Saturday, May 24, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, May 23, 2014
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
During his second season in Florida, Roberts, now 40, was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the remainder of the 2006-07 season.
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.
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.
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.
Here is Gary Roberts wreaking havoc for Pittsburgh during the 2007-08 season. And don't your forget it.
We're not saying Roberts played for a long time and was really, really tough, but here he is fighting NHL career penalty minute leader Tiger Williams in 1987. We're just sayin'...
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Born on this date in 1975, Janne Niinimaa played junior hockey in the Kärpät Oulu system in Finland from 1990 to 1993, which included games with the their junior club as well as their senior club, which was playing in the second division of Finnish hockey at the time. He also participated internationally at the 1992 World Junior Tournament and European Junior Tournament, where he was particularly effective offensively, scoring 4 goals and 7 points in 6 games as a defenseman at just 16 years of age. He would also return to the European Juniors for a second time in 1993.
Following the 1992-93 season, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, but remained in Finland for several more seasons, only now having moved to the famed Jokerit Helsinki organization. He again divided his time between the junior and senior clubs, playing 10 games with the juniors and 45 games with the senior team, only this time in the top level SM-liiga where Jokerit would go on to win the league championship.
Jokerit would finish with the best regular season record in 1994-95, but wind up as runner's up in the playoffs before once again taking the playoff championship in 1996, a season in which Niinimaa would score a new personal best of 20 points in 49 games.
During his three seasons with Jokerit, Niinimaa would also compete in his second and third World Junior Tournaments in 1994 and 1995. He would also make his World Championships debut later in 1995, taking part in a memorable first world title for the Finns, who defeated rivals Sweden in Sweden to claim the title and set off a wild celebration back at home.
In 1996, he would again skate in the World Championships and was also a member of the Finnish team at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in the fall of 1996, just prior to making his NHL debut with the Flyers.
His first season in Philadelphia would see him contribute solid offensive numbers, registering 40 assists and 44 points in 77 games while posting a +12 rating. He would immediately get a healthy dose of playoff experience, as the Flyers would make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in his rookie season in the NHL, as he continued to impress with 13 points in 19 games.
He played a second season with the Flyers, appearing in 66 games until being dealt at the trade deadline to the Edmonton Oilers late in the 1997-98 season. He would eclipse his 44 points from the year before with a combined 45 points between the two clubs. Also during the season, his international resume would grow with his first Olympic experience, skating for the Finns in Nagano, Japan, the first Olympics to feature a full slate of NHL players, where Finland returned home with the bronze medal.
Niinimaa would play five more seasons for the Oilers, which included two additional 40 point seasons, setting a career high with 46 in 2000-01, third on the club and aided by the only double-digit goal total of his career with 12. His season would be rewarded by being named to the NHL All-Star Game.
His time with the Oilers also included three additional international appearances, the 2000 World Championships followed by a second Olympics as well as his fourth World Championships, both in 2002.
Late in the 2002-03 season, Niinimaa was dealt by the Oilers to the New York Islanders for the final 13 games of the season. With the Islanders a quick exit from the playoffs, Niinimaa was available for duty at the World Championships once more.
Back on Long Island, Niinimaa played in all 82 games for the Islanders, who once again made an early playoff exit, allowing Niinimaa to appear in his third consecutive World Championships.
Prior to the start of the 2004-05 season, he once more competed in the World Cup of Hockey for Finland.
At the conclusion of the tournament, the NHL lockout began, which cost the NHL a full season of play. Like many other NHLers, Niinimaa looked to Europe to continue stay active. He divided his season with 10 games with the Malmo Redhawks in Sweden's Elitserien and 26 games back where he began with Kärpät Oulu, who would capture the SM-liiga championship, the third of Niinimaa's career.
With the NHL labor issues resolved, he returned to the Islanders for the start of the 2005-06 season, but halfway through the year he was traded to the Dallas Stars, with whom he played 22 games. Prior to the beginning of the 2006-07 season, Dallas sent Niinimaa across the border once again, this time to the Montreal Canadiens, where he would finish his NHL career with 41 games.
He opted to continue his career in Europe from 2007-08, first with HC Davos in Switzerland, where he showed his talent with 37 points in 48 games. 2008-09 it was on to the SCL Tigers in Langnau, also in Switzerland. Following the season he played in his first World Championships for Finland in four years.
