billsportsmaps.com

December 19, 2014

National Hockey League, 1991-92 season, 22 teams, with one team added (San Jose Sharks)./ Origin of the Sharks franchise and nickname./ Stats leaders in 1991-92 NHL./ Map features dark-jersey-logo histories of the 22 oldest active NHL franchises.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 5:04 pm

nhl_1991-92_map_with_dark-jersey-history_of-the-22-oldest-hockey-clubs_post_n_.gif"
National Hockey League, 1991-92 location-map, featuring dark-jersey-logo-histories of the 22 oldest active NHL franchises



This continues my category of Hockey – NHL and expansion (my last post from this category was about 3 years ago, National Hockey League, 1979-80 season, with four teams added (all from the WHA): the Edmonton Oilers, the Hartford Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets (I).

The 1991-92 season was the first expansion the NHL had in 12 seasons. Their last “expansion” was only technically an expansion…it was really a merger between the NHL and the outlaw-league the World Hockey Association, but it was decidedly a merger that was totally on the NHL’s terms (with the 4 WHA franchises coming into the league allowed to only retain 4 players per team, and the 4 WHA franchises being obliged to buy back former WHA players at $125,000 per player in the re-entry draft). If you want to read/see more about all that, click on the link above.

The NHL’s one-team-expansion of 1991-92 was something that was long overdue if only to balance out the schedule, because the NHL hobbled itself by operating for 13 seasons as a league with an odd-number of teams (which makes scheduling a nightmare). The creation of the San Jose Sharks franchise in 1991-92 saw the NHL’s return to the San Francisco/Bay Area after a 14-and-a-half-year gap. The previous NHL team in the Bay Area was of course the California Seals/Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals, who existed under 3 different names for just 9 seasons (from 1967-68 to 1975-76), then, due to the lack of adequate ticket-paying support, the franchise moved to Cleveland, Ohio as the similarly-poorly-supported Cleveland Barons for a mere 2 seasons, before going defunct after the 1977-78 season. An unusual deal was then set up between the dead-in-the-water Cleveland Barons franchise and the then-struggling Minnesota North Stars franchise (present-day Dallas Stars franchise). The Barons ownership group, headed by brothers George and Gordon Gund, took over the North Stars franchise, and the Barons roster was absorbed into the North Stars team.

As it is pointed out at the Sharks’ page at Sports E-Cyclopedia.com, following the considerable fan-excitement in California created by Wayne Gretzky’s 1988 arrival from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings, there became renewed interest in placing a second NHL team again in the state of California. The Gund brothers tried to return to California by moving their still-struggling Minnesota North Stars franchise to the Bay Area. But the NHL balked at giving up on the Minneapolis/St. Paul area (though they did give up on the Twin Cities a few years later, and let the North Stars move to Dallas in 1993) [seven years later, the NHL returned to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota with the creation of the Minnesota Wild in 2000].

San Jose Sharks, established 1991-92 (the 22nd NHL franchise)…
So the NHL engineered a franchise transaction in which the Gund brothers sold the North Stars to a consortium including former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin and headed by Norm Green; and at the same time the NHL awarded a new franchise to the Gund brothers in San Jose, CA (with the team slated to start for the 1991-92 season). Because of building delays at the arena in San Jose, caused by the decision to increase the size and amount of luxury suites, the Sharks ended up playing their first 2 seasons (1991-93) at the old Cow Palace just outside of San Francisco (in Daly City, CA). In October 1993 the San Jose Sharks moved into the 17.5 K-capacity San Jose Arena (present-day name: SAP Center at San Jose).

Back-tracking a couple years to when the San Jose NHL franchise was first awarded (in 1990), an open poll was undertaken to determine the team’s new nickname. Over 5,000 names were submitted by mail, with the most popular nickname chosen being the Blades. That nickname was rejected by the Gunds, because they did not want a name associated with weapons. So the second-most popular nickname submitted was selected – the Sharks. There was a precedent for the name in California, the short-lived WHA team the Los Angeles Sharks. Also, sharks are very prevalent in that part of the California coast. As it says in the San Jose Sharks page at en.wikipedia.org, …”The name was said to have been inspired by the large number of sharks living in the Pacific Ocean. Seven different varieties live there, and one area of water near the Bay Area is known as the “red triangle” because of its shark population.”…{end of excerpt from San Jose Sharks/History}. {The prevalence of Shark-attacks in the waters near the Bay Area is shown in this chart by John Blanchard/San Francisco Chronicle at SFgate.com, here}. Also, see the images below for more on that. The map below also shows the locations of the two arenas that the San Jose Sharks have played in.

san-jose-sharks_red-triangle_pacific-ocean_map_sharks-logos_m_.gif
Photo and Image credits above -
Map, US Geological Survey document in Public Domain at en.wikipedia.org page Red Triangle (Pacific Ocean).
San Jose Sharks 1991-92 jerseys, illustrations by Jersey Database.com at jerseydatabase.com/ [browse - Hockey...see column for "Jersey Fronts", by team].
San Jose Sharks jersey logos, illustrations by Andrew M. Greenstein at nhluniforms.com/Sharks/Sharks.html.

A lot had changed in the 15 years in which San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (aka the Bay Area) had no NHL team…
And the much-improved Bay Area economy of the early 1990s (and onwards into the Silicon Valley era of today) has contributed to the creation of an essentially healthy NHL team in a warm-weather locale (no small feat). The Sharks, who, although never having made it to a Stanley Cup finals, to this day play to full-or-nearly-full capacity most seasons (the Sharks played to 100 percent-capacity in 2012-13, and to 97.6 percent-capacity in 2013-14). [Note: the Sharks finally did make it to an NHL Stanley Cup Finals, in 2015-16, but lost to the Penguins 4 games to 2.]

The Cleveland Barons were the last major league sports franchise in USA and Canada to go defunct (in the 4 Major leagues of the NFL, MLB, the NBA and the NHL). The failure of the Cleveland Barons after the 1977-78 season was the reason the league got stuck with an odd-number of teams for 1978-79, and when the four WHA teams came into the NHL the following season (1979-80), the odd number of teams remained. It ended up taking the NHL thirteen years to fix it. In 1991-92 the San Jose Sharks were placed in the Smythe Division, joining Calgary, Edmonton, LA Kings, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

In 1991-92, the Sharks shook up tradition by having the then-unheard-of color teal (a dark-greenish blue-green), as their primary color. In that, one can see a connection to the late and unlamented California Golden Seals of the mid-1970s, whose third and final primary color was bright teal (a light-blue-ish blue-green). The original franchise, as the California/Oakland Seals circa 1967-70, wore kelly green with royal blue trim {see the 1967-68 California Seals uniforms here}. When Charlie Finley (then-owner of MLB’s Oakland A’s) bought the Oakland Seals in 1970, he renamed the hockey club the California Golden Seals and switched their colors to green and yellow-gold (like the A’s) {see the 1970-71 California Golden Seals uniforms, here}. Then three years later he upped the ante and switched the Golden Seals’ colors to that aforementioned pale teal and yellow-gold. {see the 1974-75 & 1975-76 California Golden Seals’ uniforms, here].}

So all that teal and all those other variations of weird greenish-blue, in the color schemes of (expansion) sports teams? Like this (Mighty Ducks of Anaheim), and this (Vancouver Grizzlies), and this (Florida Marlins), and this (Charlotte Hornets), and this (Arizona Diamondbacks)?. Well, thank (or blame) Charlie Finley for the idea, and thank (or blame) the Gund brothers for reviving it. This is all opinion of course, and in my opinion there are very few exceptions where teal, or a color similar to teal, is appropriate and looks good…like this (Seattle Mariners) [which is technically not teal but rather a color greener than teal called Northwest Green] or like this (Miami Dolphins), [which is technically not teal but rather a color with more light blue than teal called Aqua]. I think teal is a color that belongs in the minor leagues, like this (Ogden Raptors Pioneer League ball club’s mascot; photo from murphsroadtrips.blogspot.com/2011/07/ogden-raptors-vs-orem-owls).

1991-92 NHL season…
1991-92 was the 75th anniversary of the NHL, and each team wore the 75th anniversary logo on their jerseys. There was a 10-day player strike late in the season in April, 1992, but the work-stoppage did not affect the final standings as all strike-cancelled games were made up. This necessitated an extension of the season schedule, and 91/92 ended up being the first NHL season whose playoffs extended into June.

In the 1991-92 Stanley Cup Finals, the Pittsburgh Penguins retained the Cup. Led by Hockey Hall of Famer (and current principal owner and chairman) Mario Lemieux, the Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup title, sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks in four games.

Statistical leaders in 1991-92 NHL
nhl_1991-92_stats-leaders_patrick-roy_brett-hull_wayne-gretzky_mario-lemieux_.gif
Photo credits above -
Patrick Roy, photo from 24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m1idj8TTkm1qm9rypo1_1280.jpg. Brett Hulll, photo unattributed at cbssports.com/nhl/halloffame/inductees. Wayne Gretzky, photo unattributed at gameusedonly.com. Mario Lemieux, photo unattributed at fansshare.com.


Elements of the map page
The map page features profile-boxes for each of the 22 NHL teams from 1991-92. These profile boxes are arranged by conferences (2) and divisions (4), and are arranged according to 1991-92 final standings. The profile boxes flank either side of the map itself, with the mostly-western-based-teams in the Campbell Conference on the left-side of the map page; and the mostly-eastern-based-teams in the Prince of Wales Conference on the right-hand-side of the map page.

The main feature of the map itself are the 1991-92 home, away and alternate (throwback) uniforms for each of the 22 teams from 91/92 {source: http://www.jerseydatabase.com/browse.php?sport=nhl}.

Inside each team’s profile box are the following…
-Selected dark-jersey-logos from the team’s (ie, the franchise’s) history, with dates of each jersey listed.
[These selected dark-jersey-logos from the franchise's history are located in a long-and-narrow pale-greyish-blue-colored box at the upper-left of each team's larger profile box. {Sources for all the old jersey-logos are:
jerseydatabase.com/ [browse - NHL];
nhluniforms.com;
whauniforms.com;
sportslogos.net/ [NHL].}]
-1991-92 uniforms (2 per team, or 3 for the “Original Six” teams).
-Text-block synopsis of team’s (franchise’s) history, with: date of establishment [first season], name-changes & franchise-shifts; Stanley Cup titles (with last SC title listed); Stanley Cup Finals runners-up appearances (with last SC Finals runners-up appearance listed).
-Current official logo [2014-15].
-Current [2014-15] home jersey (photos of the jerseys from shop.nhl.com).

Notes on the jersey-logo-history sections for the 22 teams
Why am I showing the history of only dark jerseys? For brevity’s’ sake, and because that is what folks want. At this link at Yahoo.com Answers they cite the statistic that dark jerseys have always accounted for 65 to 75% of all sales of NHL jerseys (I bet it’s more like 80%+). The thinking in the 1970 to 2004 time-period was that it was better for the regularly-attending home fan to see all the other teams’ dark-colored jerseys…for the sake of variation. But as the sale of replica jerseys had become more crucial as a revenue-stream for each NHL team, by the early 2000s it was becoming apparent that more NHL teams wanted the switch to dark-jerseys-at-home in order to encourage the sale of more jerseys. I can’t say it any better than Jamie Fitzpatrick does in the following article on the subject, from 2009, from the About.com site,
What’s Up With The NHL Dress Code? – It used to be good guys wear white, bad guys wear black. Not anymore. (proicehockey.about.com/cs/businessofhockey/a/NHLjerseycolors).

White as the home team’s color in the NHL…
[In the NHL, white as the official color of each team's home jersey existed from 1970-71 to 2003-04. Prior to that it was the dark jerseys at home all through the "Original Six" era (1942-43 to 1966-67) and into the first three years of the second expansion era of the NHL (1967-68, 1968-69 and 1969-70). There was one major exception, and that was the Boston Bruins {Bruins; uniforms history at nhluniforms.com/Bruins}. Aside from their first season in 1924-25 (when the Bruins wore brown jerseys), the Boston Bruins in their first 24 seasons had only one jersey - and that was white (except for 1940-44 when they had an alternate yellow jersey). Then when the Bruins finally also wore a dark jersey (black), in the 1948-57 time period, they still wore white at home. In fact, the Bruins never started wearing black at home until 1967-68, and as just mentioned, a few season later the whole league switched to whites-at-home. The other minor exception was the Chicago Black Hawks of 1951-55, who wore their white jerseys at home in this time period {here}.]

The dark-jersey-logos from each franchise’s history are not a comprehensive set, but are pretty close to that, and represent all fundamental changes in each hockey club’s jersey evolution. I have avoided depicting white (or lighter-colored jerseys), except when that was the only jersey the team wore that season (circa 1910s and early 1920s), but a special exception was made for the first appearance of the Boston Bruins wheel-with-spokes logo (for the Hub-city team’s 25th anniversary in 1948-49, when that soon-to-be-iconic logo was only worn on the Bruins’ home-whites that season).

Also note that I avoided alternate jerseys in each team’s set of old jersey-logos (which would have made the whole exercise an incoherent mess). And if you are wondering why I included the god-awful Calgary Flames horse-head-puffing-out-flames-from-its-nostrils logo circa 2000-03 – well that is because that creepy logo was part of their 2nd uniform then, not their 3rd uniform/alternate (the Flames finally retired that bush-league logo in 2006). That is also the case for why the Washington Capitals black jersey with Capitol-dome logo (circa 2000-07) is shown, likewise the ridiculous Gorton’s-Fishsticks-fisherman logo that the clueless Islanders organization subjected Isles fans to (in 1995-97), and likewise the Flyers black jerseys (in the 2000s).

One other note, the Detroit Red Wings had their winged-wheel logo placed on their jersey un-centered, from 1934-35 to 1981-82 (the center of the wheel was where it was centered on, so that the right side of the jersey was blank, and on the map page you can see that by seeing the lower tip of the jersey-collar [on the Red Wings 1948-73 and 1973-82 logos]). The Wings finally nailed it down by enlarging the winged-wheel logo and centering it at the mid-point of the wing itself – that was in 1982-83, and the design remains the same to this day (that design is a work of art).

And speaking of logos that are works of art, there is probably an extra slight-tweak that the Montreal Canadiens had with their C-with-H-inside logo, and that was in 1932-33 to 1934-35, where the site called (the unofficial) NHL Uniforms.com has the C narrower {see it here, Canadiens [1932-35]. The official Montreal Canadiens site does not include that version of their logo, however, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist, especially because with respect to another, much older jersey design the jury is still out – and that is the recently-unearthed jersey design of the Canadiens from way back in their early NHA days in 1911-12, the design of which the official Canadiens’ site recently displayed (see 5 paragraphs below, in the PS). So I included the 1932-35 narrow-C logo because, outside of a few slight color issues (see next paragraph) NHL Uniforms.com is pretty much the first and last word on the whole subject matter of major league hockey uniforms throughout the NHL’s (and WHA’s) existence.

