Sunday, January 14, 2018

1972 Soviet Union National Team Valeri Kharlamov Jersey

Considered to be one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, Valeri Kharlamov of the Soviet Union was born on this date in 1948. He joined the Central Red Army club in the Soviet Elite League in 1967-68 and scored two goals in 15 games as a rookie.

Valeri Kharlamov
Soviet hockey legend Valeri Kharlamov

Having got his feet wet the season before, Kharlamov made no secret of his prodigious talent the following season when he increased his goal scoring to 37 goals in 42 games of the shorter Soviet League season. Following the season he would make the first of his 11 consecutive World Championship appearances and contributed 13 points in ten games on his way to the first gold medal of his illustrious international career.

In the 1969-70 season Kharlamov averaged a goal per game while playing in 33 contests for Central Red Army in a season which concluded with the first of four consecutive Soviet League championships. He followed that with ten points in nine games on his way to another World Championship gold medal.

Kharlamov won the Soviet League goal scoring title in 1970-71 with a career highs with 40 goals and 52 points in 34 games. He earned his first World Championship All-Star selection when he tallied 17 points in ten games as he was awarded his third consecutive World Championship gold medal, the dominant Soviet Union's 9th in a row.

He one-upped himself by capturing the Soviet League points scoring title in 1971-72, albeit with a lower personal point total that the previous season, with 40 points and was named the Soviet League MVP for the first time. That was not the highlight of Kharlamov's season however, as he introduced himself to the world as he led the Soviet Union to the gold medal at the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan where his 15 points in just five games led all scorers by six points as the world got their first real glimpse of his superior skating and playmaking abilities. Later that spring he was again named to the World Championship All-Star team, but had to settle for the silver medal for the first time.

In case anyone missed his performance in the Olympics, Kharlamov became a true star of international hockey with his performance in the fabled 1972 Summit Series when the best that the Soviet Union had to offer took on an All-Star team of Canadian professionals for the first time ever. While many in Canada assumed that their professional players would easily win all eight games of the series, Kharlamov led the Soviets with two goals in their stunning Game 1 upset of Team Canada on home ice in Montreal. While Canada led by two six minutes in, the Soviets quickly turned the tide, evening the score before the period ended and began to pull away with Kharlamov's two goals in the second on their way to a 7-3 win.

Mikhailov Petrov Kharlamov
First teamed together in 1968, the line of Boris Mikhailov, Vladimir Petrov and Valeri Kharlamov, dominated international hockey throughout the 1970's

After losing Game 2, Kharlamov contributed another goal in their 4-4 tie in Game 3. After the Soviets 5-3 win in Game 4 in Canada, the series shifted to Moscow in the Soviet Union. When the Soviets came from behind 4-1 to win Game 5, Bobby Clarke of Canada deliberately broke Kharlamov's ankle in Game 6 which enabled the Canadians to stage a comeback and eventually win the series in a dramatic Game 8.

A fourth Soviet League title came in 1972-73 as he scored 32 points in 27 games after recovering from his broken ankle. A return to World Championship gold was powered by an on-from Kharlamov as he racked up 23 points in ten games for the host Soviet Union.

The consecutive championship streak ended in the Soviet League in 1973-74 but the World Championship success continued with another gold in 1974.

Prior to the start of the next season, Kharlamov again participated for the Soviet Union in the 1974 Summit Series, where they took on a team of mainly Canadian professionals from the World Hockey Association, which the Soviets won with a 4-1-3 record. Kharlamov contributed seven points in the eight games.

The Soviet League title returned to Central Red Army in 1974-75 as Kharlamov had a great season with 39 points in 31 games and yet another World Championship gold on the heels of 16 points in 9 games.

Valeri Kharlamov
Kharlamov on the attack

While his personal scoring level continued unchanged in 1975-76, Kharlamov had to unusually settle for silver in both the Soviet League and the World Championships. All was not lost however, as the Soviet Union dominated the 1976 Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria to win the second gold medal of Kharlamov's career. He would be one of four Soviet players to tie for the tournament scoring lead with ten points in five games, including his game winning goal in their final game against Czechoslovakia.

Of interest, it was during the Soviet League season that the Central Red Army club took a break from domestic competition and participated in the first Super Series of exhibition games in North America against teams from the NHL which included a win over the New York Rangers, the enthralling tie against Montreal on New Year's Eve, called by many the greatest game of hockey ever played, another win, this time over the Boston Bruins and the notorious game against the Philadelphia Flyers when Kharlamov was targeted with an elbow to the head from the blind side which caused the Soviet coach to pull his team off the ice when to penalty was called.

That spring he was seriously injured in a car accident, which put his hockey career in jeopardy and cost him a chance to compete in the 1976 Canada Cup.

While Kharlamov was limited to 21 games because of recovery time from his injuries, the 1976-77 saw Central Red Army begin an era of dominance unlike any ever seen before with the first of 13 consecutive titles but the national team would fall to third place and the bronze medal at the World Championships.

Kharlamov would have one of his best offensive seasons when he totaled 42 points in only 29 games during the 1977-78 domestic season and a new run of gold medals would begin at the 1978 World Championships, the first of five in a row for the Soviet Union.

