Friday, February 28, 2014
Monday morning after Canada's Gold Medal hockey victory I caught Liam Maguire on Vancouver's Team 1040 radio on my drive to work. He was entertaining and informative as always and I was quite interested in one point he made. Maguire called this 2014 version of Team Canada the best he had ever seen, specifically comparing them to the 1976 Canada Cup squad. To paraphrase from memory he said, "I've been watching international hockey for over forty years and this team did things the others couldn't on the defensive end."
I figured I'd have a look at the 2014 and 1976 teams as well as the 1987 Canada Cup and 2002 Olympic championship versions of Team Canada. Which one was the greatest? First let's look at the raw numbers;
Each of the first three teams had at least one minor setback in the way of a loss, the most recent edition's closest thing to a bump in the road was an overtime victory against Finland. Although this year's Team Canada averaged just under three goals scored per game, their total of three goals allowed over six games speaks to the utter defensive domination shown. To be fair, 1987's Team Canada was the epitome of 1980's firewagon hockey and honestly, a GAA of 3.50 back then was quite exceptional. In looking at the raw results only the 1976 squad can really give 2014 a run for best Team Canada ever.
What about the actual rosters? Below is each team with their individual NHL accomplishments they had collected to the point of each respective tournament. I counted how many Stanley Cups players had won to that point and any First or Second Team All-Star selections and Trophies won. I included Hart, Art Ross, Norris, Calder, Selke and Conn Smythe awards. No Lady Byngs here.
1976 Team Canada
29 Stanley Cups
12 Hall of Famers
Avg. Age 26.7
Among the awards are 25, 17 and 7 won by the three Bobby's; Orr, Hull and Clarke respectively, guys like Potvin, Robinson and Lafleur still had many awards to come after 1976.
1987 Team Canada
20 Stanley Cups
12 Hall of Famers
Avg. Age 25.2
The bulk of these awards come from Gretzky (24), Bourque (10) and Coffey (7). This was also the youngest of these four squads by a considerable margin.
2002 Team Canada
20 Stanley Cups
14 Hall of Famers
Avg. Age 30.6
I'm counting 14 total Hall of Famers or likely Hall members. Currently there are 8 players from the 2002 team in the Hall, likely eventual members are Rob Blake, Theoren Fleury, Jarome Iginla, Eric Lindros, Chris Pronger and Curtis Joseph. Even if only 4 of those 6 get in, the 12 Hall of Famers would equal the 1976 and 1987 rosters. The top three award collectors up to 2002 were Mario Lemieux (21), Martin Brodeur (12) and Al MacInnis (8). This was far and away the oldest team of these four at an average age of 30.6 years.
2014 Team Canada
19 Stanley Cups
8 Hall of Famers?
Avg. Age 27.1
It's difficult to project Hall of Fame careers for so many youngsters on the 2014 team. I think fairly honest expectations could see at least 8 Hall of Famers in Crosby, St.Louis, Luongo, Weber, Getzlaf, Perry, Keith and Toews. It's way too early to say if guys like Tavares, Doughty, Subban, Price or Duchene will ever reach those lofty heights.
Perhaps it's indicative that this group has won "only" 30 individual awards while winning only one less Stanley Cup collectively than the 2002 team. The strength of the 2014 was it's lack of individuality and it's strength of team play. Is that enough to call them the greatest Team Canada ever? In my opinion, yes.
Monday, February 24, 2014
I stumbled across these great photos in a Maple Leaf Gardens program I recently picked up. The book is from opening night of the 1965/66 campaign and has this fantastic look at the annual Maple Leaf Gardens open house which took place on Saturday, September 25, 1965.
From 10am to 10pm that day some 25,000 folks filed through the home of the Maple Leafs for a look behind the scenes. Above is a great shot of the Gardens lobby area as people wait to get into the arena itself. For a small donation, the fans got into the building as well as a free Shopsy hot dog, Coke and ice-cream bar. All funds raised went toward the Hospital for Sick Children Building Fund. Below Leaf president Stafford Smythe is shown depositing a cheque of $50,000 for the fund on behalf of the Maple Leaf Gardens directors.
