Wednesday, May 24, 2017

1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates Lionel Conacher Jersey

Pull up a chair and settle in, as today we have the story of a life less ordinary, for on this date in 1902, Lionel Conacher came into this world. Nicknamed "The Big Train", he quit school after the eighth grade to help support his nine younger siblings. While in school, he quickly discovered that he was among the better players in any of the many sports he tried. He eventually won 11 championships with the 14 different teams he played for as a teenager.

At the age of 16 he won an Ontario wrestling championship and at 20 won a Canadian amateur boxing championship. In one memorable day, he hit a triple to help his team win the Toronto city baseball championship before rushing across town to find his lacrosse team losing by a score of 3-0 in the Ontario provincial final. He donned his gear, joined the fray and proceeded to score four goals and an assist to lead his team to victory for his second championship in a matter of a few hours!

He was an accomplished football player, winning city and provincial championships as a teenager before moving up to the senior level, where he led the league in scoring in 1921 while leading his team to not only the league championship, but also the Grey Cup as Canadian champions.

The cost of hockey kept him from taking up the game until he was 16, but by 1920, he had added a Memorial Cup championship to his ever growing trophy case. NHL teams had begun to take notice of Conacher's prodigious abilities and the Toronto St. Patricks offered him $3,000 a season, while the Montreal Canadiens came in with an offer of $5,000, well above the current average of $1,000 a year. They were both rebuffed, as Conacher was not ready to give up his amateur status.

He accepted an offer to play for the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets of the United States Amateur Hockey Association, an arrangement which included a job and paid university tuition, first at Bellefonte Academy and then Duquesne University. Ever the prolific athlete, Conacher played football for both schools in the fall before serving as captain for the Yellow Jackets over the winter, winning championships in 1924 and 1925. His summers were spent back home in Toronto, where he continued to purse baseball and lacrosse.

Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets

For the 1925-26 season, the Yellow Jackets turned professional, changed their name to the Pittsburgh Pirates and gained entry into the National Hockey League. Conacher surprised many in Toronto when he elected to remain with the club, which would mean an end to his football playing days, his acknowledged favorite sport.

1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates, 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates
The 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates

Conacher would score the first goal in Pirates history on his way to a total of 9 in 33 games. He returned to Toronto in the summer to play baseball professionally for a team named the Toronto Maple Leafs, who would win the International League championship followed by the Little World Series, the championship of minor league baseball in North America.

He returned to the Pirates for the 1926-27 season, only to be traded after ten games to the New York Americans. His second season with the Americans saw him set a career high of 11 goals. He would play two further seasons with the Americans, but having a bootlegger for a team owner led to his heavy drinking, which would take it's toll on Conacher's performance and health.

Conacher Americans, Conacher Americans

Finally in the offseason of 1930, he would quit drinking when his first child was born and his rights would be sold to the Montreal Maroons.

After his first season of play for the Maroons, the owners of the Canadian NHL franchises launched a plan to fill their arenas during the summer months by developing the indoor version of lacrosse. Playiing for the Maroons entry in the International Professional Lacrosse League, Conacher led the league in scoring, nearly doubling the point total of the next highest scorer, including scoring ten goals in a single game.

Conacher Maroons, Conacher Maroons

His first season with Montreal would start with Conacher, a defenseman, scoring 7 points, but he more than doubled that to 16 in 1931-32.

Following the season, he declined to return to the lacrosse league, choosing instead to wrestle professionally in the off season, eventually finishing his career undefeated at 27-0.

When the hockey season resumed, he showed no ill effects of his seemingly constant participation in sports by setting career high with 28 points for the Maroons in 1932-33.

That fall he was part of an effort to organize a new, professional football league. While the league did not get off the ground, he was able to filed a team of other former amateur players who had given up football by turning professional in other sports. The team played a series of exhibition games over the course of the next two falls, but the now 34 year old was beginning to feel his age and the team did not return for a third season.

Conacher Football, Conacher Football

The Maroons would then trade Conacher to the Chicago Black Hawks for the 1933-34 season, where he scored 23 points and double digit goals for one of only two times in his career with 10. He added two more goals in the playoffs as Chicago won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history and Conacher was named a First Team All-Star for the season.

Conacher Blackhawks, Conacher Blackhawks

Just prior to the following season, Conacher was traded to the Montreal Canadiens with two other players for package that included the legendary Howie Morenz, goaltender Lorne Chabot and on other player. That was not the end of the wheeling and dealing, however, as the Canadiens then sent Conacher back to the Maroons in another trade.

