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Saturday, June 3, 2017

1976-77 Los Angeles Kings Vic Venasky Jersey

Vic Venasky played college hockey for the University of Denver beginning in 1970-71, arriving in a flourish with 20 goals and 56 points in just 36 games to lead the Pioneers in scoring. While they lost in the national semifinals, Denver defeated Harvard 1-0 in the third place game that season. His prolific debut caught the attention of NHL scouts and Venasky was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round of the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft.

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Venasky doing a great hockey stop as a Pioneer

Venasky, born on this date in 1951, duplicated exactly his 20 goals and 56 points again in 1971-72 for Denver, only this time needing just 21 games to do so after being sidelined with torn knee ligaments.

After just two seasons of college hockey, Venasky made the jump directly to the NHL with the Kings for the 1972-73 season, totaling 15 goals and 34 points as a rookie.

Venasky Kings rookie photo VenaskyRookie.jpg
Venasky was named the Kings Rookie of the Year

For the 1973-74 season, Venasky split time between the Los Angeles Kings, scoring 11 points in 32 games, the Springfield Kings of the American Hockey League, putting up 23 points in 21 games, as well as playing in 10 games with the Portland Buckaroos of the Western Hockey League, scoring 12 points. He also added 7 goals in 10 playoff games with the Buckaroos.

Despite being limited to just 37 games in the 1974-75 season, Venasky again saw ice time with three different clubs, those being the Fort Worth Texans of the Central Hockey League for 14 games, 6 with the Springfield Kings and 17 with Los Angeles of the NHL.

Venasky was back full time with Los Angeles for the 1975-76 season, playing in all 80 games, where he set a personal NHL best with 18 goals and 44 points. He also made his NHL playoff debut with 9 games that season.

1974-75 Los Angeles Kings photo 1975-76LAKingsteam.jpg
The 1975-76 Los Angeles Kings

He again played in all 80 of the Kings games in 1976-77, coming close to matching his previous season when he scored 14 goals and 40 points. He also scored his only NHL playoff goal that season with another 9 games in the postseason.

Venasky Kings photo VenaskyKings.jpg
Venasky played seven seasons with the Kings

Venasky, a center, saw a drop off in his scoring for the final two seasons of his time with the Kings. Despite playing in 71 games in 1977-78, he managed just 3 goals and 13 points. It was more of the same in 1978-79, as Venasky scored 4 goals and 17 points in 73 games to close out his NHL career with 61 goals and 101 assists for 162 points.

The 1979-80 season saw Venasky back in the AHL, this time with the Binghamton Dusters, where he went out in style by bookending his debut 56 point season in Denver by matching that exactly with another 56 point season, while setting a career high in goals with 25 in his final season as a professional player.

Today's featured jersey is a 1976-77 Los Angeles Kings Vic Venasky jersey. When the Kings jerseys were first introduced in the 1967-68 expansion year, the purple and gold colors were a shocking addition to the NHL's color palette of the day, as only the gold Bruins jerseys departed from the red, white blue and black colors used by the other five Original Six clubs.

Additionally, the Kings gold jerseys were a unique departure, as all the other 11 teams in 1967-68 wore white jerseys at home.

In 1969 the Kings added white trim to their previously one color numbers. The following season names appeared on their gold jerseys and were occasionally used on the purple ones for games on television before becoming a permanent fixture in 1977.

This basic jersey style would remain in use from the Kings debut in 1967 through the end of the 1979-80 season.

Los Angeles Kings 1976-77 jersey photo LosAngelesKings1976-77jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section is a career retrospective of Venasky on the occasion of his being inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

Friday, June 2, 2017

1939-40 New York Rangers Ott Heller Jersey

After playing two seasons with the Springfield Indians in the Canadian-American Hockey League, Ott Heller, born on this date in 1910, became a member of the New York Rangers in the 1931-32 season, when he split his time between the Rangers and Indians, playing 21 games with each club.

Heller, a defenseman, played full time for the Rangers in 1932-33, a season which concluded with New York winning its second Stanley Cup as Heller contributed 3 goals in 8 games after scoring 5 in 40 regular season games.

Heller Rangers, Heller Rangers

His career would come to be known for his skating ability, strong defensive play and his durability, as he would play nine seasons of 40 games or more from 1932-33 through 1940-41, with a high in points of 23, all assists, in 1938-39.

The following season would see the Rangers capture the Stanley Cup once again, as Heller's longevity would make him the only member of both the 1933 and 1940 championships teams.

1939-40 New York Rangers team, 1939-40 New York Rangers team
The 1939-40 Stanley Cup champion New York Rangers

In 1942-43, he was named captain of the Rangers, just the third one in team history. The next season Heller would set an NHL career best in points with 35, 12 more than in 1938-39, his only other season with 20 points.

During his 15th season with the Rangers, rarely ever missing a game, Heller was sent down to the St. Paul Saints of the USHL as New York was on it's way to it's fourth consecutive last place finish, necessitating a youth movement.

Despite no longer being in the NHL, Heller's career was by no means finished, as he would continue playing ten more seasons, starting in the American Hockey League in 1946-47 with the New Haven Ramblers, where he scored a career high 36 points.

After a second season with the Ramblers, he found a home with the Indianapolis Capitols for four seasons as a player/coach.

Heller Capitols, Heller Capitols

Heller would guide the Capitols to win the Calder Cup in 1950 before returning to New Haven, only thing time with the New Haven Nutmegs of the Eastern Amateur Hockey League in the final season of the team and league.

1949-50 Indianapolis Capitols team, 1949-50 Indianapolis Capitols team
The Calder Cup winning 1949-50 Indianapolis Capitols

He played senior hockey with his hometown Kitchener Dutchmen in 1952-53 and lend his services to the Cleveland Barons for the AHL playoffs. Still not ready to hang up his skates, he played for the Marion Barons of the International Hockey League in 1953-54.

His carer would finally wind down with 18 games with the Valleyfield Braves and 6 games back with the Cleveland Barons in 1954-55 and 7 games of senior hockey with the Chatham Maroons in the Ontario Hockey Association in 1955-56 at 45 years of age.

Today's featured jersey is a 1939-40 New York Rangers Ott Heller jersey. The Rangers would introduce their diagonally lettered sweaters right off the bat in 1926-27 for their first season, changing the lettering from white to red in 1927 and adding the white outlines in 1928. The sweaters would then remain unchanged through the 1940-41 season, after which today's familiar serifed font would be introduced.

New York Rangers 39-40 jersey, New York Rangers 39-40 jersey

Thursday, June 1, 2017

1986 Soviet Union National Team Vladimir Krutov Jersey

Born on this date in 1960, Vladimir Krutov was a member of the famed KLM line, along with Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov, which dominated Soviet and international hockey the 1980's.

"Volodya was such a dependable and steadfast man that I would have gone anywhere with him - to war, to espionage, into peril. There are fewer and fewer guys like him in every generation of hockey players," former Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak told the Sport-Express newspaper at the time of the passing of Krutov in 2012.

Krutov, a left winger, was a member of the famed KLM line along with Larionov and Makarov which dominated Soviet and international hockey the 1980's.

KLM Line
The KLM Line

Krutov played for CSKA Moscow (better known in North America as Central Red Army) beginning with one game in 1977-78 and a half season of 24 games the following year,including scoring his first goal, before becoming a full time member of the Red Army squad in 1979. That season, in 40 games, he would average more than a point per game with 30 goals and 12 assists for 42 points.

1981-82 would see Krutov set a personal high with 37 goals and 66 points in 46 games and was Red Army's leading scorer with 53 points in 1982-83. CSKA would win the Soviet League championship in each and every of Krutov's 12 season's with the club. Additionally, he led the league in goals in 1984 (37 goals), 1986 (31) and 1987 (26) and was named to the USSR All-Star Team every year from 1982 to 1988 and was the Soviet Player of the Year in 1987. His final career totals with CSKA were 438 games played with 288 goals and 215 assist for 503 points, which still ranks him 5th in team scoring, 7th in goals and 4th in assists over 20 years later.

In addition to his 12 Soviet League championships, Krutov and CSKA would win the Soviet Cup twice, in 1979 and 1988, and the European Cup in each of his 12 seasons.

