Showing posts from 2009

Team Canada Number 1, 2 and 3

I was going to wait until tomorrow's announcement, but I may as well jump on the prediction bandwagon. My thought is that there is such depth in this country that Canada would probably be able to enter two or even three teams that could contend for a medal.

Firstly, my Team Canada.
Pretty straightforward, the only real question marks are Mike Green as the seventh defenseman and Toews as the 13th forward.

My team Canada number two includes quite a few that could very well be first teamers and in my opinion would be a very solid contender for a medal. The first two lines would be the best line on most Olympic squads save for Russia and Sweden. This defense core would have to be considered the second best defensive septet in the Olympics. Turco, Price and Mason are as fine a trio of goalies as most other countries could produce.

My Team Canada Two.

And now Team Canada Three.

A scattering of ex-Olympains on this squad and a fourth line of James Neal, Travis Zajac and Ryan Clowe would defin…

Russia's Worst Ever Team

With the recent selection of the 2010 Olympic hockey team for Russia, I was looking back at Russian rosters of the past. Of course, the Russians have generally sent stacked teams to the Olympics, but their early 1990 teams would have to be considered their weakest. In my estimation the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway was the site of the worst ever Russian hockey entry.
1994 was the first time Russia would finish out of the medals in fourth place. They were coming off a gold medal finish in 1992 at Albertville playing under the banner of the Unified Team. 1992 was by no stretch their best entry, in fact it was perhaps one of their weakest as well but it was infinitely superior to the '94 Russian squad.
Team Unified in 1992 featured future NHL stars Alexei Kovalev, Alexei Zhamnov, Darius Kasparaitis and Sergei Zubov. The also sported Canda Cup veterans Vyacheslav Bykov and Andrei Khomutov. In addition to this they had serviceable future NHLers Igor Kravchuk, Vladamir Malakh…

Hockey Behind the Iron Curtain

This weekend I picked up 1965 Hockey Illustrated Winter Annual magazine. As you can imagine, it is chock full of great articles but one I found very interesting and fits my Olympic only theme. In an article title “Hockey Intrigue Behind the Iron Curtain”the story is told of both Russia’s and Czechoslovakia’s rise to hockey powers.

Russia had just taken the 1964 Olympic Gold medal in Innsbruck, Austria winning their second Olympic hockey gold. Canada finished with a 5 and 2 record and in a three-way tie for second with the Czechs and Sweden. In a controversial decision, the Canadians were placed in fourth due to a lesser goals differential.
The Czechs had entered a team since 1920 and had won an Olympic silver in 1948. The Russians were still devoted to the ice game of bandy at this time. At these ’48 Games in St.Moritz, Switzerland the Russians sent observers with cameras to record the hockey action.

As told by former Czech hockey great, Josef Malecek in the article, “Later that same ye…

Canada's Hockey Boycott

Canada, home of hockey, did not send a hockey squad to either the 1972 or 1976 Winter Games. As well they boycotted the World Championships up until 1977.
Canada was awarded host country honours for the 1970 World Champioships for the first time ever. The tournament would be held in Montreal and Winnipeg and the newly formed Hockey Canada felt it was the opportunity to address the issue of amatuerism with the IIHF. Canada wanted the Championships and Olympics open to all players, professional or not.

The IIHF agreed to allow nine non-NHL professionals to compete for each team. The first test of this was the Isvestia tournament in Moscow in December 1969. Although Canada used only five minor league pros, they still managed a close second place finish. This prompted the IIHF to hold an emergency meeting immediately after the tourney, and president Avery Brundage went back on the original terms and announced that any professional players at any level not be eligible to compete at the Olym…

Full Olympic Mode

For most, the holiday season is in full swing and I am no exception. This year however there is an extra excitement in the air for me. There is sure to be no post Christmas let down in my house as January will mark mere weeks from the start of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Living a 10 minute ferry ride across the Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, I am planning to be as involved as possible in the Games.
Yesterday I picked up my ticket package from the local Purolator Courier office, an ordeal that included over a thirty minute wait in line. With the tickets being so valuable, Vanoc stipulated that a signiture was required upon receipt. Like most others, I was at work when the courier initially attempted delivery. This resulted in a 20 to 30 person lineup at the courier office, all day long Saturday. Oh well, I simply chalked this up to my first of many long line-ups during the Games.
Anyway, with tickets in hand (a generic one is pictured above, they're quite nice looking), and my…

1906 Hockey Photo

This is one of the latest additions to my hockey den. It's a vintage photograph of a turn-of-the-century hockey team. The sign in the photo reads "Victorias Town Champions, 1906" and on the border matting is the name Shomakers, Petrolia Ontario.
It's fairly safe to say this is a team from Victoria, BC or simply a team from somewhere else in the country named "Victorias" as was the custom in honour of the lengthy reign of Queen Victoria.

I have checked online for hockey history of both Victoria and Petrolia (incidentally, home of the NHL playing Hunter brothers) and find no records of hockey leagues in 1906. This may be one of the rare times where I'm stumped as to an origin of an item or story. Maybe I'll contact the BC Sports Hall of Fame....

Summit Series 1954?

I recently picked up a copy of the 1986 biography of Francis “King” Clancy by author Anne Logan. It’s chock full of great anecdotes about one of the all-time greats. One of these stories stood out as a new oneto me. Apparently, the Toronto Maple Leafs just about went to Moscow after the 1953/54 season to play the Soviets. This of course would have pre-dated the famous Summit Series by almost twenty years, alas it never did come to pass.
The Leafs would finish third that year in King Clancy’s first season as coach with a 32-24-14 record, ten points behind eventual Cup champs Detroit. It appears that in early March of 1954 there was a cable sent by the Chairman of the Board of the Gardens to the Soviet ambassador in Ottawa;
“The Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey Club is prepared to play Russian hockey teams in Moscow, early in May. Particularly Moscow Dynamos who have recently won the world championship….part of a European tour to promote international goodwill and would give U.S.S.R…

Goals since All-Star Break

I have heard alot of talk this week about how Steve Stamkos is on such a torrid pace since the end of last season. I decided to look at the goal leaders simce last season's all-star break, approximately three quarters of a season of games.
These stats are as of Nov 25.
Stamkos does actually rate quite high with 32 goals in his last 55 games behind the usual suspects, Ovechkin, Kovalchuk and Heatley and tied with Jarome Iginla, another proven scorer. In fact, of the 18 names on the list, 10 are 25 years of age or younger and all but one are 30 or under. Only the somewhat surprising Jason Arnott is older than 35. The one number that really jumps out is Marian Gaborik's games played in the time in question. He has fired his 28 goals since the break in a mere 32 games for a Goals/Game rate of 0.875 better even than Ovechkin's 0.804 and Kovalchuk's 0.800. A Goals/GP rate of 0.800 translates to a 65 goal pace for an entire season. There have been three 65 goal scorers in one …

Meeting The Pocket Rocket

This past weekend, I had a nice surprise at the grocery store. On Saturday morning I popped into my local Sav-On Foods to pick up some capocoli and provolone and low and behold, there sitting at a table at the end of the dairy aisle was Hockey Hall of Famer Henri Richard. He and fellow ex-Montreal Canadien Yvon Lambert were in town for that evenings' Vancouver Giants game and were signing free autographs in the store.

Now, I am far from a Habs fan, but I can appreciate and respect the presence of fifteen Stanley Cup rings in front of me. (not actually all the rings were there, but Lambert did have two of his four rings on his fingers). Henri Richard, the man who has won the most Cups as a player in history was not wearing any of his eleven rings. Both gentleman were cordial as I tried some of my grade 12 French. I told Henri it was a pleasure to meet a winner of "onze Coupe de Stanley".