Another issue I see with old Canadiens jersey logos is that the blue band on their red jerseys in the late 1910s through early-to-mid 1930s was probably a slightly lighter shade of royal blue. Going by old black-and-white photos of Canadiens’ jerseys from the 1920s and the 1930s will get you nowhere and lead you to erroneous conclusions, because reds and blues in old black-and-white photos often look misleadingly darker or lighter than their true shades of color (mainly because many photographers back then used color filters that rendered some reds darker and some blues lighter than what they looked like in real life). Jersey Database is the one source I used that depicts a shift in color in the Canadiens royal-blue-band in their red jerseys, and Jersey Database has the Canadiens’ royal-blue-band as a distinctly lighter-shade-of-royal-blue until 1934-35 {here}, with the modern-day darker-royal-blue band on the Canadiens red jersey beginning in 1935-36 (which was also the first season a white jersey was employed as an alternate jersey for the Canadiens, see this). The others simply maintain that the Canadiens have been wearing a darkish-royal blue band ever since the C-with-letter-inside style first came out (in 1913-14). But then what about this?…hockeygods.com/images/10663-Beehive_Team_Shields___Crests___Complete_Set___1930s. That blue in the Canadiens’ badge is clearly lighter than the modern-day blue in their jersey. Visual proof is obtained by simply comparing other teams’ badges there…and the shade of blue on the Canadiens’ circa-early-1930s badge is distinctly lighter-colored than the blue in the Maple Leafs’ badge and the blue in the Rangers’ badge. They should all be essentially the same color blue (with the Rangers’ blue pehaps very slightly lighter-blue than the Leafs’ blue), but the Canadiens’ blue is not the same as the Leafs’ and Rangers’ blue in that badge set. OK, so that badge set establishes the fact that it is very likely the Candiens’ blue band on their jerseys was noticeably lighter-colored up to the early 1930s. The next link further helps to prove it, because it is an illustration commissioned by the Montreal Canadiens themselves….Here is an old illustration of the 1930-31 Montreal Canadiens team…and although the image is small, you can see that the royal blue band is a lighter shade of royal blue than the one on the modern-day Canadiens’ jersey (that shade of blue on the 1930-31 Canadiens jersey and in the badge set from the 1930s both look like the shade of blue that the Quebec Nordiques wore). Then take a look at an old game-worn Rocket Richard uniform (from 1959-60)…the blue is now a bit darker {here}.

Sometime after 1930-31 the Canadiens’ blue band on their red jersey got a bit darker; I would have had the darker royal blue band starting in 1935-36, as per the illustrations at Jersey Database.com {again, here}, but then I found this, [Howie Morenz 1934-35 Canadiens jersey at Third String Goalie page at photobucket.com/ from this article, thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com/2012/11/1934-35-montreal-canadiens-howie-morenz]. So I have the darker royal blue band starting on the Canadiens jersey one year earlier than Jersey Database does, at 1934-35. Anyone out there who has links to images (which either back-up or refute this), would be greatly appreciated.

By the way, the H in the Canadiens’ logo does not refer to their other nickname of the Habs (les Habitants), but to the word Hockey – a word that is in the Montreal Canadiens’ official name, which is, to this day, Club de hockey Canadien (their official name was previously, Club athlétique Canadien [from 1909 to 1917]). In fact, “Club de hockey Canadien” is the name engraved on the Stanley Cup each time (a record 24 times) that the Montreal Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup title (their first Stanley Cup title pre-dates the NHL and was won in 1916 [over the Portland Rosebuds of the PCHA], their last Stanley Cup title was won in 1993 [over the LA Kings]).

PS,
the recently-unearthed 1911-12 Montreal Canadiens white-jersey-with-red/blue-sash-and-Gothic-C (see it here/third jersey & logo featured [1911-12]) is contested (quite convincingly), at Third String Goalie blog site, Setting the Record Straight – The 1911-12 Montreal Canadiens (thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com). The article is worth checking out if you have some spare time, but essentially what is at issue here is that red-and-blue-sash (red-and-blue diagonal lines)…and Third String Goalie site says that only one photo exists of that sweater and in that photo there is just the Gothic C and no red/blue sash, and the conclusion is that that design with the red/blue sash did not ever exist. A few months later, another site that deals with hockey history from its early days, Hockey Historysis blog, posted illustrated images of very early Montreal Canadiens jerseys, {see it at the following link by scrolling down to see third jersey there at The Unintentional Arrival of Hockey’s Most Recognizable Uniform (hockeyhistorysis.blogspot.com, article by Iain Fyffe and illustrations by Danny Laflamme). There, they dispensed entirely with that probably-fictional red-and-blue-sash on that white 1911-12 Canadiens jersey. I have done likewise.
___

Source for Stanley Cup titles and SC Finals appearances by team, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Stanley_Cup_champions#Active_teams.

Thanks to NuclearVacuum for the blank map of North America, File:BlankMap-North America-Subdivisions.svg (commons.wikimedia.org).

Thanks to shop.nhl.com, for photos of 2014-15 NHL home jerseys.

Special thanks to Jersey Database at Jersey database.com/ [browse - Hockey...see column for "Jersey Fronts", by team].

Special thanks to Andrew M. Greenstein at http://www.nhluniforms.com/index.html, and at http://whauniforms.com/index.html.

Special thanks to Chris Creamers’ Sports Logos.net.

And thanks to Third String Goalie blog for various bits of information.

November 21, 2011

National Hockey League, 1979-80 season, with four teams added (all from the WHA): the Edmonton Oilers, the Hartford Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets (I).

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 9:03 pm

nhl1979-80map-w-jerseys_post_c.gif
1979-80 NHL




Note about the map page…teams are listed not by divisions, but alphabetically – with 1979-80 NHL teams starting with the letters A through M on the left side of the map page; and 1979-80 NHL teams starting with the letters N through W on the right side of the map page. The explanation for this is in the following paragraph.

[In all the other installments of this series (Hockey - NHL and Expansion]) I have grouped the teams on the map page by divisions and conferences. But for this map, I have listed the NHL teams by alphabetical order, going from ‘A’ at the top left, to ‘W’ at the bottom right. I did this because the league format that the NHL created in 1979-80 rendered the divisional set-up meaningless. For two seasons, 1979-80 and 1980-81, the 21-team NHL had a balanced schedule with all teams playing other teams 4 times (80-game regular season), and, crucial to my point here, all the playoff teams (16 playoff teams) were seeded. In other words, for two seasons, the NHL’s divisions were pointless, because the only way that divisional status had an impact was this: the divisional winners automatically qualified for the playoffs (as did the 12 next-best teams as wild-cards). But since over three-quarters (76%) of the teams qualified for the playoffs back then (talk about watering down your product), the divisions meant nothing. That is because the only way this “divisional” format would have come into actual relevance was if one of the divisional winners had a worse record than one of the 5 teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs. And both seasons, of course, this did not even come close to happening.

The NH:-WHA merger, officially known as the NHL’s 4-team expansion of 1979-80
Only 4 teams survived all 7 seasons of the World Hockey Association. Those 4 WHA teams would become NHL expansion franchises in 1979-80.
[Note, if you want to know more about the WHA, you can see my map-and-post on it {here (billsportsmaps, Feb. 10, 2010)}, and/or you can read this brilliant article from SI.com/vault, from May 28, 1979, by Reyn Davis, 'A Nowhere Ride'.]

The NHL had had talks with the WHA about some kind of merger almost from the start of the rebel-league’s existence in 1972-73. The first talks, in 1972, had the NHL offering to buy each WHA team for $4 million, provided all lawsuits were dropped. That got nowhere. Subsequent sets of talks over the next 5 seasons had various proposals – for 6 WHA teams to join the NHL; or for 4 WHA teams to join; or for 2 WHA teams to join; or even for just one team (the Houson Aeros) to join the NHL. These all went nowhere. The one constant, from the NHL owners’ bargaining position, was that there was a small and obstinate faction of NHL owners (Boston’s Paul Mooney, and Toronto’s Harold Ballard especially, but also initially including Chicago’s Bill Wirtz), that were blocking any attempt at coming to an agreement. Those three owners wanted revenge, because the Bruins, the Maple Leafs, and the Black Hawks were the among the NHL teams that got hurt most by the WHA’s existence.

Most WHA teams lived hand-to-mouth. By 1976 or so, it was obvious to WHA owners that “the game was to hang on long enough to get into the NHL,” as former-Edmonton Oilers’ owner, future-Calgary Flames’ owner, and then-Indianapolis Racers’ owner Nelson Skalbania said.

But for the first 5 years of the WHA’s existence, any kind of merger with the NHL just wasn’t going to happen, because NHL president Clarence Campbell was steadfastly opposed to a merger, insisting that the WHA had set out to destroy the NHL. So real merger discussions were only really possible when John Zeigler replaced Clarence Campbell as NHL president in 1977. Talks got more serious, and it looked like a 6-team/quasi-merger was set to take place after the 1977-78 WHA season ended in May, 1978. This deal would have included the 4 WHA teams that eventually joined the NHL, plus the Cincinnati Stingers and the Indianapolis Racers – and would have had those 6 teams play in the NHL in a separate division, playing only versus themselves, and then to slowly begin playing a combined schedule with the NHL-proper over a 5-year-period. But the Ballard-Mooney-out-for-blood-faction got some other NHL owners to switch at the last minute, and this plan was defeated by one single vote.

The WHA owners were so incensed by this sabotage of their agreement that they decided on some hard-ball tactics, and to hit the NHL where it would hurt the most…by signing under-age juniors [at that time, the NHL did not allow players under the age of 20]. The Birmingham Bulls signed 6 teenagers, and several other WHA teams like Cincinnati and Indianapolis also signed teenagers. So that is why Wayne Gretztky and Mike Gartner and Mark Messier – all Hall of Famers – got their starts in the WHA. And that is really why the NHL finally got serious about letting WHA teams join their league – they wanted the WHA’s future stars, and were not prepared to see top-shelf talent like Gretzky play in a rival league.

Below: in honor of Mark Messier, who in 2004 was the last active WHA player playing in the NHL…
mark-messier_n.gif
Photo credits -
lowetide.blogspot.com, hhof.com/Messier, canadacardworldblog.com, Doug Pensinger/Allsports via espn.go.com/readers/beloved/newyorkers, brothersoft.com/mobile/.

The WHA’s last season (1978-79)
When the WHA’s Houston Aeros learned that the NHL did not have intentions of expanding south into the Sunbelt (not yet, anyway), the Aeros, one of the stronger WHA teams, cut their losses and folded after the 1977-78 season. That left a 7-team WHA to limp through their final season of 1978-79. Midway through that last WHA season, the Indianapolis Racers folded. The Indianapolis Racers are today best known for being the first pro team of Wayne Gretzky, who was 17 years old then. Gretzky only played 8 games for the Racers, then Racers’ owner Nelson Skalbania, who earlier that year, on the advice of Brmingham Bulls’ owner Tom Bassett, had signed Gretzky (to a 7-year personal-services contract worth $1.75 (US) million), sold Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers. Gretzky, as a 17/18-year-old, then went on to finish third in scoring that season (behind Robbie Ftorek and Réal Cloutier), and helped lead the Oilers to the Avco Cup finals, which they lost to Winnipeg. It was the Winnipeg Jets’ 3rd Avco Cup title. [The Winnipeg Jets won the most titles in the 7-season WHA; the second-most was the 2 Avco Cup titles won by the Houston Aeros (last in 1975); and the other Avco Cup title winners were the Quebec Nordiques (in 1978) and the New England Whalers (in the first WHA season in 1973).] The $750,000 Skalbania got for Gretzky wasn’t enough to keep the Indianapolis team alive, though, and the Racers folded in December, 1978. The WHA finished their final season with just 6 teams – the Birmingham Bulls, the Cincinnati Stingers, the Edmonton Oilers, the New England Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets (I).

The NHL/WHA merger seems scuttled, until the power of the people (Canadian-style) prevails
In March, 1979, another merger proposal – the one that eventually passed – was again voted down by one vote. The 5 NHL teams that voted against the merger on March 17, 1979 were the Montreal Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks, the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Los Angeles Kings.

The reasons why those 5 NHL teams initially voted against the merger with the WHA…
Boston: did not want to share New England with the Whalers, plus the owner (Paul Mooney) never forgave the Whalers for signng so many ex-Bruins players circa 1972-75.
Montreal: see above, with respect to the fact that the Habs did not want to share the Francophone hockey fan base in Canada with the Quebec Nordiques. Plus, just as when, circa 1969-70, Montreal and Toronto tried to keep Vancouver out of the league because the 2 Canadian NHL teams then didn’t want to lose their lucrative slice of the pie from Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts, now those 3 Canadian NHL teams didn’t want to share that revenue 6 ways. In other words, the Montreal (and Toronto and Vancouver) top brass turned their backs on fellow Canadians by being Canadian citizens who did everything in their power to prevent Canadian hockey fans in 3 provincial cities the chance to be able to continue having local major-league-hockey teams.
Toronto: see Montreal, above, second and third sentences. Plus factor in how angry Leafs’ owner Harold Ballard was at the WHA for raiding the Leafs’ roster in the early days of the WHA (circa 1972-75), plus factor in what an unreasonable person the felon Ballard was.
Vancouver: see Montreal above, second and third sentences. In other words, the Canucks’ top brass were hypocrites, because in 1970 they almost didn’t get into the NHL for the same reason – now they were on the other side of the fence trying to keep other Canadian teams out. Plus they were afraid gates would suffer because they would not have as many home games versus Original 6 teams.
Los Angeles: See Vancouver, above, second sentence.

So what changed it? What got some of those teams to reverse their position and let there be major-league-NHL-hockey in Alberta, in the Canadian prairies, in the frozen north of Quebec, and in the state of Connecticut? A fan boycott. Over Molson Beer products, first organized in Edmonton, Quebec City, and Winnipeg, then spreading swiftly across all of Canada. Period.

From en.wikipedia.org/NHL-WHA merger,
{excerpt} …”The Canadiens were owned by Molson Brewery, and the Canucks served Molson products at their games. Fans in Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Quebec City, believing that Molson was standing in the way of their cities remaining big-league hockey towns, organized a boycott of Molson products. The boycott quickly spread nationwide. The Canadian House of Commons weighed in as well, unanimously passing a motion urging the NHL to reconsider. A second vote was held in Chicago on March 22, 1979, which passed by a 14–3 margin as both Montreal and Vancouver reversed their positions. Both teams’ hands were forced by the boycott, and the Canucks were also won over by the promise of a balanced schedule, with each team playing the others twice at home and twice on the road…”
{end of excerpt}.

The 1979 merger between the NHL and the WHA
The NHL did not see Cincinnati or Birmingham as viable locations for franchises, and the Stingers and Bulls were paid to disband by getting $1.5 million apiece in parachute payments, then joining the Central Hockey League, the NHL-owned minor league, for one season each. The Stingers lasted just 33 games in the CHL in 1979-80; while the Birmingham Bulls played two full seasons in the CHL, folding after the 1980-81 season. Meanwhile, at the insistence of the Boston Bruins (again, one of the teams most hurt by the WHA), the New England Whalers were forced to change their name to the Hartford Whalers [the Whalers also got rid of their whale-harpoon-with-the-letter-W logo, and replaced it with a logo that had a white H and a green W under a blue whale fluke; plus the Whalers changed their colors to kelly green with blue trim (instead of dark green with yellow-orange trim) - see this, Hartford Whalers logos, from Chris Creamer's SportsLogos.net/Hartford Whalers].

So the 4 hockey franchises that moved over from the WHA to the NHL – as expansion teams – for the 1979-80 season were the Hartford Whalers, the Edmonton Oilers, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets (I).

4-wha-teams_joined-nhl-in1979-80_edmonton_hartford_quebec_winnipeg_b.gif

The NHL really got the better of the WHA teams, to the point where it was officially called an expansion, not a merger. The WHA teams were stripped of almost all their players, and were only allowed to keep 2 goaltenders and two skating players. The four ex-WHA teams had to rebuild their rosters through the re-entry draft at $125,000 per player. [Note: that makes the fact that the Edmonton Oilers won their first Stanley Cup title in just their fifth season in the NHL (in 1984) all the more impressive.]

The 1979-80 NHL season

Protective helmets were declared mandatory for all players, with players who signed contracts before June 1, 1979 having the option to not wear helmets (once they signed a waiver).

In December, 1979, the Detroit Red Wings moved over from the Detroit Olympia (capacity 15,000) to the Joe Louis Arena (capacity 19,875 [now it has a 20,066 capacity]).

The New York Islanders had a 25-point drop from the best-regular-season-points-tally of 116 in the previous season, to 86 points in 1979-90. But in the post-season, where it mattered, the Islanders 5th-seeding in the playoffs did not hold them back at all. On the other hand, the Philadelphia Flyers improved by 21 points over the previous season, and, propelled by a still-North-American-major-league-sports-record 35-game unbeaten run from mid-October to mid-January (25-0-10), the Flyers ended up with the best regular season record in 1979-80, with 116 points. The Buffalo Sabres finished as the second seed in the playoffs, with 110 points. Leading scorers were Marcel Dionne (of the Los Angeles Kings) and the 18/19 year-old Wayne Gretzky (of the Edmonton Oilers), both of whom had 137 points (with Dionne winning the Art Ross Trophy by virtue of having scored 2 more goals [53 goals] than Gretzky). Bob Edwards and Bob Suave of the Buffalo Sabres combined for the lowest goals-against-percentage and won the Vezina Trophy. None of the 4 new teams that had come over from the WHA had winning records, which came as no surprise, seeing as how the 4 “expansion teams” were stripped of all but 4 players each when they joined the NHL. Hartford and Edmonton did make the playoffs, though, as the 14th and 16th seeds, but both were swept in the 1st round of the playoffs.

1979-80 Stanley Cup Finals
The Philadelphia Flyers met the New York Islanders in the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals. It was the then-8-year-old-Islanders’ first Finals appearance. The Islanders were led by the “Trio Grande” line of C Bryan Trottier, LW Clark Gilles, and RW Mike Bossy (all Hall of Famers), and featured 2 other future Hall of Famers in D Denis Potvin and G Billy Smith. The Flyers had the second-best offense that season, with 327 goals (Montreal had 328 goals), and it was a real team effort as there were no Flyers players in the top 10 in scoring, although RW Reggie Leach had 50 goals (7th best); and Bobby Clarke and Ken Linseman both had 58 assists (tied for 8th best). Philadelphia also had the most players in the All-Star Game that season, with 7, including Leach, Rick MacLeish, and Bill Barber.

In Game 1, in Philadelphia, Denis Potvin won it for the Islanders with a power-play goal in overtime, for a 4-3 score. The Flyers answered with a flurry of goals in the second game, winning 8-3. The series resumed, at the Islanders’ home ice in Uniondale, New York, and saw the Islanders take control with a 6-2 win in Game 3; and then a 5-2 win in Game 4. Back at the Forum in Philly, the Flyers got back into it with a 6-3 win in Game 5. Back on Long Island for Game 6, Philadelphia looked poised to send the series back to Philadelphia and a seventh game, when they scored two late goals in the 3rd period – and the game went to overtime knotted at 4-4…

Via Youtube, here is Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals (Youtube video posted by Hockey Videos, a 3:46 video), which, at the 1:55 mark of the video, shows Isles’ C Lorne Henning, near the center-circle, threading the needle to fellow-third-line left-winger John Tonelli, whose goal-mouth-cross to RW Bob Nystrom is re-directed and floated over Flyers’ G Pete Peeters’ blocker pad, making the New York Islanders the champions. The Islanders would go on to establish themselves as one of the great dynasties of the NHL, winning four consecutive Stanley Cup titles…over Minnesota in 1981; over Vancouver in 1982; and over Edmonton in 1983. That 4-consecutive-Stanley-Cup-titles-run by the New York Islanders (1979-80 through to 1982-83) is surpassed only by the Montreal Canadiens, who won 5 straight Stanley Cup titles in the Original Six era, from 1955-56 through to 1959-60; and who also won 4 straight Stanley Cup titles from 1975-76 through to 1978-79.
new-york-islanders_4-stanley-cups-logo_.gif

The Islanders’ victory over the Flyers in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals was the last NHL game to air on network television in the United States for 9 years.

The following season, 1980-81, ex-WHA owner Nelson Skalbania purchased the foundering Atlanta Flames’ franchise and moved the team north, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, as the Calgary Flames (NHL, 1980-present).
atlanta-flames_move-to_calgary_flames_1980.gif

The season after that, 1981-82, the NHL went to geographically-oriented divisions and conferences.

The season after that, 1982-83, the Colorado Rockies were purchased by an East Coast-based consortium, and moved to northern New Jersey, as the New Jersey Devils (NHL, 1982-present).
kansas-city-scouts_move-to_colorado_rockies_move-to_new-jersey_devils_.gif

The season after that, 1983-84, the Edmonton Oilers, with Wayne Gretzky as team captain and league-MVP, won the first of their 5 Stanley Cup titles.
{Old content disclaimer…the image-sequence below first appeared on this site here (The World Hockey Association, 1972-73 to 1978-79: map of all 26 teams, with attendance figures and notes.)}.
Below is a tribute to the WHA-era Edmonton Oilers, and to Glen Sather and Wayne Gretzky, the two people most responsible for bringing the Stanley Cup to Edmonton

wha_alberta-oilers_edmonton-oilers_edmonton-gardens_al-hamilton_northlands-coliseum_rexall-place_glen-sather_wayne-gretzky_indianapolis-racers_si-cover1984_.gif

Photo and image credits –
Al Hamilton, HFboards.com/thread.
Old Oilers jersey illustration, http://whauniforms.com/.
Edmonton arenas: Edmonton Gardens (aka Livestock Pavillion), hockey.ballparks.com; Northlands Coliseum, http://hockey.ballparks.com/WHA/AlbertaOilers/index.htm
Gretzky on Indianapolis, 1978-79 indianapolis racers wayne gretzky jersey photos.
Wayne Gretzky on Sports illustrated cover, Wayne Gretzky Sports Illustrated covers gallery [12 SI covers between 1981 and 1999]..
_

Thanks to the JerseyDatabase.com site, for the jersey illustrations on the map page. As great as this site is, it is rather hard to navigate, so here is the page that will get you to NHL teams’ jerseys, http://www.jerseydatabase.com/browse.php?sport=nhl.

Thanks to NHL Uniforms.com, for bits of jerseys I needed to fill in (1979-80 Edmonton Oilers and 1979-80 Winnipeg Jets) because of gaps in the aforementioned database…www.nhluniforms.com/1979-80.

Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos.net/NHL.

Thanks to WHA Hockey.com. Birmingham Bulls at WHA Hockey.com.

Thanks to WHA Hockey.tv. [Note, lots of Whalers' content here.]

Thanks to Ed Willes, for his book on the WHA…‘Rebel League, the short and unruly life of the World Hockey Association’, published by McLelland & Stewart, Toronto, 2004 {at Amazon, here}.

September 24, 2011

NHL 2011-2012 Location Map, with average attendances from 2010-2011 regular season, and Stanley Cup titles’ list (active teams) / With a short article on the arrival of European players into major-league ice hockey in North America, featuring the Hot Line of Hull/Hedberg/Nilsson (Winnipeg Jets 1974-78) / Plus Winnipeg Jets (II), logos / Plus Winnipeg Jets (I): a graphic synopsis of the franchise that is now based in Phoenix.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 8:52 pm

nhl_2011-12_post_.gif
NHL, 2011-12 location map, with 2010-11 avg. attendances, and all-time titles list




NHL.com
For the fifth-straight season, the NHL will begin the season by playing a set of games in Europe…
NHL to play regular-season games in Europe again‘.
The 2011-2012 NHL regular season will begin on October 6. On October 7, 2 games will be played in Europe – one of which is the Anaheim Ducks versus the Buffalo Sabres in Helsinki, Finland. It is no coincidence that the Ducks are playing in Finland, because Helsinki is the birthplace of their 18-year veteran superstar Teemu Selänne, who plays Right Wing and is 41 years old, yet still was the 8th-highest scorer in the NHL last season (with 80 points). In fact, there are 4 Finnish players on Anaheim, the other three being the Ducks’ captain, and two-time-All-Star, the Center Saku Koivu; Defenseman Toni Lydman, and Goalie Iiro Tarkki. The Anaheim Ducks currently have 7 European players on their roster [all the roster lists linked to here were as of Sept.24,2011]. The Buffalo Sabres also currently have 7 European players on their roster, including Finnish LW Vinne Leino.

Also on October 7, the Los Angeles Kings will play the New York Rangers in Stockholm, Sweden. On the LA Kings’ current roster is 1 European playerr. The New York Rangers boast 8 European players on their current roster, including 3 Swedes, most notably their starting Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, as well as LW Carl Hagelin and RW Andreas Thuresson.

The following day (October 8) Stockholm, Sweden will host another regular-season game, with the Ducks vs. the Rangers; while the Sabres and the Kings will play in Berlin, Germany [this will the first-ever regular-season-NHL-game in Germany]. Buffalo has 2 German players on their current roster – D Christian Ehrhoff (ex-Vancouver Canuck), and assistant-captain and 8-season-Sabres’-veteran, the Left Winger Jochen Hecht.

Granted, team rosters are preseason-bloated and have not been pared down, but I think you get the idea. There are an awful lot of European players playing in the National Hockey League these days. And that brings us to my segue… the North American teams that were the trailblazers in utilizing European-born and European-raised talent. Sure, the New York Rangers had the first European-born-and-raised NHL player, Swedish 1964 Olympic Silver Medalist Ulf Sterner, who played 4 games for the New York Rangers in 1964-1965. But the first two major-league hockey teams in North America who played European players on a regular basis were the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association. In 1973-1974, with the Swedes Borje Salming (D), and Inge Hammarström (LW), the Maple Leafs blazed the trail {here is the Hockey Hall of Fame site’s page on Borje Salming; here is an article on Borje Salming’s impact on the game in North America from Greatest Hockey Legends.com}. The following season, 1974-1975, the Winnipeg Jets signed three other Swedes, two of whom would go on to have a huge impact on the offensive style of ice hockey in North America. Those two players were Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, who, when teamed with legendary Hall of Famer Bobby Hull, formed the “Hot Line’” [Note: the third Swedish-born player who also played on the Jets back then was Defenseman Lars-Erik Sjöberg (1974-80 on Winnipeg), and Sjöberg usually played on the same shift with the Hull/Hedbergh/Nilsson line].

The two Swedes on Toronto, and Borje Salming in particular, showed that Europeans could hack it in major-league North American hockey. But the two Swedes who began playing for Winnipeg a year later would go on to prove that Europeans could win titles in North America. The trio of Nilsson (C), Hull (LW), and Hedberg (RW) played a swift, inter-weaving style of ice hockey that threw away the notion that wingers must stay in their channels. With their puck-handling skills and speed, they were able to control the flow of the game. On counter-attacks, when they switched positions as the need arose, they were swift and deadly.
From Rebel League - The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, by Ed Willes (McLellan & Stewart, Toronto, 2004) -
{excerpt…”You could argue whether the Hull-Hedberg-Nilsson line – the Hot Line – was the best line in the game’s history, but they were inarguably the most influential. They played together for just four years, but when they were done practically every NHL team was trying to capture the magical combination of speed, skill, and creativity the line possessed. Glen Sather built his Edmonton Oilers dynasty on the Jets model. The modern transition game was pioneered by Hull and his colleagues, as was the practice of interchanging forward roles on the rush. The numbers they accumulated in their four seasons together are staggering, but they played in a league without a television contract, which means most of their legacy is anecdotal and almost mythic. In the end it only seems to add to their aura. And if the NHL never saw the best of Hedberg and Nilsson, in much the same way the NBA never saw the best of Julius Erving, it makes their four years in Winnipeg that much more memorable.
“They revolutionized the game,” says André Lacroix, the seven-year WHA veteran. “They said, Just because you play left wing doesn’t mean you have to go up and down your wing like a robot. You can use the whole ice. It was exciting”.
“…end of excerpt}

winnipeg-jets_1974_ulf-nilsson_bobby-hull_anders-hedberg_2d.gif

Hull, Hedberg, and Nilsson skated circles around the opposition and revolutionized the game in North America, and led Winnipeg to the first 2 of the team’s 3 WHA titles. Here’s a few numbers …in 1974-75, in their first season together, Ulf Nilsson had an astounding 94 assists (for 120 points). In 1977-78, en route to the second of Winnipeg’s 3 WHA titles, Anders Hedberg scored 76 goals in an 81-game season (and became the first-ever to score 50 goals in 50 games), and between the three of them the Hot Line amassed 365 points that season. This sort of offensive domination kick-started a scramble amongst other teams to get some European players of their own. The other WHA teams, and, more importantly, other NHL teams, soon began to dip into the vast European talent pool, to the point where, some 37 years later, roughly 25 to 30 percent of NHL players are European.
From en.wikipedia.org, ‘List of NHL statistical leaders by country‘.

Lack-of-new-content disclaimer…This map, which you can see by clicking on the image at the top of this post, and which I originally posted around 3 years ago {here} is basically an excuse to show off the new Winnipeg Jets (II), whose franchise moved from Atlanta, Georgia, USA to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in June 2011, returning NHL hockey to Manitoba and the Canadian prairies after a 15-year absence. Thank you Gods of Hockey, for relocating a team, for once, in the proper direction. When a new NHL team comes to the Sunbelt, the collective response there is “Meh”. When a new NHL team comes to a Canadian city, the collective response there is to sell out the entire allotment of season tickets in a matter of minutes. From The Winnipeg Free Press, from June 4, 2011, by Ed Tait “Season ticket wait list capped at 8,000 following 17-minute sellout‘.
Thanks to the Canadians who got this team out of the Deep South and into the frozen North, where major league hockey teams belong. You’re next, Phoenix.
winnipeg-jets2011-logos_b.gif
Photo credit – shop.nhl.com

Winnipeg Jets‘ at en.wikipedia.org.
Jets.nhl.com

Winnipeg Jets (I), 1972-1973 to 1995-1996.
7 seasons in WHA, 3 Avco Cup titles. 17 seasons in NHL.
winnipeg-jets1972-1996_original-wha-team_logos_move-to-phoenix1996_c.gif

winnipeg-jets-_wha_nhl_1972-1996_phoenix-coyotes_est1996_2b.gif
_
Photo of Stanley Cup from Photobucket.com.
Photo credits (pucks) – ClassicAuctions.net (1930s) . ClassicAuctions.net (ca. late 1950s/early 1960s) . ClassicAuctions.net (“Original Six teams [on reverse of puck]). ClassicAuctions.net , here (ca. 1960s) . GasolinAlleyAntiques.com , here (ca. 1970s) . GasolineAlleyAntiques.com (1974-1983) .PittsburghHockey.net [75th] . GasolineAlley.com (ca. 1995-2008) Collectible-Supplies.com (2011 Stanley Cup Finlas puck).Amazon.com [Boston Bruins, who were 2010-11 NHL champions] .

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, ‘National Hockey League‘.
Thanks to ESPN for 2010-11 NHL attendances, here.
Thanks to RoadTraficSigns.com, for the arrow-sign.
Thanks to Ed Willes, for his book on the WHA…‘Rebel League, the short and unruly life of the World Hockey Association’, published by McLelland & Stewart, Toronto, 2004 {at Amazon, here}.

November 18, 2010

National Hockey League, 1974-75 season, with two more teams added: the Kansas City Scouts and the Washington Capitals.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 5:51 pm

nhl1974-75-w-jerseys_post_d.gif
NHL 1974-75 season




The 1974-75 NHL season…
The league expanded the schedule slightly, from 78 games to the 80 game regular season that it still maintains to 2010-11. The two-division format was replaced by a 2-conference/4-division format that on the surface had no geographic orientation. But there actually was a couple of geographic clusters within the 4 divisions, with the teams from the Eastern seaboard cities in one division (NY Rangers, NY Islanders, Philadelphia Flyers, Atlanta Flames), and the Midwest teams (Chicago Black Hawks, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota North Stars, Kansas City Scouts), plus the Vacouver Canucks, in another division.

