May 22, 2019

Blues vs Bruins In 2019 Stanley Cup Final


The St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins will face off for the 2019 Stanley Cup beginning on May 27th.

I am going to miss it.

In fact, for the first time in my life, I am going to miss the entire Stanley Cup final.

I am off to Europe, exploring Italy, Greece, Croatia and, for part of a day, Montenegro. It should be fun.

I really like the Blues, with coach Craig Berube arguably serving as their MVP and a really solid blue line in front of the hot shot rookie Jordan Bennington (I almost typed Craig Billington!) in net.

But I expect the Bruins to once again lift the Stanley Cup, thanks to the superior Tuukka Rask in net and rested and healthy line up through out.

I hope I am wrong. I hope St. Louis wins.

And when I get back I very much look forward to seeing all teams back on page one, building for next year and beyond through the draft, trades and free agency.

May 20, 2019

Mr. Goalie Glenn Hall


Hockey players, especially goaltenders, have pre-game rituals. Some are more unusual than others. But no one had a stranger ritual than former NHL goaltending great Glenn Hall who, because of nerves, would literally become physically ill while waiting the start of a game.

More often than not, before the first face-off, during the rest periods or after the game was concluded, Glenn quietly and unobtrusively would throw up .

"I always felt I played better if I was physically sick before the game. If I wasn't sick, I felt I hadn't done everything I could to try to win," Hall once said.

It obviously worked for Hall, as the man nicknamed "Mr. Goalie" has to be considered a prime candidate as the greatest goalie ever played.

Glenn Hall is also renowned as the grandfather of the butterfly goalie. He was the first goalie to practice and perfect the now common butterfly stance, as he'd fall on knees, spread his legs to take away the bottom corners and five-hole and let his rapier-like arm reflexes take care of the top corners. Glenn would meet the shot with his feet wide but his knees close together to form an inverted Y. Instead of throwing his whole body to the ice in crises, he would go down momentarily to his knees, then bounce back to his feet, able to go in any direction. Practically every goalie in hockey today relies on the strategies he perfected.

During his 18-year NHL career, which began in 1952 and ended in 1971, Glenn posted a 407-327-163 record, 2.51 goals-against-average and recorded 84 shutouts. He was a First Team All-Star seven times, won three Vezina Trophies, was voted the league's top rookie in 1955-56 and was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy in a losing cause in 1968. Despite his lengthy career, Glenn won his only Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 1961—the last time Chicago captured the title.

Hall actually started his career buried in the Detroit Red Wings system in the early 1950s. With the great Terry Sawchuk established as the number one goalie, it seemed as though Hall would have to wait forever for his turn to get a chance at full-time play in the league. But Hall kept the pressure on Sawchuk, eventually leading to the surprising Sawchuk trade to the Boston Bruins in 1955. Hall took to the Red Wings crease, and turned in a memorable rookie season, coming within one shutout of Harry Lumley's modern record of 13 set two seasons previously. He allowed only 2.11 goals against as he played in each and every game and won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie.

Hall played one one more season with Detroit, before yet another shocking trade involving a Red Wings goalie. This time Hall was packaged up in the infamous Ted Lindsay trade to the Chicago Blackhawks.

It was in Chicago that Hall is best remembered.Hall was a huge part of the Blackhawks turnaround, backstopping them to the Stanley Cup championship in 1961. The Hawks became the toast of Chicago for much of the 1960s, selling out every ticket for 14 seasons. With the likes Pierre Pilote, Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull, the Hawks were hot. But it was Hall who was synonymous with the Hawks, playing seemingly every game. In fact, despite his taxing pre-game ritual, Glenn holds the NHL record for most consecutive complete games, 502, by a goaltender. That's 502 straight contests without missing a minute of play. Not one single minute over the span of 8 seasons. That is one record that is certain never to be broken. Even more amazing is he accomplished this feat while playing without a mask.

