Saturday, May 5, 2012

2000-01 Manitoba Moose Johan Hedberg Jersey

Prior to coming to North America, goaltender Johan Hedberg, born on this date in 1973, played five seasons for Leksands IF in Sweden's Elitserien, appearing in 116 games. He also was chosen to play for the Sweden National Team at the 1994 World Championships, the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and the 1997 World Championships during the early stages of his career.

Hedberg Leksands, Hedberg Leksands

Despite being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the late rounds of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, he never was invited by the Flyers to participate in a training camp and came to North America as a free agent in 1997. He started in the lower reaches of the minors, first with the Baton Rouge Kingfish of the ECHL. He then joined the Manitoba Moose of the IHL for 14 games, going 8-4-1-1.

Hedberg also made the roster for Sweden at the 1998 Olympics in February and the World Championships in May.

Hedberg Sweden, Hedberg Sweden

He returned to Leksands for the 1998-99 season as their number one goaltender, playing in 48 games, as well as a return to the World Championships following the domestic season.

Hedberg returned to North America once again, playing the entire 1999-00 season with the Kentucky Thoroughblades of the AHL, going 18-9-5-3.

He began the 2000-01 season with the Manitoba Moose in the IHL, where he recorded a 23-13-7-1 mark prior to being traded in mid March to the Pittsburgh Penguins by the San Jose Sharks, who had acquired Hedberg's rights from the Flyers back in 1998 and were loaded with goaltending in their system the likes of Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala.

With Garth Snow dealing with a strained groin and Jean-Sebastien Aubin not playing well, Heberg was given the opportunity to see some action during the end of the regular season. He began with a 41 save performance in a 6-3 win over the Florida Panthers on March 16th, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning the next night. Heberg next recorded a tie with Boston before defeating New Jersey, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Carolina to finish the season 7-1-1, creating some excitement in Pittsburgh.

After losing Game 1 and winning Game 2 in Washington, while giving up only 2 goals, Hedberg shut out the Capitals back in Pittsburgh in Game 3. During that game, Hedberg, still wearing his blue mask adored with the smiling moose from Manitoba, was supported by a ever-growing chorus calls of "Moooooose", which was painted in bold letters on the side of his mask.

Hedberg Moose Mask, Hedberg Moose Mask

The Capitals would fall in six games, making "Moose" 11-3-1 in his last 15 games. In the next round, the Sabres would take a 3-2 series lead, only to have the Penguins dig deep and win the series in overtime of Game 7 as the fans in Pittsburgh were now sporting yellow foam antlers as the "Moose" calls continued to become louder and louder. At the peak of the Penguins playoff fever, one fan even altered a sign in a Pittsburgh suburb, changing the name of Heidelberg to "He d  berg"!

Hedberg Moose Antlers, Hedberg Moose Antlers

In the eastern conference finals against the New Jersey Devils, Hedberg did his best, but the Penguins offense could not manage much offense in support of their goaltender, losing games 1, 3 and 4 while scoring but a single goal. The Penguins would eventually fall in five games, but Hedberg had created a phenomenon in Pittsburgh over the course of an exciting two months as the goalie from nowhere with the blue mask and the cartoon moose led the Penguins into the playoffs and then on their deepest run in five years.

Hedberg would be the Penguins undisputed number one goaltender the following season, playing in 66 games only now with a mask in the colors of the Penguins, but there would not be another magical playoff run, as Pittsburgh sank in the standings, missing out on the playoffs entirely. The following season he would play in 41 games after suffering an injury.

Hedberg Moose Mask, Hedberg Moose Mask

During the offseason, Hedberg was traded to the Vancouver Canucks, where he backed up Dan Cloutier. He would play just 14 games with Leksands, now down in the second division during the 2004-05 season when the NHL season was cancelled before returning to the NHL with Dallas the following season where he backed up Marty Turco.

He signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006-07, playing there for four seasons, the first three behind the often injured Kari Lehtonen and the fourth while splitting time with Ondrej Pavelec.

Hedberg Thrashers, Hedberg Thrashers

The next stop for Hedberg was as a backup to Martin Brodeur in New Jersey. Previously backing up Brodeur would have guaranteed a goalie splinters as he would have ridden the bench for 70+ games, but injuries and the need for more rest for the veteran Brodeur meant Hedberg played 34 games in 2010-11 and in the 2011-12 season he was back in the Devils goal for 27 games, finishing with a fine 17-7 record, which allowed him to pass the 150 career wins mark.