He was in peak form in 1978-79, scoring 22 goals and 48 points in the Soviet League, his greatest number of points since 1971. He had another impressive tournament at the World Championships with 14 points in eight games as the Soviet Union won gold on home ice in Moscow. He also participated in the 1979 Challenge Cup for the Soviet Union in a three game series against a team of NHL All-Stars which took the place of the normal NHL All-Star Game that season, which the Soviets won two games to one with a decisive 6-0 victory on Game 3.

1979-80 was a memorable campaign for Kharlamov as he added 38 points in 42 games and another Soviet League title. In February of 1980, his chance at his third consecutive Olympic gold medal was derailed by the "Miracle on Ice" during which the Soviet Union was upset by the United States in an upset so great that the loss was ranked the #1 story of the century by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The Soviet Union eventually was awarded the silver medal with a 7-1 record. Of note, there were no World Championships held in 1980 due to the Olympic games.

A final Soviet League title for Kharlamov came in 1980-81 when he scored 25 points in 30 games. During his Soviet League career, Kharlamov scored 293 goals and 214 assists for 504 points in 436 games.

Sadly, on August 17, 1981, Kharlamov was killed at the age of 33 due to injuries suffered in a car accident which also claimed the life of his wife Irina.

In 1998, Kharlamov was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame. 2005 saw him become only the second non-NHL player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining fellow Soviet player and teammate, goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. In 2008 he was selected as just one of six players to be named to the IIHF Centennial All-Star Team, honoring the best players in the 100 year history of the IIHF.

IIHF All Century Team
The IIHF Centennial All-Star Team announcement honoring Kharlamov, Tretiak, Slava Fetisov, Borje Salming, Wayne Gretzky and Sergei Makarov.

Other tributes to Kharlamov include a division of the top Russian professional hockey league, the KHL, being named after him, the the award for the top Russian player in the NHL each season being named the Kharlamov Trophy and the championship team in the junior league in Russia for players aged 17-21, the Minor Hockey League, is awarded the Kharlamov Cup.

Additionally, Kharlamov's #17 has been retired by both the Central Red Army club and the Russia National Team.

Kharlamov #17
Kharlamov looking to score against Sweden

In total, Kharlamov won 11 Soviet League titles, eight World Championship Gold medals and two Olympic gold medals as well as one Soviet League scoring title, seven Soviet League All-Star awards and two Soviet League MVP awards and is the all-time leading scorer in the Olympics for the Soviet Union with 35 points in 17 games.

Today's featured jersey is a 1972 Soviet Union National Team Valeri Kharlamov jersey as worn in the 1972 Summit Series between the Soviet Union and Team Canada in which Kharlamov suffered a broken ankle after a deliberate slash in an effort to neutralize him.

Soviet National Team jerseys were generally quite spartan in appearance, using simple red jerseys with generally minimal striping and one color white names and numbers.

There were occasional dashes of flair, such as 1956's chevron striping, their first use of red and white after debuting in blue and white(!) in 1954, 1987's dual triangle look and the diamond trim used on their jerseys in the late 70's and early 80's, such as those worn during the "Miracle on Ice". Just the addition of yellow trim in the late 1980's was a radical departure after 30 years of only red and white sweaters.

Soviet Union 1972 jersey
Soviet Union 1972 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1976 Soviet Union National Team Valeri Kharlamov jersey. This simple jersey style severed the Soviets well for over a decade, having used it as far back as the 1964 Olympics, wearing it through the 1976 World Championships. By 1976 the numbers used on the back were quite bold and much more professionally executed than the thin, seemingly hand cut numbers in the quirky font used in the 1972 Summit Series.

Soviet Union 1976 jersey photo Russia CCCP 1976 17 F.jpg
Soviet Union 1976 jersey photo Russia CCCP 1976 17 B.jpg

Bonus jacket: Today's bonus jacket is a 1970's Soviet National Team Valeri Kharlamov jacket as worn during the 1970's. Unusually, Kharlamov's name appears above the CCCP, which seems odd considering the entire philosophy of the team above the individual of the Soviet hockey system. Still, the arched name over his number 17 and the CCCP makes for a striking look for this great piece of seldom seen team gear.

 1970s Kharlamov jacket photo Kharlamov jacket F.jpg
1970s Kharlamov jacket photo Kharlamov jacket B.jpg

Today's video segment begins with this tribute to Kharlamov.


This next video is about the dedication of a monument to Kharlamov in Moscow and includes several interviews with former teammates who speak about their recollections of playing with him.


Here is one more very well put together tribute video to Kharlamov, followed by his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The 100th Anniversary of the NHL

It was on this date one hundred years ago in 1917 that the first games of the National Hockey League were played. The league was formed for one basic reason - for the owners to rid themselves of fellow team owner Eddie Livingstone!

Livingstone was the owner of the Toronto Shamrocks of the National Hockey Association (NHA) and had a contentious relationship with his fellow owners, primarily Sam Lichtenhein of the Montreal Wanderers, with whom he often butted heads with. At one point, Lichtenhein even offered Livingstone $3,000 to abandon his team and walk away, but the cheeky Livingstone countered with a $5,000 offer for Lichtenhein to do the same!

Prior to the 1915-16 season, Livingstone purchased the Toronto Blueshirts, giving him both Toronto NHA franchises - and an unwelcome two votes in league matters. When Frank Patrick and Lester Patrick, owners of the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHA) Seattle Metropolitans raided the Blueshirts roster, Livingstone transferred Shamrocks players to the Blueshirts. The league seized the Shamrocks franchise from Livingstone, as had been demanded by the league only a week earlier, not wanting one owner with whom they did not get along with having two votes, when there was now nothing left for Livingstone to sell since the club had no players. It also angered the other owners that they were now a five team league, forcing one club to be idle each week and that road trips to Toronto would be for one game instead of the more economical two, as in the past.