At the age of 36, he was left unprotected in the 1967 Expansion Draft and was chosen by the newly minted St. Louis Blues. Due in large part to Hall's improbable heroics, the Blues marched all the way to the Stanley Cup final in their first year in the league. Though they would eventually lose to the Montreal Canadiens in four games, Hall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the league's top playoff performer. In 1968-69, Jacques Plante joined the team and the two veterans shared the goaltending duties, and split the Vezina Trophy. The duo returned the Blues to the Stanley Cup finals in both 1969 and 1970, only to lose again.

Hall retired in 1971, returning to Alberta to tend to his farm, while working with the Blues and later Calgary Flames as a goaltending coach and consultant.

May 16, 2019

Reluctant Tough Guy: Dwight Schofield

Dwight Schofield is one of the forgotten pugilists of the 1980s.

Schofield, 6'3" 195lb native of Waltham, Massachusetts, was never considered to be in the same class as Chris Nilan, Dave Semenko or Doug Brown, but he knew his role.

"Management doesn't think I'm worth a damn as a player, so I have to fight to survive," he bluntly stated in his days with the St. Louis Blues.

"I think I could be a decent player here if they didn't want me to be a hatchet-man all the time," he added. "They call it playing physically, but all it really involves is starting fights or defending your teammates. I admit I take pride in the way I fight because, right now, that's the only reason I'm in the NHL. But I don't enjoy it."

"When I was a kid growing up near Boston I was a pretty slick centerman who scored plenty of goals. My father is the one who changed me into an enforcer," he told Howard Berger in the book Of Sticks And Pucks.

" All of my life, my old man made me feel like an idiot because I wasn't an animal like my older brother (Gary). When I was playing Bantam, he was a big, tough defenseman with the New England high school champions. He was the most dominant player in the State. Everyone was scared stiff of him. He could play great defense and he was tougher than nails. On the other hand, I was a smallish forward who to playing hockey, but I think I was as good or better than another bantam in the state."

"For some reason, though, my dad was never satisfied with anything I did. One summer, when I was 15 years old, the Welland Sabres (Tier 2 Jr. A) came to New Hampshire to conduct a try-out camp for the local kids. I was psyched to the maximum and I went out and played my best - had a hell of a camp. During a scrimmage, though, a kid checked me and knocked me down real hard - a real hard hit - and I didn't do anything about it. After the game, my dad came up and said 'Great scrimmage, son, but it meant nothing because you chickened out with that guy.' That was the first in a series of put-downs, but he was my father and I respected his opinion.

"It definitely changed the way I played the game. With St. Michael's (Jr. B) I had to fight and I did well. I started my pro career in Kalamazoo of the International League and I tried sticking to hockey. I got to the Central League with Kansas City but they sent me back to the "I" after two years. I was then that I remember saying I have to make it as a tough guy.

And fight he did. And make it he did. 211 NHL games, most notably with St. Louis but also with Detroit, Montreal, Washington, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg. He scored 8 goals and 30 points and played in 9 playoff games.

But the key number was 631 penalty minutes. And, according to HockeyFights.com, 52 NHL fights.

"I've fought 'em all in my time," he says. "Pretty tough customers, too. My first NHL fight was against Paul Holmgren when he played for Philadelphia. Robert Picard, my defense partner that night, warned me about Holmgren before the game and I remember being a little scared of the guy. He was a legend back then when it came to fighting and the Canadiens didn't bring me up to lead their power play. He ran at me on the first shift and knocked me three quarters of the way over the boards into the penalty box. That got me a little mad. The puck went into the corner and when I turned around he gave me an elbow in the eye. So I figured I'd better take charge of the situation and I suckered him with a right a hand in the side of the head when he came off the boards. It wasn't really a fair thing to do but I wasn't going to let him get the upper hand. He went down to his knees and I could've nailed him again. But I didn't want to take advantage of him while he was down."

Another memorable encounter was with Detroit's Tiger Williams.

