Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Era Dawns in College Hockey

This is Terry Pegula, billionaire, hockey fan, owner of the Buffalo Sabres and, most importantly, a Penn State alumnus.

Terry Pegula, Terry Pegula

When introduced as the Sabres new owner, he cried being in the presence of Gilbert Perreault, so you really do have to appreciate the man's passion for hockey and his undeniable love for his Sabres, and we do not mean "his Sabres" in the sense that he now owns them, but "his Sabres" in the way he has cheered for them as a fan since forever.

As a man of means beyond what most of us can comprehend, he has also generously donated $102 million to Penn State, the largest private gift in school history, to construct a brand new arena and pay for both the men's and women's club hockey teams to be elevated to Division I status - an incredibly  selfless gift that will affect the lives of hundreds future student athletes and arena employees as well as those who were employed in the construction of the new arena.

However…

There is also a man named Jim Delaney, who is president of the Big Ten Conference, and another man named Mark Silverman, who is the president of the Big Ten Network, a channel which is in need of more programming and always looking to add to it's $315 million in revenue it generated in 2012, a 30% increase in ad revenue from 2011 to 2012 and up 60% from 2010's $196 million. With each of the conference schools receiving $24.7 million from the network, and the conference itself seeing a payment of $11 million, Silverman wants to be able to send more of those kinds profits to Delaney.

While there had been discussions regarding the creation of a Big Ten conference for hockey for years, they never amounted to anything, but now with the move to Division I by Penn State, there are now six hockey programs among the Big Ten's current 12 members, a very critical number, as six is the minimum number of teams required for the NCAA to issue an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament for a conference champion and the minimum number of schools needed under Big Ten rules to allow for a conference championship to be recognized.

With that magic number of six schools now reached thanks to the addition of Penn State, and an eager television network looking to add programming, the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference was announced in March of 2011, which will begin play this season. The benefits for the six schools is the healthy increase in the amount prestige and publicity they can expect by being now affiliated with the "Big Ten" name, the exposure they will get from having a TV deal with the Big Ten Network and, of course, the money they will receive from the network while having to only divide it six ways by being members of a new, smaller conference.

Big 10 Logo, Big 10 Logo

Those six member schools are Michigan (with 9 national championships), Michigan State (3) and Ohio State, who are all leaving the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), Minnesota (5) and Wisconsin (6), who both left the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), and the previously mentioned startup program at Penn State, who are going to enjoy the benefits of being able to step right into the highest profile hockey conference in the country.

While the news of five major schools leaving the their two established conferences was in itself a blow to those conferences, they easily could have continued as is, but that was not to be the case.

Oh, no. Not by a long shot.

The stronger schools of the WCHA and CCHA quickly began talks to combine into a new conference of their own, as reported and announced in July of 2011. The new conference was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and combines Colorado College (2), Denver (7), Minnesota-Duluth (1), Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota (7) and later St. Cloud State of the WCHA with Miami of Ohio and then Western Michigan of the CCHA.

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This news left the remaining schools in both the WCHA and CCHA reeling, and the other schools being left behind began to look at what they could do to protect their own interests, as the CCHA was now looking at five of it's 11 members leaving, while the WCHA was facing being gutted by the loss of eight of it's 12 members!

WCHA Logo, WCHA Logo

The next domino to fall was when Northern Michigan (1) announced it was leaving the CCHA in order to return to it's former conference, the WCHA. The CCHA effectively died when Alaska-Fairbanks, Ferris State and Lake Superior State (3) followed Northern Michigan to the WCHA in August with Bowling Green (1) doing the same on October 4th, followed the very next day by the CCHA's Notre Dame accepting an invitation to join Hockey East in 2013.

The move by Notre Dame in turn led to Connecticut leaving the Atlantic Hockey Association to join Hockey East in 2014 in order to get Hockey East back to an even number of schools. This move will require UConn to make some major changes to it's program, as they currently do not offer scholarships and their home arena seats less than 2,000 fans.

Finally, mercy was shown to the independent program at the University of Alabama-Huntsville when the WCHA agreed to accept the Chargers as it's 10th program, saving the endangered program from extinction and certainly making scheduling easier with an even number of teams, but certainly not easing the now far-flung conference's travel demands any less.

The ramification of all this movement is that the CCHA ceased to exist at the end of the 2012-13 season after 42 years of play, dating back to 1971-72.

