Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Canada Day

Today is Canada Day, which celebrates the enactment in 1867 of the British North America Act which united New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada, which was comprised of what would be divided into Ontario and Quebec as part of the process, into a single country.

On June 20, 1868, the Governor General issued a proclamation asking for Canadians to celebrate the anniversary of the confederation. It became an official holiday in 1879 and was originally called "Dominion Day". As most residents considered themselves to still be primarily British, the holiday was not observed with any official celebration until 1917 and not widely observed as a uniquely Canadian holiday until as recently as 1958 when the government began to organize Dominion Day celebrations with a military parade in full dress uniform, called "Trooping the Colour", on Parliament Hill, followed by a band concert and fireworks display.

Dominion Day reached an important milestone in 1967 with the countries centennial, by which time Canadians became more proud of their independence from Britain. Televised concerts and other events from the nation's capital of Ottawa raised the profile of the event, while the government began to promote Dominion Day beyond the capital by giving grants to cities across the country to help fund local events.

While many people had began calling July 1st "Canada Day" informally, the new name was officially adopted in 1982. Today communities across Canada will celebrate with festivities such as parades, carnivals, picnics, air shows, concerts and fireworks, with the organized events on Parliament Hill the main event, with Queen Elizabeth sometimes in attendance.

On the jersey front, while the hockey season is completed by July 1st, the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club annually wears a special red jersey on Canada Day.

Canada Day Blue Jays jersey

Today's featured jersey is a 1996 Canada National Team Martin Brodeur jersey, worn during the inaugural 1996 World Cup of Hockey. While you may be more accustomed to seeing Brodeur wear his more familiar #30, veteran Bill Randford was also on the Canadian roster for the tournament and wore the #30 based on his greater seniority.

This "waving flag" style jersey is one of the most attractive national team jerseys and features the larger 4 inch size 1996 World Cup of Hockey patch used by the teams that wore Bauer jerseys. Only Canada wore the patch on their chest, while all the other teams in the tournament wore their patches on the left sleeve.

Canada 1996
Canada 1996
Canada 1996

Our video section begins with a salute to canada from Flippy Cat.

We know you want to be a Canadian. After watching this, you will agree too.

To sum up what it is to be Canadian, we present Joe.

No mention of Canada would seem complete without the man who penned "The Good Old Hockey Game", Stompin' Tom Connors.

Monday, June 22, 2015

1991-92 Quebec Nordiques Eric Lindros Jersey

Despite his steadfast and repeated warnings he would not play for them, the Quebec Nordiques drafted Eric Lindros with the first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft on this day in 1991.

Pierre Page and Lindros 1991 Draft
The Nordiques Pierre Page with Lindros at the 1991 NHL Draft

Lindros, perhaps the most hyped and anticipated player since Wayne Gretzky or perhaps even Bobby Orr, had already led the Oshawa Generals of the OHL to the 1990 Memorial Cup championship with 45 points in 21 playoff games, scored 149 points in 57 games for the Generals to lead the league in scoring in 1991 and was named the league MVP and the CHL Player of the Year.

Lindros Oshawa Generals
Lindros with the Oshawa Generals

While Lindros was tearing up Canadian junior hockey, the Quebec Nordiques were the doormats of the NHL, having finished last overall in 1988-89 with 61 points, suffered through a dreadful 1989-90 season during which they scored a mere 31 points before "improving" to 46 points in 1990-91 but still finishing with the worst record in the NHL, earning the right to select first overall for the third consecutive year.

Having already refused to report to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in junior hockey, Lindros again made his wishes known that he had no intention of playing for the Nordiques due to several factors that did not meet his or his agent's satisfaction, including limited marketing potential, high tax rates in Quebec and the difficulties associated with playing in the exclusively French speaking Quebec City.

With both sides at a standoff, the stubborn Nordiques selected him with the first overall pick in the 1991 draft anyway. The even more stubborn Lindros wasted no time in snubbing the Nordiques by refusing to wear the club's jersey for photos.

Lindros 1991 draft
Lindros refusing to wear a Nordiques jersey at the draft

Undaunted, the Nordiques president Marcel Aubut announced that they would build the team around Lindros and refused to trade him, claiming he would not have a career in the NHL as long as he held out. Meanwhile, Lindros kept himself quite busy has he played for Team Canada in the 1991 Canada Cup, then briefly returned to the Generals for 13 games prior to joining the Canadian National Team for 24 games of their schedule, participated in the 1992 World Junior Tournament followed by playing for Canada in the 1992 Winter Olympics, so there was no shortage of places for him to play during his unprecedented standoff with the Nordiques despite their 10-year, $50 million contract offer.

Eric Lindros 1992 Olympics
Lindros skating for Canada during his year long holdout

Eventually, after his year long holdout, the Nordiques relented and traded Lindros at the draft in 1992. The problem was, they agreed to trade him on June 20, 1992 to both the New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers in separate deals!

Eventually the NHL arbitrator would rule in favor of the Flyers on June 30th and with that, it was the Flyers who sent a King's Ransom to the Nordiques in the form of Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman, two first-round draft choices (one of which was used to select Jocelyn Thibault while the other was traded away) plus $15 million!

The trade would send the Nordiques franchise on the road to the Stanley Cup, which they would win in 1996 as the Colorado Avalanche in their first season after their relocation to Denver, Colorado.

Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Quebec Nordiques team issued Eric Lindros jersey made for Lindros to wear in his anticipated rookie season of 1991-92 with the Nordiques, which went unworn as Lindros made good on his threats to not play for the Nordiques and instead, would embark on a schedule of games with primarily the Canadian National Team until the Nordiques traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers in time for the 1992-93 season.

The 1991-92 season was the first one where the Nordiques changed from one color heat sealed white numbers to two color sewn on twill numbers, white now outlined in red.

1991-92 Quebec Nordiques Lindros jersey
1991-92 Quebec Nordiques Lindros jersey

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1990-91 Oshawa Generals Eric Lindros jersey as worn the season in which Lindros scored 149 points in 57 games just prior to his being drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques.

1990-91 Oshawa Generals jersey

Extra bonus jersey:Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1991-92 Canada National Team Eric Lindros jersey as used in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France while Lindros was refusing to play for the Nordiques in Quebec.

This jersey has all the graphics dye-sublimated onto the jersey and features the unusual white nameplate with red letters on a red jersey.

1991-92 Team Canada Lindros

Today's first video is the Nordiques following through on their promise to take Lindros first overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.

Here is a report on Lindros refusing to play for the Nordiques prior to the draft.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

We just wanted to take the opportunity to thank our long running sponsor for being a part of Third String Goalie for the years that they have been with us. We sincerely hope we were able to send a number of our readers his way.

We can't think of too many things cooler than a beautifully sublimated Russian jersey, especially those with a name on the back in Cyrillic. It was a product we believed in and were excited each time we were able to add one to our collection and hope you, our readers, were too.

Thanks to Robert for believing in what we are doing here and we wish him nothing but the best going forward.

Pro Russian Jerseys, Pro Russian Jerseys

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

1994-95 Quebec Nordiques Stephane Fiset Jersey

After playing his first season of junior hockey for the Victoriaville Tigres in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, goaltender Stephane Fiset was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques 24th overall with the 3rd pick in the second round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.

Stephane Fiset photo Fiset Victoriaville.jpg
Fiset in junior hockey with Victoriaville

He was back with the Tigres for the 1988-89 season where he won 25 games and posted the lowest goals against average in the league. His play was recognized with a spot on the Canadian team at the 1989 World Junior Tournament.

Fiset, born on this date in 1970, was back with Victoriaville for one final season of junior hockey in 1989-90 as well as a return trip to the World Juniors, where he went 5-1-1 in seven games to lead Canada to a gold medal as well as being named the Best Goaltender of the tournament. He also made his NHL debut that season, playing in 6 games for the Nordiques.

Still needing more seasoning, Fiset spent the vast majority of the 1990-91 season with the Halifax Citadels in the American Hockey League, going 10-15-8. He also was called up for three games with the Nordiques, who, aside from Ron Tugnutt, had a very unsettled backup goaltending situation.

Fiset split the 1991-92 season between Halifax (29 games) and the Nordiques, playing in 23 games, which included finally getting his first NHL win on his way to a 7-10-2 record, respectable numbers for the lowly 20-48-12 Nordiques, who finished 21st out of the 22 teams. In fact, Fiset's 7 wins led the team, as Jacques Cloutier (26 games) and Tugnutt (30) could only manage 6 wins apiece despite more games played.

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Fiset was known for his distinctive masks

Backing up newly arrived goaltender Ron Hextall, who arrived as part of the ransom of holdout Eric Lindros, Fiset played in 37 games in 1992-93, posting an 18-9-4 record for the improving Nordiques. Fiset also made three starts for the Citadels in the AHL that season.

