Tuesday, May 24, 2016

1984-85 Philadelphia Flyers Pelle Lindbergh Jersey

Born on this date in 1959 in Stockholm, Sweden Per-Eric "Pelle" Lindbergh made his debut with Hammarby IF of Stockholm's junior team in 1975 and made his international debut for the Sweden National Team that same season in the European Junior Championships earning the silver medal as well as the award for Best Goaltender. A second season with Hammarby as well as a second European Junior Championship appearance followed in 1976-77, which resulted in a gold medal as well as a second Best Goaltender award at the 1977 EJC.

Pelle LIndbergh Hammarby
Lindbergh in goal for Hammarby. Note the
Flyers logos on his mask even then.

His first season with Hammarby IF in Sweden's Division 1 in 1977-78 was highlighted with four games played at the newly promoted World Junior Championships, backstopping Sweden to a silver medal. At the time, NHL players had begun appearing in the World Championships, beginning in 1976. International Ice Hockey Federation officials began to fear that true amateur and younger players were losing their places they traditionally held with teams at the World Championships, so the Under-20 Junior Championships were elevated to full world championship status in 1977.

A second season with Hammarby IF in Division 1 in 1978-79 saw him named Best Goaltender at the 1979 World Junior Championships, where Sweden would win the bronze medal, followed by making his debut with the Sweden National Team at the senior level at that year's World Championships in Moscow, helping Sweden to a bronze medal finish. He was also drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers 35th overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft and the second goaltender and second European taken that year.

1979-80 was a breakthrough season for the young netminder, as he would take over the starting role in goal for AIK Stockholm in the Elitserien, Sweden's highest professional level, appearing in 32 games and being named to the 1980 Swedish Olympic Team. Lindbergh would appear in five of Sweden's seven games as Sweden won the bronze medal.

He would make his NHL debut with the Maine Mariners of the American Hockey League in 1980-81, winning the Hap Homes Award, the Les Cunningham Rookie of the Year Award and the Red Garrett Most Valuable Player Award honors after a stellar 31-14-5 record in the regular season and a 10-7 mark in the playoffs as Maine reached the Calder Cup Finals.

Prior to the next season, Lindbergh was named to the Sweden National Team's roster for the 1981 Canada Cup tournament. He would split time in 1981-82 between the Mariners (25 games) and make his NHL debut with the Flyers with eight games, posting a 2-4-2 record.

The departure of Pete Peeters for the Boston Bruins opened up more time for Lindbergh in 1982-83, as he became the number one goaltender for the Flyers, appearing in 40 games, posting a 23-13-3 record and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and played in his first NHL All-Star Game. Following the NHL season Lindbergh played in his second World Championships for Sweden and yet another medal, this time a bronze, his seventh international medal.

Pelle LIndberg
Lindbergh at his first NHL All-Star Game in 1983.

Bob Froese took the majority of the starts in Philadelphia in 1983-84 with 48 games played, with Lindbergh finishing with a 16-13-3 mark in 36 appearances.

The high point of Lindbergh's career came in the 1984-85 season, when Lindbergh saw the bulk of the workload, seeing action in 65 games while going 40-17-7 to lead the league in wins and help the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals. His outstanding play was rewarded with his second NHL All-Star Game appearance as well as being named the recipient of the 1985 Vezina Trophy, the first European goaltender in NHL history to ever win the award.

Pelle LIndberg
Lindbergh with the Vezina Trophy.

Lindbergh also became the first goaltender to bring a water bottle with him on the ice during a game to combat severe dehydration that plagued him, a now accepted and regular practice.

In addition, Lindbergh was also known for his stark white goalie mask used during a period when nearly all goalie masks were adorned with increasingly elaborate paint schemes to reflect either the team's identity or their individual personality. The mask was a replica of his idol and goaltending coach, former Flyer goalie Bernie Parent.

Pelle LIndberg
Lindbergh facing The Great One, Wayne Gretzky

Following his Vezina Trophy winning season, Lindbergh signed a six year contract with the Flyers and bought himself a 565 horsepower, customized Porsche 930 Turbo. He began the 1985-86 season in good form, winning six of his first eight starts, but tragedy struck when Lindbergh crashed his car while driving impaired on November 10, 1985, leaving him brain-dead and his two passengers seriously injured.

Lindbergh was kept on life support long enough for his father to arrive from Sweden to join Lindbergh's mother, who was already in the United States on a visit, to say goodbye and then make the final decision to donate his organs and end life support on November 12th. Lindbergh was just 26 years old.

His death stunned is teammates, the city of Philadelphia and the nation of Sweden. Fans then made Lindbergh the top vote getter for the 1986 NHL All-Star Game, the first time a player was chosen posthumously for an all-team in North American sports.

While Lindbergh's #31 was never officially retired, no Flyer has worn the number since.

The Flyers created the Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Award in 1994, given annually to the Most Improved Player each season.

For more on the life and career of Pelle Lindbergh, we recommend Pelle Lindbergh: Behind the White Mask.

Today's featured jersey is a 1984-85 Philadelphia Flyers Pelle Lindbergh jersey from the season he recorded his career high 40 wins. The Flyers adopted this modernized version of their classic jersey in 1982-83, Lindbergh's second season with Philadelphia. It featured the addition of more black trim to separate the orange arm coloring from the white of the body and was made by Sandow SK. The following season the jersey remained the same, but was now made by CCM. One season later the Flyers jerseys again were rebranded, this time by Eagle.

