The Day I Met Bobby Orr

Note: Travis Shaw is a new Puck Junk contributor. Please give him a welcome in the comments below. 

My biggest fear when meeting someone I idolize is that the experience is going to be disappointing. I have this fear because when you idolize someone you have this idea in your mind of this person being bigger than life and flawless. So, when I was given the chance to meet the greatest defensemen — or maybe even the greatest player to ever step on the ice — I was a pretty nervous.

This past May, my wife and I took a road trip to Toronto for the Spring Sport Card and Memorabilia Expo. To put it into perspective, it’s the Canada’s National. My wife purchased me The Ultimate Bobby Orr VIP Experience meet and greet package as a birthday present. Included in the package was the chance for Bobby to sign one small item of your own and get a limited edition signed canvas, which was only available in this package and hand-numbered out of 104. But the item that drew me in and was you would get a framed photo with Bobby surrounded by all of the individual awards he had won during his legendary career. I don’t know about you, but this was an experience I was not going to pass up.

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The 10 Biggest Hockey Stories of 2017-18

By Sal Barry, Kyle Scully, Blake Isaacs & Jim Howard

Before we fully turn our attention to the season that lies ahead, here is a look back at the biggest hockey stories of the 2017-18 season.

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Re-imagining the 1993 NHL Entry Draft

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft was this past weekend, where hundreds of prospects hoped to get drafted and make it to the NHL — while dozens of NHL GMs also hope the prospects they drafted make it to the NHL.  

I imagine that being an NHL GM with a high draft pick — preferably first overall, but even within the top 10 — would be fun; but the later picks, not so much. Because after selecting the generational talents, if any, and the highest-ranked players by position, drafting prospects becomes a lot more challenging.

The same goes for fantasy re-drafts. I’ve “re-imagined” the NHL Entry Drafts for 1990, 1991 and 1992. Making the top five or ten picks are fun, but after that, they are a lot of work!

Yes, we know how all of these players panned out, but who would you take with the 15th-overall pick in 1993: the 10th-best scorer, the fourth-best defenseman, a solid goalie or a total bruiser? 

Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers here, and that is part of the fun. So, knowing then what we all know today, who would the Senators take with the first-overall pick in the ’93 Draft — Chris Pronger, Paul Kariya, or someone else? — and who would the Penguins take with the 26th pick?

Let’s find out. 

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Book Review: Game Change

“Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey”  is the latest treatise by Ken Dryden, and a difficult book to categorize. 

As the title implies, the book tells the story of former NHL defenseman Steve Montador, who died at 35 — but “Game Change” isn’t a traditional biography.

It explains how concussions and traumatic head injuries affect the brain, body and mind — but “Game Change” isn’t a scientific journal entry. 

It also recounts how the NHL, over the past century, has reached its current level of violence and physicality — but “Game Change” isn’t a history book. 

“Game Change” is more than the sum of its parts, and like its name implies, it may very well change the sport of hockey. Dryden, the former Montreal Canadiens goaltender and six-time Stanley Cup-winner, has written several other hockey books. “The Game,” Dryden’s seminal work, is widely-considered to be the best hockey book ever written. “Game Change” may became the most important hockey book ever written, as it thoroughly discusses hockey’s concussion problem — illustrating it with Montador’s biography — and how to fix it. 

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Book Review: A Century of NHL Memories

“A Century of NHL Memories: Rare Photos from the Hockey Hall of Fame” is a hardcover, high-quality book that looks at the National Hockey League over the past 100 years. Well, mostly. There are no pictures from the league’s first nine years, and the book is scant on photos prior to 1940, so calling it a “century” of memories might be stretching it a bit. But what this book does offer is a look at many great hockey photographs — some iconic and memorable, and some that have never been published before — from the Hockey Hall of Fame’s expansive archives. 

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Record: The Chemistry was Just Right!

The story of the 1979-80 New York Islanders

“Dynasty” is a word that’s been tossed around in the hockey world a lot in the last decade. What does it take for a team to be a dynasty in the NHL today? Two Championships in three years like the L.A. Kings? Three Cups in six years like the Blackhawks? Two in back-to-back seasons like the Penguins? The fact that you can’t spell “dynasty” without “nasty” like the Bruins? 

While we ponder this, it’s impossible to deny teams like the Oilers’ winning five Cups in seven years, and the Islanders gobbling up four in a row in the 1980s were clearly dynasties. When the Islanders won their first of four straight Stanley Cup Championships, did they know they were on the precipice of greatness? I guess it’s easy to look back and think they may have had an idea that something special was just beginning to brew, but every team that lifts the Cup probably thinks they’re going to repeat the feat next year.

When recently digging through a local record shop, I came across this “audio yearbook” from 1980 celebrating the New York Islanders first Stanley Cup Championship.  Continue reading “Record: The Chemistry was Just Right!”

Book Review: Behind the Bench

What is it like to be an NHL coach during the biggest game of his life? What was going through Mike Babcock’s mind when the Gold Medal Game in the 2010 Winter Olympics went into overtime? What game-changing decisions did Ken Hitchcock make in Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals to help the Dallas Stars clinch the Cup? What tactics do coaches like Joel Quenneville, Dan Bylsma and John Tortorella use to motivate their players? 

Craig Custance, formerly with ESPN and currently with The Athletic, finds all this out in his new book “Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches.” He gets to know today’s best NHL coaches, how they got to where they are, and what they do to succeed. 

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Scott Foster Custom Hockey Cards

Scott Foster made NHL history last week when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks in Thursday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. He is the second emergency backup goaltender (EBUG) to be credited with ice time in an NHL game, and the first to be credited with making a save. Actually, he made seven saves, including stops on a Dustin Byfuglien slap shot and a  shot by Paul Stastny from the slot. 

Last season, Carolina Hurricanes equipment manager Jorge Alves suited up as an EBUG for the ‘Canes, played a mere 7.6 seconds, didn’t face any shots, and yet got a bunch of official hockey cards made by Upper Deck. Meanwhile, Eric Semborski was coincidentally an EBUG for the Blackhawks last season, and got two digital trading cards from Topps, though he didn’t play in the game. 

So, where are the Scott Foster hockey cards? The guy actually appeared in an NHL game, which is the minimum criteria for getting an NHL card. Heck, he even used to stuff hockey cards of goalies in his skates for good luck. Foster might get a card from either Upper Deck or Topps later this season. But to tide you over until then, here are seven custom Scott Foster hockey cards — one for each save he made in his 14 minutes of ice time. 

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The Evolution of Baseball’s Goalie Mask

Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Dave Parker in 1978.

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. 

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Greg Smyth Was One of Hockey’s Last Helmetless Players

Greg Smyth during the 1992-93 season. [Photo courtesy of the Calgary Flames]
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.

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