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Sports Then and Now



Vintage Video: Remembering Gordie Howe “Mr. Hockey” 1

Posted on June 12, 2016 by Dean Hybl
Mr. Hockey earned NHL All-Star honors in five decades.

Mr. Hockey earned NHL All-Star honors in five decades.

Before there was the “Great One” (Wayne Gretzky), the king of the hockey world was “Mr. Hockey” Gordie Howe. During a 32-year career that spanned parts of five decades, Howe, who passed away Friday at age 88, was a dominating performer and skilled performer who was able to compete at a high level even past the age of 50.

Howe joined the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL as an 18-year old rookie in 1946. During his 25 seasons in Detroit he led the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup titles while winning six scoring titles and six Hart Memorial Trophies as the league MVP.

During the 1968-69 season, at the age of 40, Howe scored a career-high 103 points (the NHL expanded from a 70 game to 76 game season in 1967-68).  He was named an All-Star in 22 of his 25 seasons with the Red Wings.

After retiring in 1971, Howe returned to the spot in 1973 as a member of the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. There he played with his sons Mark and Marty and soon proved that he was still among the best hockey players in the world. He was named league MVP in 1974 (an award renamed the next year as the Gordie Howe Award). He also led the Aeros to two WHA championships.

He moved to the New England Whalers in 1977 and after the WHA folded the renamed Hartford Whalers joined the NHL in 1979. Howe, at the age of 51, played in all 80 games of the 1979-80 season while helping the Whalers make the playoffs.

In a fitting tribute, Howe was named to the All-Star team with the game being played at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Howe completed his career having been selected to NHL All-Star teams in five decades. Also appearing in that game was 19-year-old Wayne Gretzky.

Below are links to some of the great highlights of Howe’s career available on YouTube.

 

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The Zamboni: Baddest Maintenance Vehicle in Sports! 3

Posted on November 30, 2015 by Mike Raffone

The ZamboniMy guess is that the look and speed of the sports world’s most famous maintenance vehicle is the same now as it was back then, making it a perfect entry for today’s Sports Then and Now blog.

Driving this clunky ice resurfacing machine on wheels would satisfy nearly every hockey fan’s fantasy.

Who hasn’t yearned to climb behind the wheel of this giant tractor and take charge on the ice?

Perhaps the baddest maintenance vehicle in all of sports, whose top speed runs at just a mere 9 miles per hour, the Zamboni cruises in

The boxy Zamboni tractor scrapes, collects, washes, resurfaces and smooths the ice for hockey games and skating competitions.

In addition, the monster machine sprays and then squeegees 140 degree water and transforms once rutted and scarred ice into a shimmering surface that mirrors polished glass.

Founded by Frank J. Zamboni in Southern California in 1949, the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine has become the standard throughout arenas around the world. Approximately 200 custom made machines, at a price of $75,000 each, are manufactured each year.

The Zamboni’s iconic fame has extended beyond the boards of the hockey rinks it resurfaces. In the classic sitcom Cheers, Carla’s husband Eddie supposedly got run over by a Zamboni.

And, in a Peanuts comic strip, a fictional miniature Zamboni once cleaned the ice in a birdbath for Snoopi’s pal Woodstock

This heavy duty “bad to the boni” machine is dear to all who have watched it perfectly restore chunks and grooves in previously pock marked ice during intermissions at NHL, NCAA an biddy league games.

All the while these same hockey fans were dreaming they were ones behind the wheel of the Zamboni chugging down the ice at a speed most people walk…backward.

Now what fan could possibly argue that the Zamboni ranks as one of the best things about sports?

MIKE on sports!

Teaching Future NHL Players 0

Posted on October 11, 2015 by Jeremy Biberdorf

Youth HockeyTracing the growth of elite hockey players is more difficult in some ways than following their counterparts in football or basketball. Unlike the other two sports, hockey does not have a major college following in much of the United States, so it can be difficult to find the best up and coming players and track their development. In fact, the top NHL players come from many different places, not just elite hockey schools. Some play professionally overseas before joining the NHL, and others are recruited from semi-pro and varsity leagues.