CCHA Logo, CCHA Logo

Meanwhile, the WCHA was gutted when it lost the likes of Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud and Wisconsin (28 combined national titles in all), and will now be comprised of Alabama-Huntsville, Alaska-Anchorage, Alaska-Fairbanks, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State-Mankato and Northern Michigan (8 combined national titles), taking the WCHA from the most dominant conference in the history of US college hockey, with 36 national titles to it's credit and a conference which sent all four teams to the Frozen Four in 2005, to a collection of cast-offs abandoned by the Big Ten schools and not invited to join the NCHC all banded together for survival. The new WCHA will be virtually unrecognizable, as it will now have more teams in Michigan's upper peninsula than it will have in the states of Minnesota, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin - combined!

In a situation no one wanted, both Alaska schools will now be in the same conference, undesirable to the other conference members due to the high cost of travel expenses involved when making the trip to Alaska, as well as the large time difference, as Alaska is four time zones from the five WCHA schools located in Michigan and Ohio. How remote is Alaska considered to the other schools? A provision in the league playoffs dictates that both Alaska schools will automatically be paired together in the first round of the league playoffs regardless of their conference standing in order to avoid anyone having to travel there!

About the only thing the "new" WCHA has going for it is that it will retain the MacNaughton Cup as it's championship trophy due to the retention of Michigan Tech in all the shuffling of schools.

MacNaughton Cup, MacNaughton Cup
The MacNaughton Cup

The disappointments of this massive realignment are many, especially to those fans used to shorter road trips to away games due to conferences grouped geographically. For example, the western-most school in the new Big Ten, Minnesota, previously had eight conference rivals within 390 miles and now finds it's second closest opponent 650 miles to the east.

The other major disappointment is to the schools who worked hard to upgrade their programs from Division III to Division I, construct new buildings and sometimes wait years for acceptance into the WCHA, especially a school like Bemidji State, who spent 11 seasons in the catch-all College Hockey America conference before they were finally able to join fellow Minnesota schools Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State in 2010, only to now see all but Minnesota State bolt for the promise of greener pastures after just three seasons in the WCHA for the Beavers.

Sanford Center, Sanford Center
Bemidji State's new Sanford Center

In addition, all of the smaller schools who benefitted from the larger profile Big Ten schools filling their buildings and providing their largest gates will certainly be affected by few, if any, visits from Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin. If you are Minnesota State, an hour or so down the road from Minneapolis, do you want Minnesota to fill your building twice a year, or do you want Bowling Green instead? If you are Ferris State, do you want Michigan filling your building, or Alaska-Anchorage coming to town?

Other rumors have hockey taking a back seat to basketball on the Big Ten Network, with the traditional Friday-Saturday series now becoming Thursday-Friday, Saturday-Monday or even Sunday-Monday series, which will garner no favors among the traditional hockey fans, as the whole Big Ten Hockey Conference is being perceived as a big cash grab by the conference and it's television network with no regard for the implications this will have for any of the other programs outside of the six Big Ten schools, particularly the smaller schools who will be greatly affected by the massive shuffling of conferences in the west.

All this sure seems like a lot of trouble to go to for a fledgling Penn State program, which would have fit in nicely geographically and competitively with the CCHA and fellow Big Ten schools Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, or even any of the east coast leagues, Hockey East or especially the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC), regardless of where Penn State's football or basketball programs happen to play.

The other major disappointment will be the severing of so many grand and traditional rivalries, illustrated by the fact the six schools in Michigan will now be spread among three different conferences (5 of 6 were in the CCHA), and the five Minnesota schools (all previously in the WCHA) will also now be scatted among the same three conferences, the Big Ten, NCHC and WCHA, as geography will be thrown to the wind in the new version of Division I hockey. The Big Ten will run from Minnesota to Pennsylvania, the NCHC will span from Colorado to Ohio and the WCHA will stretch from the wilds of Alaska all the way to Ohio in the Eastern time zone and down to Alabama in the deep south!

Last night saw the first conference games in the new NCHC, as things kicked off with North Dakota (still without a nickname following the dropping of "Fighting Sioux") facing off against the top ranked team in the nation, the Miami University Redhawks, with #6 North Dakota coming out on top by a score of 4-2 in Oxford, Ohio despite being outshot 37-25 by the home team.

Later in the west, the Colorado College Tigers defeated the visiting #20 University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs 3-1.

The WCHA starts it's conference play on October 25th with Northern Michigan hosting Michigan Tech and Bemidji State making the trip down to Alabama-Huntsville as the two former College Hockey America schools renew acquaintances.

Big Ten conference play will not begin until Friday, November 29th when Ohio State travels to Michigan and Wisconsin visits Minnesota for a Friday-Saturday series, but as predicted, the Ohio State series against Michigan is a very non-traditional Friday-Monday series.