I was somewhat surprised when I checked Yvon Lambert's stats later and saw he had …

Corey Schwab and Winless Seasons

My last post dealt with the greatest backup goalies of all-time. In looking at the stats, I found out that the one and only Corey Schwab posted the lowest single season goals against average by a goalie playing in a minimum of ten games since the 1920’s. In 2002/03 he had a 1.47 GAA in 11 games. I found another even more obscure stat about Schwab.
It seems he had the greatest WINLESS season in NHL history. Schwab produced the best season ever among goalies that did not collect a win while playing at least ten games. In 1995/96 he had a 2.18 average over 10 official games with a 0-3-0 record. He did however play only 331 total minutes over those 10 appearances so honourable mention for best winless season ever goes to Jamie Storr. In 2003/04 with Carolina, Storr went 0-8-2 with a 2.91 GAA while playing 660 minutes. It’s quite difficult keep a respectable average when you lose pretty much every game.

Case in point would be Michel Belhumeur of the expansion Washington Capitals in 74/75. H…

Best of the Backup Goalies

Last week, on the way to hockey, my pal Geoff (he did the great painting above of Bunny Larocque years ago in art school) and I were discussing great backup goalies of all time. I figured I’d try to dig up some numbers on some of the all-time best second string goalies. I determined a back-up as a goalie playing less than 30 games behind a legitimate number one goalie that played the remainder of the time. In other words, if a team has an even split between two or even three goalies, none of them are considered a backup.

1950’s and 60’s
The practice of periodically giving the starting goaltender a rest didn’t really come into fashion until the middle 1960’s. There were instances in which a team would simply split the games between two goalie’s only because neither was quite ready or talented enough for the solo role. The 5th place Boston Bruins of 1959/60 would be an example of this with Harry Lumley playing 42 games to Don Simmons’ 28. As well that year, the last place Rangers used Gum…

Tim Horton and some weird stats

Sometimes I’ll notice something statistically that just seems rare or out of place. The dictionary calls this an anomaly; “a deviation from the common rule and an odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, quality.” I love finding these little quirks in hockey history. Thanks to the great sites, and I can then go delve further into these anomalies.
I don’t know why, but I was just looking at Tim Horton’s career numbers and noticed he once finished third in the NHL in game winning goals with seven of them in 1963/64. Now, we all know Tim Horton was not known for his goal scoring having topped ten in a year only three times in 22 full seasons. In fact he scored 115 goals total. The game winning goal stat was not officially kept until the same season of Horton’s third place finish behind Boom Boom Geoffrion (9) and Ken Wharram (8). From this year onward, Horton would score only 16 GWG’s in eleven seasons with seven of them in 63/64. This seemed like …

Team Russia 2010

Yeah, yeah... I know they're not the Soviets anymore, I just love the iconic jersey they wore back in the day. Anyway, here is Nitzy's Hockey Den's choices for the 2010 Rusian Olympic squad. Click the chart below to open it larger.

I tried to use guys who are eligible for the Russians (pretty sure Antropov, Ponikarovsky and others are ineligible), and I "e-scouted" the Kontinental League to see who may help round out the squad. Feel free to add or argue any picks I have made. Anyway you look at it, it's quite a team. They will definitely be one of the favourites (along with Canada) going into the games. The Russians are absolutely stacked on Left Wing but not so much at the other forward spots. At center, after Malkin and Datsyuk are slotted one and two, the quality drops off. I went to the KHL for enigmatic Alexei Yashin who is having a fine season for St.Petersburg. Sergei Fedorov, playing for Magnitogorsk likewise would make a nice fourth-line center. I have…

NHL Teenagers

A lot has been written about this season’s terrific crop of teenagers in the NHL. There does seem to be an inordinate amount under twenty year olds excelling so far. From Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Michael Del Zotto and Viktor Hedman to Matt Duchene and Evander Kane there are a total of 14 teenagers currently skating in the league. If none of them are sent back to their junior squads as we approach the ten game mark, this could be the largest group of NHL teenagers over the last ten seasons. It will be far from the highest number of sub twenty year olds in league history.

