Saturday, June 27, 2009

WHA Draft Oddities



I’ve been looking at some WHA drafts recently. In 1974, both the WHA and the NHL held “secret” drafts to hide picks from each other. The NHL was tired of the WHA poaching NHL draft picks so they held the draft three days earlier than the WHA and via telephone. The plan didn’t quite work as the phone drafting took far too much time and ended up spreading out over three days. Buffalo GM Punch Imlach was so frustrated by the proceedings, he made a claim for a fake player from Japan. Taro Tsujimoto of the Tokyo Katanas was selected by the Sabres with the 183rd pick. Tsujimoto was the name of an auto parts store one of the Sabres scouts occasionally drove past, and “Katana” meant “Sabre” in Japanese.

The WHA’s Toronto Toros took part in only four WHA drafts, yet their final draft in 1976 could well be described as better than anything their cousins the Toronto Maple Leafs have ever produced. Sure, not one of their picks that year ended up playing for the franchise even though the team shifted to Birmingham, Alabama that off season. The talent alone selected that year is better than anything the Maple Leafs have come up with in any single year. In 1976 the Toros selected among their first eight picks Kent Nilsson, Peter Lee, Paul Gardner, Mike McEwen and Mike Kitchen. These five players would go on to play 2621 games in the NHL, scoring 1811 points in the process. The best the Leafs can do in the draft era would have to be 1970 when they selected Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Gerry O’Flaherty and Ron Low in net. The three skaters played 2133 games producing 1708 points, mainly on the back of Sittler. Ron Low would play 382 serviceable games in the NHL. The only other year that could be considered as closely successful for the Leafs is 1987 when they drafted Luke Richardson, Daniel Marois, John McIntyre, Joe Sacco, Mike Eastwood and Damian Rhodes with their first six selections. The five skaters would play 3948 NHL games, yet tallied a mere 945 points. Rhodes would play 309 games in net as well. It’s safe to say the Toros 1976 draft is better in quality than anything the Leafs have EVER produced.

One other draft year to look at is the 1974 Minnesota Fighting Saints. In this draft they selected some of the great names in hockey. They would select Dave Hanson, Steve Carlson and Jack Carlson, two of which would go on to star in the movie Slapshot the following year. Along with younger brother Jeff Carlson, Steve and Jack were slated to play the brothers in the movie. When Jack was called up to Edmonton just prior to shooting of the film, Dave Hanson stepped in to take his place. The Saints first pick in 1974 was Bruce Boudreau who would also have a bit part in the film playing one of the green shirted Hyannisport Presidents. That’s not all for Minnesota that year. Their third pick was William “Buzz” Schneider who would go on six years later to help lead the US to Olympic gold. Perhaps the best player they would select that year was in the 14th round when they took Reed Larson who would go on to star with the Red Wings for years. Interestingly, the year before with their first two picks the Saints selected Bob Gainey and Rick Middleton, neither of whom would spend a second in the WHA.


The Indianapolis Racers had a real “wishful thinking” draft in 1977 when the took Doug Wilson, Dale McCourt and one Mike Bossy with the 44th pick. All three would turn pro that winter, in the NHL of course.
Some other “what if “ picks in WHA draft history include Winnipeg selecting Danny Gare in 1974, the Oilers taking Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter in 1976 and Clark Gilles in 1974 and the Cincinnati Stingers taking Tiger Williams and Mike Palmateer in 1974.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Old Hockey Art

In continuing with my old program ads theme, I have scanned some more of my favourite hockey artwork from various publications. Firstly, are two images from the classic novel "A Boy at the Leafs Camp" by Neil's father, Scott Young. It was orignally published in 1963, I have a third edition copy from 1966. Each chapter has a great image on it's first page and these are my two faves.



Here we have a great retro ad from a 1961 Maple Leafs programme (they spelled it like that back then).

And from the same issue, a real cool ad for Esso...
Now we have a bunch from a 1947 AHL Springfield Indians program.
This one takes the Indians logo and gives it a slick full body look.