"Tiger Williams hammered Mark Reeds - one of our smaller guys. He gave Reeds quite a shiner. So, before our next game with Detroit, coach Demers came up and said he was starting me on left wing, across from Williams. Well, I didn't have to a professor to figure that one out. I knew Williams would figure something was up, too, because it's not every game that I start on left wing - or anywhere for that matter. As the puck was dropped he got his stick up and started yapping at me. He kept it up until I grabbed it away from him, but we didn't get into it very heavily. When I got to the penalty box, I heard someone yell, 'Hey, Dwight, you seen the strap for my helmet?' I looked over and it was Williams calling me. I said, 'No, sorry' and I laughed. I couldn't believe he was calling me by my first name. He was talking to me like a buddy after we had almost gotten into a brawl."

Schofield didn't have a lot of respect for Dave Brown.

"I think he's a jerk. A guy like Al Secord is someone who I look up to because he's tough as hell - probably the toughest guy in the league - and he can also play the game so well. A guy like Brown couldn't put the puck in the ocean from a dock. But he is a tough customer. And he's hard to fight because he's a lefty. Most guys are right-handed and you get used to being punched from one side. With Brown, you think you're moving away from his punch when, in fact, you're moving into it. So he's a little tricky."

Schofield made a living by dropping his gloves, but he was never comfortable with it.

"According to the NHL, I'm a fighter and nothing else. Even if I fell I can play the game properly, I 'll probably never get the chance because of my reputation. I guarantee you fighting is not fun. Especially when you're up against the other heavyweights in the league all the time."

May 08, 2019

His Story: Cam Neely

Cam Neely was the ultimate Boston Bruin. Character, perseverance, team work, physical play, play to death, win - all traits that can be easily used to describe both Neely and his B's.

Cam Neely actually started his NHL career with his hometown Vancouver Canucks when they made him their first round selection way back in 1983. Neely probably turned out to be their best first round pick ever selected by the Vancouver Canucks. It's just too bad, as any Canucks fan will tell you, they traded him away so early in his career.

The trade happened on Neely's 21st birthday. In hindsight it was the best birthday present he probably ever got. The floundering Canucks traded him and the third overall draft pick in 1987 ( Boston selected Glen Wesley who went on to a career spanning 2 decades) for Barry Pederson, who at the time was a star in the league but was coming off of two major shoulder surgeries to remove a benign tumor. Pederson never did regain his superstar form. Neely became the Bruins leading scorer and the Boston Garden's fan favorite.

Cam would score 36, 40, and 38 goals in his first 3 seasons with Boston. Cam would go on to record two straight 50 goal seasons before he suffered a major blow to his knee. During the Bruins Conference Final against Pittsburgh, a cheap hit on Cam's thigh by rival defenseman Ulf Sameulsson began Cam's injury woe's that would plague him for the rest of his tragically shortened career.

Limited to 22 games the next 2 seasons Cam still managed to chip in 20 goals and 10 assists, and added 4 playoff goals in the '93 playoffs.

Cam returned for the 93-94 season scoring 50 goals for the third time. It took Cam only 44 games to reach the 50 goal plateau, only Wayne Gretzky has done it faster. (Mario Lemieux in the 88-89 season also scored 50 in 44 games.) Cam hurt his knee again shortly after scoring his 50th, and missed the playoffs that season.

Again, Cam went into an extensive rehabilitation program, and returned in the strike shortened season of 1994-95 and scored 27 goals in 42 games. The 1995-96 season proved to be Cam's last, as on February 7, 1996 the Boston Bruins suffered perhaps their worst loss in franchise history. They lost to Buffalo in overtime 2-1, but Cam suffered a degenerative hip condition forced Cam into a premature retirement. But not before he had established himself in the hearts of Bruin fans everywhere. Cam played the game the way it was meant to be played. Cam was as devastating with his body checks and fists, as he was with his goal scoring exploits. Cam's intense efforts to come back time and again from devastating injuries were recognized with his winning of the Masterton Trophy after the 93-94 season.

On January 12th, 2004, the Boston Bruins bestowed their highest honor on Neely, retiring his jersey number 8 high to the rafters, never to be worn again. It was a fitting tribute, as Neely truly ranks with the Bruins all time greats like Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Raymond Bourque.

