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February 25, 2017

Jacques Laperriere

Jacques Laperriere grew up idolizing Doug Harvey. He ended up filling the legends' shoes, while wearing the same sweater #2.

Laperriere started with Montreal in 1962, the year after Harvey was sent packing to New York. Laperriere won the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie, and also was named to the 2nd All Star Team. In his sophomore campaign, Laperriere was named to the 1st All Star Team and won the Norris Trophy as best blueliner, despite missing some regular season games and the entire playoffs due to injury.

It was obvious right from the start of his career with Les Habitants that he would be a key part of some great Habs teams. He was the classic pre-Bobby Orr offensive defenseman, anchoring the offense like a football quarterback, prefering to make incredible passes than rushing it himself.

Laperriere was not a noted physical combatant, though he did use his body effectively to defend against opposing forwards. He also had a reputation as a top shot blocker. He had a long fuse, but he would drop the gloves once in a while too. Once he picked up 30 minutes in penalty for one altercation with Chicago's Stan Mikita.

No doubt Laperriere was tough. He had some terrible injuries he had to overcome during his playing days, for some reason usually in the playoffs. He suffered a broken leg in the 1965 semi finals, the year he won his only Norris trophy as the league's best defensemen. He played with a broken wrist while winning the 1971 Stanley Cup. In 1973, another Cup-winning year, he played 10 post season games with an odd helmet-face mask contraption to protect a broken nose.

Laperriere would be part of six Stanley Cup championships during his playing days, most of which featured him as the backbone of a very underrated Habs defense group. By Montreal standards the Laperriere era, which also featured the likes of J. C. Tremblay, Terry Harper and Ted Harris, was very much unheralded by history. Though he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987, he remains one of the more anonymous of the Montreal greats.

Upon retirement he turned to coaching, prefering the assistant role more so than that of head bench boss. He was a long time assitant coach in Montreal, helping to bring along such star defensemen as Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider, Chris Chelios, Larry Robinson and Petr Svoboda

February 24, 2017

What If Wayne Gretzky Had No Hart?

Wayne Gretzky won a mind-boggling eight consecutive Hart Trophies as the National Hockey League's Most Valuable Player. He even won a ninth Hart, making in nine out of 10 years - the entire decade of the 1980s.

Think about that for just a moment.

There was no questioning Wayne Gretzky's dominance, and his decade long league MVP status is exhibit one.

But there were runners-up, and they all deserve some sort of recognition, too. So let's take a look at who was the best player in hockey during each season of the 1980s who was not named Wayne Gretzky.

1979-80 - Marcel Dionne, 166 votes. This is not a big surprise as Dionne beat out Gretzky for the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer, though on a bit of a technicality. Both players tied for the league lead with 137 points, but Dionne scored two more goals than did the teenage phenom. The tie-breaker rule gives the award to the player who had more goals. Other Finalist: Tony Esposito (64 votes)

1980-81 - Mike Liut, 237 votes. Despite setting new NHL record for assists and points in a season, Gretzky barely won this Hart vote with 242 votes. Edmonton struggled despite Gretzky's greatness. Meanwhile in St. Louis goalie Mike Liut was nothing short of spectacular. His peers thought he was the most dominant player that season even, voting him as the Lester Pearson award winner (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award.). Other Finalist: Marcel Dionne (24 votes)

1981-82 - Bryan Trottier, 130 votes. This wasn't even close. How could it be? Gretzky scored 92 goals and 212 points and earned 315 votes. Trottier, the 1979 Hart Trophy winner, had a heck of a season, too, with 50 goals and 129 points. Other Finalist: Mike Bossy (34 votes).

1982-83 - Pete Peeters, 159 votes. Peeters had one of the hottest goaltending performances ever, registering a 40-11-9 record and a 2.36 GAA. But it wasn't close as Gretz, who had 196 points this season, had 266 votes. Other Finalist: Denis Savard (67 votes).

1983-84 - Rod Langway, 102 votes. This wasn't even close, as Gretzky had 306 votes. But it is amazing to think that a defensive defenseman who scored 78 fewer goals and and 172 fewer points than Gretzky was deemed to be the second best player in the league that season! Other Finalist: Bryan Trottier (54 votes).