Hedberg Devils, Hedberg Devils

Today's featured jersey is a 2000-01 Manitoba Moose Johan Hedberg jersey as worn by Hedberg during his time in Winnipeg prior to being traded to the Penguins.

The Moose were originally formed as an expansion team in St. Paul, Minnesota to fill the void created by the departure of the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas. After two seasons of play as the Minnesota Moose, speculation was that the Winnipeg Jets would be relocating to the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota and a plan was put in place to avoid competing head to head with an NHL franchise by moving to the vacated Winnipeg market.

While the Jets never arrived in Minnesota, moving instead to Phoenix, the deal was already in place to send the Moose north to Winnipeg, where they were renamed the Manitoba Moose.

While in Minnesota their dark jerseys were black with purple and forest green trim, but following their move to Canada, the green was given top billing, with black and purple as the secondary colors. In addition, perhaps the greatest font in the history of hockey jerseys was designed for the numbers, each digit incorporating an antler! The jerseys adopted by the Moose during their first season of play in Winnipeg featured a diagonal "check mark" waist stripe, which remained in use through the 2000-01 season, after which the purple color was replaced by copper and the waist stripe changed to a more conventional horizontal stripe.

Manitoba Moose 2000-01 jersey photo Manitoba Moose 2000-01 F.jpg
Manitoba Moose 2000-01 jersey photo Manitoba Moose 2000-01 B.jpg
Manitoba Moose 2000-01 jersey photo Manitoba Moose 2000-01 P2.jpgManitoba Moose 2000-01 jersey photo Manitoba Moose 2000-01 P1.jpgManitoba Moose 2000-01 jersey photo Manitoba Moose 2000-01 P3.jpg

In today's video section, Hedberg explains how his nickname "Moose" came about.


Next up is Hedberg while playing for Leksands IF during his return to Sweden during the labor stoppage of 2005.


Finally, highlights of Hedberg in action.


Friday, May 4, 2012

The 2012 World Championships Preview

The 2012 World Championships begin today in Finland and Sweden, the first time the hosting of the World Championships has been divided between more than one nation since 1930 when it was shared by Germany, Austria and France.

2012 World Championships logo, 2012 World Championships logo

This year's tournament sees the debut of an entirely new format, as instead of the previous four groups of four teams with the top three in each advancing to a second group stage, the new format sees two large groups of eight teams each, one based entirely in Helsinki and the other in Stockholm.


Another change is that once the Preliminary Round is completed, the top four teams in each group will advance to the Semifinals, to be played within your group, guaranteeing rematches of Preliminary Round matchups.


Not until the Semifinals will teams finally cross over to play squads from the opposite group once all the surviving teams have congregated in Helsinki at the Hartwall Arena for the remainder of the championship.


Hartwall Arena, Hartwall Arena
Helsinki's Hartwall Arena

Another big difference in the tournament comes with the abandonment of the Relegation Round, as the two last place teams in each group will be relegated, to be replaced by Division I Group A winners Slovenia and runners up Austria for 2013.

Personally, we are not fans of this change, as the Relegation Round was always of a certain interest to us, with the battle for survival having the spotlight all it's own for a day, usually in between the Semifinals and Medal Round games. As it stands now, the games which will be critical to the lower seeded teams survival will now be deeply embedded in the Preliminary Round on some random date, held opposite other higher profile matches featuring championship contenders. This chance will take away any drama the Relegation Round once generated, as the vital games which determined who is sent down will now not be apparent until the Preliminary Round is concluded and the previous results are examined after the fact.


The two groups this year are named Group H for Helsinki, and Group S for Stockholm. Group H features the hosts Finland (ranked #2 in the IIHF World Ranking), Canada (#4), the United States (#6), Switzerland (#7), Slovakia (#10), Belarus (#11), France (#14) and Kazakhstan (#16), while Group S has Russia (#1), Sweden (#3), the Czech Republic (#5), Germany (#8), Norway (#9), Latvia (#12), Denmark (#13) and Italy (#17).


Once the Preliminary Round concludes on May 15th, the Quarterfinals will happen two days later on May 17th, followed by the a travel/rest day and the Semifinals on May 19th and the Bronze and Gold Medal games the following day, Sunday, May 20th.

13 games of the World Championship can be seen in the United States on the NBC Sports Network , as they will show all seven Team USA preliminary games, all four Quarterfinals, a Semifinal and the Gold Medal game.

NBC Sports Logo, NBC Sports Logo

Vital games for the United States will be on May 5th vs. Canada, May 13th vs. Finland and their final Preliminary Round game against Switzerland on May 15th, yet they must avoid dropping any critical points to France, Slovakia, Belarus and Kazakhstan by either losing or even being taken to overtime.

