July 26, 2015

Introducing Hockey Over Time: The Hockey History E-Zine

This was the very first hockey magazine I ever had. My nine-year-old self had to beg my mom to get it, because it had my favorite player on the cover: Tony Tanti.

That was way back in 1984. It sparked a love of hockey reading and writing with me that I carry to this day.

Back then I began writing my own hockey magazines. Using scrap paper and staples for binding, I "published" several magazines with my own hockey thoughts, profiles, games and attempted illustrations. Tracings mostly. Trust me - I have always been a better writer than illustrator.

Of course no one ever saw those magazines other my immediate family. I kept those magazines for the longest time but, even though I can not remember dispersing of them directly, I no longer have them. Hockey history lost.

Over the years I have emerged into a freelance journalist, writer and researcher. I have penned three hockey books, worked for the NHL, a number of teams, news organizations and Hockey Canada.

My old magazine creativity has continued to this day, through my website GreatestHockeyLegends.com and now through social media. I have some pretty loyal followers and I hope they join me on this newest venture.

GreatestHockeyLegends.com is introducing the spin-off project: Hockey Over Time: The Hockey History E-Zine - http://www.patreon.com/HockeyOverTime

It will be an eclectic collection of great hockey stories from the game's great past. Everything from the greatest moments to the oddball and the obscure. Everything from Jacques Plante changing the face of hockey, Bobby Orr flying and Wayne Gretzky's ridiculous assault on the record books, to Gump Worsley's favorite recipes, really bad hockey cards and Guy Lafleur's disco album.

There will be many great features including hockey cards of the day, "This Day In Hockey History," collectibles features and trivia. You will be happy to see the return of my hockey book reviews, and we might even find some classic hockey fight videos! I plan to post here several times per week.

This new format is a fast growing community called Patreon. It is a fairly new format that is revitalizing the e-zine format and helping the best of the independent publishers to earn from their labour of love.

Patreon is a cross between subscriptions and Kickstarter. Unlike Kickstarter, Patreon doesn’t focus on a one-time project. It’s aimed at fundraising for long-term projects that include recurring creations, like issues of a magazine or episodes of a podcast. In our case, your Patreon pledge is a per-issue contribution to the magazine.

I have always taken pride in sharing my work for free. I'm going to continue to do that. But in exchange for your support, as little as $2 a month (you can pledge more!), you will get more content to access. 

I hope this is a happy medium that allows me to continue my relationship with my longtime readers while off-setting expenses and eventually building a self-sustaining income.

​I have include links to four free articles so you can get a taste of what will be found here:

​Two Minutes For Booking - How I fell in love with hockey books - https://www.patreon.com/posts/3010604

​Hockey's Weirdest Injuries - From spider bites to the great bagpipe cleaning incident
- ​https://www.patreon.com/posts/3010565

​Who Was Better? Gordie Howe vs Rocket Richard
​- https://www.patreon.com/posts/3010554

​Ron Stewart: Hockey's Piano Man - (I love stories like this!)
​- https://www.patreon.com/posts/3006124
​So take a look. I hope you join me on this exciting new journal of hockey history! Check out Hockey Over Time: The Hockey History E-Zine today!

If you are not interested in the new E-Zine, remember you can still come to GreatestHockeyLegends.com and follow my hockey features on Twitter and Facebook for free.

I take pride in offering my work for free. If you like my work, and you think it's worth buying me a cup of coffee, donate a couple of bucks. If you think it's worth more, then donate more I'm going to keep doing my work for free because I love doing this, but I'd greatly appreciate your support! I have a Pay Pal donation link below:

Trevor Fahey

Talk about a heartless move.

On Christmas Eve, 1964 the New York Rangers demoted forward Jim Mikol to their minor league team in snowy St. Paul, Minnesota. Let me repeat that - On Christmas Eve!

The lack of holiday spirit didn't deter Mikol from working his butt off in Minnesota as he was determined to get back to the National Hockey League.

That chance did come in the new year when Rangers forward Don Marshall came down with an injury. New York summoned Mikol for his return, but a snow storm ground the farm team's in Cleveland, Ohio.

Desperate to find someone to fill in that night, the Rangers found Trevor Fahey of the EHL's New York Rovers.

Fahey was a junior star out of Tillsonberg, Ontario who had been having a strong rookie pro-season with the Rovers.

Fahey did not get to play much in what would prove to be his only shot at the NHL. He scored 0 goals and 0 points.

Fahey continued toiling in the minor leagues until 1970. His post-playing career was quite interesting.

That's when he retired as a pro and decided to go back to school. He attended St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia while also playing for the "X-Men" hockey team.

He published two hockey books: "All About Hockey" (1974) and "Hockey: Canadian/Soviet" (1977).

He served as head coach of the Brandon Bobcats hockey team, leading the team to a championship in 1975. He was later named athletic director at Brandon University.

