February 04, 2007

Catching Up With The Past

The Hockey News recently caught with two former NHLers - Al Iafrate and Alexander Mogilny.

Best remembered for his rocket of a shot, I never really appreciated Al Iafrate when he was in his prime. Part of it was my west coast bias and never getting to see the Washington Capitals play, but part of it had to do with Iafrate's image. "Wild Thing" didn't hide his bad boy status, even if it was more wannabe than real. I always remember a photo of him all decked out in leather and posing on a Harley. Its too bad he wasn't wearing his helmet for the photo shoot, because it could have his quickly disappearing hair at the time.

For these petty reasons I never was able to warm up to Al Iafrate. But it was also in part because I was a big fan of another hard shooting Al - Al MacInnis. Big Mac was the good boy and playing out west, giving him two big advantages over Iafrate in my books. I didn't want anyone to ruin MacInnis' status as hockey's heaviest shooter. That's exactly what Iafrate did, registering a NHL record that stands to this day with a 105.2 MPH slapshot at the 1993 NHL All Star game.

Alexander Mogilny, on the other hand, I was a fan of. It was pretty hard not to be a fan of all that skill, all that speed. From his defection in 1989 to his glory days with Pat LaFontaine, "AlMo" was something really special.

I had the great pleasure to watch him up close for a season when he was with the Canucks. While his reunification with Pavel Bure was derailed by Bure's knee injuries, I still contend Mogilny was the better player of the two. The Russian Rocket was more explosive and more entertaining, but Mogilny was just as dangerous. Yet his bag of tricks included a lot more subtle weaponry, including a great playmaking ability he is rarely given credit for. "Mogs" was one of the few Russians from his era who generally avoided the enigma tag.

Kudos must go out to Lyle Richardson, a.k.a. Spector, who posted a two part interview with Gary "Cobra" Simmons recently. If you don't remember the goalie you will at least remember his unmistakable mask. Part One looks at his youth and how he acquired his nickname. Part Two looks back more at his NHL career.

NHL.com generally does a decent job with hockey history features, though more is always encouraged. This week Evan Wiener catches up with Rod Gilbert. Gilbert used to give goalies fits, but in this article he remembers the wild and the wacky goalies of his era - Gump Worsley, Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and very special memories of Gilles Gratton.

NHL.com also remembered Ian Turnbull, who 30 years ago scored 5 goals in one game, setting a record for defensemen that still stands to this day. Imagine that - Ian Turnbull, not Bobby Orr or Paul Coffey or Denis Potvin, holds that record.

I particularly enjoyed this passage of Randy Schultz's story:

Turnbull almost accomplished the same feat again four years later as a member of the Kings. It was Dec. 12, 1981 and the Kings were playing the Vancouver Canucks. It turned out to be a humbling experience for the veteran defenseman.

"I had just scored my fourth goal of the game,” remembered Turnbull. “A teammate, Mark Hardy, sat down next to me on the bench. He says something like, ‘Ian, wasn’t that your fourth goal?’ I said yeah. And he says that must be some kind of a record. And I said that no it wasn’t a record. He says back to me, ‘It’s not a record?’ I said simply, ‘no.’

“Of course then he asked me what the record was. I said five. He looks at me and says, ‘Five? Some guy got five goals in a game?’ I just calmly looked at him and replied, ‘Yes.’ A few more moments went by and he finally looks at me and asked who scored the five goals. I simply looked at him and answered, ‘I did.’ He couldn’t believe it.
Meanwhile NHL.com's Doug Ward remembers former Philadelphia Flyer Brian Propp. Much of the story focuses on the 1987 Canada Cup when Propp spent some of the time playing on a line with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.

“As far as I’m concerned,” Propp says, “that whole tournament was the best hockey I’ve ever been involved with. Russia, at the time, did not have any players in the NHL, and they had a powerhouse. Every country in the tournament had a great team. The hockey was fast and it was played at a high level. Those were the best games I ever played in.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to my interview with Gary "Cobra" Simmons, Joe.