Key players for the United States include defenseman Jack Johnson, Cam Fowler, Alex Goligoski and Justin Faulk, forwards Bobby Ryan, Kyle Okposo, Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty as well as goaltender Jimmy Howard.


In Canada, 21 games will be on TSN and in French on RDS. Vital games for Canada will occur on May 5th against the United States and May 11th against Finland.

TSN Logo, TSN Logo

The Canadian lineup features forwards Evander Kane, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares, Jamie Benn, Alex Burrows, Jeff Skinner, Patrick Sharp and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and a back line of Duncan Keith, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester and Luke Schenn playing in front of goalkeeper Cam Ward.

Other notable NHLers include Czechs Milan Nichalek, Tomas Plekanec, David Krejci, and Ales Hemsky as well as veteran Petr Nedved, Denmark's Jannik Hansen, Frans Nielsen and Lars Eller, Finns Mikko Koivu, Kari Lehtonen, Jussi Jokinen, Valtteri Filppula and Minnesota Wild prospect Mikael Granlund, Germany's Marcel Goc, Russians Semyon Varlamov, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk, Switzerland's Mark Streit and Nino Niederreiter, Slovakia's Zdeno Chara, Tomas Kopecky, and veteran Miroslav Satan, Sweden's Jhonas Entroth, Niklas Kronwall, Loui Eriksson, Viktor Stalberg, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Victor Hedman, Gabriel Landeskog, Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg as well as a number of familiar names now playing in Russia's KHL.

This will be the seventh time Finland has hosted the World Championship, with the first coming in 1965 in Tampere. They hosted again in 1974 and 1982, all three won by the powerful Soviet Union. 1991 saw Nordic rivals Sweden take the title followed by Canada in 1997 and 2003. The Finns will be looking to become the first host to win gold in an amazing 25 years, the last coming back in 1986 in Moscow. Finland has twice won the World Championship, first in a memorable 4-1 win over Sweden in Stockholm, and again just last year in Slovakia, which sends them into this year's tournament as not only hosts, but defending champions.

2011 Finland World Champions, 2011 Finland World Champions
2011 World Champions Finland

In addition to the TV coverage, fans can also take the World Championships with them via the 2012 IIHF World Championships App for the iPhone by following this link and the Android version here. Also be sure to visit the IIHF's official channel on You Tube, their Facebook page as well as their twitter feed to stay on top of the action!

Today's featured jersey is a 1995 Finland National Team Janne Ojanen jersey. This is the same style jersey used in the 1994 Olympic games, and while branded as a Reebok jersey, they were produced by Tackla using the same mesh fabric and dye sublimation process. Visually, the only difference between the Olympic jerseys and the World Championship versions are the additions of the sponsorship patches to each arm.

The script could hardly have gone any better for Finland in 1995, as they defeated arch rivals Sweden in Sweden to claim their first World Championship.

Finland has a long history in the World Championships and Olympics, first appearing in 1939 and being regular participants since 1949, but did not earn their first medal until 1988 with a 2-1 win over the Soviet Union at the Olympics in Canada, a span of nearly 40 years. Their first World Championship success would come in 1992 with a silver medal in Czechoslovakia.

In 1995, the Finns were led by a line known as "Tupu, Hupu and Lupu", Finnish for Huey, Dewey and Louie, the nephews of Disney cartoon character Donald Duck.

Tupu,Hupu and Lupu

Jere Lehtinen (Lupu), made his international debut at age 19 in the 1992 World Championships, Saku Koivu (Tupu) arrived in 1993, at age 19, in the World Championships and Ville Peltonen (Hupu) completed the line when they all played together in Pelotnen's international debut at the 1994 Olympics at age 20.

While Finland's past history was barren of medals and championships, "Tupu, Hupu and Lupu" entered the 1995 World Championships with Lehtonen (two silvers and a bronze in three years of international experience), Koivu (a silver and a bronze in two years) and Peltonen (a silver and a bronze after one year) as winners with high expectations.

They finished group play with a 3-1-1 record and easily advanced in the quarterfinals with a 5-0 win over France and got revenge for their only loss of the tournament against the Czech Republic in the form of another 3-0 shutout, only this time in favor of Finland, setting up the gold medal final against hosts Sweden.

Peltonen was the star of the show, scoring the first three goals of the game for a natural hat trick before assisting on the fourth Finnish goal to lead them to an eventual 4-1 win.

