August 11, 2020

Tampa Bay Outlasts Columbus in Historic Five Overtime Game

Brayden Point scored 10:27 into the fifth overtime, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on Tuesday in the fourth-longest game in Stanley Cup playoff history.

Point mercifully ended the game by beating Joonas Korpisalo after the goaltender made an NHL-record 85 saves.

At the other end of the ice Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy also was outstanding for Tampa Bay, making 61 stops. The teams combined for 151 shots — most in a NHL game since the league began officially tracking the statistic in 1955-56. 


With all Eastern Conference games being played in the NHL hub city of Toronto, the lengthy overtime forced the cancellation of the Boston-Carolina game also scheduled for Scotiabank Arena. The game will be made up on Wednesday morning.

The game was entertaining throughout, unlike some lengthy affairs. The game would have been that much better had NBC analyst Mike Milbury stopped his bellyaching about the need to eliminate endless overtime with 4 on 4 overtime or even a shootout. These games are classics that the players and fans will never forget, and should be treasured as such. 
   
Here's a quick look at the ten longest games in NHL history:

March 24, 1936 - Detroit 1, Montreal Maroons 0, semifinal, 116 minutes, 30 seconds, Mud Bruneteau.

April 3, 1933 - Toronto 1, Boston 0, semifinal, 104:46, Ken Doraty.

May 4, 2000 - Philadelphia 2, Pittsburgh 1, conference semifinal, 92:01, Keith Primeau.

Aug. 11, 2020 - Tampa Bay 2, Columbus 1, Eastern Conf. 1st Round, 90:27, Brayden Point

April 24, 2003 - Anaheim 4, Dallas 3, conference semifinal, 80:48, Petr Sykora.

April 24, 1996 - Pittsburgh 3, Washington 2, conference quarterfinal, 79:15, Petr Nedved.

April 11, 2007 - Vancouver 5, Dallas 4, conference quarterfinal, 78:06, Henrik Sedin.

March 23, 1943 - Toronto 3, Detroit 2, semifinal, 70:18, Jack McLean.

May 4, 2008 - Dallas 2, San Jose 1, conference semifinal, 69:03, Brenden Morrow.

March 28, 1930 - Montreal Canadiens 2, N.Y. Rangers 1, semifinal, 68:52, Gus Rivers.

Pucks On The 'Net

New York Rangers Win Draft Lottery

The New York Rangers won the rights to the first overall draft pick this off season, courtesy of the wacky draft lottery. The Rangers will most assuredly select Alexis Lafreniere with that pick. He is the clear cut best prospect in a deep draft. I don't pretend to know all the prospects that well, but I would say he is the best prospect since Auston Matthews.

The Rangers already have some nice young pieces in Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren and Igor Sheshterkin, and Lafreniere moves right to the top of that list. He might immediately become their second best player after Artemi Panarin.

Of course Panarin and Lafreniere both play left wing. So does long time Ranger Chris Krieder. Don't forget Brendan Lemieux, too. He's too good for the 4th line. Finding ice time for all these guys will be interesting to watch. 

Panthers Fire Dale Tallon

The Florida Panthers announced they will be looking for a new general manager. No surprise here. Yes Dale Tallon has acquired a lot of great young players, but his team continues to go nowhere. The Panthers have made the playoffs just three times in Tallon's ten years at the helm, and haven't won a playoff series since 1996. 

The new GM will have some nice pieces to work with. It is eerily similar to when Tallon got the boot in Chicago. He acquired a bunch of great young talent but never really got anywhere. Tallon got the boot, and new GM Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville molded the pieces into what passes as a modern Stanley Cup dynasty. Quenneville is already in place in Florida. Could history repeat itself?

Future of Development Hockey

At least Tallon won't have to figure out all the logistics involved of junior, college, minor league and international hockey leagues futures. 

Do these leagues, who all cancelled their seasons outright, start in September or October, before the NHL's next season debut in December? If so are players committed to their teams and unable to play in the NHL? 

Take Lafreniere for example. Presumably the Rangers would have him play three seasons in junior and then join the team in December, but normally he wouldn't be allowed to do so. He could sign in Europe. There are rumors of NHL players, most notably Joe Thornton, doing that if they can secure out clauses to return to the NHL.

Euro leagues will likely offer those out clauses. Will junior teams match? If the AHL can't go, will NHL teams and agents be looking to land them in Europe? You bet they don't want to waste precious development time for many of these top young talents. And what happens with all these college kids, who might not have a proper school year let alone a hockey season.

I'm sure someone much smarter than I is working on all these situations as we speak.

Bob McKenzie Retires

Bob McKenzie, the original hockey insider announced he is retiring. Well, sort of. Semi-retirement he calls it. He'll still appear now and again in the future, such as at the draft and World Juniors, two of his most passionate hockey subjects. 

I've been reading McKenzie since the 1980s when he was editor of The Hockey News. By 2000 he was a regular on TSN. He was the one guy who I always took his word as gospel. Over the years that list grew a little bit (Darren Dreger, Eliotte Friedman, John Shannon...I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two more) but McKenzie was always the gold standard. 

Hockey was lucky to have him. And lucky to still have him. I'm hoping he returns to some writing projects.

August 10, 2020

2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

 When trying to re-establish yourself as a respected voice in the hockey world, one key idea to do early is establish your credibility. Show the readers that you know what you're talking about. And the easiest way to do that in hockey is to make a bunch of right calls during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Easy, right?

I went 2 for 8 in the "play in" round.

So much for that.

I only got the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders right. Now, a lot of people got burned when by Pittsburgh and Edmonton in particular. And it really was a crazy round to try to predict, especially with the 4 month layoff. But 2 for 8 is really bad.

So we will just kindly forget all about that, shall we? And we shall try again with the first round of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs:

Eastern Conference:

Philadelphia vs Montreal. I'm going with Philly here. They're off to a great start, and I really believe in Alain Vigneault as the coach. Montreal has what it takes to pull of another upset but Philly is just too powerful. Winner: Philadelphia

Tampa Bay vs Columbus. Oh boy. Columbus is a team built for playoff style games. And what is the injury status of Tampa Bay's key defenseman Victor Hedman? I'm going to not overthink this and go with Tampa. They have far more options than Toronto did and will give Columbus more than enough to handle. Winner: Tampa Bay

Washington vs. New York Islanders. This one isn't so easy. Washington has all sorts of experience and could easily prove to the be the team to win the Stanley Cup. But they're off to a slow start. The stifling Islanders could capitalize - pun always intended - on the Caps and pull off the upset. Winner: NY Islanders

Boston vs Carolina. Boston was fantastic in the regular season, but that was a long time ago. They've stumbled out of the gates this summer. Carolina is a better team than most given them credit for and have a fantastic blue line. I'm going to pick Carolina for the mild upset. Winner: Carolina

Western Conference

Vegas vs Chicago: Chicago proved they still have some real nice pieces from their not so distant Stanley Cup years. Toews, Kane, Keith and Crawford can still get it done on any given night. They've also proved they have some nice pieces coming along the pipeline. I especially like Kirby Dach. This team is still a year or two away though, and Vegas is a juggernaut. Winner: Vegas.

Colorado vs Arizona: Colorado appears to be the model team for the new era. So much speed, so much scoring, so much entertainment. Will that translate to playoff success yet? Arizona will be a good test, but at the end of the day there is just too much talent on the Avalanche side. Winner: Colorado

Dallas vs Calgary: There's something about both of these teams that I just don't like. I don't know quite what it is in either case. Because Dallas has the edge at the most important position (goaltending), I'm going with the Stars: Winner: Dallas

St. Louis vs Vancouver: St. Louis is off to a bad start, but you know coach Craig Berube will correct that. The defending Stanley Cup champions know what needs to be done better than any team in the playoffs. Blessed with the four month layoff that will benefit them more than most, the Blues are fresh and will be ready to roll. The Canucks are young and talented. If their power play was clicking like it did during the regular season maybe they'd have a shot here. But as is the Canucks are big underdogs here. Winner: St. Louis

There you have my 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs first round predictions.

August 08, 2020

The Seattle Hockey History Project

 

As previously mentioned, I am undertaking a new biography project here at GreatestHockeyLegends.com. I am going to profile all the players who played for the Seattle Metropolitans of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association from 1915 through 1924.

You undoubtedly know the Seattle Kraken is the NHL's newest expansion team. But did you know that 100 years ago the colorful Seattle Mets were one of the most powerful teams in major league hockey, competing for the Stanley Cup three times and, in 1917, becoming the first American team to ever win the most cherished trophy in all of hockey?

Before the Kraken take to the ice and create a new era of hockey history, let's celebrate the men of Seattle's proud hockey past.

Check back here for a master listing of all Seattle biographies;

Archie Briden
Eddie Carpenter 
Hec Fowler
Frank Foyston
Gord Fraser
Smokey Harris
Hap Holmes
Bernie Morris
Lester Patrick
Roy Rickey
Jim Riley
Bobby Rowe
Jack Walker
Cully Wilson

Hap Holmes

 Hockey Hall of Famer Harry "Hap" Holmes played only 103 NHL games, but enjoyed a 15 year career with 5 different leagues. He was one of hockey's early star puck stoppers, and had he not spent his best years out west, Hap Holmes almost certainly would be bigger legend in hockey circles today.


Holmes strapped on the pads for Toronto of the NHA, Seattle of the PCHA, Victoria of the WCHL which would later become the WHL, and Toronto and Detroit of the NHL.

The cap-wearing Holmes backstopped four Stanley Cup winners, including two in Toronto, one in the NHA days and another in the NHL's very first season. He also backstopped Seattle and Victoria.


However his most famous feat came in one of hockey's most infamous moments.

That moment was the 1919 influenza cancelled Stanley Cup finals. The series featured the two best goalies of early hockey history, as Holmes went head to head with his nemesis, Georges Vezina. The final game was a 0-0 draw. Due to the flu, the referee called the game off to rest the weary players. That set up a 7th game showdown. Unfortunately that 7th game was never played, as the flu claimed the life of Joe Hall.

Though much of his career pre-dated the NHL or was spent out west in the PCHA/WHL, the legendary Holmes finally became a NHL star at the end of his career. He, like most surviving members of the Victoria Cougars, relocated to Detroit. He played the final two seasons of his career in the Motor City, earning an impressive 17 shutouts in 85 games.

Described as both fearless and non-chalent almost to a fault. Some mistook his "nerveless" approach to the net as lazy, just like some mistook his efficient play as unspectacular.

Following his retirement from the crease, Holmes became instrumental in bringing AHL hockey to Cleveland. To honour his contributions, "Hap" Holmes is now forever immortalized in the American Hockey League. The top goalie in that league is awarded the Hap Holmes Memorial Trophy.

Illness forced Holmes to seek warmer climates later in life. He relocated to Florida and operated a fruit farm until his death in 1941. He was just 53.

The NHL honoured Hap Holmes with his posthumous induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

Make no mistake, Hap Holmes truly was one of the best goaltenders in the world in his long, 15 year career. He was arguably the best goalie in the PCHA for six straight years. He saved his best play for the playoffs. His four Stanley Cup championships with four different teams should be stuff of legend. He even outduelled the likes of Georges Vezina and Clint Benedict.

Norman "Hec" Fowler

This is Norman Fowler. He was better known by his nickname Hec, sometimes spelled Heck. The origins of the nickname remain unknown to me. Perhaps it was because he gave his opponents heck. He was a a brawling puck stopper, an early day Ron Hextall.

Born in Saskatoon in 1892, Fowler rose through the goaltending in the junior ranks in northern Saskatchewan city, earning praise and notice.

He turned his youthful passion into a career that took him to some unusual places. In 1916 he moved to Spokane, Washington to play for the Canaries of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. He would later play with the PCHA's Seattle Metropolitans and Victoria Aristocrats/Cougars.

When the Boston Bruins joined the National Hockey League in 1924, they acquired Fowler from Victoria to be the Bruins first goaltender.

The excitement soon faded for the Bruins and especially for Fowler. After seven games he was dumped. He had won just one of those games and allowed 42 goals.

There is even some suggestion that Fowler burned some bridges by admitting he was allowing extra goals against in hopes that the Bruins would go out and get some better players. Manager Art Ross opted to do just that, but named Fowler as their scapegoat and let him go.

Ross apparently even suspended and fined Fowler as much as $1,000. Fowler returned home but found a new team in the Edmonton Eskimos. Somehow though, Ross bound Fowler to a contract for just $1. In order to secure his release the Eskimos paid Fowler's $1000 fine.

Fowler took his $1 and framed it. He reportedly posted it on the walls of a printing shop he opened in Saskatoon after retiring from hockey.

Fowler would play two seasons in Edmonton before relocating to California to play for a team called Oakland Shieks! He was somewhat of a celebrity in the sunshine state, dubbed a "human blanket" for his puck stopping abilities.

I found one article from 1951 by Vern DeGeer of the Montreal Gazette which paints "Heck" Fowler as one of the most colorful hockey players ever. Here's the highlights:

  • "Probably the roughest and toughest goaltender to hit major professional hockey in the last 35 years . . ."
  • "Fowler was a physical culture fanatic with arms like a village smithy and legs hewed from steel."
  • "He often participated in speed contests against Phil Taylor (formerly of the Ice Follies and Ice Capades) and Norman Faulkner, a prairie champion before losing a leg in the First World War."
  • He was an avid baseball player, uniquely playing short stop like a goalie. "He played the position hockey-fashion, blocking grounders with his feet and shins, then making the pick-up for the throw."
  • "During the summer months he used to get out on the sidewalk in front of his house and invite neighboring kids to fire pucks at his unprotected shins."
  • He also was quite the amateur soccer goalie.
But it was his temper and physical play that set him apart from most goalies.

"Insisting that a goaltender's cage was his castle, Fowler wouldn't permit an opponent within a stick's length. Oldtimers who campaigned against him will tell you Fowler was the original wood-chopper. He delighted in laying on the lumber. If you got too close for a good belt with the hickory, he'd throw a punch.

"He served time in every penalty box within skating distance during his eventful professional career. In his campaigning days when a goalie was penalized no substitute was permitted to serve his sentence as is done today. He engaged in a dozen fist fights in the Coast League, several in the NHL and despite the burden of equipment, didn't lose many decisions. In a duel with the sticks, which was the favorite skull denting approach until the moderns encouraged a milder form of physical encounter, he could swing his heavier war club vigorously enough to fell one of California's famous Redwood trees. But he preferred his fists. Claimed he was always breaking sticks and his tough knuckles took the punishment easier."

August 07, 2020

Roy Rickey

Roy Rickey was the only member of the 1917 Stanley Cup champion Seattle Metropolitans who never did get to play in the National Hockey League.

Now of course most of those Mets players were already established players for a number of seasons. And the NHL was just starting up in 1917. Most of the Mets players had brief appearances in the NHL late in their careers, but not Rickey.

Rickey, a defenseman from Ottawa, joined the Mets in 1915 and played eight seasons in Seattle. He was not exactly the most prolific scorer, but a solid contributor to the considerable team success.

That success included the 1917 Stanley Cup championship - the first by an American based team - along with return trips to the Stanley Cup final in 1919 and 1920. 

Seattle was on their way to defeating the Montreal Canadiens in the 1919 Stanley Cup before the whole series was cancelled due to the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed Montreal star Bad Joe Hall. That terrible virus affected other players, too, including Rickey who was hospitalized and unavailable to play had they continued on.

In 1920 the Seattle Metropolitans lost the Stanley Cup showdown with the Ottawa Senators. The Senators would go on to form a hockey dynasty while the Mets began to decline thereafter.

By 1924 the Mets were done and Rickey's contract was sold to the WCHL's Edmonton Eskimos. Major pro hockey in the west would only last another season, as the NHL won the bidding war for players and forced the PCHA/WCHL into financial submission. Rickey's rights - along with that of Bullet Joe Simpson and Crutchy Morrison (nicknames were fantastic back in the olden days!) were sold to the New York Americans of the NHL for $10,000.

But Rickey never went to the Big Apple. Instead he went back to Ontario where he played and coached in minor pro leagues in Niagara Falls and Hamilton. He also played one final season, 1928-29, in Los Angeles.