Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Mosienko's Hat-Trick...Tainted?

Any good hockey fan knows that the record for fastest three goals by one player was achieved by Chicago's Bill Mosienko in 21 seconds. A really good hockey fan can also tell you that each goal was assisted by Gus Bodnar. However to know the actual circumstances of the record, is to understand that no matter how stellar it was it may not be as lusturous as first thought. With help from the 1974 book "The Fastest Sport" the details are explained.

The day was March 23, 1952. The last day of the NHL season. The last place Black Hawks were about to play the fifth place Rangers. Charlie Rayner, the Rangers stellar goalie had been sidelined for a while with an injury and their skilled replacement Emile Francis was more needed with the Ranger farm team that day in Cinncinnati. This left 20 year old Lorne Anderson to tend the New York goal. Anderson had played two games with the Rangers that season (this would be his last NHL game) but spent the rest of the year with the New York Rovers of the Eastern League. On top of this, Anderson had already played that very same afternoon at Madison Square Garden with the Rovers.

As well, New York's top defenseman Hy Buller had missed the past few games with a broken ankle, yet begged coach Bill Cook for the chance to play and break the team record for points by a defenseman (he was one point away). His wish was granted, and for more than two periods the seemingly short-staffed Rangers held a 6-2 lead.

With less than 14 mintes to play in an otherwise meaningless game, Mosienko was sprung at center by his linemate Bodnar. He went around the disabled Buller and fired a low shot home. Time of goal 6:09. From the center-ice draw, Bodnar again found Mosienko with a lead pass. Again, he slipped around Buller and scored again to Anderson's low right. Time of goal 6:20.
Another face-of at center, another pass from Bodnar...who did Mosienko have to beat? The ailing Buller once again. By now Anderson was expecting the low shot, so Mosienko ripped one high for his third goal. Time 6:30.

In no way am I saying that Mosienko's amazing feat was unimpressive. It is merely interesting to find out the details that perhaps aided in this piece of history.

The Hawks eventually won 7-6 and no, Hy Buller did not score his much desired point.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sid and Ovie, The first four years.

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin recently completed their fourth season in the NHL. I wanted to compare the beginning of their careers to those of the all-time greats. The Great One fairly obviously leads with 269 goals over his first four full seasons followed by Mike Bossy at 241 and Brett Hull at 232 (I counted Hull’s first four FULL years as he played only five games in his technical first season). Ovechkin actually rates fourth all time with 219 goals in his first four years in the NHL, four goals ahead of Mario Lemieux. He is ahead of the likes of Luc Robitaille, Peter Stastny, Dale Hawerchuk and Pavel Bure.
As for Goals/Game over the first four years, Gretzky still leads at 0.84 and the top five remain the same except that Maurice Richard at 0.70 Goals/game knocks Ovechkin’s 0.68 down to sixth all-time. The often forgotten Eric Lindros ranks seventh right behind Ovechkin.

When we look at points/game over the first four seasons, once again Gretzky leads at 2.22 well clear of Lemieux’s 1.77. Third through fifth are Stastny at 1.57, Lindros at 1.46 and Bossy at 1.39. Sid the Kid checks in at sixth with 1.37 Pts/GP over one’s first four seasons. Crosby ranks just ahead of Bryan Trottier, Kent Nilsson, Dale Hawerchuk and Denis Savard rounding out the top ten.

Crosby climbs to fifth overall for assist/game over the same period behind the same top three of Gretzky (1.38), Lemieux (1.03) and Stastny (1.00). Peter Forsberg makes an appearance at fourth with 0.92 ahead of Crosby’s 0.91. Somewhat surprisingly, Joe Juneau ranks seventh with 0.87 assists/game. This rate would plummet to 0.37 over his final nine seasons.

Back to Ovechkin, he actually is the leader in two categories over the first four seasons of an NHL career. He is tied with Glenn Anderson with 34 Game Winning Goals, just ahead of Bossy’s 32 and Gretzky’s 30. The one year wonder, Jonathan Cheechoo is fifth at 28.
One category is thoroughly dominated by Ovechkin, over his first four years he has taken an amazing 1791 shots on goal. He is more than 500(!) shots ahead of Gretzky in second place and Pavel Bure in third. A similar dominance is seen in Powerplay goals with Mike Bossy first with 96 PPG well ahead of Ovie’s 78 and Jimmy Carson and Joe Nieuwendyk at 70. We can see that the young guns of today are indeed in the midst of terrific career starts and among the best all-time…. so far,

Another interesting start to a current career is Mike Richards of the Flyers who has scored the most Shorthanded goals in the first four seasons with 19, two ahead of Gretzky and three up on Bure and Guy Carbonneau.

If we look at goaltending, Henrik Lundqvist has had one of the best starts to a career ever with 142 wins in his first four seasons. Terry Sawchuk is first with 155 (not counting his seven game stint in 1949/50). Bill Durnan at 154 wins and Ken Dryden (again, not counting his first six game stint) at 144 are the only two others ahead of Lundqvist. Cam Ward of Carolina rounds out the top five with 120 wins in the four season start to a career.

It is clear that today’s NHL is loaded with young stars who are among the best of all-time.

I have recently been added as a "columnist" for a cool site called the Hockey Barn. I will be posting some of the best of Nitzy's Hockey Den there, nothing that wont be on my own site though. Check it out, and leave comments.
and leave comments if you like.

Monday, July 20, 2009

All Decade Team 2000's

It’s just about time to choose an all decade team for the 2000’s. We’ve only got half a season left before turning the page to the 2010’s, so let’s do it now. Of course this decade will forever be missing an entire season due to the lockout which lessens the overall numbers in an already low scoring decade.

Centre has really only two choices in Joe Thornton and Joe Sakic. Thornton leads the decade by a fair margin over Jaromir Jagr for overall points. Sakic has played 114 less games than Thornton due to a few injury riddled years yet his points per game of 1.13 is equal to his as one of the tops in the decade. Other centres warranting consideration are Vinny Lecavalier and Pavel Datsyuk.

The right wing slots are also fairly easily to select with decade goal leading Jarome Iginla and second overall point scorer Jagr (even with spending last year in Russia). A case can be made for Daniel Alfredsson or Marian Hossa, but it’s hard to dispute the winners of three Lester B. Pearson trophies in the decade.

The left wing picks bring up a bit of a tough call. Firstly, Dany Heatley is a fairly easy choice, it’s the second slot that gets somewhat difficult. Ilya Kovalchuk has nice numbers with 297 goals in 545 games although carries a minus 85 rating. Markus Naslund has 296 goals as well, yet his short coming is that it took him over two full additional seasons to reach this total. The question is, has Alex Ovechkin done enough in four seasons to be considered one of the top players of the decade. Ovie has notched 219 goals in a mere 324 games…only 70-odd goals short of Kovalchuk and Naslund in 221 and 398 fewer games respectively. Naslund played more than twice as many games in the decade than Ovechkin and scored only 77 goals more. For this fact as well as back to back MVP award, I have to go with Ovechkin for the second slot on the squad.

The four defenders on the squad were comparatively easy selections. Lidstrom, Pronger and Gonchar are pretty much givens and I gave the fourth slot to Brian Rafalski who finished third in d-men points AND +/- for the decade. Scott Niedermayer and Sergei Zubov round out the best defenders but fail to make my decade team. Incidentally the second best +/- among defensemen (and fourth overall) in the 2000’s belongs to none other than Chris Chelios at +153, not enough to make the all-decade team Chelly, sorry.

The goaltenders may have been the easiest position to select two players. Brodeur could allow eight goals a game between now and the New Year and still be a lock (really, he would still have a GAA under 2.50 and be more than 100 games over .500). The second spot came down to Evgeni Nabakov and Marty Turco. Nabby has 9 more wins and 11 more shutouts but also 28 more losses and a higher GAA. The deal breaker toward Turco though was his winning percentage being over 30 points higher. Once again, Chris Osgood is tossed by the wayside with a 223-127 won/loss record yet a GAA of 2.55. Roberto Luongo is tied with Nabakov for second in shutouts yet his GAA is higher than Osgood’s and he STILL has a sub .500 record for the decade.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1978 Team Canada Juniors

Recently on ESPN Classic I enjoyed watching a 1977/78 World Junior Championship game between Canada and Czechoslovakia. The game was from Christmas day 1977 and featured a 16 year old Wayne Gretzky firing three goals and six points. Canada won 9-3 over a Czech team that included Anton Stastny and Miroslav Frycer. Upon searching for a roster of Canada from this tourney I was somewhat surprised that I couldn’t find much info on the internet. With the help of PVR and the hockey database sites, I was able to piece together Canada’s roster.

Gretzky’s 17 points would lead the tournament in scoring, a tourney that along with Stastny included Sergei Makarov and Mats Naslund. All of them were two and three years older than Gretzky. In the Czech game that I watched, the line of Gretzky, Wayne Babych and Tony McKegney was simply dominant. Canada’s roster that year may have been one of the best ever and included future stars Mike Gartner, Bobby Smith, Ryan Walter, Rick Vaive and Stan Smyl. This was the first time that Canada opted to enter an all-star squad rather than the previous year’s Memorial Cup winning team. In the 1976/77 tournament the St. Catherines Fincups had won a silver medal for Canada although they were reinforced by Toronto Marlboro star John Anderson.
Perhaps the weakest part of the ’78 squad was the goaltending. A fairly non-descript Al Jensen and Tim Bernhardt tended the cages and may have been two of the reasons Canada could only manage a third place finish. Two names on the roster full of future NHLers really jumped out at me as not quite belonging.

Pat Daley and Brian Young (pictured above with Tim Bernhardt) each played regular roles for Canada and were stars on their junior club teams. Daley would score 120 points for the Laval Nationale that season and be drafted in the fourth round by Winnipeg. He’d play a mere 12 games over two seasons with the Jets before returning to his native France to play until 1994.
Brian Young was a member of the New Westminster Bruins of the WHL coached by Ernie “Punch” MacLean who also coached the 1978 Canadian squad. Young scored 57 points that season and like Daley was drafted in the fourth round by Chicago. He would, as with Daley play very few NHL games notching two assists in eight games in 1980/81. His career continued to parallel Daley as he would play nine seasons in Europe after bouncing around the minor leagues for a few seasons.
Gretzky working some magic

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Airbrush Magic

Here's my next batch of delightfully whimsical attempts by O-Pee-Chee to trick us into believing players were wearing the jersey of their brand new team. The lost art of the hockey card airbrush is explored further.

Here we see a complete paint job on Mike Blaisdell and we learn why in fact the gloves of traded players were rarely painted over in the airbrush process. A very cartoony “glove” is the result as they just can’t deal with all the folds and pieces of the glove. And again, the lettering of “New York” on the jersey appears to have been applied by a four year old. I am not familiar with the style of helmet he is wearing either, I think at one point in time it was a Jofa.

Another full-body attempt on, this time on Chico. The Rockies logo actually looks almost presentable. What’s funny on this one is the “artist” kept the original red stripe from the Islanders jersey at the bottom-left of the image. This small bit of original mesh somehow helps the overall realism of the airbrushing.

Again, the cartoony glove treatment is seen, as well as a failed logo attempt. What I can’t understand about this one is why it was even painted. Christoff had three previous North Star cards issued yet had played the previous season with Calgary. I assume they painted the North Stars over his Calgary uni for some reason even though he was now a King. Confusing.
Bill Flett donning a painted Flyers jersey complete with a melting Flyers logo. Here the gloves were left as the Kings ones they originally were. At least they have nice detail on them, even if they are the wrong colour.
This is an example of OPC’s practice in the early 70’s of not even bothering to try to paint a new jersey and logo for traded players. Just cover up the old logo and put the new team’s logo on the card. Simple. Bruce Gamble seems to be in the middle of saying something to the photographer. Also, he looks more like a bus-driver than a professional athlete.
Here’s a fairly average logo rendering, and with goalies the original gloves can be kept. It looks to me like he’s wearing jeans though which makes him appear more like a fan wearing a replica jersey.
What is it with goalies of the 70’s not looking like athletes, Edwards looks like a deli-owner more than a goalie.

