With the NHL regular season now at an end, I think we can all agree it has been one of the best in recent memory. If the brilliant debut of the Las Vegas Golden Knights wasn’t enough, maybe it was the play of breakout stars, Andrei Vasilevskiy or Brayden Point. But, the NHL is a stars league, and it is always at its best when its stars are shining bright. And this season is a prime example. When superstar Sidney Crosby is playing up to his expectations and is 10th in the league in scoring, you know the league is firing on all cylinders.
It felt as though this year, all of the big stars were playing their best. So that leaves one question: who is most deserving of the Hart Trophy as the league’s regular-season MVP? The award is always contentious because of the letter“V,” for valuable, in MVP. But I’m not here to try and define value and who should win; I’m here to show that this is one of the most exciting Hart Trophy races in my lifetime. There are arguably eight players, forwards in particular, that have a legitimate chance to win the award this year. Eight forwards who have arguably been more valuable to their team than anyone else. That is the important caveat: a player’s team success is almost always included in their chances at winning the award, so I will take that under consideration. Here are the reasons why, and why not, these eight are in contention for the NHL’s top individual honor.
Note: Kyle Scully is a new writer for Puck Junk. Please give him a shout out in the comments below.
Hockey’s greatest cultural contribution may not be the Stanley Cup or Wayne Gretzky, but the fiberglass goalie mask made infamous by Jason Voorhees’ in the Friday the 13th movies. From Jason, to The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Casey Jones, to the brazen thieves in Heat, Hollywood has an endless fascination with hockey’s famous headgear, but goalie masks don’t often appear elsewhere. However, 40 years ago, a goalie mask made a cameo appearance in a Major League Baseball game. Two decades later, it became a game-changer.
If you grew up in Chicago and collected sports trading cards in the early 1990s, then you might remember that card shop in the hat store.
Yes, seriously. There was a card shop in a hat store — in its basement, specifically. Long before there was such thing as a Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, there was a Combination Baseball Card and Hat Store. This was the 1990s, after all, and sports cards were everywhere.
Every collector has at least one card in their collection that they own more than one copy of. Maybe it’s an extra or three of their favorite player’s rookie card, or duplicates of their hometown team’s players. Personally, I have nine Mario Lemieux rookie cards and more Jeremy Roenick rookie cards than I will ever admit to owning. Heck, I even had an expensive obsession with nabbing as many Pro Set Stanley Cup Hologram cards that I could get my mitts on. All of those cards were purchased because I genuinely liked them.
But over the years, I’ve collected multiple copies of one card — 2010-11 Artifacts #49 Rene Bourque Emerald Parallel — purely for ironic reasons.
As the NHL season slowly slips away from us (because some of our teams couldn’t find the postseason if it was water and they fell off a boat), it’s nice to have Upper Deck around to remind us of the good times and the crazy moments like a high school yearbook. And much like a high school yearbook, even good photographers can take bad pictures. Let’s look at some now!
The popular Upper Deck program returns on Saturday, March 3, 2018
Don’t call it a comeback; it’s been around for years! Upper Deck’s National Hockey Card Day returns for 2018. On Saturday, March 3, 2018, collectors in the U.S. and Canada can get an exclusive pack of trading cards when they visit a participating retailer (U.S retailers here, Canadian retailers here.)
This is the 7th year that NHCD has taken place in the U.S., and the 10th year in Canada. For 2018, Upper Deck has upped the ante and added a few more cards to the mix.
Life came full circle for Eric Lindros when the Philadelphia Flyers retired 88 – his number for eight seasons in Philly – on January 18.
After more than a decade of icy feelings between him and the Flyers, he received the highest honor a team could bestow upon one of its former players. Lindros joins Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Barry Ashbee, Bill Barber and Mark Howe as the only Flyers to have their numbers retired in the team’s 50-year history.
“This evening has given me a chance to reflect and remember special moments, special people, and of course you, the amazing fans that support the Flyers of Philadelphia,” Lindros said to the sold-out crowd at the Wells Fargo Center, moments before his number was raised to the rafters.