This style Flyers jersey was essentially carved in stone, as it remained unchanged through the 2006-07 season after which it was replaced by the Reebok Edge jersey, sadly doing in an iconic jersey after 20 years of service.

Philadelphia Flyers 85-86 jersey
Philadelphia Flyers 85-86 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1979 Sweden National Team Pelle Lindbergh jersey as worn in the 1979 World Junior Tournament which took place in Sweden. Lindbergh was named the Best Goaltender and helped Sweden earn a bronze medal that year.

This jersey is from a period of time in the late 70's/early 80's when Sweden moved away from their traditional three crowns logo and instead sports the phrase "Tre Kronor", which translates to "Three Crowns".

Sweden 1979 WJC jersey

While there are numerous Lindbergh game highlights, news reports and tributes available, we chose to feature this excellent tribute today.


Monday, May 23, 2016

The 2016 IIHF Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

The 2016 class was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame yesterday and included four players, all with NHL experience to go with their international accomplishments.

First, was Slovakian Peter Bondra, who first competed for Slovakia at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, scoring 3 goals in 3 games. He then appeared for the Slovaks at the 1998 Olympics, the first for the star players of the NHL. In 2002, he and the Slovakians had the tournament of their lives, as Bondra scored 7 goals to lead all players and 9 points in 9 games, including the game winning goal in the gold medal final with less than two minutes to play as Slovakia won their first, and to date only, World Championship.

He returned for his second World Championship in 2003 and won a bronze medal. Bondra made one final international appearance, that being during the 2006 Olympics where he scored 4 goals in 6 games.

Peter Bondra Slovakia photo PeterBondraGoldMedal.jpg
Bondra celebrates with his 2002 World Championship gold medal

"I'd like to thank Slovakian hockey. I was always proud to play for my country, Olympics or World Championships. My dream was to always play for the national team and score the game winning goal for a gold medal. My dream came true," Bondra stated at the ceremony.

Today's featured Bondra jersey is a 2002 Slovakia National Team Peter Bondra jersey as worn when "Peter the Great" scored the game winning goal in the championship final of the 2002 World Championships, an unexpected title considering that just three months earlier Slovakia failed to advance out of the Preliminary Round of the 2002 Olympics. Slovakia's rise to the World Championship came less than ten years ofter becoming an independent nation following the breakup of Czechoslovakia  in 1993 and being forced to start at the lower depths of the IIHF ladder system in Pool C, while the Czech Republic was allowed to retain Czechoslovakia's place in the Top Division of the World Championship system.

Slovakia 2002 WC jersey photo Slovakia 2002 WC F.jpg
Slovakia 2002 WC jersey photo Slovakia 2002 WC B.jpg

The next player, alphabetically, to be inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame was Russian Sergei Fedorov, whose international career began during the days of the Soviet Union. The young hockey protege was a three time member of the Soviet Union National Team at the World Junior Championships in 1987, 1988 (silver) and 1989, when he won a gold medal. Later that spring he made his debut at the World Championships at the senior level, where he added a second gold medal. He returned to the 1990 World Championship with the Soviets and took home a second consecutive gold.

His final international appearance for the Soviet Union came at the 1991 Canada Cup, and actually occurred after his defection in July of 1990.

Fedorov Soviet Union photo Fedorov Canada Cup.jpg
Fedorov skating for the Soviet Union for the final time at the 
1991 Canada Cup three months before they country ceased to exist

He returned to the international stage in 1996 as a member of Russia at the World Cup of Hockey, as the Soviet Union by now had ceased to exist, breaking up on December 26, 1991. His second international appearance for Russia was at the 1998 Olympics, where he won a silver medal, his first for Russia. Four years later, he was again a medal winner at the Olympics, this time a bronze in 2002.

18 years after his last World Championships, Fedorov would return in 2008, scoring 5 goals and 12 points in 9 games as he won his third gold medal at the Worlds and his first for Russia, as the previous two were won with the Soviets.

In 2010 he played in both the Olympics in Salt Lake City and then later the World Championships three months later where he won a silver medal.

"I am so honored and so pleased that this life of hockey that has given me so much joy has borught me to this place and this special recognition,' said Fedorov.

Today's featured Fedorov jersey is a 1996 Russia National Team Sergei Fedorov jersey as worn when Fedorov played in his first international tournament for Russia following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, his first international appearance in seven years.
Although scheduled to wear a new style for the 1998 Olympics, Russia rejected their previously approved jersey so late that they were forced to revert to their "waving flag" style from the 1996 World Cup. Fedorov and the Russians then won the Olympic silver medal in this "retired" jersey style.

Russia 1996 WCOH jersey photo Russia 1996 WCOH F.jpg
Russia 1996 WCOH jersey photo Russia 1996 WCOH B.jpg

Joining Fedorov in the IIHF Hall of Fame was fellow Russian Valeri Kamensky, who won gold his first time out at the 1984 European Under-18 Junior Championships for the Soviet Union. He followed that with a bronze at the U20 World Juniors in 1985 and a gold a the World Juniors in 1986, where he led the tournament in goals with 7 on his way to 13 points in 7 games.

