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Hockey Heaven

Well, we’re nicely into July now so I figured it was high time for a post about… hockey?  What can I say—I’m as Canadian as they come.  Like many kids growing up on the prairies, I was obsessed with hockey as a child.  I played on ice, on grass, and on concrete.  I played table hockey and video game hockey.  I watched hockey religiously every Saturday night (we didn’t have a TV for part of my childhood so every Saturday night my brother and I would race across the yard to my grandparents’ house to watch Hockey Night in Canada on their black and white television).  I collected hockey cards and my brother and I would spend hours arranging them according to every conceivable category, memorizing endless numbers of players and their statistics along the way.

I would also spend hours “creating” entire leagues complete with imaginary teams, imaginary players, imaginary statistics… and imaginary uniforms.  I would haul out my crayons and draw out sets of home and away jerseys, coming up with team names, and designing logos and colour schemes.  I got reasonably good at this—better than many of those responsible for designing the real-life ones, in my humble opinion.  Alas, my secret longing for a career in hockey uniform design never did pan out.  But I have always retained my love for and fascination with hockey uniforms.

Last week a friend loaned me a book by Ed Willes called The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association. Reading the book spurred me to do a little online “research” into the history of the WHA and the NHL and today I found a couple of sites that would have set my 9-10 year old heart aflutter.  They are sites devoted exclusively to hockey uniforms!  The sites come from the same creator (Andrew M. Greenstein) and show every hockey uniform in the history of the NHL and the WHA.  I realize that not many share my fascination with all things hockey-related, but I couldn’t resist posting a few pictures.

Whalers07The Hartford Whalers!  This was my favourite team during my teenage years.  I actually had a white Ron Francis jersey just like the one above!  For some reason I sought out the most obscure and hapless team I could find and cheered for them.  I’ve always loved an underdog but “underdog” barely captures the futility of the Whalers for virtually their entire existence.

Devils05

The New Jersey Devils, circa 1989.  For the life of me I have never been able to figure out why they changed the green in these uniforms to boring black!  My wife still has a pro-style autographed John MacLean red Devils jersey.  They look even better in real life.

Canucks07The famous flyingV’s!  The Vancouver Canucks in the 1980’s were certainly a thing to behold!.  The website has this to say about these gems: “This uniform set is widely regarded as one of the ugliest in NHL history.”   No argument here!  The Canucks seem to have gone through more uniforms in a relatively short period of time than almost any other team.  Maybe they’re compensating for something…

Kings08And sticking with the yellow theme, how about the classic purple and gold of the early Los Angeles Kings.  They need to bring these back!

Jets01These are for my friend J, who still laments the demise of the Winnipeg Jets.  With any luck, maybe we’ll see these classic beauties again once the pitiful Phoenix Coyotes come back to Canada with their tails between their legs.

NorthStars17We wore uniforms like this for several years in minor hockey in Coaldale, AB.  Still love ’em!

Nordiques11I always loved these Quebec Nordiques jerseys.  The fleur-de-lis and everything!

Flames03

And finally, my beloved Flames.  I’ll always love these because they wore them during the glorious Stanley Cup win in 1989!

Among the interesting discoveries at these websites were some jerseys that were mostly new to me (I wasn’t a fan of hockey just yet in the 1970’s!).  Here’s a few weird and wonderful ones from the crazy WHA.

BlazersVAN1The  Vancouver Blazers?  Apparently such a team existed in 1973-74!  They can’t have been much worse than the current team trying to play in Vancouver :).  One thing teams from Vancouver are good at, apparently, is churning out some spectacularly hideous uniforms.

Cougars21973-74 Chicago Cougars.  Um, interesting.

FightingSaints2The 1976-77 Minnesota Fighting Saints.  Looks kind of like the Washington Redskins on ice…

GoldenBladesThe 1973-74 New York Golden Blades.  I’d never even heard of them before today, but you gotta love the unies!  The Golden Blades lasted a grand total of half a season.

Racers3And of course the 1978-79 Indianapolis Racers, forever immortalized as Wayne Gretzky’s first professional hockey team.

Well, thanks for indulging me on this trip down memory lane.  I was just about tempted to haul out my paper and colouring crayons after browsing these sites for a bit today.  Just about.

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. So much trashing the Canucks…I do remember the amazing Flame jerseys of the 90’s with the bar going straight up from the crotch region to the crest… maybe some other teams compensate too? 🙂 … but then again flames of the late 90’s barely ever won any games. But they are better now they make first round of playoffs…that is something.

    July 6, 2009
    • Paul, Paul… so sensitive…

      I do share your loathing for the Flames jerseys of the late 90’s, and they were certainly pretty bad during that period. I did some snooping around on nhl.com and found that from 1995-96—1999-2000 the Flames winning percentage was an admittedly pathetic .373. And what was the Canucks percentage over the same period, you might ask? A stellar .329!

      I have to admit, though, that the Canucks did put some distance between themselves and the Flames in the early 2000’s. In fact, between 1995-96 and the year before the lockout, 2003-2004, the Flames won precisely zero division titles while the Canucks at least won one. In 2003-04. The year the Flames made it (through Vancouver) to the Stanley Cup Final.

      July 7, 2009
  2. PS – I do share your love for jerseys as a kid I would draw goalie masks for each team (even Flames) and design their goalie masks, for all three goalies, starter, back up and press box guy. And design third jerseys and that was before teams had third jerseys… so i do share your obsession. 🙂 thanks for the links.

    July 6, 2009
  3. J #

    Ryan:

    You are a good man and you made my day. Not only did you talk hockey jerseys (I love that stuff. I have an entire book on the history of baseball uniforms.) but you thought of me and my lost love.

    July 6, 2009
    • One day, the Jets will return J! And you and your long lost love will be reunited in sweet hockey bliss…

      July 7, 2009
      • J #

        I daresay that I don’t have the same hope that you do. I have trouble believing that the resurrection of the Jets is one of God’s “eschatological goodies.”

        One might even go so far as to say that I’m the Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens of Winnipeg Jets Hockey.

        July 7, 2009
      • Just believe in your heart J.

        July 8, 2009
  4. LOL that is a lot of research. You remind me of another Dueck… 🙂 Flames still suck…(hows that for research) 🙂 … But alas my favorite memory of Canucks and Flames is Bure vs. Vernon in 94 playoffs game 7… after that my memory is cloudy. 😉

    July 7, 2009
  5. Gil #

    Paul, Paul, I think a better word for your memory is ‘selective’. I don’t know anyone else who can recite endless obscure facts about the glories of the ‘amateur’ Soviet years and the unforgettable Vancouver Millionaires (who, strangely, seem not to register as an NHL team on the website linked to above). I’m surprised that Joel Otto’s beauty in game 7 doesn’t register amidst the ‘clouds’.

    July 7, 2009
  6. Gilbert I am glad you have arrived to BC safely. 🙂 I am going to be sad not watching Olympic hockey with you this coming year.

    PS – Who are the Vancouver Millionaires, did they play around the time Flames won a cup?

    😉

    July 7, 2009
  7. Gil #

    No doubt about it, Russia has a good shot this time around (although we will potentially have Dan Cleary as our game breaker).

    P.S. Who are the Millionaires? Interesting question, especially since I hadn’t heard of them until a certain someone persisted in bringing them up every time the Canucks’ cupless history came up.

    July 7, 2009
  8. It was brought up ONCE. 🙂 I miss you already!

    July 7, 2009
  9. J #

    The only thing that’s good about the Jets not being around is that I can confidently declare that the Jets were always better than the Flames or Canucks.

    On second thought, that’s not saying much at all, is it?

    July 7, 2009
  10. Gil #

    J, As bad as the Flames have been (and I’m not kidding myself, it’s not a stellar history) there still is one giant difference between them and both the Jets and the Canucks, and that’s the presence of a Stanley Cup banner.

    And Paul, I think saying that you’ve brought the Millionaires up ‘once’ is more evidence of your cloudy memory.

    July 8, 2009
    • J #

      Yes, the Flames won 1 Stanley Cup. I would submit, however, that the 3 Avco cups won by the Winnipeg Jets deserve consideration as being just as substantial, if not more so–especially given the fact that the last championship the Jets won was over a young Edmonton Oilers team that included the likes of, oh, Gretzky. Sadly, the NHL made a point of decimating all of the WHA rosters that joined the league in ’79, except for the Oilers b/c no one was smart enough to recognize the budding talent the Oilers had. It proved to be a crippling blow for the Nordiques, Jets and Whalers–one from which they were never able to recover.

      One wonders, “what if?”

      In addition, the Jets were on the leading edge of bringing a European style of hockey to NAmerica. They won their cups with the likes of Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson, who proved to be all-star calibre players in the NHL.

      Thus, I declare the Jets to have always been better than the Flames, and one day my faith will be vindicated.

      July 8, 2009
      • Gil #

        I had honestly never heard ‘leading edge of European style hockey’ and ‘Winnipeg Jets’ in the same sentence before and I wasn’t even aware of the existence of the avco cup. So I appreciate the obvious dedication to your Jets that such historical knowledge demonstrates. Truth be told, I like the Jets. I wish this Phoenix abomination would come to an end and that NHL hockey would be returned to the true fans.

        Of course I still think the 89 cup outstrips even this level of glory… While the Jets triumph was over this Gretzky fellow, OUR conquest was over Brian Skrudland and, if I’m not mistaken, Craig Ludwig. Beat that.

        July 8, 2009
  11. It seems that the one time I brought them up in a joke, you have never have forgotten this and bring it up in every conversation regarding the beloved cup win by the flames… I submit in 1989 Flames were the best NHL team…I believe the wooden skates that they used are still in the hockey hall of fame and if I am not mistaken so is Lanny McDonalds mustache.

    July 8, 2009
    • Gil #

      Thank you for submitting Paul. It makes blogging worthwhile 🙂

      July 8, 2009
      • My only aim is to please, the other option was keep going till I get the last word 🙂 holidays going good?

        July 8, 2009

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