The revised playoff format was sort of ahead of its time in one respect, and credit must be given to the NHL front office for this innovation…In each round of the playoffs, teams were seeded according to regular-season records, so best played worst/second-best played second-worst, etc. This gave more weight to the regular season and continued to reward the teams with the better regular season records.

1974-75 playoff brackets, here.

In the Stanley Cup finals, the Philadelphia Flyers, coached by Fred Shero, led by gap-toothed scoring wizard Bobby Clarke, and muscled by a cast of goons who earned the name “The Broad Street Bullies“, beat the Buffalo Sabres, led by the “French Connection” scoring line of Rick Martin/Gil Perrault/Rene Robert, 4 games to 2. The Flyers, who would repeat as champions the following season (but have never won the Cup since) were the first modern-day expansion team to hoist Lord Stanley’s cup.

1974-75 NHL Expansion…

At this point in the history of the league, the NHL was in a war of escalation with the World Hockey Association, and that meant continued expansion in defiance of logic, and in defiance of the depleted talent pool.

So 1974-75 saw the NHL’s fourth expansion in 7 seasons, with the addition of the 11th and 12th expansion teams in that 7 year period…that made it 18 NHL teams, when there were just 6 teams 8 years previous. And because the WHA had 14 teams at this point, there were now 32 major league hockey teams in North America, where 8 years before there were just 6 teams. The quality of play obviously suffered, and this season saw the worst-ever record by a major professional hockey team, with the expansion Washington Capitals winning just 8 out of 80 games (with 5 ties), for 21 points. The other expansion team, the short-lived Kansas City Scouts, had a better showing on the ice, with 15 wins and 11 ties for 41 points, but this ill-conceived franchise had a much bigger problem. Very few people in western Missouri/eastern Kansas bothered to attend Scouts’ games. It’s pretty obvious that the NHL front office did very little in the way of, well, scouting out suitable expansion locations, because this part of the USA has never been even remotely close to being a hotbed for ice hockey. To show you how little interest there is in hockey in Kansas City, currently there is no minor league hockey team there (the last being the Kansas City Blades of the now-defunct IHL, who drew 5,235 per game in their last season in 2001-02), although there is a Central Hockey League team in Independence, Missouri, which is 18 km./11 miles south of Kansas City.

The Kansas City Scouts’ two seasons saw an average of 4,109 per game (the league average in the NHL in 1974-75 was 13,224 per game {see this, from Hockey Zone Plus.com}. The under-capitalized owners were forced to sell to a consortium in Denver, Colorado, and in 1976-77, the Scouts became the Colorado Rockies. That incarnation of the franchise would have similar problems, and the franchise only became viable when it moved east, in 1982, and became the New Jersey Devils.

The Washington Capitals had better financing, and, being situated on the southern edge of the chain of Northeast metro areas, were far better positioned to build a good fan base. The Capitals to this day have never won a Stanley Cup title (with one Stanley Cup finals appearance, in 1998), but are a strong NHL franchise that consistently sells out their arena (the Caps were one of the eleven NHL teams that played to 100% capacity last season), and have evolved into an exciting team that features one of the league’s superstars in the Russian left winger Alexander Ovechkin. Their biggest problem is that they are stuck in the NHL’s bogus Southeast Division, which, aside from the Washington Capitals (and arguably, the Carolina Hurricanes), is full of teams that never should have been created…the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Atlanta Thrashers. In the NHL, the Board of Governors has never learned the lessons of over-expanding.

It’s time for Canada to re-claim it’s rightful share of NHL teams

The fact is nothing has really changed in the NHL, and the top brass continues their pipe dream of establishing the NHL in places where there is no tradition of playing hockey or supporting an ice hockey team. So tens of thousands of potential season ticket holders in Canada go ignored, and the NHL is full of lame teams in the South or the Southwest that no one cares about, where attendances are even worse than the official attendance figures because the NHL pads the gate figures with thousands of free tickets per game. There are at least four teams that should never have been created – the Phoenix Coyotes, the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Atlanta Thrashers. Now add the Columbus Blue Jackets to the list of failing new franchises. Columbus is a pretty small market to sustain a major league team (1.7 million, 32nd largest city in the USA), so it could be said that it was inevitable that, come an economic downturn, a team like this would suffer. Columbus, Ohio is part of a region in south-central Ohio that is pretty devoid of any ice hockey history. And, you know, it is not that uncommon to hear citizens of Columbus, Ohio that speak with a southern accent…it’s a city that is more a part of the region of the greater Ohio River Valley than the region of the Great Lakes-rim cities of the Rust Belt. Columbus only averages 29 inches of snow a year, and the average high and low temperatures in the coldest month, January, are only a high average of 36 degrees F/2.4 Celsius, and a low average of 20 degrees F/-6.5 Celsius, so you can see there could never really have been a tradition of kids playing ice hockey outdoors in Columbus…ponds and flooded park parking lots would keep melting even in the coldest part of the year, unlike in Detroit, Buffalo, southern Ontario, etc. {see this}. Also, consider that Columbus, Ohio’s most famous product is the Ohio State Buckeyes college football team, and Ohio State University boasts the largest campus in America. When you look at the the demographics and the schedules, it is college football (and to a lesser extent, college basketball) that is going to be the biggest impediment to the NHL extending their product into new markets with any success, especially since the NHL likes to choose as expansion locations mid-sized cities where no NBA team is (like San Jose, Columbus, Nashville, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Greensboro, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and the 3 western Canadian teams). And college football is king in the South and the Southwest. College basketball is also pretty big in the Ohio Valley, and in case you’re wondering, Ohio State’s ice hockey team can also be seen to be eating into the Columbus Blue Jacket’s fan base (the Buckeyes ice hockey team averaged 3,096 per game in 2010…the 21st highest drawing program in NCAA hockey [Wisconsin was *1 again, see this pdf} . With very few exceptions, specifically the Dallas Stars, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Nashville Predators, there will never be significant interest in major league ice hockey in the South and the Southwest.

Here's a concrete example of how little presence ice hockey has in the Southwest... from Arena Maps.com, the following link shows ice hockey arenas in the province of Manitoba, Canada, here [over 230 ice rinks in Manitoba].
This link shows ice hockey arenas in the far-more populated state of Arizona, here [20 ice rinks in Arizona}.

Where are the hard-core fans going to come from in Arizona when there is only 20 ice rinks in the whole state? Sure you are going to attract some casual fans, interested in the novelty of ice hockey in the desert, but they will by and large vanish when the economy falters and choices must be made about where someone's disposable income goes...and this is what's happening. NHL hockey games are not cheap, and good tickets are way above $100. If the team you are spending all that money on is doing bad, that 100 bucks or so you are dropping each time out gets old pretty fast. But Phoenix has a good team, so it's even worse than most examples of poor attendances in the recent past, by other NHL teams that are currently doing well. Because when teams like Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Vancouver, and Chicago were in trouble, those teams were also doing bad on the ice, and in some cases the arenas were inadequate (Vancouver especially), and in some cases the ownership was poor and alienated the fans (like in Chicago). But in those cases, bad teams precipitated poor attendances. Not so with Phoenix - the Coyotes had the 5th best record in the NHL last season, but still had the worst attendance at 11,989 {here are official 2009-10 NHL average attendance figures (as measured by tickets distributed by NHL teams), here}.

Teams like Phoenix and Atlanta and Columbus and the Islanders are getting 7,000-attendances for some games this season, and Phoenix is averaging 10,265 per game as of Nov. 18, 2010 - and remember, that's for tickets distributed, not tickets sold. Yes, the NHL's official statistics for attendances do not measure tickets sold. The figures don't even measure turnstile clicks, but rather tickets distributed. So in places like Phoenix, they are literally giving away tickets and still people won't attend. For many teams the attendance figures are hollow figures. It's the NHL's dirty little secret. And it's not like a couple hundred tickets per game, the give-away tickets very often number in the thousands per game...the poor-drawing teams are giving away, free, up to, and some times even more than 3,000 tickets per game. Often, this fact is not even brought up when poor hockey attendances are discussed, and it is all but impossible to find figures, in black and white, as to what extent free tickets are distributed in the NHL. But they were part of prospective (and continually rebuffed) would-be NHL owner Jim Balsillie's court filing in 2009... {see this post from June, 2009, from the From The Rink.com site - sorry for the tiny print in the figures, but hit the Shift and + keys a couple times to enlarge}. To save you the trouble of eye-strain, the photo of the list submitted to the court shows that the announced gates at Phoenix home games in 2008-09 averaged 3,923 higher than the turnstile count. So the low gate figures are even lower. In 2008-09, Phoenix was actually seeing 10,943 ticket holders pass through the turnstiles per game, not the "official" atendance average of 14,866. So now, 10,200 per game in Phoenix, is more like 7,000 paying customers (if that). By the way, I can't confirm this, but I have seen it posted on some hockey fan message boards that the lowest number of free tickets distributed are in Canada and specifically the western Canadian teams, especially Vancouver, and Calgary.

Go to hockey message boards {HF Boards.com/thread -Attendance Issues, part II, ~Nov. 7, 2010, here}, with discussions about falling attendances in places like Atlanta and Phoenix and you will get Atlanta Thrashers fans who insist it's because of lame ownership and "poor marketing". The fact is, hockey does not need to be "marketed" in Canada. People care about the sport and are willing to drop way more than $75 dollars a pop, several times a season, to support local NHL product. Contrast this with the South, the Southwest, and many places in the Midwest, even, where NHL hockey highlights, if shown at all, will be shown after local high school football highlights. And saying that there is great potential for major league hockey in the Greater Atlanta metro area because the nearby Gwinnett Gladiators draw over 7,000 per game in the ECHL (Gwinnett's peak crowds were actually at 5,656 per game in 2007-08,{see this}) does not prove that Atlanta can be a successful major league hockey town, because those tickets are far, far cheaper than NHL tickets. We're talking like 20 bucks for an ECHL game versus at least 50 and more like 75 bucks for an NHL game {$78 for OK seats in Atlanta, see this}. A family of four can have a night out at a minor league hockey game for around $100, versus more like $300 to $400 at an NHL game.

From NHL.FanHouse.com, November 9, 2010, by Alan Adams, 'Attendance Woes Just Won't Go Away for Sun Belt Teams'. The situation will not change until Gary Bettman is gone from the commissioner's seat. He is trying to gloss over the abject failure of NHL expansion into the Sunbelt, by propping up the Phoenix Coyotes, and preventing any talk of relocation of them, or of the other tepidly supported teams in Georgia and Florida. He thinks he is protecting his legacy, but he will only harm it more by basically betraying hockey fans. Why is it that these new teams are so crucial, but he did little if anything to save the Winnipeg Jets, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Hartford Whalers, all who moved to warm weather locales in the 1990s ? Because 2 of those 3 teams were based in mid-sized Canadian cities, and all 3 were teams in cold weather locations, and the NHL is primarily interested in expansion into warm weather areas...where very few people ever cared or ever will care about ice hockey. The NHL thinks it can create a coast to coast and north to south, continent-spanning league, that will generate vast sums in television contracts. In truth, ice hockey will always be a regional sport...but there is absolutely no shame in that. The NHL Board of Governors has been chasing this "major sport" illusion for over 40 years now, and have turned their backs on true hockey fans, and potential season ticket holders, in Canadian cities like Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Hamilton, Ontario; and Quebec City, Quebec.

"Can you imagine another industry which is of huge importance to Canadians, where Canadian consumers are being denied access to a product that they vigorously demand, all because of an anti-competitive agreement between 30 wealthy owners, 24 of whom are American?" -U.S. sports law professor Stephen Ross, of Penn State University, in this article by Dave Feschuk in the Star.com, from Sept. 12, 2009, here.
Canada is where ice hockey became a viable professional sport. Canada is where sizable bases of serious hockey fans are. What kind of patriots are these Canadian-born NHL owners and Canadian-born NHL Board of Governors? They have forsaken their fellow Canadians, and specifically Canadians who live in mid-sized cities who would jump at the chance to actively support new NHL teams. They have continued to reject James Balsillie's repeated attempts to relocate one of the failing US-based NHL teams to Hamilton, Ontario {see the following, 'NHL's ugly bid to beat Balsillie in Coyotes fray, more notes', by Jim Kelley at SportsIllustrated.CNN.com, August 27, 2009}. Why? The NHL can spin it any way they want, but it is because Hamilton is 57 km./35 miles away from Toronto...too close, they maintain, to the Toronto Maple Leafs and a threat to the Maple Leafs' fan base and franchise. Please. There are teams all over the world that are from cities or regions with similar or even smaller populations than Toronto (which has around 5.1 million people in the metro area, see this), who compete in the same leagues with other local rival teams, and they all are able to successfully draw fans...in association football [aka soccer]… cities from Glasgow in Scotland (approximately 1.16 million in the Greater Glasgow area), to Manchester (around 2.24 million in the Greater Manchester area) and Liverpool (around 1.37 million in the Liverpool urban area) in England, to Amsterdam/Rotterdam in the Netherlands (which are 55 km./34 miles apart and have combined metro populations of 1.5 million + 1.1 million= 2.6 million). ['List of largest United Kingdom settlements by population', from en.wikipedia.org; Netherland largest cities, from mongabay.com, here].

The football clubs in these cities…Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow; Manchester United and Manchester City in Manchester; Liverpool and Everton in Merseyside; and Ajax and Feyenoord in Holland… are all able to maintain high average attendances (all over 35,000 per game and in some cases, like Man U., of over 70,000 per game) over a slate of 20 to 30 home matches each season, even though another high drawing competitor also plays in their area. When you crunch the numbers, these football clubs are pulling in, in total accumulated attendance from home league matches, as much as or more than the highest drawing NHL teams. Example…Liverpool FC plays 19 Premier League home matches a season. They drew 42,864 per game in 2009-10. Everton FC, who play 3 miles away, drew 36,725 per game. 42,864 X 19 = 814,416 total accumulated attendance for Liverpool.; 36,725 x 19 = 697,775 total accumulated attendance for Everton.

That’s two teams in a city/metropolitan region less than half the size of Toronto, with an average total accumulated attendance in 2009-10 of 756,095. Toronto Maple Leafs played to 102.5% capacity in 2009-10, and averaged 19,260 per game, with an accumulated total attendance of 789,681 over 40 home games total {NHL 2009-10 attendances, from ESPN. here}.

So that’s almost exactly equal accumulated attendances, and remember, Liverpool is less than half the size of Toronto, and probably has even a smaller fraction of the total disposable income that Toronto citizens have. And still Liverpool is able to support 2 big teams. And I haven’t even factored in the populations of Hamilton (or Kitchener, for that matter), so there really is more like 6.1 million, not just the 5.1 million, in Toronto’s wider regional area (ie, the area which people could attend a hockey game by driving approximately one hour or less). And I haven’t even included other home matches Liverpool and Everton played in Cup competitions, so those accumulated attendance figures will surpass the Maple Leaf accumulated attendance figures…even if Toronto made the playoffs once in a while, thus adding more home dates. But that’s another problem when one team gets complacent because they play in a large sports market with no local rivals…they start to stagnate. And Toronto has not won a Stanley Cup title since the modern expansion era began in 1967-68. Coincidence ? Want another example of how a local rival breeds a more competitive atmosphere ? The New York Rangers, after winning 3 Stanley Cup titles in their first 14 seasons, did not win a Stanley Cup title during the 30 years they were the sole team in the New York/New Jersey metro area (1942 to 1972) [the Rangers, of course finally won another Stanley Cup title in 1994].