Later in the spring of 1986, Kamensky made his debut for the senior level team at the World Championships, winning another gold medal just months apart. Kamensky was busy in 1987, as he first played for the Soviets in the two game Rendez-vous '87 series against the NHL All-Stars in Quebec. He next played in the World Championships, scoring 5 goals and 8 points in 10 games, earning a sliver medal. Finally, later in the spring, he competed for the Soviets at the 1987 Canada Cup.

Kamensky Soviet Union photo Kamensky Soviet Union 2.jpg
Valeri Kamensky began his international career with the Soviet Union

He made his Olympic debut at the 1988 Games in Calgary, where he contributed 6 points in 8 games on his way to a gold medal. Along with other Soviet National Team duties, such as the Izvestia Trophy, Kamensky played in the next three World Championships, winning gold in 1989 and 1990 and bronze in 1991 when he was named as the tournament's Best Forward following 6 goals and 11 points in 10 games before closing out his international Soviet career with the Goodwill Games in July of 1990.

His first World Championship for Russia came in 1994 with 5 goals and 10 points in 6 games. In 1996, Kamensky won the Stanley Cup with the Colordao Avalanche, which earned him a place in the Triple Gold Club, having previously won an Olympic Gold medal and a World Championship gold medal.

With the NHL now accommodating their players participation in the Olympics, Kamensky was able to return to the Olympics for the first time in a decade, where he earned a silver medal.

He wrapped up his international career with the 2000 World Championships, his seventh.

Today's featured Kamensky jersey is a 1988 Russia National Team Valeri Kamensky jersey as worn when Kamensky played in his first Olympic Games while as a member of the Soviet Union. This was one of the first times the Tackla company of Finland supplied jerseys to the IIHF and before they developed their signature look with colored shoulders adorned with their trademark diamond shaped logo.

Soviet Union 1988 Olympic jersey photo Soviet Union 1988 Olympic jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

The final player inductee was Finn Ville Peltonen, who first played for Finland at the European U18 Junior Championship where he began his medal collection with a bronze. He then moved up to the U20 level at the 1993 World Juniors.

He made his Olympic debut at the 1994 Olympics, winning a bronze medal, which was followed by a silver medal at the World Championships later that spring in his first attempt.

He became a legend in Finland when he scored a hat trick and had an assist in Finland's 1985 World Championship gold medal winning final game, a 4-1 win over Sweden. Peltonen finished with 6 goals and 11 points.

Peltonen goal #3 photo Finland Goal 1995.jpg
Mika Stromberg and Saku Koivu celebrate as
Peltonen is elated after completing his hat trick

He played in both the World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 followed by the 1997 World Championships. At the 1998 Olympics, Peltonen won a bronze medal. He next won three consecutive World Championship medals, silver in 1998 and 1999 and bronze in 2000.

After a break of a couple of years, Peltonen played in the next six World Championships from 2003 to 2008, winning a bronze in 2006, a silver in 2007 and another bronze in 2008. During this timer period, Peltonen also finished as runner up in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and won a silver medal at the 2006 Olympics.

Aside from games as a part of the Euro Hockey Tour, Peltonen's final major international tournament was the 2010 Olympics games, his fourth, where he won a bronze medal.

In all, Peltonen represented Finland 19 times, winning 13 medals.

Today's featured Peltonen jersey is a 1995 Finland National Team Ville Peltonen jersey from the 1995 World Championships where Peltonen famously had a hat trick in the gold medal game to give the Finns their first ever world Championship, which came at the expense of arch rival Sweden.

This jersey was made by Tackla though branded as Reeebok. This style was worn during 1994 and 1995 until Nike became the supplier to the IIHF in 1996.

Finland 1995 home jersey photo Finland 1995 H F.jpg
Finland 1995 home jersey photo Finland 1995 H B.jpg

Pat Quinn was also inducted into the guilders category. He led Canada to it's first gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Olympics and also led Canada to the championship of the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and gold medals at both the 2008 U18 World Championship and the 2009 World U20 World Championships.

Pat Quinn photo Pat Quinn.jpg
Pat Quinn

Ben Smith, who was a four time US Olympic Women's hockey coach, who led the Americans to the gold medal at the first women's Olympic hockey tournament in 1998, was also inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame

Ben Smith photo Ben Smith.jpg
Ben Smith

Finally, the deserving winner of the second Richard "Bibi" Torriani Award was Gabor Ocskay of Hungary. The Torriani Award is given to players who have had a great international career regardless of where they have played in recognition of players who did not necessarily win Olympic or World Championship medals, but who still had remarkable careers.

Ocskay first gained recognition outside of his native Hungary at the age of 16 when he was the top scorer at the 1992 European Junior Championships C Pool with 10 points in just 3 games as he led the Hungarians to promotion to the B Pool.

He would go on to play for Hungary at the European U18 juniors twice, the U20 World Juniors twice, the World Championships 16 times in the B, C and D Pool and later at the Division I level and a round of Olympic qualifying, scoring 76 goals and 91 assists for 167 points in 122 games. He also played his hometown Alba Volán Székesfehérvár of the Hungarian Nationwide Championship League for 16 seasons, eventually scoring 307 goals and 446 assists for 753 points in 488 games.

Ocskay trophy, Ocskay trophy
Gabor Ocskay

He was a three time Hungarian Player of the Year, a two time Hungarian champion and won two bronze, two silver and a gold medal as he helped guide Hungary up the IIHF ladder, all the way to the Top Divsion by winning the Division I Group B championship in 2008, only without Ocskay, as he unexpectedly died on March 24th, 2008 of a heart attack at the age of only 33, just two days after winning the 2008 Hungarian championship. His passing hit the hockey fans in Hungary hard, and they remembered him by lighting candles at every ice rink in the country.

