Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mike Modano in The Hall, Why Not Mark Recchi Too?

So, Mike Modano has been elected to hockey's Hall of Fame. I guessss he's a Hall of Famer. It's just that when I think Hockey Hall of Famer, Modano doesn't really jump out at me. Then again, neither do Clark Gillies, Bernie Federko, Dick Duff and many more. The hockey Hall is relatively easy to gain election (tell that to Eric Lindros), and because of that I don't really have a problem with Modano. I just would have put Mark Recchi in before him.  

Recchi and Modano were both rookies in 1989/90 even though Recchi had played 15 games the previous season and they finished 5th and 2nd respectively in Calder Trophy voting (behind old-man Makarov). They both retired 21 years later. Modano was integral in the winning of his one Stanley Cup in 1999 and Recchi was a large part of winning three Cups. In Recchi's first Cup he finished second in scoring with 34 points behind only Mario Lemieux. Modano also was second in scoring during his Cup year as well as the following year when Dallas dropped the Final to New Jersey.

In regular season play Recchi garnered three Second Team All-Star selections to Modano's one. Recchi placed top-four in All-Star voting on three other occasions and Modano four other times. Modano had three top-ten finishes in Hart Trophy voting finishing seventh twice while Recchi had a sixth and a ninth place finish over his career. Internationally speaking, Modano helped the USA win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the following spring Recchi was a part of Canada's World Championship squad. 

In terms of raw numbers, Recchi is 12th in career points with 1533 points and Modano 23rd with 1374. Modano never finished in the top five in scoring, his best being an 8th, 9th and 10th place. Recchi's best finishes in points were a 3rd, 4th and 5th. 

Perhaps the most interesting comparison of the two is found on www.hockey-reference.com. The site has a category called Similarity Score in which they find players whose careers had "similar quality and shape". On Mark Recchi's page his most "similar" player is Stan Mikita, then next is Modano. On Mike Modano's page, his most similar player is, you guessed it, Mark Recchi.

In the end, Mike Modano is probably a deserving Hall of Famer it's just that I'm not sure if he deserves enshrinement before Mark Recchi.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Les Binkley; 14-year old Allan Cup Rookie


Les Binkley was a fine goaltender of the first expansion era of the NHL. After having played 12 quality seasons in the high minor leagues with teams from Baltimore and Charlotte to Cleveland and San Diego, he finally got his shot at the NHL thanks to the 1967 expansion to twelve teams. Drafted by Pittsburgh at the age of 31, Binkley played almost 200 games over five seasons with the Penguins before jumping to the WHA in 1972. He wound down his career at the age of 39 after four years with the Ottawa/Toronto franchise.

Amazingly, Binkley got his start in high-level hockey way back in 1951 at the age of 14. As a member of his hometown Junior B Owen Sound Mintos, he was asked to join the senior Owen Sound Mercurys on their quest for the Alan Cup. He travelled and practiced with the team that included two ex-NHLers (Jack Ingoldsby and Pat McReavy) as well as former AHL scoring leader Tom Burlington.

In Stan and Shirley Fischler's 1971 book "Up From The Minor League of Hockey", Binkley describes how he actually got the call to play one of the important Allan Cup playoff matches;

"As things turned out, one of the teams we faced in the playoff was from Sarnia, Ontario (The Sailors). Well we were in Sarnia at the time, and I was walking around the town with some of the men on the club. It was then that I got the shock of my young life: the coach said he wanted me to play goal that night because the regular goalie (Bob Gillson) was sick.  Well, when I heard that I got good and nervous, and by the time I got down to the rink that night I was so nervous I couldn't even put my gear on straight. After all, it's all right to practice against Seniors, and it's fine to play well against kids your own age, but this was the Allan Cup playoffs. Somehow I managed to get out on the ice and I played as well as I could, but we lost 5-2."

The Society for International Hockey Research database does indeed show Binkley having played a game at age 14 during this Allan Cup run, but it lists him having yielded eight goals, not five. I found a google news score of a game from March 31, 1951 in which Sarnia beat Owen Sound by a score of 8 to 5. Anyway you look at it, a 14-year old playing with and against ex-pros is extremely impressive. Binkley's Owen Sound Mercurys went on to capture the Allan Cup in 1951 with a small contribution from a 14-year old goaltender.

A still youthful (20-yrs old) Binkley playing for Charlotte of the EHL


Monday, June 16, 2014

1954 NHL Oldtimers Game


In front of 10,000 spectators at Montreal's Forum, the NHL Oldtimers' Associations of Ontario and Quebec put an an entertaining display of hockey expertise. The date was Wednesday, January 6, 1954 and when all was said and done the Quebec masters beat the Ontario elders 11-9. This was the first meeting of the ex-NHL stars and was organized by Ontario's Lorne Duguid and Albert 'Battleship' Leduc of the Quebec Association. The proceeds of the match went to helping handicapped children.

The array of former stars was truly mind-boggling, pictured above is the elderly version of Toronto's famed Kid Line (left to right, Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau and Busher Jackson. Other Ontario stars included Dit Clapper, Nels Stewart, Billy Taylor, Cy Wentworth and goaltender Roy Worters. Charlie Conacher, who was joined in the match by brothers Bert, Roy and 52-year old member of parliament Lionel. Charlie and Roy notched two goals each while ex-Bruin Bill Cowley counted six assists. 

Nels 'Old Poison' Stewart
 The Quebec squad was led by two goals from Syd Howe and sported stars such as Toe Blake, Sylvio Mantha, Ken Reardon, Buddy O'Connor and Hooley Smith. However, the greatest ovation of the evening was given to ex-Canadiens goaltender Bill Durnan when he skated out halfway through the second frame to replace Claude Bourque. Afterwards Durnan stated what most of the players were probably thinking, "It's pretty tough getting back into the game. You find out you're not what you thought. After the first minute I thought I couldn't breathe."

Sadly, less than five months after this game, The Big Train, Lionel Conacher would die while playing a parliamentary softball game in Ottawa. He collapsed at third base after stretching a single into a triple. A fitting way to leave this world for Canada's Athlete of the Half-Century.






Monday, June 9, 2014

1964 Maple Leafs Calendar, Stanley Cup Victory

Here's some great pics from the 1964 Toronto Maple Leafs calendar. They show the Leafs celebrating 1963 Stanley Cup victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Toronto beat Detroit by four games to one, winning the last game by 3-1. They had finished first overall in the NHL that season with 82 points in 70 games, this marks the last time in franchise history that the Leafs would pull of this double feat.

The image below shows NHL President Clarence Campbell presenting the jubilant Leafs with the Cup. The inset shot pictures Frank Mahovlich enjoying a celebratory beverage. The bottom picture has Gardens Vice President (and future crumudgeon) Harold Ballard toasting the win with Toronto Mayor Donald Summerville. On the right we see Punch Imlach topping up the Cup with another round of victory drink.


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