He then returned to Sweden playing with HV 71 in 2009-10, winning another championship.
He then joined Luleå HF in 2010-11 prior to returning to Switzerland this past season, when he joined the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers for the 2011-12 season.
Niinimaa's career NHL totals were 741 games played with 54 goals and 265 assists for 319 points while posting a +43 rating. He has also played 162 top level games in Finland, 101 in Sweden and an additional 68 in Switzerland before wrapping up his career with 7 games in the Swedish second division in 2012-13.
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 Edmonton Oilers Janne Niinimaa jersey. This Oilers third jersey was designed by team part owner Todd McFarlane, who created a new logo full of symbolism, such as the five rivets in the gear representing the five Stanley Cups won by the Oilers, while the ten cogs in the gear representing the team's captains.
Unusual aspects of the jersey included the lack of any copper or red from the then current team's color palette, making for a very colorless design, the futuristic (and not overly legible) "Star Trek" font for the names on the back and matching numbers. Also odd was the choice of a throwback style lace-up collar with an other wise futuristic design.
A polarizing design among fans, this style was used from 2001-02 through 2006-07 until being a victim of the arrival of the new Reebok Edge jerseys, which forced teams to choose only two jerseys going forward.
Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1996 Finland National Team Janne Niinimaa jersey. From a high point in international jersey design, a few of the "waving flag" styles were introduced in time for the 1996 World Championships and were then rolled out for all teams for the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. They continued to be worn during the 1997 World Championships before being phased out for the 1998 Olympic Games.
Photos courtesy of Classic Auctions
Bonus repulsive jersey: Today's bonus repulsive jersey is a 2005-06 Dallas Stars Janne Niinimaa jersey. While the Oilers alternate jersey was loved by some and disked by others, the Dallas Stars "Mooterus" jersey was derided nearly universally by everyone, including Stars team owner Tom Hicks, who rejoiced on the occasion of the jerseys final game, claiming "Good riddance. The funny thing is that you can't find anyone around here who will take credit for designing it. Nobody's left."
Aside from the unexplainable appearance of red in the jerseys, which was in no way a Dallas Stars color at any time in their history, the overly busy main crest, which was supposed to convey a bull's head as mapped out by a constellation with the addition of a shooting star, instead resembled the female reproductive system, leading to it's derisive nickname.
The jersey was worn for the absolute minimum of 23 league mandated games over the course of it's two seasons of use (15 in 2003-04 and 8 in 2005-06) and discontinued when the Stars would not commit to the minimum of eight games for what would have been it's third season.
Um, someone's not a fan of Niinimaa, and went to a lot of trouble to collect his "career highlights" in this video.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Born on this date in 1881, Jimmy Gardner began his hockey career with the Montreal Hockey Club. The club was affiliated with the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association and is commonly referred to as "Montreal AAA" in the record books.
He first skated for the club during a game in the 1900-01 season and then played in all eight games of the 1901-02 season, helping the Montreal Hockey Club to a 6-2 record and a first place finish. Their first place finish earned them the right to challenge the Winnipeg Victorias for the Stanley Cup. The best-of-three series was held in Winnipeg with the Victorias taking Game 1 by a score of 1-0. Montreal came back strong in Game 2, evening the series with a dominant 5-0 win and won their challenge with a narrow 2-1 win in the decisive Game 3. The much larger Winnipeg team hit the players from Montreal again and again in the series, but refused to be run out of the building, earning them the nickname "The Little Men of Iron".
1902 Stanley Cup Champions the Montreal Hockey Club
A challenge for the cup arrived from the Winnipeg Victorias in January of 1903, with the first game held in Montreal on January 29th. Montreal easily won the first game by a score of 8-1 with the second game ending in a 2-2 tie after it was suspended after 27 minutes of overtime due to a curfew. Winnipeg evened the series with a 4-2 win before Montreal successfully defended the cup with a 4-1 win to take the series 2 games to 1 with Gardner scoring a goal in the series.
For the 1903-04 season, Gardner moved to the brand new Montreal Wanderers of the Federal Amateur Hockey League, dominating the league with a 6-0 record. Gardner scored 5 goals in the six games. As winners of the league, the Wanderers earned the right to challenge the Ottawa Senators for the Stanley Cup. The first game in Montreal reached the end of regulation tied at 5-5 and the Wanderers refused to play the overtime with the same referee in charge! The trustees of the cup ordered the series restarted with both games scheduled for Ottawa, but Montreal refused and the series never resumed.