The Maroons would go on to defeat the defending champion Black Hawks and then outlast the New York Rangers to earn a place in the finals, where they swept the Toronto Maple Leafs three games to none, giving Conacher back to back Stanley Cups, only with two different clubs.

1934-35 Montreal Maroons team, 1934-35 Montreal Maroons team

He would play to more seasons for the Maroons, during which his point total rose from 8 to 14 to 25, the second highest of his career, which came in his final season in the NHL.

Following his athletic career, Conacher went into politics, becoming a member of the Ontario provincial parliament from 1937 to 1943. From 1949 he won a seat in the Canadian House of Commons, serving until 1954 when he died of a heart attack after hitting a triple during the annual softball game between the Members of Parliament and the press.

Concacher's long and successful sporting career was recognized in many ways, as he was named Canada's Greatest Male Athlete of the Half-Century in 1950, having won the Little World Series, a Memorial Cup, a Grey Cup and two Stanley Cups!

Following his passing, he was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame (1955), the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (1963), the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1966) and the Hockey Hall of Fame (1994). Additionally, the annual award by the Canadian Press for Male Athlete of the Year is named the Lionel Conacher Award.

Conacher autograph, Conacher autograph

In addition to Lionel's exploits, his brothers Charlie Conacher and Roy Conacher also played in the NHL and were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, while his son Brian Conacher played in the 1964 Olympics for Canada and won a Stanley Cup in 1967 while with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Today's featured jersey is a 1925-26 Pittsburgh Pirates Lionel Conacher jersey from Conacher's first NHL season. The Pirates chose black and gold based on the colors of the City of Pittsburgh flag, and were the first team from the city to adopt those colors, as the Pirates baseball club was still wearing red, white and blue and would not change to black and gold until 1948 and the Pittsburgh entry of the National Football League would not arrive on the scene until 1933.

Pittsburgh Pirates 25-26 jersey, Pittsburgh Pirates 25-26 jersey
Pittsburgh Pirates 25-26 jersey, Pittsburgh Pirates 25-26 jersey
Our video section today is a brief overview of Conacher's achievements in sports and life.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

1991-92 Calgary Flames Gary Roberts Jersey

Gary Roberts, born on this date in 1966, began his road to the NHL with the Ottawa 67's of the OHL in 1982-83. After his second season, in which he scored 57 points in 48 games and impressed with his toughness, acquiring 144 penalty minutes, Roberts was drafted 12th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. Additionally, Ottawa won the OHL playoff championship and advanced to the Memorial Cup, which they were able to win following a 7-2 dismantling of the Kitchener Rangers in the final.

Now full of confidence after having been drafted as well as winning the championship the previous year, Roberts elevated his game to the next level in 1984-85 when he scored 44 goals and 106 points while amassing 186 penalty minutes in 59 games, establishing himself as an elite NHL prospect.

Roberts began the 1985-86 season with Ottawa bit was traded to the Guelph Platers for the second half of the season. Roberts was the missing piece for Guelph, as he racked up 31 points in 20 playoff games to lead the Paters to the second Memorial Cup title of his career.

Roberts turned professional the next season with the Moncton Golden Flames of the AHL. He was called up to the Calgary Flames, which included scoring a goal in his game. He bounced up and down between the AHL and NHL in 1986-87, eventually totaling 15 points in 32 games with Calgary.

During his second full season with the Flames in 1988-89, Roberts and the Flames went on a run through the playoffs which cumulated in their winning the only Stanley Cup championship in Flames history. In 22 games, Roberts contributed 12 points.

Roberts Stanley Cup

Roberts game took a big leap forward the following season, as he nearly doubled his previous season's offensive totals with 39 goals and 72 points, while his toughness was not affected, as he finished with over 200 penalty minutes for the third of five consecutive seasons.

In 1991-92 Roberts reached the pinnacle of his offensive production with the only 50 goal season of his career with 53 on his way to totaling a career best 90 points to lead the Flames in scoring, no easy feat on a roster with Al MacInnis, Theo Fleury, Sergei Makarov and Joe Nieuwendyk. Thanks to his 207 penalty minutes, Roberts became the first player in NHL history to ever score 50 goals and have over 200 penalty minutes in one season, essentially creating the concept of the modern "power forward" singlehandedly.

Roberts Flames

In the 1993-94 season Roberts nearly equalled his career high when he hit 84 points in 73 games. During the season he blocked a slapshot while killing a penalty, which broke his thumb in seven places, but in a testament to his ongoing toughness, he missed just one game and scored two goals in his return.

Injuries did get the better of Roberts when he suffered severe nerve damage in his neck, which limited him to just 8 games of the 1994-95 season. His recovery time continued into the 1995-96 season as he require multiple surgeries to address his condition. Finally, he returned in January of 1996 and scored a goal in his first game back. He would play in the Flames next 35 games, changing from center to wing to avoid additional contact for his fragile neck, and score 22 goals and 42 points before once again injuring his neck and missing the remainder of the season as well as the 1996 playoffs.

With the risk of paralysis from any further injury a very real possiblity, Roberts announced his retirement from the NHL in June of 1996, just two days before receiving the Masterton Trophy for his comeback to hockey after nearly a year away earlier in the season.

Roberts Masterton

Roberts never actually signed his retirement papers however, and continued to work out and rehabilitate his neck while missing the 1996-97 season. He announced himself fit and pain free in January of 1997 and was offered a contract by the Flames for the 1997-98 season. Roberts let the Flames know that while he was interested in returning to the NHL, it would be only if he were traded to an Eastern Conference club.

A deal was struck with the Carolina Hurricanes in August and Roberts was able to successfully pass his physical and return to action for the 1997-98 season. He would play three seasons with the Hurricanes, playing 61, 77 and 69 games. He would not return to his previous offensive totals, as his game, as well as the overall style of play in the NHL had changed from the wide open style of his 90 point season eight seasons earlier, but he was still and effective two-way player who consistently scored between 42 and 53 points during the second phase of his career.

Roberts Hurricanes

Following his three seasons with the Hurricanes, Roberts signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where his 53 points in 2000-01 were good for second on the club behind perennial leader Mats Sundin while leading the team in hits with 206.

Roberts Maple Leafs

During the 2001-02 playoffs, Roberts led the Maple Leafs with 19 points in 19 games as Toronto made it to the conference finals.

He missed the first four months of the 2002-03 season following shoulder surgeries during the offseason. After playing for a month, he missed another month with a groin injury before returning for the playoffs.

He bounced back with 72 games in 2003-04, which included the 1,000th game of his career on January 13, 2004. That season he was also reunited with former Flames teammate Nieuwendyk.

Roberts Maple Leafs

After sitting out the 2004-05 season due to the NHL lockout rather than playing in Europe like many other NHLers, Roberts, along with Nieuwendyk, signed with the Florida Panthers for the resumption of play for the 2005-06 campaign. His season was limited to 58 games, during which he scored 40 points or more for the 13th time in his career.

Roberts Panthers

During his second season in Florida, Roberts, now 40, was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the remainder of the 2006-07 season.

Roberts Penguins

He returned to Pittsburgh for 2007-08, but suffered a broken leg in December. Known league-wide for his toughness and conditioning, Roberts was said to be listed as "questionable" for the next Penguins game by some fans in jest after hearing the news, along the lines of other such Gary Roberts Facts as;
  • Gary Roberts sleeps with a pillow under his hockey stick
  • Gary Roberts goes grocery shopping at Lowe's
  • That's not a chin under Gary Roberts playoff beard, it's another fist
Roberts season was not finished however, and he returned in time to join the Penguins run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Following the season, Roberts was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning where he played in 30 games before retiring for good in March of 2009 after 21 seasons, 438 goals, 910 points, 2,560 penalty minutes and one Stanley Cup and a well earned reputation for toughness, perseverance, fitness and longevity.

Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Calgary Flames Gary Roberts jersey worn during the season in which Roberts had his only 50 goal season while setting a career record with 90 points.

The Flames wore this jersey from their first season in Calgary through the 1993-94 season, which included the first nine of Robert's ten seasons with the Flames before changing to a new, more modern style for his final season in Calgary prior to his first retirement following the season due to a serious neck condition.

Calgary Flames 91-92 jersey
Calgary Flames 91-92 jersey

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1999-00 Carolina Hurricanes Gary Roberts jersey as worn during his return to the NHL following his first retirement after returning to action after needing 11 months to recover from serious nerve damage to his neck.

This is a rare "triple patch" jersey, which features both the NHL 2000 patch, worn by all teams in honor of the new millennium, as well as the Raleigh Arena Inaugural Season patch on the front of the jersey. When the Whalers moved out of Hartford, the franchise's new arena would take two years to construct, forcing the team to play their first two seasons as the Hurricanes in Greensboro, an hour and a half from their eventual home in Raleigh.

Completed for the 1999-00 season, the club would now move into their new, permanent home and celebrated the move with a celebratory patch.

Also appearing on this jersey, but obscured from view on the left arm in between the sleeve number and secondary shoulder logo, is the Steve Chaisson Memorial patch, worn in memory of former Hurricane Chaisson who died in an automobile accident just after the conclusion of the previous season.

The Hurricanes have worn this jersey since relocating from Hartford in 1997, even maintaining the essentially the same jersey during the switch to the Reebok Edge jerseys in 2007-08.