1984-85 - Dale Hawerchuk, 91 votes. Another 200+ point season means another Hart vote that is not even close as Gretzky gets 303 votes. But Hawerchuk fuels the Winnipeg Jets with 53 goals and 130 points, third best in the league behind Gretzky and Jari Kurri. Other Finalist: Pelle Lindberg (56 votes)

1985-86 - Mario Lemieux, 130 votes. With a record setting 163 assists and 215 points they should have just used Gretzky's 281 votes to suggest renaming the trophy after him. But young Mario Lemieux, the man who would one day take the Hart away from Gretzky, has a fantastic season, too. He scores 48 goals, 93 assists and 141 points. Other Finalist: Mark Howe (32 points).

1986-87 - Ray Bourque, 95 votes. No one comes close to Gretz's 255 votes but Boston's standout defenseman Ray Bourque puts up 95 points while playing stellar defense. Other Finalist: Mike Liut (39 votes).

1987-88 - Mario Lemieux, 292 votes. With Wayne Gretzky missing 16 games due to injury, Mario Lemieux runs away with the Hart Trophy thanks to his 70 goal, 98 assist, 168 point campaign. But did you know another player outvoted Gretzky in this balloting? Oilers teammate Grant Fuhr had 106 votes to Gretzky's 73.

1988-89 - Mario Lemieux, 187 votes. Even though Mario outscored Gretzky 199 points to 168, Hart Trophy votes gave Gretzky the decided edge with 267 votes. It was Gretzky's first year in LA and he helped turned the lowly Kings into playoff threats. Other Finalist: Steve Yzerman (109 votes).

February 23, 2017

Great Trades In Hockey History: The Eric Lindros Trade(s)!

Eric Lindros was the obvious choice for the first selection in the 1991 NHL Entry draft. No player had dominated the Canadian junior hockey scene like Lindros had since the days of Mario Lemieux, or Wayne Gretzky before him, or Bobby Orr before him.

The only problem was the Quebec Nordiques held that coveted selection. Lindros made it quite clear that he did not want to play for the Nordiques, as he did not like their ownership and management groups. Critics suggested he was just a greedy kid who knew he could make more money if he played in the United States. Plus the team was downright awful, the tax laws were unforgiving, and his endorsement potential would be little in a small French town. Despite many lucrative trade offers, the Nords took Lindros first overall. Lindros refused to put the jersey on at the proceedings.

The Nords tried to sign Lindros. They reportedly offered over $50 million over 10 years, to which Lindros responded "If they offered me $100 million, I would not play for them." Clearly it wasn't a money issue for the Big E, who shocked many by turning down such a lucrative contract. "They don't want to win. I don't think everyone in their organization has the same goal: winning the Stanley Cup."

It was obvious that it would not be in the cards. The entire season elapsed before anything would be done to resolve the situation. During that season Lindros played mostly for the Canadian National team. He started the year in the Canada Cup, where he physically dominated NHL competition. He had memorable hits on Joel Otto, Martin Rucinsky and Ulf Sameulsson. He definitely did not look out of place, despite being only 18 years old, and the only non-NHLer to ever represent Canada at that tournament. Lindros also represented Canada the World Junior championships, and the Olympics, where he helped Canada win a silver medal.

Quebec finally dealt Lindros a year after drafting him. Actually, just to complicate the soap opera even more, they traded him twice. They had reached agreements with both the Flyers and the New York Rangers. The Flyers felt an agreement was made, only to have Quebec then go to New York and see if they would up the ante any. They did, and Quebec then agreed to trade Lindros to the Rangers. The Flyers cried foul. The NHL had to call in an arbitrator to settle the dispute. Finally, arbitrator Larry Bertuzzi concluded the deal first reached with Philadelphia was a legally binding agreement.

The Nordiques received defensemen Kerry Huffman and Steve Duchesne, goalie Ron Hextall, forwards Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, and Peter Forsberg, draft picks and cash reportedly in the neighborhood of $10 million US. By the way, the Rangers offer reportedly consisted of Alexei Kovalev, Tony Amonte, Doug Weight, John Vanbiesbrouck, cash and draft picks. Either way, the deal was a blockbuster of the most ridiculous of proportions! In fact even at the time of the deal it looked like the Nords got more for the soon to be rookie Lindros than the Oilers had gotten for trading Wayne Gretzky in his prime.

