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Archive for December, 2012

Hi everyone:

I first wrote this blog article in December 2012 during the NHL lockout as a way of coping with the frustration experienced by me and millions of other hockey fans across North America and beyond. After all, that lockout meant that we were being deprived of professional hockey at its highest level. I think “frustration” might be a polite way of describing how we all felt. I’d love to go much further in expressing how angry many of us felt, but it’s probably best to leave it alone and move on. Fortunately for all of us, both sides eventually came to their senses and resumed play in January 2013. Let’s all hope that there will never be another lock-out – hmm, am I asking too much? Only time will tell.

Back then I talked about ways for us to get our hockey “fix” in the absence of NHL games, and offered the idea of watching classic hockey games online. It was a constructive way to deal with the “frustration” that I talked about above, and I think it worked. Even today, watching these games can be a lot of fun – not to mention the nostalgia factor. Thanks to YouTube and similar video-sharing sites, thousands of these games and other hockey-related material are available at any time. I first caught on to this idea a few weeks before publishing the first edition of this article when a friend sent me the link to Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup final at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto when the Leafs won the Cup against the Montreal Canadiens. I really enjoyed it, and it brought back some wonderful memories of those long ago days. Sad to say, but as part of periodic revisions to this blog entry since I originally published it, it seems that the game is no longer available to watch in its entirety. And as I did watch that particular video, the idea for this blog entry was born. After all, if I found watching that game (and several others since then) an entertaining diversion from the NHL lock-out, then it’s logical to assume that many others would too.

So in that spirit, let me offer some links to hockey games and other material from days gone by. For now I will divide this into three sections. Part one consists of videos showing games either in their entirety or pretty close to it. Each of which, I should warn you, will last at least 90 minutes (more likely to be two hours and sometimes longer). Part two offers highlights and similar edits of classic games, which on average will run something like 10 or 15 minutes each. Part three offers documentaries about various aspects of hockey, such as a video released by the Toronto Maple Leafs in celebration of their 75th anniversary, as well as one produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2009 for the centennial of the Montreal Canadiens. You may have noticed that I said “for now”. If I find a lot of these videos over time, I just might break this up into two or more separate blog entries. It might become a bit unwieldy to have it all in one. Let’s follow the above pattern, at least for openers, and I will make adjustments if necessary.

I should also mention that in addition to my selections, YouTube offers similar videos on the right hand side of your monitor. Choosing any of them also lets you watch other games that I have not included in my own selection. I hope you make use of that feature too, and allow yourself to be transported to another hockey time and place anytime you like. Opens up a lot of ideas, doesn’t it? A couple of other matters before we continue. First, these links are accurate as of August 2014 but are subject to change over time. So if you click on a link and find it is no longer available, my sincere apologies. If you know of an alternate one that presents the same game, feel free to contact me via e-mail with the appropriate information and I will include it in a future update. Second, you may find some issues such as volume levels, video quality or other technicalities. While I apologize if these matters cause problems for you, please understand that these matters are beyond my control. They may be the responsibility of those who uploaded these videos, but in their defence perhaps they couldn’t do anything about all this either.

OK gang, enough of the preliminaries. Without any further delay, I give you old time classic hockey games at their best. Ready? Feel free to select anything you like. I hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane and let’s get started!

Part one: Classic hockey games in their entirety – or almost! For ease of access, I have presented these links in chronological order followed by a few comments.

1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series – Game 8 What can you say? Canada came to a stand-still on the afternoon of September 28 1972 to watch this game live from Moscow. Today, over 40 years later, it’s still timeless and always will be.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins – Game 2 of the 1974 Stanley Cup Final This game truly deserves to be a classic and featured two of the great teams of the 1970’s. Led by stars such as Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr, the Bruins were a tremendous team that dominated the decade. One could argue that were it not for the great Montreal teams of that same period, Boston would have won more than just the 2 Cups they did win (1970 and 1972). Indeed, the Bruins made the Stanley Cup final almost every year in the 1970’s. Philadelphia, of course, were the Broad Street Bullies – this game shows the Flyers in all their glory. Given that Boston was heavily favoured to win the series (and had won the first game in Boston), all the pressure was on Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and their teammates. They responded very well, not only did they win this game, but went on to defeat the Bruins and became the first of the “expansion” teams to win the Stanley Cup.

1976 Super Series – Central Red Army at New York Rangers Up until this classic match from Madison Square Garden, club teams from the National Hockey League and the Soviet Union had never played each other. That all changed when the Rangers faced off against Moscow’s famous Central Red Army team. The series continued over the next couple of weeks, as the Red Army team, joined by the Wings of the Soviet team, played some wonderful hockey against their North American rivals. I hope you enjoy this game from December 28, 1975, as well as the entries from Montreal and Buffalo which follow it.

Central Red Army vs. Montreal Canadiens – Dec. 31 1975 OK – I know what you are thinking. You can never really say that one player is the greatest ever or that a hockey game is the best ever because the sport changes and evolves over time. Today’s hockey is very different from back in the 1970’s or earlier eras and that makes comparing players and/or games from one era to another nearly impossible. But if someone ever compiles a list of the greatest hockey games ever played, you have to put this one on it.

1976 Super Series – Wings of the Soviet at Buffalo Sabres This is the same Series as the games featuring Central Red Army playing the Rangers and Canadiens. If you can get past that damned organist at the Memorial Auditorium who felt the need to play something after each player introduction (so annoying!), this is actually a great game to watch. Although the Wings of the Soviet played second fiddle to the Central Red Army team, don’t kid yourself – these guys were pretty good too. As for the Sabres, they had a wonderful team back then led by the famous “French Connection” line of Richard Martin and Rene Robert, centred by perhaps the greatest player in Sabres history to date, Gilbert Perrault. As an aside, if you want to watch more of the Sabres from back then, I also have a 1980 game against the New York Islanders elsewhere in this article. Both teams played a fast-skating up tempo type of game, and it’s clearly evident from watching this game. A great way to spend a couple of hours!

Montreal Canadiens at Philadelphia Flyers – Game 4 of the 1976 Stanley Cup Final In the spring of 1976, two of the most dominant franchises in professional hockey were the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens. The Flyers were in their glory years, the famous Broad Street Bullies. The Canadiens had it all back then and could play it any way you want. Didn’t matter if you wanted to match the Flyers “rough and tough” style, or play it with speed and finesse in the “firewagon hockey” tradition of past Montreal teams. Choose your weapons, Montreal could match any style you wanted – and then some. When the final series started, everyone anticipated a classic struggle between the two teams. The Flyers put up a good fight, but in the end it wasn’t even close. The Habs swept the series in four games, 1976 would be the first of four Cups in a row – some have argued that this Montreal team of the mid to late 1970’s were the greatest ever. This video is the first of a three part series, which roughly corresponds with the periods themselves, and features the incomparable Danny Gallivan as the lead commentator, accompanied by his longtime partner, Dick Irvin. To access the other two videos in the series, use the links found in the description text below, or on the right hand side of your page. Brings back some wonderful memories of two great teams. Hope you enjoy it.

1979 Challenge Cup – USSR vs. NHL All Stars Game 2 In February 1979, the NHL did not play their annual All Star Game. Instead, the league assembled a team of all stars to once again play the Soviet Union in a three game series at Madison Square Garden in New York. When I originally published this blog entry I was able to offer a link to the first game. Although it seems that particular video is no longer available, I was able to find one of game two, so I present that one in its place.

Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens – Game 7 of the 1979 Stanley Cup Semifinal The NHL in the 1970’s was dominated by three teams. One of them was the Philadelphia Flyers, affectionately known as the “Broad Street Bullies”. But with all due respect to the Flyers, the decade really belonged to two “Original Six” giants. The Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens. Between them, the teams won 8 Stanley Cups in this decade (with the other 2 going to Philadelphia). Both of these teams were powerhouses, and as I have mentioned elsewhere, were it not for those incredible Montreal teams, no doubt the Stanley Cup would have made more than just 2 visits to New England. As one might expect, these two teams were each other’s nemesis and played each other several times in the playoffs including the 1977 and 1978 finals. It all came to a head in 1979, when they met in one final and dramatic series. This link goes to part one of a two part presentation of the seventh and final game, played at the Forum on May 10. Yes, you guesed it. The game that will be forever known as the “Too Many Men on the Ice” game because of that classic moment late in the third period (you can’t help but see it in part two – that link should be found at or near the top on the right hand side of your screen) when Boston led 4-3 and seemingly had the mighty Canadiens at their mercy. But we know what happened. The Habs went on the power play, Lafleur scored that tying goal that we have all seen a million times, and then Yvon Lambert won it for Montreal in overtime. A few days later (see the next entry), the Canadiens would cap that incredible decade with their fourth Cup in a row. I’m delighted to offer this remarkable game to all of you.

New York Rangers at Montreal Canadiens – Game 5 of the 1979 Stanley Cup Final You might say that this is the “bookend” game to that match from Philadelphia I offered you above, when the Canadiens captured the 1976 Stanley Cup, their first of four in a row. Now we’re at the Montreal Forum and it’s almost three years to the day later (May 21). This time, the New York Rangers are the opponents – but the result is the same as that game in Philadelphia. Once again that incredible team known as the Montreal Canadiens of the 1970’s gets to hoist the Cup, but this time in front of their adoring fans in Montreal. Although this meant that the team had captured 4 Stanley Cups in a row, this victory marked the end of an era in more ways than one. For reasons noted in part in our next entry (the 1980 Minnesota-Montreal game), the Habs would be a rather different team when they came to training camp that fall to prepare for the 1979-80 season. So let me offer this classic 1979 game, the last hurrah for one of the most dominant and incredible teams not only in NHL history, but in all of professional sports. With apologies to some of the Cup winners since then (such as those great Islanders and Oilers teams of the 1980’s), we may never see a team like the 1970’s Habs again.

Minnesota North Stars at Montreal Canadiens – Game 7 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Quarter-final It was the spring of 1980, and the Habs were trying to repeat what Montreal had done 20 years earlier and win their fifth Cup in a row. But due to factors such as the retirement of goaltender Ken Dryden as well as the departure of their legendary coach Scotty Bowman for the Buffalo Sabres, the Canadiens found it a challenge to maintain their winning ways. When you combine this with a great young North Stars team, it makes for a wonderful game. I hope you enjoy it!

New York Islanders at Buffalo Sabres – Game 2 of the 1980 Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Final This game took place a couple of weeks after the Canadiens- North Stars battle noted above. This time we get to watch the New York Islanders, who would go on to win the first of their four Stanley Cup titles that spring, play that same wonderful Buffalo Sabres team that I featured earlier when I offered their 1976 game against the Wings of the Soviet. Four years later, they were still led by the famous French Connection line of Perrault, Martin and Robert, and as we noted in the previous entry the team was now coached by Scotty Bowman. I have always felt that those Buffalo teams of the mid to late 1970’s and 1980’s never really got the credit they deserved. They had some wonderful teams in Western New York back then. Why not watch this game and see if you agree with me?

1981 Canada Cup Final – Canada vs. USSR In the nine years since the classic 1972 Summit Series, hockey games between these two countries had become highly anticipated events. This game played at the Montreal Forum was no different.

USSR National Team at Quebec Nordiques 1983 By the 1980’s, the idea of Soviet Union teams of any sort (national or club teams) playing NHL foes was starting to lose its novelty. But it still had its moments and this game in Quebec City, even though the picture quality may not be the best, is one of them.

Quebec Nordiques vs. Montreal Canadiens – Dec. 31 1984 Until they moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, the Nordiques participated in one of the great sports rivalries of the 1980’s and early 1990’s along with their provincial cousins, the Montreal Canadiens. To say that the rivalry captured the hearts of Quebec hockey fans might be an understatement. Their games were always emotional and action-packed. This game from December 31, 1984 at the Forum is a perfect example.

Quebec Nordiques vs. Montreal Canadiens – 1985 Adams Division Quarterfinal Game 7 Guess I just couldn’t leave the Habs-Nordiques rivalry alone. This is another thrilling, hard-fought emotionally charged match between these two provincial rivals. Except that this time it’s a playoff game and being game 7, the winner would move on to the next round. Hope you enjoy it!

Central Red Army at. Edmonton Oilers 1986 These were the glory days for the Edmonton Oilers. Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Coffey, Fuhr, Anderson… arguably the best team of the 1980’s. Here they get to face off against the Central Red Army, who could always be counted on to ice a great team. Ya gotta love it!

Central Red Army at Montreal Canadiens 1986 For those of you who thought the only time these two powerhouses played each other was that wonderful New Year’s Eve 1975 game – think again. This is the rematch and it didn’t disappoint either.

1987 Canada Cup Final – USSR vs. Canada Game 3 The 1987 Canada Cup final was a classic. A best-of-three epic between the two great foes (Canada and the USSR). After the Soviets won the first game 6-5 in Montreal, Canada won the second game by the same score here in Hamilton. Which set the stage for an incredible third and final game. I can still hear the great Dan Kelly calling Mario Lemieux’s winning goal in the dying moments. And the final score? That’s right. 6-5!

1989 Super Series – Dinamo Riga vs. Minnesota North Stars Another game where a team from the Soviet Union plays an NHL one. This time the venue is the Met Sports Centre in Bloomington, Minnesota – as the North Stars play the Latvian Dinamo Riga team. A close, well played and highly entertaining contest.

1996 – Dallas Stars vs. Montreal Canadiens This wonderful video is the TSN broadcast in its entirety of the final game played at the Montreal Forum on March 11, 1996. It contains not just the game itself, but also the pre-game and post game ceremonies – including a video recording of the legendary Roger Doucet singing O Canada, as well as the lengthy standing ovation given to Maurice “Rocket” Richard during the closing ceremonies. I find it hard to watch this without crying and/or getting very emotional – and I’m sure that I am not the only one! In my case, I was very fortunate to have spent so many nights at the Forum watching the Canadiens during my childhood and teenaged years, so I have many special memories of that historic building. Especially being there in person a couple of times when my beloved Habs won the Stanley Cup. So to find this video and to share it with all of you means more than words could ever say. I hope you all enjoy this 3 hour trip down memory lane. And if you also can’t watch this without a few tears in your eyes, I completely understand. I might even buy you the box of Kleenex you’ll need to dry those tears 🙂

1996 NHL Playoffs – Detroit Red Wings vs. Winnipeg Jets I found this one quite by accident one day, and I thought it would be fun to add it. For Jets fans, it’s a rather poignant game, as this was the final match played by the original Jets franchise before they moved to Phoenix and turned into the Phoenix Coyotes. No one could have known this at the time, but it would be 15 years before the Jets would return to Winnipeg when the Atlanta Thrashers franchise moved to the Manitoba capital. I hope you enjoy this one!

February 20, 1999 – Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs There may be no more historic or passionate rivalry in all of hockey than the one between the Habs and Leafs. For almost 100 years, these two great franchises have battled for hockey glory. Whenever they meet, whether it’s in the regular season or the playoffs the atmosphere is electric and heart-stopping with half the crowd cheering for each team. This particular video is wonderful because it’s opening night at the brand new Air Canada Centre. A week earlier, the Leafs had said good-bye to their historic home at Maple Leaf Gardens – tonight would be the start of a new era in Toronto hockey. And it’s only fitting that their shiny new digs would be inaugurated against their bitter rivals from Montreal. Who won the game? Guess you’ll have to watch and find out for yourself.

2008 Winter Classic – Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres One of the more interesting additions to the annual sporting calendar is the NHL’s Winter Classic – an outdoor game played every New Year’s Day. I must admit that over the years I think this event is losing its novelty factor. Especially when you consider that in 2014 the league held a series of outdoor games in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Vancouver. A bit too much, perhaps? No matter, here’s the 2008 game from Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. When you consider the game was played in a snowstorm, with something like 80,000 fans in attendance and capped off by Sidney Crosby’s shootout winning goal, it doesn’t get much better than that. Enjoy!

2010 Winter Classic – Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins The second of my Winter Classic offerings. This time, the setting is Boston’s historic Fenway Park as the Flyers and Bruins renew their storied rivalry. It’s a lot of fun, and well worth watching. Boston won this game, a small measure of revenge for that 1974 game that you can also watch here? Hmm – I’ll let you decide that one!

Canada vs. USA – the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Gold Medal Game The closing event of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, as two great teams battle for gold. And when Sidney Crosby won it in overtime, with apologies to the American singer Prince and his famous song, the host country partied like it was 2010 – and it was!

2012 Winter Classic – New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers Another of the NHL outdoor Winter Classic games, this one was played on January 1 2012 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the home of the Phillies baseball team.

2014 Winter Classic – Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings OK, I know this is yet another of the Winter Classic outdoor games, the fourth one I have included. But I just had to put this one in because it features the local team from these parts, the Toronto Maple Leafs, playing their longtime rivals the Detroit Red Wings. The game set a world record for attendance at a hockey game, with over 105,000 jamming every corner of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor (aka “The Big House”). Not only was it a terrific hockey game, but the two national anthems, sung by The Tenors (O Canada) and the Zac Brown Band (the Star Spangled Banner) make it worth watching this broadcast if only for that. Well sung by both groups. I hope you enjoy the broadcast!

Canada vs. Sweden – the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Gold Medal Game OK, so maybe my Canadian bias is showing, but this team was easily the class of the entire 2014 Olympic tournament. This was never more clear than in the gold medal game when they defeated Sweden to defend the title they won in Vancouver. I don’t know for sure where this one comes from, I think it’s a European TV broadcast. They do a superb job and provides a “neutral” viewpoint.

Part two: Highlight packages from past games

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens – Highlights from the 1960 Stanley Cup Final The 1960 final was interesting for a couple of reasons. First, Montreal’s win completed their incredible run of five Cups in a row (something which had never been done before and has not been done since). Second, it marked the end of the career of arguably the greatest Montreal Canadien of them all – Maurice “Rocket” Richard. I can remember my father telling me that The Rocket was the greatest player he ever saw, and he was not alone. Even today, he is revered by many people – especially in Montreal and throughout Quebec. Just witness the incredible standing ovation given him when the Forum closed in 1996. Or the outpouring of grief when The Rocket died in 2000. Says it all if you ask me!

Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings – April 14 1963 The 1960’s were very kind to the Leafs, who won the Cup four times during the decade. 1963 was the second of three Stanley Cups in a row for Toronto. This game was the only victory for the Wings in the series.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings – April 16 1964 No, this is not a duplicate of the above entry. It’s just over one year later. But the other elements are pretty much the same. Once again these classic rivals are playing for the Cup at the fabled Detroit Olympia arena. The Wings take this game too, but ultimately Toronto prevails, completing the “hat trick” as the Maple Leafs take their third Cup in a row.

Highlights from the 1964 Stanley Cup Final – Toronto vs. Detroit This one comes to us from the NHL Network and offers a look back at the 1964 Final when as noted in the previous entry, Toronto took their third Cup in a row.

Chicago Blackhawks at Montreal Canadiens – May 1 1965. This one is especially poignant to watch because I was actually there at the Montreal Forum to see this game live and in person. As a wide-eyed 8 year old I don’t remember much of the game, except that it’s always a thrill to watch your home-town team win hockey’s greatest prize.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens – Game 2 of the 1967 Stanley Cup final 1967 was not only the last year of the NHL’s “Original Six”, but it was also Canada’s Centennial year. So it was only appropriate that our country’s two NHL teams should face off against each other. After losing the opening game to the Habs, Toronto bounces back nicely in this one to tie the series as things move to Toronto and game 3. The Leafs would go on to win the Cup in six games. Many Montreal fans think of 1967 as “the one that got away”. After all, we were hosting Expo 67, the crown jewel of the Centennial year. And the icing on the cake would have been bringing the Cup home. Of course, Habs fans conveniently forget that the Canadiens won the trophy in the two years before (1965 and 1966) and would do so again in the two years after (1968 and 1969). Then go on to win six Cups in the 1970’s, followed by two more in 1986 and 1993. To all the Maple Leafs fans reading this, I guess you folks don’t want to be reminded that Toronto has not won the Cup since then. Or to put this another way, why do Toronto fans drink their coffee out of paper or plastic mugs? Because Montreal has all the Cups! What do the Leafs and the Titanic have in common? They both panic when they are surrounded by ice! What about the Leafs and Billy Graham? They can both make thousands of people in sports arenas stand and yell “Jesus Christ”! OK, I guess I shouldn’t rub it in for you Leaf fans out there, even though offering those jokes says that maybe I just did. Oops!

Highlights from the 1967 Stanley Cup Playoffs
I have seen this half hour documentary many times on TV – so I was thrilled to find it online. This brings back so many memories for me, and a nice touch to add some footage of both Montreal and Toronto back then, including Expo 67. Also great that my favourite announcer, the legendary Danny Gallivan, narrates the action in Montreal while Bill Hewitt (who was equally revered by Maple Leafs fans) does the same in Toronto. And did you notice who the narrator was? That’s right – Alex Trebek, who would go on to achieve his own legendary status as the longtime host of the “Jeopardy” game show. With so many great memories and wonderful vocal talents, this one’s a keeper to be sure!

Part three – Other hockey documentaries and related videos

Maple Leaf Gardens – the Closing Ceremonies On February 13, 1999 the Toronto Maple Leafs played their final game at their historic home, Maple Leaf Gardens. Just as they had back in 1931 when the building opened, the Leafs played the Chicago Blackhawks. And just like back then, Chicago won on this night too. The game was followed by a poignant and moving closing ceremony hosted by Hockey Night in Canada’s Ron MacLean. This is actually the first of an eight part video devoted to the ceremonies. Just follow the links on the right hand side of your screen. My apologies – I wasn’t able to find the ceremonies on one video. In spite of this, however, it is still fun to watch and a wonderful trip down memory lane. Especially if you had the pleasure of actually watching the Leafs play at the Gardens live and in person. I was able to do that many times and enjoyed every second of it. I have many wonderful memories of those nights, so watching this video and the other 7 that follow and which complete the ceremonies is a poignant experience. I commend it to all of you.

The Maple Leafs Forever – Celebrating 75 Years of the Toronto Maple Leafs One of the most storied, iconic and beloved of all North American sports teams is the Toronto Maple Leafs. OK, so they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967. But many hockey fans still “bleed” blue and white, and their passion for the team is legendary. This is a wonderful video released in celebration of the team’s 75th anniversary. I hope you enjoy it.

The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years and 100 Stars When I featured the February 20, 1999 video of opening night at the Air Canada Centre, I mentioned that the Montreal-Toronto hockey rivalry is one of the most passionate in all of sports. So it’s only right that I follow a video released when the Leafs celebrated their 75th anniversary with one released by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2009 as part of celebrating the centennial of the Montreal Canadiens. But this is more than just a history of the team. It goes much deeper than that by exploring the incredible bond between the Habs and their fans, as well as the link between the team and Montreal itself. It’s a wonderful video tribute to the team I grew up following, and still love today. Go Habs Go!!

The Montreal Canadiens 100th Anniversary Ceremony Night The above link was to a special CBC program celebrating the centennial of perhaps the most storied franchise in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens. On December 4, 2009, exactly 100 years to the day that the Habs were born, a special Centennial celebration was held at the Bell Centre in Montreal to honour the team’s wonderful history. This is the first in a series of nine videos that capture the essence of what took place that night, and set up so that once you click this link, you will see all 9 in succession. The first two are nearly the same, in that it shows a special “warm-up” skate featuring many of the team’s star players, including Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Patrick Roy, Chris Nilan, Ken Dryden, Pierre Turgeon, Stephane Richer, and the Mahovlich brothers (Peter and Frank). The third is a memorial tribute remembering several Habs players, coaches and executives who helped shape the team’s history. The ceremonies themselves begin with the fourth video. You may also find some commercials at the start of a few of these – just click on the “Skip Ad” button and this should take you to the video in question. You may also find that sometimes the sound does not synch up with the video or other minor technical issues. But in summation, this series of videos is a fitting and wonderful tribute to a great team.

NHL Expansion – A Documentary From 1943 to 1967, the NHL was in essence a closed shop, consisting of six teams, located in eastern Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and in the northeast United States (Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago), affectionately known as the “Original Six”. But by the early 1960’s it was becoming apparent that the league could no longer exist that way. Not only was society changing in many ways, but the sports and business worlds were too. Just as major league baseball had moved west with the arrival of franchises in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the NHL and other professional sports leagues knew they had to follow suit. This video takes a behind-the-scenes look not only at the 1967 expansion that doubled the league to 12 teams, but also at further expansions that continued during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. It’s a terrific video and it’s great to include it in this collection.

The Stanley Cup – A Century of Magic MomentsThis is a fascinating documentary produced in 1993 in honour of the centennial of when the Cup was presented by Lord Stanley of Preston, who was Canada’s Governor General at the time. Although it serves today as the NHL’s championship trophy, it may surprise many people that it hasn’t always been this way. It was originally designed as a challenge trophy to be contested by any team across Canada, whether they thought they were worthy or not. Narrated by Ken Dryden, it’s an excellent presentation and well worth the hour it will take for you to watch it.

The Broad Street Bullies – A History of the Philadelphia Flyers I noted above that the “Original Six” era of the NHL ended with the first major expansion of the league starting with the 1967-68 season. One of those new teams was the Philadelphia Flyers, who soon gained a notorious reputation as the “Broad Street Bullies”. Led by players such as Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, Don Saleski, Dave Schultz and others, the Flyers won the Stanley Cup in 1974 and repeated in 1975. They were the first of the expansion teams to win the Cup. Although they have not won it since then, the team has forged an impressive history with fans as passionate and heartfelt as any in the league. This video offers a history of the team, with emphasis on the first 10 years of the franchise – the glory days of the Broad Street Bullies, and shows us that their legacy still lives today. Love ’em or hate ’em these are the Flyers.

Cold War on Ice – the 1972 Canada USSR Summit Series It goes without saying that hockey is an international game. Here in Canada, the sport is a national treasury, part of our national DNA. But we’re not the only country with a love of the game. Russians love hockey too. Like many aspects of their national identity, this love can be traced back to the former Soviet Union and the wonderful hockey teams that dominated the international scene for four decades from the mid 1950’s to the USSR’s dissolution in the early 1990’s. The culmination of these years just might have been the classic 1972 series when the Soviets challenged Canada for hockey supremacy, the first time that North American professionals played them. This video from NBC Sports offers a behind the scenes look at a series that would change hockey forever.

Final comments:

I could, of course, offer a lot more content for all of you. Whether you watched entire games or just the highlight packages, these links just barely scratch the surface of the many old time hockey games that are available online either in their entirety or in highlights format. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of them out there – not just on YouTube but across the Net. As always – thanks for reading this blog entry, until next time!

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Shortly after I wrote this entry, the unthinkable happened. Early on the morning of Sunday January 6, 2013, a joint announcement from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Player’s Association boss Donald Fehr was made to tell the world that they had worked out an agreement to end the NHL lockout/labour disruption. A few days later the agreement was ratified by both sides and a new season featuring a 48 game schedule started on January 19. Following that announcement, I was tempted to delete this blog entry or make other changes to the text. But in the end I decided not to because the issues I wrote about here are still quite valid. Although like all hockey fans I am delighted that the NHL and its players finally came to their senses and worked out a new labour agreement, I am still very concerned about the future of pro hockey in North America. If only from that perspective, I hope you will read this entry and share it with anyone you wish.

Hi everyone:

It’s mid December 2012 and Christmas is just around the corner. Won’t be long before I leave my Hamilton apartment and head over to Mississauga to join my extended family for a few days in celebrating this special time of year. It will be nice to have a “mini-holiday” and escape from the challenges of daily life for a while. So before I get too far into this latest blog entry, let me take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and the best of everything for 2013 and beyond.

One other matter to look after before we dive into today’s content. And that is to offer a brief apology to my readers because this is my first entry since last summer. My schedule has been rather busy on a number of fronts since August, so I felt it was best to temporarily suspend writing my blog. But as 2012 ends, things are improving, so I am back – not only with this entry, but many more in the weeks and months to come. Thanks for understanding, now let’s continue by looking at one of the most controversial issues of today’s sporting landscape.

For hockey fans across North America and worldwide, many of us feel that Santa Claus has been replaced by The Grinch because someone has stolen our National Hockey League teams in the guise of a labour dispute/lock-out. The second time in eight years (2004-2005 was the previous one) and the third since Gary Bettman became the Commissioner of the NHL some twenty years ago. It is not a pleasant situation and if one believes the media reports, to borrow a line from Elton John’s “Rocket Man”: “I think it’s gonna be a long, long time before the NHL resumes play”. More about that later on!

So for this particular blog entry, I wanted to offer some comments about the hockey lock-out and the long term future of professional hockey in North America. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but I do hope you enjoy them. Feel free to share your comments with me, and like all my blogs you are also most welcome to share this with anyone you like.

For openers, I must confess that Clark Gable’s famous comment from “Gone With the Wind” (and which forms part of the title for this entry) sums up my feelings perfectly: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!” It’s a sad thing to say about my favourite sport, and in particular about the National Hockey League, which I have followed my entire life. But I have no sympathy for either the players or the owners in this matter. It’s one rich group of people against another. And the way both sides are behaving reminds me of the little kids out in the schoolyard at recess or lunch. The game is not being played by their rules, so they decide to take their ball (or other piece of equipment) and go home. To be perfectly blunt, they are all a bunch of idiots, buffoons or similar language. They are so rigid, stuck in the positions and unwilling to give every a millimetre on anything is really more sad than anything else. Absolutely pathetic and that quote from one of the best movies ever made sums it up beautifully. It’s not a good situation, nor is it likely to change anytime soon.

The other half of my blog title comes from young Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen and her hit song from earlier this year, “Call Me Maybe”. When the NHL resumes some time, to borrow a line from the song: “This is crazy…Here’s my number…So call me maybe”. I cite this because I just don’t care anymore. I feel very indifferent about this whole thing and just wish they would find a solution. I think this is true of millions of hockey fans out there, and this indifference, apathy or even downright anger and hostility makes me wonder about the future of professional hockey in North America.

For most Canadians (and people in the nothern USA in places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and the New England states), hockey is part of our culture and our DNA. It’s at the very fabric and core of our society, especially during those long cold winter months. There is no country in the world that embraces the game like Canada. Although I’m sure that folks from other “northern” countries like Russia, Sweden, Finland and the aforementioned regions of the USA might want to dispute that assertion. So when the NHL returns in some far off distant day (yes, I think it will be some time before this happens), I believe that the seven Canadian franchises, as well as those in American cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Denver, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Boston will survive and indeed should flourish. Those franchises represent roughly half of the NHL’s 30 teams. But what about the other half? Let’s take a look and see why I feel the long term future of professional hockey in many parts of North America is in trouble.

Where I have doubts about the long-term stability of the league comes from those franchises in the southern American cities, where the NHL’s foothold has always been tenuous at best. Or as Don Cherry (the famous host of the “Coach’s Corner” segment on Hockey Night in Canada and former NHL coach) has quipped, in places like Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Miami, the only ice people know there is what they put in their drinks. I don’t always agree with “Grapes” (as he is affectionately called by many hockey fans), but I do this time. I think his quote sums up what many of us already know. Hockey is a “northern” game. It’s a “winter” game. So it’s only natural to ask how people who live in southern cities located in tropical or sub-tropical climates and who have probably never seen a snowflake in their lives (and complain when the temperature goes below 50 degrees F that it’s too cold outside!) relate to a game that is best played outdoors on a beautiful sunlit winter day on a frozen lake or river. Or at the local skating rink a short drive or walk from your home. When the cold winter air fills your lungs, and both invigorates and renews your spirit. I really don’t think they can, and that’s part of the reason why hockey in the Sun Belt can’t work. It’s too foreign a concept.

Sometimes I wonder why the National Hockey League decided to adopt the “Sun Belt strategy”, as in putting new franchises in non-traditional hockey markets. I’m sure over the years many others have asked the same question – wouldn’t surprise me if there are books, scholarly dissertations and other stuff out there looking at the issue. So let me take a stab at it as part of this article. To some extent, expansion beyond the Original Six has made perfect sense and can be easily justified if only from an economic and business perspective. As much as many hockey fans (including people like me who are old enough to remember) have fond memories of those days, we all know that the business of sports, like the rest of society, has changed a lot since the 1960’s. So turning a blind eye to expansion and remaining with only those six teams could not be a viable model. Just like the other major professional sports leagues in North America, the NHL had no choice but to add new franchises. No argument here, that part of the equation makes sense.

The National Hockey League, like any other business, always needs to continue growing and marketing itself to North Americans. This means not only looking for new cities to put expansion franchises in, but also trying some initiatives to attract new fans, even if it means annoying the “purists” such as yours truly. How else to explain gimmicks like the “glowing puck” that FOX Sports tried a few years ago when they held the TV rights. Or the awful shoot-out rule used today to settle tie games. Let’s also acknowledge the sincere desire of many American hockey fans to “grow” the game beyond the traditional states I mentioned earlier. Which has worked to some degree. I have heard many reports of growing minor league hockey programs in cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas. Some players from these and other non-traditional American hockey cities have indeed made it to the NHL and I congratulate each one of them.

In examining this issue, I would submit to all of you that the real reason the NHL adopted this strategy was to secure a major, long term television contract, as well as to pursue the various business and marketing opportunities that would lead from those contracts. Just like the efforts to “grow” the game in non-traditional American hockey markets, this quest has met with limited success. The NHL on American television has never really found a lasting home, bouncing around from CBS to FOX, to ESPN, to Versus (just to mention a few national networks) and is now found on NBC. It’s not just Gary Bettman. Others who have led the league since Clarence Campbell (such as John Ziegler and Gil Stein) have worked to establish a strong NHL presence on American television. Maybe they subscribed to the “If you build it, they will come” idea that we all remember from the classic baseball movie “Field of Dreams”. Perhaps they felt that if the NHL put teams in cities like Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles (2 teams if you include the nearby city of Anaheim), Dallas, Nashville and other southern locales, the major television networks would be lining up, chequebooks in hand, to sign lucrative deals with the NHL. Sad to say, but that hasn’t been the case.

I could write much more here, but in the final analysis I firmly believe that the idea of putting NHL franchises in non-traditional markets has been a failure. And not only for the reasons I have mentioned here. After all, even before the lock-out began, the Atlanta Thrashers franchise was sold and moved to Winnipeg, where they have been embraced by the community as the Winnipeg Jets. In fact, this was Atlanta’s second attempt to make the NHL work. In 1980, the Flames moved to Calgary. Today, the Calgary Flames are one of the league’s most successful franchises. This is hardly surprising. Calgary is Canada. Hockey is part of the DNA on the Alberta prairie. It’s part of their culture and they “get it”. Same thing in Winnipeg, and all across Canada and the northern United States. Sad to say, but with all due respect to our friends in Atlanta and other southern cities, when it comes to hockey, they don’t “get it”.

Let me also play the role of fortune-teller/soothsayer and predict that what happened in Atlanta could very well be the fate of more NHL franchises in the southern states. The Phoenix Coyotes have never really flourished in the Arizona desert, so it would not surprise me to see them search for a new home in more northerly climes. Hmm – I just noted that the Winnipeg Jets franchise was reborn when Atlanta moved there (ironic that the original Jets are now in Phoenix!). Could we see the return of the much loved and greatly missed Quebec Nordiques in the moving of the Coyotes? It has been rumoured many times. Or if not Phoenix, perhaps another one of the southern teams could come to Quebec City. Especially since the city is building a new state of the art arena to replace the Colisee – which would provide a perfect home for the return of the NHL.

Even franchises that have won the Stanley Cup in cities like Tampa Bay, Dallas and Anaheim are not as healthy as they could be. The same thing for the Florida Panthers, who challenged for the Cup in 1996 but eventually lost to Colorado. In fact, this calls to mind an interesting story that I heard a few years ago when a player was traded from the Panthers to the Toronto Maple Leafs. A few weeks after the trade, the player was invited to attend a press conference in Toronto where he commented on the difference between how the media covered the Maple Leafs as opposed to the situation in Miami. He pointed out that the arena where the Panthers play is actually located a few miles outside the city, close to the Everglades. And that on game day, you would be more likely to see alligators sunning themselves on the arena’s parking lot than you would equipment trucks from the Miami media. That tells you a lot about how hockey is covered in south Florida.

And then there’s the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings were part of that first expansion back in 1967, and over the years their hold on the southern California sports fan has been questionable. There have been moments through the years when the team flourished (such as during the years when superstar Wayne Gretzky was in town), and when the team won their first Stanley Cup last spring – many of us felt that this could really propel the team to a much higher level and increase their fan base in Los Angeles and surrounding area. But the lock-out has destroyed whatever momentum could have been drawn on to do just that. In fact, I submit that the opposite is true, not just for the Kings but in all the southern American cities. The lock-out has seriously damaged the NHL’s brand power and credibility on the sports landscape. Every day the league becomes more and more irrelevant to the American sports fan, especially people in those southern markets where hockey has always been a fringe sport at best and likely always will be.

Let me offer one more soothsayer/fortune-teller prediction before I throw off that stuff. The NHL will return in December. I can guarantee you that with no strings attached. I don’t even mind wagering a few dollars with anyone on this matter because I know that I am right. Ah, but here’s the rub. I did say “December”, but didn’t mention what year. It’s rather obvious now that the NHL will not be playing in December 2012. Probably not in December 2013 either. And maybe longer than that. In fact, I heard someone saying recently that the bookies ought to quote odds on which event will happen first – the Pan Am Games which will be held in Toronto in the summer of 2015, or the return of the NHL? Hmm – something tells me that it just might be the Games first. And that when the NHL does return someday, we may find that it looks very different from what we have now. Call it a variation on the “scorched earth” policy if you wish, but I suspect that some of the weaker franchises (and especially those in some of the Sun Belt/southern cities I noted earlier) will not survive this labour dispute/lock-out if it goes on much longer.

So there you have it. Some musings on the curent NHL labour situation and on the future of professional hockey in North America. Sad to say, but it’s not a pretty picture. I hope and pray that things get resolved soon. And that we can all go back to enjoying the greatest sport in the world, as played by its best players, and watched by cheering crowds. Oops – maybe not cheering crowds. At least not for some time. Both sides in this dispute have not endeared themselves to the fans, and no doubt it will be a while before the relationship between the fans and both the owners and players will heal. In some places, it may never heal completely.

After all, has baseball really returned to what it was before the 1994-95 labour disruption that cancelled the 1994 World Series? There are many pundits out there who say it hasn’t, and I know of many fans who are still very angry and bitter about the whole thing. Some have even argued that my beloved Montreal Expos started their downward spiral that led to their move to Washington in 2004 as a direct result of that labour disruption. I won’t touch that one here, that’s best discussed some other time. But I cite these things to show that not everything is bright, rosy and wonderful in major league baseball. It still bears the scars of 1994-95, and that was almost 20 years ago. Who knows what the National Hockey League will look like 20 years after this dispute is resolved.

As always, thank you so much for reading this blog entry – and all the other ones I write. I realize that we all lead busy lives, so the fact that you take a few minutes from your day to spend time with me and my writings is much appreciated.

I wish everyone reading this the very best, not just during this wonderful Christmas/Holiday season, but all year long. Until next time!

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