Carolina Hurricanes 99-00 jersey

In today's video section, the 41-year-old Roberts teaches 23 -year-old Ben Eager a lesson about respect.


In this highlight, Roberts scores in triple overtime to win a playoff game for the Maple Leaf in 2002.


Finally, Roberts wreaking havoc for Pittsburgh during the 2007-08 season. And don't you forget it.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The 2017 IIHF Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Yesterday was the 2017 IIHF Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which saw six outstanding players inducted.

 photo 2017 IIHF HOF Class.png
The IIHF Hall of Fame Class of 2017

First, was Saku Koivu, who began his international career for Finland at the 1992 European U18 Junior Championships. In 1993 he played in both the World Junior Championships as well as making his senior level World Championships debut. 1994 saw Koivu again play in the World Juniors before earning his first international medal with a bronze medal at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway at the age of 19. Later that spring, he won another medal, this time a silver at the World Championships.

 photo koivu Finland.jpg
Saku Koivu won an Olympic bronze medal in 2010

He was named as one of Finland's assistant captains for the 1995 World Championships, where he finished second in scoring with 5 goals and 10 points in 8 games as Finland won their first ever gold medal at the World Championship.

In 1996, Koivu played in the first World Cup of Hockey before he captained Finland to a bronze medal at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan where tied for the team lead in points with 10 in six games. He earned another silver medal at the 1999 World Championships, again as Finland's team captain.

His next international competition would come at the 2003 World Championships after missing the 2002 Olympics while overcoming cancer. This was followed by a second place finish at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, both again as team captain.

Koivu played in his third Olympics in 2006 in Torino, Italy, where he again tied for the team scoring lead with 11 points in 8 games while once again captain of Finland.

His final World Championships in 2008 saw him add another bronze to his collection before his final international appearance for Finland, this coming at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, where he captained Finland to a bronze medal.

In all, Koivu played in 20 games at the junior level in international competition, scoring 7 goals and 26 points. At the senior level, he played in 89 games, scoring 30 goals and 94 points. He played in one European U18 Championship, two World Juniors, seven World Championships, earning a bronze, two silver and a gold medal, one World Cup, with a second place finish, and four Olympics, winning three bronze and a silver. He was named Best Forward at the World Championships in 1995 and 1999, and led the 1998 and 2006 Olympics in scoring.

Today's featured Koivu jersey is a 1995 Finland National Team Saku Koivu jersey. This is the same style jersey used in the 1994 Olympic games and, while branded as a Reebok jersey, they were produced by Tackla using their mesh fabric and dye sublimation process. Visually, the only difference  between the Olympic jerseys and the World Championship version is the addition of the Warsteiner sponsorship patches to each arm.

Finland 1995 road jersey photo Finland 1995 R F.jpg
Finland 1995 road jersey photo Finland 1995 R B.jpg

The next player to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame was German Uwe Krupp, whose international career began during the days of separate teams for East and West Germany, with Krupp first suiting up for the West Germans at the 1983 U18 European Junior Championships and the U20 World Junior Championships. He played in a second U20 World Juniors in 1985.

 photo Krupp.jpg
Uwe Krupp

Krupp, a defenseman, made his World Championship debut in 1986 with his second World Championships coming in 1990, his last for the West Germans.

By the time of the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Germany had reunified and Krupp was able to make his Olympic debut thanks to the pros of the NHL now being allowed to compete.

Krupp, a defensive defenseman, scored 2 goals and 4 assists in his 21 international games. He also had a 15 year NHL career which included becoming the first German to win the Stanley Cup in 1996 followed by winning a second in 2002.

Following his playing career, Krupp returned to Germany and eventually became head coach of the German National Team from 2005 to 2011 at many levels, including the World Juniors, World Championships and Olympics, which included guiding the Germans to a semifinal appearance at the 2010 World Championships, their best result since 1976.

Today's featured Krupp jersey is a 1998 Germany National Team Uwe Krupp jersey. This style jersey was only worn at the 1998 Olympics with the heraldic eagle crest. Later in 1998 at the World Championships, the crest was changed to that of the German Ice Hockey Federation and worn through the 2000 World Championships.

Germany 1998 Olympic jersey photo Germany1998OLYF.jpg
Germany 1998 Olympic jersey photo Germany1998OLYB.jpg

 The third member of the Class of 2017 is Canadian Joe Sakic, whose international resume begins with the 1988 World Junior Championships, where Canada went 6-0-1 to win the gold medal.

 photo Sakic Canada.jpg
Sakic making his Olympic debut in 1998

Sakic appeared at his first World Championships in 1991, leading Canada with 6 goals and 11 points in 10 games on the way to a silver medal.