Finally, the "Lucky Number" page from the Springfield program. This one may look good on a T-shirt soon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Worst draft ever.


Currently, in the Hockey News NHL draft preview there is an article about the worst draft ever. They have come to the conclusion that the 1999 draft was in fact the worst ever NHL draft. I wanted to see if this was indeed true. To compare one draft to another, I simply picked the best players from each draft year in the form of an all-star team. I picked the top six forwards selected (regardless of forward position), the top four defensemen and the top two goalies. I then figured the average career points for each of the players and average career wins and losses for the goalies.


Firstly, here are the top players from the 1999 entry draft.



Henrik Zetterberg
Daniel Sedin
Henrik Sedin
Martin Havlat
Mike Comrie
Niklas Hagman
Average 378 points

Frantisek Kaberle
Niclas Havelid
Nick Boynton
Jordan Leopold
Average 150 points


Ryan Miller
Alex Auld
110-80 W/L


Ok, this was a fairly week draft for defenders, but the top four forwards are consistent all-stars, and of course Zetterberg is one of the top players in the game. As well, you could do alot worse than Ryan Miller and Alex Auld in net.


The 1996 draft comes through with a slightly higher points average among the forwards, and has far higher quality defensemen but it comes up short in the goaltender department with Mathieu Garon and Robert Esche.



Danny Briere
JP Dumont
Marco Sturm
Danius Zubrus
Mark Parrish
Matt Cullen
Average 433 points

Zdeno Chara
Tomas Kaberle
Pavel Kubina
Sami Salo
Average 327 points

Mathieu Garon
Robert Esche
86-74 W/L


There definitely is no Zetterberg in the 1996 draft but Chara and the other three d-men easily beat the 1999 class. I would have to say this draft is at least as poor as 1999 if not slightly worse.


The 1993 draft class boasts a Hart trophy winner in Chris Pronger as well as Paul Kariya and Saku Koivu. The average points of the top six forwards is a healthy 732 points and the defense averages 443 points. The goalies are the weak link this year with Manny Legace and Jocelyn Thibault.


Paul Kariya
Saku Koivu
Jason Arnott
Pavol Demitra
Vaclav Prospal
Todd Bertuzzi
Average 732 points

Chris Pronger
Bryan McCabe
Kimmo Timonen
Janne Niinimaa
Average 443 points



Manny Legace
Jocelyn Thibault
208-165 W/L


The 1993 draft would have to be considered superior to both the 1996 and 1999 drafts but not by much. The only other draft that would be in consideration for worst ever is 1978. There are no hall of famers in this group, yet the top six forwards average 745 points. Where this class is really lacking is on the defense and in net. Slava Fetisov can certainly be considered a top defenseman and Behn Wilson and Risto Siltanen had brief flashes of excellence, but when Brad Marsh is needed to round out the top four, you're in trouble.


1978
Bobby Smith
Ken Linseman
Stan Smyl
Anton Stastny
Paul MacLean
Ryan Walter
Average 745 points

Behn Wilson
Slava Fetisov
Risto Siltanen
Brad Marsh
Average 285 points

Bob Froese
Steve Weeks
120-96 W/L


Froese and Weeks had a few good seasons but were never among the top tier in the game. Overall, the claim that the 1999 draft was the worst ever could very well be true, but it by no means is a runaway in the discussion.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

One more Gretzky Rookie

Yesterday I posted my homemade Gretz rookie cards, and wanted to make an Indianapolis version of his "card" from the last WHA set. This image is from the great new DVD "Gretzky, Indy and the WHA" by Timothy Gassen. When I ordered the DVD it came with a poster version of the cover from which I was able to scan this image. I used as a background for this card the Gordie Howe card from the 77/78 WHA set. There are many inconsistencies with my newly fashioned rookie card. Firstly, this set was issued a full year before Gretzky even began his pro career, secondly behind Gretz wearing his road Racers uniform we see Howe in his road Houston Aeros uni.....maybe a neutral site game? And, thirdly the real hockey fan will know exactly where this game is being palyed. Pictured behind Wayne and Gordie is seen the distinctive clear plexiglass boards of the St.Paul Civic Center home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints. Apparently this game was a King of the Court type of match involving three teams. Anyway, here is another Gretzky rookie card...



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homemade Gretzky Rookies

I found this old ad in an Oilers program from 1979/80. It features a great photo of Wayne Gretzky during the WHA days that I have not seen before.

Since it's such a good image of Gretzky from his pre-NHL career, I decided to use it to make a couple of cards that never were. First, I created a card from the 1978/79 O-Pee-Chee set that was famous for having Mike Bossy's rookie card. OPC did not produce a WHA set this year after having done so since the rebel league began. In my version, the company made a special exemption for Gretzky as he had not even played a game yet in the pros. In my world, the set was issued in January of 1979, long enough for OPC to get a photo of Gretz as an Oiler following his trade from Indianapolis (perhaps I'll make an alternate version of the card in his Indy uniform).


I also made a card using the template from the final WHA set issued in 1977/78, of course Wayner would not have been an Oiler yet, but I like the look of that set and figured I'd try it out.






Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Australian Hockey Star


I recently picked this up at a used book store, it's the International Ice Hockey Guide for 1980/81. It's the same size and style of the old NHL Guides of the same era, loaded with seemingly every country's league stats and every international tournament from the 1979/80 season. Of course the biggest hockey event from that season was the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics and Vladislav Tretiak is pictured on the cover battling team USA. There is loads of stats on the Olympic tourney as well as from the 1980 Expolaris Cup in Sweden won by Kladno of the Czech league, the Pondus Cup from Copenhagen, Denmark (featuring national teams of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Denmark and Bulgaria) and the Great Britain Open Challenge Cup in Dundee, Scotland (which saw the Concordia University Stingers beat the Holland B-Team, the Danish Esbjerg IK and the Great Britain national team). Obviously this is a book right up my alley.

Among the interesting stats I have found in the book so far is the fascinating case of the leading scorer in the Queensland (Australia) Amateur Ice Hockey Association. The 1979 version of this league saw four teams each play 17 games, the Mayne Tigers, the Black Hawks, Red Wings and in real Aussie fashion, the Boomerangs. The scoring leader was one Ron Brideaux who played for the 13-2-2 league leading Mayne Tigers. In 17 games Brideaux put up 55 goals and 20 assists for 75 points. This in itself may not be so extraordinary as we have seen numbers like that posted in the British pro league by multiple players often in the same season. What's strange about Brideaux's numbers is his utter dominance over the rest of the league. His 55 goals were more than the total of the league's next three goal scorers combined. Read that last sentence again.... Brideaux's 55 was followed by second place with 20, third with 17 and fourth with 16.
I have been looking at hockey stats for thirty years and have played alot of beer league hockey over the last twenty or so years, and in all my years of hockey I have never seen that kind of dominance over one's peers over an entire season at any level.
In the entire Queensland League in 1979 there were a total of 277 goals scored for an average of 8.15 per match. Out of these 277 total goals Ron Brideaux scored 55 or 19.9% of the entire league's total. In 1944/45, when Montreal's Maurice Richard notched 50 goals in the six team NHL in which there were 1003 total goals scored, he accounted for just under 5% of league scoring.
Even in the NHL's first ever season of 1917/18 when Phantom Joe Malone scored 44 goals in the four team league he was responsible for 12.8 % of league goals. As well, in 1918 Cy Denneny scored 36 and Reg Noble 30. Dominant certainly, but not quite as much so as Brideaux in Australia.
I'm not saying for one second that Ron Brideaux was one of the greats of all-time. In fact, I can find no other record of him other than the book I have. He is not listed on any of the hockey databases and this was most likely the highest level of hockey he played. Even still his dominance over the league is fascinating to me.
Brideaux is currently an assistant coach with the Brisbane Bucaneers of the Australian league.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Crosby sixth in Pens scoring.

I was looking today for player stats from only this years Stanley Cup final. Surprisingly I had a tough time finding any solely for the Final. Below, are the stats I compiled with the help of espn.com. Yes, Crosby is tied for sixth in scoring on the Penguins. This alone leads me to believe that they do have a fair chance at winning. Game seven will be a big early career test for young Sid. After last year’s Cup disappointment, he really has to make himself noticeable on the huge stage of the deciding game of the Cup final. His usual linemates, Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz have been next to invisible which hasn’t helped Crosby’s cause. Perhaps the biggest surprise standout for the Pens has been Maxime Talbot with two big goals and four points in the series.
I decided to put this series to my scoring rating system which I created originally for the 1972 Summit series. The system gives varying weights to scoring points depending on the period of the game and the score at the time. Of course a game winning goal in the third period or overtime is worth far more than a third insurance goal in the second period.

I went through each point obtained in the Finals and came up with these numbers.


We see that overall the order is quite similar to each team’s actual point leaders. Detroit’s top five scorers are identical except for Rafalski jumping over Franzen in the weighted point system. He scores higher on the strength of assisting on the winning goal in the second period of game one and the eventual game winner in game four. Tomas Holmstrom jumps up due to his two assists being on the winner and insurance goal in game two.

We also see that Sidney Crosby’s three points have actually all been fairly important and raise him from sixth to second on the Pens list. He assisted on the third period winner in game three and scored the winner in game four while also assisting on the insurance marker.
Sergei Gonchar’s two points have proved to be huge as well, scoring the game three winner after assisting on the equalizing score. Most of Evgeni Malkin’s seven points have been important, notching points on the tying and winning goal in game three and assisting Crosby’s winner in game four.




Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Game Seven


We’re getting kind of spoiled by this Game Seven stuff. Friday, the Stanley Cup Final will be decided in a seventh game for the fifth time in the last eight seasons. Prior to 2001, there was a seven game Cup Final only three times in thirty-five seasons!
Personally, I’m hoping for overtime on Friday night. It has been FIFTY-FIVE years since a game seven OT decided a Cup. Detroit’s Tony Leswick beat the Canadiens 2-1 with an OT winner in 1954. The only other time it happened was 1950 when (again) Detroit’s Pete Babando knocked out the Rangers in double OT.

If the Wings do indeed prevail, this will be only the fourth Final to have every game won by the home team. In 2003 New Jersey and Anaheim did this, 1965 Montreal and Chicago won all their home games and in 1955 Detroit and Montreal were the first to turn the trick.

In the fourteen Cup Final game sevens, the home team has gone 12-2 with the 1971 Canadiens and 1945 Leafs the only road teams to win. In NHL playoff history, the home team in game seven has an 80-48 record for a .625 winning percentage.

Among the Wings and Pens, the players with the most playoff game sevens in their career are Nik Lidstrom (6 games, 3 assists), Brian Rafalski (6 games, 0 points), Chris Chelios (5 games, 0 points), Petr Sykora (5 games, 4 points), Bill Guerin (5 games, 3 goals) and Matt Cooke (5 games, 2 goals). Of course Pittsburgh’s Ruslan Fedotenko has a good game seven history, scoring both goals in Tampa Bay’s victory over Calgary in 2004. He has won all three game sevens he’s played in while scoring four points along the way.
Here's hoping we get to see some history made on Friday night.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Odds Against the Pens

The Pittsburgh Penguins are attempting to replicate the feat of the 1971 Montreal Canadiens. TSN.ca tells us that in the history of best of seven Stanley Cup Finals, teams leading 3 games to 2 who own game seven at home have won 19 of 20 series, (This is the situation that Detroit is in). The only team to come back to win games 6 and 7 in this situation was the ’71 Habs led by a fresh-out of college, Ken Dryden.

Montreal would win 4-2 on home ice in game 6 and prevail at Chicago Stadium 3-2 in game 7.
This of course would be Dryden’s coming out party, winning the Conn Smythe prior to the Calder Trophy the following year. In truth, Dryden’s numbers that playoff weren’t all that great with a record of 12-8, zero shutouts and a goals against average of 3.00. His opposing goalie in the Final, Tony Esposito went 11-7, 2 shutouts with a GAA of 2.19. In fact 1971 could be called Dryden’s worst playoff of his career. Amongst his six Cup winning years, 1971 was the highest GAA, most losses and least shutouts.

Along the 1971 playoff trail there were games in which he surrendered 5 goals (twice to Boston in round one, once to Minnesota in round 2 and once to Chicago), 6 goals (once to Minny) and 7 goals (once to Boston). Some would even go as far as saying he did not deserve the Conn Smythe that year and perhaps Frank Mahovlich should have won on the strength of 14 goals and 27 points in the 20 games.

Perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pens is on his way to repeating Dryden’s efforts as his numbers are quite similar with 8 losses, zero shutouts and a rather pedestrian GAA of 2.76.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Gretzky-curricular Activities

I finally got around to scanning this great article which consisted mainly of photos with captions. It's from a magazine called Hockey Scene that was put out during the 1983/84 season. This article focuses on how Wayne spent a week the previous summer at the famed (?) Concord Hotel in Upstate New York. Here we see Wayne taking time out from his activities to judge a "Beauty Contest". I'm not sure if these two prize catches were contestants or Kevin Lowe and Dave Hunter in drag. Sure hope Wayne didn't do anything stupid that evening.


Apparently there is a lack of a dress code at the famed Concord Resort golf course as Wayne is decked out in a classy tee. I know this was the summer of 1983, and I remember the summer of '83...but aren't those shorts just a little short?
At least the sophisticated veteran Larry Robinson managed to wrangle up a collar for the golf outing.



The boys did manage to get on the ice as well. Here they're posing with baseball Hall of Famer, ex-Detroit Tiger, Hank Greenberg. I wonder if either of them had ever heard of him.


Here's Wayner slapping a tennis ball around. Not sure if thats a sleeveless tee, or just rolled up. Maybe he just snipped them off after his golf round.

Finally, Gretz plays a little softball. We've often heard that he was almost as good a short-stop as he was a hockey player. One thing for sure, no matter the summer sport Wayne's tight little shorts are aways worn.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Old Hockey Program Ads

I've been seriously collecting hockey paraphenallia for at least two decades now. A large part of my hockey den's collection (yes there is an actual Nitzy's hockey den) is old programs. As well as the great articles and stats in these books, I really like the old advertisements that most often pertain to the game. For a while now, I've been wanting to post some of the good ones. I finally got around to scanning some of my faves.



This one is from a 1955 Saskatoon Quakers program. The Quakers were a charter member of Western Hockey League, and survived until 1959. This ad is for The Canadian Bank of Commerce and features a really cool ink hatched drawing.
This one's from a Feb. 1961 Maple Leafs program and was for the old Shirriff Hockey coins. These cool coins were issued for a few years and came in both plastic and metal.

This is another from the Western Hockey League, this one a 1968 Vancouver Canucks issue. It's an ad for a jewellery store in Vancouver called Miller's.
Another from a 1961 Leafs program, a really cool one for Maple Leaf Cleaners at phone number EM. 3-7411. Ahh simpler times.
A nice ad for The Canadian Bank of Commerce in a 1951 Leafs program. A player checking out how little money he's got in the bank in the good ol' days.


This one's from a 1931 Leaf advert for Spalding Sports located at 241 Yonge Street. I think that address is a Taco Bell now.
From the same program in 1930 for CCM skates. This is one of my favourite ad designs, I may have to put it on a T-shirt.
Here, we get into the 1970's ad style with a WHA Chicago Cougars program. I'm not too sure why this goalie is making a hard turn. I've never seen a goalie do this but I like the look of it.
Hopefully I can get around to scanning some more of these great old ads.

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