Even the Maple Leaf dressing was open for inspection by the adoring fans. Below, Leaf P.R. man Ed Fitkin along with Esso spokesman Murray Westgate point out highlights of the building to fans seated in the stands.
Full access really was given to the public as shown above and below. Note the now highly collectable Maple Leaf calendar pinned up in the top-left photo. Yes, I have a few of them in my collection. We see the television studio of the day at the bottom-left and of great interest on the bottom-right is a proposed model of an expanded Maple Leaf Gardens. I'll certainly have to dig into that one a bit more.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
"There are 20 guys who are extremely distraught over this," coach Dave King was quoted after Team Canada's final game of the 1984 Olympics. They had just lost by a score of 2-0 to Sweden to be denied a Bronze Medal. King continued,"It was a very difficult game for our young players to play and I didn't think we coped with the pressure as well as we could have."
Goaltender Mario Gosselin said after the game that the team wanted the Bronze Medal too badly,"We tried hard, but we tried in the wrong way. We wanted to win the game in the first minute, we wanted to win as quickly as possible, we wanted too much to win." In truth, they didn't even need a win, a tie would have given the Canadians the Bronze on goal differential.
Canada ended up scoring zero goals in the three final round matches and obviously could have used some more offense. King addressed that, "Certainly when you lose the last three by shutout, you think a player like Mario Lemieux could have made a difference." Unfortunately, King and Lemieux had a conflict of personalities the previous year on the Canadian Junior team. Lemieux received a grudging and belated invitation to the Olympic team camp but turned it down.
When all was said and done, Mario Gosselin was the runaway star of the Olympics for Canada ending up with a 2.21 goals against average. I counted all the boxscores and determined his Save Percentage below.
Canada vs USA
Canada vs Austria
Canada vs Finland
Canada vs Norway
Canada vs Czechoslovakia
Canada vs Soviet Union
Canada vs Sweden
.919 Save Percentage
Within a week, Gosselin had put his Olympic failure behind him as he suited up for his first National Hockey League game on February 26, 1984. Turning aside 26 shots, he shutout the St.Louis Blues in front of a hometown crowd at Quebec City's Colisee. Gosselin said afterwards,"I had a big game against the United States, but this is better. To get a shutout in my first game...you can't start a career any better than that."
Monday, February 17, 2014
"Basically, it was a two-three system with one guy skating backwards in the middle to deflect the attack to either side," commented Canadian coach Dave King after the game against the Soviet Union. "I had heard the Calgary Flames used it when they beat the Russians on their tour, and that the Swedes and Czechs sometimes used a forward like a defenceman."
Whatever it was, it didn't work as the mighty Soviets, after being held scoreless for half the game, beat Canada 4-0 to advance to the Gold Medal game. Outshot by 26-10, Canada was never really in the game. Vladimir Kovin and Alexander Kozhevnikov broke through in the second to make it 2-0. This score stood until there were just over five minutes left in the third when Alexander Skvortsov iced the game with a shorthanded marker. Nikolai Drozdetsky was given the final goal when Canadian defender Warren Anderson put one into his own net.
Canada would now play Sweden for the Bronze Medal after they lost 2-0 to the Czechs. Swedish coach Anders Parmstrom said, "Our strategy against Canada depends on how many healthy bodies we have." The problem arose when Sweden lost defencemen Goran Lindblom and Bo Ericsson to knee injuries in the Czech game. This after their best defender Michael Thelven was also lost to a knee injury and sent home earlier. The coach continued, "We beat Canada 3-2 at Izvestia but they have a much better team now. The third medal (Bronze) is important to us, especially against Canada."
Saturday, February 15, 2014
"Miracles happen every 20 years. They happened twice, both in the States (1960, 1980). There will be no miracles here in Sarajevo." This was Canadian assistant coach Jean Perron after his team lost 4-0 to the powerful Czechs to assure a match up with the even more powerful Soviets. Canada's next game would be against the undefeated Soviet Union to decide which team would play for the Gold medal of the 1984 Olympics. Perron continued,"We're realistic enough to know we can't beat the Russians, so we have to make sure we're ready to play for the bronze medal."
Against the Czechs, Mario Gosselin was his usual solid self, but this time he was actually outplayed by the opposing goaltender. "It's safe to say goaltending was the difference," continued a still dour Perron. "Mario played okay, but we needed an absolutely great performance. I think their goalie was better." "Their goalie" being Jaromir Sindel who turned aside all 32 shots directed his way.
Perron wrapped up his depressing summation,"We don't have a very good offensive club. And we didn't play well enough on offence to beat the Czechs. We can score goals, but we did it against Austria, Norway, teams like that. But it's no disgrace getting shut out by the Czechs. They're a lot better than the Americans, and they're a lot better than us, too. Our players have to be realistic."
Thursday, February 13, 2014
And now, Canada had four wins in four games after trouncing Norway by a score of 8-1. Coupled with a 7-2 victory by Czechoslovakia over Finland, Canada's next game against the Czechs was essentially a medal-round match. The 4-0 record qualified Canada for the four-team medal round, but the final game of the preliminary round will count toward final medals as head-to-head games between final round teams are carried over into the medals.
Behind three goals and two assist by Dave Gagner and a goal and two assists from line mate Russ Courntall, Canada surprised the hockey world by marching to the medal round. Gagner said after, "Simply, that Czech game is the most important of our lives."
Just two months prior Canada had led the Czechs 2-1 after two periods in the Izvestia tournament before losing 4-2. Coach Dave King said of that game, "We played a fairly good game and the Czechs never seemed to be in it. They weren't sharp then. They're better now, but we've improved even more than they did because we had a longer way to go."
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
The cartoon that appeared in the Toronto Telegram upon conclusion of the 1964 Olympic hockey tournament said it all. Canada was robbed of a medal. For the first time in Olympic hockey history, Canada failed to win a medal. This was the first time Canada had utilized a true "national team" system by way of Father David Bauer. I wrote about their preparations here;
Going into the final game of the 1964 Games, Canada needed a victory over the undefeated Soviets in order to secure a Gold. Jumping out to a 1-0 lead not six minutes into the game on a goal by George Swarbrick, Canada got the start they desired. However, after exchanging the first four goals, they entered the final period tied 2-2. In his autobiography "Hockey In Canada, The Way It Is", Canadian star Brian Conacher wrote of that final period.
"So six months work came down to twenty minutes' effort. If we could beat Russia, our Czech loss (in the previous match) would be erased and we would win Gold. If we lost our country would only remember that we were not good enough to do the job. Between periods I thought that I would try to walk across water for Father Bauer if it would help win this game."
Alas, Russia scored 1:36 into the period on a goal from Veniamin Alexandrov and to quote Conacher, "We just didn't have the horses to get back in the remaining nineteen minutes. Every player played his guts out in that last period and no one will ever be able to say that the 1964 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team quit under pressure."
Truth be told, as much as they didn't quit, they sure failed to muster up much offence as the 3-2 score held up. The Russians out shot Canada 20-7 in the third, and if not for goaltender Seth Martin who had replaced starter Ken Broderick, the score would have been worse.
Conacher summed up the tournament;
"First place in the tournament went to Russia with her undefeated record of seven wins. Behind her were Canada, Czechoslovakia and Sweden, all tied for second place with five wins and two losses. We had reconciled ourselves to a respectable second place finish, while in fact we felt that Sweden and Czechoslovakia were lucky to share the Silver Medal with us.
While the final game between Sweden and Czechoslovakia was being played, it became obvious that there would be a three-way tie for second place. While the game was in progress, our friend Bunny Ahearne, President of the IIHF, decided it was time to change the rules. After the shuffle, Canada found herself demoted to fourth place. The sleight of hand Bunny was able to manipulate established that the final standing would be based on a goals for and against record in the event of two teams being tied.
It was nice to learn that the rules had been changed shortly before the medal presentations were to take place. If there was any merit in the formula that was adopted, there was certainly no fairness in the way it was adopted. It's pretty hard to remain idealistic when you're the victim of Bunny Ahearne and the IIHF. To say the least, I was disillusioned by the Olympic Games. By the time we left the village the day after the Games ended, I frankly wondered what it had all been for.
Marshall Johnston captured the spirit of our Olympic experience when he said to Father Bauer after we'd been robbed of a medal: 'It looks Father, as if the shepherd and his flock have been fleeced.' "
Fairly strong sentiment from Brian Conacher and fully understood. Father Bauer himself was quoted in the Montreal Gazette the following day as his team showed up at the medal presentations only to be denied one, "Come on fellas, let's get out of here. We're not getting anything so let's get out."
Perhaps as a small conciliation, Father Bauer did arrange a special trip for his boys on the way back to Canada. He managed to secure an audience at the Vatican with Pope Paul VI. Pictured below are a few of the players meeting the Pope.
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Canada had just beaten Finland by a score of 4-2 to win their third game of the 1984 Olympic tournament with Gosselin turning aside 24 of 27 shots. The perfect start to the Olympics was surprising to even coach Dave King, "Even as a coach you have to be surprised they're playing so well. They're really on top of their game. You talk about the peaking process, I guess that's what we're going through right now."
Kirk Muller gave Canada a 1-0 lead after a period as Finland's chances were kept too a minimum. Canada peppered Finnish goalie Kari Takko with 17 shots in the period and 16 more in the second as Finland took the lead. King said,"I thought it was a good second period, but we just couldn't score. Probably the key to the game was our ability to cope with the frustration of not being able to score."
It paid off in the third as Canada scored three unanswered goals from Darren Lowe, Craig Redmond and Dave Gagner. According to the Canadian Press, Canada was becoming everyone's favourite underdog and the comparison to the Cinderella 1980 US team had begun. Dave Gagner responded with,"I don't want to compare this team to the 1980 team, but to get the feeling that a lot of people are watching us with the same feeling that people watched that club is very exciting."
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Kirk Muller with a pair of goals as well as markers from Dave Donnely and Pat Flatley had Canada up 4-0 by the halfway point of the match. Coach Dave King replaced goaltender Mario Gosselin after stopping all 11 shots he face through two periods if only to rest hime. The first shot directed Darren Eliot's way by Eddy Lebler bulged the twine to make it 6-1 Canada 20 seconds into the third, but that was as close as it got.
Next up for Canada would be the Finns. Austrian coach Gregory Holst, whose team lost their opener of the tournament 4-3 to Finland said, "There's a great difference between the Finns and the Canadians. The Finn don't bodycheck, but they are very fast skaters. They play a very complicated system. The Canadians play a simpler system with more bodychecking, simple but very good. I think Canada has a very good chance to win against Finland."
Donnelly expressed how the Canadians were coming together as a team,"During the course of the year, we just got the feeling that we were playing for another rocky club. It wasn't until we came to Sarajevo that things really came together for us. The Olympic spirit hit. It finally dawned on us that we were playing for our country.
Canadian assistant coach Jean Perron said after the game that Gosselin would start in goal against Finland as well as all other games unless he "gets shelled".
Friday, February 7, 2014
Less than 24 hours before the first game of the 1984 Olympics, Canadian goaltender Mario Gosselin was under the impression that he would not be allowed to compete. The problem was that two years prior, Gosselin had dressed as back-up for John Garrett of the NHL's Quebec Nordiques due to an injury to Dan Bouchard. At the time, Gosselin was a member of the Quebec Junior League's Shawinigan Cataractes having been drafted by the Nordiques in the third round of the 1982 draft. Although he never got into the game with the Nords, just prior to the Olympics it was believed this was enough to disqualify him from amateur status.
Gosselin went to bed the night before the first game against the defending Gold medalist USA still thinking he was ineligible. He was awoken in his room after midnight by someone saying he was wanted on the telephone. "It was a Quebec talk show. The guy on the line said, 'Mario, you're playing. It's all been cleared up.' It was", Gosselin was quoted afterward. The International Olympic Committee had declared that any player who had played one game in the NHL was not considered an amateur and therefore ineligible for Olympic play. Gosselin had officially not played a game in the NHL.
Although Gosselin and teammate Dan Wood were deemed acceptable, Canada lost Centre Mark Morrison and Defenseman Don Dietrich who had previously played nine and six games in the NHL respectively. The decision also turfed Italian goalie Jim Corsi and his teammate Rick Bragnolo as well as Austrian Greg Holst. Amazingly however, Austrian player Rick Cunningham who had played 323 games in the World Hockey Association was indeed eligible to play.
Either way, going into the opener Canada was a heavy underdog against the United States. Not only were the Americans the defending Olympic champions, but they held a 5-4-3 record against Canada in exhibition play. Overall in pre-Olympic play the U.S. had gone 39-18-8 while Canada went 18-29-10. Canada's poor record was the result of going 2-16-1 in their last 19 exhibition games. Canadian coach Dave King stated,"We've struggled most of the year. We've worked hard to be competitive. The Americans have been a little inconsistent. To beat them, we have to execute very well."
And that they did. a mere 27 seconds into the game, Pat Flatley tipped a Carey Wilson shot past U.S. goaltender Marc Behrend. David A. Jensen tied it up halfway through the first before Wilson regained the lead less than two minutes later. Although it was only 2-1, Canada had out shot the U.S. 13-6 causing American coach Lou Vairo to say post game, "The first goal was a very strong psychological factor, after that it seemed we were skating uphill all day."
"I think the whole eligibility thing helped us more than anything else," Gosselin said afterward. Vairo seemed to concur, "I don't think it had any effect on us, but it might have worked in favour of Canada." Wilson completed his hat-trick in the middle of the third as Gosselin held the fort for the 4-2 victory turning aside 34 of 37 shots.
With the loss the Americans were all but assured of not being able to defend their Gold from 1980 and Canada looked forward to a game with the Austrians two days later.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
These are actual cards from my collection that were issued for various Winter Olympic games either as souvenirs or as premiums in cigarette packages. The rear of this card is translated;
"Hockey is the fastest fighting game in the world. In no other sport, the other situations as lightning, is required of players next greatest skill and presence of mind so precise technique.
Canada is the motherland of this game. His team accomplished miracles services was not only Olympic champion, but was not beaten in the whole of Europe by any opponent."
The University of Toronto Grads coached by soon-to-be legendary Conn Smythe represented Canada in the 1928 Olympic Games of St.Moritz, Switzerland. After taking the Allan Cup title in 1927 beating Fort William 2-1-1 in a best of three final, the Grads steamrolled through Europe on the way to Olympic gold. Undefeated in their 12 game Euro tour in conjunction with the Olympics, they were led by Left Wing Dave Trottier and Centre Hugh Plaxton. In the exhibition tour Trottier collected 43 points, Plaxton 30 in the 12 games. In the three Olympic games Trottier had 17 points and Plaxton 15. Granted a bye through the preliminary rounds, Canada needed only beat Sweden, Great Britain and Switzerland to take the gold, which they did by scores of 11-0, 14-0 and 13-0 respectively.
The picture in true card shows Canada playing the Swiss in that last game of the tournament played February 19, 1928. It's difficult to identify the players without numbers visible, but the Swiss goaltender was likely Arnold Martignoni. It's certain true Canadian player skating in the middle of the scene is not Plaxton or Trottier as both of them shot left-handed.
Most of the Varsity Grads played little or no high-level hockey after the 1928 Olympics. Dave Trottier was the notable exception as he joined the NHL's Montreal Maroons the following autumn and played 446 NHL games before retiring in 1939. He scored 121 goals and 234 points in his career and played in the first NHL All-Star game of 1937. Hugh Plaxton retired to his law career after the Olympics only to join return to the game in 1932. He joined Trottier on the Maroons for 15 games in 1932/33 scoring a goal and 3 points. Interestingly, he also played on game in net for the Maroons allowing five goals in a loss.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
These are actual cards from my collection that were issued for various Winter Olympic games either as souvenirs or as premiums in cigarette packages. The rear of this card is translated;
"Gustav Jaenecke, the captain of the German team and its best player in ice hockey tournament of the Winter Games."
Indeed he was the best player for the Germans in the 1936 Olympics, perhaps even the best of all-time. Beginning as a 17 year old with his hometown Berliner Schlittschuh-Club in 1925 he would score 370 goals in 417 club-team matches. Representing Germany in international play from 1926 through 1941 he counted another 71 goals in 91 games.
In total, Jaenecke was a member of 13 German league championship teams, most of any player ever. In addition his Berliner SC won two Spengler Cups. With the national side, he won Olympic bronze in 1932 and another bronze and a silver in the World Championships of 1934 and 1932 respectively.
In addition to his great skill at hockey, Jaenecke was the German tennis champion of 1932 and a member of the Davis Cup squad on five occasions. He was never a member of the Nazi party and was never drafted into the army as he was deemed indispensable in managing his family's shoe factory in addition to his position as Captain of the national hockey team.
Gustav Jaenecke was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1998.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
This first card I was sent by my friend Bruce who I play hockey with, the second one is from my collection. They are from separate German sets from 1936 depicting the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partinkirchen. Both cards show the German Olympic hockey team, and yes, the first one pictures them giving the Nazi salute. Amazingly, one of the players on this team, perhaps the best player was a Jewish man named Rudi Ball.
Ball was born in 1911 in Berlin to a German father and Lithuanian Jewish mother. He took to the game of hockey at age 15 and by 17 he was starring for his hometown Berliner SC. The speedy, 5'4" Ball tallied 11 goals in 13 games and would suit up for the German National squad for the first time the following year. On both teams he was joined by his good friend and fellow star, Gustav Jaenecke. Together they led the Germans to the Silver medal in the 1930 World Championships.
By now Ball and Jaenecke were outright stars for Berliner SC and the national team. Next they helped lead Germany to a Bronze medal in the 1932 Olympics at Lake Placid. After a fifth place finish in the 1933 World Championships, things changed rapidly for Ball and the world in general.
1933 saw the rise of the Nazi regime to power in Germany and the beginning of the alienation of Jews throughout Germany by Adolf Hitler. Rudi Ball and his hockey playing brothers fled their homeland and played the next two seasons in St.Moritz, Switzerland and Milan, Italy.
As the 1936 Olympic games approached, Ball was left off the German squad for the sole fact that he was of Jewish descent even though the national team were in desperate need of his hockey ability. Just prior to the games, Ball's best friend Jaenecke refused to play if Ball was not added to the team. Not wanting to put forward an inferior team at their home Olympics, the Nazis relented after striking a deal with Ball.
In exchange for offering his services to the German team, Rudi Ball's family would be allowed to emigrate from Germany. Ball agreed to join the team, but even with the inclusion of himself and Jaenecke, the Germans finished in fifth place. Even still, in late 1936 Ball's parents were allowed to move to Johannesburg, South Africa. Ball himself would remain in Germany skating alongside his friend Jaenecke with Berliner SC for another ten years.
In 1948, Ball followed his family to South Africa were he helped legitimize the hockey scene there. He would play five more years in Johannesburg before finally retiring at age 42. Ball lived in South Africa until his death in 1975. He was elected to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2004 where he joined his longtime friend Gustav Jaenecke.
The back of the second card is translated loosely with Google translate.
"The German ice hockey team is not favored by fortune. From the group matches coming into the second round, where it 1-1 after three periods of elongation plays in a dramatic battle against the Olympic winner England, then excretes. Thus was lost the European Championship."