Today's featured jersey is a 2010-11 Miami University RedHawks Vincent LoVerde jersey. The RedHawks entered this weekend as the #1 ranked team in the USCHO.com poll. The school began it's varsity hockey program in 1978 as an independent school for two seasons before joining the CCHA for the 1980-81 season.

It's first NCAA playoff bid came in 1993 with a return in 1997, but only recently became a force in college hockey. After their third NCAA appearance in 2004, the RedHawks have been in the tournament every season since 2006, their consecutive appearance streak now currently at eight.

Miami won the CCHA regular season championship four times, 1993, 2006, 2009 and 2013, as well as winning the CCHA playoff championship in 2011, the same season Andy Miele became the program's first Hobey Baker Award winner as the top player in college hockey.

Their first #1 national ranking arrived in 2006 and set a team record for wins in 2008 with 33, a club led by future NHLers Ryan Jones and Alec Martinez.

2009 saw them reach their first Frozen Four, where they led the championship final 3-1 heading into the final minute of the game, only to eventually lose 4-3 in overtime, and returned to their second Frozen Four in 2010.

Other notable former Miami alumni include former Montreal Canadien Brian Savage, Randy Robitaille, veteran defenseman Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks and the New Jersey Devils Andy Greene.

Miami Univeristy 2010-11 jersey photo MiamiUniveristy2010-11Fjersey.jpg
Miami Univeristy 2010-11 jersey photo MiamiUniveristy2010-11Bjersey.jpg
Photos courtesy of JohnsonsJerseys.net

Today's video selection is a promo video for the new NCHC.


Friday, October 18, 2013

1958-59 New York Rangers Andy Hebenton Jersey

Andy "Spuds" Hebenton made his professional hockey debut with the Cincinnati Mohawks of the American Hockey League in 1949 and moved to his native Canada the following season to play for the Victoria Cougars in the Pacific Coast Hockey League, which was renamed the Western Hockey League for the third of Hebenton's five seasons with the Cougars.

While with the Cougars he won a President's Cup as league champion in 1951 and established himself as a reliable player known for not missing any games.

1950-51 Victoria Cougars
The 1950-51 WHL champion Victoria Cougars

He would play in every game of his final three seasons in Victoria. His personal best season with the Cougars was his last in 1954-55, when he was named to the league's First All-Star Team following his 46 goal, 80 point season.

Based on that success, his rights were purchased by the New York Rangers of the NHL for the 1955-56 season.

Andy Hebenton Rangers

He continued his streak of consecutive games with the Rangers, playing in all 70 games for eight straight seasons while in Manhattan. His best season as a Ranger was 1958-59, when he scored 33 goals and 62 points. At the conclusion of the season Hebenton was named the recipient of the 1959 Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play. While with the Rangers, he averaged less than 10 minutes in penalties per season. He was rewarded for his fine season with a spot in the 1960 NHL All-Star Game.

Andy Hebenton Rangers

Hebenton was claimed by the Boston Bruins in the waiver draft for the 1963-64 season and once more played in every one of Boston's 70 games, giving him a streak of 630 straight NHL games, breaking all records for NHL games played up until that time.

Andy Hebenton Bruins

Following his one season with Boston, his rights were sold to the Portland Buckaroos of the WHL for the 1964-65 campaign. His offensive game returned while in the WHL, reflected by his 34 goals and 74 points in a season where he yet again played in every game possible. He also competed in 10 playoff games and scored 13 points as the Buckaroos captured the Lester Patrick Cup as 1965 WHL champions. Following the season Hebenton was awarded the Fred Hume Cup for being the Most Gentlemanly Player in the WHL.

64-65 Portland Buckaroos
The 1964-65 WHL champion Portland Buckaroos

He returned to Victoria for the next two seasons, this time with the Victoria Maple Leafs, where he would capture his second consecutive championship in 1966 while extending his consecutive games streak to 1,062 consecutive professional games which began back in 1951.

Andy Hebenton Victoria

Hebenton's streak, which remains the record for the longest streak in professional hockey history, would come to an end on this day in 1967 owing to the passing of his father when he went home to Winnipeg for the funeral. After missing two games, Hebenton was back in the lineup to begin a new streak, as he played in all 70 of the Buckaroos remaining games.

His point totals would begin to climb following that season, as he went from 45 to 77 then 78 and finally 81 in 1970-71 for his personal best of his career. Additionally, he began a run of five consecutive Fred Hume Cup awards from 1970 to 1974, giving him six in all. During this run of success, the Buckaroos would capture another league championship, this time in 1971.

70-71 Portland Buckaroos
The 1970-71 WHL champion Portland Buckaroos

Eventually he would play ten seasons in the WHL after the conclusion of his NHL career and his second games played streak would reach 510 games giving him a combined total of having played in 1,572 out of a possible 1,574 games! Unfortunately, the WHL would cease operations after the 1973-74 season due to increased competition from the battle between the NHL and the World Hockey Association, which depleted the WHL's talent pool and placed teams in many of the WHL's traditional markets, like San Francisco/Oakland, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and Vancouver.

Hebenton's career would wind down with four games with the Seattle Totems of the Central Hockey League in 1974 after 26 seasons of professional hockey, a mark of longevity exceeded by only the legendary Gordie Howe. He would continue to play in semi-pro hockey with the Portland Buckaroos, who had moved to the Western International Hockey League for one season and then the Pacific Northwest Hockey League, which folded before the end of it's season, which brought Hebenton's playing days to a close at the age of 46

His final NHL totals were 630 (consecutive) games, 189 goals and 202 assists for 391 points.

Today's featured jersey is a 1958-59 New York Rangers Andy Hebenton jersey. The Rangers jerseys began play in their first season in 1926, wearing essentially the same jersey style, which underwent some evolutionary changes until 1951 when this particular style with the lace up collar was adopted for use through the 1962-63 season.

Andy Hebenton Rangers

I'm not even sure how to introduce this next video, but it does feature five minutes of Rangers footage from 1961 (if you even survive the first 40 second intro) that includes Andy Hebenton with the most unique commentary of any video we've posted since Marie Pier's French commentary on the Canadiens. It's up to you to decide if it's sheer genius or five minutes of your life you will never get back...

Actually, the longer it went on, the more we enjoyed it. It's rather like if Howard Cosell and Rick Jeanneret had an illegitimate offspring who drank to excess.


Here is a feature on the Portland Buckaroos, with some classic footage that is really a joy to see followed by some former Buckaroos talking about their time in Portland.



Thursday, October 17, 2013

1983-84 Buffalo Sabres Gilbert Perreault Jersey

After seventeen seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Gilbert Perreault had his #11 retired on this date in 1990, the only Sabre to ever wear #11.

The first ever draft pick for the fledgling Sabre organization, Perreault was drafted first overall in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft after the Sabres won a spin of a wheel to determine if they or the Vancouver Canucks would pick first. Sabres general manager Punch Imlach chose his favorite number 11, which proved lucky for the Sabres, and is why Perreault was assigned sweater #11.

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Clarence Campbell and his lucky number draft wheel,
which awarded Buffalo the first overall draft pick

Perreault scored a goal in the Sabres first ever game on October 10, 1970 and went on to lead the Sabres in scoring with 72 points in 78 games and win the Calder Trophy. He was also the first Sabre to record a power play goal and a hat trick.

Perreault Calder photo Perreault Calder.jpg

Joined by wingers and fellow French-Canadians Rene Robert and Richard Martin during the Sabres second season, they formed "The French Connection" line which would excel for the seven seasons the trio played together, including all three being named to the same NHL All-Star Team on two occasions.

The French Connection photo The French Connection line.jpg
The French Connection Line of Martin, Robert and Perreault

Perreault would lead the Sabres in scoring during 11 of his 17 seasons, including five in a row from 1975-76 to 1979-80. The Sabres would also qualify for the playoffs 11 consecutive seasons, including making it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975.

Perreault rookie photo Perreault rookie.jpg
Perreault as a rookie with the Sabres

He would be named team captain in 1982, a position he would hold until his retirement in November 1986 and amass 512 goals and 814 assists for 1,326 points in his career in 1191 games - all Sabres franchise records which still stand to this day. He also holds Sabres career records for game winning goals, shots on goal and points in a game with seven.

Perreault captain photo Perreault captain.jpg
Perreault was named team captain in 1982

He would also have the distinction of scoring the game winning goal in overtime of the 1978 NHL All-Star Game played in Buffalo at the Memorial Auditorium, one of nine NHL All-Star games he would appear in during his career.

In addition to his success with the Sabres, Perreault would also play for Team Canada during the 1972 Summit Series and the 1976 Canada Cup.

Perreault Canada photo Perreault Canada.jpg
Perreault while with Team Canada

When he retired, he was the sixth leading scorer in NHL history and was subsequently inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990.

Today's featured jersey is a 1983-84 Buffalo Sabres Gilbert Perreault jersey from the CCM vintage line. The Sabres played with essentially the same jerseys from 1970 to 1996 with only slight variations such as eliminating the original tie-neck collars in 1978, the same year they added shoulder logos, and minor changes to the arm and waist stripes in 1983.