His next World Championships came in 1994 where Sakic was third in team scoring with 4 goals and 7 points in 8 games as Canada would go 8-0 to win their first gold medal in 33 years following a shootout in the final.

The next time Sakic would wear the maple leaf for Canada was at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, where the Canadians would finish second.

Sakic's first Olympic Games came in 1998 followed by winning gold in his second Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Utah. After going 1-1-1 in group play, the Canadians would find their game with Final Round wins over Finland, Belarus and the host United States as Sakic was named the tournament's MVP.

Sakic's gold medal at the 2002 Olympics gained him entry into the exclusive Triple Gold Club for players who have won World Championship gold, Olympic gold and the Stanley Cup, which he accomplished with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996 and 2001.

He would add to his already impressive resume by winning the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, where he tied for second place in scoring with 4 goals and 6 points in 6 games.

After being an assistant captain for the 1998 and 2002 Canadian Olympic teams, Sakic was chosen to captain Canada for his final international tournament, the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy.

In all, Sakic played in 48 international games at the senior level, scoring 22 goals and 41 points.

While his World Championship opportunities were limited by the successful teams he was a part of during his 20 year NHL career, 17 of which were as captain of the Quebec Nordiques and Avalanche, he is record is a stellar one, with gold medals at the World Juniors, World Championships and Olympics along with a World Cup and two Stanley Cups.

Today's featured Sakic jersey is a 1994 Canada National Team Joe Sakic jersey as worn during the 1994 World Championships during which Canada ended their 33 year World Championship drought.

The jersey is a Finnish made by Tackla, but branded as a Reebok jersey The jersey was produced using the dye sublimation process, in which all the graphics are created by injecting ink into the fabric, which is then cured with heat. This jersey also sports a pair of Warsteiner Beer sponsorship logos, giving the jersey it's unique World Championships look, as jerseys worn during the Olympics are free from advertising.

This multi-striped style was a short-lived one and used only for the 1994 and 1995 World Championships, as Nike arrived on the scene with all new designs for the 1996 World Championships.

1994 Canadian National Team Joe Sakic Jersey
1994 Canadian National Team Joe Sakic Jersey

The fourth member of this year's IIHF Hall of Fame Class Koivu's fellow Finn, Teemu Selanne. The Finnish Flash made his international debut at the 1988 European U18 Junior Championships, where he led all players in scoring with a dominating 7 goals and 16 points in just six games as Finland won the silver medal.

 photo Selanne Finland.jpg
Selanne went out in style, winning a medal and being
named the tournament MVP at the 2014 Olympics

Selanne played in one U20 World Junior Championship in 1989, tying for the team lead with 10 points in 7 games.

He made his debut at the senior level at the 1991 World Championships, finishing one assist back of Jari Kurri for the team lead in points. Later that fall, Selanne was a member of the Finnish team at the 1991 Canada Cup.

Selanne made his Olympic debut at the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, coming in fourth in tournament scoring while leading the Finns with 7 goals and 11 points in 8 games.

In 1996, he returned to the World Championships, where he led Finland in scoring with 5 goals and 8 points in 8 games. Later that year, he played in the inaugural 1996 World Cup of Hockey as Finland's assistant captain.

He earned the second medal of his career at the 1998 Olympics, bringing back a bronze after leading all scorers with 4 goals and 10 points while playing in just 5 games compared to as many as 7 for other players.

Selanne came in second in scoring to Koivu at the 1999 World Championships with 3 goals and 11 points back of Koivu's 16, but it was Selanne who took home the tournament MVP honors while winning a silver medal.

In 2002, he played in the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, scoring 3 goals in 4 games. He led Finland in scoring at the 2003 World Championships with 8 goals and 11 points in seven games as team captain for the Finns.

Selanne then took part in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey before returning to the Olympics in 2006, leading all players in goals, with 6, and points, with 11, as Finland finished with the silver medal and Selanne was named as the Top Forward.

He came home with a bronze medal at the 2008 World Championships after coming in second in scoring with 7 points in 9 games.

After playing at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia and winning a bronze medal, Selanne participated internationally one final time, this coming at 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where he won a bronze medal as Finland's team captain. His 4 goals and 6 points were one point back of the team leader as the Finns would win their third consecutive Olympic medal, this time a bronze, the fourth Olympic medal of Selanne's illustrious national career as he set a record as the oldest player to ever win a medal in Olympic hockey at the age of 43. Selanne was then named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Selanne concluded his international career with 96 games played, scoring 54 goals and 102 points and holds the record for the most points in Olympic hockey competition with 24 goals and 43 points in 37 games.