1995 Finland World Championships
1995 Finland World Championships

Here are the highlights from the 1995 World Championship gold medal final between victorious Finland and Sweden.


Here are scenes of the massive celebration on their return home to Finland, as they continue to adopt "Den Glider In" as their own. Don't miss the guy playing air guitar with the then World Championship trophy!

These scenes are proof that while the NHL might not take the World Championships nearly as seriously as they do the Olympics, it clearly still matters to Europeans.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

1913-14 Quebec Bulldogs Joe Hall Jersey

At the age of two years old Joe Hallborn in Staffordshire, England on this day in 1882, moved with his family to Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1902 the 20 year old Hall joined the Brandon Regals of the Manitoba Senior League.

The following season of 1903-04, he skated for the league champion Winnipeg Rowing Club and got his first taste of playoff hockey when the club challenged the Ottawa Silver Seven for the Stanley Cup, with all games to be played in Ottawa. The Silver Seven would win Game 1 of the best-of-three series in a romp, 9-1. Winnipeg fought back against the powerful Silver Seven with a 6-2 victory in Game 2 to force a deciding Game 3, which was won by Ottawa 2-0 to retain the cup for the third of of nine consecutive defenses over three years.

After another season as an amateur with Brandon Wheat Cities in 1904-05, Hall would turn professional with Portage Lake of the International League where he would score 33 goals in 20 games while living up to his nickname of "Bad Joe" by leading the league in penalty minutes with 98 as Portage Lake would win the league championship with a 19-5 record.

Jpe Hall Portage Lake, Jpe Hall Portage Lake
Hall while a member of the Portage Lake team

Following his season with Portage Lake, Hall, along with Art Ross, were brought in by the Kenora Thistles for their challenge to the Montreal Wanderers for the Stanley Cup. While Kenora would become the smallest town to ever win the cup, Hall and Ross were  reserves and would not see any playing time in the two games.

1907 Kenora Thistles team, 1907 Kenora Thistles team
1907 Stanley Cup holders, the Kenora Thistles

Back again with Brandon Wheat Cities for 1906-07, Hall scored 14 goals in nine games, but was eventually expelled from the league due to a series of violent outbursts and rough play. He relocated to the east, splitting time between Montreal Hockey Club (commonly known as Montreal AAA)- and the Montreal Shamrocks in 1907-08, averaging more than a goal a game. He would play for yet another Montreal club in 1908-09, this time the Montreal Wanderers, scoring 10 goals in five games. Hall was back with the Shamrocks in 1909-10, only this time in the newly formed National Hockey Association (NHA), where he would score seven goals in his first game with the club. His temper eventually got the best of him though, and he was eventually fined and kicked off the team for punching referee Rod Kennedy.

Hall would finally find some stability beginning in 1910-11 when he rejoined the Quebec Bulldogs, also now part of the NHA. Scoring however, proved elusive as Hall completed a transition from forward to defense. His scoring touch returned in full force in 1911-12 as Hall produced 15 goals in 18 games and won his first Stanley Cup when the league champion Bulldogs defeated the Moncton Victorias 9-3 and 8-0.

Joe Hall Quebec, Joe Hall Quebec

The Bulldogs would repeat as NHA champions in 1912-13 to retain possession of the Stanley Cup and then fend off a challenge by the Sydney Millionaires in a two-game, total-goal series by a score of 20-5 in which Hall would contribute three goals to earn his second Stanley Cup.

Quebec Bulldogs

1913-14 was another fine offensive season for Hall, as he scored 13 goals in 19 games. Hall would play three more seasons for the Bulldogs in the NHA before the club would suspend operations due to financial difficulties prior to the 1917-18 season, which was to be the club's first in the brand new National Hockey League (NHL).

When the Quebec players were made available to the other NHL teams, Hall became a member of the Montreal Canadiens, making him teammates with one of his fiercest rivals, the Canadiens Newsy Lalonde.

In 1913, Hall and Lalonde had gone at each other in a game, trading slashes and crosschecks before Hall escalated things with a two-hander aimed at Lalonde's head, which knocked him out cold.

The following season, Lalonde sought his payback and whacked Hall in the head, opening a cut which required eight stitches to close, getting himself tossed from the game. Hall's revenge for that incident came two weeks later, as he charged Lalonde from behind, sending him headfirst into the boards which required ten stitches in return.

Incredibly, Hall and Lalonde would become roommates on the road and best of friends despite their previous intense battles.

Hall scored 8 goals and 15 points in 21 games for his new club and was fined for another stick swinging duel which earned him an arrest on charges of disorderly conduct by the Toronto police.

