January 25, 2015

History Made At 2015 NHL All Star Game

Team Toews outscored Team Foligno 17-12, setting a new NHL All Star Game record with 29 total goals scored.

In that process New York Islanders star John Tavares scored 4 goals, tying the NHL All Star Game record for most goals in a game. Tavares joined Wayne Gretzky (1983), Mario Lemieux (1990), Vincent Damphousse (1991), Mike Gartner (1993) and Dany Heatley (2003).

Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers led all scorers with 3 goals and 3 assists, tying Mario Lemieux's record of 6 points (1990).

World Cup Returns But Can Never Replace Olympics

The underwhelming media and fan response to the NHL's announced plans to bring back the World Cup of Hockey is interesting.

It probably didn't help that the key introductions - namely the two gimmicky bonus teams, one of Europeans from nations outside the big four and one of North Americans 23 and younger - were leaked weeks ago.

But it is those two teams that have people dismissing the tournament as nothing more than a narrow-minded cash grab. The irony is the NHL has never understood how to generate tangible returns from the international game. This in-house production will bring in money for the players and league, but it is but a fraction of the international hockey market's potential.

Many have long been predicting a follow up announcement (likely still a ways away) that the NHL will end it's participation at the Olympics will come. The problem being the appetite for best-on-best international hockey has always been strong and perhaps it has never been more in demand than now. The fans love international hockey, and they want it at it's best.

The World Cup - and it's predecessor the Canada Cup - have created some of the greatest moments in hockey history (despite constant mishandling). I could even argue that the September tournament generally provides for better hockey, thanks to more training and coaching time.

But nothing can match the spectacle of the Olympics. It is sports' grandest stage. And hockey - but not the NHL - is king of the winter games. The NHL gets zero direct financial benefit from the Olympics - and that is wrong. Yet the NHL can not possibly walk away from the Olympics and hope this gimmicky World Cup will measure up, can they? No way. The Olympics cast too large of a shadow over all other hockey tournaments. The World Cup is most certainly doomed if it is to attempt to replace them.

Now the NHL's bigger picture plan might be to eliminate the gimmicky teams over time and grow the tournament to include more true national teams. If that truly is the case the NHL needs international hockey and more emerging national teams. As much as they might not want to return to it (and with valid reasons), the only NHL international hockey initiative that can accomplish that is continued Olympic participation.

January 24, 2015

Weekend Hat Trick

Some weekend reads for you...

  1. Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette has a fantastic piece written about his recent visit to the farm of "Mr. Goalie" Glenn Hall.
  2. Scott Stinson of the National Post has an excellent review of Gabe Polsky's new film about Soviet hockey called Red Army. Release dates across America, as well as Vancouver and Toronto (January 30th), were also recently announced, though not theatre names and locations.
  3. A couple of new hockey books to report - I've looked at Chill Factor, which looks at how a minor league hockey team paved the way for NHL success in the college football town of Columbus, and The Val James Story, an autobiography of the first African American player (do note Willie O'Ree and other blacks who preceded James were African Canadian) to ever play in the NHL.

Watch for a couple more book reviews in the coming week at HockeyBookReviews.com.

January 23, 2015

All Star Game Memories: Gretzky Returns To Edmonton

Technically it was his second game back since joining the Los Angeles Kings, but the 1989 NHL All Star Game, held in Edmonton, was billed as Wayne Gretzky's return to Edmonton.

Gretzky made sure it was game no one would forget.

Coach Glen Sather arranged it so that Gretz would sit in his old locker stall and played him on a line with former Oilers linemate Jari Kurri and current Kings linemate Luc Robitaille. Together they dominated the game.

On the first shift Gretzky set up Kurri for a goal. On the next shift Gretzky scored himself.

With the Oilers fans cheering on their former hero, it was a foregone conclusion that #99 would be named the MVP of the 40th NHL All Star game. With that he received a car, which he promptly gave to his former bodyguard and close friend Dave Semenko.

"Tonight was special, extra special. It was great fun," Gretzky said. "I  don't think I stopped smiling. It was a treat to play with all those guys again. It was just like old times sitting on the bench."

January 22, 2015

All Star Game Memories: Wayne Gretzky Steals John Garrett's Car

One of the most famous stories involving John Garrett came during the 1983 All Star Game. Garrett was acquired by the Canucks less than a week prior to the game. However Richard Brodeur, the Canucks number one goalie and all star representative, suffered a broken eardrum courtesy of a Dan Daoust wild shot. As a last minute replacement, Garrett was asked to fill in for the Campbell Conference All Stars despite playing the whole first half in the Wales Conference.

Garrett had a great game too, and was the favorite to win game MVP honors, which of course earns you a brand new car, except a guy named Gretzky put on a goal scoring clinic in the third period. Gretzky's 4 goals in one period instantly became all star legend.

"I had about 15 saves total up to about the six minute mark of the third period" recalls John in Dick Irvin's great book In The Crease. "I knew Lanny McDonald from playing with him at the World Championships one year and he kept talking to me after I'd make a save: 'Hey Cheech, you got the tires....the glove compartment.....hey, great stop. Now you've got the steering wheel.' Then about the six minute mark Gretz scores and makes 4-2. On his next shift he scores again. 5-2. Lanny comes back to me after each goal, 'Oh oh, There go the tires...Oh oh, there goes the steering wheel.' The very next shift 99 scores again. Now he's got the hat trick. And then he gets another goal on his next shift. I mean, he takes four shifts and scores four goals. Guess what. I didn't win the car."

Here's a look back at Gretzky's famous night, including an interview with Dave Hodge.

NHL All Star Game Memories: The National Anthem In Chicago

The 1991 NHL All Star Game in noisy old Chicago Stadium. No one really remembers much of the game itself, but everyone remembers Wayne Messmer's daunting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. With the original Gulf War just days old, the crowd at Chicago Stadium almost drowns him out in their undeniably emotional support of their country and their troops. Maybe it was one of those things that you just had to be in the moment to truly understand it. But for those of who were, it's something you can never forget.

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