Gabor's sister Zsuanna remarked, “The family and the whole Hungarian community, which is like family, have never forgotten him,” she said. “The rink in his hometown of Szekesfehervar bears his name since 2009 and the ice hockey academy is named after him. Some of the players who trained there were members of this national team that competed in St. Petersburg.”

Today's featured Ocskay jersey is a 2009 Hungarian National Team Gábor Ocskay jersey that he would have worn in Switzerland at the 2009 Top Division World Championships had he been alive to do so.

Hungary 2009 jersey photo Hungary2009F.jpg
Hungary 2009 jersey photo Hungary2009B.jpg

Sunday, May 22, 2016

1970-71 Vancouver Canucks Garth Rizzuto Jersey

Since the demise of the Brooklyn Americans in 1942, the NHL consisted of just six member teams, commonly referred to as "The Original Six". Finally, following the success of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in Major League Baseball on the west coast, the idea of expanding the NHL was first brought up in 1963, partly due to fears that the Western Hockey League was intending to operate as a major league in the near future and also in hopes of making the league more attractive to American television networks with coast-to-coast appeal.

The original discussions promoted San Francisco and Vancouver as acceptable locations with Los Angeles and St. Louis also as potential candidates in March of 1965.

In February of 1966, applications were received from groups from Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore, Buffalo and Vancouver.

In the end, franchises were awarded to Oakland (across the bay from San Francisco), Los Angeles, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and... St. Louis!

1967-68 St Louis Blues photo 1967-68StLouisBlues.jpg
The 1967-68 St. Louis Blues

The decision to exclude Vancouver caught many by surprise, especially those involved in the construction of the brand new Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, and angered not only the locals, but all of Canada, since the six chosen cities were all in the United States. Various reasons emerged to explain the surprise inclusion of St. Louis, despite the fact there was no formal proposal from a group representing St. Louis!

Reportedly, Toronto and Montreal did not want to share Canadian TV revenues with a third club and support for expansion from Chicago was contingent on the creation of a team in St. Louis, which would result in the sale of the run-down St. Louis Arena, which just conveniently happened to be owned by the Chicago Black Hawks ownership group at the time...

Less than a year later the Oakland Seals franchise was having financial difficulties and an apparent deal was struck to move the club to Vancouver. The NHL however, did not want to see one of their brand new franchises moved so quickly and killed the deal. In exchange for avoiding a lawsuit, the NHL promised Vancouver a team in the next expansion, which occurred on this date in 1970, when Buffalo and Vancouver were granted entry into the NHL, at a cost of $6 million, three times the prices paid in the 1967 expansion.

The first order of business was selecting a name for the new Vancouver franchise, and they chose to retain the name Vancouver Canucks, which had been in use by the Vancouver club in the WHL from 1952 to 1970. The club's original colors of Blue, white and green were chosen to represent the water, the snow and the mountains which surround Vancouver.

During the Expansion Draft on June 9, 1970, the Canucks chose Gary Doak, a defenseman from the Boston Bruins.

Doak Vancouver photo Doak Vancouver.jpg
Gary Doak

Their second choice was Orland Kurtenbach, a center from the New York Rangers who became the Canucks first team captain.

Kurtenbach Vancouver photo Kurtenbach Canucks.jpg
Orland Kurtenbach, the first team captain

After choosing Ray Cullen, the Canucks selected Pat Quinn, who would one day return to coach the Canucks.

Quinn Vancouver photo Quinn Vancouver.jpg
Future Canucks head coach Pat Quinn

Two days later, the league held it's annual Amateur Draft. The Sabres famously won the spin of a wheel to win the right to select first, leaving the Canucks with the second choice, which they used on defenseman Dale Tallon, who would play in Vancouver for three seasons.

The rest of their draft was less than successful, with forgotten names such as defenseman Jim Hargreaves (66 total games with Vancouver), goalie Ed Dyck (49 games) plus Brent TaylorBill McFadden and Dave Gilmour, all of whom never skated in the NHL.

The Canucks played their first game on October 9, 1970 against the Los Angeles Kings, with former Vancouver Millionaires player (1912-1921), the 86-year-old Cyclone Taylor, in attendance. Barry Wilkins had the distinction of scoring the first goal in team history. The Canucks first victory arrived two days later, as they exacted a measure of revenge for their delay in getting into the NHL on the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-3 win.

Cancuks first game photo Cancuks first game.jpg
The Canucks first  game at the Pacific Coloseum

Cancuks first game photo Canucks first game 10970.jpg
Kurtenbach pressures the Kings during the Canucks first game

The Canucks would play respectable hockey for the first three months of the season until Kurtenbach was sidelined with a knee injury in late December with the team at 13-18-3 at the time. They would win only one game in January and just three in February to find themselves at 18-37-6, with the low point being allowing three goals to Boston in just 20 seconds on February 25th. They finished out the season 6-11-2 after Kurtenbach's return for a final record of 24-16-8 for a sixth place finish in the tough East Division with five of the well established Original Six franchises as competition.

