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. 

Continue reading “Book Review: Game Change”

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. 

Continue reading “Book Review: A Century of NHL Memories”

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. 

Continue reading “Book Review: Behind the Bench”

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. 

Continue reading “Scott Foster Custom Hockey Cards”

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. 

Continue reading “The Evolution of Baseball’s Goalie Mask”

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.

Continue reading “Greg Smyth Was One of Hockey’s Last Helmetless Players”

A History of the Triple Gold Club

Pavel Datsyuk became the newest member of hockey’s Triple Gold Club on Sunday when the Olympic Athletes of Russia beat Germany 4-3 to win the Olympic gold medal. The Triple Gold Club is a list of hockey players who have won a Stanley Cup Championship, an IIHF World Championship gold medal and an Olympic gold medal. And with less than 30 members, it is probably the hardest “club” to get into. 

Think about it. Players on teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs cannot compete in the World Championships, since they take place at the same time. Sure, a player might win the Cup one year, and then be on a crummy NHL team the next year that misses the playoffs or gets eliminated in the first round, and go on to win a gold medal in the World Championships. 

But then there is the added challenge of winning a gold medal in the Olympics, which take place every four years didn’t include current NHLers this time around, and might not in the next one, either. 

Thus, being a member of the Triple Gold Cup is just as much about skill — being talented enough to make a team a champion, like Sidney Crosby does — as it is about good timing. 

Here is a rundown of every Triple Gold Club member and an explanation of how he got there. Continue reading “A History of the Triple Gold Club”

The Near-Miracle on Ice: An Oral History of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

Defenseman Moe Mantha and goaltender Ray Leblanc in the game against Sweden at the 1992 Winter Olympics. [Photo courtesy of USA Hockey]
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

Narrowing down the 1992 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team to 23 players was a six-month process. [Photo courtesy of USA Hockey]
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.

Continue reading “The Near-Miracle on Ice: An Oral History of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team”

An Interactive Look at Men’s Olympic Hockey Records, 1920 to 2014

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. ■

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk