorer Wayne Carlton

The goaltending duties were handled by rookie Gilles Gratton, who was backed up by former Pittsburgh Penguin veteran Les Binkley. Gavin Kirk and Bob Charlebois each scored more than 60 points while Brian Gibbons led all defensemen in scoring with 42 points while Rick Cunningham led the team with 121 penalty minutes.

Gilles Gratton guards the Nationals goal

After losing their first three games, the Nationals won their next four. They spent their first three months hovering around the .500 mark, closing out December with a 16-18-3 record, which included a pair of four game winning streaks.

Nationals opening night
An advertisement for the Nationals first game on October 11, 1972

January was unkind to the Nationals, who dropped 11 out of 14 to fall to 19-29-3. After going 6-7-1 in February, the Nationals caught fire and roared through March with a spectacular run, winning 11 of 12 to force themselves back into the playoffs, with their 74 points edging out the Quebec Nordiques at 71.

Ottawa's Wayne Carleton battles Ron Ward of the New York Raiders

Despite Ottawa not having had top level professional hockey since the once-dominant Ottawa Senators left the capital way back in 1934, attendance proved to be an issue, as the team drew an average of just 3,226 fans per game in the 9,000 seat Ottawa Civic Centre.

A big part of the problem with the public in Ottawa was the knowledge that Ottawa was not the intended home for the team. Or even ownership's second choice. After plans to play in both Toronto and then Hamilton fell through, only then did they turn to Ottawa. They only sold 400 season tickets and reduced ticket prices twice in an effort to win over the fans while competing with the established and quite popular Ottawa 67's junior club of the Ontario Hockey Association, which had no problem selling out the Civic Centre.

The Nationals were paired with the first place New England Whalers in the opening round of the postseason, however...

...the City of Ottawa demanded a payment of $100,000 to secure dates for the following season prior to the playoffs, which prompted the club's ownership to consider their options. The option they chose resulted in the Nationals moving all their "home" playoff games to their original intended home Toronto!

Nationals head coach Billy Harris dismissed the relocation for the playoffs when asked if it would affect the team, "Everyone seems to think this will bother our players, that they're thinking of moving instead of concentrating on hockey. Heck, earlier in the year they went through five weeks when they didn't know if they should buy groceries or not. We were supposed to be on our way to Milwaukee, so a little thing like this isn't going to affect us."

Now known as the Ontario Nationals during the playoffs, they lost their first two games 6-3 and 4-3 in Boston. The Nationals returned "home" to face the New England Whalers and won Game 3 by a score of 4-2, but lost Game 4 by a decisive 7-3 score while averaging 5,000 fans a game. The Whalers closed out the series with a 5-4 win back in Boston on this date in 1973 to end the Nationals season, and, as it turned out, the Nationals themselves, as the team was sold following the season to John Bassett, who made Toronto their permanent home and renamed the team the Toronto Toros in June of 1973.

Today's first featured jersey is a 1972-73 Ottawa Nationals Tom Martin jersey as worn for road games during the Nationals only season in Ottawa. This is a very attractive jersey for it's day and the addition of the extra blue stripe trimmed in white just under the shoulder yoke makes it very unique. We especially like the white name on the red nameplate placed directly on top of that stripe.

The team logo is also very bold and well executed, although we always felt it looked more like a corporate logo, for a railroad in particular, rather than a pro hockey team.

Still, a very nice jersey and one that lived an all too short life.

Ottawa Nationals 1972-73 R F jersey
Ottawa Nationals 1972-73 R B jersey

Today's second featured jersey is a 1972-73 Ottawa Nationals Brian Conacher jersey as worn at home during the Nationals only season in Ottawa. 

Ottawa Nationals 1972-73 H F jersey
Ottawa Nationals 1972-73 H B jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus featured jersey is a 1972-73 Ottawa Nationals practice jersey as worn during the Nationals only season in Ottawa. 

Ottawa Nationals 1972-73 P jersey

Here is a look at Dennis Murphy and the formation of the WHA and some of the first players to join the upstart league.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

1998 Poland National Team Mariusz Czerkawski Jersey

Born on this date in Poland in 1972, Mariusz Czerkawski began playing for GKS Tychy's junior team in 1988-89. During his second season with Tychy, Czerkawski showed his promise with 35 goals and 46 points in 30 games. He would play one more season for GKS with 25 goals and 40 points in 24 games.

During his time playing club hockey in Poland, he also participated in several international tournaments for his national team, first playing in the 1989 European U18 Junior Tournament B Pool as a 16 year old, scoring 5 goals and 11 points in 5 games and helping Poland earn a promotion to the Top Division.

He got to enjoy the fruits of his labor in 1990, again playing for Poland's U18 team at the World Championships. There, he scored 9 goals and 12 points in 6 games, an average of 2 points per game. Of note, he finished fourth in scoring behind future NHLers such as Slava Kozlov and Espen Knutsen and ahead of  Sergei Zholtok, Mikael RenbergAlexei Kovalev, Jere Lehtinen and Martin Straka. His obvious talents were rewarded with a roster spot on the Polish World Junior U20 team despite being just 17 years old.

Czerkawski again pulled double duty for Poland in 1991, only this time playing in first the U20 World Juniors B Pool, where he dominated with 12 goals and 15 points in 7 games to lead the tournament in scoring on his way to being named the tournament MVP. He was again rewarded for his efforts when he was a part of the Poland National Team at the 1991 World Championship B Pool at the senior level as an 18 year old. Playing with players much older than he was did not phase Czerkawski, as he scored 6 goals and 8 points in 7 games, helping Poland earn a promotion to the newly expanded Top Division for 1992, as four promotion spots were up for grabs that year.

Czerkawski Poland 1
Czerkawski in the red and white of Poland

His success on the international scene led to Czerkawski being drafted during the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the Boston Bruins in the fifth round, #106 overall.

Needing tougher competition to continue his development if he were to make it to the NHL, Czerkawski moved to Sweden for the 1991-92 season, joining Djurgardens IF in the Eliteserien. He found the going somewhat more difficult but acquitted himself with 8 goals and 13 points in 39 games. That season he also made his Olympic debut, playing at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France. Later that spring, he also returned to the World Championships, only now in the Top Division for the first time.

Czerkawski Djurgardens 1
Czerkawski moved to Sweden to continue is development

For the 1992-93 season, Czerkawski played with Hammarby IF in the second level of Swedish hockey, where he had a fine season with 39 goals and 69 points in only 32 games. He also asserted himself with 74 penalty minutes.

He was back with Djurgardens for the 1993-94 season, scoring at nearly a point per game clip this time around, as he scored 13 times on his way to 34 points in 39 games played. Once Djurgardens was eliminated from the playoffs, Czerkawski made his NHL debut with the Bruins, playing in 4 regular season games, scoring twice before playing an additional 13 playoff games, adding 3 goals and 6 points to the Bruins effort. On his debut, Czerkawski became the first Polish born and trained player in NHL history.

The start of the 1994-95 season was delayed by labor issues, and Czerkawski signed on with Espoo Blues of the Finnish SM-Liiga. He played in 7 games for the Blues with 9 goals and 12 points before returning to North America for the resumption of play in the NHL. In 47 games with Boston, he scored 12 goals and 26 points.

Czerkawski Bruins 1
Czerkawski played 80 games for the Bruins
divided over the course of two seasons

Czerkawski returned to the Bruins for the 1995-96 season, and after 11 points in 33 games, he was involved in a trade that sent himself, Sean Brown and a first round draft pick to the Edmonton Oilers for goaltender Bill Ranford. During the second half of the season with Edmonton, Czerkawski had 12 goals and 29 points.

He played the entire 1996-97 season with the Oilers, seeing action in 76 games, scoring 26 goals and 47 points before an additional 12 playoff games.

Czerkawski Edmonton 1
Czerkawski played a season and a half with the Oilers

Just before the 1997-98 season, Czerkawski was traded to the New York Islanders for Dan LaCouture. At first, the move affected his offensive output, as he scored roughly half the number of points he had the year before with the Oilers. Czerkawski also returned to the international scene for the first time in six years when he played in the World Championships B Pool Qualifying Round in early November for the Poles.

Czerkawski Islanders 4
Czerkawski was with the Islanders during their final
season with the controversial Fisherman jerseys

Over the next two seasons Czerkawski's offensive game not only returned, but thrived. In 1998-99 he scored 20 goals for the second time in his NHL career with 21 on his way to 38 points followed by setting career highs in 1999-00 with 35 goals, 35 assists and 70 points to far and away lead the Islanders in scoring, 28 points more than Brad Isbister in second! His fine season was rewarded by being named to the 2000 NHL All-Star Game.

Czerkawski Islanders 21
Czerkawski had a career year in 1999-00
and played in the NHL All-Star Game

Coming off his success in the NHL, Czerkawski scored 4 goals and 11 points in Poland's effort at the 2000 World Championships B Pool.

Czerkawski Poland 2
Czerkawski played for Poland 11 times during his career 

Czerkawski played every one of the Islanders games over the course of the next two seasons, again reaching 30 goals in 2000-01 while serving as an assistant team captain for New York. After scoring 62 points that season, he numbers slipped to 22 goals and 51 points in 2001-02. In 2001, the IIHF World Championship ladder system was renovated, and when Czerkawski returned to play for Poland in 2002, they were now placed in the expanded Top Division, Czerkawski's second time participating at the top level since first doing so in 1992.

Czerkawski Islanders 1

Czerkawski was traded to the Montreal Canadiens following the season for Arron Asham and a draft pick. The fit was not a good one for Czerkawski, and he only played half a season for the Canadiens with just 5 goals and 14 points in 43 games. He also played 20 games for the Hamilton Bulldogs down in the American Hockey League with 20 points in 20 games as well as 6 postseason games with the Bulldogs.

He then returned to the Islanders when he signed as a free agent for the 2003-04 season, where he returned to form with 25 goal sand 49 points playing in 81 games that season.

Czerkawski Islanders 3
Czerkawski was back with the Islanders for the 2003-04 season

With the 2004-05 NHL season cancelled by the lockout, Czerkawski returned to Djurgardens IF in Sweden where he scored 15 times on his way to 24 points in 46 games. He also took part in the Olympic qualification rounds for Poland, leading the way with 6 goals and 10 points in 6 games. While Poland won the pre-qualification Group E tournament at home in November of 2004 over the Netherlands, Lithuania and Croatia, they were overmatched in the final qualification tournament against Latvia, Belarus and Slovenia.

Czerkawski Djurgardens 2
Czerkawski rejoined Djurgardens IF for 2004-05

The NHL returned to the ice in 2005-06, and by now Czerkawski was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, having signed as a free agent. It was not a good fit and, after being a healthy scratch for most of the season, he would only play in just 19 games in Toronto, scoring just 4 goals and a lone assist before being claimed off waivers near the trade deadline by his original NHL club, the Bruins. He played in 16 games to finish out the Bruins schedule with an identical 4 goals and one assist. Czerkawski made his final international appearance for Poland that spring, playing in the 2006 World Championships Division 1 Group B tournament, leading the Poles with 3 goals and 7 points in 5 games.

For the 2006-07 season, Czerkawski returned to Europe and signed with Rapperswil-Jona Lakers in the Swiss National League A. He excelled with 21 goals and 41 points in 43 games for second on the team in overall scoring. For the 2007-08 season, he exceeded a point per game with 22 goals and 53 points in 49 games, again second on the club by a single point to effectively bring an end to his career, but Czerkawski did appear in a single game for GKS Tychy where it all began in Poland during the 2008-09 season.

Czerkawski Jona 1
Czerkawski returned to Europe with Rapperswil-Jona

His final NHL totals were 745 games played with 215 goals and 220 assists for 435 points as well as an additional 15 points in 42 playoff games in 12 NHL seasons. He remains far and away the most successful NHLer ever from Poland with 390 more than Krzysztof Oliwa's 45.

Internationally, Czerkawski played for Poland on 11 occasions, scoring 44 goals and 73 points in 61 games combined between the junior and senior levels.

Today's featured jersey is a 1998 Poland National Team Mariusz Czerkawski jersey as worn at the 1998 World Championship Group B in Slovenia.

Poland played its first international game back in 1926 with a best World Championship finish of 4th in 1931. They have appeared in 65 World Championships and have played in Division 1 every year since 2003. In their effort to return to the Top Division, they won promotion from Division 1 Group B in 2014 and have finished 3rd in Division 1 Group A in 2015 and 2016.

To date, they have participated in 13 Olympics and were in six consecutive Games during the 1970s and 1980s, but not have qualified for the Olympics since their last appearance in 1992.

Poland 1998 F jersey
Poland 1998 B jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1998 Djurgardens IF Mariusz Czerkawski jersey. Djurgardens IF was founded in 1922 in Stockholm, Sweden and are 16-time Swedish champions and twice have won the European Cup.

Djurgardens 2004-05 IF F jersey
Djurgardens IF 2004-05 B jersey

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1996-97 Edmonton Oilers Mariusz Czerkawski jersey. Czerkawski joined the Oilers in 1995-96 for their final season in their blue and orange classic jerseys worn during the era when they won five Stanley Cups. For Czerkawski's second season in Edmonton, the club debuted this new, more mature look, with the blue now several shades darker and the bright orange replaced by bronze with the addition of subtle red trim.

This style lasted from 1996-97 through 2006-07. The jersey style was replaced by a new Reebok Edge jersey in 2007-08 but the midnight blue and bronze color scheme remained until 2011-12 when the transformation back to their original look was completed in 2012-13 when the midnight blue jersey, which had been reduced to third jersey status for 2011-12, was retired.

Edmonton Oilers 1996-97 F jersey
Edmonton Oilers 1996-97 B jersey

Today's video section is a package of Czerkawski highlights while he was with the Islanders set to some raucous music. We're calling this one volume optional.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Hartford Whalers Only Playoff Series Victory - 1985-86 Hartford Whalers Kevin Dineen Jersey

From the time the WHA's New England Whalers entered the NHL, only now known as the Hartford Whalers at the insistence of the Boston Bruins, they had only qualified for the postseason one time, that coming in their first season of NHL play in 1979-80.

Their reward for making the playoffs was a matchup against the powerful Montreal Canadiens, who finished 34 points ahead of the Whalers in the standings, who then delivered a sound thrashing to the NHL newcomers in Games 1 and 2 in Montreal by scores of 6-1 and 8-4 before eliminating Hartford on their home ice 4-3 at 29 seconds of overtime.

The Whalers point totals dropped from 73 in 1979-80 down to 60 for two seasons before dropping further to 45. That tied Hartford for the fewest points and earned them the second overall pick in the 1983 NHL Draft, where the Whalers selected Sylvain Turgeon ahead of future Hall of Famers Pat Lafontaine, Steve Yzerman and Cam Neely and 1984 Calder Cup and Vezina Trophy winner goaltender Tom Barrasso.

Turgeon Sylvain Whalers
Sylvain Turgeon

The Whalers did rise in points from 66 and then to 69 in 1984-85, but continued their streak of missing the playoffs, which now extended to five consecutive seasons.

In 1985-86, the Whalers were showing signs of continued competitiveness thanks to additions of additions to the roster such as Ray Ferraro and Kevin Dineen to compliment Turgeon and now veteran Ron Francis, who all finished in the top four in team scoring at season's end, with Turgeon leading the way with 45 goals and 70 points, followed by Ferraro and Francis at 77 each and the hard-nosed Dineen's 68.

Francis Whalers, Francis Whalers
Ron Francis

The goaltending was anchored by Mike Liut while the defense boasted Ulf Samuelsson, Joel Quenneville, rookie Dana Murzyn and midseason additions Dave Babych, his brother and winger Wayne Babych and veteran center Doug Jarvis.

Liut Whalers, Liut Whalers
Mike Liut

The Whalers played respectable hockey through the last three months of 1985, avoiding any long losing streaks, but unable to string together an extended winning streak either. As the calendar changed to 1986 the Whalers won five consecutive games, kicked off by an 11-6 defeat of the Quebec Nordiques, only to give it all back and more with seven losses in a row during a ten game winless streak.

They finished strong however, going 8-1-2 over their final 11 games to finish the season with their first winning record as a member of the NHL at 40-36-4 for 84 points, 4 better than the Buffalo Sabres and good for fourth place in the Adams Division and their first spot in the playoffs since 1980.

1985-86 Hartford Whalers team, 1985-86 Hartford Whalers team
The 1985-86 Hartford Whalers

The format of the day called for the first four teams in each division to qualify for the postseason, with the first two rounds of the playoffs coming within their own division. By virtue of their fourth place finish, the Whalers drew the division winners, the Quebec Nordiques, whose 43-31-6 mark earned them 92 points, ahead of Montreal's 87 and the Bruins' 86 in a tight race.

The Nordiques were not the doormats they would become in the early 1990's, having made it to the semifinals the year before and had now posted three consecutive 90 point seasons thanks to a roster which featured the high scoring Peter Stastny (122 points, good for 6th in the league), Michel Goulet, Anton Stastny and the tough Dale Hunter.

The opening round was a Best of Five format and opened in Quebec City on April 9th. Anton Stastny of the Nordiques drew first blood with a power play goal at 2:44, but the Whalers evened the score within the final minute of the first period. The teams traded goals in the third period before Turgeon won it for Hartford 2:36 into overtime, sending 14,500 Nordiques fans home disappointed.

Game 2 was the next night and Hartford scored first at 3:53 and added a second goal at 8:51 of the first. Their lead was extended to three at 8:22 of the second before the Nordiques, who were badly outshot in the first two periods 26-14, showed some signs of life with a goal at 1:39 of the third, only to have the Whalers squash any hope of a comeback with a fourth goal at 16:32 to take a 2-0 lead in games heading back home to Hartford.

That third game at the Hartford Civic Center took place on this date in 1986 and was a wild affair on several levels, as 21 penalties and six goals occurred in just the first period alone!

Dineen got his first goal of the series at 2:29 on a power play and Dave Tippett's shorthanded goal at 5:22 made it 2-0 for the Whalers. Quebec responded at 8:40 on a power play before the teams traded goals in the 16th minute just 46 seconds apart, first by Francis of the Whalers at 15:06 which was followed by a shorthanded goal for Quebec at 15:52. Ferraro extended the Hartford lead to 4-2 with another power play goal, this one coming late at 19:20.

Dineen Whalers, Dineen Whalers
Kevin Dineen

The second period was more of the same, with nine more penalties and four more goals, the first by Samuelsson at 2:07 followed by a string of power play goals, the first by Hunter of the Nordiques at 11:06. Ferraro and John Anderson of Hartford then extended the Whalers lead with goals at 13:08 and 13:34, both with the man advantage to make the score 7-3 in favor of the home team after two periods of play.

That lead was added to when Anderson got his second at exactly 7:00. Although Quebec scored at 13:08, it was too little too late, a point driven home by Dineen with his second of the game at 18:23 to make the final score 9-4 in favor of Hartford and giving them a three game upset sweep of the Nordiques, which would turn out to be not only the first playoff series victory in the history of the Whalers, but their only series win in their history, as they were defeated in the next round by Montreal in Game 7 at 5:55 of overtime.

The following season the Whalers would win the Adams Division title with a franchise best 93 point season, only to have the Nordiques return the favor and upset the Whalers 4 games to 2.

Over the course of the next five seasons the Whalers would qualify for the playoffs each time, thanks in part to the now dreadful Nordiques, whose futility assured that the Whalers would qualify for the playoffs each season, only to see Hartford eliminated immediately in the first round every time.

The Nordiques finally improved thanks to their annual first overall draft picks and it was now the Whalers on the outside looking in, as they failed to qualify for the playoffs in 1993, the final year of the Adams Division.

The realignment of the NHL, which placed Hartford in the new Northeast Division with not only old rivals Montreal, Boston, Buffalo and Quebec, but the addition of the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins did the Whalers postseason chances no favors, and they failed to make the playoffs for their final four seasons in Hartford before relocating to North Carolina, leaving their victory over the Nordiques on this date in 1986 as their one and only playoff series victory.

Whalers Banners, Whalers Banners
The Hartford Whalers banners

Today's featured jersey is a 1985-86 Hartford Whalers Kevin Dineen jersey. Upon entering the NHL, the Whalers debuted their new "Whale Tail" logo, which obviously featured a "W" for Whalers, but also contained an "H" hidden in the negative space of the logo to represent their change in name to Hartford.

This new style would be worn from 1979-80 until 1991-92, with only minor changes to the sleeve striping angles, the removal of the Pucky the Whale shoulder patches in 1985-86 and the removal of the green waist stripe. The team would then switch from green to blue jerseys in 1992-93, a jersey set which would never see action in the playoffs.

Hartford Whalers 85-86 jersey, Hartford Whalers 85-86 jersey
Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996-97 Hartford Whalers Kevin Dineen jersey. After playing in green jerseys for 20 years, dating back to their inaugural 1972-73 season in the WHA, the Whalers drastically altered their look for the 1992-93 season. Navy blue became their primary jersey color with silver now added to the look, which appeared on the jerseys in an even greater amount than their former trademark green.

This classy new look was worn by the Whalers for their final five seasons in Hartford, but the team never qualified for the postseason during this time period which limited their navy jerseys to exclusive regular season use.

Hartford Whalers 1996-97 jersey
Photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section kicks off with the Whalers goal song, Brass Bonanza, also known as the "Whalers Victory March" which was adopted by the Whalers as their theme song during their days in the WHA, and remained so through their years in the NHL.

Gordie Howe was once quoted as saying that he loved to hear it as a visiting player for the Houston Aeros, but hearing it every night with the Whalers "began to drive me nuts."

Finally, the last goal in Whalers history, scored by then team captain Dineen.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The NHL Record for Most Shorthanded Goals in a Game - 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Steve Payne Jersey

The Minnesota North Stars were founded in 1967. Fourteen years later, they still had never won a game in the Boston Garden and were 0-27-7 at The Garden going into their game on February 26, 1981. The North Stars were routinely intimidated by the Big, Bad Bruins, who featured a lineup with noted tough guys Terry O'Reilly (223 penalty minutes that season), Mike Milbury (222), Stan Jonathan (192), Keith Crowder (172), Brad McCrimmon (148) and Brad Park (111).

1980-81 Boston Bruins team
The 1980-81 Boston Bruins

By this point in the season, the North Stars knew that they were going to be facing the Bruins in the playoffs and Head Coach Glen Sonmor decided that the "Curse of the Bruins" was going to come to an end that night. Sonmor wanted to instill a new attitude of toughness into his team and to no longer back down from any challenge, especially that of intimidation by the Bruins.

Sonmor coach
The North Stars fiery Head Coach Glen Sonmor

Sonmor's instructions to his squad was simple and direct. "Not the second time, or the third time or even the fourth time, but on the first time that any Bruin tried to intimidate one of them. that they were to drop the gloves. I told them that we were going to wear that night and that we were going to keep going to war until the game was over. Period."

The North Stars took the message to heart, and right off the opening faceoff, the Bruins Steve Kasper cracked the North Stars star player, Bobby Smith, right under the chin with his stick. Smith immediately dropped the gloves and fought Kasper. Afterwards, there was one fight after another. In the first period alone, there were 340 penalty minutes called and 12 players ejected from the game!

Northstars-Bruins 1

Here are the penalties from the boxscore from just the first period alone:

Penalties - BOS - Crowder 0:07 ; BOS - Crowder ( (maj)) 0:07 ; BOS - Crowder (Misconduct (10 min)) 0:07 ; BOS - Kasper 0:07 ; BOS - Kasper ( (maj)) 0:07 ; MINS - Payne 0:07 ; MINS - Payne 0:07 ; MINS - Payne ( (maj)) 0:07 ; MINS - Payne (Misconduct (10 min)) 0:07 ; MINS - Payne (Misconduct (10 min)) 0:07 ; MINS - Smith B 0:07 ; MINS - Smith B ( (maj)) 0:07 ; BOS - Milbury 2:53 ; MINS - Christoff 2:53 ; BOS - O'Reilly 3:35 ; BOS - O'Reilly ( (maj)) 3:35 ; MINS - Carlson ( (maj)) 3:35 ; BOS - Mccrimmon 4:28 ; MINS - Hartsburg 5:42 ; MINS - Smith G 6:02 ; BOS - Bench 8:06 ; BOS - Gillis ( (maj)) 8:06 ; BOS - Gillis (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:06 ; BOS - Milbury ( (maj)) 8:06 ; MINS - Bench 8:06 ; MINS - Hartsburg ( (maj)) 8:06 ; MINS - Hartsburg (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:06 ; MINS - Younghans ( (maj)) 8:06 ; BOS - Bourque 8:58 ; BOS - Bourque ( (maj)) 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder 8:58 ; BOS - Crowder (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon ( (maj)) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon ( (maj)) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:58 ; BOS - Mccrimmon (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Mcnab 8:58 ; BOS - Mcnab (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Milbury 8:58 ; BOS - Milbury (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - O'Reilly 8:58 ; BOS - O'Reilly (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; BOS - Vachon 8:58 ; MINS - Bench 8:58 ; MINS - Carlson 8:58 ; MINS - Carlson (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Hartsburg (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam ( (maj)) 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam (Misconduct (10 min)) 8:58 ; MINS - Macadam (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Meloche 8:58 ; MINS - Payne (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Roberts ( (maj)) 8:58 ; MINS - Roberts (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Smith G ( (maj)) 8:58 ; MINS - Smith G (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Younghans 8:58 ; MINS - Younghans (Game Misconduct) 8:58 ; MINS - Maxwell B 12:44 ; MINS - Zanussi 14:02 ; BOS - Kasper 17:36
At one point, players were being sent off to the dressing rooms using the aisle that ran between the benches and a spark of anger set off a melee off the ice that involved the police trying to separate the combatants!

Northstars-Bruins 3
The fighting spilled off the ice and between the benches

By the end of the game, 42 penalties had been called for a NHL record 406 penalty minutes with six more major penalties in the second period plus four more in the third. 

After the game, Bruins Head Coach Gerry Cheevers got into a shouting match with Sonmor, who was so fired up he tried to get at Cheevers. With his players holding him back, Sonmor even tried to take a few swings at his Bruins counterpart.

Sonmor restrained
Sonmor being restrained

The Bruins had won the game 5-1, but the North Stars management could not have cared less. The message had been sent - the North Stars were not going to be intimidated any more.

After the game, reporters came to Sonmor with disparaging quotes from Cheevers, to which the feisty Sonmor replied, "OK, I have a message that you can take back to Gerry. Tell him to meet me between the dressing rooms the next time we play each other and we'll settle this like men. We'll see who's got character then." Adding "Oh, by the way, tell him to bring a basket to carry his f---ing head home in!"

The league president called Sonmor into his office afterwards and asked him if he had incited the North Stars that night. He replied with honesty, "We needed to make a stand." and I wasn't going to apologize for that. Sonmor was fined but the North Stars General Manager Lou Nanne gladly paid the fine for his head coach, knowing what Sonmor was up to and was behind him 100%.

Sure enough, the North Stars were paired up in the opening round of the 1981 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just before Sonmor was to leave for the airport for Boston, he opened a letter from a local woman who said that she was a psychic. She had a vision of Sonmor standing behind the bench in the Boston Garden wearing an eye patch and beating the "Curse of the Garden". Sonmor thought her name, Amy Puckett, sounded enough like a hockey "puck" and considered it a good omen. Sonmor, you see, had his budding hockey career cut short by an eye injury which left him with a glass eye in place of the one he lost to a slapshot.

Sure enough, Sonmor figured he could use all the good Karma he could get at that point and retrieved his eye patch for the trip to Boston. "I put that patch on right before we hit the ice and I remember screaming out just like a general leading his troops into battle: "Boys, the curse ends tonight!"

Game 1 on April 8th saw Minnesota lead 2-1 after the first period on goals by Steve Payne and Brad Maxwell, but the Bruins scored twice in the second to take a 3-2 lead into the third. It only took 37 seconds for Payne to tie the game, but Peter McNab gave Boston their lead back at 7:14. The unlikely brawler Jack Carlson scored at 11:55 to tie the game, which later went to overtime.

The curse then ended 3:34 into the overtime when Payne completed a hat trick to win not only the game, but end a 14 year, 35 game winless streak.

Payne North Stars
Steve Payne's hat trick ended the North Stars curse in Boston

The Bruins needed to win Game 2 at home before heading to Minnesota, but the North Stars were flying high after their win the night before. While Boston scored first 56 seconds into the game on a power play, Bobby Smith responded just 19 seconds later and the North Stars were off and running. They got goals from Payne and Al MacAdam to take a 3-1 lead before the first period was half over. Boston fought back to tie the game with goals with 31 seconds remaining in the first and 41 seconds into the second, but the North Stars replied with 3 goals from Brad Maxwell, Payne and MacAdam for a 6-3 lead after two.

The Bruins tried to fight back with a goal at 29 seconds of the third but the North Stars responded with two goals in less than three minutes for a commanding 8-4 lead. Two Boston goals within a minute were not enough and Tim Young's goal at 14:25 made the final score 9-6, something unthinkable as recently as February 25th, six weeks earlier.

Back in 1981, the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were a best-of-five, meaning the Bruins were not on the brink of elimination with no margin for error as the series moved back to Minnesota for Game 3 at the Met Center in Bloomington.

Energized by their rabid home fans, the North Stars got out to a 2-0 lead within the game's first five minutes, as Brad Palmer beat Rogie Vachon with assists from Steve Christoff and Neal Broten and 3:36 followed by MacAdam scoring from Young and Payne at 4:57. Dino Ciccarelli scored on a power play with an assist to Bobby Smith at 12:00 exactly with Terry O'Reilly in the penalty box. Payne set the North Stars faithful into a full throated roar when he made the score 4-0 at 18:33 with an assist to MacAdam. Mike O'Connell got the Bruins on the board late in the period with a shorthanded goal against Gilles Meloche at 19:47 with O'Reilly serving his second minor of the period.

The majority of the second period passed without any scoring until Greg Smith scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal at 18:05 with Curt Giles in the penalty box for the North Stars to make the score 5-1 for Minnesota with twenty minutes to play.

There was a fracas at the 5:18 mark which led to Crowder and McCrimmon getting minor penalties and Jonathan being whistled for a double minor plus a major and a game misconduct. Minnesota, meanwhile, saw a minor to Carlson and a double minor to Ciccarelli, giving the North Stars an extended power play in light of Jonathan's major.

Bobby Lalonde with just 4 goals in 62 games during the regular season, then tried single handedly to save the Bruins season, scoring a shorthanded goal at 11:10 from O'Connell. Christoff was penalized for Minnesota at 11:51 followed by Middleton receiving a penalty for the Bruins at 13:59. Lalonde then struck again at 15:42 for his second shorthanded goal at 15:42 to cut the North Stars advantage to 5-3.

Lalonde Bruins 1
Bobby Lalonde had a pair of shorthanded goals

Lalonde's second shorthanded goal, along with those by Minnesota's Greg Smith in the second period and O'Connell's first period goal while Boston was a man down, set an NHL record for the Most Shorthanded Goals in a Playoff Game at 4.

With the desperate Bruins having pulled Vachon in search of two goals to keep their season alive, Payne scored his seventh goal of the series from Young into an empty net at 18:34 to make the final score 6-3 to close out the game and the series, something few would have bet on in mid-February.

1980-81 Minnesota North Stars team
The 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars

Buoyed by their success against Boston, the North Stars then defeated the Buffalo Sabres in five games, including three on the road, and then eliminated the Calgary Flames in six to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they encountered the defending champion New York Islanders dynasty in the making, who won their second of four consecutive Stanley Cups in five games.

Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Steve Payne jersey from the North Stars infamous brawl with the Bruins and the player who scored the goal that ended the North Stars curse in Boston when the teams met later in the playoffs. During the North Stars run to the Finals, Payne led the club in points with 29 with 17 goals and 12 assists in 19 games.

Payne had an eventful night in Boston, as he was involved in a secondary brawl at the seven second mark with Crowder, which earned him a double minor unsportsmanlike conduct, a fighting major and a rare double misconduct. All of this should have kept Payne out of the action until well into the second period, yet he still managed to find himself involved in the fracas which erupted at the 8:58 mark of the first period in the runway next to the Bruins bench which earned him a game misconduct before the first period had even reached the halfway mark. Payne finished the evening with 7 seconds of ice time and a total of 39 penalty minutes!

The North Stars would adopt this jersey style in 1978-79 when they merged with the Cleveland Barons. While the white home jerseys gain generous amounts of black striping in 1981-82, the black was unexplainably not added to the green jerseys until 1988-89.

Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 26 F
Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 26 B

Today's featured jersey is a 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars Bobby Smith jersey worn during the era when defenseman Greg Smith was also a member of the North Stars. But rather than go with the usual first initials "B. SMITH" and "G. SMITH" to identify the pair, the North Stars, for some unexplained reason, chose to put his full name "BOBBY SMITH" on Bobby's jersey, despite the full name treatment usually reserved for brothers whose names began with the same letter, such as Rich and Ron SutterDave and Don Maloney, Jim and Joe Watson or Mark and Marty Howe. We assume Greg Smith received the same full name treatment,.

After the departure of Greg Smith following the 1980-81 season, Bobby Smith had just the standard surname only on his jersey, but after his return to the North Stars following his time in Montreal, the arrival of former Philadelphia Flyer Derrick Smith in 1991-92 saw Bobby's jerseys identified as "B SMITH" this time around.

Bobby Smith led the North Stars in scoring in 1980-81 with 29 goals and 64 assists for 93 points and was second to Payne in playoff scoring with 8 goals and 25 points in 19 games.

Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 F
Minnesota North Stars 1980-81 B

While we were unable to find footage of the North Stars and Bruins playoff series, particularly Game 3 that set the record for the most shorthanded goals in a playoff game, here are highlights of the record setting February 26th game when the North Stars made their stand against the Big, Bad Bruins.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Joe Louis Arena - "The Joe"

Yesterday, the Detroit Red Wings played their final game at Joe Louis Arena, a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Joe Louis Arena
Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena opened on December 12, 1979 and was named after the Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, who grew up in Detroit. "The Joe" is the second oldest arena in the NHL and was built to replace the Red Wings long time home, the Detroit Olympia, which dated back to 1927. The Red Wings played their first game at The Joe on December 27, 1979, hosting the St. Louis Blues.

Joe Louis Arena interior

Later that same season, the NHL All-Star Game was held there on February 5, 1980 before a record crowd of 21,002, a game made memorable for the standing ovation given to Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, then with the Hartford Whalers, before his 23rd and final All-Star Game.