Lindros was an offensively gifted physical player who was just as likely to bring fans to their feet by scoring as goal as he was by delivering a bone-crunching hit. Nicknamed “The Big E” for his 6’4”, 230 lb. frame, Lindros was the Flyers’ team captain for six seasons and was the most dominant forward in the NHL in the mid-to-late 1990s. He was also hockey’s first “investible” player; that is, the player that collectors and speculators would want cards of because of potential future value – much like Shaquille O’Neal was to basketball card collecting around the same time.
Former NHL defenseman Greg Smyth passed away earlier this month after a long battle with cancer. He was 51 years old. While many remember “Bird Dog” for his tough play and willingness to drop the gloves, there is a little-known fact about Smyth that truly made him unique. For a short time during the 1992-93 season, Smyth opted to play without a helmet.
Expectations were not very high for the United States Men’s Ice Hockey Team during the 1992 Winter Olympics, but for a two-week span, the group of college players and minor leaguers captured the hearts and minds of Americans watching back home.
After the U.S. rocked the hockey world at the 1980 Olympics with its “Miracle on Ice” win over the Soviet Union and subsequent gold medal victory, Americans hoped for a repeat. It wouldn’t happen that decade, though, as the U.S. finished 7th out of 12 teams in 1984 and again in 1988.
While the U.S. team may have been projected to be a doormat at the 1992 Olympics, the team proved the world wrong. Led by goaltender Ray Leblanc, an unlikely hero between the pipes, the ’92 team was the U.S.’s “Near-Miracle on Ice” – a team that was unstoppable in its first six games, only to be halted by the tournament’s eventual champion.
Part I – The Long Road to Méribel
The 1992 U.S. Olympic Team was a bricolage of college standouts and minor pro players, with a few NHLers mixed in. Building the team was an ongoing process that started in the summer of 1991 and went until a few weeks before the Olympics started in February of 1992.
Bret Hedican | #24 | Defense I had a really good junior year at St. Cloud State University. I was on spring break, of all things, and I got a call from my parents. They said USA Hockey called, and that they wanted me to represent the Americans in Russia for a tournament called the Pravda Cup. I was blown away. I never – not once – had been asked to represent the United States in any national tournament. I had four of the best games of my life. I gave everything I had, because I knew it was my chance of a lifetime. The coaches were Dave Peterson and Dean Blais, and they asked me to try out for the National Team. I left college my senior year to make the National Team, in hopes to make the Olympic Team.
David Emma | #10 | Forward After I won the Hobey [Baker Award, as the NCAA’s best player], I went right to the tryouts.
Shawn McEachern | #15 | Forward We had tryouts in the summertime. That’s the way it worked with the Olympic teams back then. You went to tryouts for the National Team, and then you played for the National Team. And then you’d play a season against some NHL teams and some college and minor league teams. And then, just before the Olympics, they cut it down. We traveled around for about six months with the National Team.
Keith Tkachuk | #17 | Forward This was before I was a professional. Because I was so young, 19 years old, I wasn’t expecting to make the team. I guess I had a good tryout. I was already enrolled to go back to school that fall, but luckily, I made it, and kept on making it, and got to go play in the Olympics.
The Men’s Ice Hockey tournament at the 2018 Winter Olympics starts on Wednesday. Want a crash course on some Olympic hockey records to impress your friends — or just need a refresher? Then take a look at these interactive charts, which give a snapshot of the most important records in men’s Olympic ice hockey over the past 98 years.
While compiling this information, I found two records particularly eye-opening. First, the United States has been the runner-up in men’s Olympic ice hockey more than any other country. The U.S. lost the gold medal game — thus earning the silver — eight times in 23 Olympic tournaments. Six of those losses were to Canada, and two were to the USSR.
Speaking of which, the other stat that gave me pause was that goaltender Vladislav Tretiak of the USSR has played in 18 games at the Olympics — and won 16 of them! Both of those marks are records as well.
Did you find any of these records surprising or interesting? Leave a comment and let me know. ■