Under Review: Mystery, Alaska

November 20, 2019

Earlier today, I was a guest on the SiriusXM NHL Radio talk show “Under Review,” hosted by Mick Kern and Peter Berce. We talk about the hockey movie “Mystery, Alaska” as well as my article for The Hockey News about that film. We also talk about the Puck Junk Podcast and the new line of Puck Junk t-shirts. The segment is a quick listen — just 15 minutes.

You can listen to “Under Review” everyday on SiriusXM Radio or online here

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

Building a Mystery: The Making of Mystery, Alaska – An Oral History

It was the original Winter Classic. Two teams facing off and getting back to their roots, playing shinny outdoors on a frozen pond under a grey, wintry sky. Only in this story, one team is the New York Rangers and the other is a group of amateurs from a small town. Mystery, Alaska, the classic underdog story of pros versus joes, turns 20 this fall.

Why does the movie Mystery, Alaska resonate with fans two decades later? Perhaps because it is one of the few movies that gets its hockey right. With all due respect to The Mighty Ducks and Youngblood, there are no silly knuckle-pucks or ludicrous stick-swinging duels in this film. Many people with deep hockey roots were involved in the making of Mystery, Alaska – and it shows. Producers Howard and Karen Elise Baldwin were the owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the time and had previously owned the Hartford Whalers. Scriptwriter David E. Kelley was the son of an NHL executive and the captain of his hockey team at Princeton. Brad Turner, the film’s assistant hockey co-ordinator and hockey double for Russell Crowe, played briefly for the New York Islanders and had an eight-year career in the minors. Several former players from the University of Calgary also contributed as Rangers players or as hockey doubles for the Mystery characters.

The Baldwins’ first film to involve hockey was the Jean-Claude Van Damme action flick Sudden Death. It came out in 1995 and had a hearty serving of hockey action. But in Mystery, Alaska, hockey was the main course. Oddly enough, the idea for the film came during a meal.

Read the full story at The Hockey News. 

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

Fender NHL Telecaster Electric Guitars

Y’all ready for some pickin’n grinnin’???  If there was one thing I could collect more than hockey-related vinyl records, it would be guitars.  Like, any guitars; doesn’t have be hockey-related.  My wife put a cap on my collection, and I’d go real broke, real fast doing that.  But I do want to share something that crosses my path that could be worth the cold, hard cash.

In the years 1999 and 2000, Fender made a limited run of guitars for the teams in the league, all limited to a maximum of 100 per club and painted with the team’s logo, plus another potential 100 featuring the NHL shield. Continue reading “Fender NHL Telecaster Electric Guitars”

Collectors Corner #28 – Sports Video Games


(Player not working? Listen to Collectors Corner on SoundCloud.)

Last week Thursday was National Video Game Day, so Ron Barr and I talked about sports video games, from Tennis for Two and Pong, to Double Dribble and NHL ’94, all the way to current games like Madden 20.

Collectors Corner airs Friday nights at 9:25 p.m. CST. Find a nearby radio station that carries Sports Byline USA here, or stream online here.  You can also listen to past episodes here.Special thanks to Sports Byline USA for providing the audio clip.

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.
Follow Sports Byline USA on Twitter @SportsBylineUSA

Book Review: The California Golden Seals

The California Golden Seals have a long and storied history as the worst hockey franchise in the NHL’s 100-plus years of existence. So long and so storied, in fact, that it took author Steve Currier over 400 pages to document all of it in his book, “The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL’s Most Outlandish Teams.” If you love a good story about a bad team, then this book is worth the read.

Continue reading “Book Review: The California Golden Seals”

Canucks Bring Back the Black Skate

If you’re not scoring points in the game, you might as well score some points with the fans, and the Vancouver Canucks are doing exactly that. For the upcoming 2019-20 season, the British Columbia team is bringing back its storied “Black Stake” jersey for three games. 

Continue reading “Canucks Bring Back the Black Skate”

Road to the Cup Hockey ’94: An Unreleased Hockey Video Game

A look at NHL ’94‘s long-lost cousin

Puck Junk photo illustration.