After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1966, Detroit entered an extended down period, which earned them the derisive nickname, the Dead Wings. Through the 1982-83 season, a span of 17 years, the club only made the playoffs twice. That era came to an end with the 1983-84 season Detroit made the playoffs in two consecutive seasons for the first time since the mid 1960s. While they did miss the postseason in 1986 and 1990, the Red Wings began a run of success while playing at the Joe Louis Arena, making the playoffs for a record 25 consecutive years. While it did begin at the Olympia back in 1952, the tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice in celebration of the Red Wings playoff success has been an integral part of the Joe Louis playoff experience.

Red Wings fans hurling an octopus on the ice

Steve Yzerman would set the Red Wings single season scoring record while playing at Joe Louis Arena with a 65 goal, 155 point season in 1988-89.

Steve Yzerman Red Wings
Steve Yzerman set the Red Wings all-time single season scoring record

The Stanley Cup Finals were played at the Joe Louis Arena six times, with Detroit winning championships in 1997, ending a 42 year drought, and again in 1998, 2002 and 2008, with the clinching games happening on the ice at The Joe in 1997 and 2002. In 1987, it hosted the NHL Entry Draft, the first to ever be held in the United States.

Joe Louis Arena Banners 2
Some of the many Red Wings banners hanging at The Joe

In addition to the Stanley Cup victories, one of the most memorable games at Joe Louis Arena was "Fight Night at The Joe" when the Red Wings battled the Colorado Avalanche at the peak of their 1990s rivalry in retribution for Claude Lemieux's check from behind that severely injured the Detroit's Kris Draper. In addition to Darren McCarty's attack on Lemieux, goaltenders Mike Vernon and Patrick Roy famously fought at center ice during the melee.

McCarty Lemieux
McCarty attacking Claude Lemieux in 1997

Fight Night at the Joe
Moments later Patrick Roy was throwing haymakers with Mike Vernon

In November of 2006, the arena's West Entrance was renamed the Gordie Howe Entrance and a statue of Howe was put on display inside the arena.

Joe Louis Arena Gordie Howe Entrance

Howe Statue

In addition to the NHL's Red Wings calling The Joe home, the arena was an important part of the college hockey scene. The NCAA Frozen Four was held at Joe Louis Arena on three occasions, in 1985, 1987 and 1990. In 1982, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association moved their tournament finals moved there through 2013. With the end of the CCHA, the Big Ten Conference Tournament was then held there in both 2015 and 2017.

Additionally, the annual Great Lakes Invitational holiday tournament called The Joe home from 1979 to 2016, featuring Michigan Tech, the University of Michigan and Michigan State plus a fourth team, quite often another one from Michigan, such as Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, Ferris State or Lake Superior State.

GLI 2016
Western Michigan won the last Great Lakes Invitational
at the Joe Louis Arena in 2016

Other tenants of The Joe included the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors junior hockey team, then renamed the Detroit Junior Red Wings, who played in the Ontario Hockey League for four seasons, winning a championship in 1995.

The Detroit Drive of the Arena Football League played at Joe Louis Arena from 1998 to 1993, playing in the finals in all six of their seasons, which included winning four championships including winning two in Detroit.

Other notable events held at Joe Louis Arena were the Republican National Convention in 1980, the decisive game of the 2006 WNBA Finals, the 1994 U. S. Figure Skating Championships (memorable for the attack on Nancy Kerrigan by associates of rival Tonya Harding) and other sporting events such as the Detroit Turbos indoor lacrosse team from 1989 to 1994, the Detroit Rockers indoor soccer team from 1996 to 2000, professional wrestling matches, various basketball and concert events, particularly during its early years.

Today's first featured jersey is a 1996-97 Detroit Red Wing Steve Yzerman jersey as worn the first time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup at the Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit Red Wings 1996-97 B jersey
Detroit Red Wings 1996-97 F jersey

Today's second featured jersey is a 2001-02 Detroit Red Wing Darren McCarty jersey as worn the second time the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup at the Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit Red Wings 2001-02 F jersey
Detroit Red Wings 2001-02 B jersey
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1991-92 Detroit Red Wings Steve Yzerman jersey. To celebrate the NHL's 75th anniversary, the Original 6 clubs all wore throwback jerseys to mark the occasion, with the Red Wings wearing the jerseys worn by the 1927-28 Detroit Cougars, the year their original arena, the Detroit Olympia opened.

Detroit Red Wings 1991-92 TBTC F
Detroit Red Wings 1991-92 TBTC B

In today's video section, the conclusion of Game 7 of the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals played at the Olympia, the first cup finals to end in sudden death overtime.

In today's video section, the lengthy ovation Howe received at the 1980 NHL All-Star Game.

Here are highlights of the Red Wings winning their first Stanley Cup at Joe Louis Arena in 1997, their first in 42 years.

This next video is the end of the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals as Detroit wins their second championship on home ice.

Next, a brief look at the tradition of throwing an octopus on the ice in Detroit.

Next, a nostalgic look at the history of the building by Al Sobotka, the Building Operations Manager of the Joe Louis Arena, famous for being the one who picks up the octopi and twirls them around his head after they are thrown on the ice.

Here, broadcaster "Doc" Emrick reviews the history of Joe Louis Arena.

Finally, Reily Sheahan scores the final goal at The Joe.


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