Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sports Illustrated memories

Sports Illustrated magazine. We all know it, most of us love it. I was lucky enough to be given a subscription to S.I. for most of 1983 and 1984. This turned out to be one of the greatest gifts ever for a pre-pubescent sports nut (some might say I still am one). I don’t have a lot of those old mags now having sold a lot of them off while in college. Out of these one hundred or so issues, very few had a hockey cover. Those two years produced one Gretzky cover, one Mike Bossy and one Billy Smith. Athletes such as George Brett, Alan Trammell, Carl Lewis and Patrick Ewing each had at least two cover appearances in my stack, I had some great early Michael Jordan covers while still with North Carolina and the first two or three covers featuring Mike Tyson. All of these sold for good money years later. Needless to say, those hockey covers meant a lot to a kid from Newmarket, Ontario. This era was also the beginning of the rise of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays. I was proud to see them make the “big time” of Sports Illustrated and was ecstatic when on July 13, 1983 I found in my mailbox Dave Stieb and Andre Dawson smiling back at me.

Thanks to the extensive S.I. Vault (, all of these along with every cover and page ever issued by S.I. are available for viewing. You’re able to search concise words, names or teams. Using this great website I decided to read up one of my favourite hockey topics, the World Hockey Association. Below, I have compiled some great quotes about the W.H.A. and the date of the S.I issue they appeared in.

John McKenzie, Philadelphia Blazers player-coach, on his team needs for next year: "Eighteen Bobby Orrs, seven Phil Espositos and four Bobby Clarkes." April 23, 1973

I’m assuming Ol’ Pie Mackenzie would dress all the Orr’s, one Espo, one Clarke and have pretty nice taxi squad in the press box.

Aurel Joliat, 72-year-old hockey Hall of Famer who scored 270 goals in 16 seasons with the
Montreal Canadiens: "I'm insulted that I haven't had an offer from the World Hockey Association." February 04, 1974

Seeing as a 45 year old Gordie Howe scored 100 points that year, I would think Joliat could have been an effective penalty killer and thrown 50 to 60 points on the board.

Gerry Cheevers, who defected from the Boston Bruins to the Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association, on the difference between the two teams: "Well, it did seem a little strange to discover that the No. 4 carrying the puck was Ralph Hopivari, not Bobby Orr." January 21, 1974

This one is a typo as Cheevers had one Ralph Hopiavouri skate in front of him that season. And Orr he most definitely was not, over three partial seasons in the WHA he notched 21 points in 70 games with a tidy -17 +/- rating.

Brian McKenzie, explaining why he was happy to go from Edmonton to Indianapolis in the World Hockey Association expansion draft: "We went 40 straight days of sub-zero temperature up there, that's why." June 24, 1974
Edmonton’s record low temperature is -49F, Indianapolis’ is -27F…Brian may have had a good point.

Gilles Gratton, 22-year-old goalie for the Toronto Toros, asked what advice he would give youngsters: "Quit while there is still time—at about 12 or 13 years of age." March 24, 1975

Or just quit at age 25 like Gilles the nut-job, who told people he was reincarnated and had once been a soldier in the Spanish Inquisition.

Rick Dudley, of the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers, after his face and Gordie Howe's stick collided: "It made me mad. But what are you going to do? If I fought him and won, I'd look like an idiot for beating up a 47-year-old man. If he'd beaten me, I'd look like more of an idiot for losing." March 29, 1976

These are good points Rick, but the larger question would have been…what the hell was with the
molester ‘stache?

Wayne Belisle, president of the World Hockey League's Minnesota Fighting Saints, announcing that although he could not meet his payroll the Saints had agreed to play for nothing: "A lot of fans tell me they stay away from pro sports because they are turned off by athletes making too much money. On that basis we ought to have crowds of 150,000 a game now." January 12, 1976

Not too sure where they would have put all these folks, the frozen banks of the Mississippi perhaps?

Gordie Howe, on the condition of the World Hockey Association: "The funny thing is, except for the teams going under, our league has never been in better shape." May 17, 1976

Only four teams made it through the full seven years of the WHA, the four that would merge with the NHL.

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