The Toronto Maple Leafs’ majority owner is the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Fund {see this}. The last thing a huge pension fund wants to do is invest with no guaranteed return, and that’s exactly what attempting to build a championship contender would entail. So the Maple Leafs are virtually institutionally guaranteed to not be successful on the ice. They play to a plus-100% capacity. They have got a sweet deal, without even having to bother to be competitive, and the Leafs suck most years. The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2003-04. Why would a pension fund want to invest in building a championship caliber team when there is no need (there is no relegation system like in European football), when they have basically got a license to print money – because that’s what owning the sole hockey franchise in the largest city in Canada, with no competition in the market, will get you – guaranteed sell outs, and you don’t even have to bother fielding a competitive squad.

The New York Rangers were coerced into allowing the New York Islanders into the league in 1972-73, and then a decade later those two teams were coerced into allowing a third team into the New York/New Jersey metro area, when the New Jersey Devils set up shop in 1982-83. Granted, New York City is larger than Toronto, but the Toronto-and-southern Ontario region could easily support another NHL team. After all, in 1974-75, the WHA’s Toronto Toros were drawing 10,436 per game when they rented out the Maple Leaf Gardens from the Maple Leafs, and the Toros got most of the bad nights…that is to say, very few high-attendance generating game dates like on the weekends [The NHL average in 1974-75 was 13,224 per game {1960-61 to 1998-99 NHL attendances, here}]. That Toros’ attendance avrerage of 10,436 might seem on the low side today, but it wasn’t a low figure 36 years ago for a rebel league… only one other WHA team besides the Toronto Toros ever had a higher-than-10,000 per game average attendance, and that was the Edmonton Oilers, who did it in 3 of the 7 WHA seasons. [WHA attendance figures at the left of the WHA map page, here.]
-
Thanks to Jersey Database.com site, for the 1974-75 jerseys, jerseydatabase.com/browse – hockey [click on team names, for each team's jersey fronts, which are shown on a new page, horizontally and in chronological order].
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, 1974-75 NHL season. 2010-11 NHL season.

November 15, 2010

National Hockey League. 1972-73 season, with the 2 expansion teams – the Atlanta Flames and the New York Islanders.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 6:55 pm

NHL 1972-73 map.



1972-73 NHL season at en.wikipedia.org.
The 1972-73 National Hockey League season saw the NHL faced with rival-league competition for the first time since 1926 (when the original Western Hockey League had it’s final season). This competition came in the form of the World Hockey Association, which ended up playing 7 seasons before putting four franchises into the NHL in 1979-80. [My map and post on the World Hockey League can be seen here.] The NHL’s reaction to the upstart WHA went from indifference to mobilization pretty quickly, and a hastily-assembled expansion was put forward to block the WHA from establishing teams in Long Island, New York, and in Atlanta, Georgia. So the New York Islanders and the Atlanta Flames joined the NHL, making it a 16-team league. Then players started bolting from the NHL to the WHA, and the big losers included the NY Islanders who lost 11 players to the WHA (!), and the California Golden Seals, who lost 8 players. I find it very significant that many players back then would rather risk their careers to play in the very unstable and unproven WHA than in the long-established NHL on ersatz hockey clubs like the Golden Seals.
-
Montreal Canadians were champions in 1972-73, beating the Chicago Black Hawks 4 games to 2 in the 1973 Stanley Cup finals {playoff bracket, here}. This season and the next (1973-74) were the last seasons the NHL utilized a two-division format (a two-division format existed in the NHL from 1926-27 to 1937-38, and from 1967-68 to 1973-74). In 1974-75, yet another two teams joined the league and 4 divisions were created. That will be elaborated on in my next NHL and Expansion post, on Thursday.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, 2010-11 NHL season.
Thanks to NHL.com/shop, NHL Jerseys.
Thanks to Jersey Database site, where I got the 1972-73 jerseys, Jersey Database/Hockey

February 7, 2010

The World Hockey Association, 1972-73 to 1978-79: map of all 26 teams, with attendance figures and notes.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion,Hockey-WHA — admin @ 12:31 pm

wha_1972-79map-w-jerseys_post_2b.gif
The World Hockey Association, 1972-73 to 1978-79: map of all 26 teams, with attendance figures and notes


The World Hockey Association was a professional ice hockey league that operated for 7 seasons in the 1970s. It was a rival league to the National Hockey League that was ultimately successful in that it put four of its teams into the NHL in 1979.  Those four franchises still operate in the NHL, although only one, the Edmonton Oilers, have remained in the same city since its WHA days. 

The other three WHA teams that joined the NHL in 1979-80 were the New England Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets. The Quebec Nordiques played 16 seasons in the NHL before moving in 1995 to Denver, Colorado, USA, as the Colorado Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets played 17 seasons in the NHL before also moving across the border (in 1996), to Phoenix, Arizona,  as the Phoenix Coyotes (named Arizona Coyotes since 2014-15]. The New England Whalers changed their name to the Hartford Whalers when they entered the NHL in 1979. The Whalers played 18 seasons in the NHL before they moved south to North Carolina, in 1997, as the Carolina Hurricanes.

-

The WHA was founded by sports promoters Dennis Murphy and Gary Davidson,  who had been co-founders of the American Basketball Association (1967-1976),  which challenged the National Basketball Association and eventually put 4 ABA teams in the NBA. 1971,  the World Hockey Association was established, and began laying the groundwork for its first season, which would be in 1972-73, with 12 teams: 4 in Canada and 8 in the USA. The 12 teams that began play in 1972-73 were…Eastern Division:  Cleveland CrusadersNew England Whalers New York Raiders,  Ottawa Nationals,  Philadelphia Blazers,  Quebec Nordiques.      Western Division:  Alberta Oilers, Chicago Cougars,  Houston Aeros,  Los Angeles Sharks,  Minnesota Fighting Saints,  Winnipeg Jets.  8 teams would make the playoffs and compete for the Avco Cup. 

67 NHL players jumped to the WHA in the WHA’s first season.  The move that gave the new league instant credibility was the signing of Chicago Black Hawks superstar Bobby Hull by the Winnipeg Jets.  Hull was lured by the then-unheard of sum $1 million, which he received as a signing bonus (Hull earned $250,000 per year on top of that). Hull went on to be a two-time WHA MVP, scoring 77 goals in one season (1974-75). In a four-season period between 1974 and 1978, Hull’s teaming with Swedish line-mates Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson led the Winnipeg Jets to the first two of the team’s three Avco Cup titles. 

wha_winnipeg-jets_bobby-hull_anders-hedberg_ulf-nilsson_b.gif

-

Before the first season began,  in 1972,  other WHA teams used a similar strategy of luring an NHL star or two to build a team around.  The Philadelphia Blazers had goalie Bernie Parent,  who they’d snatched from the Toronto Maple Leafs,  and former Boston Bruins defenseman Derek Sanderson.  The Cleveland Crusaders signed Boston Bruins goaltending star Gerry Cheevers.  The Quebec Nordiques signed defenseman  JC Tremblay,  who’d bolted from the Montreal Canadiens.  The New England Whalers stole defenseman Ted Green from the Boston Bruins.  Green would captain the Whalers to the league’s first championship in 1972-73.

The NHL responded to all the incursions by the upstart WHA teams in two ways,  by litigation (all of which failed to get their players back) and by blocking the WHA from forming teams in arenas,  such as the newly built Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York.  There,  the NHL hastily assembled the expansion New York Islanders to play in 1972-73.  The WHA’s New York Raiders were forced to rent Madison Square Garden on onerous terms which they could not keep up with due to lackluster attendance.  The New York Raiders changed their name to the New York Golden Blades in 1973-74,  then moved to south New Jersey halfway through the season,  becoming the New Jersey Knights.  The Knights played in a dilapidated 4,000 seat areana that had a slope in the ice that caused pucks to shoot up in the air.  The franchise moved again,  this time across the country to San Diego,  where they became the San Diego Mariners,  who lasted for three seasons as a competitive hockey club that drew around 6,000 per game. 

The Houston Aeros got off to a rocky first season,  then set about trying to find a marquee name to draw the spotlight.  They came up with a promotional coup that in the end won them two championships.  The Aeros persuaded NHL legend Gordie Howe to come out of retirement as a 45-year old and play with his two sons,  Mark and Marty.  Some felt this was just a cheap stunt to draw attention to the novelty of an ice hockey team in the Sunbelt,  but no one was criticizing the Houston Aeros after the team won the Avco Cup in the first two seasons the Howe family played for them (1973-74 and 1974-75). 

wha_gordie-howe_mark-howe_marty-howe_houston-aeros_new-england-whalers_hartford-whalers_nhl_.gif
Gordie Howe scored 100 points his first season back,  winning the 1973-74 MVP.  Mark Howe won Rookie of the Year that season.  The Aeros repeated as champions in 1974-75,  then moved into the swank new Houston Summit,  where they became one of the top 3 draws in the league,  averaging 9,180 per game in 1975-76.  But in 1976-77,  the three Howes opted to sign with the New England Whalers.  The Houston Aeros folded after the 1977-78 season,  a year before the WHA did.  Once it became known that the NHL wasn’t interested in a team in Houston,  management cut their losses and did not play in the final WHA season of 1978-79. 

-

Circa 1973-76,  in Toronto,  the Maple Leaf Gardens and Toronto Maple Leafs’ owner Howard Ballard did everything in his power to make life difficult for the WHA’s Toronto Toros,  starting with charging an exhorbitant rent and including dimming the lights during Toros games,  preventing the Toros from using the Leafs’ locker room,  and taking away club house seat cushions.  The Toros actually drew pretty well,  averaging over 10,000 per game in 1974-75.  And the Toros got back at Ballard by stealing some of his players,  like Frank Mahovlich and Paul Henderson.  But two years later the Toronto Toros gave up trying to compete with the Maple Leafs and moved to Birmingham, Alabama as the Birmingham Bulls,  where they lasted until the end of the WHA in 1979,  drawing over 8,000 in 1976-77 and 1977-78.  The 1977-78 Bulls were maybe the largest collection of bruisers and goons ever assembled on a major league hockey team, including Steve Durbano and Dave Hanson.  The Bulls management had got to understand the Birmingham fan base after 2 seasons there,  and what those fans wanted there (in the Deep South which had no hockey tradition) was fights,  and lots of them. In the book “Rebel League”, by Ed Willes, veteran sportswriter Al Strachan recalls going to a game during the 1977-78 season in Birmingham, when the Bulls hosted the New England Whalers. After the Star Spangled Banner and ‘Dixie’ were played, a priest blessed the players. About 4 minutes into the game, the fans started chanting “Bring in the goons, bring in the goons.” So Bulls coach Glen Sonmor sent in a line featuring three toughs including Gilles “Bad News” Bilodeau. Bilodeua immediately jumped the Whalers Mark Howe. The next shift, Dave Hanson started another fight. The crowd went wild. So this was essentially the routine for hockey night in Birmingham.

Another team with a pugilistic legacy was the aptly named Minnesota Fighting Saints.  The Fighting Saints had the Carlson brothers,  three big shaggy enforcers who wore dorky black plastic rimmed glasses while terrorizing opponents on the ice, and relaxed by playing slot-cars in their free time.  If this all seems familiar,  that’s because the Carlson brothers (particularly Jack Carlson) were the prototype for the characters of the Hanson brothers in one of the greatest sports movies ever made,  Slap Shot  (1977),   which starred Paul Newman (and two of the three Carlsons) {see this, ‘Slap Shot’ (film), at en.wikipedia.org}.  Right before he began his big-league career with the Fighting Saints,  Jack Carlson had played for the minor-league Johnstown (Pennsylvania) Jets in 1974-75,  and was a teammate of Ned Dowd,  whose sister Nancy Dowd wrote the screenplay for the film. 

wha_minnesota-fighting-saints_mike-walton_jack-carlson_steve-carlson_jeff-carlson_aka-hanson-brothers_.gif

The Minnesota Fighting Saints best moment was when they made it to the semi-finals of the Avco Cup playoffs for the second straight season in 1974-75,  selling out the 16,000-capacity St. Paul Civic Center for some thrilling games versus the high-flying Quebec Nordiques.  But the Fighting Saints could not compete in the crowded Minneapolis-St. Paul market with the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars,  in spite of having attendances in the top 5 of the WHA (their best was 8,410 per game in ’74-75).  The Fighting Saints could not meet payroll for much of the 1975-76 season, and did not last the season.  The following season,  1976-77,  the Cleveland Crusaders then moved to Minnesota as the reborn Minnesota Fighting Saints (with red and yellow instead of blue and yellow uniforms),  but this team also could not last the season.

That was part of another instance of the NHL making a franchise move in response to the WHA..  The weakest NHL team,  the California Golden Seals,  moved to Cleveland, Ohio as the Cleveland Barons after the 1975-76 season.  The somewhat successful WHA team the Cleveland Crusaders chose not to compete directly with an NHL team for fans in Cleveland and promptly moved to Minnesota as the second incarnation of the Minnesota Fighting Saints (where they had to compete with the Minnesota North Stars,  but go figure;  they obviously felt that Minnesota was a better market for two ice hockey teams than northeast Ohio).  The Cleveland Barons were dissolved in 1978 (as the last NHL team to fold),  while the second Fighting Saints did not last the 1976-77 season.

-

While the WHA saw relatively successful franchises being built in Edmonton,  Winnipeg,  Houston,  Quebec,  and Hartford (New England),  all of the other WHA teams were on shaky ground.  But in spite of this,  the WHA expanded to 14 teams in 1974-75.  [And insanely,  the WHA also added 2 more expansion teams the following season in 1975-76:  the Cincinnati Stingers (1975-1979),  and the short-lived Denver Spurs (who folded before the end of their first season)] .  The new teams in 1974-75 were the Indianapolis Racers and the Phoenix Roadrunners.  Indianapolis drew well,  with averages of 7,900;  8, 700;  and 9,200 in their first three seasons.  The Indianapolis Racers lasted until early in the final WHA season of 1978-79.  The hockey club is now best known as the first pro team Wayne Gretzky played on,  in 1978,  when Gretzky was a 17-year old (and ineligible to play in the NHL).  The Phoenix Roadrunners lasted three seasons in the WHA,  with their highest average gate in their first season,  when they drew 7,400 per game.  Their star was Robbie Ftorek,  whose MVP season in 1976-77 was still not enough to keep the team from folding.

-

wha_quebec-nordiques_jc-tremblay_marc-tardiff_serge-bernier_real-cloutier-_.gif

The following link features a nice summary of the history of the Quebec Nordiques…from Third String Goalie blog, from Monday, June 21, 2010, 1995-96 Quebec Nordiques Prototype Jersey (thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com).

-

Of their time in the WHA,  the Edmonton Oilers only won one playoff series,  and that was in the final season of 1978-79.  In the first 4 seasons,  the team pretty much was a perpetual .500 percentage club run by tireless promoter Bill L. Hunter,  who despite his lack of hockey coaching acumen would perenially step in and replace the coach midway through the season…this happened in 1972-73,  1974-75,  and 1975-76.  The city of Edmonton had begun building a new hockey arena in 1973,  with the hopes of attracting an NHL team,  and the Oilers began playing at the Northlands Coliseum in November, 1974.  Their gates,  previously hampered by the small arena the team originally played in (see below),  shot up to the top of the league in 1974-75.  They drew 10,722 in 1974-75.  The club was still mediocre,  though,  but the arrival of two individuals would soon change that:  Glen Sather and Wayne Gretzky…

wha_alberta-oilers_edmonton-oilers_edmonton-gardens_al-hamilton_northlands-coliseum_rexall-place_glen-sather_wayne-gretzky_indianapolis-racers_si-cover1984_.gif

-

In all,  26 teams played in the World Hockey Association.  7 seasons were played,  with the Winnipeg Jets winning 3 Avco Cup titles,  the Houston Aeros winning 2 Avco Cup titles,  and the New England Whalers and the Quebec Nordiques winning 1 Avco Cup title each. 

