October 31, 2014

Top Ten Mustaches In Hockey History

This is an old post, dating back all the way to 2008. But it remains one of the most popular posts I've ever done. It probably could use a good update, what with all the Movember monstrosities in the last few years, but hey, let's keep it classic and take a look back on hockey's greatest moustaches.

#10. Paul MacLean/Larry Hopkins. Paul MacLean was the bushy lipped triggerman for Dale Hawerchuk in Winnipeg. Now he's the coach in Ottawa. Here's his famous hockey card. Only problem is that photo is actually of teammate Larry Hopkins!

#9 Dennis Maruk. Not only did Dennis Maruk lead the Washington Capitals with 60 goals and 136 points in the 1981-82 season, but he had the best mustache. In the 1980s Washington was a team with a few good mustaches - think Rod Langway and Mike Gartner.

#8 - No that isn't Tom Selleck. It's Bill Clement of ESPN/NBC/Versus fame. His mustache is probably more famous on television broadcasts than it was on the ice. Oh, and it was lookin' real good in that bug spray commercial where they stuck him in that tent full of buzzing mosquitos.

#7. Garth Boesch of the 1940s Toronto Maple Leafs had one of the earliest mustaches in hockey history.

#6. I'll always have a soft spot for Harold Snepsts. I remember after the Canucks traded him away the fans would still chant his name. Hey, Canucks fans in the 80s had to entertain themselves on many nights.
#5. Hey who said the best mustache in hockey contest was reserved just for the players. Referee Bill McCreary needs to be included here. In this picture Sidney Crosby is asking him how he grew such a nice 'stache.

#4. Clear the track, here comes Shack! Eddie Shack, known as Eddie the Entertainer, has become synonymous with his facial hair, although more so in retirement than as a player.

#3. George Parros, believe it or not he is a Princeton graduate, is the NHL's reigning mustache champion. He gets bonus points because Snoop Dog is his biggest fan.

#2. Wendel Clark was an amazingly physical player when played. That led to a lot of injuries, including one time where he actually sprained his handlebar mustache.

#1. Could there be any other choice for best mustache than Lanny McDonald? In the minds of many his mustache ranks among the best in all of sports history, competing with the likes of Rollie Fingers and Hulk Hogan.

Marian Hossa's Magical Night

Congratulations go out to Chicago's Marian Hossa. In last night's game vs. the Ottawa Senators Hossa became the 80th player in NHL history to record 1000 career points.

Interesting side note: Hossa joins Johnny Bucyk, Brian Propp and Alex Mogilny as the only players to score their 1000th point vs their former team.

“It doesn’t get better than this, doing it where I started,” said Hossa. “It means lots to me. Obviously big thanks go to all the players tonight who helped me to achieve that, and also all the players throughout my career.”

The appreciative Ottawa fans gave Hossa a rousing ovation, even though Hossa's wraparound goal gave the Hawks a 4-3 lead with just 6 minutes left in the game.

The Sens did force OT, but Chicago won the game 5-4 in the shootout.

Frank Nighbor: Hockey's Gliding Ghost

"The Flying Dutchman." "The Pembroke Peach." Frank Nighbor had many nicknames. That was because he was one of the most creative geniuses ever to play the game.

Newspaper archives heap generous adjectives on Nighbor. "An effortless skater," he was "a marvel of physical endurance" who often played the entire game without a rest. He was "a crafty and unselfish playmaker" (when he retired he was the NHL's all time leader in assists) and also, when needed, "a flashy goal scorer." With his famed poke check he embraced the defensive side of the game with equal zeal. "One of the brainy greats of the game" was quite possibly the most complete and "peerless" player in hockey in his era. The great Howie Morenz even once said, "I won the (Hart Trophy) but Nighbor is the greatest player in hockey."

Here's how Frank Selke described Nighbor in the Montreal Gazette in 1962:

With all due respect to the many wonderful players who have come and gone since 1900, there are few who could be rated above Frank Nighbor. Someone once called him the "peerless centre," and I can think of no label which would have been more apt. We always felt he could have played a complete game of hockey in formal attire without even putting a wrinkle in his suit. He was a leading scorer, an expert passer and a playmaker; and no rival forward could come close to him in defensive skill. Along with Jack Walker he developed the poke-check to such an extent that his contemporaries were forced to revamp completely their style of play in order to cope with him.

Here's the full Frank Nighbor biography

October 30, 2014

John Garrett's Halloween Special

Hockey Is Better With Montreal On Top

The Montreal Canadiens play in Vancouver tonight. From the comfort of my couch I will watch Montreal for the first time this season.

I have never had the chance to see the Montreal Canadiens play in person. I really should add that to the bucket list. Ideally you'd want to see them in Montreal, with a full taste of the French flavouring that Old Montreal can offer - wood-fired bagels, Schwartz's smoked meat and the iconic poutine from any number of roadside trucks.