1970-71 Vancouver Canucks team photo photo 1970-71 Vancouver Canucks team photo.jpg
The inaugural 1970-71 Vancouver Canucks

The team was led in scoring by Andre Boudrias, who had 25 goals and 41 assists for 66 points. Rosaire Paiement led the team in goals with 34, as well as penalty minutes with 152. In all, six Canucks had 20 goals or more, with Boudrais and Wayne Maki tied for second with 25 and Murray Hall, Kurtenbach and Mike Corrigan each with 21. Tallon broke the Bobby Orr's rookie record for assists by a defenseman with 42 while Charlie Hodge led the goaltenders with 15 wins.

Boudrias Vancouver photo Boudrias Vancouver.jpg
The Canucks first leading scorer Boudrias

Today's featured jersey is a 1970-71 Vancouver Canucks Garth Rizzuto home jersey. Rizzuto played 37 games for the Canucks in 1970-71, scoring 3 goals and 7 points. He later played two seasons for the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA.

The Canucks original "stick in rink" logo was designed by a local designer Joe Borovich and used until 1978 before being dropped in favor of the highly controversial "Flying V" style.

The original logo made a return in 2003 as a shoulder patch on the home and road jerseys as well as on the front of the club's vintage jerseys, worn occasionally for two seasons prior to it becoming the third jersey for 2006-07.

Joe Borovich Canucks logo

After designing the logo, Borovich was then asked to be involved with the design of the club's original jerseys as well. The "V" on the sleeve stripes only lasted two seasons before being removed when the sleeve and waist stripes were redesigned.

Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 home jersey
Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 home jersey
Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 home jersey

Bonus Jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1970-71 Vancouver Canucks George Gardner jersey in the road blue version.

Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 road jersey

Gardner played 11 professional seasons as a goaltender with a variety of clubs, seeing action in 66 games with the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks of the NHL and 79 games with the Los Angeles Sharks and Vancouver Blazers of the WHA in addition to six different minor league teams.

George Gardner
Gardner displaying his old goalie mask

Extra bonus Jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1970-71 Vancouver Canucks Charlie Hodge jersey from the Canucks first season's goaltending wins leader. Another road blue version, this one shows the V's on the arms much more clearly.

1970-71 was the final season of Hodge's long professional career, which began back in 1953-54 and included over a decade with the Montreal Canadiens that resulted in six Stanley Cups, three NHL All-Star Games and two Vezina Trophies shared with Gump Worsley.

As the NHL expanded, Hodge moved on to play three seasons with the Oakland Seals and his final one with the expansion Canucks.

Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 jersey photo Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 F jersey.jpg
Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 jersey photo Vancouver Canucks 1970-71 B jersey.jpg

Today's video section begins with a look at how designer Borovich came up with the original, classic Canucks logo and how it made a return for the team's 40th anniversary.



This second one is clearly from the first two seasons, and features Pat Quinn adding to his penalty minute total.



Unfortunately for Canucks fans, we found footage of the Bruins scoring their three goals in 20 seconds. You may get a good look at the Canucks jerseys as they tend to be standing around and watching according to the announcers.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Atlanta Flames Are Extinguished

It was announced on this date in 1980 that the Atlanta Flames had been sold to a group of Canadian business men who announced that the franchise would relocate to Calgary, Alberta.

The Flames began play in 1972 as the NHL reacted quickly to occupy the new Nassau Coliseum on Long Island with the New York Islanders in order to prevent the upstart World Hockey Association from moving into the arena. Needing a second team to balance the schedule, Atlanta was also awarded a franchise to occupy The Omni, another brand new arena located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The team was named the "Flames", which originated from the famous burning of Atlanta during the American Civil War.

The Omni seated 15,278 for hockey and was a innovative architectural design with an unusual roof, which looked like an egg crate from the air. It's exterior panels which were designed to rust over to seal themselves shut(!), making a solid structure which would last for decades. The only problem was that the panels never stopped rusting, which eventually created holes in the outer wall so large people were able to sneak into the building for free!

The Omni
The Omni

The club began with a reasonable start for an expansion team, which included being over .500 as late as mid-January, but a late season swoon saw them finish out of the playoffs at 25-38-15.

Being the only club in the American southeast, the Flames were faced with a difficult travel schedule, as the NHL's divisional alignment at the time defied any geographic logic, as it was still based on the principal of having the Original 6 teams in the East, while the 1967 expansion clubs grouped in the "West".

The additions of Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres in 1970 and the Islanders and Flames in 1972 further muddied the picture, as Atlanta was grouped with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minnesota, St. Louis (closest at 556 miles away), Los Angeles and Oakland, while the "East" division was home to... Vancouver!

The Flames qualified for the playoffs in their second season after a nine point improvement in the standings, although with a sub .500 record of 30-34-14. Highlights that season included the additions of Tom Lysiak who led the club in scoring as a rookie.

Tom Lysiak Flames
Tom Lysiak

While the club improved to a 34-31-15 mark, their 83 points were not enough to make the playoffs. Bright spots were the addition of Eric Vail, who set a club record with 39 goals on his way to the Calder Trophy, and conference realignment, which saw Atlanta now in the Patrick Division (with Philadelphia, the New York Rangers and New York Islanders) of the Campbell Conference (which also included St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota, Kansas City and Vancouver).

Eric Vail
Eric Vail

While the club qualified for the playoffs in 1975-76 and posted their first winning record of 35-33-12, they remained winless in the playoffs, losing 2 games to none in an abbreviated best-of-three series after being swept in four straight by Philadelphia in 1974. The first signs of trouble on the financial front began to surface when their average attendance dropped from a high of 14,162 in 1973-74 to 13,444 then down to 11,963.