He travelled to Russia to take part in international coaching symposiums at the Institute of Sport and Culture in Moscow

Fahey also founded the Coach International Hockey Schools in Manitoba in 1980. He had schools in Manitoba as well as New Hampshire and Florida.

By 1995 He moved to sunny Florida and was instrumental in starting the Tampa Bay Raiders Minor Hockey Association. He remains active on the grass roots hockey scene in Tampa Bay.

Andre Gill

Back on December 2nd, 2014 former Boston Bruins goaltender Andre "Cannon" Gill passed away. He was 73 years old.

Gill played just 5 games in the NHL in his career, all in the 1967-68 season. He was one of the very few goalies to record a shutout in his NHL debut, a 4-0 win over the New York Rangers on December 23rd, 1967. He made an impressive 41 saves that night. To make matters tougher, Bruins' star defenseman Bobby Orr also missed the game with an injury.

That night may never have come if it was not for some injury misfortune for the Bruins. They boasted two goalies capable of being a big league starter at that time. But Gerry Cheevers had dislocated his shoulder in a game against Chicago and Eddie Johnston broke his hand in practice.

So off went emergency calls to the Hershey Bears to get Gill to play and to the Long Island Ducks to get rookie Wayne Doll to back up.

The inexperienced tandem lasted five games, though Doll never did get to play in a NHL game. After Gill's shutout debut he was called upon to play the next four games as well. He won three of the five in total and posted a 2.89 goals against average.

The 5'7" 150lb native of Sorel, Quebec, enjoyed a lengthy minor league career, mainly with Hershey where he was part of the AHL Calder Cup championship in 1969. He also spent parts of two seasons playing with the sad-sack Chicago Cougars team in the World Hockey Association.

Ralph Nattrass

Ralph Nattrass was a robust defenseman from the farming town of Gainsboro, Saskatchewan. After a fine junior career with the Moose Jaw Canucks, he played for Kansas-City in the USHL before he made his NHL debut late in 1946 for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was called up to Chicago from Kansas in the middle of the 1946-47 season

Based solely on his NHL debut you would have though Ralph Nattrass was the next great defenseman in hockey. The 6-foot, 185-pound blueliner first appeared in the NHL on Dec. 8, 1946, as Nattrass' Black Hawks faced off against Rocket Richard and the Montreal Canadiens. Nattrass somehow fired two shots from just inside the blue line that found their way past Montreal goalie Bill Durnan and into the net.

Nattrass also assisted on Doug Bentley's goal, the only other goal for Chicago on that night. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the would lose the game 5-3.

Now that is a first NHL game to never forget! But Nattrass' scoring ways would not continue. He would play in 35 games in his rookie season, and score only two more goals and six more points.

Often playing alongside future Hall of Famer Bill Gadsby, Nattrass would play in a total of four seasons, all with Chicago. In 223 NHL games he scored 18 goals with 38 assists.

The Hawks tried demoting Nattrass to the minor leagues after training camp in 1950. Ebbie Goodfellow had become the coach and, for whatever reason, he really did not like Nattrass. But Nattrass refused to report to the minor leagues. The situation was not settled until he was traded to Montreal shortly thereafter.

Montreal somehow convinced him to play with their farm team in Cincinatti of the AHL. In 55 contests the man with the big shot somehow failed to score any goals at all. But he did tally 30 assists in what proved to be his last season of hockey.

Nattrass would return to the NHL in 1954-55, this time as a linesman! Away from the rink Nattrass ettled in Edmonton and pursued several business ventures, including selling cars. But his two loves were the Blackhawks and dogs. He was known to take in many dogs in need of rescue.

Bad News Bilodeau

Bad News Bilodeau's name suggests he grappled in Quebec's rich wrestling scene back in the day.

Grapple he did, but it was on the ice, most notably with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA and the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA and NHL.

Bilodeau, known as Gilles to his mother, was a tough and fearless hockey player. Not that he used his bruised hands to put the puck in the net very often. He was far more likely to use his stick in, well, more liberal ways.

And no one on the ice was safe. Not even a teenage phenom named Wayne Gretzky. Fortunately Gretzky's close friend Garnet "Ace" Bailey was looking out for the kid.

“One night during my rookie year, we were in Quebec City, and this huge guy, Gilles Bilodeau, kept running me, knocking me around,” Wayne Gretzky told Sports Illustrated magazine. “I weighed around 146 pounds, and Bilodeau must have been 220. Ace didn’t get a lot of ice time that night — in those days you didn’t use fourth-line players much — and he was getting angrier and angrier at Bilodeau. Finally, Ace told me, ‘Next time you have the puck, get that guy to chase you and skate in front of our bench.’