The WHA effectively refuted the NHL’s postiion that there weren’t more than 3 cities in Canada capable of supporting a major league hockey team.  The fact that 2 of those 3 Canadian WHA teams that made it into the NHL in 1979 were eventually moved to American cities doesn’t diminish the WHA’s importance to Canadian hockey fans.  Had the WHA never existed,  it is doubtful that the NHL would have ever put a team in Calgary in 1980 (thus making road trips to Edmonton that much more economical) or put a team back in Ottawa in 1992.  And it is very doubtful the NHL woukd have ever put a team in Edmonton,  whose Oilers went on to win 4 Stanley Cup titles in 5 years from 1984 to 1990.  The WHA also is important for opening the door to European players,  which in turn had a big influence in changing the game to the swift,  skills-oriented passing game it is today. 

And finally,  the WHA is important to hockey players for challenging and legally removing the NHL’s reserve clause which (illegally) restricted hockey players’ rights and abilty to seek employment elsewhere when their contracts ended,  thus allowing pro hockey players the chance to realize previously unheard of earning potential. 

-

I recommend this site for further info on the late great WHA… http://www.whahockey.tv/ .   There is lots of old video from WHA games here.

Here is but one,  of New England Whaler Tom Webster scoring two sweet goals {click here}.

This one is not from that site,  but I decided to end with this… ‘WHA Hockey’- Fights and Fashion’ (7:13),  posted by galaxycorps,  on Youtube {click here}.

-

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org {click here}.   Thanks to WHA Uniforms.com,  for jerseys {click here}.   Thanks to Super 70s.com,  for attendance figures {click here}.   Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page {click here}.   Thanks to WHA San Diego Mariners site {click here}.   Thanks to Winnipeg Jets Online.com {click here}.   Thanks to Joe Pelletier’s Greatest Hockey Legends site {Glen Sather page, here}.

Thanks to  WHAhockey.com {click here},  for some of the photos,  and for some of the facts.

Thanks to Ed Willes,  for his book on the WHA…‘Rebel League, the short and unruly life of the World Hockey Association’,  published by McLelland & Stewart, Toronto, 2004  {at Amazon,  here}.

February 4, 2010

National Hockey League. 1970-71 season, with the 2 expansion teams-the Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 11:00 am

Category: NHL and expansion
-Please note:
to see the most-recent entry in the category: NHL and expansion,
click on the following (from Dec. 2014),
National Hockey League, 1991-92 season, 22 teams, with one team added (San Jose Sharks)./ Origin of the Sharks franchise and nickname./ Stats leaders in 1991-92 NHL./ Map features dark-jersey-logo histories of the 22 oldest active NHL franchises.

-To see the first entry in the category: NHL and expansion,
click on the following (from Dec. 2009),
National Hockey League. 1927-28 season map, and an overview of the NHL’s first expansion era, with 7 expansion teams added between 1924 and 1926…and 5 teams defunct by 1942.

.
.
.
.

nhl1970-71map-w-jerseys_post_c.gif




In 1970-71, the NHL built upon their 6-team expansion of 3 years earlier by adding two more expansion teams, the Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks.

The league also addressed the power disparity of the two divisions. There was widespread criticism of the divisional structure after three straight Stanley Cup finals where the team from the all-expansion Western Division was swept by the team from the Eastern Division. All three years it was the St. Louis Blues who were swept in the Stanley Cup finals…twice straight by the Montreal Canadiens in 1967-68 and 1968-69, and by the Boston Bruins in 1969-70. 

So the NHL top brass was forced to tinker with the divisional and playoffs structure. First they put both of the expansion teams, Buffalo and Vancouver, in the Eastern Division. Then they had the Chicago Black Hawks switch from the Eastern to the Western Division. And finally, the league made half of the round-two playoff teams play opponents in the other division.

Putting Vancouver (a Pacific coast city) in the Eastern Division was rather strange. So was the new playoff system, which violated a basic principle of divisional structures, by having teams cross over to play teams from the other division. But there were far more competitive Stanley Cup finals for the next few years.

The 1970-71 Stanley Cup finals went to a hard-fought seventh game, with the Montreal Canadiens defeating the Chicago Black Hawks by the score of 4-3, coming back from a 2-0 deficit halfway through the second period of game 7.  Down by two goals, the Habs’ Jacques Lemaire took a shot from center ice that somehow escaped Chicago goalie Tony Esposito, and Henri Richard tied the score just before the end of the second period. Henri Richard scored again 2:34 into the third period, and goalie Ken Dryden, in his first season in the NHL, shut down the Black Hawks for the final half hour of the game. This was the last time a seventh game in the Stanley Cup finals was won by the visiting team, until the Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2009 Stanley Cup final in Detroit.  
___

Thanks to Logo Shak {click here}. Thanks to Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page {Vancouver Canucks,  click here };  {Buffalo Sabres,  click here}.
Thanks to NHL/shop, http://shop.nhl.com/.

Special thanks to Jersey Database, for the jersey illustrations on the map page, at Jersey database.com/ [browse - Hockey...see column for "Jersey Fronts", by team].

January 10, 2010

National Hockey League. The start of the second expansion era, 1967-68 season (6 teams added).

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 2:24 pm

nhl1967-68map-w-jerseys_post_.gif




The modern era in the National Hockey League began in 1967-68,  when the league doubled its size from 6 to 12 teams.  All 6 expansion teams were grouped together to form the newly created Western Division.  The 6 established teams (aka “the Original Six”) were grouped together to form the newly created Eastern Division.   [The Eastern and Western Division set-up lasted 7 seasons.]

All 6 expansion teams were from the United States,  with two teams from California (the Los Angeles Kings and the Oakland Seals),  two teams from the Midwest (the Minnesota North Stars and the St. Louis Blues),  and two teams from the Northeast…both from the state of Pennsylvania (the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins).  

[Canada was shut out of this expansion,  but a third Canadian team would join the NHL 3 years later,  when the Vancouver Canucks (along with the Buffalo Sabres) joined the NHL in 1970-71.]   

On the map,  there is a sidebar at the top,  left which shows the expansion history of the NHL,  from 1967-68 to 2009-10.

-

The NHL was pursuing US television broadcast money,  and to do so they felt they had to establish a presence throughout the USA,  not just in the Northeast and the upper Midwest.  This was the reason Canada saw no expansion here,  in 1967-68.  It was also rumored that the Toronto and Montreal owners didn’t want any more Canadian teams because that would force them to split the Canadian television broadcast money.  And the NHL league office refused to seriously consider bids from cities like Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg,  without really explaining why they had no interest in putting teams there.  It was because they were Canadian cities,  and would not contribute to the pursuit of American television broadcast money.  This would become a pattern that persists,  and plagues the game,  to this day…the NHL’s league executives and owners lying about their intentions when it comes to placement of teams.  Basically the NHL would rather have a team in a warm weather locale in the United States that has zero tradition of ice hockey,  rather than a team in a provincial city in Canada where to this day kids play hockey outdoors all winter,  and where there are thousands and thousands of hockey fans willing to regularly attend games of a nearby NHL team they could call their own.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan;  Winnipeg, Manitoba;  Hamilton/Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario;  and Quebec City, Quebec specifically.  All because of the NHL chasing big television money that never seems to materialize,  and trying to be a continent-wide sporting institution when it is ultimately simply the top league of a regional sport.  Here is an article from The [Toronto] Star.com,  from October 3, 2009, ‘Ziegler’s NHL dream got burned in Sunbelt’  {click here}.

-

In 1967,  the NHL wanted all 6 expansion teams in the same division so an expansion team would be guaranteed a place in rhe Stanley Cup finals.  Why the top brass including commissioner Clarence Campbell thought it was so important for an expansion team to be in the Stanley Cup finals was never really adequately explained.  After all,  the other major sports leagues in the United States never felt the need to alter their league’s structure so that brand new teams could advance to the playoff finals.  And most sports fans would probably agree that expansion teams should really have to ”pay their dues”,  or,  basically,  be lousy for at least a couple years,  before they become good enough to qualify for a league’s playoff finals.  And sure enough,  in the three seasons that the NHL had this team/division structure,  the Stanley Cup finalist from the all-expansion Western Division was the loser.  All three seasons it was the St. Louis Blues,  and not only did the Blues lose those 3 consecutive Stanley Cup finals,  they never even won one game.  The Blues were swept by Montreal in 1967-68 and 1968-69,  and by Boston in 1969-70.

The expansion teams didn’t really like the set-up either,  as was shown when,  after the 1967-68 season,  the new teams petitioned for the schedule be more balanced.  The teams in the Western Division wanted more home games versus the established (and more popular) teams in the Eastern Division,  because attendance was suffering as a result of all these games between expansion teams.  So in 1968-69,  teams began playing more inter-divisional games (it went from 24 inter-division games per team to 36,  or from 4 games v. teams in the other division to 6 games v. teams in the other division).

-

The 1967-68 expansion put pro hockey in 3 markets it never had been in (southern California,  the San Francisco Bay area,  and Minneapolis-St. Paul),  and in 3 markets that never got a decent shot at sustaining an NHL team because of the Great Depression (Philadelphia,  Pittsburgh, and St. Louis).  

Here are league attendance figures from the 1960-61 NHL season to the 1998-99 season {click here (HockeyZonePlus.com}.  

[These days,  the NHL averages in the mid 17,000-range,  with a 17,475 average for the league in 2008-09.  {team by team attendance figures in 2009-10, here (ESPN).]   

-    

In 1967-68,  the 6 expansion teams all got relatively good,  but not great,  attendance,  with one glaring exception.  That was the Oakland Seals.  The team was never able to tap into the San Francisco market,  and some games were only drawing around 3,000.  Ownership changes,  front office changes,  coaching changes,  personnel changes,  team name changes,  and uniform changes all failed to alter the fact that the Seals,  then the Golden Seals (after 1970) were a doomed entity.  The California Golden Seals ended up being sold and moved to Cleveland,  where the franchise played its last two seasons as the Cleveland Barons (1976-1978).  The owners were able to work a deal with the league where they bought the then-struggling Minnesota North Stars franchise,  and transferred all the Baron players and personnel to Minnesota,  thus dissolving the Barons.  Major league hockey has never returned to Cleveland.   The NHL did return to the San Francisco Bay area 15 years after the Golden Seals.  This time,  the team,  the San Jose Sharks,  were a huge success.  But of course,  in the late 1960s/early 1970s,  there was no Silicon Valley economy to bolster a new sports franchise in the region.

The only other one of the 6 expansion teams in 1967-68 to eventually move out of its original region was the Minnesota North Stars.  The hockey club moved to Texas in 1993 to become the Dallas Stars.  Again,  as with the Bay area,  a new franchise was eventually awarded to the region,  seven years later,  when the Minnesota Wild,  of St. Paul,  began play in 2000.  The Minnesota Wild have the longest currently running sell-out streak in the NHL.  The hockey club has played to capacity in every home game since its inception in 2000-01.  In other words,  a successful expansion team in a cold weather city. Hey NHL top brass – this is not rocket science…cold weather cities produce viable NHL expansion teams, while Sun Belt cities produce NHL expansion teams doomed to fail because of fan apathy.

From Forbes.com, December 17, 2009, ,   by Christina Settini,  ’In Pictures: The NHL’s Best (And Worst) Fans’ {click here}.

-

Thanks to Jersey Database.com,  for the jerseys on the map {click here}.   Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org {click here (’1967-68 NHL season’ page}.   Thanks to NHL shop,  for 2009-10 jerseys {click here}.   Thanks to “The Official National Hockey League 75th Anniversaty Commemorative Book”,  edited by Dan Diamond,  published by McLelland and Stewart, Inc., Toronto, 19991; 1994 edition  {at Amazon,  here}. 

December 27, 2009

National Hockey League. “Original Six” era, with map of 1966-67 season.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 12:57 pm

nhl1966-67map-w-jerseys_post.gif





On the map itself are the 1966-67 home (dark),  and road (white) jerseys of the 6 NHL teams.  [Dark jerseys were worn by home teams in NHL games up until 1969-70,  then white jerseys (or yellow jerseys) for home teams was in effect from 1970-71 to 2002-03.  In case you're wondering,  the New York Rangers did not feature a white uniform until 1951-52.]  

Near the top center are the 1967 Stanley Cup Playoffs jerseys of the eventual champions,  the Toronto Maple Leafs.  These jerseys were different from their 1966-67 regular season jerseys.  The modernized leaf logo the Toronto hockey club first sported in the 1967 postseason mirrored the recently-instituted flag of Canada (the red maple leaf on white flanked by two red rectangles, established in 1965 {see this},  which replaced this flag of Canada, 1921-1964,  {see this}).  The modern Toronto Maple Leaf crest was revamped to a more streamlined look in 1970 {see this,  from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page}.   

At the right of the map is a sidebar that shows NHL team jerseys from 3 other seasons in the 25-season era that this map depicts…1942-43,  1950-51,  and 1958-59.  Along with this are listed,  from top to bottom,  the Stanley Cup title winners from all the seasons of the Original Six era,  plus the coach of each championship team.  A list of the teams,  and their total Stanley Cup titles during this era is to the bottom left of the sidebar. 

-
Below, arguably the greatest player of the Original Six era, Maurice “Rocket” Richard…
maurice-rocket-richard_toe-blake_elmer-lach_montreal-canadiens_the-punch-line.gif

The National Hockey League’s 25-season span from the 1942-43 season to the 1966-67 season featured just 6 teams,  and is popularly known as the “Original Six” era.  That name is very misleading,  though,  since only two of the six hockey clubs were actually original NHL teams…the Montreal Canadiens,  and the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The name Original Six dates to the NHL’s second expansion era,  which began in 1967-68,  when 6 new teams joined the “original ” six.

The most successful team of the “Original Six” era were the Montreal Canadiens,  who won 10 of their 24 Stanley Cup titles during this 25-year period.  Closely following them were the Toronto Maple Leafs,  who won 9 Stanley Cup titles during this era (the Leafs have 13 Stanley Cup titles overall).  The Detroit Red Wings were the only one of the four American teams in the league back then to challenge the domination of the two Canadian hockey clubs.  The Red Wings won 5 Stanley Cup titles between 1942-43 and 1966-67,  and have won 11 Stanley Cup titles overall. 

The Bruins,  the Black Hawks,  and the Rangers languished for a couple reasons.  First was that the NHL tolerated monopolistic practices.  Red Wings’ owner James Norris held sway over the other three US-based teams in various forms.  While owning the Red Wings,  he also led a group which owned the Black Hawks for a time (1944-1952),  putting virtually no investment into the Chicago hockey club.  Chicago made the playoffs only once between 1949 and 1957.  Norris was also the largest stockholder of the New York Rangers’ arena,  Madison Square Garden,  and maintained such support from the board that he effectively controlled the Rangers.  And Norris had influence over the Bruins,  as the result of mortgages extended to the Boston team to help keep it afloat during the Great Depression (Boston had only 4 winning seasons from 1947 to 1967). This led critics to joke that NHL stood for the Norris House League.  Norris died in 1952,  but the second-tier status of the Black Hawks,  Bruins,  and Rangers lived on.  Throughout the entire 25-season Original Six era,  the only time a team other than Montreal,  Toronto,  or Detroit won the championship was in 1960-61,  when the Chicago Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup title. 

Another way that Boston,  Chicago,  and New York were prevented from being competitive during this era was the 50-mile rule for exclusive rights to the signing of young players.  Much of the talent coming out of the hockey hotbeds of Canada,  around Toronto and southern Quebec,  were thus out of the reach of all the four American teams except for Detroit,  which of course borders Canada,   thus putting the southwestern Ontario region centered around Windsor within the Red Wings’ 50 mile radius.