With Hextall having been traded during the offseason, Fiset took over the reins as the team's #1 goaltender for the first time, playing in 50 games compared to backup Jocelyn Thibault's 29.

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Fiset broke into the NHL with the Nordiques and
eventually became their number one goaltender

At the conclusion of the season, Fiset was called upon by Team Canada for the 1994 World Championships, winning both of his starts as Canada defeated Finland to win the gold medal.

Fiset again got the majority of the starts in the strike shortened 1994-95 season, 32 vs the 18 of Thibault as the steadily improving Nordiques now had a roster with the likes of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Owen Nolan. Unfortunately, the team's financial situation was dire, and the club was sold to new owners who relocated the club to Denver, Colorado for the 1995-96 season.

Fiset moved with the franchise, now renamed the Colorado Avalanche. Fiset was still getting the majority of the starts for the team until a blockbuster trade in early December which saw the arrival of star and future Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, who had had a major falling out with the Montreal Canadiens. With Thibault departed in the Roy trade, Fiset remained as the backup. By the end of the regular season, Fiset had seen action in 37 games and tallied a stellar 22-6-7 record, while Roy led the club with 39 appearances and a 22-15-1 mark.

Stephane Fiset photo Fiset Avalanche.jpg
Fiset played one season in Colorado, which concluded with a Stanley Cup

The club was clicking on all cylinders, with Sakic leading the team with 120 points, closely followed by Forsberg's 116, as the playoffs arrived. Colorado then marched through the playoffs, defeating the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, each in six games, before sweeping the Florida Panthers in four straight to win the Stanley Cup in their first year in Colorado.

With Roy now at the helm, Fiset was dealt during the off season to the Los Angeles Kings to replace the departed Kelly Hrudy and team with Byron Dafoe. Fiset played a team high 44 games while Dafoe was in goal for 40 in 1996-97.

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Fiset's "King Tut" mask worn while he was a King

For 1997-98, Dafoe was gone and Fiset played in a workhorse 60 games, more than double the combined 29 by Jamie Storr and Frederic Chabot. Fiset and the Kings improved 20 points in the standings, which allowed Fiset to post a winning record of 25-25-8, an distinct improvement over the previous season when the King's struggled.

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Fiset set career highs with the Kings in 1997-98

Fiset led the Kings in games over the next two seasons, although Storr's games played continued to rise as he first took control of the backup job and then split time nearly evenly (47-42) in 1999-00.

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Fiset during the latter part of his Kings career

The 2000-01 season was a disaster for Fiset, as a knee injury cost him 25 games, which was followed by a second one that knocked him out of the lineup for 31 games. In the end, he played only seven games for the Kings and three for the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL as he was working his way back into playing form.

Unable to regain his form after his knee injuries, Fiset played 23 games for the Kings top AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs before a late season trade to his hometown Canadiens, for whom he would play just two regular season and one playoff game before retiring.

Stephane Fiset photo Fiset Canadiens.jpg
A rare shot of Fiset while with Montreal

His final NHL totals were 390 games played, 164 wins against 153 losses, 44 ties and 16 shutouts and a career 3,07 goals against average and a 90% save percentage. He also won a Stanley Cup with Colorado and a World Championship with Canada.

Today's featured jersey is a 1994-95 Quebec Nordiques Stephane Fiset jersey as worn during the Nordiques final season in Quebec.

This style Nordiques jersey dates back to the 1975-76 World Hockey Association season and would remain essentially unchanged through their final season in Quebec of 1994-95, with the only change worth noting being changing from one color blue numbers to two colors with the addition of red trim in 1991-92.

 photo Quebec Nordiques 1994-95 F jersey.jpg
Quebec Nordiques 1994-95 jersey photo Quebec Nordiques 1994-95 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jerseys: Today's bonus jerseys are 1997-98 Los Angeles Kings Sephane Fiset jerseys. These jerseys were worn during Fiset's second season with Los Angeles when he set career highs in games played with 60 and wins with 26.

This was the final season for the Kings "Chevy" logo black, white and silver jerseys which arrived on the scene with the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988-89. While the jerseys remained unchanged for ten seasons, the customization evolved over time from two color names and numbers to three color names and numbers for the 1991-92 season, to finally easier to read one color names while sticking with the three color numbers from 1992-93 onward, with the numbers on the white jerseys (finally) changing to a more legible black rather than their original lower contrast silver.

Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 jersey photo Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 home F jersey.jpg
 photo Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 home B jersey.jpg

Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 jersey photo Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 F jersey.jpg
Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 jersey photo Los Angeles Kings 1997-98 B jersey.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is 1998-99 Los Angeles Kings Sephane Fiset jersey. After an absence of a decade, purple returns to the Kings jerseys in this complete overhaul of the Kings look. Not a particularly good look, these dark and moody jerseys also featured an overly detailed coast of arms main crest and cartoonish number font and "Los Angeles" plastered across the waist of both the home and road jerseys.

One year later a purple alternate was introduced which featured the secondary crown logo as the main crest. After three seasons, the team would come to the realization that the crown made for a bolder main crest and in 2002-03, swapped the crests on all three of their jerseys, ending the use of this specific black jersey with the coat of arms crest after four seasons. The new combination of the black jersey with the crown logo would remain in use for 11 years through the 2012-13 season.

 photo Los Angeles Kings 1998-99 F jersey.jpg
Los Angeles Kings 1998-99 jersey photo Los Angeles Kings 1998-99 B jersey.jpg

Today's video section begins with Fiset himself, speaking in French for a minute.

Next up, the Top 10 Canadian World Junior Performances. Fiset is ranked as #7 and it begins at 4:55 and lasts for 1:45. Note the extremely rare jerseys Canada are wearing, a first generation Tackla jersey without the colored shoulders but with the diamond logos on the shoulders, ones we have never seen available for purchase, retail or game worn.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

1969-70 Boston Bruins Derek Sanderson Jersey

Perhaps no other player represents the new found freedoms and moralities, and subsequent excesses, of the 1970's more than Derek Sanderson.

Sanderson, born on this date in 1946, helped his hometown Niagara Falls Flyers win the 1965 Memorial Cup championship and became the league's leading scorer in 1967 with 101 points in 47 games.

He made his NHL debut with two games with the Boston Bruins in 1965-66 and two more the following season prior to becoming a full time member of the Bruins in 1967-68. After scoring 24 goals and 49 points, Sanderson was named the recipient of the 1968 Calder Trophy. He also had toughness to go with his offensive skills. In 48 games of junior hockey in 1965-66 Sanderson accumulated 238 penalty minutes, a trait he brought with him to the NHL with 98 PIM's his rookie season which preceded four straight years over 100. To complete his reputation as perhaps the best two way player in the game, he was also very solid in the defensive zone as well.

In his third full season in the league the Bruins captured the 1970 Stanley Cup and added a second in 1972, which gave rise to his celebrity. He also embraced the changing morals of the time like a rock star, indulging himself in spoils of fame to excess. The obvious outward signs were the dramatic changes in his appearance, as first his sideburns grew in the style of the day, followed by the lengthening of his hair as he embraced a playboy lifestyle by wearing a mink coat and diamond rings and driving his Rolls Royce when he didn't have a girl on each arm. All of this earned him the title of one of the sexiest men in America from Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Derek Sanderson
The evolution of Derek Sanderson

Following the 1972 Stanley Cup, with his value as a player and celebrity at an all time high, the Philadelphia Blazers of the brand new World Hockey Association were looking to get themselves noticed and offered Sanderson a contract worth $2.65 million, which the Bruins wisely declined to match in hindsight, making Sanderson the highest paid athlete in the world at the time.

Sanderson's time with the Blazers was an unqualified disaster due to pressure to perform, Sanderson's wild private life plus an injured shoulder and a slipped disk in his back. All of this prompted the Blazers to buy out his contract after a mere eight games, six points and 69 penalty minutes.

Sanderson Blazers
Sanderson during his brief time with the Blazers.
Notice the cigarette in his mouth!

He returned to the Bruins for 25 games of the 1972-73 season, for what proved to be essentially a lost season of only 38 combined games, including the playoffs.

He managed less than 30 games with Boston in 1973-74 and was traded to the New York Rangers for the 1974-75 season. He rebounded somewhat on the ice with 25 goals and 50 points, but it was in New York that his drinking started to get the better of him.

Sanderson Rangers photo Sanderson Rangers.jpg
Sanderson was traded to the New York Rangers in 1974

After just eight games in 1975-76, the Rangers dealt Sanderson, once called "trendy and tactless" by Sports Illustrated, and his drinking and drug problem to the St. Louis Blues where his talent was still able to see him through to 67 points in 65 games. But the downward spiral was in full effect and the 1976-77 season saw Sanderson play 65 games for the Blues, 8 games in the minors before being sold to the Vancouver Canucks for the final 16 games of the season.

Sanderson Blues photo Sanderson Blues.jpg
Sanderson's off-ice issues limited him to
less than two full seasons in St. Louis

He began the 1977-78 season out of hockey, but made a late season signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins in March of 1978, scoring his final four NHL points in 13 games before his hobbled knees and otherwise deteriorating physical condition led to his retirement.

Sanderson Penguins photo Sanderson Penguins.jpg
Sanderson's last stop was with the Penguins

After a series of bad investments and his continued alcoholism and drug problems, Sanderson found himself broke, having blown $3 million by his own estimate, and out of a job and living in a park while his poor health had him reduced to getting around on crutches. Finally after several years, thanks in part to former teammate Bobby Orr, Sanderson began to get the help he needed in rehab. Orr stuck with him until the cure finally took hold - after 13 drug and alcohol clinics, where doctors told him he was addicted to 11 different drugs.

Once back on his feet, literally and figuratively, after no less than five hip replacement surgeries due to decaying bones caused by years of drug abuse, for which he cannot take pain medication for fear of an addiction relapse, he began a career as a sportscaster and also eventually provided financial advice to young athletes to help ensure that they did not end up losing all their money in the same way he once did. He currently also in involved in with several charitable organizations, making guest appearances to use his celebrity to raise awareness and money for their causes.

 photo Sanderson now.jpg
A healthy and happy Sanderson today

His final NHL career totals were 598 games played with 202 goals and 250 assists for 452 points and amassed 911 penalty minutes.

In 2012, Sanderson published his story in "Crossing the Line: The Outrageous Story of a Hockey Original"

Today's featured jersey is a 1969-70 Boston Bruins Derek Sanderson jersey as worn when Sanderson and the Bruins captured the 1970 Stanley Cup, the first of two in Sanderson's career.

Sanderson was first assigned #23 with the Bruins and then #16 when he became a regular member of the roster. Following his return after his brief stay in Philadelphia he wore #27 for a year, then changing to #17. He wore #4 in New York before a change to #16. He wore #19 in St. Louis and again Vancouver but was able to reclaim his preferred #16 in Pittsburgh.

1969-70 Boston Bruins
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1972-73 Boston Bruins Derek Sanderson jersey. After his ill-fated singing with Vancouver of the WHA, which lasted all of eight games, Sanderson was able to return to the Bruins where he was give the #27 to wear, as #16 was now being worn by Fred O'Donnell.

Boston Bruins 1972-73 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1972-73 F jersey.jpg
Boston Bruins 1972-73 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1972-73 B jersey_1.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1973-74 Boston Bruins Derek Sanderson jersey. Back with the Bruins again for the 1973-74 season, Sanderson asked for a different number than the #27 he wore the previous season after his return to Boston following is buyout by the Blazers of the WHA.

Trying to get him as close to his old #16, the Bruins assigned Sanderson #17 for 1973-74. Sanderson played in 29 games before an injury ended his season. Hoping to fill the void left by Sanderson, the Bruins acquired Bobby Schmautz in February of 1974 and gave Schmautz Sanderson's #17 for the remainder of the season!

We're unsure if the Bruins knew Sanderson's time with the club was over and felt comfortable giving his number away, perhaps they knew he would be happy with a different number when he returned or perhaps it was just a matter of practicality, and #17 was one of the only remaining game jerseys ready for game use when Schmautz arrived in Boston, but it's hard to fathom an NHL team giving away a player's number in midseason while the previous wearer was still a member of the club, injured or not.

During the offseason, Sanderson was traded to the New York Rangers, which ended his time with the Bruins. The fact he wore so many different numbers in Boston epitomizes Sanderson's turbulent and unsettled time with the Bruins.

Boston Bruins 1973-74 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1973-74 F jersey.jpg
Boston Bruins 1973-74 jersey photo Boston Bruins 1973-74 B jersey.jpg

We start today's video section with a tribute to Sanderson, showing him at his finest as a player.

In this next video, Sanderson the broadcaster gives his thoughts on the closing of the Boston Garden.

Here Sanderson recalls Bobby Orr's game winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals that he assisted on and then gets into the topic of sobriety and his friendship with Bobby Orr, a nice way to conclude today.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Cleveland Barons/Minnesota North Stars Merger

Our story today begins back in 1967 when the NHL expanded from six teams to 12 with the addition of the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and the focus of today's story, the California Seals and the Minnesota North Stars.