Lindros was every bit as good as advertised, though injuries plagued him nearly as much as his critics. The Nordiques hit the jackpot with their return, especially in the form of Peter Forsberg. But the city would lose the team to Colorado. The following year the newly renamed Avalanche landed Patrick Roy from Montreal - something that would never have happened had the team stayed in Quebec - and won the Stanley Cup!

Great Trades In Hockey History: The Butch Goring Trade

On March 10th, 1980, New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey traded Billy Harris and Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Butch Goring.

Torrey thought he was acquiring the second line center his team had been missing, and he had. But in doing so he also set the standard for all trade deadline deals to be judged.

With Goring on board, the Islanders were finally able to forget about a few missteps in previous years and emerge as Stanley Cup champions - for the next four years.

Goring was a major contributor to that dynasty, scoring 27 goals, 35 assists and 62 points in 78 playoff games in those 4 years, and capturing the 1981 Conn Smythe trophy as the Stanley Cup MVP.

Rink Rap With Mick Colageo recently caught a few new Denis Potvin quotes about Goring's importance.

There was an element missing, and I think a lot of it had to do with the combination of maturity, which we recognized at that point, and maybe (playing) a little too uptight,” said Potvin.It wasn’t the newcomer’s point-per-game production that made the trade pay off. It was his effect in the other players.

“Between my brother (Jean) and Butch Goring, we 
had two of the funniest guys in a dressing room around. That really lightened things up for us,” said Potvin. “One thing I’ll never forget is what Butch did. After a couple of games, he stood up and said, ‘I don’t think you guys realize how much respect everyteam in the league has for you. I don’t think you guys know how good you are.’ Coming from a guy who was 30 years old, it meant a lot to us.”
The Islanders were a bland 29-26-7 at the time of the trade, and arguably the greatest Stanley Cup dynasty ever after it. 

February 21, 2017

Gretzky's Day In The Minor Leagues

Wayne Gretzky never played a single game in the minor leagues. Or did he?

Check out this photo of Gretzky in a Phoenix Roadrunners uniform back in 1993.

The story behind this photo:

On September 25th, 1993 Gretzky's LA Kings played their IHL minor league affiliate, the Phoenix Roadrunners, in a pre-season exhibition game. Gretzky, goaltender Kelly Hrudey and three other Kings regulars were "demoted" to the minor leagues for the event.

The publicity stunt worked as a Roadrunners franchise record for attendance was established at 13,747. Gretzky scored twice as the Roadrunners beat the Kings 6-5 in an overtime shootout.

Great Trades In Hockey History: The Frank Mahovlich Trade

There have been some shocking trades in the history of the National Hockey League. No trade was bigger than the Wayne Gretzky trade from Edmonton to Los Angeles. But in 1968, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings shocked the hockey world with the trade of The Big M - Frank Mahovlich.

The Leafs dynasty days of the 1960s were officially behind them with this trade. The Leafs had won the Stanley Cup in 1962, 1963, 1964 and 1967, thanks in large part to a cast of veterans. Father time had finally caught up with those oldtimers, but the true star of the 1960s Maple Leafs still had plenty of hockey left in him. Frank Mahovlich was the handsome superstar of Leafs. Though he was at-times maligned by the Leafs fans and especially coach Imlach, the trade of The Big M was, at the time, nearly as shocking as the Gretzky trade 20 years later.

The Leafs moved Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and the rights to Carl Brewer for Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Norm Ullman.

The Leafs move was a desperate attempt to extend the dynasty one more spring, according to The Hockey News as seen above. It did not work. Though Ullman and Henderson in particular went on to solid careers in Toronto, the Maple Leafs began an awkward slide down the standings.

Mahovlich, meanwhile, enjoyed some of his best years personally in Detroit. Playing on a line with Alex Delvecchio and Gordie Howe, he scored 49 goals the next season. But the Wings were never a Stanley Cup threat. Mahovlich did enjoy two more Stanley Cup championships in Montreal, as he was moved to Les Canadiens in 1971, reuniting him with his younger brother Peter.

Here's a great YouTube clip featuring Punch Imlach announcing the trade and the reactions of Frank Mahovlich, Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and King Clancy.

And here's a YouTube video clip of the first match between Detroit and Toronto following the big trade.

And, of course, who can forget this monstrosity of a hockey card - the badly cropped head of Frank Mahovlich pasted onto a generic Red Wings player's body!

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