The following season of 1976-77 saw the Flames finally win their first playoff game, but were still eliminated in Round 1 by the Kings 2 games to 1. At one point the team was in danger of missing it's payroll in December, and in an emergency campaign, leading city businesses made $750,000 in advance ticket purchases to help the club avoid bankruptcy.

The now familiar pattern began to repeat, as the 1977-78 Flames once more saw a drop in attendance down to 10,501 as they again won 34 games and were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs in two straight games, this time at the hands of the Red Wings.

A franchise record 90 points in 1978-79 saw a bump in average tickets sold, up to 11,441, but the Maple Leafs took their turn bouncing the Flames from the postseason in the now customary two straight games. While Lysiak was traded to Chicago, Guy Chouinard provided the thrills with the only 50 goal season in Atlanta history.

 photo ChouinardFlames.jpg
50 goal scorer Guy Chouinard

The 1979-80 season proved to be the Flames last in Atlanta, and yet again it was a predictable season for the club, as they won 35 games, the fifth time in 8 seasons with 34 or 35 wins. They then ended their eight year run in Atlanta with their fifth consecutive (and sixth overall) first round playoff loss, this time 3 games to 1 in the new best-of-five format to the New York Rangers, giving the Flames a combined playoff record of 2-15 in six tries.

With falling ticket sales combined with a rapid rise in player costs, due to the competition for players between the NHL and WHA, the Flames also suffered from the lack of a major television deal.

When an offer to purchase the club came from Nelson Skalbania, former owner of both the Edmonton Oilers and Indianapolis Racers of the WHA, the Atlanta ownership group accepted the deal and Skalbania immediately moved the club to Calgary, Alberta and chose to keep the name "Flames", feeling it reminiscent of the iconic "gas flares" of the oil production industry in Alberta.

The new ownership also retained the Flames jerseys as well, only the flaming "A" logo changing to a flaming "C" for their new home in Calgary.

Flames jerseys

History repeated itself in Atlanta one day short of 31 years later when the news broke that the troubled Atlanta Thrashers franchise was sold to a group who then moved the Thrashers over the border to Winnipeg, Manitoba as the long desired replacement for the beloved Jets, who relocated to Phoenix in 1996.

Today's featured jersey is a 1978-79 Atlanta Flames Eric Vail jersey. Vail played more games in Atlanta Flames history than any other player, 469, joining the club for it's second season of 1973-74 through their sale and relocation seven seasons later. Vail also led the Flames in all-time goals with 174 and ranked second in points with 383, behind only Lysiak.

The Flames used the same jersey for each of their eight seasons in Atlanta and it remained intact after the relocation to Calgary, allowing for the obvious change in crest from the flaming A to the flaming C, all the way through the 1994-95 season, a 15 year run for this classic hockey template.

The Calgary Flames pay tribute to their past by using the original Atlanta Flames logo as the A worn to designate their alternate captains.

This jersey was worn without names on the back until 1977-78 when they became mandatory for all NHL jerseys.

Atlanta Flames 74-75 jersey photo Flames74-75F.jpg
Atlanta Flames 74-75 jersey photo Flames74-75B.jpg

Today's video hunt finds us with nothing but brawls to pick from, as the Flames apparently never actually scored any goals if we are to believe youtube.

Note the Philadelphia Flyers reverse nameplates. They had one set made up for TV games and wore them on both the white and orange jerseys, a look they have recently revived.


This next collection of mayhem features the Flames and the Maple Leafs from 1979.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Final Game in WHA History

Following the conclusion of the 1977-78 World Hockey Association season, the Houston Aeros, who were one of the strongest of the WHA franchises, folded in July of 1978 when it became apparent that no merger talks with the NHL would take place in time for the 1978-79 season. The Aeros were the only WHA champion that did not eventually join the NHL.

The loss of the Aeros meant the WHA would open the 1978-79 season with seven teams, down from a high of 14 just three seasons earlier, but after 25 games, the Indianapolis Racers would fold on December 15, 1978.

By the time the six surviving clubs had reached the playoffs, two more had received a death sentence, as a deal was struck on March 30, 1979 what would allow four of the WHA teams to join the NHL as expansion clubs, which in no way did the NHL consider to be a merger with the WHA.

WHA logo photo WHA_Logo.png

The playoff format called for the top five of the six teams to advance to the postseason. That left out the Birmingham Bulls, who finished with 70 points, just two out of a playoff spot in sixth place. Stat heads will also note that the final WHA standings include the 5-18-2 Racers with 12 points as well as entries from the Soviet All-Stars and Czechoslovakia, who both played one game against each of the six full season clubs which counted in the WHA standings. The Soviets went 4-1-1 while the Czechs were 1-4-1. With the Racers having played an odd number of games, a contest between the Edmonton Oilers and the Finnish National Team was arranged to give Edmonton an 80 game schedule like the others, which was won by the Oilers 8-4.

In the playoffs, the fourth place New England Whalers (83 points) faced the fifth place Cincinnati Stingers (72) in a best-of-three series, which was won by the Whalers 2 games to 1, bringing an end to the Stingers franchise.

The Whalers advanced to play the number one seeded Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-seven Semifinal series, while the second place Quebec Nordiques (87) faced the third place Winnipeg Jets (84) in the other.

