Showing posts from December, 2011

Quebec Nordiques Thrash Red Army, 26 years ago today.

December 28, 1985. The Nordiques of Quebec convincingly beat the touring Soviet Red Army squad by a score of 5-1. This was the third game of the 1986 Super Series tour for the Russians and they had previously beaten Los Angeles Kings 5-2 and the Edmonton Oilers 6-3.

Critics were saying that the Super Series had lost some of it's lustre and this was shown in the fact that Le Colisee in Quebec was a few hundred short of a sell out. In fact the Nordiques had to offer a two-for-one promotion, selling 3,000 tickets on the last weekend before the game. Nevertheless, Quebec provided a satisfying outcome for the home crowd on the strength of a hat-trick from Michel Goulet and the adequate, if largely un-tested goaltending of Clint Malarchuk.

The match didn't open up until halfway through the first period when Goulet deflected a Randy Moller shot past goalie Sergei Mylnikov. Three minutes later, while shorthanded, John Anderson outraced Slava Fetisov and Alexei Kasatonov to score on a …

Soviets Trounce New York Rangers, 36 years ago today

December 28, 1975, a new era in international hockey competition is begun but the result is eerily familiar. This date was the first in a round of games which NHL president Clarence Campbell said presented, "a new potential for hockey internationally" and hoped "this new development is the forerunner to international competition on a continuing basis".

Having played 'All-Star' teams from Canada in in 1972 and 1974, the Soviets would now send two club teams to play four games each against various NHL teams in the middle of the season. The NHL covered all expenses of the two Soviet squads as well as paying $25,000 to each team for each game played. The New York Rangers would be guinea pigs of sorts in this new format and their star centre Phil Esposito realized that fact,"If we lose it, it's not going to be the end of the world for me...It's an exhibition series that's darned good for hockey. But let's not carried away." Esposito and…

Denman Arena, 100th Anniversary

This past Tuesday (Dec. 20) marked the exact 100th anniversary of the opening in Vancouver of the second largest indoor arena in North America. Sadly, only the most minimal of mention was made of it in the local news. The Vancouver Sun had a small blurb about it in it's "This Day in History" column.

I have been high-lighting this old barn over the last couple of years (see links below), so I may as well finish up with a nod to the century anniversary. Perhaps the lack of reknown for the Denman Arena stems from the fact that it stood for only 25 years, as it burned down in 1936. Even still, the city of Vancouver really should have acknowledged it's opening this week.

Pictured at the top is the survey map showing the exact location of the building that is found in
the great book "Coast to Coast" by John Chi-Wit Wong. In it, he quotes the Vancouver Sun describing the opening day so many years ago.

"The Vancouver arena was a marvel of it's time and would…

Herb Cain; The Only NHL Scoring Leader Not in The Hall of Fame

Okay, I should re-phrase the title of this one. Herb Cain is the only player over the first 77 years of NHL play to lead in scoring and not be later elected to the Hall. Of the players since 1994 not yet elected to the Hall, all are still active except for Eric Lindros and Peter Forsberg and I believe each will get in sooner than later.

Cain remains the one exception having topped the NHL in scoring in 1943/44 with a new NHL single-season record of 82 points. His career numbers of 570 games, 206 goals, 400 points and two Stanley Cups are fairly impressive. He was also only the 13th man ever to score 200 career goals and twice finished second, once fourth and once sixth in goals scored. Obviously all this was not enough for selection to hockey's shrine. I may be slightly biased in his favour however as Cain was born and raised in the town I grew up in, Newmarket, Ontario. And, although steady and consistent, I don't think fellow Newmarket native defenceman Jamie Macoun will be …

Maple Leafs, Playing like it's 1989. That's not a good thing.

In Monday's Toronto Star, writer Damien Cox made an interesting comment that the current edition on the Maple Leafs is reminiscent of the Doug Carpenter coached Leafs of 'twenty years ago'. It really is an interesting comparison of the style and results of the two teams.