Gardner turned professional for the 1904-05 season, skating for the Calumet Miners of the International Hockey League, where he scored 16 goals in 23 games. He returned to Calumet in 1905-06 before playing for the Pittsburgh Professionals, also of the IHL, in 1906-07, where he scored 10 goals and 18 points in 20 games.
Gardner - 1906-07 Pittsburgh Pros
He returned to Montreal for the 1907-08 season, this time with the Shamrocks, who finished in last place. Gardner then rejoined the defending Stanley Cup holders, the Montreal Wanderers for the 1908-09 season, in which he scored 11 goals in 12 games.
Prior to the start of the 1909-10 season, the Wanderers would face a challenge for the Stanley Cup from the Edmonton Hockey Club, whom they would defeat 13-10 in a two-game total-goal series 7-3 and 7-6. With the 1909-10 season underway, Gardner contributed 10 goals in 12 games as the Wanderers dominated with an 11-1 record and took possession of the Stanley Cup. They then defended against a challenge from the Berlin Dutchmen of the Ontario Professional Hockey League by a score of 7-3 to earn Gardner his fourth Stanley Cup.
1910 Stanley Cup Champions Montreal Wanderers
After another season with the Wanderers, Gardner moved out west to play for the New Westminster Royals of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, scoring 11 goals in 28 games over two seasons.
Once more, Gardner would return to Montreal, this time with the Canadiens, for whom he was named team captain. He played the 1913-14 season with 19 points in 15 games and then played two games in 1914-15 to close out his playing career.
He then went on to become a referee as well as being a coach before being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.
Today's featured jersey is a 1909-10 Montreal Wanderers Jimmy Gardner jersey. The Wanderers jerseys featured a wide red band across the chest, which would have eventually become as iconic as the jerseys of the Canadiens had the club survived.
The Wanderers were originally founded in 1903 as a result of a dispute over control of the Montreal Hockey Club, and many of it's original roster came from the Montreal AAA.
The Wanderers would hold the Stanley Cup during it's challenge days at various times in 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1910, including five straight defenses from March 1907 to December 1908.
As was the case in the early days of organized hockey, the Wanderers shifted from league to league, eventually becoming a member of the National Hockey Association and then became one of the founding members of the National Hockey League in 1917. Unfortunately, after only four games of play in the new league, the Wanderers home rink, the Montreal Arena, burned down on January 2, 1918 and the team ceased operations.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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 he 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.
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.
This look at the history of "The Aud" includes footage of Robert's overtime goal in the fog.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Born on this date in Grenoble, France in 1946, Andre Rene Roussimoff is better known to the world as 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 where were brought on by acromegaly, a disease which results in excessive growth hormones. While the rest of his siblings grew at a normal rate, Andre's body grew at an accelerated pace, and by the age of 12, he stood 6 feet, 3 inches tall. His siblings also stopped growing at the usual age, but Andre also kept growing, eventually reaching 7 feet 4 inches tall and 500 pounds.
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!
Andre 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", only some of which we can repeat here!
"Carol Vadnais was acquired in a trade with the California Golden Seals 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 loved 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 which generated $10 million in pay-per-view sales. Andre eventually became the WWF Heavyweight Champion in 1988.
Despite the increasing issues with his health, he continued to wrestle and later make appearances ringside until 1992.
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. Later that year, Andre the Giant was the very first, and only, inductee into the brand new WWF Hall of Fame,
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.
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.
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.
The Field Museum in Chicago has gotten on the Blackhawks bandwagon in recent times, dressing their three story high cast iron Brachiosaurus statue in a Jonathan Toews jersey for the playoffs.
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.
In 2009 the statue was dressed in a new, undersized and absurdly tight Reebok jersey, more fitting for figure skater Johnny Weir than Johan Franzen, which will apparently make the Spirit of Detroit 9% faster than before...
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 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.
As proof of Andre's mainstream popularity, here is his appearance on the David Letterman show.
Does Andre the Giant have a connection to a current NHL team captain? Here is evidence that suggests there very well may be one...
Does Andre the Giant have a connection to a current NHL team captain? Here is evidence that suggests there very well may be one...