While the North Stars thrived in the hockey hotbed of Minnesota, the situation in California got off to a rocky start. San Francisco was not considered a particularly lucrative market for hockey, but the terms of the new television agreement the league had signed with CBS called for two of the six new expansion clubs to be located in California.

The Seals were supposed to have been located in San Francisco, but the planned arena was never built. Instead, the team was based across the bay in Oakland. The club was originally called the "California Seals" to appeal to fans in the larger San Francisco and address complaints from the other NHL team, who thought Oakland was not a major league city, as it's only other professional sports team at the time was the Oakland Raiders of the second rate American Football League. Then, on November 6, 1967, after having played just a dozen games, owner Barry Van Gerbig announced the team's name was being changed to the "Oakland Seals"!

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Team captain Bobby Baun wearing their first "C" logo jersey
from the club's original name of "California Seals"

Poor attendance led to threats by Van Gerbig to move the club and the poor record in the ice led to only seven of the original 20 players returning for the second season. While the team finished with records below .500, they qualified for the playoffs in 1968-69 and 1969-70, but lost in the first round both times.

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The 1968-69 Oakland Seals now wearing "O" logo sweaters

Prior to the 1969-70 season, Van Gerbig sold the club to a group called Trans National Communications, but when the group filed for bankruptcy, ownership reverted to Van Gerbig, who put the club up for sale once again.

The Oakland Seals were then purchased by Charlie O. Finley, owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball club, who had moved to the bay area in 1968. Never one to sit still, Finley renamed the team the "California Golden Seals" and changed the team's colors from green and blue to green and gold to match those worn by his baseball club, as well as having the team wear flashy white skates!

Owner Finley changed the Seals colors to green and gold
with flashy (and infamous) white skates

Unfortunately the the Golden Seals finished last in the NHL during their first season under Finley's ownership with just 45 points from 78 games. Even worse, the Seals first overall pick in the 1971 NHL Entry Draft had already been traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Ernie Hicke and Montreal's first round pick in 1970, used by he Golden Seals to take Chris Oddleifson, and the always needed cash. The Canadiens then used the draft choice obtained from the Golden Seals to select none other than future Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur.

The team improved by 15 points the following season, but suffered from the emergence of the World Hockey Association, as the frugal Finley refused to match the WHA's contract offers to his players resulting in five of the team's top ten scorers leaving for the rival league and the Golden Seals once again sank to the bottom of the standings with 48 points in 1972-73 and followed that up with just 36 points in 1973-74.

Matters were made worse, if that's even possible, by a divisional restructuring which somehow found the Golden Seals placed in the newly created Adams Division with the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs, in an apparent effort by the league to kill off the franchise, as each of the other clubs were a minimum of 2,300 miles to the east!

Having grown tired of owning the hockey team, especially in direct comparison to his three-time world champion Athletics baseball team, Finley tried unsuccessfully to sell the Golden Seals and the franchise was eventually eventually taken over by the NHL.

Meloche Seasl photo Meloche Seals.jpg
Goaltender Gilles Meloche wearing the new post-Finley
team colors of Pacific Blue and California Gold

Melvin Swig then purchased the team in 1975 with plans to have the team play in a new arena in San Francisco. Those plans never came to pass following the election of a new mayor who was opposed to the plan, so after nine money-losing seasons, low attendance and few victories, minority owners George and Gordon Gund convinced Swig to relocate the team to their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, making the club the first NHL team to relocate since 1934 and bringing to and end the Golden Seals ordeal in California, where the team had more names than playoff appearances!

Once relocated for the 1976-77 season, the franchise was renamed the Cleveland Barons and took up residence in the Richfield Coliseum, giving them the largest seating capacity in the NHL at the time of 18,544, but they would never come close to filling it in the two years they played in Cleveland. Their 1976 home opener drew only 8,900 fans and they attracted 10,000 at only seven out of their 40 home games.

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The 1976-77 Cleveland Barons team

After the first season in Cleveland, majority owner Swig sold his interest in the team to the Gund brothers, who tried to put a more competitive team on the ice the second year. The Barons were able to  defeat the defending champions the Montreal Canadiens in November and the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres in consecutive games in January. They also set an attendance record of 13,110 vs. Philadelphia that year, but a agonizing 15 game losing streak eliminated them from playoff contention and an eventual point total lower than the year before.