Joe Hall Canadiens, Joe Hall Canadiens

The 1918-19 season saw the Canadiens win the first half of the season schedule to qualify for the playoffs. They were able to defeat the Ottawa Senators 4 games to 1 to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they would face the Seattle Metropolitains of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, with all games being played in Seattle.

Seattle romped in Game 1 by a score of 7-0. The Canadiens fought back to win Game 2, 4-2. Seattle responded with another big win, this time 7-2. Game 4 was played to a scoreless tie following a 20 minute overtime. Another overtime game followed in Game 5, when Montreal evened the series 4-3.

What the Canadiens did not realize, was by the time they had reached Seattle, they had already been exposed to the Spanish Influenza virus during a stop in Victoria, British Columbia for a pair of exhibition games. The flu epidemic began in March 1918 and lasted until June 1920, affecting 500 million people, 1/3rd of the Earth's population, killing an estimated 50-100 million people in locations all over the world from the Arctic to remote Pacific Islands, including 50,000 in Canada and an estimated half million to 675,000 in the United States.

Despite being vaccinated against the virus before leaving Montreal, the players began to fall ill, with Hall feeling poor enough that he could not even complete Game 5. With seven of the Canadiens bedridden at one point, the epidemic caused the remainder of the series to be cancelled.

1919 Stanely Cup engraving

Hall was then admitted to the hospital with a fever of 105º. Eventually all the Canadiens recovered, except for Hall, who died five days later on April 5, 1919 in a Seattle's Columbus Sanatorium at the age of 36.

Joe Hall obituary, Joe Hall obituary

Bill Coutu, Louis Berlinquette and Lalonde recovered and accompanied Hall home to Brandon, Manitoba to be pallbearers for their teammate.

In 1905, Hall, along with neighbor and shoemaker George Tackaberry designed a custom hockey skate from kangaroo hide with a snug fit and reinforced toe and heel as well as better arch support. Hall liked his new skates so much that other players began trying them out, eventually overwhelming Tackaberry with orders. The skates, named "Tacks" after being purchased by CCM after Tackaberry's death in 1937, were worn by every NHL scoring champion for the next 30 years and the name remains in use today.

Hall was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

Today's featured jersey is a 1913-14 Quebec Bulldogs Joe Hall jersey. The Bulldogs, like many teams of it's era, changed sweater styles on an almost annual basis, changing from a logo-less barberpole style to one with thicker stripes adorned with a "Q" logo.

They then changed to a blue sweater with a white chest band before adopting today's featured jersey, a white sweater with a blue chest band with "Quebec" boldly emblazoned across the front.

Quebec Bulldogs 13-14 jersey, Quebec Bulldogs 13-14 jersey

In the absence of any footage of Joe Hall, here's a cheery little film on the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jerseys For Sale

Before we get to today's entry about former New York Ranger Darren Turcotte, it's not often we part with any of our jerseys here at Third String Goalie, but once in awhile it happens, and this is one such occasion, as the Philadelphia Flyers are in the NHL playoffs and the World Championships beginning this week, the timing is right to make these available.

Up for bids on ebay right now are a pair of 1996 Czech Republic Jaromir Jagr jerseys as he wore in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the first time this style of jersey would have been worn. These jerseys are the highly attractive "Waving Flag" style, a rare home white and a traditional road red style.

Czech Jagr, Czech Jagr
Czech Jagr, Czech Jagr

Czech Jagr, Czech Jagr
Czech Jagr, Czech Jagr

Both jerseys are the correct Bauer brand for the World Cup of Hockey, as worn by only Canada, Sweden and the Czechs, while everyone else wore Nike in the tournament.

They are both size mediums, but do run a bit larger than the CCM and Starter jerseys of that era, measuring 23" across as measured through the bottom portion of the body (the jerseys do narrow a bit as they get closer to the armpits). The white one measures 32" long from the collar to the hem while the red one is 31" long.

In addition to the two Czech Republic Jagr jerseys, we are also offering a striking black 1996 Germany National Team Jochen Hecht jersey as he would have worn in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, again, the first time this style of jersey would have been worn.

Photobucket
Photobucket

Each jersey has been expertly customized by Exclusive Pro Sports to our exact instructions based on our detailed research with the numbers all being two layers of sewn on twill, while the names are single color twill on a nameplate made of jersey material, not twill as is often incorrectly used for nameplates by other customizers.

All three auctions conclude next Monday evening and if you are the winner of more than one jersey, we will certainly combine the shipping to save you some money.

