Monday, November 28, 2011

Postgame Recap - 11/26: Man, Oh Manitoba

November 21, 1995.

Just over 16 years ago, on a Tuesday night, the Bruins last hosted an NHL franchise hailing from the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba.  Courtesy of a hat trick by Jozef Stumpel (sorry, Patty!) the B's would go on to defeat the original (at least the NHL version) of the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 5-4 in the first season at the brand new FleetCenter. The Bruins also got goals from Ray Bourque and Chelmsford homie Steve Leach while Medford native Keith Tkachuk (2 goals), Teemu Selanne and Current Blackhawks/Versus/NBC commentator Eddie Olczyk scored for the Jets. The immortal Scott Bales manned the crease for the Bruins while current Edmonton Oiler Nicolai Khabibulin tended the Winnipeg net. Also playing for the Jets in that game was one Shane Doan, currently the only player still with the franchise including their relocation to the Arizona desert in the 1996-7 season.

The Bruins would take a 5-3 decision in Winnipeg on the last day of 1995 with Cam Neely and Ted Donato chipping in with 2 goals a piece against onetime Bruins netminder Tim Cheveldae as Craig Billington got the win.

And that was the end of NHL hockey in Winnipeg.

Until now.

The demise of the Atlanta Thrashers led to the relocation of the team to the middle of Canada and the rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets name.  Though the new team is a completely separate entity from the team currently toiling in obscurity in Glendale (the Coyotes are the official inheritors of the original Jets history, including retired numbers), the fanbase has taken to the new version with a fervor that few other markets can match.  They play in the MTS Centre, the smallest arena in the league, but tickets are pretty much sold out for the entire season and the few that are available can be had for a hefty sum.  The team is not all that great, having been picked by the pundits to finish somewhere near the bottom of the standings, but they had been somewhat hot of late, with a 4-0-1 record coming into the game.

Which brings us to this past Saturday night. A long holiday weekend tilt, the second half of a back to back homestand against the reborn Jets.  Let's see how it played out.

Just the facts, Jack (Edwards)

  • Boston Bruins (13-7-1) vs. Winnipeg Jets (9-9-4)
  • Bruins riding an 11 game point streak, having lost in a shootout a day earlier to the Detroit Red Wings, halting their 10 game winning streak
  • First game against the Jets since they relocated from Atlanta
John Blue Plate Special

I had flown back from Baltimore earlier in the day, having spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my family at my wife's in-laws.  I had missed attending the Detroit game, but thankfully I was able to watch it on the national NBC broadcast (which was great, I may add).

Having got home fairly early, we were able to get home and unpack and get some stuff done around the house.  But because we had to get up at 6:00 am, we were all somewhat exhausted.  My wife and son fell asleep and I relaxed with some NHL network.  Around 3:30, I headed out into town for the game.  A quick jump on the orange line and I was at the Fours, meeting up with Heather.  

The downstairs was pretty much full, as I had expected given the slate of college football games on the schedule.  So we headed upstairs and were able to land a couple of seats at the bar fairly easily.  Perhaps it was residual tryptophan in people's blood streams or the fact that many season ticket holders gave up their seats for the night, but the pregame crowd was lame.  No energy whatsoever.  Saturday night games are special and ever-increasingly rare and here was a game against a Canadian opponent still with some of that new car smell and people could have seemed less excited. Add to that the fact that Heather was feeling a bit under the weather and the whole scene left something to be desired.

With my partner in crime not having much of an appetite, I had carte blanche to order whatever I wanted off the menu. I went with the Bobby Orr, teriyaki style with cheese, peppers and onions.  I dare you to find a better pregame meal in the city.  Good luck, because you won't.

Couture Corner

Nostalgia is big these days.  Reebok, through their purchase of CCM/Koho, has been able to capitalize on this wave by reissuing some of the sweaters worn by many of the defunct and relocated NHL franchises including such teams as the Hartford Whalers, Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiquies and, of course, the original Winnipeg Jets.

I fully expected to see one or two Teemu Selanne and Keith Tkachuk replicas and sure enough, when I walked into the Fours, I was greeted by a blue #13.  But I wanted more.  And thanks to a conversation with fellow 307 resident Cornelius Hardenbergh, the bar was set: Dale Hawerchuk.

Did I find my white whale?

You'd better believe it!

Circa 1982 Dale Hawerchuk Winnipeg Jets away replica

A close cousin to the disco era New York Rangers uniforms of the late 70s, the Jets wore this design from their inception to 1990. Not the greatest look in my book, but simple and effective.

What else did I find?

Atlanta Thrashers Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little home replicas

I almost felt bad for these guys.  Here they were to support the team they had (seemingly) rooted for only to have the franchise move to greener pastures north of the border.  But for whatever sense of sympathy I might have had for them, it was undone by the fact that they chose to purchase these sweaters.  First introduced in 2003 as an alternate, this design became the home sweater in 2006 and survived the Reebok edge revamp the following season.  I don't mind the color of the body; In fact, I kind of like it.  But the asymmetrical sleeve treatment along with the "Atlanta" down the left side just plain sucks.  The hemline striping and the crest are great, but this just screams "small market shenanigans".