While with CSKA, Krutov also toured North America as part of the Super Series, a series of exhibition games between Red Army and other Soviet club teams taking on various NHL teams. He participated in the Super Series three times, in 1982-83, 1985-86 and one last time in 1988-89, playing a total of 17 games, scoring 10 goals and 21 points.

His Soviet League success was duplicated in international play as well, beginning with a silver medal in his international debut at the 1978 European Junior Championships and a pair of gold medals in the World Junior Tournament in 1979 and 1980 while leading the World Juniors in scoring both years with 14 points in 6 games in 1979 and 11 points in 5 games in 1980 while being name Best Forward both times as well.

Krutov's senior international career began with a silver medal at the 1980 Olympic Games (he scored the first goal of the "Miracle on Ice" game and later added an assist to give the Soviets a 3-2 lead) prior to a run of five consecutive gold medals at the 1981 World Championships, the 1981 Canada Cup, the 1982 and 1983 World Championships and the 1984 Olympics.

Soviet Union 1984 Olympics
1984 Olympic Champions

A third place finish in the 1984 Canada Cup and a bronze medal in the 1985 World Championships followed. The Soviet Union would rebound with another gold medal at the 1986 World Championships, where Krutov was named Best Forward.

Soviet Union 1988 Olympics
1986 World Champions

In 1987, Krutov scored two goals in the 5-3 Soviet win in game two of Rendez-vous '87 against the NHL All-Stars before earning a silver medal at the 1987 Worlds, were Krutov led the tournament in goals and points and was named Best Forward for the second consecutive year. Later that year, he participated in the 1987 Canada Cup where he was named to the All-Star Team as the Soviets finished second.

Krutov Canada Cup, Krutov Canada Cup
Krutov playing in the 1987 Canada Cup tournament

The 1988 Olympics concluded with another gold medal after finishing the tournament at the leading scorer and Krutov finished his international career in style with his fifth World Championship gold in 1989.

Krutov 1988 Olympics, Krutov 1988 Olympics
Krutov on his way to leading the 1988 Olympics in scoring

Krutov's final medal count shows nine gold medals, three silver and two bronze, which included at least one gold at each of the World Juniors (2), World Championships (5) and the Olympics (2) as well as winning a Canada Cup.

Kutov was one of the first wave of Soviet players allowed to join the NHL, playing for the Vancouver Canucks, who had drafted him in 1986 in hopes that he would some day be allowed to leave the Soviet Union.

He played just one NHL season, 1989-90, scoring 11 goals and 34 points in 61 games while faced with the challenges of being a veteran trying to adjust to the change to a new language and culture while being viewed by some as taking a job away from a Canadian, plus the sudden riches combined with the freedom he was afforded in North America after an entire career in which he was required to train 10 months out of the year. It was unfortunate that Krutov's attempt to play in the NHL was viewed as unsuccessful since it tainted many North American opinions of Krutov based on just a single season late in his otherwise stellar career in the Soviet Union.

Krutov Canucks, Krutov Canucks
"The Tank" unleashes a shot while with Vancouver

He played very little hockey in 1990-91, just one regular season game and three playoff games with the ZSC Lions in Switzerland. After another season with ZSC where he scored 32 points in 28 games, he moved to Östersund IK in the third division of Swedish hockey, helping them earn promotion to the second division on his first try, scoring a dominant 25 goals and 49 points in just 19 games. He would play two more seasons for Östersund and wrapped up his career with Brunflo IK before retiring.

Krutov was named to the Soviet Hockey Hall of Fame in 1981 and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 2010.

Today's featured jersey is a 1986 Soviet Union National Team Vladimir Krutov jersey as worn during the 1986 World Championships. The Soviets arrived at the tournament with a striking new design unlike anything in the history of their national team, dating back now 35 years.

Attention getting enough was the prominent red stripe running down each arm, which served as a background to highlight the Adidas stripes to an even greater degree than the previous 1985 style, but what really made this a stunning departure from any prior Soviet jersey were the bold, asymmetrical red triangles which simply screamed "LOOK AT ME!" in a way no Soviet jersey had ever dared before.

