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August 18, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Peter McNab

Peter McNab's dad was a former journeyman hockey player, who won a Stanley Cup with Detroit in 1950, and later went on to become the New Jersey Devils GM for a time, but most of his hockey career was spent in the minor Leagues. Perhaps that is why Peter was one of the first NHL'ers to go the route of US College Hockey before embarking on an NHL career.

After a fine College career Pete signed with Buffalo in 1973. After two full seasons in Buffalo where he scored 22 and 24 goals, Harry Sinden signed Peter as a free agent on June 11, 1976. He then preceded to etch his name among Bruin scoring leaders.

He was a fine puck carrier (though a lumbering skater), with a deadly accurate shot, that saw him notch 82 power play goals in his career. He was an excellent power play performer. Firstly he was excellent on face-offs, so coaches like to put him out to start the PP with possession. He would then park his big frame in front of the net, though he was anything but a dominating physical player. He was not there to simply obstruct the goaltender's view. He had excellent hand skills score from in tight on those loose pucks and rebounds. He also had excellent hand-eye coordination for tip-ins.

Peter's best game as a Bruin came against the Colorado Rockies, February 20, 1979, when he  had a hand in all 5 Bruins goals in a 5-3 Bruin victory. When he left the Bruins he ranked in the top ten all-time in goals, assists, points and playoff scoring for the Bruins.

Peter was traded to Vancouver on February 8, 1984 for Jim Nill. After the 1984-85 season in Vancouver, Peter found himself in New Jersey where his GM was also his dad. The contract negotiations must have been the ultimate in allowance discussions between father and son.

McNab retired in 1987 with 954 career games played. He scored 363 goals, 450 assists and 813 points.

August 17, 2017

Jacques Plante's Hockey Card Poses

In many ways the 1950s was a grand ol' age of goaltending. Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall, Harry Lumley, Gump Worsley, and Al Rollins all dominated. Gerry MacNeil, Sugar Jim Henry, and by the end of the decade Johnny Bower also made notable contributions. 

But that was the NHL. When it came to kids hockey, coaching remained almost non-existent. No one really understood the position, so often kids were left to their own devices.

With television still in it's infancy, a lot of young puckstoppers relied on photos to worship and emulate their padded heroes. And in hockey that means hockey cards.

I wonder how many kids of the 1950s used these Jacques Plante hockey cards to learn their craft:

Now by today's standards Plante's demonstrated goaltending techniques (not to mention his archaic equipment) are pretty antiquated. There's no way a goaltender would play like this anymore.

But I bet there was a time when a lot of young goalies played like this all the time. And they probably had a wonderful time doing it.

Hockey Heroes: Wieslaw Jobczyk

April 8th, 1976.

That was the day of the greatest upset in the history of international hockey. Perhaps it was the greatest upset in the history of hockey.

Four years before a bunch of American college kids upset the mighty Soviet Union national team at the Olympics, the Russians experienced another major hiccup against Poland. The hiccup came in the form of a 6-4 loss against the hometown Poles, as the 1976 World Championships were being held in the Polish mining town of Katowice. The loss would cost the Russians the world championship.

Aside from the two aforementioned losses, the Soviets were practically unbeatable in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Just two months before Katowice the Russians had destroyed all the competition in the 1976 Olympic games, including disposing of Poland by a humiliating score of 16-1. The Russians were gold medalists in 12 of the previous 13 world championships, and later on would destroy NHL competition at the Challenge Cup and 1981 Canada Cup.

Poland, of course, has never been a hockey power, and they were always a whipping boy for the Soviets. In the previous seven contests, the Russians had won by scores of 9-3, 20-0, 8-3, 17-0, 13-2, 15-1 and 16-1. That's a combined score of 98-10!

But something funny happened on this day. The Russians clearly were guilty of overlooking their competition. They started back up goalie Alexander Sidelnikov instead of usual starter Vladislav Tretiak. Though Sidelnikov was not strong, the Russian team should have had enough offense to spot the Poles a few goals and still blow them away. But it was just not working for the Russians, for whatever reason.