There were also fourteen teenagers that played at least twenty games in 1999/00 led by Vinny Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Tim Connolly and Nik Antropov. These four players were in fact the only four of the fourteen that notched at least 30 points (Connolly and Antropov just barely). The current season’s crop definitely has the chance to have far more players with at least 30 points.

The 1995/96 crop of NHL teens was th…

Maple Leafs in Vancouver

The Leafs visit GM Place this Saturday, and I will be there watching. Since moving to Vancouver in 1994 I have been to probably two-thirds of the games when my Leafs visit. I must say, it`s always an exciting atmosphere when the hated Leafs come to town.
The first game I went to was perhaps the most heart-breaking for me as it was the game that ended any Stanley Cup hopes of the Leafs in 1994. May 24, 1994 was the date that Greg Adams scored the overtime winner against Felix Potvin to send the Nucks to the finals aginst the Rangers.
Since that game, the Leafs have visited Vancouver 21 times and somewhat surprisingly, Toronto has a record of 10-7-4 even thought Vancouver has outscored them 79-74.
It seems that when the Canucks do beat the Leafs at GM Place, it`s usually by a large margin which makes my viewing experience all the less pleasurable. Vancouver has won by scores of 7-3, 4-1, 5-2 and 6-1 and has won the last two meetings at home by 4-3 and 4-2 scores. When the Leafs win here i…

Toronto Maple Leafs...not so good.

My Maple Leafs are not a very good hockey club.

There, that feels good. Once in a while the truth has to be acknowledged.
The problem facing me is that this aforementioned truth has plagued me throughout my life on far too many occasions. In other words, the team which have I followed and embraced since the 1970’s has more often than not been a not very good hockey club.
To quote Yogi Berra, the current edition of The Maple Leaf Hockey Club of Toronto feels like “déjà vu all over again”.

A recent addition to the actual Nitzy’s Hockey Den is a hockey preview magazine for the 1982/83 season and the summation of the Leafs upcoming year back then is eerily similar to their current state of affairs. I will quote the comments from the nearly thirty year old magazine and compare them to today.

The Leafs of autumn 1982 were coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs by a wide margin and had allowed the most goals against in the league, exactly the same way they entered this year. In 81…

Molson Hockey House...Joke

I had heard about plans for an Olympic hockey pavillion near GM Place a few months ago and naturally was very intersted in the concept. I actually am lucky enough to have some tickets to Olympic events including the Canada vs Switzerland mens game. I figured it would be great to hang out as close as could get to the games for a few of the days when I don't have tickets. Even if it costs 50 bucks or so to get into this hockey pavillion with it's giant screens, it would be worth it to be part of the Olympic environment.
Then, a few days ago Molson and Hockey Canada unveiled the plans for "Hockey House". Well, were my plans ever shot down....
Sure there's 40 foot screens and nightly entertainment, plus the admission includes all you can eat and drink, but come on...500 bucks? A bit much no? Let's do the math here, the Hockey House will be open daily from 11am to 2am. If I was going to be charged $500, I would arrive at 11:01am and eat three full meals, and perha…

Team Canada Darkhorse Possibilities

Each and every Olympics there is a huge debate as to who will represent Canada on the hockey squad. Usually, once the rosters are finalized, there is one or two players that make you wonder about their merit. We can call these players darkhorses that weren’t quite on the radar throughout the orientation and evaluation process.
In 1998 Rob Zaumner made the squad and could very well be described as the longest of long shots to have made a Team Canada. Also in ’98, Trevor Linden and Shayne Corson made the cut when perhaps others should have. These two were having sub-par seasons even by their standards, and Linden’s 1997/98 season really was awful, sporting a -14 rating and getting traded to the Islanders.
The 2002 Olympic squad really didn’t have any darkhorse picks on the roster other than perhaps Eric Brewer and Mike Peca, but Peca was in the midst of a career season and won the Selke Trophy that season. Perhaps this is a reason Canada won the gold that year, not a lot of gamble picks…

My New Book

I've been busy the last month or so finishing the artwork for my new hockey children's book title, "The Sterling Seven, Hockey's First Team Ever". I finally have the book's website up and
running and should have more time for hockey history blogging very soon! Check it out at;

Hockey travels in Ontario

Today is my last day of a family visit to the Toronto area. Of course I managed to mix in alot of hockey related activities throughout the ten days I was here. Last night I went to the Sudbury Wolves vs. Oshawa Generals game in "quaint" downtown Oshawa.

The Gens play in a fairly new rink (2006) General Motors Centre which seats about 5,500. It was less than half full last night due to the fact that the team is in a youth movement in the post-Tavares era. It's a nice little arena with a major league calibre retaurant/bar and private boxes.

Christian Thomas, son of ex-NHLer Steve is one of the leaders on the Generals and plays alot like his dad. At 5ft 9 in he is also built like dad which may hold him back slightly in the NHL 2010 NHL draft. The Wolves sport a lineup with more star power. Jared Staal, 2008 Phoenix draft pick and the fourth of the Staal brothers looked good but I was more impressed by Marcus Foligno brother of Nick and son of Mike who was drafted this past y…

"Small" town Ontario? Durham Region All-Stars

I have been spending my late summer holidays with my wife and daughter visiting my folks in Ajax, Ontario. Ajax is not unlike any other of the towns and cities along the highway arteries into Toronto. It used to be a quaint little burg, and now it's Best Buy's, Boston Pizza's and Walmart's make it look indestinguishable from Newmarket, Oakville, Vaughan or Etobicoke. But I digress.

Driving around beautiful Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa this week (I'm going to a Generals game on the weekend), I got to wondering what NHL players this area has produced. Most of us know that Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk grew up playing hockey and lacrosse in Whitby, yet Roberts was actually born in North York and Nieuwy in Oshawa. Therefore only the latter can claim a spot on my All-Durham Region NHL All-Star Team.

Pos Player Place of Birth GP-G-A-PTS Stanley Cups
C Joe Nieuwendyk, Oshawa 1257-564-562-1126 3
C Sean Avery,Pickering 420-73-116-189 0
RW John MacLean, Oshawa 1194-413-429-842 1

Steve Buzinski, Worst and Funniest Goalie Ever

I recently picked up a 1971 book “Strange but True Hockey Stories” by legendary writer Stan Fischler (he has written over 90 (ninety!) books about the game). One of my favourite chapters in the book is titled “The Worst Goalie Ever”.
Steve “The puck-goes-in-ski” Buzinski may very well have been the worst goalie in NHL history. He played a mere nine games for the New York Rangers to start the 1942 season and posted a 5.89 goals against average with a 2-6-1 record. His numbers are indeed awful and amongst the worst all-time, but he may also have been one of the most colourful players ever as well.
In October, 1942 one week from training camp, Rangers manager Lester Patrick did not have a goaltender for his club. More than half of his previous season’s first place squad including goalie Jim Henry, were in the armed services. Patrick and coach Frank Boucher decided to comb every town in Canada for an undiscovered netminder. The message went out to Ranger scouts across the land and three …

100th Greatest Montreal Canadien

I've been in Montreal for the last five days, and I must say they really are excited about this 100th anniversary stuff.(Not sure why the celebration lasts two years though...) There are ads for 100th anniversary collectable coins in the newspaper (at least that what I've come to surmise using my limited French skills). Most stores and depanneurs have at least a few of the numerous commemorative books for the occaison and Habs logos certainly are everywhere, more prominant than the "fleur de lis".
I figured I had better add in my angle from an outsiders point of view. With most people compiling lists of the greatest and most memorable Canadiens teams and players of all-time, I figured I'd try to determine the 100th greatest and somewhat less memorable Hab player in history. It's all subjective, so here we go.
If we list the 100th top point scorer in Canadien history we see Vladimir Malakhov with 141 points. I refuse to list a Ruskie as even 100th greatest Hab,…

Projected Rookie Scoring Leaders

Click the chart below for my thoughts on this years crop of rookies.....