Now, onto today's entry about former New York Ranger Darren Turcotte...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

1964-65 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau Jersey

Honoring Conn Smythe, the former owner, general manager and coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Conn Smythe Trophy is awarded annually to the player judged Most Valuable to his Team during the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs. The trophy depicts Maple Leafs Gardens, which Smythe had constructed in 1931 as a new home to his Maple Leafs.

Conn Smythe Trophy

In contrast to other sports leagues playoff MVP awards, the Conn Smythe Trophy is based on a players performance during the entire postseason and not just the final game or series.

The award was first announced in 1964 and the first recipient on this date in 1965 was Jean Beliveau of the Montreal Canadiens for his performance during the 1965 Stanley Cup playoffs during which Beliveau scored 8 goals and 8 assists for 16 points in 13 games as Montreal captured their 13th Stanley Cup following a seven game series against the Chicago Black Hawks.

Conn Smythe Beliveau
The first winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, Jean Beliveau

The following season Roger Crozier of the Detroit Red Wings became the first goaltender to win the Conn Smythe trophy as well as the first player to be a member of a team that did not win the Stanley Cup.

Conn Smythe Crozier
The first goaltender to win the Smythe, Roger Crozier

Subsequent winners were Dave Keon of Toronto in 1967 and goaltender Glenn Hall of Chicago in 1968. Serge Savard of the Canadiens was the first defenseman to win the Smythe in 1969, followed by another defenseman, Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins in 1970.

Conn Smythe Keon
Dave Keon poses with the Conn Smythe Trophy

Perhaps the most unexpected winner ever was Montreal's Ken Dryden, who was named the winner in 1971 with just 15 combined games of NHL regular season and playoff experience!

In 1972 Orr became the first player to win the trophy twice following the Bruins second title in three seasons. After Yvan Cournoyer of Montreal was named the winner in 1973, goaltender Bernie Parent of the Philadelphia Flyers became both the first goalie to win the Conn Smythe twice as well as the first player to win it in back to back seasons and ushering in an era of domination.

Reggie Leach became the second player on a losing club to win the trophy, extending the streak of Flyers winners to three. The next three seasons the trophy went to Canadiens, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey. The New York Islander dynasty then included four consecutive Conn Smythe recipients, Bryan Trottier, Butch Goring, Mike Bossy and Billy Smith in 1983, ending a run of ten years monopolized by three clubs.

Conn Smythe Robinson
Montreal's Larry Robinson

Mark Messier of the Edmonton Oilers got his name added to the trophy in 1984, followed by teammate Wayne Gretzky in 1985. Patrick Roy of the Canadiens won his first in 1986 as a rookie, only the second one after Dryden, prior to the Flyers Ron Hextall becoming only the third player on the losing side to receive the honor in 1987.

Gretzky won his second in 1988 and Mario Lemieux matched that feat with back to back Conn Smythe trophies in 1991 and 1992. The following year Roy joined Parent, Gretzky and Lemieux as two-time winners.

Conn Smythe Lemieux
Mario Lemieux with his second Conn Smythe Trophy

1994 saw Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers be the first non-Canadian and only American player to win the Conn Smythe, as well as the first and only Ranger.

Conn Smythe Leetch
The only American to win the Smythe, Brian Leetch

In 2001, Roy, now a member of the Colorado Avalanche, became the first, and to date only player, to win the trophy three times and the only man to have won it while a member of two different teams.

Conn Smythe Roy
Roy with his record setting third Conn Smythe

The next year new ground was broken, as Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit became the first European to ever be named the winner in the trophy's 38 year history.

Conn Smythe Lidstrom
The first European to win the Smythe, Nicklas Lidstrom

2003 saw goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere become the fourth player on the losing side to take home the honors and goaltender Cam Ward became the third rookie to be named the winner, all of which were goalies, when he led the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup despite not having been the Hurricanes number one goaltender at the start of the playoffs. He finished the season having a total of 28 regular season and 23 playoff games of NHL experience.

Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg joined Red Wing teammate Lidstrom as only the second European and second Swede to be named the winner of the trophy in 2008, immediately followed by Evgeni Malkin becoming the first Russian to earn the honor for Pittsburgh in 2009 before Chicago's Jonathan Toews regained the trophy for Canada in 2010.

Conn Smythe Malkin
The first Russian to be named the winner, Evgeni Malkin

Others to have won the trophy are Al MacInnis, Bill Ranford, Claude Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Mike Vernon, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Scott Stevens, Brad Richards and Scott Niedermayer.