The "double triangle" look was completed with CCCP in a bold, modern font, tightly spaced in a way that made it appear quite aggressive. A true high point in the history of international jerseys, and brought to you by a no more unexpected and shocking source than the normally staid Soviet Union,

Soviet Union 1986 jersey photo SovietUnion1986jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1987 Soviet Union National Team Vladimir Krutov jersey as worn by Krutov during Rendez-vous '87, a two-game series held in Quebec City on February 11 and 13, 1987 which replaced that season's NHL All-Star Game and featured a team of NHL All-Stars against the Soviet National Team.

Game 1 went to the NHL All-Stars 4-3 and the Soviets came back to win Game 2 by a score of 5-3 in which Krutov scored a pair of goals, including the game winner at 9:19 of the third period.

Krutov Rendez-vous '87

This jersey is much more typical of the Soviet style, with a minimum of adornments and simple one color names and numbers, made to look even more spartan when compared to the flashy NHL All-Star jerseys it competed against.

Vladimir Krutov 1987 Soviet National Team jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with Krutov scoring against the Montreal Canadiens on December 31, 1982 in an exhibition game.

Here Krutov scores for the Soviets in Rendez-vous '87 to put the Soviets ahead 2-0 followed by his game winning goal to make it 4-2 on the Soviets way to a 5-3 win.

In some truly rare footage, Krutov scores on a penalty shot for the ZSC Lions in Switzerland. Notice how the ZSC logo is a variation on the logo used by USA hockey.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

1980 United States National Team Jim Craig Jersey

Born on this date in 1957, Jim Craig played college hockey at Boston University for three seasons which included winning a National Championship in 1978 and being named an NCAA All-Star in 1979.

Jim Craig Boston University

Following his college career, Craig gained valuable international experience as goaltender for the United States in the 1979 World Championships, posting a 2-1-2 record.

Craig gained his greatest fame as the starting goaltender for the United States at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

Jim Craig

The young Americans opened their tournament with a come from behind tie against Sweden followed by a confidence building 7-3 hammering of traditional international hockey power Czechoslovakia.

They took care of business with wins against Norway 5-1, Romania 7-2 and West Germany 4-2 to finish the First Round undefeated at 4-0-1, earning a place in the four team Final Round.

"My goal in every game was to keep my team in a position to win," Craig recalled.

It was there that Craig cemented his legacy in hockey history, holding off the heavily favored Soviet Union, winners of five of the last six Olympic gold medals, in what would become known as "The Miracle on Ice". In all, Craig made 36 saves as the US was outshot 39 to 16 and won 4-3.

1980 Miracle on Ice

Despite the euphoria of that victory, the United States still had to come from behind to defeat Finland two days later 4-2 to clinch the gold medal.

Jim Craig

"We were just a bunch of talented, dedicated, wonderful guys who believed in one goal, and stuck all of their own personal ambition away to achieve it. If that's a miracle, I believe in that," said Craig.

Craig had little time to savor the victory, as less than a week later he made his NHL debut for the Atlanta Flames and stopped 24 shots in a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Jim Craig

He would see action in just three more games, going 0-2-1 before being traded to his hometown Boston Bruins for a pair of draft picks at the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

He would struggle for playing time in Boston, but see action in 23 games and finishing the season with a 9-7-6 record.

Jim Craig

The 1981-82 season was a litany of medical problems for Craig, including a broken finger which caused him to miss the 1981 Canada Cup, surgery to remove a benign lump in his shoulder, a fall off a ladder which broke his ankle and finally back spasms which ended his season after only 13 games for the Bruins minor league affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania.

He spent the next season of 1982-83 with the United States National Team, and in 26 games, he played well enough to earn another shot at professional hockey, thanks in part due to being named the Best Goaltender at the 1983 IIHF Pool B  World Championships as the Americans went 6-0-1 to win gold medals and gain an immediate promotion back to the top level of Group A for 1984 following their dismal 1982 tournament, which saw them relegated down to the B Pool for 1983.

That final shot at pro hockey for Craig came in 1983-84 with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the CHL and three games with their parent club the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL before he retired as an active player following the season.

Jim Craig

Craig was inducted into the Boston University Hall of Fame in 1989 and the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999.

Today's featured jersey is a 1980 United States National Team Jim Craig jersey. This jersey is a true icon of hockey and is notable for its contrasting blue nameplates with white lettering.