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Goaltender and Golden Seals holdover Gilles Meloche
anchored the NHL's Cleveland Barons

After the season the Gunds tried to buy the Coliseum, but failed. Meanwhile, the North Stars had fallen on hard times in Minnesota, thanks to a combination of poor play which caused them to miss the playoffs four of the previous five seasons and competition from the cross-town Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA, who played just 11 miles up the road in St. Paul and at times drew sellout crowds of over 17,000 during the North Stars down period.

With serious concerns that both clubs were on the verge of folding, on June 13, 1978, the league granted approval for the Barons to merge with the Minnesota North Stars under the Gunds ownership. The team would play in Minnesota and retain the North Stars name, but take the Barons place in the Adams Division. The Barons remain the last franchise in the four major North American sports leagues to cease operations.

Things had to happen fast, as the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft was just two days away and a special dispersal draft for the excess players from the combined rosters needed to be held first. The new North Stars were allowed to protect 10 players and two goaltenders from the combined rosters of Cleveland and Minnesota prior to the dispersal draft, in which any team wanting to claim an unprotected player could do so for $30,000.

Working quickly for the freshly merged club, Minnesota's brand new General Manager Lou Nanne (who had only stopped playing at the end of the just completed season!) and Cleveland's GM Harry Howell (who became the combined team's head coach) evaluated their recently combined roster and protected Per-Olav Brasar, Brad Maxwell, Bryan MaxwellGlen Sharpley, Tim Young and goaltender Pete LoPresti from the North Stars roster and Mike Fidler, Rick Hampton, Al MacAdam, Dennis Maruk, Greg Smith and goaltender Gilles Meloche from the Barons.

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Tim Young

Only the five worst teams were allowed to make selections from the unprotected players in the Dispersal Draft, held on this date in 1978, and the Washington Captials chose to pass, and were instead allowed to make an additional pick at the end of the first round of the 1978 Amateur Draft.

After the St. Louis Blues chose Mike Crombeen from the Barons roster, the North Stars were allowed to protect an additional player, which was Ron Zanussi. The Vancouver Canucks then chose Randy Holt, also formerly of the Barons. After the Pittsburgh Penguins passed on their chance to select a player, Bob Stewart was then added to the protected list by Minnesota. The Dispersal Draft then concluded when the Colorado Rockies declined their chance to select a player.

The newly merged roster was then immediately supplemented later the same day by the North Stars having the first overall pick in the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft thanks to Minnesota having finished dead last in the league at the end of the 1977-78 season. They chose eventual NHL Rookie of the Year and future team captain Bobby Smith in the first round and his Ottawa 67's linemate Steve Payne in the second round, both of whom would go on to be 40 goal scorers for the North Stars. They then hit on future Miracle on Ice team member Steve Christoff later in the second round, who would score 26 goals twice for the North Stars and excel as a penalty killer, and another future team captain, defenseman Curt Giles in the fourth round.

In addition to those protected in the dispersal draft and chosen in the Amateur Draft, the team was also able to retain several players who were not chosen in the Dispersal Draft despite not being protected. Among those were Tom YounghansFred Barrett and Bill Butters off the North Stars roster and the return to Minnesota of J. P. Parise from Cleveland as well as goaltender Gary Edwards, who supplanted LoPresti as Meloche's backup, playing in 25 games in 1978-79.

Looking back on the previous week, Nanne probably could not believe his luck, having taken over as General Manager the worst team in the NHL, he now suddenly found himself with the additions of Fidler, MacAdam, Maruk, Greg Smith, Parise, and goaltenders Meloche and Edwards plus draft picks Bobby Smith and Payne for the upcoming season - and all without having to have traded a single asset!

 photo Bobby-Smith-Rookie.jpg
Bobby Smith arrived in Minnesota the year
they merged with the Cleveland Barons

The critics said if you combined the rosters of two terrible teams, you were going to be left with a terrible team, but the combined talents of of the two teams plus the addition of their draft class of 1978 proved them wrong. While they did miss out on the playoffs in 1979, the 1979-80 roster reached the playoff Semifinals.

Meloche North Stars photo Meloche North Stars.jpg
A common thread from the Seals to the Barons and
eventually the North Stars, Gilles Meloche

Then the 1980-81 team, who by now had Christoff and Giles plus 1979 draft picks Craig Hartsburg and homegrown Neal Broten plus electrifying undrafted free agent Dino Ciccarelli (who was passed over after having suffered a broken leg in juniors), veteran Paul Shmyr, tough guy Jack Carlson and rookie goaltender Don Beaupre, made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in the space of three short seasons after having finished dead last in the NHL.

 photo 1980-81 Minnesota North Stars team.jpg
The new look North Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981

It would take 22 years before the NHL would return to Ohio, but not to Cleveland, as the new team would be in the form of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000-01.