While Edmonton required the full seven games to eliminate New England, the Jets made quick work of the Nordiques, sweeping them in four straight.

The AVCO World Cup Finals began on May 11th with a 3-1 Winnipeg victory in Edmonton. The Jets then grabbed the series by the throat with a second win on the road, 3-2. The Oilers returned the favor, dominating Game 3 in Winnipeg 8-3, but the Jets put the Oilers on the brink with a 3-2 win at home in Game 4.

As the series moved back to Edmonton for Game 5, the Oilers let everyone know they would not be leaving quietly, as they hammered the Jets 10-2 to extend not only their season, but their doomed league for at least one more game, which came on this date in 1979 as the series returned to Winnipeg for Game 6 with the Jets leading three games to two.

The Jets prevailed in front of their delirious home fans 7-3, as the astute fans in Winnipeg knew the Jets had not only just won the championship, but that they next time they arrived at the Winnipeg Arena later that fall, it would be to watch the Jets play as a part of the National Hockey League.

Winnipeg Jets Avco Cup 1979, Winnipeg Jets Avco Cup 1979
The Jets celebrate winning the final Avco Cup in 1979

With the arrival of the WHA refugees, the NHL would expand from 17 teams to 21 with the addition of Edmonton, New England, Quebec and Winnipeg, all of whom played in the WHA from 1972-73 until 1978-79. Combined, the four clubs won five of the seven Avco World Cup championships, with the defunct Aeros, led by Gordie Howe, having won the other two.

Before New England could become a member of the NHL, there was an additional stipulation placed upon their entry from their original landlords, the Boston Bruins, who demanded that the Whalers change their name from New England to Hartford.

When the WHA teams were allowed to enter the NHL, the old WHA teams were permitted to protect  two goaltenders and just a mere two skaters(!), as the NHL teams raided their rosters in the 1979 Expansion Draft, seeking a return of the players whose rights they once held.

The WHA teams were also each required to pay a $6 million expansion fee for the privilege of having their team decimated. This was a far different scenario than a "merger" between the leagues, in which case the incoming WHA teams would have been able to not only keep their rosters intact but also not pay an expansion fee. But this was no merger. This was not only an expansion, but also retribution for raiding rosters, sending player salaries sky high and signing underage players.

The Oilers thus stared life in the NHL with a roster consisting of goaltenders Dave Dryden and Eddie Mio, plus skaters Bengt Gustafsson and Wayne Gretzky. Although no NHL team held Gretzky's rights, and under existing rules he would have been removed from the Oilers and placed into the Entry Draft, the Oilers were allowed to keep him with the stipulation that they were required to pick dead last in each round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, behind even current Stanley Cup champions the Montreal Canadiens!

The WHA teams then selected unprotected players from the current NHL teams to fill out their rosters, but only after the NHL teams were allowed to protect two veteran goalies and seventeen skaters. Consider that for a second. In the best case scenario, a WHA team would get the 20th best player from any NHL team after only being allowed to protect their two best skaters and a pair of goaltenders.

The results were predictable, as the WHA teams all finished in the bottom eight of the standings. However, a ridiculous 16 of 21 teams made the playoffs back then, so Edmonton and Hartford did manage to qualify for the postseason, with the Oilers being swept in three games by Philadelphia.

Amazingly, within just three years, coach and GM Glen Sather had a team that not only included Gretzky, but also Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey, Kevin Lowe plus goaltenders Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog. Easily the most successful to make the transition to the NHL, the Oilers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 1983, losing to the New York Islanders before winning the Stanley Cup in 1984, which ended the Islanders dynasty and began one of their own.

Today's first feature jersey is a 1978-79 Edmonton Oilers Garnet "Ace" Bailey jersey from the Oilers final season in the WHA when the home white jerseys had the dreadfully low contrast combination of blue letters on an orange background while the road blues had a nearly equally bad orange letters on a white background.

For their first NHL season, the Oilers mercifully changed to a much higher contrast and much more pleasing combination of blue letters against a white background for both their home and road jerseys, which they continue to use to this day.


1978-79 Edmonton Oilers jersey
1978-79 Edmonton Oilers jersey

While Hartford qualified for the playoffs that first NHL season of 1979-80, it would flatter to deceive, as they would miss the playoffs for the next five seasons, including finishing with a league worst 45 points in 1982-83. They would win their only playoff series in 1985-86 with a three game opening round sweep of the Nordiques. They would follow that with an Adams Division championship, thanks to a franchise best 93 points, only to fail in the opening round of the playoffs to Quebec, who had finished fourth in the division 21 points behind the Whalers.

Five more consecutive first round exits were followed by five more seasons of failing to qualify for the postseason prior to the franchise relocating to North Carolina, where they would win the Stanley Cup in 2006 as the Carolina Hurricanes.

Today's second featured jersey is a 1974-75 New England Whalers Tom Webster jersey. Their final WHA jerseys sported a "W" bisected by a harpoon, which has been worn since their second WHA season of 1973-74.

Upon entering the NHL, the Whalers debuted their new "Whale Tail" logo, which obviously featured a "W" for Whalers, but also contained an "H" hidden in the negative space of the logo to represent their change in name to Hartford.