“So I did that, and a second after I went by, I heard the whistle blow and I looked back. Bilodeau was flat on the ice, and Ace and the other guys were all looking into the stands as if someone had thrown something at Bilodeau and they were trying to figure out what had happened. Ace had clocked him with his stick when he skated past.”

That took guts. To anger Bilodeau, who was earlier nicknamed Tarzan and Zombie, took lots of guts and not very many brains.

In another incident Bilodeau needed to be subdued off the ice by mace-wielding policemen. He later had to appear in court, charged with second degree assault, a felony, as well as misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest. The unimpressed judge compared him to a bum.

Bilodeau grew up in Saguenay on his parents dairy farm. He played on the frozen sloughs and in the barn, often against his eight siblings. Even those games were take-no-prisoner affairs.

After a season of junior, Bilodeau quickly earned his reputation as one of hockey's toughest - and craziest - bad men. In his first year pro with the the Beauce Jaros (NAHL) he had 451 penalty minutes in just 58 games. The next year he was with the Charlotte Checkers (SHL) for only 28 games and collected an unthinkable 242 minutes in the box.

That aggression level earned him a call up the big leagues with Birmingham. By 1978 he went home signing with Quebec. Remember this was the 1970s. The Philadelphia Flyers were better known as the Broad Street Bullies, brawling their way to consecutive Stanley Cup championships. Players like Bilodeau were in demand.

When the WHA folded and the Quebec Noridques joined the National Hockey League, Bilodeau mustered only one assist in nine game and a relatively behaved 25 penalty minutes.

Bilodeau worked as self employed contractor after his hockey days were done, building decks and painting homes.

Bilodeau died in 2008 at the early age of 53. Autopsy results showed he had passed away from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer.

Jim Mikol

Born in Kitchener, Ontario on June 11th, 1938, Jim Mikol learned to skate at age four on frozen ponds in his hometown. He played junior hockey with the Waterloo Siskins and then the Peterborough Petes for the 1957-58 season.

''Montreal owned the team (Peterborough) at the time,'' Mikol said. "They insisted all of their players attend either trade school or regular school. They wouldn't allow their players to become bums.''

Much of his youth he had played on defense, but moved to forward when he turned pro in 1959-60. With Montreal walking away from any playing rights, Mikol skated with the Johnstown Jets, scoring 11 goals and adding 14 assists while adding 101 penalty minutes.

Mikol moved up to the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League, where he became one of the team’s stop scorers. Blessed with a hard shot, he scored 32 goals with 48 assists in 1961-62. Such a performance earned him a tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Leafs were impressed with his training camp, and toyed with the idea of using Mikol as a replacement for veteran Bert Olmstead, who had departed for the New York Rangers in the summer.

“He showed us enough to rate a good look. You have to remember he just switched from defence to forward a couple of years ago,” said Leafs coach Punch Imlach.

The Leafs' experiment was short-lived. Playing on a line with Billy Harris and Eddie Litzenberger, Mikol was used sparingly in just four games. It was agreed Mikol needed time to refine his game at his new position of forward.

''Toronto had just won back-to-back Stanley Cups and had a pretty good team,'' he said of his lack of playing time.

Mikol was loaned out to the Cleveland Barons farm team in the American Hockey League where he played very well, helping Cleveland to win the Calder Cup championship in 1964. But after two seasons, the Leafs never did call him back.

The New York Rangers secured his playing rights in a long-defunct inter-league draft. The Rangers gave Mikol a much longer look. He would get into 30 games, but only score one goal and four points.

The results were underwhelming to say the least. But the Rangers were able to parlay Mikol's playing rights, along with Sandy McGregor, Marcel Paille and Aldo Guidolin, to the AHL Providence Reds in exchange for goalie Ed Giacomin. Eddie would become one of the most popular and successful athletes in Manhattan's history.

The move was good for Mikol too. One report years later suggest the Reds wanted Mikol because his good looks could be a box-office draw! Perhaps his play was more of a draw. He captained the Reds for three seasons, though injuries plagued him for stretches.

Mikol would return to Cleveland for two final AHL seasons, retiring in 1970.

Mikol would become an owner of two different low-minor league teams - the Erie Golden Blades for the 1982-83 season and the Lakeland Ice Warriors of the Southern Hockey League in 1992-93.

He also moonlighted as a golf pro in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and North Carolina. He eventually settled in Florida, coaching the Dayton Beach Sun Devils.

"Never in his wildest dreams" did he figure golf would become such an important aspect of his life. "I was born with hockey in my blood,'' Mikol said. ''I figured I'd always be connected with hockey."

Mikol was definitely a natural athlete. Before turning pro in hockey he actually played a couple of months of professional baseball.

''I was a pitcher and signed with the Cleveland Indians,'' Mikol said. ''I played two months at their minor-league team in Waterloo, Iowa, but decided it wasn't for me.''

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