Mieczyslaw Jaskierski opened the scoring at 10:21 of the first period, while Ryszard Nowinski tallied 4 minutes later. After 20 minutes, the Poles, wearing their red national team jerseys, had already shocked the hockey world. They had a 2-0 lead on the Soviets!

The Soviets came alive in the second period, but puck luck was not on their side. Boris Mikhailov scored to narrow the score to 2-1, but 2 quick goals by the Poles upped the score to 4-1, still early in the 2nd period. Previously unknown Wieslaw Jobczyk scored to make it 3-1, while Jaskierski scored his second of the game to make it 4-1.

Soviet coach Boris Kulagin was fuming by the point, and yanked goaltender Sidelnikov in favor of the great Tretiak. The Soviets quickly responded, as big left winger Alexander Yakushev tallied just outside of the 5 minute mark to make the score 4-2.

But this night would prove to be Wieslaw Jobczyk's 15 minutes of fame. At 6:40 of the second, Jobczyk scored his second goal of the game and what proved to be the game winning goal. Just to make sure, Jobczyk completed the hat trick in the third period, making Valeri Kharlamov's 2 third period goals obsolete. 10,000 Polish fans in attendance turned into a complete madhouse. They almost raised the roof off of the stadium when singing the national anthem in victory after the game.

While Wieslaw Jobczyk gets a lot of credit for his famous hat trick, Polish goaltender Andrzej Tkacz also deserves full marks. Tkacz made several remarkable saves to keep the Polish dream night going.

To show how unlikely the victory was, the Poles returned to their normal form the next day, losing 12-0 to Czechoslovakia. Despite the victory of the Soviets, the Poles could muster no more wins, and were relegated down to the B pool by tournament's end.

So whatever happened to Wieslaw Jobczyk. Well he continued to play hockey through the 1980s. According to HockeyDB.com, Jobczyk ended up playing 2nd division hockey in Germany, including stops in Duisburg and Ratingen. The 5'9" 190lb forward was quite the goal scorer. HockeyDB's incomplete statistics have Jobczyk scoring 236 goals, 439 points in 169 2nd division games!

August 16, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Kirk McLean

Utilizing his big size, Captain Kirk was one of the last classic stand up goalies to succeed in the National Hockey League. Canucks radio colour commentator Tom Larscheid described him best: "He's like one of those bubble hockey goalies, always standing perfectly straight and just letting the puck hit him."

His stand up style was ideal for his big frame, although in some ways his style made him unappreciated. While other goalies were acrobatically turning away pucks, "Mac" made all saves look routine by just getting in the way of it and making sure the rebound was under control. To the novice fan it looked routine, even boring, but to the hardcore fan it was a pleasure to watch one of the last great stand up goalies.

One of the coolest customers you'll ever meet, McLean seemed unflappable, even in the early years with Vancouver when the team was extremely weak. He had a tremendous glove hand, which made up for vulnerabilities to the low posts. He also loved to handle the puck, usually in the far corner of the rink in what is now part of the restricted zone. He would almost without fail deke out an oncoming forechecker by faking a puck dump behind the net and around to the other corner, but then pull back with a backhanded flip the other way, usually to a waiting Canucks defenseman.

Growing up in Toronto, McLean grew up idolizing Bernie Parent and Jacques Plante, as well as Dave Keon. He began playing in net at age 7, and before you know it he was the number one goalie with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. The New Jersey Devils were impressed, and drafted him 107th overall in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.

McLean would turn pro and apprentice in the minor leagues in 1986-87. He'd appear in 4 games with the Devils, who were loaded with good young goaltenders at the time. The Devils had always lacked great goaltending and had stockpiled on goaltending prospects. With Sean Burke, Craig Billington, Alain Chevrier and Chris Terreri all emerging as NHLers at relatively the same time, the Devils decided to move McLean in exchange for help up front.