On the positve side,  the level of play in the NHL was improving.   Rule changes,  such as the insertion of the center red line in 1943-44,  led to a more exciting,  passing-oriented (as opposed to stick handling-oriented) game.  Air travel was used for teams for the first time in the late 1950s,  and by 1960 the wearying train rides that players had to endure on road trips were a thing of the past.  And there were legendary players like Montreal’s Maurice “Rocket” Richard {see illustration four paragraphs above},  Detroit’s Gordie Howe,  and later in the era Chicago’s Bobby Hull,  who captivated the public. 

Televised hockey games in Canada began in November of 1952.  Just as in other sports (such as Major League Baseball, and English football),  some top brass feared televising games would hurt attendances.  But the CBC’s Saturday night “Hockey Night in Canada” quickly became the highest-rated show in the country,  and interest in the sport increased.  Four years later,  in 1956-57,  in the United States,  CBS was amazed at the popularity of their initial broadcasts of NHL games,  and the network began a 21 game package the following season.  Television brought new fans to the arenas.  The league played to 93% capacity in the 1960s.

-

But during this era,  labor conditions were poor,  and the players were largely not benefitting from the popularity of the game.  If players ran afoul of management,  they were sent to the minors,  where their salaries were cut,  and the players themselves had to pay for their relocation fees.  Injured players also had to pay their own medical bills,  not getting compensation for two months.  Players were not paid for off-season promotions,  or for a share of profits from promotions such as trading cards (like Major League Baseball did for ballplayers).  Players could not even supplement income as they had done in earlier years by playing off-season sports like lacrosse.  But perhaps the most damning evidence of the perfidy of the NHL top brass is the pension plan cover-up.  The pension plan,  supposedly for the benefit of the players after retirement,  was kept secret and hidden by the owners.  The pension plan did not come to light until 1989,  when it was revealed that there was a $25 million surplus that had never gone to former NHL players.  

Another negative aspect of the 25-year period of 6 NHL teams is that the league was almost entirely composed of Canadian players.  Very few American NHL players emerged during the 1950s and the 1960s. And in this quarter century there was just one example of a European NHL player,  Ulf Sterner,  who played briefly for the New York Rangers in 1965.  This xenophobic attitude in the front offices towards non-Canadians did not end with expansion,  though.  It only ended when the World Hockey Association challenged the NHL in the 1970s,  and WHA teams had success with European players.  Also,  the Canada Cup series,  and its predecessor,  the Summit series of 1972 and 1974,  showed that Soviet (and by extension,  European) players could compete with the best from the NHL.

The “Original” Six era ended when the NHL doubled in size from 6 to 12 teams, for the 1967-68 season.  That expansion was only the beginning. Within a decade, exacerbated by the NHL’s response to the rival-league-WHA, there was the opposite problem: of over-expansion.  Two more teams were added for 1970-71.  Then,  when the rival WHA began its formation circa 1971,  four more NHL expansion teams were created within a three-year span (two more teams in 1972-73,  and two more teams in 1974-75).  Some of the teams (like the New York Islanders) were hastily formed to block a WHA team from forming there.  So by 1974-75, there were 32 professional top flight hockey teams,  with 18 teams in the NHL, and 14 teams in the WHA.  A decade before,  there had only been 6 major league hockey clubs !

-

1966-67 NHL season…

This was Canada’s Centennial year (so it was appropriate that the two Canadian NHL hockey clubs would meet in the finals).

Bobby Orr made his debut in the NHL,  as a Boston Bruins defenseman.  Orr would go on to revolutionize the defenseman position,  and in fact the modern game of hockey itself,  by giving the defenseman postion an attacking option.  Injuries would cut Bobby Orr’s career short.  He is the second-to-last NHL player to receive the honor of having the 3-year waiting period for entry into the Hockey Hall of Fame waived…he entered in 1979,  one year after retiring (Wayne Gretzky is the last NHL player to go straight into the HOF after retirement).

In 1966-67, the Chicago Black Hawks won the [largely meaningless] regular season title easily,  17 points ahead of Montreal.  It was the first time Chicago had won the regular season.  The Black Hawks were a record-seting scoring juggernaut,  with 5 players in the top 10 scoring leaders,  including points leader Stan Mikita (Hall of Fame, 1983) and goal scoring leader Bobby Hull (Hall of Fame, 1983),  who netted 50 times.  For 1966-67,  Stan Mikita tied Bobby Hull’s all-time scoring record (now held by Wayne Gretzky).  Mikita also won three major honors that season…the Art Ross Trophy (top points scorer),  the Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player),  and the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (best sportsmanship).  The latter award going to Stan Mikita was noteworthy for two reasons.  First,  only 5 NHL players have ever won the Hart (the MVP) AND the Lady Byng (ie, a player with very few penalty minutes who was a class act) in the same season,  the two most recent instances being Wayne Gretzky in 1979-80,  and Joe Sakic in 2000-01 (Mikita repeated this dual trophy haul the following season).  Second,  Stan Mikita spent the early part of his career among the leaders each season in penalty minutes,  amassing totals above a hundred minutes a season several times.  But by 1966-67,  intense self-discipline had pared Mikita’s total penalty minutes that season to just 12 (two season before,  he had 167 penalty minutes).  He changed his tough guy act after his wife told him that his daughter,  when watching her father play on television,  had asked ”why does daddy spent so much time sitting down [in the penalty box].” 

Stan Mikita also pioneered,  circa 1962,  the use of a curved blade on the hockey stick,  to devastating,  pin-point accurate results [note,  others claim this invention,  including Rangers' star Andy Bathgate.]  But the self-effacing Mikita was overshadowed by the larger-than-life Bobby Hull,  much like,  in baseball back then,  Roger Maris was overshadowed by New York Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle {see this (“Is Stan Mikita better than Bobby Hull ?”,  from Greatest Hockey Legends.com, May, 2009)}.

stan-mikita_chicago-blackhawks.gif

In the first round of the playoffs,  the star-laden Black Hawks were shocked by the third place Toronto Maple Leafs,  losing in 6 games.  Toronto won through the outstanding goaltending of Terry Sawchuck and Johnny Bower.

The Maple Leafs were coached by the mercurial taskmaster George “Punch” Imlach (Hall of Fame, 1984).  He had been forced to take a leave of absence in February,  for exhaustion,  and the team actually improved their standing in his absence.  The squad was captained by the longest-tenured captain in Leafs’ history,  George “Chief” Armstrong (Hall of Fame, 1975),  who eventually played 21 seasons for Toronto,  11 of them with the “C” on his jersey.  Toronto featured a tandem of two aging but still effective goaltenders in Terry “Uke” Sawchuck (Hall of Fame, 1971),  and  Johnny “The China Wall” Bower (Hall of Fame,  1976).  In that spring of 1967,  Sawchuk was 37,  and Bower was 42.  There were several other long-in-the-tooth players on Toronto.  Allen “Snowshoes” Stanley was 42.  Leonard “Red” Kelley (Hall of Fame, 1969),  a defenseman with good passing ability,  was 40.  Crucial to the Leafs defense was the reliable,  37-year old Tim Horton (Hall of Fame, 1977) (yes, that Tim Horton {Tim Hortons, here}).   

The Maple Leafs offense was led by two younger veterans,  the swift-skating and hard checking center Dave Keon (Hall of Fame, 1986),  and left winger Frank “Big M” Mahovlich.  Keon was a center who provided a defensive element through his checking ability.  But Keon was a gentleman who almost never landed in the penalty box (most seasons he did not even amass a dozen minutes,  and in 1,296 games he had 117 penalty minutes).  Mahovlich,  the son of Croatian immigrants,  was a flighty genius on the ice who,  when “on”,  could totally dominate a game,  but in actuality,  it was an off-year (more like a two-year bad spell) for the acute depressive Mahovlich,  and he only scored 19 goals that season (he did not get along at all with coach Imlach,  and Mahovlich only resurrected his career when he was traded to the Red Wings the next season,  going on to score 49 goals for Detroit in 1968-69). 

1966-67 Stanley Cup finals, Montreal vs. Toronto…

Toronto would face Montreal in the finals,  after the Habs swept New York in the first round.  Coach of the Canadiens was Hector “Toe” Blake (Hall of Fame, 1966),  who had played 13 seasons for Montreal,  and ended up winning 3 Cups on the ice and 8 Cups as coach.  Blake was an anglophone Quebec native who was bilingual.  Blake’s ability to calm his former first-line partner “Rocket’ Richard had been a chief reason for his hiring in 1955.

Montreal were Cup holders (having beat the Red Wings in 6 games in the 1965-66 Stanley Cup finals),  but had a poor regular season in 1966-67,  finishing 17 points behind Chicago.  Toe Blake felt that the offense had sputtered because so many of the Montreal players had been experimenting unsuccessfully with radically curved sticks which were all the rage.

The Canadiens were led by captain Jean Béliveau (Hall of Fame, 1972),  and featured right winger Bobby Rousseau,  who finished 6th on the scoring leaders list that season,  and Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard (Hall of Fame, 1979) (younger brother,  by 15 years,  of ”The Rocket”),  who finished 10th in scoring that season.  Among their goaltenders were a young “Rogie” Vachon,  a 2-time Vezina Trophy winner (awarded to the goaltender[s] of the team with the least goals allowed);  and the wily,  eccentric,  beer-bellied 36-year old Lorne “Gump” Worsely (Hall of Fame, 1980),  who went on to be one of the last NHL goalies to play without a mask.

[The Maple Leafs had lost to Montreal in the first round of the playoffs in the two previous seasons,  as Montreal went on in both 1964-65 and 1965-66 to win Stanley Cup titles.]

In the first game,  at the Montreal Forum,  les Canadiens cruised to a 6-2 victory that featured a hat-trick by Henri Richard.   Imlach put Bower in goal for game 2,  and Bower produced a 3-0 shutout.

In game 3 at Maple Leaf Gardens,  after 60 minutes of regulation the score was knotted 2-2,  with Vachon stopping 62 shots and Bower repelling 54.  The game went to a second overtime before Bob Pulford (Hall of Fame, 1991) won it for Toronto.  But Bower was injured warming up for game 4,  so it was back to Sawchuck for the Leafs.  Again,  he let in half a dozen,  and again Montreal won 6-2.

But Sawchuk came through when the series returned to Montreal for game 5,  helping Toronto to a 4-1 victory.   And in game 6,  in Toronto,  Sawchuck stopped 41 shots,  and Leafs right-winger Jim Pappin scored his seventh playoff goal en route to a Cup-clinching 3-1 victory.

toronto-maple-leafs_1966-67_dave-keon_terry-sawchuk_johnny-bower_jim-pappin.gif

The Stanley Cup was now now in the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Dave Keon was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy,  for player judged most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs of 1966-67 are the oldest team to ever win a Stanley Cup title,  with an average age of 31.

In the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Canadian nation,  the hockey club which shared the national symbol of the maple leaf was champion.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have never won another Stanley Cup title. 

Here is a Youtube video posted in 2008,  which is about 9 minutes long…it shows the final 55 seconds of the 6th game of the 1966-67 Stanley Cup finals,  then the traditional handshaking between teams after,  and then NHL commisioner Clarence Campbell presenting the Stanley Cup to Maple Leafs’ captain George Armstrong.  It’s not very action-packed,  but it does give you a good idea of what hockey on television looked like circa 1967.  Plus,  at 2:35 in the video,  you can see Terry Sawchuk’s rather frightening,  primitive goalie mask (also shown in the photo section above)   {click here}. 

toronto-maple-leafs_1966-67stanley-cup-champions.gif

From TheLeafsNation.com, ‘THE FATE OF THE ORIGINAL SIX ARENAS‘.

Thanks to Jersey Database.com,  for jerseys {click here}.  All the jerseys on the map and the sidebar to the right of the map are from this site.   Thanks to LogoServer {click here}.   Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org {click here (set at NHL page}.   Thanks to http://www.legendsofhockey.net .   Thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site {click here}.

Thanks to “The Official National Hockey League 75th Anniversary Commemorative Book”,  edited by Dan Diamond,  published by McLelland and Stewart, Inc., Toronto, 1991; 1994 edition {at Amazon.com, here}.

December 4, 2009

National Hockey League. 1927-28 season map, and an overview of the NHL’s first expansion era, with 7 expansion teams added between 1924 and 1926…and 5 teams defunct by 1942.

Filed under: Hockey,Hockey-NHL and expansion — admin @ 1:19 pm

nhl1927-28map-w-jerseys_post_.gif



This map shows the teams in the 1927-1928 National Hockey League season. It was the NHL’s eleventh season. Reigning champions (ie, Stanley Cup Holders) were the Ottawa Senators. 

In 1927-28, there were 10 teams in the NHL. The league was divided into Canadian and American Divisions during this era. This divisional split was not along strictly national lines, as the New York Americans were in the Canadian Division.  The names of the divisions became even more misleading later, in 1934-35, when Ottawa moved to St. Louis but still played in the Canadian Division. The two division set-up ended after the 1937-38 season, when the Montreal Maroons folded. [The NHL then reverted to a one-division league for 29 seasons until the1967-68 season, when it doubled in size from 6 to 12 teams.] 

By 1938 when the Maroons ceased operations, the Great Depression had also claimed two other NHL franchises, the Pittsburgh Pirates/Philadelphia Quakers in 1931, and the Ottawa Senators/St. Louis Eagles in 1935. Both these hockey clubs made a last-ditch effort to save the team by moving to a different city for what turned out to be their final season. 

Ottawa was by far the smallest market in the league, and problems were already evident in the 1927-28 season that is being shown here. The league had probably expanded too soon, going from 4 to 10 teams in a space of just four seasons. In the 1922-23 season, there were only 4 teams in the NHL…the Ottawa Senators, the Montreal Canadiens, the Toronto St. Patricks, and the Hamilton Tigers. Four years later (1926-27), the NHL’s size had more than doubled, to 10 teams.

In 1924-25, two teams joined the NHL, making the NHL a 6-team league… 
The Boston Bruins were the first American team to join the NHL. They entered the league for the 1924-25 season,  along with the Montreal Maroons,  as the NHL’s first two expansion teams. The Bruins were owned by Boston grocery tycoon Charles Adams.  His chain of stores had brown and gold colored signage,  and this color scheme was applied to the new hockey team. [The Bruins switched from brown and gold to black and gold starting in 1934-35.]  The Boston Bruins of the late 1920s were centered around star Defenseman Ernie Shore (elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947), the top player at his position in the league then. The Bruins entered the 1927-28 season as the previous season’s Stanley Cup finals losers, when they fell to the Ottawa Senators in the best-of-5 game series 2-0-2 (2 Ottawa wins, 2 tie games with no OT). The Boston Bruins would win their first Stanley Cup title in 1928-29, their second Cup title a decade later in 1938-39, their third title in 1940-41,  and their fourth in 1969-70. The Bruins have not won a Stanley Cup title since their fifth championship, in 1971-72 [note: Boston won a 6th Stanley Cup title in 2010-11].

The Montreal Maroons effectively filled the gap left by the Montreal Wanderers, who won 5 Stanley Cups between 1906 and 1910, and were a founding member of the NHL. The Wanderers went under after their arena burned down, in January 1918. The Wanderers  had been the hockey team of the English-speaking population of Montreal; while the Montreal Canadiens (as per the French spelling of their nickname) had a fan base that was primarily francophone. So the Maroons became the new team of the anglophone neighborhoods in Montreal. The franchise existed for 14 seasons (1924 to 1938) and won two Stanley Cup titles, their first in their second season, 1925-26, their second Cup in 1935. The Maroons drew sparse crowds,  however,  and by the height of the Depression circa 1938, they were looking for a new home. The franchise almost moved to Philadelphia, but there was no suitable arena in place there, and the Maroons never played again after the 1937-38 season ended.