In 1916-17, the 228th Battalion of the Canadian Army formed a team in the six team NHA, taking the place of the Shamrocks. Unfortunately, the 228th received their orders to head overseas to join the fighting in World War I and had to withdraw from the league during the season. This gave the other four owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs and Ottawa Senators the opening they needed, and they held a meeting without Livingstone and voted to suspend his remaining Blueshirts franchise with the excuse of wanting to keep the league with an even number of teams.

 photo 1917-18 228th Battalion Team.jpg
A rare shot of the 228th Battalion Hockey Team

Livingstone field suit against the league as a result. The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens were then given three weeks to separate itself from Livingstone by the NHA or the other owners would operate without a club in Toronto and thus the arena would lose its tenant. The feisty Livingstone of course refused to sell his club, and therefore, at their annual meeting in November, the NHA announced it was suspending league operations due to the difficulty of running a five team league and also blaming player shortages due to World War I.

 photo Mutual_Street_Arena_interior.jpg
The Blueshirts home rink, the Arena Gardens

A week later, all of the owners, minus Livingstone naturally, announced they had formed a brand new league, the National Hockey League (NHL), which consisted of the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators and the Quebec Bulldogs. The new league also claimed to have retained the contracts of the suspended Toronto Blueshirts players!

With the Quebec Bulldogs suspending operations due to financial difficulties before the new NHL could even begin the 1917-18 season, the Arena Gardens were awarded a temporary NHL franchise, managed by Charlie Querrie, making the fledgling NHL a four team league once again. The league also assigned the Blueshirts players on a lease basis to the temporary Toronto franchise. To further complicate matters, many of the players had signed contracts with both Livingstone and the Arena.

The season, and the league, would kick off on this date in 1917 when Toronto lost to the host Montreal Wanderers in front of 700 fans by a score of 10-9. The Wanderers Dave Ritchie scored the first goal in NHL history, while Harry Hyland had four goals to record the league's first hat trick in short order. In the day's other game,  the Ottawa Senators lost to the Montreal Canadiens 7-4 in Ottawa.

The Canadiens would win the first half of the season to earn a spot in the postseason championship playoff, while the Wanderers opening night win would be their only one in the NHL, as they would cease operations following the fire that burned down their home, the Montreal Arena, on January 2nd after just six games of their schedule and the Wanderers at a dismal 1-5 record.

Team owner Lichtenhein had already made a request from the other clubs to loan the Wanderers better players to field a more competitive team in hopes of attracting more fans, but when the plan was rejected by his fellow owners following the fire, and with his club dealing with the loss of their home arena, Lichtenhein disbanded the club on January 4, ending the Wanderers fourteen year history.

Montreal Arena fire, Montreal Arena fire

The aftermath of the Montreal Arena fire

The Toronto club had no official nickname, but the "Blueshirts" were successful on the ice, winning the second half of the season schedule and earned the right to play Montreal for the championship. Toronto was led by Reg Noble, who scored 30 goals and 10 assists in 20 games for 40 points, third overall in the league behind the prolific Joe Malone of the Canadiens who scored a spectacular 44 goals in just 20 games as part of his league leading point total. Corbett Denneny and Harry Cameron also were standouts for Toronto, with 29 and 27 points respectively, for fifth and sixth in league scoring. Toronto's Harry "Hap" Holmes came in second to Georges Vezina of Montreal in the goaltending department with a goals against average of 4.80 in 16 games.

Toronto defeated the Canadiens for the league championship in a two games, total goals series 10-7, capturing the O'Brien Cup. Toronto then faced off against the Vancouver Millionaires of the PCHA and won the Stanley Cup by 3 games to 2, causing Livingstone to again head to court to file suit for the revenue earned by "his" championship squad of players.


As a result of this lawsuit, the Arena Gardens formed a new company, the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company, to own and run a hockey team separate from the Arena Gardens business in order to protect the Arena business from Livingstone's lawsuits. The NHL then awarded a "new" franchise to the Hockey Club Company. This club was officially named the Toronto Arenas and, not surprisingly, was stocked with the same players from the 1918 championship club. When his players were once again not returned to him for the 1918-19 season, Livingstone sued the Arena Gardens.

Once again, the players were uncertain who would prevail in the courts and covered their bases by signing contracts with both the Toronto Arena Hockey Club Company and Livingstone.

Livingstone did prevail in the courts sometimes, but not always. Two rulings in his favor of $20,000 and later $100,000 sent the Arena Gardens into bankruptcy. Despite the company's legal wranglings at the time, the arena would continue to operate for 77 years until closing in 1989.

When the Toronto Arenas did take to the ice in the 1918-19 season as Stanley Cup Champions, they did not play like it. Forced to sell most of their star players due to mounting legal bills, the Arenas record for the season was 5 wins and 13 losses, attendance was low and several players left the team. Finally, the team wrote to the league requesting that the season be ended when each of the three clubs had reached 18 games played and then officially withdrew from the league. This left only the Canadiens and Senators to play for the championship of the NHL and the right to meet the Pacific Coast Hockey Association champions for the Stanley Cup, which Montreal won 4 games to 1.