While many manufacturers have produced replicas of the jerseys worn in Lake Placid by the United States "Miracle on Ice" squad, the original jersey manufacturers were Norcon of Forest Lake, Minnesota.

1980 United States jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1982-83 United States National Team Jim Craig jersey as worn by Craig as he successfully attempted to keep his career moving forward and return to the NHL by leading the United States to a dominating run through the 1983 IIHF B Pool World Championships.

This seldom seen USA style was made by Cooper and came in between the famous 1980 Olympics and the 1984 Games, where they wore Reebok branded jerseys produced by Tackla. The highest profile outing for this style jersey would have been the 1981 Canada Cup tournament.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section highlights Jim Craig's performance in the 1980 Olympics.

This look at Craig's career includes footage from his NHL debut with the Flames vs. the Rockies.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

2000-01 Pittsburgh Penguins Jiří Šlégr Jersey

Defenseman Jiří Šlégr, born on this date in 1971 began his career with CHZ Litvinov in 1987-88 and eventually played five seasons with the club before coming to North America to play in 1991-92 in the wake of the fall of Communism across Europe, which gave players the freedom to leave for the first time.

Prior to coming to the NHL, Šlégr had played for Czechoslovakia on five occasions, including the European Junior Championships in 1989, winning bronze medals at the World Junior Championships in both 1990 and 1991, which would prove to be a busy year for the young Šlégr, as he would also play in the 1991 World Championships as well as the 1991 Canada Cup. During his final Czechoslovak domestic season, Šlégr would also make his Olympic debut in his final appearance for Czechoslovakia in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France where he earned a bronze medal.

Slegr Czechoslovakia, Slegr Czechoslovakia

Šlégr joined the Vancouver Canucks organization, who had selected him with the second pick of the second round of the 1990 NHL Draft. His first season saw him divide his time between the Hamilton Canucks of the AHL (21 games) and make his NHL debut with Vancouver, playing in 41 games, scoring an impressive 26 points in exactly half a season of play while posting a +16 rating. He would also get his first taste of the NHL playoffs, seeing action in 5 games.

Given more important minutes based on his successful rookie season, Šlégr set a career high with 38 points from 5 goals and 33 assists in 78 games.

Slegr Canucks, Slegr Canucks

He would spend the early part of the 1994-95 season back with Litvinov, in what was by now the Czech Republic, due to the labor stoppage delaying the start of the NHL season until January. Once the NHL resumed, play, Šlégr would play 19 games with the Canucks before being traded in early April to the Edmonton Oilers.

He was limited to 57 games with the Oilers in 1995-96 and went on to make his debut for the Czech Republic at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey prior to the start of the 1996-97 season, which Šlégr spent back in Europe, appearing in one game with Litvinov, but primarily with Sodertalje SK in Sweden. He also played for the Czech Republic at the 1997 World Championships in the spring, earning another bronze medal.

In August of that year, Šlégr was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom he spent the next four seasons, including setting an NHL career best 11 goals in 1999-00.

Slegr Penguins, Slegr Penguins

During his first season with the Penguins, the NHL would take a break from it's schedule to allow players to compete in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, which Šlégr and his Czech teammates would take full advantage of, winning the gold medal in unexpected fashion. He was back on the international scene once again, earning another bronze at the 1998 World Championships.

Half way through the 2000-01 season, Šlégr was sent by the Penguins to the Atlanta Thrashers, where he would play 33 games to end the season.

Slegr Thrashers, Slegr Thrashers

He was with the Thrasher for 38 more games in the first half of the 2001-02 season before another trade, which sent him to the Detroit Red Wings. While he would only play 8 regular season games and 1 playoff game with Detroit, the Red Wings would go on to capture the Stanley Cup at the conclusion of the playoffs.

Slegr Stanley Cup, Slegr Stanley Cup

2002-03 was a lost season for Šlégr, as he would only play 10 games for Litvinov in the Czech Republic and 6 regular season and 9 playoff games for Avangard Omsk in the Russian Super League.

He returned to the NHL by signing a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks for 2003-04, but would end up spending the majority of his season with the Boston Bruins following a trade in January.

Following the season, Šlégr would return to the World Championships for the first time in six years. His second World Cup of Hockey came in September of that year. With the NHL season cancelled due to a lockout, Šlégr once again returned to where it began, suiting up for a full season with HC Litvinov, with whom he had his best offensive season in five years with 29 points.

With the Czech domestic season now over, Šlégr joined the national team for his fourth World Championshps for the Czech Republic, which they won with an 8-1 overall record, which included shutting out Canada 3-0 in the final, earning Šlégr a World Championship gold to go with his Olympic gold in 1998 and his Stanley Cup in 2002, making him a member of the prestigious Triple Gold Club, one of only 16 men at the time to have done so, and to date one of only two Czechs to have earned the honor, along with Jaromir Jagr.

Slegr World Champion, Slegr World Champion
Šlégr with the World Championship trophy,
which completed his membership in the Triple Gold Club

When the NHL resumed play in 2005-06, Šlégr was back with the Bruins, for whom he played 32 games.

Slegr Bruins, Slegr Bruins

Following that season, he returned to Litvinov for the sixth time! He would play four seasons there, retiring from hockey in 2010 before beginning his second career in politics, having been elected to Chamber of Deputies.

Slegr Litvinov, Slegr Litvinov
Šlégr with HC Litvinov

Šlégr's final NHL career totals are 622 games, 56 goals and 193 assists for 249 points.

Today's featured jersey is a 2000-01 Pittsburgh Penguins Jiří Šlégr jersey as worn during one of the Penguins opening pair of games in Japan against the Nashville Predators to open the NHL season. This was the third and final time the NHL season would get under way in Tokyo.

This style Penguins jersey was introduced in 1992-93 following their second Stanley Cup championship. The modernized Penguins logo was dubbed the "robo-Penguin" and remained in use through the 2001-02 season before a full-time return of the original skating penguin logo.

Pittsburgh Penguins 00-01 jersey, Pittsburgh Penguins 00-01 jersey
Pittsburgh Penguins 00-01 jersey, Pittsburgh Penguins 00-01 jersey
Pittsburgh Penguins 00-01 jersey, Pittsburgh Penguins 00-01 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 Czech Republic Jiří Šlégr jersey as worn the first time Šlégr played for the Czech Republic following the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

This jersey was made by Bauer, and as such, the Czechs wore the larger 4" World Cup patch on the shoulder. Sweden and Canada also wore Bauer jerseys paired with the larger version of the patch, unlike the Nike teams, which wore the smaller 3" version of the tournament patch.

Czech Republic 1996 jersey, Czech Republic 1996 jersey
Czech Republic 1996 jersey, Czech Republic 1996 jersey
Czech Republic 1996 jersey, Czech Republic 1996 jersey

In today's video segment, Šlégr scores against Canada in the 1998 Olympics, much to the delight of the announcer.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The 2017 Memorial Cup Final

Tonight at 7 Eastern time is the final game of the 2017 Memorial Cup, awarded to the champion of the Canadian Hockey League, the organization that encompasses the three Canadian major junior hockey leagues, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, for players between 16 and 20 years old.

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The format of the Memorial Cup is unique in that the playoff champions of the WHL, OHL and  QMJHL all compete, with the addition of the host team, in a round robin schedule of games against all three of the other clubs. Once each team has played three games, the fourth place team is eliminated from further competition. The second and third place teams then meet in a single Semifinal game with the winner advancing to face the top team from the round robin standings in a one game final two days later.

Sixty teams are eligible to compete for the Memorial Cup, which represent nine Canadian provinces and four American states. The trophy dates back to an idea in 1918 by Captain James T. Sutherland, president of the Ontario Hockey Association, wanted to create a trophy as a memorial to OHA players who died during World War I.

Memorial Cup photo MemorialCup.jpg
The Memorial Cup

The original format was an East vs. West showdown with a two game, total goals format from 1919 to 1928. Starting in 1929, it was changed to a best-of-three final. In 1937, the final was expanded to a best-of-five and a best-of-seven in 1943, which remained in effect through 1971.

With the creation of the Major Junior tier in 1970, which was divided into three leagues, the new format for 1972 called for a double round robin between the three league champions. After each team had played four games, there would now be a single championship game between the top two teams of the round robin phase.

After 11 tournaments of this format through 1982, a fourth team was added as a predetermined neutral site host, the first of which was the Portland Winterhawks, which led to the first time Memorial Cup games were held outside of Canada. The Winterhawks would go on to win the 1983 tournament, making them the first American team to win the Memorial Cup.

Should the host team, which rotates evenly between the three leagues, become the champion of its league, the responsibility of hosting the Memorial Cup then transfers to that league's runner up, ensuring a quality addition to the field.

Since the current format began in 1983, the WHL has produced 16 champions, with 11 for the OHL and 7 for the QMJHL. 6 times the original host team has won their league championship, necessitating a change in venue, and the host team has won the Memorial Cup 9 times.

With the difficulty in winning back to back titles, due to the sheer number of teams competing and the amount of roster turnover dictated by the age limit, since 1983 only the Medicine Hat Tigers in 1987 and 1988, the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and 1995, and the Windsor Spitfires in 2009 and 2010 have managed to repeat as champions.

Windsor Spitfires 2009 Memorial Cup
Windsor celebrates with the Memorial Cup in 2009

Among the current CHL teams, the Oshawa Generals of the OHL have the most championship titles as they stand alone with 5. The Regina Pats are next with 4 followed by fellow WHL members Kamloops with 3, earned in a span of four years. Eight other teams have won twice with 14 other clubs with one to their credit.

With the majority of NHL players coming out of Canada, combined with the NHL Draft on the horizon, the Memorial Cup is a great opportunity to see not only tomorrow's stars today, but a chance to scout the upcoming draft on your own.

This year's competition is being hosted by Windsor. They were joined by Pennsylvania's Erie Otters of the OHL, the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL and the WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds , meaning half the field was from the United States.

Play began on May 19 with the host Spitfires defeating Saint John 3-2. Erie then beat Seattle 4-2 on the second day. Windsor hammered Seattle 7-1 the next day before Erie dominated the Sea Dogs 12-5.

With both teams needing a win to avoid a last place finish and elimination, Saint John left no doubt as they blanked Seattle 7-0 on May 23rd.

Windsor and Erie, both 2-0, met in the final game to see who would avoid having to play in the Semifinal with the winner earning three days off and a spot in the championship game. Windsor led by 3 after two periods and went on to win the round robin with an eventual 4-2 victory.

The Semifinal between Erie and Saint John was a tale of two games, as the teams traded goals over the first two periods and entered the final 20 minutes tied at 2-2. Erie then earned a rematch with Windsor after scoring twice in the first four minutes of the third period with goals by Dylan Strome and German Poddubnyi. At 12:31 Taylor Raddysh got his second of the game to give the Otters a 5-2 lead. The Sea Dogs scored at 16:28 but it was not enough and Erie added an empty net goal to claim their place in tonight's championship game with a 6-3 win.

Taylor Raddysh currently leads all scorers with 5 goals and 11 points in 4 games, while Erie teammate Strome has the most goals with 6 and is second in points with 9. Alex DeBrincat also has 9 point from 2 goals and 7 assists as Otters hold down the top five places in scoring. Heading into tonight's game, Windor's Michael DiPietro is the lone undefeated goaltender at 3-0, while his opponent tonight, Erie's Tory Timpano is 3-1, but has a goals against average that is more than twice as much as DiPietro's 1.67.

 photo Darren Taylor Raddysh.jpg
Taylor Raddysh, #17, with his brother Darren

Of note, Erie won the OHL playoff by defeating the Sarnia Sting in 4, the London Knights in 7, the Owen Sound Attack in 6 and the Mississauga Steelheads in 5, while Windsor was eliminated in the first round in 7 games by London.

Tonight's final will be on Sportsnet and TVA in Canada and the NHL Network in the United States.

Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 Windsor Spitfires Adam Henrique jersey from the year they won their first Memorial Cup after 33 years of trying.

The Spitfires, founded in 1971 in Tier II and promoted to Tier I in 1975-76, played in their first Memorial Cup Final in 1988, but were defeated by the Medicine Hat Tigers.

In 2008-09, they finished with a 57-10-1 record while playing their final season undefeated at the Windsor Arena, which dated back to 1924. They moved to their new home, the WFCU Centre mid-season and hosted the All-Star Game. Later in the season, goaltender Andrew Engelage broke the OHL record for most wins with 46. Taylor Hall led the team in scoring with 38 goals and 90 points.

After surviving an OHL semifinal against London, in which every game went to overtime, the Spitfires defeated the Brampton Battalion in five games to return to the Memorial Cup.

They did not do themselves any favors when they lost their first game to the Drummondville Voltigeurs 3-2 in overtime and then dropped a 5-4 decision to Rimouski Oceanic. In an absolute must win situation, the Spitfires got up off the mat and defeated the Kelowna Rockets 2-1 to earn a place in the tie-breaker game between the two bottom placed clubs to see who would earn a place in the Semifinal game and who would be eliminated from further play.

They defeated Rimouski 6-4 thanks to a third period natural hat trick by Dale Mitchell. In the Semifinal, they led 2-0 over Drummondville, but required a goal by Adam Henrique in overtime to advance to the Final, where they met Kelowna. Windsor scored on their first three shots and went on to win 4-1, becoming the first team to ever lose their first two games and then win the Memorial Cup and the first team to ever win the tie-breaker game and then win the championship, meaning they had to play six games compared to their opponent's four.

Of note, the original Windsor Spitfires team was formed in 1946 and played in Windsor until 1953. Then then moved to Hamilton, Ontario for 24 seasons before spending six in Brantford prior to moving back to Hamilton for four more. They were on the move yet again when they relocated to Niagara Falls for 8 season before moving yet again in 1996 when they became the Erie Otters, the current Spitfires opponent tonight!

Henrique played four seasons for Windsor from 2006-07 to 2009-10, which included two Memorial Cup championships. He spent his first three professional seasons divided between the Albany Devils of the AHL and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL, who drafted Henrique back in 2008. His last four seasons have been exclusively in the NHL, with his best being 2015-16 when he had 30 goals and 50 points.

This jersey has a number of stories to tell, as it has a commemorative patch on the shoulder in recognition of their last days at the Windsor Arena, another patch promoting the 2009 World Junior Championship being held in Ottawa, Ontario and most importantly, the "C-18" patch in honor of their team captain Mickey Renaud, who died of an undetected heart condition, shocking the Spitfires to the point that team General Manager Warren Rychel called it "the biggest tragedy in Spitfire history". Renaud's #18 was retired by the franchise and a road leading to their new stadium was named in his honor.

 photo Windsor Spitfires 2008-09 F jersey.jpeg
 photo Windsor Spitfires 2008-09 B jersey.jpeg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2009-10 Windsor Spitfires Taylor Hall jersey from the second of their back-to-back Memorial Cup winning seasons.

After winning the Memorial Cup in 2009, the Spitfires introduced a new, modernized logo to go along with their new Reebok Edge jerseys.

Hall led the team in scoring again in 2009-10 with 40 goals and 106 points. After winning his second consecutive Memorial Cup, he was selected first overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, the second Spitfires player ever taken first overall.

 photo Windsor Spitfires 2009-10 F jersey.jpeg
 photo Windsor Spitfires 2009-10 B jersey.jpeg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1993-94 Windsor Spitfires Ed Jovanovski jersey. This jersey, from the year Jovanovski was drafted first overall by the Florida Panthers, features the logo used by the Spitfires from 1989 to 2009. Jovanovski was the first Windsor Spitfire ever taken first overall, and the only one until Hall in 2010.

Windsor Spitfires jersey
Windsor Spitfires jersey

Today's video section begins with the drafting of Ed Jovanovski first overall by the Florida Panthers in 1994, which includes footage of him wearing today's bonus Spitfires jersey.

Next, a video documenting the Spitfires remarkable comeback to win the 2009 Memorial Cup after losing their first two games.

Next, a tribute to Mickey Renaud, the late captain of the Spitfires.

Finally, in a moment that will live in infamy, the Spokane Chiefs had the Memorial Cup break in half during the celebration shortly after the trophy presentation in 2008, much to the embarrassment of the Chiefs and disapproval of those in attendance. You know they were either looking for a hole in the ice to crawl into or wishing they could hide in their playoff beards!


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