Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bill McDougall

As an avid hockey fan, I recall hearing from afar the playoff scoring exploits of one Bill McDougall of the Cape Breton Oilers in 1993. Over a six week period, consisting of 16 games he fired 26 goals and 26 assists for an incredible 52 points. This very well could have been the greatest playoff performance ever. In addition, the Oilers won the Calder Cup AHL championship that season going 14 and 2 along the way. McDougall scored at least one point in each game of the playoffs, he scored at least two points in 14 of the 16 games and at least three points in 10 of the 16 games. Read that last line again.
Using newspaper articles from The Halifax Daily News and The Edmonton Journal, I have managed to put together a game by game record of this amazing stretch of games.

McDougall actually got better in each of the first three rounds, scoring 3.0 points per game in round one, 4.0 points per game in round two, and 4.5 points per game in the two game round three. During the final round, he fell to a merely excellent 2.4 points per game. Overall, his 52 points in 16 games is an average of 3.25 per match. He had a hand in over 61 percent of Cape Breton’s playoff goals.
So, was this the greatest playoff scoring performance in hockey history? I decided to compare McDougall's 16 game run against the greatest scorer ever. I went through Wayne Gretzky’s career game by game log to find if he ever had a sixteen game stretch like McDougall’s. It turns out that The Great One, (not surprisingly) on five different occasions had better than 52 points in a 16 game stretch.
Gretzky’s best output was his last 16 games of November and December 1981 in which he tallied 58 points. This culminated with Wayne scoring nine goals in the last two games of December to reach 50 goals in 39 games. Gretzky never did top 26 goals in a 16 game period, and McDougall’s playoff tops Gretz’s best 16 straight playoff games by 8 points. Sure, it wasn’t the NHL, but the pressure and relative dominance still stands for something.
Bill McDougall was a rare player in that he never played major junior or college hockey. He was playing Junior B with the Streetsville Derbys as a 20 year old, and played with the Humbolt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior League the year after. Two seasons in the Newfoundland Senior League followed before he finally turned pro with the Erie Panthers of the East Coast League at the age of 23. Here he scored 148 points in 57 games garnering MVP honours. Signed as a free agent in 1990 by the Red Wings, he scored 10 goals in 11 games at the end of that season. Three productive years in the AHL brings us to his 1993 playoff exploits.

At this point in his career, McDougall was playing for a contract, (as he was most of the time). He was turning 27 that summer and believed he deserved an honest crack at the NHL. He had been up for a cup of coffee with Edmonton at the end of the season scoring 3 points in 4 games. Following his 52 point playoff, Glen Sather, who finally did attend the last three games of the final, said of him, “He handles the puck, he sees everybody…he made a lot of things happen.” Slats wasn’t impressed enough to offer the one-way contract that McDougall coveted. He had a standing offer to play the following season in Zurich, Switzerland for $100,000 tax free. However, when Tampa Bay offered him a two year contract he jumped.

In the Lightning’s first game of 1993-94, McDougall scored two goals and an assist. This would prove to be the high point of his NHL experience. Apparently, coach Terry Crisp was not a fan of his and the ice time dwindled. McDougall went down to the IHL’s Atlanta Knights and won yet another minor league championship. This year he scored a still impressive 19 points in 14 playoff games. In the end, he had tallied 3 goals and 3 assists for Tampa Bay in 22 regular season games and they bought him out of the final year of his contract.

That was it for Bill McDougall in North American professional hockey. He would star for the following nine years in Europe playing in Italy, Germany and Switzerland even winning a few Spengler Cups with team Canada. He would end his career playing senior hockey in southern Ontario with the Dundas McCoys. As of the start of the 2008-09 season, Bill McDougall is in his first year as head coach of the Milton IceHawks in the Ontario Tier 2 circuit.

Can we honestly compare Bill McDougall’s exploits in the AHL to that of some of the greatest scorers in hockey history? Although this was the AHL, and his playoff opposition was in the form of goalies Fredric Chabot, Damian Rhodes, Mike Maneluk and Olaf Kolzig; Rhodes and Kolzig both went on to future success in the NHL. The fact that this was a successful championship run, as well as McDougall’s far superior playoff dominance rating, I believe make McDougall’s efforts the most impressive in the game’s history.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Greatest Playoff Years Ever

In my last post, I reminisced about Ken Yaremchuk's great yet fleeting AHL playoff of 1989 and promised to find the best individual playoffs of all time. In order to find somewhat of an even measuring stick I decided to use a player's Points per Game average and the Percentage of his Team's goals scored. I multiplied the two and came up with a rating of how strong that individual's playoff was. I went through each year of NHL playoffs and came up with following list, click on the list to open a large view of it.

It only stands to reason that The Great One has three of the top five playoff performances of all-time. Mario Lemieux barely edges out Gretzky after I adjusted his Percentage of Team Goals. Le Magnifique had his hand broken by an Adam Graves slash in game two of the second round and missed the next five matches. The Pens tallied 22 goals in those games, so in the games Mario played they scored 61 times meaning he was in on well over half the goals when he was in the lineup. Babe Dye of the 1922 Toronto St.Pats is a somewhat suprising number three, having been in on 62% of his squad's goals that post season. Stan Mikita rounds out the top six with a fantastic 21 points in 12 games enroute to losing the Cup to Toronto. The ill-stricken 1919 final between Seattle and Les Canadiens is represented by Frank Foyston's 9 goals in 4 games and Newsy Lalonde's 18 points in 9 games including the NHL portion of his playoffs. A few other suprises are Fleming Mackell with 19 points in a losing effort in 1958 and Marcel Bonin with 15 points for the victorious Habs in 1959.

The next list is of Great Playoffs by players who did NOT make it to the Final of that season.

Seeing as these guys didn't play as many games in their playoffs it created a smaller sample size of their work which leads to some higher percentages. However, these efforts cannot be overlooked. Dennis Maruk tops the list as he ripped off 13 points in a 5 game first round loss, gaining a point on 65% of the North Stars goals. Darryl Sittler is next with a 2.33 point/game effort and points on an amazing 67.7% of the Leafs goals that post season.
Perhaps even more impressive are the efforts by Rick Middleton and Barry Pederson for the '83 Bruins. Tallying 33 and 32 points respectively in 17 games, both in on over half the Bruins goals. Middleton holds the records for most points in a series with 19 in 7 round games against Buffalo, and most points by a player not advancing to the final.

Finally, I decided to find some other various fantastic playoffs from around the hockey world. I checked some of the top junior post seasons as well as WHA and AHL.

This is were it gets real interesting, obviously there are some crazy junior numbers put up by future superstars. My old favourite, Ken Yaremchuk's 1989 first round rates very nicely, but then we find what would have to be considered the greatest post season performance in professional hockey history. Bill McDougall of the 1993 Cape Breton Oilers played out of his mind for about six weeks that spring. He tallied 52 (FIFTY-TWO points!!) in a 16 game run to the Calder Cup championship that year. This number stands as the highest total in pro history.
along the way he had a game of seven points and another of five goals. I am going to delve further into this historic run in a future post, but for now there is no disputing the fact that this was the greatest professional playoff ever.