Meanwhile, Livingstone was busy was attempting to overthrow the NHA management, purchased the dormant Quebec Bulldogs franchise, and began an unsuccessful attempt to start a rival league, the Canadian Hockey Association and threatened to file an injunction to stop the NHL from operating. He also made unsuccessful attempts to start new leagues in 1920, 1924 and 1926, none of which ever played a single game.

Finally, the Toronto Arenas franchise was sold to the St. Patricks Hockey Club of Toronto, who ran the successful senior amateur St. Patricks team in the Ontario Hockey League, which included Arenas team manager Querrie in the four-man ownership group, in December of 1919.

The new owners renamed the club the Toronto St. Patricks and the $5,000 sale price was supposed to go to Livingstone to settle the purchase of his NHA club, for which he had once demanded $20,000 for after they had won the 1918 Stanley Cup. However, Livingstone never received the money, which many believe was kept by NHL president Frank Calder.

The Toronto St. Patricks were members of the NHL through the 1926-27 season, when Querrie, having been sued by none other than Livingstone, was forced to sell the St. Patricks. He reached an agreement to sell the club to Conn Smythe, who renamed the club the Toronto Maple Leafs and constructed Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931.

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts Hap Holmes jersey as worn during the inaugural season of the National Hockey League. Their jerseys would change for the second NHL season with the addition of white stripes around the arms and the word "Arenas" across the front, bisected by the large T crest from the previous season.

Holmes would win the Stanley Cup four different times, and with four different teams. He first joined Eddie Livingstone's Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA in 1912, winning the cup with them in 1914. He joined the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA in 1915 and won the cup with Seattle in 1917.

In his only season with the Toronto Blueshirts, he would win his third Stanley Cup before returning to Seattle the following season. After the Metropolitans folded four seasons later, Holmes would join the WCHL's Victoria Cougars in 1924 and go on to win his fourth Stanley Cup, the last cup won by a non-NHL team. After one more season in Victoria, the entire WCHL folded and the Victoria Cougars players were sold to the new Detroit NHL franchise, which took the name the Cougars as a tribute to the Victoria club before eventually becoming the Red Wings. Holmes would play his final two seasons in Detroit and conclude his career with 408 games played, 198 wins, 40 of which were shutouts, 192 losses and 14 ties.

Holmes was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 and the American Hockey League award for the top goaltender each season is named the Hap Holmes Memorial Award.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Halifax Explosion - 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers Harry Hyland Jersey

The morning of December 6, 1917 was like any other day in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Halifax had been founded by the British military as a fortress to protect their interests against the French back in the late 1700s thanks to its large and deep natural harbor as well as its strategic location.

Halifax Before, Halifax Before
Early 20th Century Halifax

With World War I raging in Europe, the factories, foundries and mills in both Halifax and nearby Dartmouth were working at full capacity, keeping the harbor busy with with shipping convoys taking goods and supplies across the Atlantic, destined for the war effort in Europe.

Ferries to and from Dartmouth, located on the opposite side of the harbor, civilian shipping, as well as fishing boats and pleasure craft all competed for space with the military shipping traffic on the harbor adding to the congestion.

Meanwhile, the French vessel the Mont-Blanc was loaded with 228,000 kilos of TNT, 2.1 million kilos of wet and dry picric acid, a toxic substance used in the making of munitions and explosives, 223,000 kilos of Benzol, a highly flammable liquid similar to gasoline, and "guncotton", a highly flammable substance used in firearms, all of which made the Mont-Blanc a floating bomb of the highest order.

The Mont Blanc, The Mont Blanc
The Mont-Blanc

Unable to cross the Atlantic solo due to the risk of a German u-boat attack, the Mont-Blanc sailed out of New York for Halifax in order to join a convoy of other ships congregating in Halifax Harbour in the interests of safety. While the ship arrived in late afternoon on December 5th, it was too late in the day to enter the harbor, as the anti-submarine nets had been closed for the night, forcing the Mont-Blanc to spend the night outside the harbor.

Meanwhile inside the harbor, the Belgian relief ship Imo was forced to delay its scheduled departure that day due to the supply of coal for its boilers arriving too late for it to leave for New York in order to collect emergency supplies for civilians in war ravaged Belgium prior to the harbor gates being closed.

At 7:30 in the morning on December 6th the navy opened the gate in the nets, allowing the Mont-Blanc to head into the harbor, traveling at a speed of four knots, under the limit of five knots. At the same time, the Imo headed toward the Narrows to begin its voyage south. As the Imo increased its speed to seven knots, it encountered the first ship entering the harbor. That incoming ship went against the usual rules of passing on the left. The two ships exchanged horn blasts to signal their intent, which resulted in the Imo passing the other ship on the right, putting the Imo on the wrong side of the harbor in the Dartmouth channel.

Once past the first ship, the Imo continued to steam along on the wrong side of the channel, allowing it to avoid a tug boat towing a pair of barges which had just pulled away from the Halifax shore on the right of the Imo.

The Mont-Blanc and the Imo were now in the same channel as they continued to travel toward each other. The Mont-Blanc blew its whistle first to signify that it had the right of way and would be maintaining course, implying the Imo would have to move to the right to clear the way. The captain of the Imo however, had other thoughts, and blew his whistle twice to signify his intent to hold his course. The Mont-Blanc then moved slightly to its right closer to the Dartmouth shore to give the Imo additional room for clearance, hoping the Imo would respond in kind by moving to its right in order to give the two ships adequate distance between them for safe passage. When the Mont-Blanc again blew its whistle once, the Imo responded with two blasts of his horn, indicating it would not be changing course.