Neely's career lasted 726 games, long enough to earn enshrinement in Hockey's Hall of Fame. In those 726 career games his numbers were staggering - 395 goals, 299 assists and 694 points, not to mention a healthy 1241 penalty minutes. And he carried on his production in the clutch when games mattered most. In 93 Stanley Cup playoff games he scored 57 goals and 89 points. Had he been healthy he possibly could have challenged the 650 goal mark.

As amazing of a goal scorer that he was, lighting the lamp did not define Cam Neely. He was the ultimate power forward of his time. His hands were as soft as a feather when he handled the puck, yet hard as a rock when handled an enemy. Defensemen feared going back into their corner to chase a loose puck knowing Neely was right behind them. As a forechecker he was relentless and imposing. He was an insane body checker and a dangerous fighter. Through his physical play he set the tone of games.

The physical game took it's toll on Neely's body, yet he handled diversity with the utmost of class. He showed courage and perseverance, and a deep love of the game. Cam Neely gave everything he had to the game of hockey - his blood, sweat and tears, his hip, quad and knee, and most of all his heart.

May 03, 2019

His Story: Bernie Federko

Bernie Federko is one of the greatest players to play in the NHL, only not everyone knows it.

Federko recorded 11 straight 20-goal seasons and four 100-point seasons in his illustrious NHL career. He became the first player in National Hockey League history to record 50 assists in 10 consecutive seasons. 13 of his 14 NHL seasons were spent in St. Louis where he is considered to be arguably the greatest Blue ever. When he was traded to Detroit late in his career, he was the Blue's all time leader in seasons, games played, goals, assists and points.

Yet recognition was hard to come by for the native of Foam Lake Saskatchewan. Being over shadowed by some of the NHL's greatest offensive forces (Federko played in an era of 150 point scorers like Gretzky, Lemieux, Bossy, Kurri and Yzerman), Federko's skill was often overlooked in St. Louis. Another reason that Federko was overlooked was that his team never came close to accomplishing much in the playoffs like the Oilers or Islanders did. It didn't help that St. Louis was one of hockey's smallest markets either.

Federko was one of the game's best playmakers in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. His outstanding hockey sense and anticipation combined with his soft hands placed him among the league's elite playmakers. Unselfish is probably the best adjective to describe Bernie, although under-rated also comes to mind. Wayne Gretzky of course popularized using the area behind the net (better known as Gretzky's Office) as an area to set up plays, but Bernie was also adept in that area, and actually used that area to his advantage earlier than Gretzky did.

Bernie was an average skater, a step slow in comparison to the Gretzkys and Yzermans of the league. He however had great balanced which made him hard to knock off the puck, despite his average size. This also enabled him to excel in traffic. Federko was never a physical player, but was always willing to take or give a hit in order to make a play.

Bernie was an under-rated goal scorer as well. He was a consistent 30 goal threat during his prime. He peaked at 41 in 1983-84 and scored more than 20 in 11 consecutive seasons. His wrist shot was particularly deadly. .

Federko's career started by playing three spectacular years with the WHL's Saskatoon Blades. In his final season with the Blades, 1975-76, Bernie recorded 72 goals and 187 points in 72 games. In total Bernie scored 133 goals and 211 assists for 344 points in just 206 games. His incredible numbers earned Federko the 7th overall selection by the Blues in the 1976 Amateur Draft.

After starting the year with the Blue's farm team in Kansas City of the CHL, Bernie debuted with St. Louis in 1976-77 in 31 regular season games, notching 23 points.

Federko went on to play 12 full seasons with the Blues. He notched seven 30-goal seasons and he had nine seasons with at least 80 points, including a career best 107, also in 1983-84. He became Mr. St. Louis Blue, leading the team in all major career scoring statistics.

After 13 years in St. Louis, Bernie was traded to the Detroit Red Wings prior to the 1989-90 campaign. Federko and fellow veteran Tony McKegney in exchange for Paul MacLean and Adam Oates - a younger but very similar player to Federko. He played just one season in Detroit, scoring 17 goals and 57 points in 73 games. It was a tough year for Federko.