My Job with the Newmarket Saints

From 1986 to 1990 I had one of the coolest after school jobs ever. I was the videographer for the Newmarket Saints of the AHL, who of course were the top farm team of my beloved yet crappy Maple Leafs. The Saints moved in ’86 from St. Catherines into Newmarket’s brand new three thousand seat arena. Originally, I was going to be a simple, run-of-the-mill usher until management realized they needed a videotape record of each and every game, and this duty fell onto me.
As an aside, over my time there, that management consisted of some big names in hockey. I was one of the first to shake the hand of Gord Stellick the day he was promoted from Saints GM to Leafs General Manager in April of 1988. I had been reporting to him for the past season before and after each home game. John Brophy was in town often as coach of the Leafs, and I would see Saints coach Paul Gardner every night to give him a tape of that evening’s game. Currently he is coaching Dynamo Minsk of the KHL with Glen Hanlon. Perhaps the biggest hockey personality I crossed paths with, (however indirectly) was Leaf owner Harold Ballard. As our pay cheques were issued by Maple Leaf Gardens Ltd, each was stamp-signed by the old man. Pretty cool stuff for a teenage hockey nut. Alas, I digress….
The Saints really were never that good, struggling to reach a .500 record only twice in their five seasons. They made the playoffs only once, in 1988-89 when they topped out at 82 points…it was hardly worth the wait as they were turfed in five games by eventual Calder Cup champs Adirondack. This series was memorable, to me at least, for two reasons. Firstly, both Saints goalies, Jeff Reese and Tim Bernhardt, were injured down the stretch forcing them to rely on third stringer Jim Ralph. Ralph had spent the better part of the last two seasons providing radio colour commentary, often working on his impersonations to entertain us press box dwellers. He has parlayed that into a nice career doing the same with the Leafs. Ralph had played a handful of games over the two seasons with a goals against average well over four. Even as a teenager I could tell he wasn’t a very good goaltender utilizing a weird stand up style. He did somehow manage to win a few big games to secure the Saints their playoff spot. If memory serves, they had to win the final game of the season to sneak in by a point over arch-nemesis Rochester. Of course, come playoff time, first place Adirondack lit Ralph up to a tune of 28 goals in 5 games including a ridiculous 9-7 win in Newmarket in game four.
The other memorable part of that series was the play of Saints, Ken Yaremchuk. In the five games, Newmarket scored a fairly impressive, but not nearly enough 20 goals. Of these 20, Yaremchuk was in on an incredible 14 of them! He scored 7 goals and assisted on 7 others over 5 games. Among players who did not make the finals that year, he was the top scorer playing in only five games, better than players that played for three rounds.

Remembering Yaremchuk’s scoring exploits got me asking myself how this, however brief playoff scoring excellence rates from a historical perspective. 2.80 pts/game and pointing on 70% of his team’s goals must be next to impossible to duplicate, especially over more than one round. This I will look into further in my next post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

1972 Summit Series Player Ratings

Pictured above are three magazines that covered the 1972 Summit Series. These are among my favourite items regarding the Canada Russia battle. I also have a Game Program, a Home TV Viewing Program, all of the books commemorating the series issued just after it completed, an unused postcard made to send good wishes to the players in Russia as well as three of the Commemorative coins issued for the series. All I really need is a game used ticket stub, I've seen the odd one around, but they usually go for at least a hundred bucks. Even I'm not that crazy.

I decided to use the rating system I made for the 1976 Canada Cup to rate the players from '72.
Once again, weight is given for each point scored depending on it's importance, and time of game it happened. The only change I made was to count each and every game form 1972 as a Final Round game, there were no preliminary games involved.

Below are the results for the top players from both Canada and Russia, with the rating points they garnered for each game as well as totals. The results are somewhat suprising in that Esposito beats Henderson by such a margin. The truth is though, Espo was far more consistent throughout the series. Henderson gets 15 points for each of his game winners in games seven and eight, his game six winner was however worth only 3 points as in actuality it was a goal to make the score 3-1, scored early in the second period. Espo really lit it up for the last two games, scoring two goals in game seven and ripping off four points in the finale including points on the last three goals. A true example of putting a team on his back and saying "follow me boys".
Cournoyer proved to be consistent as well with 15 rating points in the Canadian games and 15 in Russia. For the Russians, Yakushev proved to be valiant in defeat tallying five goals and an assist in the last three games earning 37 rating points nearly equaling Esposito's 42 over the same period.
The results also show that the Russian contributions were more spread out among their forwards than Canada. They had five forwards gain at least 28 rating points to Canada's three forwards. Perhaps this just illustrates the more 'team game' that they were known for as opposed to Canada relying more heavily on a core of players.

Hockey Den makes the Newspaper


This week myself and my collection were featured in the North Shore Outlook community newspaper. Kelly, the writer did a great job on the write-up. There were various photos included in the article, including my mug on the front page of the paper.