The sailors who knew what the repeated signals meant realized trouble was brewing and gathered to watch the two ships. Finally, as the Mont-Blanc and the Imo were bearing down on each other, the Mont-Blanc turned hard left into the center of the channel to avoid a collision with the Imo, as it could not move any further toward shore for fear of running aground while loaded with such dangerous cargo.

Unfortunately for all concerned, the Imo now finally chose to change course by reversing engines, which swung the ship to its right - and into the path of the Mont-Blanc. If only one of the ships had made its evasive maneuver, nothing more than a close call would have been the result. However, they both were now aimed for the same spot and the resulting collision caused the Imo to penetrate nine feet into the hull of the Mont-Blanc at 8:45 AM. The Imo then pulled away to extricate itself from the Mont-Blanc, causing enough sparks to ignite the lethal combination of picric acid and vapors from the ruptured drums of benzol, producing an uncontrollable fire at the forward end of the damaged Mont-Blanc.

Fearing an immediate explosion, the captain of the Mont-Blanc ordered the crew to abandon the ship, which was spewing a large column of oily, black smoke. As the public gathered on the streets or stood at the windows of their homes to watch the spectacular fire and exploding barrels of benzol rocketing into the air.

The rescuers, as well as those on the shore, had no idea of the danger contained inside the Mont-Blanc, as any outward warnings of the dangerous cargo in the form of red flags were not displayed on the Mont-Blanc for fear of drawing unwanted attention from the Germans while at sea. As boats rushed to their assistance, the crew of the Mont-Blanc attempted to warn them off as they rowed furiously ashore in their lifeboats, but they were unable to be understood, as the crew spoke only French as they reached the Dartmouth side and ran for the woods and to safety.

The hastily abandoned ship was now not only ablaze, but also adrift and moving toward Halifax's Richmond neighborhood and into Pier 6, which then caught fire as well. The boat was then met by the Halifax Fire Department, with its one motorized truck and a dozen horse-drawn wagons, who were all unaware of the ship's highly dangerous contents.

And then it happened.

The Mont-Blanc erupted with a force stronger than any man-made explosion in world history prior to the atomic age. The ship shattered and was blown sky-high, 980 feet into the air. White hot pieces of its hull came falling back to Earth as lethal shrapnel rained down all over Halifax and Dartmouth. A 1,140 pound piece of the ship's anchor landed 2 1/2 miles away while the Mont-Blanc's gun barrel flew over three miles, landing clear across the harbor in Dartmouth.

Halifax Explosion, Halifax Explosion
This photo was taken just seconds after the explosion of the Mont-Blanc

The fireball rose over 6,200 feet over the harbor, symbolizing the hell that had just descended on the area. The smoke from the fire reached 20,000 feet while buildings shook and items fell off of shelves as far as 80 miles away with the shock wave being felt 200 miles away as 400 acres in the immediate vicinity were completely destroyed by the blast.

Halifax damage map, Halifax damage map
Halifax damage map

Homes, apartments, business and the sugar refinery were all destroyed in an instant. Every building within a 10 mile radius, 12,000 in all, were badly damaged, if not destroyed.


Richmond School, Richmond School

Additionally, the water immediately surrounding the ship was evaporated by the intense heat of the explosion, which momentarily exposed the harbor floor! The shockwave from the blast sent water rushing violently outwards, creating a wave that spread toward both shores, rising as high as 60 feet. The wave carried the Imo onto the shore on the Dartmouth side of the harbor as the tidal wave washed up three blocks into the city.

The Imo, The Imo
The Imo, washed ashore on the opposite side of the harbor

Over 1,500 people died instantly, while 9,000 were injured by not only the blast, but falling debris from the shattered ship, collapsing buildings and shards of flying glass, which blinded 38 people with roughly 600 more suffering eye injuries while standing at their windows watching the initial blaze.

Many of those who survived the initial blast now had to hang on for their lives as the water rushed up onto the shore where they had gathered, claiming more victims who were in shock or injured and unable to withstand the surging waters. Miraculously, all but one of the crew of the Mont-Blanc survived the disaster.

Since it was wintertime, fires broke out all over as stoves, lamps and furnaces throughout the area were toppled, igniting blazes fueled by the debris, which claimed even more victims throughout the region, in part due to the majority of the firefighters having died in the initial blast, as well as the lack of standardized equipment from town to town which hampered the efforts when fire hoses could not be coupled together.

Halifax Explosion, Halifax Explosion
The damaged Halifax Exhibition Building

More fatalities occurred the following day when a blizzard dumped 16 inches of snow on the region, which included those still trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, those not yet tended to and those susceptible to the cold, as homes no longer had glass in the windows to contain any heat. In the days that followed, people moved into churches, temporary shelters and even railroad boxcars - anywhere warm and dry.

Halifax After, Halifax After
Halifax after the snowfall

The final death toll was 1,950 with 1,630 homes destroyed in the explosion and fires. 6,000 people were rendered homeless and 25,000 lacked adequate housing. Industry was essentially gone, as was the workforce.

