Sunday, August 23, 2009

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 Winnipeg Coach Nick Mickoski sat in the first row of the stands. But every time he stood up to make a line change or give instructions to a player, the fans would complain so loudly that he would have to shout his orders sitting down.

The ice at Cherry Hill had a definite tilt to it, too, prompting Bobby Hull to say, "It's the only arena I've ever been in where the visiting team had to skate uphill for two periods of every game. There was also a huge dip in the ice." In fact, one night Ted Scharf of the Knights was waiting for a pass when the puck shot straight up and struck him between the eyes."

I love old tales of the WHA, and will continue to post the awesome stories I come across.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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 came up with this memory which I remember fondly as it can mean only one thing, you were sitting in the Gold seats. Once I was lucky enough to sit in the Garden Golds seats right behind the net. There were five or six rows crammed in front of the end brick wall of the arena, which was of course peppered consistenly with rubber.

3. Players wearing their numbers on their gloves and the outer heels of their skates
My pal Dupper came up with this one, and I love it. I'm not sure if the numbers were put on the equipment so the players could keep track of their stuff in the rooom, or simply a matter of pride. They certainly weren't for helping in identification from afar as they were too small. I suppose nowadays with multiple person equipment staffs and dressing room attendants, the threat of misplacing your equipment has vanished and with it the numbers on it.

4.Goalies with 2 hands on the stick
This one's from my friend JQ and he is older than me, but not by THAT much to actually have actually witnessed goalies holding the stick with two hands. It was a simpler time way back when and there was even a time when goalies were not aloud to even fall down. JQ is an old goalie from back in the day so I wont doubt him on this matter.

5. Danny Gallivan and his "cannonading" descriptions
This one is a great memory for any hockey fan that is old enough. Growing up in Ontario, we didn't hear Gallivan on HNIC for every game, but when the Leafs played the Habs he was an added treat.

6. Insanely curved sticks
These are no longer legal in the game, but at the dawn of the "banana blade" with Hull and Mikita there really was no limit.

7. No advertising on the boards
This one is self-explanatory and really didn't die out until the late '80s and early '90s. The boards really do seem naked now when you watch an old game with no ads on them, and that's the way it really should be.

8. Peter Puck
Created by Brian MacFarlane in the mid 70's, Peter Puck was an animated character that would explain the finer points of the game to newbies (Americans). I picked up a Peter Puck DVD last year and it still holds it's charm.

9. Pissing in a trough at Maple leaf Gardens
I was at a single 'A' Vancouver Canadians game this week and they have a trough at the aging Nat Bailey Stadium, but it's a metal one that hangs from the wall. The Gardens' troughs were beautifully tiled and stood from the floor to higher than the top of my head as a young kid. Truely daunting, and something you don't forget easily.

10. Al Iafrate's Hair
Simply ridiculous.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Teeder", 1925-2009

Two of my favourites from my collection.......

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Age Based All-Stars

I decided to select All-Star squads for the past season based on the ages of the players. One team of first and second All-Stars would be picked from all players 24 years old and under, one from players aged 25 to 29, and one for players aged 30 and older. Click on the chart below for an expanded version of the squads.

Some pretty good looking teams there, to say the least. Which one is the best though? The Kids would have to come out ahead in the centremen category with Crosby and Malkin, and would probably win with Ovechkin and Parise as left wingers. The Old Boys would have to be considered the winners when it comes to right winger with Iginla and St.Louis.
The defensemen are fairly well matched in each age group but overall the Old Boys would have to come out ahead with the likes of Andrei Markov and Scott Niedermayer as the second team all-stars.
Coming down to goaltending, the Oldsters with Vezina winner Tim Thomas and Evgeni Nabokov will barely best the youngsters Ward, Fleury and Mason (I couldn't pick just two of the three) and the Prime Agers, Lundqvist and Luongo.
Looking at my teams it's safe to say the NHL's youngsters greatly outshine the players currently in their "prime" years right now. I mean which team would you rather watch, Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Green and all or Havlat, Hemsky, The Sedins and Duncan Keith.
This being said, in my estimation, the All-Star squad of 30 years and older is a better overall team led by their defense and goaltending.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bouncing around the NHL

Dallas Eakins was introduced recently as the new head coach of the Toronto Marlies, AHL affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Big deal right? Not really, but in reading the article in the Toronto Star I learned that Eakins played a mere 120 NHL games in his career, yet somehow managed to play for eight different NHL teams. He started in 1992/93 with 14 games for the Winnipeg Jets and ended in 2001/02 with 3 games for the Calgary Flames. The most NHL games he played in one season was 23 for the 97/98 Florida Panthers. Apparently his one assist and 44 PIM's warranted being featured on a Panthers program cover, (pictured). So, 120 games for eight teams seemed like a unique and fairly difficult feat.

It turns out it is quite difficult, but not entirely unique. Three players have played for at least eight NHL teams and still played less than 200 career games. Defenseman, Ken Hammond played 193 games for eight teams and Jarrod Skalde also suited up for eight squads for only 115 games, even less than Eakins.

Skalde was a second round pick by the Devils in 1989 and helped junior team mate Eric Lindros and the Oshawa Generals win the 1990 Memorial Cup. He would top out at 22 games with San Jose in 97/98 and managed to be a point-per-game scorer in ten different AHL and IHL seasons.
Of some note, tough guy, Reid Simpson managed to play for nine different NHL teams in only 301 games. Compared to Eakins, Hammond and Skalde he was a veritable NHL regular having played 53 games with Chicago in 98/99.

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