If the link doesn't work for some reason, here is the text of the story.....
North Shore Outlook
A Leaf among wolves
By Kelly McManus - North Shore OutlookPublished: October 08, 2008 4:00 PM Updated: October 09, 2008 10:15 AM
It was a blustery October evening at the corner of Church and Carleton Streets, almost 27 years ago to the day, when Chris Mizzoni stepped through the doors at Maple Leaf Gardens for the very first time.
That same year AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen rocked and wailed for gelled out, ankle-zippered crowds at the Toronto venue. That year, 1981, also marked the 50th anniversary of the Gardens, the holy temple of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This was cause for celebration for Mizzoni – a skinny little wide-eyed kid with an almost supernatural ability to spout obscure hockey stats. He was 11 years old, a breathless atom centre who idolized Wayne Gretzky, who owned an old hockey stick signed by the entire Leafs team circa 1963. Come winter, he diligently watered his backyard skating rink (built by his father Pat) with the gardening hose each evening.
In his mittened hand, Mizzoni clutched a small point-and-shoot camera. The flash bulb proved so powerful the Gardens usher bustled over in the first period, warning that the light was blinding the Maple Leafs players as they took shots on Chicago Black Hawks goaltender, the legendary Tony Esposito.
Mizzoni and his dad sat just two rows up from the net. Pappa Mizzoni, hockey dad and busy coach, had scored the tickets through his Burger King franchise in Newmarket, Ont.
“He was just in awe of Maple Leaf Gardens,” remembers Pat Mizzoni of his breathless son. “Sitting that close up – with that he became a die-hard Leafs fan.”
“Die-hard” might be putting it lightly. After that day at the Gardens, Mizzoni launched a fevered hockey collecting career that would eventually fill his basement, his attic, a storage locker, and his office. It would spill over into his kitchen, living room, his bedroom even. It would eventually become the inspiration for his first children’s book Clancy with the Puck – a nostalgic hockey rebrand of the famous baseball ballad of Casey at the Bat – published last year with Raincoast.
Over three decades, Mizzoni acquired somewhere in the area of 20,000 hockey and baseball cards, hundreds of books about stats and team histories, countless old oddities: calendars from the Leafs teams dating back to the 1930s, collectors statues and figurines, autographs, even a seat from the Maple Leaf Gardens that he shipped to Vancouver five years ago.
“It’s basically a historical hockey collection,” he explains. “It’s gotta be old, 1970s or older. And I’d call it pretty comprehensive.”
Mizzoni keeps most of the stuff in his North Vancouver basement den – any sports guy’s dream, a leather-chaired enclave devoted to the passion of the puck.
His artifacts chronicle the big moments in retro hockey. Picture Slap Shot: The Movie posters (the seminal hockey flick starring Paul Newman), Canada-Russia hockey series memorabilia circa 1972, Wayne Gretzky collectibles, endless Leafs gear, photos, calendars, and stats books, displayed in a rich, dark wood case, all waiting at the ready to be accessed in any friendly dispute among hockey-watching friends. Those happen often down in this space, where two, three, or 10 friends might gather to watch Leafs or Blue Jays games on the TV set.
Do they watch Canucks games? Only when the Leafs are playing, teases Mizzoni.
You can find Mizzoni down here a few nights each week, watching hockey games and chilling with his buds, who, as it happens, also play with him in a North Vancouver beer league called the Duffers.
Tonight, watching the Boston Red Sox and L.A. Angels baseball game with friends Olaf Miller and Geoff Kehrig, Mizzoni wears his father’s old hockey jersey, white and baby blue, thin, tight-weave wool, far too short at the wrists. It reads “St. Claire,” and dates back to the ’60s, when Pat played with the Catholic Youth Organization back in Ontario. Mizzoni also wears a replica Toronto Maple Leafs hat in homage to the obscure AAA Minor League baseball team from Toronto that ceased to be after the 60s.
“I paid 40 bucks for it,” he laughs. “It’s too much, I know. But I had to have it.”
Vintage sports, as evidenced by the 50-plus-years -old Leafs photos framed on the walls, get Mizzoni all fired up, ready to rhyme off little-known facts, stats and play-by-plays from as far back as the 1930s.
“But I tune him out for the most part,” explains Miller, friend and compatriot, but not a full-fledged hockey fan. Miller humours Mizzoni and company through some games, laughing as they joust and boast, comparing knowledge of obscure sports stats.
“For instance,” notes Mizzoni, “Here’s one that stumps guys in just about all hockey dressing rooms. In Gretzky’s rookie year, there was a three-way tie for goal scoring. Three guys tied with 56 goals.” (Those players were Charlie Simmer, Danny Gare and Blaine Stoughton; these are the kinds of facts he revels in through his sports-nerd blog, Nitzy’s Hockey Den).