Today's featured Selanne jersey is a 2014 Finland National Team Teemu Selanne jersey as worn during his final international tournament, the 2014 Olympics, his sixth Olympic Games.

This highly unusual full bleed flag style was worn only at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. It was paired with a more conventional road blue jersey. For the subsequent World Championships later that spring, the Finns wore a white version of their blue road jersey, ending the use of this style after just one outing.

 photo Finland 2014 F.jpg
Finland 2014 Olympic jersey photo Finland 2014 B.jpg

The final player inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame this year was American Angela Ruggiero, who played in ten IIHF Women's World Championships, winning four gold medals and six silver medals, including scoring the winning goal in a shootout in 2005 to give the United States its first gold medal.

Ruggiero also participated in four Olympic Games, winning gold in 1998 as the youngest member of the team at 17 years of age, and winning silver in 2002 and 2010 and a bronze in 2006.

In 2004, she won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in US Women's College Hockey. She became the fourth woman to ever be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015 and the only inductee ever from California. She is also the all-time leader in games played for the United States, regardless of gender, with 256.

 photo Ruggiero USA.jpg
Angela Ruggiero

Dieter Kalt, Sr. of Austria was inducted into the Builders category. A star player in the Austrian league in the 1960's, he won five championships in six seasons with Klagenfurt with a career that spanned from 1957 to 1980. He played for Austria in eight World Championships and two Olympics, in 1964 and 1968, the second time as the team captain.

From 1996 to 2016, Kalt was the President of the Austrian Ice Hockey Federation and has been a long time member of the Austrian Olympic Committee.

 photo Dieter_Kalt.jpg
Dieter Kalt, Sr.

Finally, the winner of the Bibi Torriani Award for players who have had great international careers from nations outside of the top hockey nations was Tony Hand of Great Britain. Four times during his domestic career in the British Hockey League, Hand had seasons of over 200 points, with a high of 222 points from 72 goals and 150 assists in a 44 game season!

 photo Tony Hand.jpg
British scoring legend Tony Hand

In addition to his scoring exploits of 15 seasons of over 100 points, longevity was also a hallmark of Hand's career, as he played 32 seasons of British domestic hockey in a career that spanned from 1981-82 as a 14 year old to the 2014-15 season, when he retired at the age of 47. So impressive was Hand's abilities, that he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1986, the first British-trained player ever selected in the NHL Draft.

He played for Great Britain at the World Championships 10 times, the World Juniors 3 times and the European U18 Junior Championships 4 times. At the senior level, he played in 52 games, scoring 34 goals and 105 points.

In 2004, Hand became the first ice hockey player ever honored with the Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Fog Game - 1974-75 Buffalo Sabres Rene Robert Jersey

In 1973-74, the Buffalo Sabres had finished mid-pack and missed out on the Stanley Cup playoffs. They rebounded strongly in 1974-75, winning the newly created Adams Division and finishing tied with the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Philadelphia Flyers and also the Montreal Canadiens with 113 points.

The Sabres, led by The French Connection line, which consisted of Rene Robert (with a team leading 100 points), Gilbert Perreault (96 points) and Rick Martin (95 points), defeated the Chicago Black Hawks 4 games to 1 in the quarterfinals before ousting the Canadiens 4-2 to reach their first Stanley Cup Finals in only their fifth season of play.

Game 1 of the finals, the first without an Original Six team since 1926, was played in Philadelphia's Spectrum and went to the Flyers 4-1. Philadelphia also took Game 2 by a close 2-1 margin.

The series then moved to the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium for Game 3 on this date in 1975, which would prove to be one of the strangest games in NHL history.

"The Aud" was originally constructed in 1940, the building was renovated with the arrival of the Sabres and Buffalo Braves of the NBA in 1970.

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium The Aud photo memorialauditoriumpostcard.png
The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

Early in Game 3, a bat was spotted flying near ice level during the game. Finally at one point, with the teams line up for a face off in the Flyers zone, with the bat buzzing the players heads, Jim Lorentz raised his stick and swatted the bat out of midair and Rick MacLeish of the Flyers picked up the dead creature and deposited it over the boards at the Flyers bench.

Lorentz swats the bat photo Lorentzswatsbat.png
Jim Lorentz deftly swats the bat

As time passed, the sell out crowd of over 16,000 fans began to have an effect, as the non-air conditioned arena began to get warmer and steamier. Temperatures at ice level eventually got so warm that a layer of fog began to appear on the ice.