This jersey proved so popular with the Sabres fans that it was brought back as a third jersey in 2006-07 and was modernized for a new third jersey again in 2008.

hockey jersey
hockey jersey

First, a real treat, footage from the first ever Buffalo Sabres game and Perreault's first ever NHL goal against Pittsburgh.


Here is the Legends of Hockey biography of Gilbert Perreault.


Next up is a great compilation of Perreault action highlights.


Finally a musical tribute to "The French Connection" line, featuring Gilbert Perreault.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Oldest Hockey Sweater in the World - 1894 Queen's University Guy Curtis Jersey

Founded on this date in 1841 in Kingston, Ontario, 26 years before Canada even became a country, Queen's University is considered one of the finest academic institutions in Canada.

Today, "Queen's" as it is commonly referred to, has roughly 21,500 students and annually receives 25,000 applications for it's 3,400 openings for new students. It currently consists of 17 different schools, some of which are Arts and Sciences, Music, Computing, English, various Health Sciences, Law, Business and Education.

It's founder was Thomas Liddell, who arrived from Scotland with a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria, and established Queen's College as an educational institution. In 1991, the the University celebrated it's 150th anniversary, which was highlighted by a visit from Prince Charles and his wife Diana.

The Queen's University athletics program, which dates back to 1873, is among the largest of it's kind in Canada and it's teams are known as the Golden Gaels, a name which came into being in 1947. Prior to that, they were known as "The Tricolor" in recognition of their school colors of blue, gold and red.

Flag of Queens University

It also plays and important role in the creation of modern ice hockey and it's history. One common claim is that a match between Queen's and the Royal Military College on Kingston Harbour in 1886 was the origination of game of hockey, although similar claims also come from earlier events in Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax.

Queen's_University_hockey_club,_champions 1888
The Queen's University hockey club champions of 1888

Although their game may not have been the first, Queen's and the Royal Military College still play each other annually for the Carr-Harris Cup in the world's oldest hockey rivalry.

Carr-Harris Cup
Queen's University and the Royal Military College competing for the Carr-Harris Cup in throwback jerseys

Regardless of where it may have began, hockey continued to be played at Queen's and on March 9, 1895 Queen's University, champions of the Ontario Hockey Association, became only the second challengers for the brand new symbol of hockey supremacy in Canada, the Stanley Cup.

In a single game challenge, Queen's was turned away by the host Montreal Hockey Club by a score of 5-1 with the lone Queen's goal scored by a player named McKay.

Queen's_University,_O._H._A._senior_champions 1895-97
The 1895 Queen's University hockey club

March 14, 1899 saw Queen's University again challenge for the Stanley Cup, once more traveling to Montreal, only this time to take on the Montreal Shamrocks of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League in another single game challenge. The results were very much the same as the previous challenge, with Queen's being turned away 6-2, with their goals being scored by G. P. Dalton and R. R. Harris.

"The Shamrocks are altogether overestimated, and I am sure that if we had been playing in the Quebec League with them this year we could have won out without much trouble. The greatest drawback to Queen's was the size of the rink, which difficulty could be overcome with a few practices upon it," captain Guy Curtis was quoted as saying the newspapers the following day.

By 1906, Queen's University were now members and champions of the Ontario Hockey Association, giving them the right to make Queen's third and final challenge for the Stanley Cup, increasingly the property of professional clubs.

Queen's faced an uphill battle from the start, as their opponents were the legendary Ottawa Silver Seven (later the Senators) who had been in possession of the Stanley Cup since March of 1903 and had five future Hockey Hall of Famers on it's roster and had successfully fended off nine consecutive cup challenges prior to facing Queen's.

Undaunted, Queen's travelled to Ottawa for a best-of-three series which began on February 27th, 1906. Queen's kept Game 1 close just past the halfway mark, when the score was 5-4, only to have the mighty Silver Seven romp away to a 16-7 win a Harry Westwick, Alf Smith, Harry Smith and Frank McGee each scoring four goals apiece.

Game 2 was another romp for the Ottawa Hockey Club, as they clinched the series and retained the cup with a 12-7 victory.

1906 Queens University Hockey Team
The 1906 Queen's University Stanley Cup challengers

Three years later, with the Stanley Cup now awarded to professional teams, a new trophy was created for the top amateur team in Canada, the Allan Cup. It was awarded to the Ottawa Cliffsides as champions of their league. One week later, on March 13, 1909, they were challenged by Queen's University, who won the match 5-4 to take over possession of the new trophy, as shown in the upper left of the photo below.

1909 Queens University Hockey Team
The 1909 Queen's University hockey club, holders of the Allan Cup

The modern day Golden Gaels hockey program currently participates in the Ontario University Athletics conference where they have competed for the Queen's Cup since the University donated it to the conference in 1903. Queen's have won the cup six times, those coming in 1904, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1914 and then, following a 67-year drought, again in 1981.

In the 1940's, Captain James Sutherland, a staunch supporter of Kingston as the location of the birth of hockey, proposed that a study be done on the origin of hockey, which soon evolved into a movement to form a hockey hall of fame. With it's central location between Montreal and Toronto, Kingston became the chosen location of what is now the International Hockey Hall of Fame.

One of the main features of the museum is the exhibit dedicated to former coach and well-known television commentator on Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry, who is a native of Kingston. On display is one of Cherry's trademark loud sport jackets and high-collared shirts as well as various items from his days as a youth, junior and professional player and coach.

Don Cherry jacket
Don Cherry

The main floor of the hall is where you can find the "Original Six" collection, which features sweaters, sticks and photographs of all-time greats such as Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Gordie Howe and Johnny Bower.

Canadiens jerseys IHHOF
Montreal Canadiens jerseys from Henri Richard and Jean Beliveau

The "International Exhibit" highlights some of the great moments in international hockey, and some of the artifacts include a gold medal won by Canada at the 1924 Winter Olympics, a stick signed by the Soviet team from the 1972 Summit Series and a collection of various national team jerseys.

Finally, the "Kingston Collection" highlights some of Kingston's greatest players, such as Syl Apps, Bill and Bun Cook, Doug Gilmour, Kirk Muller, Alyn MacCauley and Jay McKee. Also in the second floor gallery is a Wayne Gretzky Edmonton Oilers jersey from the Oilers first season in the NHL and a trio of WHA Houston Aeros jerseys from Mark, Marty and Gordie Howe.

Howe Aeros jerseys IHHOF
Jerseys from the Howe family during their days with Houston of the WHA

As interesting as all those items truly are, the one thing that stands out to us as the most important and historically significant item is today's featured jersey, a 1894 Queen's University Guy Curtis jersey, reputed to be the oldest hockey jersey in existence.

Curtis was the premier athlete at Queen's University during the 19th century. Before the modern eligibility rules, Curtis played for the football team for 12 years, from 1886 to 1898, and as team captain and coach, drew up complex plays while leading Queen's to it's first Dominion Football Championship in 1893.

He was also captain of the school's hockey team and twice participated in the first two of their Stanley Cup challenges as well as playing in ten Ontario Senior Hockey Championships, winning five of them before his playing career ended in 1902.

Guy Curtis seated
Guy Curtis

Curtis is credited with being instrumental in developing both football and hockey in Canada, as well as introducing hockey to the United States, as Queen's University was known for it's exhibition matches in American cities during his time with the club. He is so well thought of at Queen's that his name appears in a verse of the school song.

The wool sweater is in the classic barberpole style of the early days of hockey, executed in the Queen's University colors of blue, red and gold, with time having taken it's toll on the original shade of blue in particular, as it now appears more olive green due to fading of the pigment in the blue.

Queens University 1894 sweater

Special thanks to Mark Potter, President of the International Hockey Hall of Fame, for the assistance with information and photos of today's featured jersey.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1934-35 St. Louis Eagles Frank Finnigan Jersey

The original Ottawa Senators were founded back in 1883 as an amateur club, later becoming a professional team. In the early years of hockey the club moved from league to league as the organization of early hockey was still finding it's feet.

Aside from the changes in leagues, the club also took some time to settle on a permanent nickname as well. Known as the Generals in the 1890's, the club was known as the Silver Seven from 1903 to 1907 before adopting the name Senators starting in 1912.

1985 ottawa hockey club photo: 1985 Ottawa Hockey Club 1985OttawaHockeyClub.jpg
The 1885 Ottawa Hockey Club

One of the most successful teams in the early days of hockey, the club won the Stanley Cup in 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910 and again in 1911 during the cup's "challenge era".

1911 Ottawa Senators photo OttawaSenatorsSTC1911.jpg
The 1911 Ottawa Senators posing with their Stanley Cup

By then, the team had joined the National Hockey Association, which lasted from 1910 to 1917. After the NHA dissolved, the Ottawa Senators joined the brand new National Hockey League as a charter member in 1917. They soon rose to prominence, capturing four more Stanley Cups in 1920, 1921, 1923 and 1927.