Miller rolls his eyes: “You know the smell of hockey equipment?” he asks.
It’s hard not to know it in this little room, as Mizzoni stashes his hockey gear in one of the adjacent closets. The distinct eau de dressing room wafts down the hallway at intervals.
“Well that stuff is like ambrosia to these guys,” Miller laughs, nodding toward Mizzoni and Kehrig, seated in the matching leather seats, Maple Leafs pint glasses at the ready.
This calls for a story.
“Once I had a hockey game,” remembers Kehrig. “And then I was going to meet my wife after at the opera.”
Mizzoni chuckles. He knows what’s coming.
“And we’re sitting there (at the opera) and Marlene (his wife) is going ‘something really stinks,’” Kehrig scrunches his nose, imitating his wife’s horror. “And I say is this it?” he holds out his hand.
It was: despite showering, he went to the opera stinking of hockey gear.
You have to wash your hands in Tide, Kehrig learned that night, to really cut the smell of mouldering, bacteria-coated hockey pads.
Next comes the subject of hockey hair; yes, Mizzoni has sported his fair share. His wife Nancy Mizzoni grins.
“Oh, you should have seen him in the 1990s,” she laughs.
Apparently it wasn’t so much of a mullet as it was “just shaggy all over,” says Mizzoni, who, under his hat today sports a fairly clean cut look.
But yes, he does have a Leafs tattoo. He lifts his jersey sleeve to show the old Leafs logo, “while they still showed the veins in the Leaf,” faded blue on his upper bicep.
As for playoff beards, Mizzoni grows at least one every year.
“I’ve been doing it for 20 years,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who’s playing.”
Nancy Mizzoni and Miller roll their eyes affectionately. “Chris, you’re such a nerd,” Miller says.
The nerdiness is a point of pride to Mizzoni, who recently joined the Society of International Hockey Research.
Some of the material packed into this little room a lesser fan might qualify as junk – as evidenced by the rumpled cocktail napkins Mizzoni collected from the Air Canada Centre a few years back. Some of the stuff is pure gold, either personally relevant or otherwise incredibly rare. The signed photo of his 11-year-old self with once-upon-a-time Leafs captain Darryl Sittler is an example of the first.
“He was the greatest Leaf at the time,” muses Mizzoni, a little misty.
An action figure of said captain sits next to the photo of a slightly grizzled Sittler circa 1981, accompanied by a grinning, stringy little boy who would become the high priest of this North Vancouver hockey shrine.
“You can’t even imagine his Gretzky stuff,” laughs Nancy Mizzoni. “He had some really ugly Gretzky stuff.”
“Hey!” Chris Mizzoni pipes, mocking a wounded heart.
She, however, doesn’t miss a beat. “He had so much. It was all exposed and collecting dust: plastic cards, pucks, trophies. All of his things were out (on display).”
Eventually she convinced him to display “only some of it; then to keep some of it filed away.”
They renovated the basement, putting in matching, floor to ceiling shelves, and some decent leather chairs, which is where, this evening, Mizzoni sits with his three-and-a-half-year-old, Dreya. She’s decked out in her flannel Leafs pajamas, reading a story with dad before she heads up to bed.
“This summer I took her to the SkyDome,” he explains. Dreya wore one of Chris’ peewee baseball jerseys from back in the days of Newmarket minor sports. Nancy, Chris and Chris’ parents took Dreya through the gates at the Dome together.
“I was trying to recreate that feeling of walking into Maple Leaf Gardens for the first time.”
For all the antics and the banter, hockey sustains Mizzoni. “It’s pretty much life,” he explains. “My lovely wife and my daughter, they’re number one. I need my job to pay the bills, and I need hockey. It’s a staple of life.”
For that reason, he’ll keep making kids books about hockey history. Some afternoons he sits at the kitchen table, flipping through photos of the old Leafs teams in action and firing out illustrations.
His 1970s hockey cards, or rather the artwork on the backs, were the inspiration for his Clancy with the Puck.
“It was about nostalgia,” he muses. “The whole book was about nostalgia, the memory of those old designs and uniforms.”
Also for the sake of nostalgia, he’ll take little Dreya up to Grouse in the winter, so they can glide around on the frozen pond together at the snowy peak.
“It reminds me of growing up,” he says. “It’s almost like cottage country back east, and a nice, crisp night with the fire going.”
He may be a Leafs fan in Canucks land, and his yard might be too warm and muddy for a homemade rink, but up there on the peak, he’ll have a little taste of home, memories of frosty breath and fresh blades slicing along the ice.
To visit Chris Mizzoni online, visit www.nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.com or www.raincoast.com/clancy/