In 1925-26, two more teams joined the NHL as expansion franchises, and one franchise was dropped, making the NHL a 7-team league…
The Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets were a successful two-time winner of the US Amateur Hockey Association. In 1925, the hockey club was sold and changed its name to the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the nickname allowed by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club. That same year, the hockey club was granted a franchise in the NHL. The team was originally built around a football scholarship athlete at Duquesne University named Lionel Conacher, who was from Toronto. Connacher recruited top amateurs from Toronto and Ottawa to come play for Pittsburgh. In 1925-26, the Pittsburgh Pirates player/coach Odie Cleghorn, a notorious bruiser of a player, was the first to use the innovation of set lines and line rotation. The franchise existed for five seasons in Pittsburgh, and played its final season (1930-31) at the other end of the state of Pennsylvania,  as the Philadelphia Quakers. The Pirates made the playoffs twice, their last time in 1927-28, losing to Montreal in round one. In 1931, the team became the first of 4 NHL teams to go out of business in the Depression era.

The New York Americans were the first NHL team to play in New York, preceding the New York Rangers by one year. Bootlegger “Big Bill” Dwyer was the first owner of the team. The franchise was in the right place at the right time in gaining the collective rights to the Hamilton Tigers roster, following league suspension of the Hamilton franchise in early 1925 in the wake of a player strike for unpaid playoff wages. [The Hamilton Tigers existed for six seasons in the NHL from 1920 to 1925; their roots being in Quebec City, Quebec, where from 1878 to 1920 they were the two-time (1912, 1913) Stanley Cup winning hockey club called the Quebec Bulldogs. The Quebec Bulldogs were invited to be a founding member of the NHL in 1917, but were forced to suspend operations for two years for lack of funds. Quebec joined the NHL for the 1919-20 season, changing its name to the Quebec Athletic Club. Quebec played one season in the NHL, finishing in last place. The league took back the insolvent franchise, and to head off the potential start-up of a rival league in Hamilton, Ontario, the NHL placed the club there, as the Hamilton Tigers.]

Below is a striking game program cover for the New York Americans first season, featuring an illustration of the third Madison Square Garden, which was on 50th St. and Eighth Avenue in the Broadway district of Manhattan, New York City, NY. This incarnation of Madision Square Garden existed from 1925 to 1968, and was supplanted by the fourth and current incarnation of “the Garden” (where the New York Rangers still play), which is about a mile and a half south, at 32nd St. and Broadway. Note: click on image below to get a centered view.

new-york-americans_madison-square-garden1925-26poster.gif

The illegality of their owner Bill Dwyer’s bootlegging fortune notwithstanding, the New York Americans were a team that was dealt a harsh hand. That is because of a broken promise by future New York Rangers owner and Madison Square Garden (III) owner Tex Rickard, who had promised Dwyer that he could rent the Garden for New York Americans games and that Rickard himself would not go after a pro hockey team of his own. Which he did one year later, hence the era of dual pro hockey clubs in Manhattan,  which lasted from 1926-27, when “Tex’s Rangers” joined the NHL, to 1942, when the then-named Brooklyn Americans (who still played in Manhattan) went bust. Furthermore, the New York Americans were hamstrung by the league placing them in the Canadian Division, thus diluting their natural rivalry with the New York Rangers. 

The New York Americans (counting their one [final] season as the Brooklyn Americans) never won a Stanley Cup title in the franchise’s 17 seasons in the NHL. 

In 1926-27, another round of expansion took place, this time with 3 teams being added, to make the NHL a 10-team league.
Two of the teams that entered the league in 1926-27 were comprised almost exclusively of players who came over from two teams in the rival Western Hockey League (I), which folded in early 1926. Basically, all the players on the roster of the Victoria Cougars (from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) became members of the new Detroit Cougars NHL franchise. And the entire roster of the WHL team the Portland Rosebuds (from Oregon, USA) was transferred to the new Chicago Black Hawks NHL franchise. This negotiating feat was engineered by the Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester, who were the founders and driving force of, and players in, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (1912-1924), and who in 1926 owned the franchise rights to two teams in the Western Hockey League (I) (1925-26), which was the re-named Western Canada Hockey League (1921-25) following the Regina Caps to Portland Rosebuds franchise move.

From 1912 to 1926, the PCHA and the WCHL produced three Stanley Cup champions…the Vancouver Millionaires (PCHA: 1915 Stanley Cup title), the Seattle Metropolitans (PCHA, 1917 Stanley Cup title), and the Victoria Cougars (WCHL, 1924-1925 Stanley Cup title).  {See this post I made in December, 2008, which covers the PCHA /WCHL/WHL (I), and includes team uniforms and logos, and photos of the Patrick brothers}. The NHL does not recognize the links between the Victoria Cougars team and the Detroit franchise, or the Portland Rosebuds team and the Chicago franchise, but the people who were running the team in Michigan sure did, seeing as how the “new” Detroit Cougars kept the nickname of the Victoria Cougars. The Detroit Cougars were forced to play their first season’s home games across the Detroit River, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. For the 1927-28 season, the Detroit Cougars moved into the new Detroit Olympia, where the franchise would play in until 1979. The Detroit Cougars changed their name to the Detroit Falcons for the 1930-31 season, and kept this name for two seasons. The Detroit Falcons were bought by grain merchant James Norris, and one of his first acts was to change the nickname and iconography of the team. Norris had spent some of his earlier years as a player on the Montreal Hockey Club, a storied amateur hockey club who were the first hockey club to be awarded the Stanley Cup (in March, 1893, no challengers), and first club to defeat a challenger for the Stanley Cup (March, 1894, 3-1 over Ottawa HC). The Montreal Hockey Club’s roots were as a cycling club, and they were often referred to as the Winged Wheelers, for their crest {see this: Stanley Cup/Challenge Cup era, from en.wikipedia.org. The winged wheel crest is visible in the accompanying photo of the 1893 Montreal Hockey Club squad.}. Detroit’s new nickname, the Red Wings, and the team’s winged wheel logo were tributes to the pioneering Winged Wheelers of Montreal. Of course, with a reference to Detroit’s then-growing automobile industry, the winged wheel was changed from a bicycle wheel to a wheel of a car. The Detroit Red Wings won their first Stanley Cup title in the franchise’s ninth season, in 1935-36, and have won 11 Stanley Cup titles overall (their last in 2007-08), making them the most successful American hockey team, and third-most successful NHL team.

The other franchise which drew most of their original roster from a WCHL team, the Chicgao Black Hawks, have not had such an illustrious history, but have become a dominant force in the 21st century NHL. Their first owner, Frederic McLaughlin, had been a commander with the 333rd Machine Gun Battalion during the Great War (now called World War I). This battalion was nicknamed the Blackhawk division, after the legendary leader of the Sauk Native American tribe, Chief Black Hawk. The Chicago Black Hawks won their first Stanley Cup title in the 1933-34 season, and their second Cup title four years later, in 1937-38. But the team has only won one Stanley Cup title since then, in 1960-61. [Note: the Chicago Blackhawks have won their 4th, 5th, and 6th Stanley Cup titles since this post was made, in 2009-10, in 2012-13, and in 2015-16.]. The organization deserves credit, though, for promoting the cause of American-born players, and the Black Hawks fielded the first ever all-American lineup in the waning days of the 1936-37 season.  This was after the team was out of contention for the playoffs, so publicity stunt is one phrase that could be applied here. Nevertheless, one of these American players, Goaltender Mike Karakis, was instrumental in the Chicago Black Hawks second Stanley Cup title, won the following season. [Note: the franchise was called the Chicago Black Hawks until 1985. The nickname was streamlined to one word - Blackhawks - in 1986.].

The New York Rangers were the result of boxing promoter/sporting impresario Ted Rickard’s desire to get a hockey franchise of his own once he saw the popularity of the New York Americans,  who played at the Madison Square Gardens that Rickard built and ran. There was no official nickname initially for the franchise, when New York City newspapers started referring to the new team as “Tex’s Rangers”,  a play on the name of the legendary vigilante/police horsemen from nineteenth century Texas (and not a reference not to the Glasgow Rangers Football Club, even despite similar color schemes of royal blue and red). In just their second season, with PCHA co-founder Lester Patrick as coach, the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup 3 games to 2 over the Montreal Maroons (which will be touched on later). The New York Rangers went on to win their second Stanley Cup title in 1932-33, and their third Cup title in 1939-40. But it took 54 years for the Rangers to win another Stanley Cup title, their fourth, when they were champions in 1994.

Problems in Ottawa…
By the 1927-28 season, it became apparent that the Ottawa Senators had a big problem on their hands, namely a xenophobic fan base that refused to turn up for home games versus American-based NHL teams. The expansion teams were also forcing an escalation in salaries. Ottawa requested a larger gate share from road games. They were also forced to sell players to make ends meet. Ottawa were reigning champions but would never hoist the Stanley Cup again, and their decline was already under way. Ottawa only had around 110,000 residents during this era (1931 census), and their small-market status would eventually doom them. In the 1927-28 season, the club tried playing a couple home games in Detroit, and the fact that they actually made a profit induced them to repeat the 2-home-games-in-Detroit the next year,and by 1929-30 Ottawa was playing 2 home games in Detroit, one home game in Boston, and 2 home games in Atlantic City, New Jersey versus each of the New York teams. The onset of the Depression,  circa 1930, made matters worse, and Ottawa was granted a 1-season hiatus for 1931-32. No change in fortune greeted their return to the league for 1932-33, and after two straight last place finishes, the Ottawa Senators moved to St. Louis, Missouri, as the St. Louis Eagles, after the logo of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Geography probably had a big hand in ruining the St. Louis Eagles’ chances at viability. The team drew well in St. Louis, but the long train rides to cities like Boston, Toronto, and Montreal had a negative effect on the squad. And their natural rivalry with the relatively nearby Chicago Black Hawks was dampened by the Eagles’ place in the Canadian Division. The St. Louis Eagles finished dead last and folded in early 1935 after their lone season in the NHL.

1927-28 NHL season…
There were some changes to the rules that were enacted for the 1927-28 NHL season. A new rule allowed “only the captain of a team to address the referee or judge of play during the progress of a match”. The salary caps of $35,000 total per team that were put in place for 1925-26 were lifted. To keep travel costs down, each team was allowed only a 12-man roster (which is staggering, considering the amount of injuries that hockey games produce). 

The general style of play of the NHL in the late mid to late 1920s can be described as very defense-oriented. The rules that allowed for more offensive freedom and more scoring (such as forward passing in the offensive zone) would not come about for two more seasons, and it is no coincidence that some goaltending records were set in 1927-28 still stand today.

In 1927-28, Montreal Canadiens Centre Howie Morenz (who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1945) was the NHL’s top drawing card, and he led the league in goals and assists. Ottawa Goaltender Alex Connell (Hall of Fame, 1958) set an all-time record with six consecutive shutouts (460 minutes and 59 seconds without being scored upon).  The recently re-christened Toronto Maple Leafs faced injury problems and missed out on the playoffs.   

The Boston Bruins won the American Division over the Rangers by 4 points, earning a bye into round 2 of the playoffs. The Bruins were led by the top Defenseman of the era,  Eddie Shore (Hall of Fame, 1947), and Goaltender Hal Winkler, who tied with Ottawa’s Connell with 15 shutouts. 

The Montreal Canadiens also earned a bye into round 2 of the playoffs by winning the Canadian Division, 5 points ahead of the Montreal Maroons, but the Canadiens had faltered after hard-checking goal-scorer Pit Lepine was injured late in the regular season, and then lost in round 2 of the playoffs to the Montreal Maroons. The other division winner, Boston, also fell in round two, to the New York Rangers. 

1927-28 Stanley Cup finals: Montreal Maroons vs. New York Rangers…
[Note:  The Stanley Cup finals were a best-of-five games series then. The Stanley Cup finals became a best-of-7 games series starting in 1938-39.]
The Rangers were led by captain and Right Winger Bill Cook (Hall of Fame, inducted 1952), who had 18 regular season goals, and Center Frank Boucher (Hall of Fame, 1958), who netted 23 times in the 1927-28 regular season (fourth highest). With Bill Cook’s brother Left Winger Frederick “Bun” Cook (Hall of Fame, 1995), the three formed the Rangers’ ”Bread Line”.

new-york-rangers_bread-line_cook-boucher-cook.gif

The Montreal Maroons were powered by Forward Nels “Old Poison” Stewart (Hall of Fame, 1962), and Defenseman/Forward Babe Siebert (Hall of Fame, 1964).

The annual visit of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus to Madison Square Garden forced all games to be played at the Montreal Forum. The circus was the Garden’s big money maker back then, so the Rangers were forced to play the entire series on enemy ice.

The Montreal Maroons won the first game 2-0. In the second game, with the game at 0-0, Rangers Goalie Lorne Chabot had to leave the ice due to an eye injury, when Nels Stewart fired a shot that struck Chabot above the left eye. The Rangers had no replacement in goal, and though the Ottawa Senators goalie Alex Connell was in the crowd there that night, the Maroons would not allow him to come into the game as the Rangers’ replacement. So one of the most famous incidents in hockey history then occurred, when 44-year old Rangers coach Lester Patrick, a Defenseman in his day, donned the pads and stepped in as the replacement goaltender. Saying “Boys, don’t let the old man down,” Patrick inspired the Rangers to a 2-1 overtime win to even the series. Patrick did let in one goal in the third period that evened the score at 1-1, but not before he made two spectacular saves. In the overtime period, “Gentleman” Frank Boucher stole the puck and scored the winning goal.   {See this, on the event, from Lester Patrick’s Wikipedia entry. Note, the photo there is a doctored image,  and there is no known photo of Les Patrick’s historic goaltending stint.} To this day, Lester Patrick is the oldest player to play in a Stanley Cup finals.

For the subsequent games, the Rangers hired New York Americans goaltender Joe Miller, who posted a 1-0 shutout in the fourth game, after the Maroons had won the third game 2-0. The Rangers won the fifth game 2-1, on a Frank Boucher goal that was set up by a pass from Defenseman “Ching” Johnson (Hall of Fame, 1958). The New York Rangers even were able to celebrate with some of their fans, as a contingent of Rangers supporters had made the trek up to Montreal.

In winning the 1927-28 Stanley Cup,  the New York Rangers became the second American team to win a Stanley Cup title, and the first NHL team from the USA to win the Stanley Cup title [the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA were the first American team to win a Stanley Cup title, in 1917, when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens of the NHA, 3 games to 1].  

Below is a photo of the 1927-28 Stanley Cup champions, the New York Rangers, with Lester Patrick top row, center {to see all the names of the players, click here (New York Rangers official site)}.

1927-28_new-york-rangers_stanley-cup-champions_team-w-lester-patrick.gif

Lester Patrick coached the New York Rangers for 12 more seasons, leading the Rangers to another Stanley Cup title in 1932-33, before moving to the front office in 1939, where he was the team’s general manager until 1946. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947.

Thanks to Jersey Database.com , for jerseys {click here (set at Hockey)}. The Jersey Database site has been re-designed and it is great fun to scroll through the old jerseys of each NHL team.

Thanks to the venerable http://www.nhluniforms.com , which has also benefited from a nice re-design. The jerseys of the defunct NHL teams on the map are from this site.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org {click here (set at list of defunct NHL teams)}.  Thanks to the New York Rangers site {click here (set at Tradition/The Birth of the Rangers)}.  Thanks to Chicago Blackhawks site {click here (set at History/The McLaughlin years)}.  Thanks to http://www.hockeydb.com , for statistics.  Thanks to Pittsburgh Hockey.net {click here (set at Pittsburgh Pirates (NHL) Jersey History)}.

Thanks to “The Official National Hockey League 75th Anniversary Commemorative Book”, edited by Dan Diamond, published by McClelland and Stewart, Inc., Toronto, 1991; 1994 edition. {at Amazon.com, here}.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress