October 21, 2014

Awkward Mario Lemieux Commercials

Generally speaking, hockey players have made for some pretty poor actors. And Mario Lemieux was no exception. I present people's exhibits 1, 2, 3 and 4. Please forgive me:

Hockey History Photo of the Day: New York Islanders

October 20, 2014

Rocket Richard: Newspaper Man

Did you know that in the early 1950s Maurice "Rocket" Richard had a newspaper column called Tour de Chapeau (Hat Trick) in the weekly paper Samedi-Dimanche. The column was actually written for him by a ghost writer who would interview the Rocket.

As you may have expected, Richard was as fiery in print as he was on the ice. And it got him in trouble.

In 1953, Richard wrote a scathing criticism of NHL President Clarence Campbell's suspension of Boom Boom Geoffrion. The Boomer had broken the jaw of New York Rangers' player Ron Murphy in a vicious stick swinging duel. Richard called the suspension a "farce" and Campbell a "dictator" and added that "if Mr. Campbell wants me out of the league for daring to criticize him, let him do it."

Mr. Campbell was not amused. He is said to have called the column "an attack on my personal integrity and an attack on the office of the NHL president." Campbell never did suspend Richard but demanded a retraction and apology in print.

The following issue had Richard's retraction, though it is believed to have been written by Canadiens general manager Frank Selke. It was the last column Maurice Richard wrote for this newspaper.

(I have seen reports that Campbell did not fine Rocket Richard and that he did fine Richard as much as $1,000 for the article.)

Hockey History Photo of the Day: Winnipeg Jets, WHA Champions

October 18, 2014

Catching Up With The Past

I haven't had the greatest chance to cover the opening of the NHL's 98th season as I took a week off to run a marathon (3:56!) and a vacation. So we better do some catching up with the past:

  • A burglar broke into the home of Philadelphia Flyers legend Andre "Moose" Dupont. Among the possessions taken from Dupont's Trois Rivieres, Quebec home was his 1974 Stanley Cup ring.
  • Alex Fitzpatrick of Time.com looks back at 25th anniversary of Wayne Gretzky becoming the NHL's all time leading scorer and declares that #99 is "still The Great One." 

October 17, 2014

1974 Midget Tournament Saw Soviet Player Banned For Life For Kicking Two Future NHLers

In 1974 the Canadian midget hockey team Verdun Maple Leafs travelled to Moscow, Leningrad and Riga to play several games against top Soviet hockey players of the same age.

It seems amazing enough that Canadian kids were sent over to Russia during the Cold War, but what reportedly happened over there is even more amazing.

The Montreal Star and French newspapers La Presse and Montreal-Matin all reported a nasty kicking incident that got a Soviet youth banned from hockey for life, and his coaches suspended for one season.

Apparently the game featured a bench clearing brawl described as "... one of the most serious brawls in the history of international hockey competition." I know it was the 1970s, but we are still talking about kids here. Just amazing.

For the brawl coaches Anatoli Firsov - a legend of Soviet hockey - and Anatoli Galamosov were suspended for one year.

The most serious of incidents saw a player named Victor Ovaskin exit the penalty box to join in the fights. Video tape clearly caught Ovaskin kicking Canadian player John Bethel in the face with his skate, resulting in a gash over his eye. Another player - future NHL tough guy Jimmy Mann - suffered a large welt on his stomach from an alleged kick from Ovaskin, but officials could not prove that kick.

Soviet official Col. Dimitri Goulevich said:  "There's no excuse for players to kick with skates. As far as we are concerned the coaches are responsible for the control of every player and our coaches lost control."

Canadian coach Brian McKeown said both teams share the responsibility. "We must share the responsibility. Two wrongs don't make a right. Our player was first off the bench and if their coaches lost control, so did ours."

I do not know whatever happened to Victor Ovaskin. John Bethel went on to play at Boston University and had a brief pro career including 17 games with the Winnipeg Jets in 1979-80.

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