1990-91 NHL Season Preview: A Special Advertising Supplement

If you subscribed to cable television in the 1980s and 1990s, you no doubt remember the monthly cable guide that was mailed to your home. Those thick, black-and-white magazines, usually printed on cheap newsprint-type paper, would list out everything that was scheduled to air on cable TV that month. When I was a kid, I would go through it page-by-page — hell, I’d study the thing like there was going to be a test about it — and note what hockey games were being televised that month. 

Back in October of 1990, my monthly cable guide  included this special, pull-out “1990-91 NHL Season Preview Special Advertising Supplement.” Measuring 5″ by 7-1/4″, it is an eight-page, full-color booklet printed on magazine paper instead of the typical newsprint. It has two hockey articles, some random trivia, and the burning questions for the season. 

This “advertising supplement” seems like the thing that most people would have read once and thrown away, and not carefully preserved for 30 years like I did. 

But I think we established that I am not like “most people,” and have saved some of the most random “puck junk” over the years. So, let’s take a look at what the big stories were prior to the 1990-91 NHL season. 

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The front cover pictures New York Rangers captain and center Kelly Kisio facing off against New Jersey Devils center Mark Johnson. 

Page 2 has an article about the Oilers, asking if they can repeat as champions, and gives a quick rundown of some of the offseason player trades. Page 3 has the big questions for the 1990 season and some random NHL facts. 

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Here is the article from Page 2: 

It Seems The Edmonton Oilers Can’t Enter A New Season Without A Major Question Mark Hanging Over Their Heads.

Two years ago, after already granting star defenseman Paul Coffey’s trade request, the Oilers faced the ultimate test when living legend Wayne Gretzky took his ice show to Los Angeles. Next came ace goaltender Grant Fuhr’s career-threatening injury.

Edmonton hurdled those barriers unscathed, and captured its fifth Stanley Cup in the last seven years with last May’s trouncing of the Boston Bruins.

So, what happens during the off-season? Jari Kurri, the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring leader in the playoffs, rejects the Oilers’ contract proposal and heads for a team in Europe.

Kurri’s defection puts a crimp in Edmonton’s chances of repeating as champions., but the Oilers still have cornerstone Mark Messier, last season’s Most Valuable Player. Also, their impressive depth, which includes up-and-coming youngsters Martin Gelinas, Joe Murphy and Adam Graves, should help ease the loss of Kurri.

Challenges to the Oilers’ crown could come from a number of teams. Pittsburgh added Bob Johnson as coach and acquired veterans Joey Mullen and Bryan Trottier. Of course, a healthy Mario Lemieux also has the Pittsburgh fans excited.

The faithful in Buffalo have reason for optimism, too. In need of some offensive punch, the Sabres acquired Dale Hawerchuk from Winnipeg in a four-player deal. Many observers feel Buffalo paid a small price for the services of the Jets’ all-time leading scorer.

While Hawerchuk may have been a steal, the price tag on all-star defenseman Chris Chelios was steep. Chicago showed it was serious about winning a title by dealing flashy center Denis Savard to Montreal to fill a void on their blue line. 

The Oilers know all about filling voids, and this season they’ll have to do it one more time if they hope to defend their crown. 

And here are the articles from Page 3: 

QUESTIONS for ’90:

Can Calgary recover from last season’s stunning early playoff exit?

Will the Minnesota North Stars shine under the direction of Bobby Clarke and Bob Gainey?

Can favorite son Denis Savard establish another dynasty in Montreal?

Will Ray Bourque and the feisty Bruins finally bring the Cup back to Beantown?

Can premier Penguin Mario Lemieux and his injured back make a comeback?

Will Ron Hextall and the Flyers return to form after failing to make last year’s playoffs?

DID YOU KNOW…

Brett and Bobby Hull are the first father-and-son combination to score more than 50 goals apiece in a single NHL season.

The Montreal Canadiens have sipped from the Stanley Cup 23 times in their illustrious history — more than any other team in the NHL. 

Wayne Gretzky, in his 11th season, broke Gordie Howe’s career NHL scoring record of 1,852 points, a total it took Howe 16 years to establish. For a baseball player to break Hank Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs as quickly, he would have to average 74 roundtrippers per season.

That the St. Louis Blues had a 1989-90 total payroll of $3.5 million, then signed two players (Brett Hull and Scott Stevens) to contract worth a combined $11.7 million.

Page 4 lists the Chicago Blackhawks regular season schedule for 1990-91. Noted at the bottom are an exhibition match between the Blackhawks and the Soviet Red Army team on January 1, and the 42nd NHL All-Star Game — hosted by Chicago — on January 19. 

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Page 5 has an advertisement for the Blackhawks on SportsChannel. Pictured in the ad is Blackahwks right winger Steve Larmer, who led the team in scoring during the 1989-90 season.

Pages 6 and 7 have an article by Jiggs McDonald, who was the play-by-play voice of the New York Islanders and many of the NHL games that were broadcast nationally on SportsChannel America.

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Article from Pages 6 and 7: 

A Guide To Watching Hockey on TV
By Jiggs McDonald, voice of the NHL on SportsChannel

Hockey combines tremendous speed and agility to make it one of the most exciting sports to watch in person or on television. Of course, an understanding of the new rules can make a newcomers introduction to the game much more enjoyable.

The best way to learn about hockey is to take a crash course. Watch three our four games over a two-week period and eventually you’ll know as much as the officials do about the rules — which in some cases isn’t saying much. Once you know the meaning of offsides, icing and other such terms, then you can concentrate on the action — how plays develop, what forechecking is, and how teams set up the open man for a shot on goal.

After you’ve gotten a feel for the game, you can marvel at the National Hockey League’s elite players.

If you focus on the play of a Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Brett Hull or Pat LaFontaine, and you follow them on the ice, you will soon gain a greater appreciation for their skills.

Very often when players of this caliber are on the ice, the game revolves around them and you will see how offensive plays are developed and executed. There’s always an added buzz of anticipation in the crowd when Gretzky touches the puck. But it’s also worthwhile to follow these players when they don’t have the puck. Often, they are still the center of the play, and you will see how they attempt to get open and how the defense reacts to them. 

If you find you are having a problem following the players because of the speed of the game, you can try this trick I learned when I was covering the Atlanta Flames. A person unfamiliar with the sport said that by accident one  night he tuned out the color of his set to black and white and the contrast made the puck really stand out and the numbers practically jump off the players’ sweaters. I tried it a couple of days later while watching a game on video-tape and was amazed. The faces were a little blurry, but with helmets and shields you barely can see them anyway.

As you become more familiar with the sport, you can begin to concentrate on specific aspects of the game. You can focus on what’s happening in front of the net. There aren’t many three-way passing plays or creative goals because so much of the NHL is to dump it in and get on the man with the puck. That is a designed play. Watch for your man and how he forces the other team to turn it over. Forget about the puck when watching the activity around the net. Watch the body contact.

Power plays, which occur when a team loses a penalized player for a specified time, make hockey different from any other sport. When a team has the advantage, watch the activity in front of the goal on concentrate on the movement of the puck. The offense will try to move the defense out of position for a clear shot at the goal. This is always a chance to focus on the star players, because teams always send out their best offensive and defensive players on a power play. 

In time, specific aspects of hockey, such as the importance of winning a faceoff and puck possession, will become clearer. Defensive teams win faceoffs almost 70 percent of the time, but when they don’t a good scoring opportunity can happen quickly. You’ll eventually know how to keep a sharp eye on the faceoff in the defensive zone. When a viewer becomes knowledgeable they may begin following the offensive-defensive matchups. The one-on-one aspect is one of the game’s most important elements, especially during the playoffs.

But for the beginner, I suggest the few basic practices I mentioned earlier: familiarize yourself with the rules before watching, if possible; focus on a couple of key players while they are on the ice, following them with and without the puck; watch a series of games over a short period of time to get a basic feel for the game; and go out and buy yourself a black-and-white TV if you can find one.

Right off the bat, Jiggs takes a dig at the NHL Officials when he states that you can know as much as the referees and linesmen after watching three or four games in a two week period. Ouch! 

Also, while watching hockey on a black-and-white TV to make the puck stand out more was an interesting idea, it would have been hard to do so by 1990. Most TVs were color by then, with the exception of small, portable televisions. Fortunately, advances in broadcast technology, such as high-definition and digital broadcasting, makes the puck easy to see on TV today. 

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The back page is nothing special; just a mention about college football broadcasts on cable, marring what was otherwise a great, hockey-centric special feature. I’m not sure why the back page didn’t have something specific about hockey, such as an ad for the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, or an ad for national NHL broadcasts on SportsChannel America. 

Regardless, this was a cool little item that I decided to keep three decades ago, and I’m glad that I did, as it gives a nice, concise look at the big hockey stories prior to the 1990-91 season. 

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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