Hockey video games were far and few between in the 1980s, but that changed in the early 1990s. From 1990 to 1992, hockey games released for home video game consoles included Wayne Gretzky Hockey, Mario Lemieux Hockey, TV Sports Hockey, Hit the Ice, NHL Hockey and NHLPA Hockey ’93. By the fall of 1993, four more hockey video games came out: Pro Sport Hockey, Brett Hull Hockey, NHL Stanley Cup, and most notably, NHL ’94

A fifth hockey video game was supposed to be released in fall of 1993, but it didn’t make the cut. Entitled Road to the Cup Hockey ’94, the game was going to feature an elaborate artificial intelligence system, full season mode and playoff brackets — and it might have even challenged NHL ’94 as history’s best hockey video game from the classic gaming era. 

Up until this point, very little was known about Road to the Cup Hockey ’94. But not anymore. Continue reading “Road to the Cup Hockey ’94: An Unreleased Hockey Video Game”

Interview: Tom DuBois, Blades of Steel box cover artist

If you grew up playing video games in the 1980s and 1990s, you definitely have seen artwork by Tom DuBois. He is an illustrator from Chicago who created many of the iconic covers that graced video game boxes. Remember Bayou Billy and Castlevania III for Nintendo, Lethal Enforcers for Sega Genesis, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time for Super Nintendo? All of those games, and dozens more, featured DuBois’ art on the covers. But most importantly for hockey fans, he illustrated the cover art for Blades of Steel, which came out for Nintendo in 1988. Recently, DuBois spoke with me about how he got his start in creating video game artwork, including Blades of Steel – and how working on that game got him in trouble.

Continue reading “Interview: Tom DuBois, Blades of Steel box cover artist”

Interview: Bruce Dowbiggin, Author of the Book “Cap In Hand”

If there are two things that Bruce Dowbiggin loves, it is sports and business – or more specifically, the intersection between the two. He is a former sportscaster for the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) and writer for The Globe and Mail. Dowbiggin was a part of the investigation that put Alan Eagleson, the corrupt former head of the NHL Players’ Association, in prison.

He has also written numerous books about sports and business. His latest work, entitled “Cap in Hand,” explains how parity and the salary cap are ruining professional sports in North America. Dowbiggin recently spoke with Sports Collectors Digest about his new book, why pro sports must change, and how soccer gets it right.

Sal Barry: Why would someone want to read “Cap in Hand”?

Bruce Dowbiggin: If you’re like a lot of sports fans, who wonder why it is that every season starts with eight to 10 teams that basically say “we’re not going to try and compete,” then I think you’re going to want to read this book. This is a book about how we got to where sports are today, to the point where it is that teams don’t care about winning, that teams are tanking. It’s all in the service of parity for the major league sports in North America. I make the argument that the usefulness of parity is over. We want a new sports economy, and it’s time that the people that run the leagues understood that.

SB: So, why write a book about the salary cap?

BD: I wanted to write a book about the 10 or 12 most-significant player contracts in history. I wanted to show the evolution from Babe Ruth to current contracts today. My publisher suggested that I put it in a bigger context. So, that’s where the idea came in, about how salary caps have done more harm to pro sports in North America than they have to help.

SB: Why is the salary cap the main culprit?

BD: As you know, in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, we’ve lost seasons or half-seasons. We’ve lost considerable amounts of time where leagues have locked out its players to get salary caps. Was it worth it? No, it wasn’t. Whenever there is a labor lockout, the owners and their commissioner are always talking about that somehow this is going to keep ticket prices restrained. That doesn’t happen at all.

Read the full article at Sports Collectors Digest

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

10 Things You Should Know About Blades of Steel

Thirty years ago, hockey video game Blades of Steel was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The game has stuck around, with several sequels and re-releases, as well as embedding itself into hockey culture, over the next three decades. 

Created by video game company Konami, Blades of Steel was originally a coin-operated arcade game released in 1987. It was ported to the NES in 1988, various home computers in 1990 and the Game Boy in 1991. But 30 years later, it is the Nintendo version that is best-remembered. Blades of Steel came out in a simpler time. It was just realistic enough to be cool, but easy enough that anyone could learn to play it in five minutes. Blades of Steel for the NES had fast-paced five-on-five action, some play-by-play narration and even fighting — and fighting had consequences, as the winner of the fight would get a power play, while the loser would literally get dragged to the penalty box. 

In celebration of the game’s 30th anniversary, here are 10 things that you should know about Blades of Steel

Continue reading “10 Things You Should Know About Blades of Steel”