Carpenter coached really only one season, 1989/90 (he was let go after a 1-9-1 start to the next season). In 89/90 the Leafs were exactly a .500 team with a 38-38-4 record, finishing third in the Norris Division. This year, when the silly OT/Shootout Loss points that didn't exist twenty years ago are removed the Leafs are realistically a .500 team at 16 and 17. With 338 goals for and 358 goals surrendered, the 89/90 squad finished third in each of those categories league-wide. They certainly were an entertaining squad to watch much like this year's team. So far in 2011/12, Toronto ranks 7th in goals/game and 6th in goals against/game with of course 30 teams in the league as opposed to 21 in 1989/90…

The day Tim Horton was almost 1951

Defenceman Tim Horton was certainly one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game and he tragically lost his life in a car accident in 1974. He was 44 years old at the time and had played in 1446 NHL games. Little known to most, Tim Horton had a close brush with death at the age of 21 after playing one NHL game the year previous.

The 1950/51 season saw Horton play his second full season with Toronto's top farm team the AHL's Pittsburgh Hornets. He had tallied 34 points in 68 games an gotten into one game with the Leafs that year. In his own autobiography, Leaf teammate Danny Lewicki tells of how close Horton came to losing his life even more pre-maturely than he did 23 years later.

Lewicki says,"Tim was lucky to be at the camp as he came very close to being killed that summer in his hometown (Cochrane, Ont.). Apparently in June, a native of Sudbury by the name of Clarence Brousseau went berserk with a rifle killing three people. Tim lived a few blocks away from …

Saturday Night at The Gardens, 25 years ago.

“We were bullied. They outplayed us in every department. We were only in the game for the first three of four minutes.” Detroit Red Wings coach Jacques Demers cut right to the point after a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Toronto. The game was played Saturday night, November 15, 1986 at Maple Leaf Gardens and I was there as a guest of my buddy Ross.

Saturday night at The Gardens, even as a 15 year old kid I knew it was a special place. You entered the building usually at one of the smaller entrances at the western corner of the building on Carlton Street or the eastern side on Church Street. The doors themselves were very un-ceremonial. Merely a pair of plain double doors that were propped open by turnstiles but they opened up to another world, especially on a Saturday night.

The throngs of patrons nearly pushed you back out the second you gained entry. A little dodging and weaving sprung you out of the crowd near the entrance into the main concourse of the Gardens. Once here, I always …

NHL Notes

The NHL's top 5 goal scorers are all newcomers to the top of the goal table. Amongst Milan Michalek, Phil Kessel, James Neal, Jonathan Toews and Claude Giroux the top single season is Kessel with 36 goals and Toews with 34. The average top season of the five is 29.6 goals. Can you say career years?

Coming into this season, Alex Ovechkin averaged 5.31 shots in each of his 475 career games. This season he has averaged 3.71 shots/game.

Brian Elliott is playing like it's 1929. His 1.46 GAA through 15 games would be the lowest since the 1928/29 season when the ENTIRE league's goals against average was 1.46. His .947 Save Pct. would shatter the record of Tim Thomas at .938 set last year. This year, Thomas's Pct is... .938.

If nothing else, Toronto's goaltending core has been consistent. James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens all have a SavePct of between .896 and .904 and GAA's of between 2.96 3.13. Incidentally since his return from injury, Reimer is 0-2-1 wit…

Henderson Scores for Canada, in 1962

Paul Henderson's exploits against the Soviet Union in September 1972 was not the first time he tangled with the Russians. Far from it, Henderson first played against and scored against the Russians almost 10 years prior to the Summit Series.

During his final year of junior hockey with the Ontario League's Hamilton Red Wings, 18 year old Henderson notched a goal in a 9-5 loss on Nov. 19, 1962. A touring squad of Soviets, most of them 23 or 24 years of age had their way with the beefed up Hamilton side in front of a capacity crowd of 3,827. In 1962/63, Henderson would tally 50 goals and 76 points in 49 games.