Benoit Pouliot Sudbury Wolves home replica

Before Benny was on his way to being a first round bust in Minnesota and Montreal, he was skating for the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League.  Coming off a monster season in junior (he went 29-38-67 with 102 PIMs in 67 games), he was drafted #4 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

The Row 11 Rundown

Being a Saturday night, Bill and Carol weren't in attendance, but we had John Barry man seat 11 and Chris was the designated Kasper representative.  Charla and the kids weren't there either.  And Heather had to make an early exit as she wasn't in the best of shape due to illness.

Doosh of the Day

After a brief hiatus, we are back with DoTD.  And this time the award goes to the bitchy girls in row 10 (big surprise) who showed up 5 minutes into the game and decided to enter the section while play was going on in our end of the rink, clearly not paying any attention to the signs imploring ticket holders to wait for the whistle.  Granted, the lack of an usher working at the entrance didn't help, but I also didn't need nor appreciate the bitchy retort when I asked them to grab a seat after their prolonged failure to find their actual seats and sit down so we could see the action on the ice.

The Bob Lobel Prize

When the Bruins acquired Rich Peverley from the Thrashers near the trade deadline last year, the gave up forward Blake Wheeler and defensemen Mark Stuart in return.  And Saturday night marked their first return to the Garden ice since that transaction. 

Wheels had an assist on the first Jets goal, recorded one shot on goal and finished with a -1 rating.

Stu also had one shot on net, but finished a +1 on the night.

In all, neither had a major impact on the game.  No real harm done.

The Home End

Perhaps showing the effects of playing a tough game against the Red Wings a day earlier, the Bruins came out of the gate looking a bit sluggish and it showed with Tim Thomas giving up two goals midway through the first.  But Zdeno Chara potted a power play strike from the right faceoff circle to cut the deficit in half a few minutes later. Chris Kelly struck for second period two goals, the first a shorthanded effort, to give the Bruins the lead before Brad Marchand sealed the victory with an empty netter at the end of regulation.  In doing so, the Bruins were able to extend their point scoring streak to 11, garnering a remarkable 23 out 24 possible points in that span.

Up next: A home and home matchup against Phil Kessel and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lucky Seven

Ok, ok, I know.  I've slacked off a bit.

Ok, a lot.

But I have an excuse.  For a blog that focuses on finding unique and rare hockey sweaters at Bruins games, this season has been a huge letdown.

Not that it was unexpected, though.  I fully assumed it'd be a lot tougher than in the past, just not this bad. With the Bruins the hottest ticket in town (actually, with the NBA lockout going on, the only ticket in town), the games are pretty much sold out and much like Fenway in 2005, you get a lot of people who pay a significant premium to go to a game just because its the socially in thing to do.  The problem with that, more often than not, is that these are not the die hard fans.  Consequently, you find that these people are the ones with the brand new t shirts with current players names on their backs or if you're lucky, a sweater.  But rarely, if ever, do they wear team apparel older than 2 or 3 years.  And that really, really limits the available selection of photo-worthy shots for this blog.

At the same time, with so many locals buying tickets, fans of the opposing teams are being frozen out.  And that is really taking its toll on my blog productivity.  Simply put, there just hasn't been that much out there for me to write about.  Since I last posted, teams that have huge traveling fanbases such as Toronto and Montreal have come here with only a smattering of their fans in attendance. Granted, those were Thursday night games, but usually the local colleges provide more than enough ex-pat students to make their presence known.  Not this year, however.

At the same time, teams such as San Jose and Los Angeles that are based in the western conference actually have decent fan representation due to their minor league affiliates being based nearby (Worcester and Manchester, respectively).  But there was nothing to be found when Joe Thornton and his crew came to town.

Adding to the insult, I missed the games against Carolina and the Islanders due to scheduling conflicts.  In all probability, I figure that there wasn't much I missed by the way of opponent apparel, though I always wonder if I blew a chance at finding the ever elusive Islanders "Fisherman" sweaters from the 1995-98 seasons.

And hey, while I'm at it, I would be remiss if I did not mention the 2 hour commute from my office in Marlborough to the game versus the Oilers on November 10th.  By all accounts, traffic was an absolute mess throughout the region during the evening rush hour commute, but my decision to exit the Pike at Copley Square and make my way across town via Boylston, Beacon and Bowdoin Streets only further compounded the problem.  By far, it was the worst commute into a game I could ever remember, including a good number of times driving into town in snowstorms.

Now that I've got all that negativity out of my system, let's move on to much more positive things (aka "The Good Stuff").  I'm going to forgo my normal restaurant reviews (rest assured, they'll be back), but I will mention that I ordered the boneless chicken fingers before the game against the Sabres by indicating to Ian behind the bar that I wanted them with the spicy sauce option, specifically avoiding using the traditional nomenclature associated with a certain western New York locale famed for their spicy chicken wings tossed in a hot pepper sauce.

So, without further adieu, onto the show:

Circa 2001 Curtis Joseph Maple Leafs home replica

Just a classy looking sweater.

Circa 2008 Jonathan Cheechoo San Jose home replica

This was literally the only Sharks sweater I saw in the entire building for the San Jose game.