John McCreedy, Champion

John McCreedy's NHL career consisted of a mere 64 total games, but boy did he make the most of it. As a 30 year old rookie with the Maple Leafs in 1941-42 he notched 15 goals and another seven points in thirteen playoff games. He was a big part of Toronto's un-paralleled Cup Finals comeback from a 3-0 games defecit. Soon after, McCreedy would join the military and like so many other athletes of the day put his career on hold. He would help lead the Toronto RCAF squad to an Allan Cup appearance in 1943. He returned to the Leafs to finish the 1945 season and helped them win another seven game final over the Red Wings. Two Stanley Cups in two seasons, doesn't get much better than that. Of course, by the time he made his late debut in the NHL he was already well accustomed to winning champioships.

In 1937 he led the Winnipeg Monarchs to a Memorial Cup victory with 13 goals in 9 playoff games. The following season he played with the Trail Smoke Eaters and was part of an Allan…

Eddie Dorohoy. Minor League Star, Major Leaguer Talker

Eddie Dorohoy started the 1948/49 season as a 19 year old rookie with the vaunted Montreal Canadiens. The smallish (5ft 9in) centreman was not without credentials. He had tallied 81 points in 27 games the previous season with the Lethbridge Native Sons of the Alberta Junior League. To say he was unfazed by the aura of playing bigtime hockey in Montreal would be an understatement.

Upon arriving at camp, coach Dick Irvin placed the rookie on a line with Maurice Richard and Elmer Lach. Dorohoy immediately began instructing the vets on how the game should be played. During a rush in an intrasquad scrimmage he abruptly stopped and demanded the old vets come confer with him. Dorohoy told Richard and Lach, “Listen,the trouble with you guys is that you’re out of position.” Upon seeing the coach doubled over in laughter on the side boards, Dorohoy demanded he cease the chortling. “What’s so funny?” he asked the boss. “Richard and Lach can ,make mistakes too. I’m only trying to help them”. No …

The worst rink in the WHA

I recently came across this snippet in the Sports Illustrated archives in an article about Andre Lacroix from May 28, 1979. It details the travails of playing in the sub-par facility that was the Cherry Hill Arena, short time home of the New Jersey (nee New York) Knights.

"Of the 33 buildings used by WHA teams, perhaps the worst facility was the Cherry Hill Arena, where the New Jersey Knights played the 29 home games of their brief existence. There were no showers in the visiting team's dressing room, so the opposition had to dress at the Holiday Inn two miles up the road.
"It was embarrassing to see Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe coming to the games with their uniforms on and their skates hanging around their necks," says Andre Lacroix.

Most arenas have a long players' bench for each team, but in Cherry Hill the players' section consisted of three rows of five seats. The teams looked like choirs. There was little room for a coach in Cherry Hill, so one night Winni…

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Recently a friend of mine sent an article from Sports Illustrated detailing the things mosted missed from the good ol'days of baseball. I emailled some of my pals and asked them the same thing about hockey. What are some of the things you miss the most about the old days of hockey. Being that we are all at least in our late 30's and 40's, and all grew up in southern Ontario...alot of the answers pertain to our Maple Leafs and visiting The Gardens as youngsters. Here are some of the best memories of old time hockey that have gone by the wayside.

1. "The Bunker" at Maple Leaf Gardens
How cool and unique was it that the owner Harold Ballard and whomever was his GM of the year along with the legend King Clancy would sit and watch the game a mere twenty feet from the corner boards. The odd puck would even strafe their perch (some perhaps intentional) sending the old boys scattering.

2. Puck scuffs on the wall behind your head
Along the lines of number one, My buddy Song …