"It was kind of a different year for me after being in St. Louis for 13 years. It was really kind of a shock to be traded first of all. And to end up in Detroit and on a team that didn’t make the playoffs … we had made the playoffs the last 10, 11 years straight that I was in St. Louis and we didn’t make the playoffs in Detroit. It was almost a really kind of a rotten year."

One of the few highlights for Federko in Detroit was playing in his 1000th career NHL game, which also happened to be his final game in the NHL.

"It was the last game of the season and it happened to be 1,000. And I think when I look back now, if I hadn’t hit the 1,000 mark, if it would have been 999, I may have decided to play another year because I think it was important to get to 1,000. And I think when I look back on it, if I hadn’t have got it, I would have been very disappointed. So as it turned out, it was 1,000. I think maybe it was the writing on the wall that it was time to retire.”

Upon retiring from the NHL in 1990, Federko had recorded 369 goals, 761 assists and 1,130 points in 1,000 regular season games. He added 101 points in 91 playoff contests. Bernie also played in the 1980 and 1981 NHL All-Star Games.

After retiring, Federko returned to St. Louis where he has become a fixture on St. Louis Blues broadcasting programs. The Blues also retired Bernie's #24. It was a bittersweet moment for Bernie, as he told NHLPA.com.

“It was a special moment. There’s no question it was a special moment. But it was kind of … I still had that little boy in my heart that I wanted to finish my career in St. Louis. So I think that as I look back, even though the banner’s hanging there, it isn’t as special as it would have been if I would have played my whole career in St. Louis. But it was a really special moment when they asked me to do it. But it was something that was always missing and even today, it still is always missing, the fact that I played my 1,000th game in another uniform. Because it was a dream … especially after being here for 13 years, that I wanted to finish here. And everybody knew it but because of the nature of the business, it didn’t end that way. But I don’t think there’s anything greater, a more flattering incident, then when they do hang your jersey up. The St. Louis Blues were my life even though I played that one year in Detroit. The Blues were still my life. It’s almost something that was not there, like that year did not happen."

May 02, 2019

Red Kelly

Leonard "Red" Kelly very well might be the most underrated superstar in National Hockey League history.

You might be asking yourself how can this be? He's an 8 time Stanley Cup champion who starred with 2 different dynasties He's an 8 time all star who won the Lady Byng trophy 4 times and the Norris trophy once. He's and a battle proven veteran of over 1300 NHL games that was named as the 22nd greatest player of all time by The Hockey News at the dawn of the 21st century.

Yet somehow when the general public discusses the games' greatest performers Kelly's name rarely mentioned. Such an oversight needs to be corrected.

Kelly was born in Simcoe, Ontario back on July 9, 1927. He would develop his incredible hockey gifts in Toronto with the famed St. Michael's Majors. Under coach Joe Primeau's leadership, Kelly and the Majors became junior legends, capped off with a Memorial Cup championship in Kelly's last year, 1947. However the Leafs weren't impressed enough with the fine defenseman. Concerns about his lack of speed and aggression convinced Leafs chief scout Squib Walker that Kelly wouldn't last more than 20 games in the National Hockey League.

Boy was Walker wrong. Kelly would end up playing 20 years in the league. And the Detroit Red Wings were the beneficiaries of Walker's misjudgment.

Without ever playing a game in the minor leagues Kelly stepped directly into the NHL in 1947-48. Before long he was establishing himself as the best defenseman in the league. He was the predecessor to Bobby Orr as the offensive defenseman in hockey as he easily outscored his fellow NHL defensemen. He led all rearguards in goals 8 times, points 5 times and assists three times during his glory years in the 1950s. He reached the double digits mark in goals scored with shocking regularity - 9 consecutive times - in an era when defensemen were still supposed to stop goals rather than score them.