However, those who prefer to follow players from college to the pros could do worse than the Canadian hockey school the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame. This boarding school for boys and girls provides general education, but also has a top-notch hockey program that lures players from all over the world. The college has produced countless professional players over the years, including some of the biggest names in the NHL. Read the rest of this entry →

World Cup of Hockey 0

Posted on October 05, 2015 by Michael Ramos

hockey skatesAt this point it’s going to be something that they’re doing for the first time in 12 years and a lot isn’t known about it. There are several details that have been brought out by the NHL and a lot of fan and player reaction. In this article we’ll cover what it means for the regular season, what’s known about it at the time of writing and whether or not anyone’s going to tune in.

Fan Reaction

So here’s the thing: fans simply love hockey. They love to watch it, support it, talk about it, buy up popular merchandise, and remember all the best times that have happened in the history of the game. That’s precisely why this whole affair is going to be a bit of a mixed bag for the fans of the game. Part of the reason that they may love it: it’s hockey. But seriously, it’s going to be a whole bunch of the best players in the world competing at an extremely high level for country and for respect.

Here’s the problem though, the timing will cause it to coincide with pre-season. Although that doesn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing to the casual fan, as most people who follow the game know, there’s a huge amount of subtle teamwork that makes or breaks a season. Without the level of teamwork and cooperation that is engendered by gelling together during the pre-season (at the very least) players are going to be missing cues and making mistakes.

I mean just take a look at the Russian International team from the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was all the same guys. They were inarguably great players but they were made significantly better because they knew each other. They were able to read each other’s intentions and movements in ways that their opposition couldn’t. This allowed them to run circles around teams of talented people who didn’t know each other. Read the rest of this entry →

Will the Defending Champion Los Angeles Kings Be Left Out of the NHL Playoffs? 16

Posted on February 15, 2015 by Dean Hybl
If the NHL Playoffs began today, the defending champion Los Angeles Kings would have no chance of repeating.

If the NHL Playoffs began today, the defending champion Los Angeles Kings would have no chance of repeating.

If the NHL season ended today, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings would be left on the outside looking in at the 2015 playoffs. However, a recent hot streak has the champs back within striking distance and they still have a chance to make the playoffs.

Beyond the Kings, the race to the Stanley Cup seems wide open with many teams capable of hoisting the Cup. The top sportsbooks at SportsbookNavigator.com rate several teams as good bets to claim the title.

Of all the major sports, regular season success historically has been the least important to the eventual champion in the NHL.

You need look no further than last season when the Kings were sixth in their conference and their finals opponents the New York Rangers fifth in theirs during the regular season only to pull out big wins at the right time during the playoffs.

So far this season, the Nashville Predators have the best record in the league at 38-12-6. Quite a turnaround for a squad that won 38 games all of last season while missing the playoffs for the second straight season. New coach Peter Laviolette and 20-year-old star Filip Forsberg (with a team best 50 points) have the Predators on track to finish first in the conference for the first time in team history. Read the rest of this entry →

The Tragic Story of Hockey in Czechoslovakia 3

Posted on February 14, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Czechoslovakia was a hockey power during the 1940s and 1950s, winning gold medals in the World Championships in 1947 and 1949. The country’s national teams also won a silver medal in the 1948 Olympics, losing to Team Canada on goal differential. Unfortunately, two tragic events ended the careers of most of the players responsible for this success, launching Czechoslovakian hockey into a dark period where they did not win a major tournament for over 20 years.

czechoslovak-national-hockey-team-probably-1949

The Plane Crash

In 1948, the Czechoslovakian team was on top of the world, having taken over as perhaps the most dominant hockey nation in the world. In preparation for the upcoming 1949 World Hockey Championships, the team scheduled a couple of exhibition games against Great Britain. The team would fly from Paris, where they had been staying, to London for these games.

Eight of the players flew out the day before the game and spent the night in a hotel. These players arrived without incident and made their way to Wembley Stadium the next day for the game. The remaining six players stayed in Paris for an extra night and left the morning of the game. These players, Miroslav Pokorny, Zdenek Svarc, Zdenek Jarkovsky, Karel Stibor, Vilibard Stovik and Ladislav Trojak, were never heard from again, as their plane vanished over the English Channel.

Read the rest of this entry →

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