Ottawa Senators 1920 photo OttawaSenators1920.jpg
The 1919-20 Ottawa Senators

After winning the championship in 1927, the Senators began a decline in fortunes, primarily due to the small size of Ottawa when compared to the other cities in the league at the time. Ottawa's population in 1931 was 110,000, one-fifth the size of Toronto, which was the second smallest NHL city at the time. They began to sell off their best players, suffered from low attendance at home against new expansion teams, such as the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Cougars, New York Americans, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates, and the higher travel costs to play those same teams all located in the United States.

The Great Depression also affected the team and caused the sale of even more players, including King Clancy to Toronto. Things got so bad that the team suspended operations for the 1931-32 season and returned to finish with the worst record in the league two years in a row in 1932-33 and 1933-34. Finally the owners of the franchise announced that it would not return to Ottawa for the 1934-35 season due to losses of over $60,000 since resuming play and that he would be relocating the team.

The franchise was then moved to St. Louis, the seventh largest city in the US at the time, for the 1934-35 season and was named the Eagles, which was inspired by the St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch beer logo.

While attendance was good, the team fared little better financially in St. Louis however, with long, expensive train trips to New York and Boston as well as a large number of games against Montreal and Toronto, as the poor Eagles were forced to take Ottawa's place in the Canadian Division of the NHL, despite being located much closer to Chicago and Detroit of the American Division.

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The 1934-35 St. Louis Eagles

The club finished with a dismal record of 11-31-6 for last in the league, while they again were forced to sell players, including team captain Syd Howe, who lead the team in goals despite being traded to Detroit late in the season to help meet expenses. Finally on this date in 1935 the owners of the franchise sold the club back to the NHL for $40,000 and the players were then sold off to the remaining eight clubs in the league.

It would be 32 years before the NHL would return to St. Louis when the Blues joined the league in 1967 and 58 years before the league would come back to Ottawa in 1992 with the new incarnation of the Senators.

Today's featured jersey is a 1934-35 St. Louis Eagles Frank Finnigan jersey worn by Finnigan during the St. Louis Eagles only season.

Finnigan was born in 1900 and played in the NHL from 1923 to 1937 for Ottawa, Toronto and St. Louis and was nicknamed the "Shawville Express".

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He would win a Stanley Cup with Ottawa in 1927 and was team captain from 1930 to 1933, scoring a career high of 21 goals and 36 points in the 1929-30 season during 43 games played. He played in Toronto the season Ottawa suspended play, winning his second Stanley Cup with the Maple Leafs, and returned to Toronto after being one of the players sold by St. Louis in 1935. He also held the distinction of having played in the first NHL All-Star Game in 1934, which was held as a benefit for Toronto player Ace Bailey.

In 1989 Finnigan was part of the effort to bring back NHL hockey to Ottawa and made public appearances on behalf of the effort and was part of the presentation to the NHL expansion committee at the age of 90. He was scheduled to drop the puck at the first new Senators game in October of 1992, but passed away the previous December at the age of 91, the last surviving member of the 1927 Stanley Cup champions. Finnigan's son, Frank Jr., was chosen to drop the ceremonial first puck in his place.

On the night of the first game new Senators game, Finnigan's number 8 was retired by the club, still the only number retired by the team other than the league-wide retirement of Wayne Gretzky's #99.

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In addition to having his jersey number retired, the street in front of the Senators arena, Scotiabank Place, was named Frank Finnigan Way in his honor.

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Here is video from the first game of the new Ottawa Senators on October 8, 1992, including the opening of Hockey Night in Canada on that day and the first Senators goal of the new era.




Here is a brief recap of the original Senators history and how it influenced the branding of the newly reborn Senators.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

2011-12 Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin "Lokomotiv" Jersey

On this date in 2011, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, led by two of the most prominent Russian stars in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh and Alexander Ovechkin of Washington, combined in a joint effort to raise funds to benefit the families of the victims of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv disaster, the tragic plane crash on September 7, 2011 which claimed the lives of the entire Lokomotiv roster of 26 players and 11 members of the team's coaches staff as they were on their way to their opening game of the season.

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The idea for the effort originated with Malkin, as Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma recounted that Malkin doesn't ask for meetings with him and Penguins General Manager Ray Shero much, but "right away, he's like, "We wanted to do something" - not only for this game but for the families, for the team, for his loss, for the country's loss, for hockey's loss."

"We compete against each other hard on the ice, but off the ice we all are part of one big hockey family," Shero said. "Many of our players had friends on the Lokomotiv team. All of us in hockey were touched by this tragic loss. We just thought this game was a unique opportunity for our two teams to work together to raise money for the children and families of the players, coaches and staff who lost their lives."

The desire to do honor the victims and support their survivors led to both teams wearing a Lokomotiv patch for their first meeting of the season, with the jerseys then signed and auctioned off following the game.


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The end result of Malkin's desire to help the families of the victims - the wearing of the Lokomotiv patch during the game

Penguins owner Mario Lemieux was on hand to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff between fellow Russians Malkin and Ovechkin.

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Mario Lemieux presiding over the ceremonial opening faceoff

"It's kind of remembering the people who died. Trying to help in any way we can," said Capitals goaltender Tomas Vokoun. "This is not going to be fixed. It's impossible. But we can just try to make it a little bit easier for everybody involved."

Malkin related, "We're one big hockey family and we need help because of the crash in Russia."

Many of the players and staff of the Penguins and Capitals knew or had played with many members of not only the Lokomotiv team, but it's coaching staff as well, as several of them were NHL veterans themselves. While Yaroslavl was a Russian team, it's roster consisted of players from Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Slovakia, Sweden, Russia and Ukraine and the team staff originated from Belarus, Canada and Russia.

"Our hockey families have been touched and you see that response in a lot of different ways," said Bylsma.

Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said the cooperation between the two rival clubs shows what "brotherhood" in hockey is all about and "hopefully they raise a ton of money to help the families of everybody that's been affected by this. It's a terrible disaster and the one great thing about the hockey world is it's one big family when it comes down to it, whether is the Kontinental Hockey League or the NHL. Our guys can help their guys, and I think it's great."

"I think it's America showing respect, respecting the memories of the guys who were in the plane crash and for Russians, " Ovechkin said. "It means a lot. It's nice of both organizations and the NHL to do that."

During the game, James Neal opened the scoring at 12:27 with assists from Steve Sullivan and Malkin, who was playing his first game back after missing the two previous games due to soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.

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Malkin watches the puck evade Vokoun for Neal's opening goal

Mike Knuble tied it for Washington just 1:20 into the second, assisted by Russian Alexander Semin and Karl Alzner.

Ovechkin's first goal of the season a mere 40 seconds into the third period, from Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom put the Capitals back on top before Neal's second goal of the game, assisted again by Malkin as well as Chris Kunitz at 16:15 tied the game once again.  Neal was quoted after the game as saying "Geno was really flying tonight."

When regulation ended deadlocked at 2-2, the game moved to overtime, and with Jordan Staal of Pittsburgh in the penalty box for tripping Ovechkin, Capitals defenseman Dennis Wideman won the game for Washington with the lone assist going to Backstrom 44 seconds into the power play at 2:48.

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Ovechkin celebrating Wideman's (center) game winning goal with Green

Vokoun got the win in goal for Washington after making 39 saves on 41 shots, while Brent Johnson took the loss for the Penguins, recording just 16 saves on the 19 Capitals shots.

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The winning goaltender Vokoun

The final jersey auction results saw the Capitals captain Ovechkin's jersey going for the most at $5501, with the Penguins captain Sidney Crosby's jersey going for $4097 (despite his not playing in the game due to still recovering from the concussion he suffered in the 2011 Winter Classic against the Capitals ten months earlier) and Malkin's assistant captain's jersey next at $4020.

"The teams' tribute to the Yaroslavl hockey club is testament to the remarkable bonds shared by all members of the global hockey family," KHL President Alexander Medvedev said. "As we see tonight, great sports rivalries can be put aside when there is an opportunity to benefit those who are in need."

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Today's featured jersey is a 2011-12 Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin "Lokomotiv" jersey, as worn during the Penguins game against the Washington Capitals on October 11, 2011. The players on both teams wore Lokomotiv patches for the contest, and idea which originated with Malkin.

"We were born in Russia. We know these guys," Malkin said. "We (played) with these guys on teams, the national team. We need to help their families because those are (our) guys." The Capitals were brought into the plan thanks to their Russian captain Ovechkin. "I know Alex. We talked to him," Malkin said. "We had ideas to sell jerseys Oct. 13 and do an auction."

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Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2011-12 Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin "Lokomotiv" jersey, as worn in the Capitals game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on October 11, 2011. Ovechkin's captain's jersey raised the most money in the charity auction following the game, selling for a high bid of $5501 with teammate and fellow Russian Semin reaching $3,124.

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Today's video section begins with the ceremonial puck drop by Lemieux as Russians Malkin and Ovechkin represented their respective clubs.


Next up are highlights from the game itself, as the Capitals prevailed in overtime.

 

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