Halfiax Herald Headline, Halfiax Herald Headline

In 1994 a study was conducted comparing 130 major, artificial, non-nuclear explosions by a team of scientists and historians and they concluded that "Halifax Harbour remains unchallenged in overall magnitude as long as five criteria are considered together: number of casualties, force of blast, radius of devastation, quantity of explosive material and total value of property destroyed."

Mont Blanc anchor, Mont Blanc anchor
The piece of the Mont-Blanc anchor, which was hurled over 2 miles by the blast

Nine days after the disaster, the first exhibition game in NHL history was contested between the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers played a benefit game for the victims of the explosion at Halifax Harbour.

The first NHL season was only four days away, as the league had only just been formed the previous month when the owners of the Canadiens, Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Arenas and Quebec Bulldogs, in an effort to rid themselves of contentious, difficult and abrasive fellow National Hockey Association owner Eddie Livingstone.

Livingstone, who owned both the Toronto Shamrocks and Toronto Blueshirts, had multiple disagreements with the NHA and his fellow owners over many matters, including his ownership of two clubs, which gave him two votes in league matters. He feuded with the Wanderers owner Sam Lichtenhein in particular, and at one point Lichtenhein offered Livingstone $3,000 to simply close up shop and walk away from the NHA, while Livingstone countered with a $5,000 offer if Lichtenhien would do the same!

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers Harry Hyland jersey. At their November, 1917 annual meeting, the NHA voted to suspend operations, supposedly "due to the difficulty in running a five team league", only to meet again in a weeks time, only this time without Livingstone, to form a new five team league, the National Hockey League, which was the NHA minus Livingstone but with the Toronto franchise in new hands.

The Wanderers, who had been formed back in 1903, had first taken possession of the Stanley Cup in 1906 by winning the ECAHA playoffs and won seven cup challenges and four league titles over the next five seasons. They then fell on hard times after entering the NHA, losing the only playoff series they contested over the next eight seasons. Their final three NHA seasons saw a string of fourth and fifth place finishes, thanks in part to the loss of players off to serve in World War I, putting the team in a fragile financial position as interest in the club among the anglophones waned.

Once the inaugural NHL season began, the Wanderers, the team of Montreal's minority English speaking population, defeated Toronto in a thrilling 10-9 opening night contest attended by just 700 fans despite the offer of free admission for military personnel and their families. They were then manhandled by the Canadiens 11-2. Ottawa then took two games in a home and home set by scores of 6-3 and 9-2, with the second game begin played on December 29, 1917.

1917-18 Montreal Wanderers team, 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers team
The 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers

Four days later on January 2, 1918, the Wanderers were scheduled to play the Canadiens again, but a fire that began in the Montreal Arena's ice making plant, spread and burned the arena down to the ground. Team owner Lichtenhein had already made a request from the other clubs to loan the Wanderers better players to field a more competitive team in hopes of attracting more fans, but when the plan was rejected by his fellow owners following the fire, and with his club dealing with the loss of their home arena, Lichtenhein disbanded the club on January 4, ending the Wanderers fourteen year history.

Montreal Arena fire, Montreal Arena fire
The aftermath of the Montreal Arena fire

Harry Hyland was leading the Wanderers in scoring in 1917 when the club folded. He had a ten year career in hockey, playing first for the Montreal Shamrocks in 1908. He joined the Wanderers for two seasons, including as a Stanley Cup champion in 1910, before spending the 1911-12 season with the New Westminster Royals.

He returned to the Wanderers in 1912-13 and played six more seasons with the club with whom he averaged over a goal per game, scoring 158 goals in 134 games with a high of 30 in 18 games in 1914. His greatest single game came in 1912-13 when he scored 8 goals against Quebec.

Following the demise of the Wanderers, he joined the Ottawa Senators as a playing coach to finish the season and his career. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1962.

Today's featured jersey is a 1917-18 Montreal Wanderers Harry Hyland jersey worn by the Wanderers for their brief time in the brand new National Hockey League. The Wanderers debuted white sweaters with the red stripe around the center adorned with a shield containing a white "W" for the 1905 season and it would remain their only sweater throughout the rest of their days.

Had the Wanderers survived, it is hard to imagine they would have ever changed their style in a manner similar to the Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings. So closely was their distinctive sweater associated with the club, that the team was often referred to as "the Redbands".

Montreal Wanderers 17-18 jersey, Montreal Wanderers 17-18 jersey

Today's first video is a reenactment of the Halifax Explosion, which illustrates the incredible devastation of the largest man made detonation on Earth prior to the atomic age.


Today's second video is actual newsreel footage of the devastation and rescue work immediately following the disaster.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zarley Zalapski

The hockey world was saddened to hear to the passing yesterday of NHL veteran Zarley Zalapski at the age of 49.

Zalapski was born on April 22, 1968. Following two seasons of junior hockey Zalapski played three seasons for the Canadian National Team, then a season long proposition which many players used as a stepping stone to the NHL.

Zalapski Canada, Zalapski Canada
1986-87 Canadian National Team

He was drafted fourth overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft and made his NHL debut following the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Alberta. He would play four seasons for the Penguins, playing a high of 66 games before being traded near the end of the 1990-91 season and just missing out on the Penguins run to the Stanley Cup.

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1987-88 Pittsburgh Penguins

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1988-89 Pittsburgh Penguins

Notice the changes in the customization in the Penguins jerseys from Zalapski's rookie year to his sophomore season. The name on the back is thinner and without serifs, the number changes font and the sleeve numbers move from the shoulders down to the arms.