The deal was good for both teams, but especially for Vancouver over the long haul. The Canucks moved creative center Patrik Sundstrom to the Devils in exchange for McLean, and B.C. boy Greg Adams. It was one of the first moves the new Pat Quinn-Brian Burke regime would make, and proved to be a turning point in Canucks history.

McLean quickly proved he was ready for the NHL. After battling in training camp with veterans Steve Weeks, Frank Caprice and most notably long time fan favorite "King Richard" Brodeur, "Mac" emerged as the number one goalie. Adding to the pressure of being counted on game in and game out was the fact that the Canucks ended up trading Brodeur away to make room for McLean. The unproven goaltender replaced the local legend and had to prove his worth before a very watchful fan base and media.

McLean played in 41 games that first year, winning just 11 with a very weak Canucks team. His numbers improved to 20 wins in 42 contests the following year. He extended he is season by representing Canada at the World Hockey Championships. While locals knew McLean was something special, soon the rest of the league would find out for themselves.

In 1989-90, the Canucks were still struggling, but with McLean and a young Trevor Linden leading the way, the future looked bright. McLean played in 63 games that season, winning just 21. But his value to the team was recognized throughout the league when he was named a finalist in league voting for goaltender of the year. He was also invited to his first NHL all star game and was named NHL player of the week in March.

As the Canucks got better, McLean emerged as one of the league's best. In 1991-92 he won a a league high 38 games in 65 contests. His GAA was an impressive 2.74 and he posted 5 shutouts, another league high. He was named to the NHL's second all star team. He would finish second behind Patrick Roy in voting for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder.

Kirk McLean, like most of the Canucks of that era, will always be remembered for his play in the 1994 playoffs. The team struggled through an underachieving regular season, but backed by the brilliance of McLean's puckstopping went all the way to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals before finally bowing to the New York Rangers.

McLean's signature moment came in round one against Calgary. With the team clawing it's way back from a 3 games to 1 deficit, the Canucks forced overtime in game 7. In the extra frame McLean robbed Flames' sniper Robert Reichal with a sliding, pad-stacked toe save that to this day is considered the single most important save of the Canucks history.

But McLean was never better than in game one of the Stanley Cup finals in New York. The Rangers heavily outplayed the underdog Canucks, but McLean, in his classic stand-up style, committed one of the grandest larcenies in the history of Manhattan. His 52 save performance, including 17 in overtime, remains one of the most impressive games I've ever seen a goaltender play. In a game where the Rangers could have blown out the Canucks, McLean kept the score 2-2 into over time where Greg Adams, McLean's trade accompaniant from New Jersey 7 years prior, scored the game winning goal at 19:26 of the first over time.

As magical as that spring was, the entire Canucks team could not recapture it and would soon fall apart. McLean struggled to adjust to the butterfly goaltending stance that was now seemingly the only acceptable strategy. He was doubly distracted by his divorce.

Despite his all star status and tremendous resume, perhaps history will always remember Kirk McLean as the goalie who gave up Wayne Gretzky's record breaking 802nd NHL goal. On March 23rd, 1994, Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's all time NHL scoring record with a power play marker in a 6-3 loss to the Canucks. McLean had no chance on the play, but will undoubtedly be forever immortalized in hockey trivia games.

Like all members of that Canucks team, McLean was soon moved out in a dismantling process by the new Canucks regime. McLean was moved to Carolina in exchange for, somewhat ironically, Sean Burke, the goalie who ended winning the Devils net job back in the late 1980s. McLean left as the Canucks all time leader in wins, shutouts and games played by a goaltender.

Sadly McLean bounced around the league, landing later in Florida and then the Rangers before retiring in 2001. By the end he may have been a shadow of his old self, his stand up style now a NHL antique. But to Vancouver fans of the early 1990s, Captain Kirk will always be #1.

August 15, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Herb Carnegie

Willie O'Ree was the first Black player in National Hockey League history, often earning the nickname of the "Jackie Robinson of Hockey."

But O'Ree wasn't the first or necessarily the best Black hockey player back in the early days. Many say that Herb Carnegie was the best player not in the National Hockey League at that time.

Herb Carnegie was one-third of what is believed to be the very first all-black line in hockey. Herbie centered his brother Ossie and Manny McIntyre. O'Ree described them as "superstars of their era" with the Quebec Aces of the QSHL and EHL.

"Herb was a center. He and Ossie, a right wing, were both born in Toronto. McIntyre, the left wing on the line, was born in my hometown of Fredericton, New Brunswick. They were a great forward line, terrific skaters and terrific shooters. Herb was considered to be the best of the three, but all of them would have made the NHL if they had gotten a better chance at it," said O'Ree.

Carnegie had chance to play with a young Jean Beliveau while with the Quebec Aces. Beliveau many years later had nothing but good things to say about Carnegie.

"Even though it's been more than four decades since I witnessed Herb's hockey brilliance, there is no question that the years I spent with him still evoke some of my best hockey memories," said Jean. "Herbie was a super hockey player, a beautiful style, a beautiful skater, a great playmaker. In those days, the younger ones learned from the older ones. I learned from Herbie."

Frank Mahovlich, hockey Hall of Famer and Canadian senator, was another fan of his.

"I was just amazed at the way he played; he was much superior to the others on the ice."

Born in Toronto to Jamaican immigrants, Herb and Ossie grew up like any other southern Ontario kid. They played hockey whenever they could, perfecting skills that would turn them into junior and senior stars. Herb was particularly grand, earning the nickname "Swivel Hips" because of his elusive dekes on the ice. He was said to "lift fans out of their seats with a feathery pinpoint pass, exquisite puckhandling or a brilliantly conceived play."

The better Carnegie became, the more the racial taunts began. Even as a youth, opposing coaches or fans would taunt him. But he heeded the advice of a coach and chose to respond by scoring goals and being better than everyone else. He became incredibly focused on achieving his dreams of playing for his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs before adoring fans at Maple Leaf Gardens, just like his hero Joe Primeau.

While racism in the NHL has more or less been swept under the rug very successfully, Toronto Maple Leaf's boss Conn Smythe was once allegedly quoted saying "I will gladly give $10,000 to anyone who can turn Herb Carnegie white." Although there is no written evidence that Smythe ever actually said that, the quote, mythical or not, shattered Carnegie, who at the time was a junior player still unaware of the destiny he faced.

The hockey world knew that Herbie Carnegie was a good player, but suspiciously he never had a chance to play in the NHL, not even during World War II when NHL teams were desperately looking for replacements lost to the armed forces.

Hall of Fame referee Red Storey suggests there was only one reason Carnegie never got a chance.

"It's very simple. He's black. Don't say we don't have any rednecks in Canada. But I'm not saying Conn Smythe was bigoted either. I think he said the quote, but I think he meant that with Herbie being black, he wouldn't be able to put him in the same hotels with the rest of the team and have him eat the same restaurants and there could be problems if he took him to the States to play against the NHL teams there."

Carnegie found all doors to the NHL closed, but he and his brother continued to play. They formed an all black line with Manny McIntyre. The trio started in the old "mines leagues," traveling from town to town. Later they settled in Quebec where they were dubbed "The Black Aces." Herb was the strategist, Ossie was the man with the big canon and McIntyre was the muscle and hustle.

"They were good enough as a line to play in the American Hockey League, which was just below the NHL," suggested Storey. "But Herbie was the leader. They couldn't have gone anywhere without Herb. He was good enough to play in the NHL."

The Black Aces became comfortable with their somewhat legendary status and they achieved decent economic success. By the late 1940s Herb was getting paid $5100, a good amount back then, and he had solid job offers outside of hockey as well.

So it came as a great surprise when the New York Rangers offered Carnegie a training camp invite in 1948. Carnegie kept surviving the cuts, and soon the Rangers were offering a minor league contract. The Rangers wanted to see Carnegie apprentice in the minors to see if he could adjust to the realities of being a black athlete in America, and also to see if he could have the same levels of success without his long time linemates. The strong headed Carnegie refused every contract offer, insisting he was good enough to play in the NHL and refusing to play in the minor leagues. Also he did not want to take a pay cut or move his young family to a minor league city, either.

Carnegie summed up his own possible passing on the NHL in Cecil Harris' book Breaking The Ice:

"Frankie Boucher was coaching the New York Rangers in 1948 and he told me he thought I was a good player, but he wanted to be sure whether I could play in the NHL. So he suggested I sign and start playing in New Haven. I was 29 at the time and I didn't feel like playing there. For in those days there were not too many thirty year old players in the NHL and I knew that if I didn't make it immediately, I wouldn't get another chance."

"He stayed in Canada because he had a better future here financially. He could do better in the Quebec League financially than he could in the NHL."

Carnegie returned to Quebec and played hockey until 1954. After retirement he became very successful in the field of financial management with Investors Group.

He also avidly pursued his other sporting passion, golf. He was always a natural golfer, long before the days of Tiger Woods. He was so good that he won the Canadian Senior Championship in 1977 as well as several other provincial and national titles as well.

He also continued to be influential in the community, particularly with children, setting up the Future Aces Foundation. It started out as a hockey school, said to be the first hockey school by one source, with a focus on developing solid sportsmen and citizens. Now 50 years later, the foundation has grown into an influential force in Ontario school system and beyond.

Carnegie had to give up golf and many other activies

August 14, 2017

Hockey Heroes: Slim Halderson

Harold Halderson was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba a week into 1898. He appears to have been born as Halldor Halldorson, but the family anglicized their named despite the strong Icelandic heritage in Winnipeg back in those days. 

Not that it mattered - he grew quickly and topped out as a giant, at least in the hockey world at that time, at 6'3". His nickname Slim stuck with him forever. 

Described an excellent stick handler and playmaker and a deceptive skater, Halderson had a long and interesting career in hockey. 

Halderson grew up playing hockey in Winnipeg, starring at the junior and senior levels. He was part of a strong Icelandic hockey community, though the city didn't initially warm to them. In fact the Icelanders were looked down upon at that time, as if they were second class citizens. 

Hockey helped to change that when a surprise team known as the Winnipeg Falcons - made up primarily of players from Icelandic families - won the Allan Cup and represented Canada at the very first Olympic hockey tournament. The Falcons, in their yellow Canada jerseys, won gold by defeating Czechoslovaks 15-0, USA 2-0, and Sweden 12-1. 

Halderson returned to Canada and played a season of senior hockey in Saskatchewan before turning pro with the Victoria Cougars of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association - the western rival of the eastern based National Hockey League. He played several strong seasons in the beautiful British Columbia capital city. In 1925 the Cougars became the last non-NHL team to win the Stanley Cup. In the process Halderson and Frank Frederickson - Halderson's teammate from Winnipeg - became the first players in history to win both an Olympic gold medal and the Stanley Cup.

The PCHA collapsed in 1926. The Victoria Cougars were purchased by American interests and moved to Detroit where they eventually became known as the Detroit Red Wings. Slim moved to Michigan too, but finished the 1926-27 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a combined 44 games Halderson scored 3 goals and 5 points in an otherwise un-noteworthy year.

That was the end of Slim Halderson's NHL career, but he continued to play on at several different levels until 1937. He travelled to Quebec City, Newark, Kansas City, Wichita and Tulsa, all to chase pucks.

Halderson finally hung up his blades in 1937 and returned to Winnipeg where he worked for the Manitoba Liquor Commission until he retired in 1961. He passed away in 1965.

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