Monday, July 18, 2011

Mystery Hockey Photos

My pal (and fellow hockey nerd) Jeremy was asked by another friend on facebook about the above photo. He was asked to figure out where it was from. He grabbed me via chat and asked for some assistance and we went back and forth for the next half hour. The strange thing about the photo was it's poor quality and the fact that the photo itself was apparently found in Russia.

The only clearly identified player is Ken Dryden and not his brother Dave. The number 29 is a dead giveaway, a quick check shows Dave only ever wore numbers 1, 28 and 30 in his career. The first instinct says the photo is from the 1979 Challenge Cup series which pitted the NHL stars against the Soviet National squad. The front of the jersey's of Dryden's team are fairly blurry but they very well could be the NHL crest from the '79 series. And that dark sweatered #24 on the left sure looks like Sergei Makarov. However, if this was the Challenge Cup, why the extremely poor quality of the pic? Also there appears to be a low-hanging light above the ice which suggests it wouldn't be Madison Square Garden.

Jeremy suggested if indeed it was taken in Russia, it could have been the 1969 Izvestia Tournament. A pre-NHL Dryden and Canada tied The Soviets 2-2 on Dec.4, 1969 in Moscow. Alas, a quick search produced a photo verified to be from that game. There doesn't appear to be any "Canada" lettering in our mystery photo, and the stripes on the white jersey elbows and legs don't match.

The dark team in the mystery photo really does look like the Soviets with the just barely recognizeable "diamond" pattern around the bottom of the jersey. Below is a late 70's/1980 era Makarov shot. That certainly could be him in the mystery pic.

So how exactly did the striping appear on the 1979 NHL Challenge Cup jerseys? See below, it's a match. Also, in the mystery shot Dryden seems to have a small patch on his left shoulder which indeed the 1979 NHL stars has as well (in other photos, not visible below).

The crazy thing is that the last photo of Dryden could very well be the exact 180 degree opposite view of the mystery one, check out his arm positioning. After watching a few youtube clips of the Challenge Cup, we determined that the advertising on the boards left of Dryden (Planters peanuts sign) does in fact match up with Madison Square. The final piece of the puzzle would be filling in the players whose number can be made out. Team NHL #4 was Barry Beck and #18 was Serge Savard, and both do in fact shoot Left as in the photo. The video evidence shows that yes, they even played as partners in the series. The guy above Savard's left shoulder is either #22, 23 or 27. Shutt, Gainey or Sittler. The first and last guys wore helmets in the series, so that has to be a #23 and Bob Gainey.

The only thing we failed to determine was whether this was from Game One or Two of the series. All the identified players played in each of the first two games (Gerry Cheevers played game Three for the NHL). We came to the conclusion that the photo was indeed taken at Madison Square Garden, perhaps by a Russian tourist which explains it's ending up in the Motherland. We imagine the poor quality can be explained by the simple fact that it was an old Russian camera and probably not up to par with the standards of 1979 North American ones. That light in the photo hanging low above the ice, we figure is merely a reflection from behind the viewer.

On to the next mystery! I have now gone in search online of unidentified hockey action photos to try to figure out what their origin is. Below is a New York Islanders vs Detroit Red Wings game from the early 1980's which I will delve into in the near future.

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