Yet as good as he was offensively, he was better defensively. He had an uncanny knack of reading plays and breaking them up, and he controlled the puck in his own zone adeptly. To make his defensive legend even more impressive, Kelly excelled without taking many penalties himself. He took just 327 penalty minutes in 1316 career games and won the Lady Byng trophy as the game's most gentlemanly player 4 times. Given the nature of the position, it is almost unheard of to have a defenseman win the most gentlemanly player award once, let alone four times. Just ask Kelly's modern day blue line contemporary Niklas Lidstrom, also of Detroit. Although don't think Kelly didn't know how to handle himself. A former boxing champion in his youth, Kelly could handle himself if need be.

Frank Boucher, the New York Rangers Wayne Gretzky-like center and later astute coach and general manager and also a former Lady Byng champion, was perhaps Kelly's biggest admirer. He went so far as to claim that it was Kelly who was the key component of the Detroit Red Wings dynasty of the 1950s. That's quite a compliment considering the talented lineup the Red Wings iced most nights - Terry Sawchuk in nets, Marcel Pronovost on defense, and Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, and most importantly Gordie Howe patrolling the forward units.

Early in the 1950s the Red Wings assumed the position of top dog in the National Hockey League from the Toronto Maple Leafs. That particular Wings dynasty, like Kelly the individual, doesn't quite get the the recognition it deserves. Despite winning 4 Stanley Cups in the first half of the decade, their reign was cut short by and subsequently overshadowed by arguably the greatest of the great dynasties - the Montreal Canadiens of the late 1950s.

As the decade closed out the Wings were descending into the rebuilding stage. Kelly, who was named as team captain in 1957, was also slowing. The Wings decided that their ace was near the end and with a deteriorating relationship with Wings management, the Wings opted in 1960 to trade him along with Bill McNeill to the New York Rangers in exchange for Bill Gadsby and Eddie Shack.

However both Kelly and McNeill refused to report to New York. The league gave Kelly 5 days to decide what to do. Kelly said he was going to retire and attend to his tobacco farm back in Ontario, but then the Toronto Maple Leafs suddenly entered the picture. With the Rangers trade rescinded, they convinced Kelly to not retire and instead become a Maple Leaf. Kelly agreed and the Leafs traded a promising young rearguard named Marc Reaume to Detroit as compensation.

Kelly arrived in Toronto in time to debut against the rival Montreal Canadiens. But instead of Kelly lining up along the blue line, coach Punch Imlach decided to experiment with Kelly at center ice. Kelly, who had played some forward in Detroit although usually while on the power play, shut down the graceful Jean Beliveau all night.

Needless to say the experiment would be extended beyond one game.

Kelly continued to excel as a defensive centerman, but another interesting perk came from the experiment. Kelly was centering a line with crafty Bob Nevin on right wing and "The Big M" Frank Mahovlich on the left wing. At the time Mahovlich was still struggling to harness all his hockey skills to achieve his potential as one of the games' greats. With Kelly's expert presence in the middle, Mahovlich was able to achieve his destiny and become a superstar. Kelly has never been given enough credit in his development.

Kelly added 4 more Stanley Cup rings in his time in Toronto as he was a key component of a veteran dynasty. An even more impressive fact is that Kelly spent 4 of his 7 Leafs years doubling as a Member of Parliament. When he wasn't playing or practicing, he'd zoom up to Ottawa and sit in the legislature.

Kelly is perhaps better remembered as the star defenseman in Detroit rather than the ace center in Toronto. But few players have ever possessed the intellectual and physical gifts to be both a star forward and defenseman. A few wingers have made good defenders and vice versa, but it is tough to find anyone else who excelled at hockey's two toughest skating positions to master - center and defense - like Red Kelly did.

April 27, 2019

The All Joe Team

Just for fun, here's my all "Joe" team.

Joey Juneau - Joe Sakic - Joe Nieuwendyk
Joe Malone - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Joe Murphy - Joe Primeau - Joe Mullen
Joe Klukay - Jozef Stumpel - Joey Kocur

Joe Reekie - Joe Hall
Joe Watson - Joe Cirella
Joe Corvo- Chris Joseph

Curtis Joseph
Joe Daley
Sami-Jo Small

I know, you think Curtis Joseph in net is a bit of a sneaky pick. Well, technically I could have claimed Maurice "Rocket" Richard, too, as his legal first name is Joseph!