1975 Buffalo Fog Game
The fog became more dense as the game progressed

Eventually, the fog became thicker and thicker, causing the officials to halt play several times because the players could not see halfway down the ice. Several attempts were made to deal with the fog, including having the players skate in circles to try to stir up the air and clear the fog, as well as having the arena staff quickly raise and lower bed sheets to move larger amounts of air with some effect.

Play was resumed, but then stopped again and again and the visibility remained poor. Eventually both coaches, Fred Shero of the Flyers and Floyd Smith of the Sabres instructed their players to shoot as often as possible since the opposing goaltender was going to have problems seeing the puck.

Down by two goals, the Sabres fought back with a pair of goals by Danny Gare and Martin just 17 seconds apart to even the score at 2-2 before the struggling Sabres goaltender Gerry Desjardins let in a shot by MacLeish from 40 feet to put the Flyers back in the lead at the end of the first period.

During the intermission, Desjardins asked to be relieved in the Sabres goal. "After the second goal against me, I thought it was a grand time to get the hell out of there. I knew if I had stayed in, everything would have gone down the drain," Desjardins said following the game. "After all, we were only down by one goal. It was close at the end of the first period, Why waste it?"

During the second period, Reggie Leach scored on his own rebound after a wild scramble in front of new Sabres goalie Roger Crozier to give the Flyers a 4-2 lead, but Don Luce was able to put one past Bernie Parent to send the game into the third with Philadelphia up 4-3.

During the third period, defenseman Bill Hajt of Buffalo put in a rebound of a shot by Martin to even the score and eventually send the game into overtime.

The fog continued to disrupt play in overtime, causing seven stoppages. Finally, with about a minute to play, Perreault skated into the Flyers zone and passed the puck to Robert in the far corner. Robert, along the goal line, shot the puck from the sharp angle, which eluded Parent and went between his legs for the winning goal for the Sabres after nearly 80 minutes of play, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Sabres Flyers fog game winner photo WinningGoalFog.png
The Sabres celebrate the game winning goal

"I didn't see Perreault's pass," said Parent. "I saw Robert's shot too late for me to come out and stop it. I'm surprised he overtime took so long. It was hard to see the puck from the red line. If three men came down and made a good pass from the red line, you couldn't see the puck. A good shot from the red line could have won it. But it was the same thing for Crozier."

"There had been a lot of pressure on our line," Robert said. "People saw we scored so many goals during the season, what has happened to us now, that we're letting down, the we don't check. Philadelphia double shifts our line, you know, and they are a real good team, too. Getting a big goal like that makes you feel good. It has been tough for us."

Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Buffalo Sabres Rene Robert jersey as worn when Robert scored the winning goal in overtime of the "Fog Game" in the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals.

The original Sabres jerseys, worn from 1970-71 to 1976-77 featured a lace-up collar and no names on the back, unless it was for a national TV game, in which case names were added and then removed afterwards, as the club owners felt that not having names on the backs of the jerseys would lead to increased program sales.

1974-75 Buffalo Sabres Rene Robert jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Our video section today begins with a quick look at the bat attack and the fog bank which later descended over the ice.


Here is a longer look at the game, including the winning goal, with quotes from broadcaster Rick Jeanneret, Lorentz and winning goal scorer Robert.


This look at the history of "The Aud" includes footage of Robert's overtime goal in the fog.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Andre the Giant and Giant Hockey Jerseys

Born on this date in Grenoble, France in 1946, Andre Rene Roussimoff is better known to the world as former professional wrestler Andre the Giant. The third of five children, Andre did not show any signs early on that he would grow to such oversized proportions brought on by acromegaly, a disease which results in excessive growth hormones. While the rest of his siblings ceased growing at the usual age, Andre's body continued to grow, and at the age of 12, he stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall.

He started to make a name for himself wrestling in France where he came to the attention of French-Canadian wrestler Edouard Carpentier, who convinced Andre to make the move to North America, where he moved from the undercard to headliner, performing in front of 20,000 fans in Montreal.

This level of success brought Andre to the attention of Vince McMahon, Sr., head of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, who not only signed him to a contract in 1972, but dubbed him "Andre the Giant". He was now selling out venues such as Madison Square Garden in New York and making appearances in the Boston Bruins dressing room!

Vadnais and Orr with Andre the Giant
Andre, reportedly 7 feet, 4 inches and 500 pounds, easily hoists Carol Vadnais (6' 1", 190 lbs.) and Bobby Orr (5' 11", 200 lbs.)

Phil Espostio explains how the photo came to be in his book "Thunder and Lightning", some of which we can repeat here.

"Carol Vadnais was acquired in a trade with the California Golden Seasls late in the 1971-72 season. We were skating around the Boston Garden during the warm-up before a game, and in the stands behind the net was this huge man with a gigantic head and an afro haircut. I had never seen anyone like him in my life.