New England Whalers 73-74 F jersey, New England Whalers 73-74 F jersey
New England Whalers 73-74 jersey, New England Whalers 73-74 jersey


Following their success in the WHA, having won the final two championship titles, the Jets found the transition to the NHL the roughest, as they lost leading scorer Kent Nilsson to the Atlanta Flames, Terry Ruskowski and Rich Preston to the Chicago Black Hawks and Barry Long to the Detroit Red Wings.

After having scored 102 points in 1977-78 in the WHA, the Jets plummeted to last in the NHL in 1979-80 with just 51 points. Things got even worse in year 2 with a all-time franchise low of 32 points, which the club turned into first overall selection Dale Hawerchuk.

With the arrival of Hawerchuk, and then Thomas Steen, the club rose to respectability, making the playoffs the next seven seasons, but only winning two playoff rounds over that time. While the club added some remarkable talent in the early 1990's in the shape of Finns Teemu Selanne and Teppo Numminen, Russians Alexi Zhamnov and goaltender Nikoali Khabibulin plus American Keith Tkachuk, it was not enough to put Winnipeg over the top, as their final eight seasons in Winnipeg saw them miss the playoffs four times and eliminated immediately the other four seasons prior to their relocation to Phoenix, Arizona due to economic issues associated with being based in Canada while playing in one of the smallest cities in the league ata time when the Canadian dollar was at a weak point.

Today's third featured jersey is a 1977-78 Winnipeg Jets Lyle Moffat jersey which illustrates the final style worn in the WHA by the Jets with white shoulders as well as the lower contrast version of their logo, one with a blue background on a blue jersey, which was immediately changed to a white background inside the outer circle for their first season in the NHL for use on their new style of jerseys, which featured a full length arm stripe from cuff to cuff.

Like Edmonton and Hartford, the Jets ushered in their arrival to the NHL with brand new jerseys, adopting a design used by the New York Rangers for a brief period of time when they were under the control of then General Manager John Ferguson, who had taken the same position with the Jets in 1978.

The Jets began life in the WHA with a simple design that featured some unusual contrasting colored and rounded nameplates with an equally odd choice for a font for the names for their first season, but improved their look for 1973-74 by ditching the odd nameplates and font as well as using an improved main crest. This style would remain in use for the rest of their days in the WHA, with the only change being the addition of a white shoulder yoke for the blue jerseys in 1977-78 and 1978-79, as worn while the team captured back-to-back championships to end their time in the WHA on a high note.

Winnipeg Jets 77-78 jersey, Winnipeg Jets 77-78 jersey
Winnipeg Jets 77-78 jersey, Winnipeg Jets 77-78 jersey

The Nordiques were unable to qualify for the playoffs during their first NHL season, but quickly became relevant thanks to retaining WHA players Real Cloutier and Marc Tardif and adding in short order Michel Goulet and Peter, Anton and Marian Stastny, who defected from Czechoslovakia at the beginning of the 1980's and turned the Nordiques into a force to be reckoned with.

Their intense rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens led to some legendary battles and brawls, particularly in the postseason, as the Nordiques made the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons beginning in 1980-81, including two trips to the conference finals.

After three consecutive seasons of 90+ points, hard times arrived as the team would miss the playoffs six out of seven seasons, including a dreadful period of seasons with 61, 31, 46 and 52 points which allowed the team to select Mats Sundin, Adam Foote, Owen Nolan and Eric Lidros, who was later traded for Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchense and Ron Hextall in addition to having already selected future team captain Joe Sakic in 1987.

Unfortunately the same economics of playing in a small Canadian city during a low point for the Canadian dollar that plagued Winnipeg also led to the Nordiques relocation, as they were sold and moved to Denver, Colorado, where they would immediately capture the Stanley Cup their very first season away from Quebec.

Today's fourth featured jersey is a 1979-80 Quebec Nordiques Ron Chipperfield jersey. While the Nordiques were the only one of the four former WHA clubs to keep their same jerseys for their initial NHL season, this was the final season for this variation of the Nordiuqes blue jersey before Quebec would change the logo on their road blue jerseys from the white version used in the WHA since 1975-76 to a better looking red version, which matched the one worn on the home whites, leaving the home white Nordiques jersey the only one of the eight possible WHA sweaters to survive the entry into the NHL with any sort of longevity.

Quebec Nordiques 79-80 jersey, Quebec Nordiques 79-80 jersey
Quebec Nordiques 79-80 jersey, Quebec Nordiques 79-80 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques Peter Stastny jersey. The white Nordiques jersey was not only the single jersey to survive the move to the NHL by the four WHA clubs, the Nordqiues were also the final team to use heat sealed numbers on their jerseys before changing over to fully sewn on twill letters and numbers, which they did not adopt until 1991-92, the year they finally added a red outline to their numbers.

This particular jersey shows the wear and tear suffered by the less durable heat sealed material used for the name and numbers on the back. Over time, collectors have had issues with the material peeling off of the jerseys simply due to age, making conservation of these jerseys far more of a challenge than the contemporary jerseys worn by other clubs of the era, which had their names and numbers sewn on.

Quebec Nordiques 80-81 Peter Stastny jersey, Quebec Nordiques 80-81 Peter Stastny jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video in the final minute of the final game in WHA history, as the Jets wrap up their third championship with a win over the Oilers, who would soon win their fare share of championships in the NHL.

Remember the days when fans would come onto the ice after the championship was won? Modern say insurance agents and security personnel all over North America are aghast at the mere thought of it...


 

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