The junior Red Wings were led that season by Pit Martin and his 87 points and were reinforced by graduates of the program from the previous two years. One of the goals against the Soviets was scored by Lowell MacDonald, on loan from Pittsburgh of the AHL. Also on the squad were future NHLers Gary Doak, Bart Crashley, Jimmy Peters, Nick Libbett and Bryan Campbell.


Wayne Gretzky, Baseball Star

Now batting for your Toronto Blue Jays, number 99, Wayne Gretzky. This phrase was never actually uttered, but it could have been if things played out differently in the summer of 1980.

In the July 1980 issue of The Hockey News there is a quick blurb that mentions Gretzky was playing in the Inter-County Baseball League and batting .500 over the first few games. The Inter-County circuit plays senior baseball in larger cities of Southern Ontario and in 1980 a 19 year old Wayne would have been one of the younger players.

On June 12 of that year the AP reported that the Toronto Blue Jays had offered Gretzky a tryout, and if he showed major league potential, a contract offer could follow. Bob Prentice, the Blue Jays director of Canadian scouting believed the hockey star also could be a baseball star. "It's a serious offer on our part. I've seen him play in the last couple of years and he has some talent. But it was only recently he indicated that he loves the game. We had though…

Maple Leaf Gardens Re-Opens

Living on the Canadian West Coast and being a diehard Leaf fan presents a few problems. The main one of course is the distance from where I live in North Vancouver to Toronto itself. This past week, the newly renovated Maple Leaf Gardens was re-opened as a Loblaw's Supermarket. I of course would have loved to go check it out but, lucky for me my parents still live in Ontario and are also big hockey fans. I have my dad to thank for these great photos he took of their trip recently to the new Gardens.

Near the entry of the new supermarket is this very cool Maple Leaf sculpture made entirely of old Gardens Blue seats. Some of the original walls are still exposed.

The exact spot of the old centre ice dot remains.

The aisle signage is reminiscant of an old scoreboard.

A beautiful mural commemorating great events in Leaf history.

As far as I can tell, even though it is filled with foodstuffs and other merchandise, the building somehow seems to retain the feel of an old arena. Apparently…

Around the Hockey World

Soon to be 40 year old (Dec 9) Petr Nedved is one point off the lead in Czech league scoring with 31 points in 25 games.
Ex-NHL First Rounder Rob Schremp is playing for Modo of the Swedish League and sits third in team scoring with 19 points in 27 games.
Leading the Swedish circuit in scoring is Mike Iggulden with 28 points in 27 games. The 28 year old last played in the NHL three seasons ago when he notched 5 points in 11 games with the Islanders.
Undrafted 19-year old Tanner Pearson of the OHL's Barrie Colts is scoring at well over a 2 points/game pace and has a 12 point lead in the scoring race.
The WHL has turned into the Quebec League of the early 1980's as no less than five players are on nearly a goal/game pace. Emerson Etem and Ty Rattie lead the way with 28 markers in 30 and 29 games respectively.
20 year-old Craig Cowie of the Nepean Raiders in the Central Canadian Hockey League is having quite a season. He has a 18 point lead in the scoring race with 75 points in 32 game…

Team Unit Update

It's official. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays are in business together. Well, at least many of the two team's young players are. As I mentioned a few months ago, Leaf players Tyler Bozak, Colby Armstrong, Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel among others have become fast friends with several young Blue Jays including Brett Lawrie, JP Arencebia and Ricky Romero. Just yesterday their combined website went online selling their own T-Shirts (presumably with all proceeds to charity).

I have to admit, they look fairly sharp and being a diehard fan of both squads I will have to buy one. I just hope I don't look as excited as Bozak did last week after he scored a pair of goals in Anaheim and met up with fellow TeamUnit member and Los Angeles native Ricky Romero.