The Penguins dealt Zalapski to the Hartford Whalers as part of the Ron Francis trade, a move that saw Zalapski see an increase in playing time and career highs in points as a result. The defenseman's only 20 goal season of his career came in 1991-92 followed by a 65 point campaign the following season while wearing the Whalers green jerseys.

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1990-91 Hartford Whalers

Prior to Zalapski's final season in Hartford, they would change to their new modernized jerseys, which featured blue road jerseys rather than the traditional green.

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1993-94 Hartford Whalers jersey

Traded once more, Zalapski was on the move, this time north of the border to Calgary to join the Flames. Once in Calgary, he would find his customary #3 already in use by Frantisek Musil and adopt the #33 while skating for the Flames. He would play in five seasons with the Flames, although he would miss all but two games of the 1996-97 season with a knee injury suffered in practice.

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1993-94 Calgary Flames

Zalapski played a more defensive role in Calgary, as he would never again approach the offensive numbers he achieved while in Pittsburgh and especially Hartford. Zalapski also was present for yet another uniform change, as the Flames finally moved away from their traditional jerseys, which remained unchanged, save for the crest, even after their relocation from Atlanta.

The bold new sweaters featured the addition of a shot of black, reminiscent of the change the Minnesota North Stars made in 1981, where the restrained use of black added to the jersey, rather than taking over, such as what the North Stars succumed to in 1991. The main feature of the new design was the arresting diagonal multi-stripe on the front of the jerseys, which originated just below the main crest and shot off in the direction of the right hip. These bold jerseys would remain in use for three seasons before becoming dated.

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1994-95 Calgary Flames

After five seasons in Calgary, Zalapski was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in a deal which brought Valeri Bure to Calgary. His stay in Montreal was brief, playing there for only the second half of the 1997-98 season. Now back in his customary #3 Zalapski would have the honor of wearing the classic "bleu, blanc et rouge" sweater of the storied Canadiens.

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1997-98 Montreal Canadiens

The 1998-99 season would see Zalapski's first foray into European hockey with an abbreviated season of just 11 games with the ZSC Lions in Zurich, Switzerland. He returned to North America for the 1999-00 season, which included time with the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the IHL for seven games before spending the majority of the season with the Utah Grizzlies, also of the IHL and a return to the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers for 12 games.

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1999-00 Philadelphia Flyers

His time in Philadelphia would be the conclusion of Zalapski's NHL career, which would finish with 637 games played with five teams, 99 goals and 285 assists for 384 points and one All-Star Game appearance in 1993.

He would begin the 2000-01 season with the Houston Aeros of the IHL for nine games before returning to Europe, this time with the Munich Barons of the German DEL.

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2000-01 Munich Barons

A new season meant another new country, as the former NHL All-Star found himself with HC Merano of the Italian league for 26 games. Zalapski began to apparently "dabble" in hockey at this point, playing seven games with IF Bjorkloeven Umea in the Swedish second division in 2002-03, no hockey at all in 2003-04 and 11 games with the Kalamazoo Wings in the UHL in 2004-05.

The 2005-06 season saw a total of just 16 split between three clubs, EHC Visp in the Swiss second division, Innsbrucker EV in Austria and SC Rapperswill-Jona Lakers in the Swiss top division. He suited up for just five games in all of 2006-07 with EHC Chur in the Swiss second division leaving behind a trail of lightly used game worn jerseys in his wake!

2007-08 saw a more serious effort with 33 games for EHC Biel-Bienne, still in the Swiss second division and a move to EHC Olten for a 34 game season and one of the more unique team logos in the world of hockey.

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2008-09 EHC Olten
photos courtesy of Classic Auctions

Zalapski continues to play 22 years after his NHL debut, proving once more that there is life beyond the NHL, having moved to Lausanne HC in the Swiss second division and are currently involved in a playoff to determine promotion to the Swiss National League A, the top division of Swiss hockey for 2010-11. Lausanne currently leads Bienne three games to two in their best of seven series with Game 6 scheduled for today and Game 7 if needed on Saturday.

Today's video section begins with Zalapski scoring his first NHL goal on March 19, 1988 on a beautiful feed from Mario Lemieux followed by a report on Zalapski's passing.






Monday, September 11, 2017

2000-01 FDNY Hockey Team Ray Downey Jersey

Ray Downey was the Fire Department of New York's Chief of Special Operations and a passionate New York Rangers fan and founding member of the FDNY Hockey Team.

Chief Ray Downey

He served with the United States Marine Corps and then became a member of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) on April 7, 1962, beginning a 39-year career. In August of 2001, Chief Downey was put in charge of Special Operations Command, a team of specialists who aid regular firefighters with unique or highly critical situations, which include Hazardous Materials, Marine Units, Rescue Companies (experienced units with specialized tools and equipment) and Squads, often regarded as mini Rescue Companies who also have specialized tools and equipment. Downey was also promoted to Deputy Chief at the time.

His career was built on numerous successful rescues which made him the most decorated man in the history of the FDNY. He received five medals for valor and 16 unit citations as well as the 1995 Administration Medal.

Additionally, Chief Downey was a task force leader for the New York City Urban Search and Rescue Team as well as the National Disasters Team, who responded to both the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Olympics bombings. He was also a team leader in response to Hurricanes Hugo, Andres, Fran, Marilyn and Opal, Chief of Rescue Operations at the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, all of which contributed to his being called "a charismatic national legend in rescue circles" and he was credited with creating the modern search-and-rescue system adopted by FEMA and fire departments worldwide while pioneering a national network of eight search and rescue teams under FEMA.

He also made frequent trips to Washington D.C. while serving on a congressional panel on domestic terrorism and it's prevention.

All of this led to Downey commanding rescue operations at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 following the terrorist attacks earlier that morning when hijacked jetliners were crashed into each of the twin towers.

His unit was called in immediately after the first impact at #2 World Trade Center and he was leading the rescue operations which helped save thousands of lives when the second of the towers collapsed, costing him his life.

He left behind his wife Rosalie and five children, two of whom, Joe and Chuck, are now firemen.

It would take eight months after 9/11 for his remains to be identified through DNA testing before Chief Downey was then laid to rest on May 20, 2002.

When once asked asked why he searched so long for remains of those presumed dead, he cited the families of those left behind. "The only way you can relieve some of their sorrow," he said, "is to successfully recover the bodies of the people they loved."

Of the 343 firefighters lost on 9/11, Special Operations Command lost a total of 95 men with 1,600 years of experience that day.

Ray Downey's life and career are commemorated with The Ray Downey Courage and Valor Award, which is presented each year to an extraordinarily courageous American firefighter.

Following the terrorist attacks in September, 2001 the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres faced off in the Rangers first home game of the season on October 7th. Both the Rangers and Sabres wore special jerseys with "New York" diagonally across the front. Following the game won by the Rangers 5-4 in overtime, both sets of jerseys were auctioned off to raise money for the Twin Towers Fund.

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Prior to the game the NYPD and FDNY hockey teams lined up on the ice and the Rangers skated between them during their introductions. FDNY team member Larry McGee had brought Ray Downey's firefighters helmet with him with a picture of Downey tucked into the brim of the helmet. He noticed that of all the players, only Rangers captain Mark Messier had not worn his hockey helmet during the pre-game ceremonies.

As the Rangers were lined up at the blueline, McGee sensed the moment was right and skated over to Messier with the helmet and told him it would be an honor if he would wear it. Messier responded, "Sure, whatever you need" and donned the helmet of the still missing Downey as the Madison Square Garden crowd roared it's approval.

Messier Firehelmet 10/7/01
Mark Messier wearing Chief Downey's helmet prior to the Rangers first home game following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Note the special "New York" jersey worn only for that game.

"For me, personally, it was very emotional for a lot of reasons," said Messier, "Obviously, with all the people being honored - the firefighters, the police, the rescue workers, the volunteers, the entire city - and all our fans. All on a day when we started fighting back as a country."

At the end of that same season, Messier presented his #11 jersey to the family of Ray Downey during the Rangers annual Blueshirts off our Backs night on April 10, 2002.

Messier Blueshirts off our Backs 2002

The FDNY Hockey Team was first formed back in 1968 and played it's first game against the New York Police Department in 1974 and the FDNY Hockey Team now competes in charity events and tournaments from Alaska to Sweden as well as hosting the FDNY "King of the Ice" Firehouse Tournament, where for over 15 years nearly 100 different firehouses compete for the championship in the largest tournament of it's kind.

The main event on the FDNY Hockey Team calendar is always their annual faceoff against the New York Police Department (NYPD) game as the FDNY Bravest take on the NYPD Finest in "The Battle of the Badges". To date, 42 games have been played with the FDNY holding a 23-17-2 lead in the series.

Today's featured jersey is a 2000-01 Fire Department of New York Hockey Team Ray Downey jersey. This jersey takes the classic simplicity of a jersey very similar to the New Jersey Devils and combines it with the timeless look of the drop shadowed New York Rangers cresting and numbers to create as perfect a hockey jersey as you will ever see.

Of note, none of the players wore their individual names on the back of their jerseys, and instead they all had their team nickname "Bravest" on the back in place of their names, similar to Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series when they all had "Canada" on the back.

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Chief Downey's jersey #9 was retired by the FDNY Hockey Team during a pre-game tribute at the March 2, 2002 FDNY vs. NYPD hockey game.

Downey jersey retirement
Rosalie Downey receives Chief Downey's retired
jersey before the FDNY vs. NYPD game in 2002

While this style jersey has been retired, you can get the current FDNY Hockey Team jersey, based on the 2000-2007 Calgary Flames jerseys, through the above link or at the official store for FDNY gear - The Fire Zone at Rockefeller Center at 34 W 51st St. in New York, New York.

Please take a moment to visit the Deputy Chief Raymond Downey Scholarship Charity Fund, at ChiefRaymondDowney.com, which holds the annual Forever Running Memorial 5K Run/Walk each Father's Day to benefit the organizations he supported, and consider making a donation to the fund. Information on how to contribute can be found by clicking the banner below.

Downey banner,Downey banner

The Rescue Company, written by Chief Ray Downey, a how-to manual on rescue operations for firefighters in both paperback and hardcover, as well as his instructional video on collapse rescues are available below.




The Last Men Out, written by Ray Downey's nephew Tom Downey, is about Rescue 2, the firehouse Ray Downey commanded for fourteen years. Rescue 2 doesn't leave a fire until everybody's safe - they're the last men out.




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