Conn Smythe Yzerman
Steve Yzerman lifts the Conn Smythe in 1998

Today's featured jersey is a 1964-65 Montreal Canadiens Jean Beliveau jersey from the first man to have his name added to the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Believau was a ten time Stanley Cup champion with Montreal in his 20 years with the club. In addition to the Conn Smythe, Beliveau also won the Art Ross Trophy as scoring champion in 1956 and the Hart Trophy as MVP in 1956 and 1964. Had the Conn Smythe Trophy been in existence prior to the 1965 finals, odds are that Beliveau would have won at least one other one, particularly in 1956 when he led the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 12 goals and 19 points in just ten games.

Montreal Canadiens 64-65 jersey, Montreal Canadiens 64-65 jersey
Montreal Canadiens 64-65 jersey, Montreal Canadiens 64-65 jersey

Today's first video is a terrific find, footage of Beliveau being the first man to ever receive the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1965.


Next is the Top Ten Conn Smythe Trophy winners and a look at each of their spectacular playoff performances.


Monday, April 30, 2012

1999 Latvia National Team Harijs Vītoliņš Jersey

Born on this date in 1968 in Riga, Latvia while it was a part of the Soviet Union, Harijs Vītoliņš worked his way up from the third division of the Soviet hockey ladder, eventually joining Riga's entry in the Soviet Hockey League, Dinamo Riga for two games of the 1986-87 season, where, in 17 games the center scored his first top level goal as well as an assist.

He played a further 30 games in 1987-88, upping his point totals to 3 goals and 3 assists. While not an offensive force, his steady and reliable style of play garnered him the right sort of attention, which earned him a place on the Soviet Union National Team at the 1988 World Junior Championships where he earned a silver medal. The exposure on the world stage led to Vītoliņš being drafted that spring by the Montreal Canadiens in the ninth round of the 1988 NHL Entry Draft despite Soviet players not being allowed to leave for the NHL at the time.

In 1988-89 he competed for Dinamo Riga in the Soviet League again, as well as making the trip to North America as part of Dinamo's part in the Super Series, where Soviet club teams played a series of exhibition games against NHL clubs. In the seven games of the 1989 Super Series, Dinamo tied the Calgary Flames, lost to the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks before defeating the Los Angeles Kings. They then lost to both the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues prior to downing the Minnesota North Stars to conclude their tour of North America.

Vitolins Dinamo Riga, Vitolins Dinamo Riga
Vītoliņš playing for Dinamo Riga against Minnesota
during their 1989 tour of North America

The next two seasons saw Vītoliņš set highs with first 45 and then 46 games played as well as raising his offensive contributions to 7 goals and 13 points in 1989-90 and then a leap up to 12 goals and 31 points as his role with the team evolved.

Changes in the political world saw the breakup of the Soviet Union in December of 1991, which sent ripples through the world of hockey, one of which resulted in the club changing their name to the Stars Riga for the 1991-92 campaign, during which he contributed another 12 goals.

With players now free to seek their own way, Vītoliņš had a hectic, unsettled season, playing for the Beast of New Haven in the American Hockey League, The Thunder Bay Thunder Hawks of the Colonial Hockey League, both in North America prior to joining EHC Chur of the Swiss National League A, all in 1992-93. In all, he totaled 24 goals in 32 games between the three clubs. More importantly, Latvia was now once again an independent country and their national had been reformed for the first time since 1939 when they became a part of the Soviet Union.

As one of the new member nations of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Latvia was placed in the third tier of the World Championship program in what was then known as the "C" Pool. The process of sorting out the many new member nations saw Latvia required to play a Qualifying Round against neighbors Estonia and Lithuania, who they easily defeated 6-3 and 13-2 to qualify for the main "C" Pool tournament.

In March of 1993 they travelled to Bled, Slovenia for Group 1 play where they annihilated Belgium 26-3, shut out North Korea 4-0, embarrassed Israel 32-0, tied Ukraine 5-5 and hammered South Korea 27-0. Those dominant wins resulted in both Latvia and Ukraine advancing to the "C" Pool semifinals where they would face Slovenia from Group 2, who they defeated easily 5-1, setting up a rematch with Ukraine, who had eliminated Kazakhstan 3-2.

The deciding game of the "C" Pool was played on March 21, 1993 which saw Latvia achieve their goal with a 2-0 win, earning immediate promotion to the "B" Pool in their first try, setting off celebrations among their rabid fans.

Vītoliņš was once again selected in the NHL draft, this time by the Winnipeg Jets, who assigned him to the Moncton Hawks of the AHL, where he set new career highs with 28 goals and 62 points. His play earned him a call up to the NHL with the Jets, with whom he played 8 games, although he did not register a point.

He returned to Switzerland for the 1994-95 season with SC Rapperswil-Jona as well as skating for Lativa once more at the 1994 World Championships in the "B" Pool, where they made a strong showing with a 18-1 win over Romania, 6-1 over the Netherlands, 9-2 over Denmark, a vital 4-3 loss to Slovakia followed by wins over Poland 6-2, Japan 15-2 and Great Britain 8-4. Their loss to Slovakia forced them to remain in the "B" Pool for yet another year following coming up a goal short against Switzerland on the final day of the 1994 championships while Vītoliņš was away in North America.

For 1995-96 it was off to Sweden, where Vītoliņš joined Rögle BK for the Swedish domestic season in advance of the 1996 World Championships. They opened their schedule with a narrow 6-5 win over Great Britain, and then got on a roll with a 6-1 victory over Japan, took care of business 5-3 over Denmark, took an important step with a 4-1 against Belarus, got past Poland 4-2, hammered the Netherlands 15-3, which set up a critical final game against Switzerland, who put themselves in a hole with an opening day loss to Belarus. Leading in the standings by two points, Latvia got their desired result with a 1-1 tie, securing first place in the "B" Pool, which earned them a promotion to the "A" Pool, joining the world's elite in only their fourth year after the reformation of their national team after over 50 years, once again triggering euphoria among their reknowned fan base.

Vītoliņš played the next five seasons with EHC Chur, the first four of which were in the second division National League B before earning promotion to the National League A. His offensive game flourished with Chur, averaging 24 goals a year with a high of 30 in 1997-98 as well as a career best 83 points in 1996-97 from just 36 games played.

He also played annually for Latvia at the World Championships each spring, having risen to the role of national team captain and helping Latvia defend it's place in the Top Division each time, with a best of 7th place in 1997, which remains the highest placing in the history of Latvia, which they equalled in 2004 and 2009.

Vitolins Latvia, Vitolins Latvia
Vītoliņš during the 1998 World Championships

The highlight for Latvia during this time period was undoubtedly their emotional victory over Russia at the 2000 World Championships, defeating Russia on an even playing field for the first time.

Vitolins Latvia, Vitolins Latvia
Vītoliņš celebrates with the late Karlis Skrastins

The 2001-02 season saw Vītoliņš join HC Thurgau in the National League B for four seasons, which included tying his career best with 30 goals in 2003-04.

He concluded his international career in fine style, first at the 2002 Olympics, where he was awarded the honor of being the flag bearer for Latvia in the opening ceremonies. In Salt Lake City, Vītoliņš would score 2 goals and 4 points in 4 games, but Latvia failed to advance past the Preliminary Round, as they were lacking their better players, who were not available due to still being obligated to their NHL teams at the time. The NHL did not begin it's Olympic break until the start of the First Round, which resulted in changes to the schedule for subsequent games.

Vitolins Latvia, Vitolins Latvia
Latvia team captain Vītoliņš

Vītoliņš' final participation for Latvia came later in the spring of 2002, when he skated in his ninth World Championships, which included scoring his 19th goal for the National Team.

His career would wind down in the 2004-05 season after 18 games for Thurgau in the NLB and one each for Langnau and Ambri-Piotta of the NLA.

Vītoliņš would continue to remain active in hockey, becoming an assistant coach for Latvia at the 2005 World Championships and has remained so every year since. He was also part of Latvia's efforts at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and most recently was a part of Dynamo Moscow's staff during their KHL Gagarin Cup championship in 2012.

Today's featured jersey is a 1999 Latvia National Team HarijsVītoliņš jersey. Latvia joined the ranks of international hockey in 1993 with blue jerseys with red and white trim for three years before completely revamping their jerseys with the arrival of Nike as the jersey supplier to the IIHF in 1996.

The new jerseys were maroon, which reflected the main color of the flag of Latvia, with black and white striping. The cresting was a simple "LATVIJA" in a stylized font and remained essentially unchanged until a new design arrived in time for the 2005 World Championships when all the teams jerseys were revisited.

Latvia 99 jersey, Latvia 99 jersey

Today's video section begins with Vītoliņš scoring in the 2000 World Championships in a 2-1 Lativan win over Ukraine.


Next, highlights of the Latvia National Hockey Team, including footage from their dramatic win over Russia at the 2000 World Championships, the highlight of the program, as well as a glimpse of their loyal fans.



 

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