I’m not quite sure what jersey Ernie Hicke was originally wearing in this shot. He had played the two previous years with the California Golden Seals who wore nothing close to this orange jersey. As near as I can figure it may be with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the old Western League with whom he played the year prior.
This one is simply atrocious. It looks as if it wasn’t even airbrushed, and more like like it was oil painted. You can see the delicate brush strokes on the over-sized Whalers logo. To top it off, (literally) it looks like Quennville’s helmet is made of felt, brutal.
Another awful Whalers attempt. It must be the terrible green that makes it difficult to paint. Looks like this was painted with a roller.
Two more beauts here. Burrows looks like he’s in the middle of an Impressionist painting, nice attention to detail on the collar tie-up laces on both.

Bobby Orr’s two Black Hawks cards from 1976/77 and ‘77/78 are both airbrushed and then for his final card in ‘78/79 OPC uses a two year old photo. His first Hawks card is an obvious brush-job and his gloves are only half painted as the black from the Bruins could be used for the lower part of the Hawks gloves. Orr’s next card is even worse. One would figure they could have gotten a shot of him with Chicago as he played 20 games for them in ‘76/77. Instead, OPC used an old shot of Bobby sitting on the Bruins bench, notice the Bruin player sitting beside him.
For his final card in ‘78/79 we see Orr sitting on the team Canada bench, (what is it with him and photos on the bench?) beside Denis Potvin during the 1976 Canada Cup. A little more respect for one of the greats of all-time would have been nice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rookie All-Star Teams

This season, Luke Schenn was named to the NHL Rookie All-Star team. As a Leaf fan myself, I may even say that he didn’t quite deserve the selection over Boston’s Matt Hunwick or even Atlanta’s Zach Bogosian. Either way, his selection gives the Maple Leafs a complete team of rookie All-Star selections since the first post season squad was selected in 1982/83. The Leafs join Philadelphia, New Jersey and Boston as teams that have had at least three forwards, two defense and a goalie selected since then.

The Leafs selections over the years are:
F Dan Daoust, Wendel Clark, Sergei Berezin, Mike Johnson
D Kenny Jonsson, Luke Schenn
G Felix Potvin

Not the greatest septet, nobody of Hall of Fame caliber although Clark may have had a shot had he stayed healthy.

Over the twenty-six seasons of selecting Rookie squads, three teams have had ten players honoured.
Philadelphia’s ten:
F Eric Lindros, Mikael Renberg, Simon Gagne
D Thomas Eriksson, Chris Therien, Janne Niinimaa, Joni Pitkanen
G Pelle Lindbergh, Ron Hextall, Brian Boucher

Some big stars here, but again probably no Hall of Famers (prove me wrong Eric, prove me wrong).

Pittsburgh’s ten:
F Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Malone, Jaromir Jagr, Mario Lemieux, Warren Young
D Zarley Zalapski
G Sebastien Caron, Patrick Lalime

A nice looking group of forwards with two Hall of Famers (Jagr included) and two young potentials. The quality dropped off on the defensive side however.

Chicago’s ten:
F Steve Larmer, Tony Amonte, Eric Daze, Tyler Arnason, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg
G Darren Pang, Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek

The Hawks selections include two of the greatest goalies of the era, lots of potential and a few duds. The Penguins and Hawks lead the way with seven forwards each selected and Chicago and Philly lead with three goaltenders each picked. The New Jersey Devils have had nine players picked to the All Rookie teams and are tied with the Flyers and L.A. Kings with four defensmen selected.

New Jersey:
F Kevin Todd, Petr Sykora, Partik Elias, Scott Gomez
D Eric Weinrich, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rafalski, Colin White
G Martin Brodeur,

Two pretty certain Hall of Famers in Brodeur and Niedermayer…….and Kevin Todd

Los Angeles
F Luc Robitaille, Jimmy Carson
D Drew Doughty, Lubomir Visnovsky, Rob Blake, Steve Duchesne
G Jamie Storr

Two more Hall members here in Robitaille and most likely Blake. Storr never quite panned out as expected and is currently lighting it up with Dusseldorf of the German League.

The Canadiens have had eight players chosen as All-Rookie:
F Michael Ryder, Oleg Petrov, Gilbert Dionne, Kjell Dahlin, Mats Naslund
D Chris Chelios
G Carey Price, Patrick Roy, Steve Penney

Solid with Chelios and Roy yet the forwards after Naslund are really quite the heap of mediocrity at best.

The Bruins have also had eight picks:
F Brad Boyes, Sergei Samsonov, Joe Juneau, Ken Hodge
D Nick Boynton, Kyle McLaren, Glen Wesley
G Andrew Raycroft

Certainly not the calibre of even the Habs with Boyes probably the best of the lot.
Two other teams have had seven selections;

New York Rangers
F Mike York, Tony Granato, Mike Ridley, Tomas Sandstrom
D Brian Leetch
G Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Blackburn
Leetch and Lundqvist are the pick of the litter here. Blackburn had a nice start to his career derailed by a nerve in his arm. He retired at age 22.

F Jarome Iginla, Joe Nieuwendyk, Hakan Loob, Sergei Makarov
D Dion Phaneuf, Gary Suter, Jamie Macoun
An overall strong group from Calgary, but no goaltender honoured over the years.

Perhaps the best lot of players from one team would be the Detroit Red Wings. Although they have had only five players chosen to the All-Rookie squad they may end up with four of them in the Hall. Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom are in or locks and Sergei Fedorov is probable with Henrik Zetterberg a definite possibility. Vladimir Konstantinov is the fifth Wing so honoured, and he was well on track for a stellar career before his unfortunate accident.

Overall, one could say the year-end selection of rookie All-Stars shows that in any given year there really is only two or three first year players who have a chance to go on to immortality.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Airbrushed cards and other faves.

I have been collecting sports cards, (mainly hockey) fairly seriously since about 1979. Over the years I have had alot of cards pass through my hands, and I have kept many of them. My Gretzky rookie and Bill Barilko Parkhurst are two of my favourites, but others stand out for reasons other than their grandeur. There are some hockey cards worth no more than a few pennies that stand out in my mind moreso than some of the expensive ones. As a kid, I marvelled at the airbrush techniques used on traded players and how easily these poor pieces of work were spotted.
Perhaps one of the more poorly treated players in this regard is Rogie Vachon. His first two issues were fairly straight forward and handled with the respect that most Montreal Canadiens receive in the hockey world. Once traded to the Kings however he was abused in hockey card form. For his first Kings release of 1972/72 he was actually decapitated. The good people in the O-Pee-Chee graphics department attempted unsucessfully to put a photo of his head on another players torso.
Not only is his head slightly off-centred, but it's skin colour doesn't match that of the neck. The neck as well is far more hair covered than it would be in the following year's card. At least Rogie is in possession of his own body, why on earth there was no Kings logo on his jersey, I've never figured out. It is obviously a photo of a pre-mustachioed Vachon happliy wearing his Kings jersey...that has had the logo airbrushed out. If anyone has an answer for this, do tell.

Next is one of the more sadness inducing cards of my childhood. Not only was my hero Darryl Sittler unceremoniously traded to the hated Flyers halfway through the 81/82 season, but his subsequent hockey card was airbrushed. Such indignity. Sure, it's not that obvious but I could tell.
The following card is an example of a strange practice by OPC in the late 70's. They would add airbrushing to a photo only for enhancement of an already accurate image. Mike Milbury's rookie card has obviously been needlessly "touched up" even though he is already wearing a Bruins jersey.
And then there are the cases of the much needed airbrush. Most often this is due to a player being aquired by a new team and a proper photo not being gathered in time for printing. The 1980/81 OPC set had a different reason, the Atlanta Flames had just moved to Calgary and the new team had not designed a logo yet. OPC decided to simply brush over the Flaming "A" on the photos from the previous season. The fact that they didn't go overboard actually makes it look not as atrocious as most airbrushings.
Here's a real confusing one. Bob Baun with a poorly whited out Red Wings logo and apparently a member of the Buffalo Sabres. On Nov. 3, 1970, Baun was indeed claimed via waivers by the Sabres but...the very next day he was traded to St.Louis. Nine days later he was traded to his original squad the Maple Leafs where he finished his career. How OPC decided to call him a Sabre that year is one of the mysteries of nature.
This one really troubled me as a kid. Not only was the beloved Maple Leaf logo absolutely butchered, but they didn't even attempt to get rid of Luce's Sabres gloves. At least the helmet was almost the same shade of blue. Thirty odd years later I am more troubled by the aquisition of Don Luce. Aside from the fact that he provided a lacklustre half season of work, but the 6th round pick we gave up to get him turned out to be Kevin Stevens. Nice.
Lee Fogolin played 924 games in the NHL, more than half of them with the Oilers. He played zero games in the WHA, with the Oilers or anyone else. Yet he is airbrushed wearing a WHA version of the Oilers uniform which he would have never actually worn. I suppose when the crack OPC design team were putting together the set, the Oilers hadn't yet released their NHL uniform style. Anyway, it's an awful job either way.
This one is more comical than anything. I'm not sure if they were trying to paint "Duguay" on the back of the jersey as if it was following folds in the fabric, or if one of the artists was just pleasantly drunk. As long as Ron's mega-perm was unaffected by the airbrush, I guess they though they had succeeded. They didn't.
Poor Howard Walker. Not only was he not deemed worthy of a card after his rookie season with the Capitals in 1980/81, but when he was immortalized in cardboard for his only card, he got the airbrush treatment. He was also an unfortunate member of the "Tron" helmet fanclub. I think OPC felt bad about snubbing him because he got a card in 1982/83 after only playing 16 games with Caps. After this card was issued, Walker would play a mere three games for the Flames and be retired from hockey at age 24.
This combination of god-awful helmet paint job and brutal logo and jersey painting makes this one of my all-time favourite brushing attempts.
This is one of the uglier cards ever made. I have no idea why The Great One needed an air-brushing on this one, plus I do not recall him ever wearing anything but his "broomball" Jofa helmet in his career. I do not remember seeing him wear this Great Gazoo special seen here. Troubling indeed.
This one's too easy....from the terrifically awful helmet style and paint to the terrible Devils green to Mel's mug itself. This is just all round tragic.
This has to be the worst photo ever used on a sports card of any kind, even worse than decapitated Rogie. Dave Farrish is barely seen behind the glass stanchion looking skyward as if to say "Why me?" Perhaps the photographer staged this shot to use negative space to give anticipation for the furious action that is about to transpire. Most likely it was the only photo of Farrish they could find.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Quebec League Craziness

In celebration of their 40th season, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has released a concise database of every game ever played. It’s very well put together and easy to use. It would be real nice if the OHL and WHL could do the same thing.
The “Q” has predominantly been known as the more offense driven circuit of the three Canadian junior leagues with players often putting up astronomical totals. Below are a few of the crazy numbers I found using the new site.

In 1983/84 Mario Lemieux set the junior record for consecutive games with a point at 61 games. He tallied a point in each and every of the first 61 games played that year with totals of 108 goals, 128 assists and 236 points. This works out to an average of 3.87 points per game, ridiculous. However, after his streak was finally snapped in his 62nd game, he really turned it on. Lemieux would score in each of his final 9 games of the season putting up a truly incredible 25 goals, 21assists and 46 points. This is an average of 5.11 points per game, he actually got better.

Speaking of scoring streaks, ten years earlier in 1973/74, Pierre Larouche set the record by scoring a GOAL in 27 consecutive games. During this time, he scored 52 goals and 76 assists for 128 points…in 27 games. This averages out to a Lemieux-ian 4.74 pts/game.

One of the more bizarre games in hockey history occurred on Feb. 5, 1971. The Quebec Remparts defeated Rosemont 14-1. Three players scored 10 or more points in this game. Andre Savard scored 3 goals, 9 assists for 12 points. Guy Lafleur went 7-4-11 and Michel Briere 3-7-10. Perhaps more amazing, only one of Quebec’s goals that night were scored on the powerplay, and even crazier, no other Rempart scored more than one point!
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