Today's first featured jersey is a 1974-75 California Golden Seals Gilles Meloche jersey. Meloche arrived in Oakland for the 1971-72 season after a trade from the Chicago Black Hawks, who had drafted Meloche in 1970.

After the departure of owner Finley, the Golden Seals colors were changed from his signature green and gold to the even less intimidating shades of "Pacific Blue" (teal) and "California Gold" (yellow), quite probably the worst colors ever for an NHL team, which were about as intimidating as Easter eggs. The change also gave the team more total color schemes than playoff appearances as well.

Aside from the unusual color scheme of the last incarnation of Golden Seals jerseys, another odd characteristic of this set was the decidedly "football jersey" style vertical stripes where the arms meet the body of the jersey, which are something that had never appeared on an NHL jersey before or since.

 photo California Golden Seals 1974-75 F jersey.jpg
 photo California Golden Seals 1974-75 B jersey.jpg

Today's second featured jersey is a 1976-77 Cleveland Barons Gilles Meloche jersey. Made by ProJoy at a time when replicas were less than accurate. While this jersey has it's issues, like the sleeve stripes being straight instead of angled, the crest is very well made, with each piece being a separate piece of fabric sewn together. The Gothic "B" in the state of Ohio in the center of the main logo is five separate layers of fabric and both the curved "Cleveland" and "Barons" names are each intricate single pieces of twill sewn onto the "C"!

What sets the 1976-77 jerseys apart from the 1977-78 jerseys is the wonderful State of Ohio patches on the sleeves for the numbers. The other difference between the two year was that the 1976-77 jerseys did not have the names on the back of the road jerseys.

But then, as is part of the fun of jersey collecting, a mystery presented itself in the form of this picture...


A name on the back of a Barons road jersey with the State of Ohio sleeve patches? That didn't add up, so we posted the photo on a collector forum and questioned wether it was perhaps from a pre-season game before the 77-78 season.

The key to the mystery was that the Barons are shown playing the St. Louis Blues, who they played twice that season - once on February 28th, a Monday, and again on April 2nd, a Saturday and a national TV hockey day.

Due to the fact their game was going to be shown on national TV, the Barons were required at the request of the network to add names to the back of the jerseys, which were then removed after the game because the team owners thought that having names on the back of the player's jerseys would hurt their program sales.

Armed with that unique story, we had our jersey customized as it was worn on April 2nd, 1977 against the Blues, complete with the State of Ohio patches and the name on the back for national TV purposes. We love being able to say that a jersey was worn on one specific date, generally through the addition of a unique patch, a trend that will no doubt apparent to regular readers of this blog.

 photo Cleveland Barons 1976-77 F.jpg
 photo Cleveland Barons 1976-77 B.jpg

Today's third featured jersey is a 1983-84 Minnesota North Stars Gilles Meloche jersey. An interesting fact about Meloche is that he played for the California Golden Seals from 1971-72 to 1975-76, the Cleveland Barons in both 1976-77 and 1977-78 and then the Minnesota North Stars from 1978-79 to the 1984-85 season, 14 seasons in all with three different teams without once ever having being traded or signing a free agent contract as the Seals relocated to Cleveland and the Barons then merged with the North Stars.

Joining Meloche on the journey from California to Cleveland to Minnesota was MacAdam and technically Greg Smith (1 game as a rookie with the Seals before their move to Cleveland) and Maruk, who was traded to Washington after just two games with the North Stars (only to return to Minnesota five years later).

We doubt if any other players ever had so much discontinuity in such a continuous career as Meloche (14 seasons with three teams but no trades or free agent signings) and MacAdam (10 seasons of the same)!

The North Stars ushered in their new era of Gund's ownership with a new style of jersey, dropping the dual waist and arm stripes of the same color by changing to dual two color stripes of the same width. While the white home jerseys got the addition of black trim back in 1981-82, the green road jerseys did not have the addition of the striking black accent color until 1988-89.

 photo Minnesota North Stars 1983-84 F jersey.jpg
 photo Minnesota North Stars 1983-84 B jersey.jpg

Today's video is a brief, and frankly depressing look at the history of pro hockey in Cleveland through the departure of the Barons.


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