“Red Penguins” Movie Released Today

“Red Penguins” is a new hockey documentary about the strange partnership between the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Russian Red Army hockey team and the Walt Disney Corporation. Back in the early 1990s, the famed Red Army hockey team was broke, so it reached out to NHL teams for help. The Pittsburgh Penguins answered the call, and for two seasons co-owned the Red Army team, re-branding it as the Russian Penguins.

Things went well at first. Pittsburgh Penguins ownership brought in a marketing team that introduced “North American Hockey” to an unsuspecting Russian fan base — from opening-night theatrics, game-night giveaways, strippers (seriously), bears drinking beer and more. It was nothing like Russian hockey fans had ever seen. Unfortunately, this also drew the attention of the Russian Mob, who wanted a piece of the action, too. And that’s when things really go off the rails. 

If this story sounds familiar to you, it is because I wrote about it last year for The Hockey News. Last fall, “Red Penguins” was featured at the Toronto International Film Festival and received strong reviews. The film was set to be released in theaters this spring, but then the COVID-19 pandemic swept the continent and closed theaters. 

However, “Red Penguins” is finally available as of today via streaming services. You can stream “Red Penguins” on iTunes and on Amazon Prime Video for $5.99.

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.

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Book Review: 99 Stories of the Game

Hey, Wayne! What is This Book? Please Explain. 

Stumbling around in a discount book store last fall, I found a copy of 99 Stories of the Game by Wayne Gretzky sitting by the cash register. I’d seen this book before and had passing interest, as in I was mildly interested in reading it one day, but I’d always passed on it. But this one has a gold sticker in the corner advertizing it as a signed copy and I actually had to put my eyeballs on the ink to see if was real. It was! Who is going to turn down a $15 autograph of the man whose many accomplishments also include hawking a ready to eat soup mix from your own Stanley Cup?

I will say that the title is a little misleading, or it was for me. Continue reading “Book Review: 99 Stories of the Game”

Book Review – Chris Chelios: Made in America

Chris Chelios is the greatest American-born defenseman to play in the NHL. He may be the greatest American to ever play hockey at any position. Chelios spent 26 seasons in the NHL, breaking in with the Montreal Canadians at age 22 in 1984, winning numerous accolades along the way, and finally retiring at age 48 in 2010.

Also, Chris Chelios is my favorite hockey player of all-time. So, I am not sure why it took me this long to review “Chris Chelios: Made in America,” penned by Chelios and former USA Today hockey writer Kevin Allen in 2014. Nor can I guarantee that this will be a totally unbiased review of his book.

Regardless of how you feel about Chelios — hockey fans either loved him or hated him for his physical, almost reckless style of play — his book is an enjoyable memoir of his storied career.

Continue reading “Book Review – Chris Chelios: Made in America”

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”

Re-Imagining the 1994 NHL Entry Draft

The 1994 NHL Entry Draft took place 25 years ago. Unlike the drafts from the prior few years, it did not boast a generational talent like Eric Lindros, who headlined the 1991 Draft. Nor was it particularly deep, like the 1990 or 1993 Drafts. The 1994 Draft did have two players who scored over 1000 points — one who will be in the Hockey Hall of Fame some day — and three future Calder Trophy winners. And yet, those players weren’t even drafted in the first round!

So, let’s pretend that we could re-do the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. Who would be the new first-overall pick? 

Continue reading “Re-Imagining the 1994 NHL Entry Draft”

Helmet Holdouts: The Last Players Not to Wear Helmets in the NHL

Look around the NHL today, and you will notice that players without visors are few and far between. Such was the case with helmets 30 years ago. Seeing a helmetless player in 1989 was as unusual as seeing a visorless player today.

The NHL made helmets mandatory four decades ago. Any player who entered the league after June 1, 1979 had to wear a helmet, but any player who signed his first pro contract before then could opt out if they signed a waiver. During the 1978-79 season, about 30 percent of NHLers didn’t wear a helmet. Ten years later, though, and you could count on both hands how many helmetless players were left in the league. Here’s a rundown of those players, and why they chose to show their flow.

Read the full article at The Hockey News.

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.

Blake’s Takes: Gold Medals & Game 7s

Every week in the Spring is another big week in hockey. This week, we saw a bunch of jerks move on to the conference finals and a prospect finesse his way into a contract. The World Championships are also starting this week and one country is particularly stacked. I also highlight a few potential additions to the Triple Gold Club.

Continue reading “Blake’s Takes: Gold Medals & Game 7s”

A Look at the Career of Gary Bettman

The NHL has evolved tremendously over the past 26 years — from a league of mainly Canadian athletes and meager television revenues, to a multi-national, multi-billion dollar league. At its helm since February 1, 1993 is Gary Bettman, a New York City raised attorney. Bettman’s mandate centered on growing the game, particularly in non-traditional regions of the U.S.

During Bettman’s tenure, the NHL has expanded by five teams; Florida, Nashville, Minnesota, Columbus, and Las Vegas, with a fifth coming to Seattle in 2021. Additionally, the original Winnipeg Jets and the Hartford Whalers moved to Phoenix and Carolina, respectively. These expansions, along with the recent success of teams such as Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, have increased viewership and participation in the U.S.

However, Bettman comes with his detractors. Continue reading “A Look at the Career of Gary Bettman”

The NHL’s 5 Most-Shocking First Round Playoff Upsets Since 1967

This past Tuesday saw perhaps the most-stunning upset in NHL playoff history. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who won 62 games in the 2018-19 regular season, were swept decisively by the red-hot Columbus Blue Jackets, who outscored them 19-8 in the process. 

Regular season success provides no guarantee for the postseason; as factors such as solid goaltending and special teams can power an underdog past the favorite in a seven-game series. Since the award was introduced in 1986, seven President’s Trophy winners have lost in the first round. Tampa Bay,  however, becomes the first recipient to be swept in their opening series. Here are the top five most shocking first round playoff upsets, since the expansion era began in 1967.

Continue reading “The NHL’s 5 Most-Shocking First Round Playoff Upsets Since 1967”

Seven Blackhawks Goalies Who Played in Only One NHL Game

One year ago today, emergency backup goaltender Scott Foster stepped in between the pipes for the Blackhawks after both Hawks goalies went down with injuries. Foster was perfect, stopping all seven shots that he faced.

Coincidentally, there have been exactly seven Chicago Blackhawks goalies who played in only one NHL game — Foster and six others. Here is a rundown of all seven Blackhawks goalies who had just one NHL game in their hockey careers. 

Continue reading “Seven Blackhawks Goalies Who Played in Only One NHL Game”