Circa 2006 Dwayne Roloson Edmonton home replica

The Oilers only come into town every other year or so, so we don't get to see Edmonton fans all that much.  But thankfully, there were a few in attendance when the Oil came here.  And this was the first one I saw.  When you think Edmonton, you can't help to think about their classic royal blue and orange color scheme.  But in the 1996-7 season, Edmonton ditched it for a navy and copper one.  And it wasn't half bad.  They kept the striping pattern intact, so there was some connection to their original look.

Also, thins one caught my eye because Roloson is also a fellow UMass Lowell alum, one of the few in the NHL today.

80's Wayne Gretzky Oilers away replica

This one really needs no explanation other than to say that if I hadn't seen at least one of these at the game, I would have been greatly disappointed.

Late 80's Bill Ranford Edmonton home replica

For those not in the know, Ranford started his career with the Bruins but was traded to Edmonton late in the 1988 season for Andy Moog.  And of course, he was the backstop when the Oilers beat the Bruins for the Stanley Cup in 1990.

He was actually re-acquired by the Bruins in 1995 from Edmonton in a trade that sent Mariusz Czerkawsi and Sean Brown to the Oilers.  And strangely enough, both Czerkawski and Brown each had a second stint with the Bruins later in their careers as well.

Ranford's second stint with the Bruins concluded when he was packaged with Rick Tocchet and Adam Oates and sent to the Caps for Jason Alison, Anson Cater and Jim Carrey.

Late 90's Mats Sundin Toronto home replica
2001 Gary Roberts Toronto home replica

Sundin is synonymous with the Maple Leafs of the 90s and 00s.  Roberts was a douchebag.  But damn if those aren't two great looking sweaters.

Circa 1978 Gordie Howe New England Whalers home replica

Every season, I come across one sweater that is so unique, so outstanding that it blows me away.  This is the leader in the clubhouse so far.

At the ripe old age of 49, Mr. Hockey joined the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association from the Houston Aeros.  He also got to play alongside his sons Mark and Marty, hence the use of his full name on the nameplate.

2011 Jonas Enroth Bufalo away, home and alternate replicas

These people were all congregated together during intermission, so I'm figuring they were all family or friends of the Sabres' backup goalie.  I mean, it's the only logical conclusion, right?

2011 Scott Stevens Devils Alternate

Scott Stevens, the longtime Devils captain and defenseman retired after the 2004 season.  So why in the hell would anyone buy a current alternate with his name on it?  This is but one of my pet peeves when it comes to customizing sweaters.

Late 90's Kyle McLaren Bruins alternate replica

When these sweaters first came out in 1996, I thought the were an abomination.  The jagged shoulder yoke and hemline striping, the large "Bruins" patches on the shoulders and "Gentle Ben" bear head crest just made it such a weak attempt at an alternate design.  The colors were great.  I had been longing for a gold Bruins sweater for years, so I was excited when I heard they were finally going to have one for the first time since 1967.  But, man, were these a letdown.

That said, I probably will try to pick one of these up someday off of eBay.

Mid 90's Dominik Hasek Sabres away replica

I love this design.  The current Sabres set is supposed to be a modernized version of this, but it doesn't even come close.  The royal blue and gold trim on the shoulder yoke made this sweater.

Late 80's Andy Brickley Bruins away replica

There's a Bruins season ticket holder at the Garden that has a home Brick replica.  I see him a bunch of times throughout the year.  But this is the first away version that I can recall seeing.

Circa 1991-2 Scott Stevens Devils away replica

Unlike the doofus I mentioned earlier who had the 2011 version, this guy did it right.  This was from back when the Devils still had the green in their color scheme.  Much like that Hasek Sabres replica, the white trim around the shoulder yoke makes the green really pop.  This was a unique look back in the day, but the Devils' switch to black in the 1992-3 season worked out ok in my book.

2011 Patrik Elias Devils alternate replica

For the longest time, the Devils organization (GM Lou Lamoriello, in particular) refused to bring back the original green and red color scheme as an alternate sweater.  Finally, in 2010, the Devils brought them back for St. Paddy's Day.

1991-2 Martin Brodeur Devils away replica

He only wore this rendition during his rookie season.

2009-10 Tyler Seguin Plymouth Whalers home replica

All the traditional Hartford Whalers sweater greatness, but with none of the Nutmeg state suckiness!

Anwhere from 1983 to 1992 Ken Daneyko Devils away replica

As awesome as the Stevens and Brodeur red & green sweaters were, this one beats them.  Ken Daneyko was a lifelong Devil who never got the accolades afforded to some of his more skilled teammates, but ask and Devil fan who was the guy who typified the devils and more often than not, they'll name #3.

2000-1 Geoff Sanderson Columbus away replica

This was seriously the only Blue Jackets customized sweater I found in the entire Garden when Columbus played here.  And it happened to be that of Geoff Sanderson, the onetime Hartford Whaler who was an member of the inaugural 2000-1 Columbus squad.  This was actually a pretty decent sweater design.

Ok, that's it for now.  But I promise I'll be back, and far more often.

Thanks for watching.