I said, "Who the hell is that? Look at that guy!"

Vad said, "That's my buddy, Andre the Giant."

"The wrestler?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

After the game Andre came into the dressing room. I used to have a picture of Andre holding me up in one arm and Bobby Orr in the other.

We knew this girl who was gorgeous, but who love the Bruins so much she would do absolutely anything for us, and we fixed her up with Andre. We all went out after the game to have drinks. We were in a place on Commonwealth Avenue that had a bar and a swimming pool inside. I'll tell you how big Andre was. He ordered a beer, and when he held it, he only needed two fingers to cover that can of beer.

At one o'clock the manager came and asked us all to leave. We were all together, and Bobby Orr said something to Andre, and Andre picked the guy up and threw him into the swimming pool! The cops came and we left."

His fame, as well as his frame, continued to grow, as Andre was paired with boxer Chuck Wepner in a 1976 "boxer vs. wrestler" match at Shea Stadium in New York in front of over 35,000 fans, which ended with Andre tossing the 6' 5" Wepner out of the ring. Andre was also the subject of a Sports Illustrated article in 1981, the kind of appeal and mass recognition that few, if any, professional wrestlers had ever achieved at that point.

Eventually Vince McMahon, Jr. would take control of the WWWF wrestling empire, shorten the name to the WWF and create the first nation-wide wrestling promotion, of which the crown jewel was "WrestleMainia". For WrestleMania III in 1987, in the headline match saw Andre the Giant squared off against Hulk Hogan at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan in front of a sold out crowd of 93,173 and generated $10 million in pay-per-view sales. He eventually became the WWF Heavyweight Champion.

Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan
Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan

Despite the increasing issues with his health, he continued to wrestle and later make appearances ringside until 1992. In 1993, when the WWF created it's Hall of Fame, Andre the Giant was the very first, and only, inductee that year.

He also crossed over into television and movie roles, well known for his portrayal as Sasquatch in the TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man" and most notably for his role as "Fezzik" in the movie "The Princess Bride".

Andre passed away at the age of 46 in his sleep from a heart attack on January 27, 1993 in Paris, France.

In honor of Andre the Giant, today we take a look at some giant hockey jerseys.

The United States Women's Olympic team toured with an oversized promotional jersey in their Qwest Tour exhibition season leading up to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. There were actually two of them made by Nike at a cost of $1,000 each. Aside from the fact the jerseys are 26 feet wide from cuff to cuff and 17 feet tall, they are the same as a regular jersey, only on a much bigger scale.

2010 USA giant jersey

Another notable jersey, 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide, is an Edmonton Oilers Wayne Gretzky jersey made for the Wayne Gretzky Fantasy Camp VII in 2009, which consists of 23 yards of fabric, compared to three for a normal jersey, which took seamstress Patsy Elmer approximately 35 hours to complete. After the conclusion of the fantasy camp, the jersey now resides in an arena in the Frank Lacroix Arena in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Giant Gretzky jersey

Another enormous jersey decorated the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1997 when the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The statue measures 37 feet tall, making the jersey 16 feet tall in our estimation.

William Penn Flyers jersey

The Field Museum in Chicago has gotten on the Blackhawks bandwagon, dressing their three story high cast iron Brachiosaurus statue in a Jonathan Toews jersey for the playoffs recently.

Field Museum Dinosaur jersey

Perhaps the most famous oversized jersey is the Detroit Red Wings jersey, traditionally used to dress the 26 foot tall Spirit of Detroit statue in downtown Detroit since they made the finals in 1997. The jersey has actually undergone several variations, including sporting the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals and Believe patches, a very nice touch and great attention to detail.

Spirit of Detroit 1998

In 2009 the statue was dressed in a new, undersized and absurdly tight Reebok jersey, more fitting for Johnny Weir than Johan Franzen, which will apparently make the Spirit of Detroit 9% faster than before...

Spirit of Detroit 2009

Other Detroit landmarks have seen Red Wings jerseys make appearances during the Stanley Cup Finals, with both the statues on the Wayne County Building and the Tiger statues outside of Comerica Park getting into the spirit.

Other Red Wings jerseys

If you are aware of any additional oversized hockey jerseys, we'd love to hear about them. Either post them in the comments below, or email us with the details.

Today's video section kicks off with the Spirit of Detroit getting dressed for the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. Or is it the 2009 US Figure Skating Championships?


Next up is the famous match between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan from WrestleMania III.


Here are recollections by those involved in the movie of Andre playing "Fezzik" in the Princess Bride.


Does Andre the Giant have a connection to a current NHL team captain? Here is evidence that suggests there very well may be one...

 

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