But I really think it would a fascinating experience to see the Montreal Canadiens play as the visiting team. To walk into an arena as familiar as your own home, so in my case Roger's Arena in Vancouver, only for it become a completely foreign affair as thousands of noisy Montreal fans show up and drown out the hometown faithful. It would be unique. No matter how poorly the game is it would make that night an event.

It is all part of the mystique of the Montreal Canadiens. Like the New York Yankees in baseball or Manchester United in soccer or the LA Lakers in basketball, the Habs are one of those teams that you either love or truly hate, but either way you hope they are always good. You want them to be the forever icons, to be loved or hated for generations to come.

It's been too long since the Montreal Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup. 1993, to be exact. There have been some lean years in that time, when Montreal was barely a relevant side note in the narratives of some of those seasons.

But now the Habs look like a real threat to emerge out of the Eastern conference. Maybe with some luck they can end that championship drought. And even those fans who hate them could not be happier about that. Everything just seems right in the hockey world when Montreal is winning.

Hockey's Greatest Villains

This is a Stan Fischler article from a 1983 "Hockey Scene" magazine that questions just who is the dirtiest player of all time.

Clarke thrived in the villain role but he should never be denied his status as one of the NHL's all time greats. Failure to do so is the result of subjective blindness by hockey fans, as is often the case when it comes to these matters. In reality not a whole lot separates Clarke from Stan Mikita, another brilliant hockey player. The only real difference is Mikita went from notorious stick man and thug to a Lady Byng trophy winner when he did a complete 180 and cleaned up his game.

Face it - every good story has a good villain who you love to hate. The NHL story lines are no different. So which NHL villains contend for the most hated man in hockey history title? The contenders have to have a certain league-wide villain status, not just a rivalry-related dislike of each other.

(We will limit this look to strictly the men on the ice. Sorry, all you Gary Bettman haters.)

Sprague Cleghorn - One of hockey's all time greats was a winner time and time again. But he was also a monster with a short fuse who was once suspended for the remainder of the season by his own team (Ottawa) for a vindictive attack on another player. When the Sens let him go he vowed retribution in his first game against his old club, and injured 4 star players. He was a nearly unbelievable character from a long ago time in hockey history, but he's though to beat as hockey's greatest villain.

Eddie Shore - When he played he was the baddest man on the ice, a mean and ruthless aggressor. But he was also the greatest player of his era, a showstopper with some sideshow antics. He went on to become the longtime and infamous coach/manager of the AHL's Springfield Indians. So many alumni there, including Don Cherry, will tell you stories of how much they hated him. But he did make them all winners.

Claude Lemieux - Infamous for his cowardly hit-from-behind on Kris Draper, Claude Lemieux's rap sheet is far longer. I'm not even sure Lemieux's own teammates really liked him that much. Except at the end of the season when he passed you the Stanley Cup. Let's give credit where it is due - come playoff time he was a stud.

Todd Bertuzzi - Everyone knows how he ended the career of Steve Moore, and that's how he will always make these lists. I hated him for years before that. He was just a brooding, negative ogre who played a selfish, almost dumb brand of hockey. In his prime he flirted with unstoppable status every now and again, but more often than not he hurt his team with such undisciplined play - both in terms of penalties and poor tactics. His constant jawing at officials and opponents also made him an easy target to boo.

Chris Pronger - Pronger will go down as one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the game. He played the game with real snarl and more than a few times crossed the dirty line. But let's face it, he, like Clarke and Mikita, was hated because he was so good.

Matt Cooke - A multiple repeat offender for dangerous hits that seriously injured opponents, Cooke is the poster boy for most hated players of his era. It's too bad, because he was actually an effective player who did a lot of good charity work off the ice, too.

Ken Linseman - His nickname says it all - "The Rat." Linseman was actually a very good player who perhaps could have been better if toned down the act some. Perhaps he was too slight to every truly assume a Bobby Clarke role on a team, but he relished the superpest role a little too much. His constant yapping but infrequent fighting of his own battles earned him a lot of disrespect as much as hated villain status. That's not a good thing.

Dale Hunter - The second most penalized player in hockey history (behind the very likeable Tiger Williams), Hunter wins it for me. His bizarre attack on Pierre Turgeon still disturbs me. Hunter greatly disrespected the game that time, and he, unlike most of hockey's villains, gets no respect in return. He was a very good player but he crossed the line on too many other occasion, too. It's tough to imagine how he got away with it for so long nowadays.

Eric Lindros - Lindros is by all accounts a very unlikeable chap. Throw in his refusal to play for Quebec, his star status as the leader of the often hated Broad Street Bullies, and his physical presence, and it's easy to hate Eric Lindros. I really enjoyed him as a player, and I think he deserves better status in history's eyes. Had he played in the current era he would never be dismissed as soft because of all the concussions and other injuries. It's really bizarre, actually.

Sean Avery - What more needs to be said? His biggest (only?) weapon was his mouth, and he embarrassed himself and hockey several times too many by crossing the line. The best villains in hockey do not disrespect the game. Avery did.

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