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mike Palmateer Replica Mask

This is my latest addition, a full size replica mask of Leaf goalie Mike Palmateer. Growing up he was always one of my favourites, mainly for his acrobatic style of play. Palmateer had two very good seasons in '77/78 and '78/79 before being shipped off to Washington by the idiot Harold Ballard.
'The Popcorn Kid' (so named for his love of pre-game popcorn moreso than his playing style) finished 1978 3rd in the league in wins with 34 and tied for 2nd in shutouts with 5 while sporting a 2.64 GAA. In 1979 he was once again 3rd in wins, 2nd in shutouts an 6th in GAA.
Palmy's shining moment came in the second round upset of the Islanders in 1978, allowing only 13 goals in the seven game set. While with the Caps in 1980/81 he set a record for points by a goaltender with 8 assists which was soon bested by Grant Fuhr.
Palmateer retired at age 30 after an unsuccessful return to the Leafs due to his damaged beyond repair knees.
Soon after retirement, he opened a restaurant in Aurora, Ontario and subsequently went into real estate.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Retroactive Norris Trophies

Pictured is my 1962-63 Parkhurst Red Kelly card. Aquired by the Leafs near the end of the 1959-60 season, he was 32 years old and coming off two sub-par seasons. He had been mainly a defenseman with Detroit, but was used as a forward when needed. Soon after joining Toronto he was made a permanent centreman, and would excel for seven additional seasons helping win four Cups. Kelly had won the inaugural Norris Trophy in 1953-54 as top defenseman and would have won a few more if the trophy was around earlier.
I decided to try to figure out who would have won the Norris all the way back to the beginning of the NHL in 1917-18. Most choices were fairly obvious. Post season all-star teams were picked back to 1930-31, so one could assume that one of the first team all-star defensemen should have won the Norris. In fact, since the Norris has been awarded, each and every winner has also been a first team all-star, makes sense. Also, in every season that a defenseman won the league MVP, I awarded the Norris as well. Suprisingly there were seven such occaisons when a d-man won MVP.
Only a few times did I vary from this, Red Kelly's 40 pts in 49-50 was Norris worthy over first stars, Gus Mortson and Ken Reardon, and he did make the second team all-star. Reardon gains revenge in 47-48 winning the Norris from the second team spot besting Bill Quackenbush and Jack Stewart. "Flash" Hollett wins my Norris in 42-43 with 44 pts and a second team berth. In 37-38 and 38-39 I gave the Norris to Red Horner and Tommy Anderson respectively even though neither was a first OR second team all-star. Eddie Shore was a first teamer each season, but both were down years for him, (his last two full seasons in the NHL).

As you can see, in my list, Red Kelly would have won five consecutive Norris Trophies, (including the actual won he did win). All time greats who would have won two or three were Kenny Reardon, Flash Hollett, Tommy Anderson, King Clancy, Hap Day, Buck Boucher, Harry Cameron and Sprague Cleghorn.
The immortal Eddie Shore would have won six out of eight years, third all time behind Orr and Harvey.

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