Deja Vu Tuesday: Phil Esposito

espo_1I like this photo of Phil Esposito. His hair is a mess, his face contemplative.  It’s a great portrait of the Hall of Fame center. You can see the captain’s “C,” the double 7s — the reason Wayne Gretzky decided it was OK to wear double 9s — and the Rangers shield logo. The O-Pee-Chee card company must have liked it too, because they used it again, even when they probably shouldn’t have. Continue reading

Blackhawks Practice [Video & Photos]

As many of you know, I have been learning how to play hockey for a bit over a year now (and write about that on my “Hockey Noob” blog). This past Saturday, after my “Hockey 102″ class was finished, the Chicago Blackhawks took to the ice for their team practice. Funny that, one minute the ice is full of guys who can barely shoot the puck, and then the next minute its full of pros making millions of dollars playing hockey.

I stuck around and shot some video (above, about 2:30). I also took some photos (below), which was tricky due to the glare from the glass — and the fact that the players move so darned fast. Continue reading

Four Awesome Pat Foley Collectible Items

pat_foley_reduxToday, Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play announcer Pat Foley will be inducted into the broadcasters’ wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame. There are many cards and collectibles of most Hall of Fame players and coaches. But for a play-by-play announcer? Not so much. So here’s a handy rundown of some of the most notable Pat Foley collectible items. If you call yourself a Blackhawks’ fan, then you should have at least one of these items of the team’s greatest announcer. Continue reading

Card of the Week: Wrong City Lights

not_raleigh_smallEditor’s Note: Jim Howard is a new Puck Junk contributor.Show him some love and leave him a comment below.

A few years ago, Panini released a cool, relatively inexpensive hockey series called Pinnacle. One of the nicer points was that it didn’t dole out the same stats that you found on every card that year, but rather told you a story about that player featured on the cards.

Pinnacle’s autograph and jersey swatch cards were labeled as “City Lights” and went further by showing a player, gargantuan size, floating in front of their team’s city sky-line as if they’re in the process of receiving a pass from Godzilla and about to put it past King Kong — all the while informing of some special fact about the city or a historical event loosely related to that franchise. Neat; and I like jersey cards because they are good for collecting autographs!

Now, I know some collectors dislike jersey cards, especially cards that feature a swatch from the player’s previous team. But the Hurricanes card for the City Lights series sent me right over the edge! Since Jeff Skinner has only played for us, Panini couldn’t mess the jersey up. Instead they picture the wrong city. And not just any city, but Charlotte — Raleigh’s cross-state rival. Continue reading

Interview: Blues Goalie Jake Allen

[Photo by Mark Buckner / St. Louis Blues]

After a remarkable 2013-14 season, Jake Allen earned a spot on the St. Louis Blues. [Photo by Mark Buckner / St. Louis Blues]

St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen has assembled quite the resume in his relatively young career. The Fredericton, New Brunswick native helped the Canadian Under-18 Team win the gold medal in 2008, and was named the tournament’s MVP. His showing was impressive enough for the Blues to draft him in the second round of that year’s NHL Entry Draft. Two years later, Allen won the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy as the top goalie in the QMJHL. He was also named the CHL Goaltender of the Year as the best goalie in major junior hockey.

In the 2012-13 season, Allen was called up by the St. Louis Blues, playing in 15 games. His nine wins, one shutout and 2.45 goals-allowed average in the lockout-shortened season netted him a spot on the 2013 NHL All-Rookie Team. The next year, Allen won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s top goaltender, when he led the league in goals against average (2.03), wins (33), save percentage (0.928%) and shutouts (7). His remarkable play earned him the backup role with the St. Louis Blues this year.

I recently spoke with Allen about his blossoming career, the differences between playing in the NHL and AHL and what goes through his mind during a shootout.

Sal Barry: What is your earliest memory of playing hockey?

Jake Allen: Putting on the pads for the first time. It was a great feeling, something that was meant to be. Putting those big pads on is something I’ll never forget. Continue reading