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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lost Rookies: 1985-86 OPC Ken Strong

  By 1982, after years of bickering, the Toronto Maple Leafs and all-star, and former captain, Darryl Sittler were at the end of their ropes.  In January of 1982, the Leafs dealt fan favourite Sittler to the Philadelphia Flyers for Rich Costello, a 2nd round pick, 25th overall - used to select Peter Ihnacak, and future considerations.  The future considerations turned out to be Ken Strong.
1985-86 OPC #268 Ken Strong (RC)

  In the end, the trade is considered a candidate for the worst Maple Leafs trade ever.  Although Sittler only netted another 205 career points in 252 games before retiring, the return for the fan favourite was lackluster.  Ihnacak had a promising rookie season with 66 points, but then quickly faded away.  Costello played 12 career NHL games.  Strong played 15 career games. 

1985-86 OPC #268 Ken Strong

  Strong would fall out of favour with Maple Leafs management, as the Leafs wanted Strong to add pugilistic elements to his game.  After a shoulder injury, Strong would not return to the NHL after the 84-85 season.  Strong went overseas in 1987-88 to play in Austria.  Strong eventually became a dual-citizen and played for Austria in the 1994 Olympics. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Hockey Card Stories


  Hockey Card Stories: True Tales from Your Favourite Players by Ken Reid was released in October of 2014.  I put it on my Amazon Wishlist and Santa was thoughtful enough to leave a copy under the tree for me. 
 This book is a must read for any hockey card aficionado, especially if you long for the old days when O-Pee-Chee was the dominate, and sometimes only, brand.  The author, Sportsnet's Ken Reid, picked out 61 cards from his personal collection and then called up 59 players on those cards to see what they thought of them.  The book is divided up into ten chapters, with each chapter featuring five to six players.  Each player's story lasts 4-6 pages.
  The cards range from 1971 to 1991 -  all O-Pee-Chee.  There is a solid range of players, from HHOFers, such as Tony Esposito and Bobby Orr, to one game wonder, Bill Armstrong.  Player's reactions of their cards range between pride, to indifference.  Although most, especially the guys with the 1970s cards, expressed embarrassment over their photos.

An example from the WHA chapter
  The book read like a bunch of short articles, or blog posts.  In fact, some of the stories were previously published online a few years ago. Check them out if you want a sampling of what is in the book.  Most stories are directly relates to the card pictures, but a few seem to use the card more of a jumping off point to cover the player more in general. 
  One of the more interesting stories was the 1984-85 OPC Ken Linseman.  I alwasy knew it was an obvious airbrush job, but there is more to it than that.  It's Linseman's head, but not his body.  I will let you google it, or go out and buy the book to learn more. 

The FrankenCard.

  This was a very interesting book to read but it left me wanting more.  I have always wondered what players thought about their cards and what type of cards or memorabilia collections they might have.  Perhaps there will be a sequel.  I do hope so.
  I definitely recommend this book to any true hockey card fan.  There are no stories about game-used jersey or serial numbered cards, so perhaps not a great buy for anyone who has never ate gum from a pack of cards.  It has a $19.95 cover price but, as always, can be had for cheaper online.  Let's finish with a word from Ken Reid himself.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

One Star, One Sheet: Tim Kerr

Tim Kerr

4x 50 Goal Scorer
1987 2nd team All-Star
1989 Masterson Trophy Winner

  When people speak of one-dimensional players, usually someone will bring up Tim Kerr. Tim Kerr could score goals, lots of them.  A four time 50 goal scorer, Kerr also led the league in powerplay goals 3 times, including an NHL record 34 in 1985-86.  Topping out at 6'3" and 230 pounds, Kerr was made for "garbage goals".
  Tim Kerr played his junior hockey for the Kingston Canadiens.  During his drafts season, he scored 42 points in 57 games, which put him 7th on his team.  On draft day in 1979, one of the deepest ever due to minimum age changes, Kerr was not selected.  Available as a free agent, Kerr signed with the Philadelphia Flyers.
  Kerr made the Flyers team out of training camp in 1980, due to an injury to Ken Linseman.  Kerr scored his first career goal against Mike Veisor of the Hartford Whalers on October 26, 1980.  He would finish the season with 22 goals and 45 points in 68 games during his rookie season.  He posted similar number the following season, 21 goals, and 51 points in 61 games.
  The 1982-83 season was a sign of things to come for Tim Kerr.  His goal and point production were up, but also his injuries.  Kerr scored 11 goals and 19 points in 24 games.  He missed significant time due to a knee injury.
  Starting with the 83-84 season, Kerr ran together four impressive seasons, in terms of goals and durability.  Kerr scored 54, 54, 58 and 58 goals in consecutive season while also playing in 74 or more games in each season.  Kerr set a, still standing, NHL record with 34 powerplay goals in 1985-86 and was a Second Team All-Star in 1986-87.
  Kerr would get the nickname "The Sultan of Slot" for how lethal he was in close proximity of the net.  Kerr paid the price for playing in front of the net, but he also reaped the rewards.
  Unfortunately for the Flyers, Kerr's injury bug would resurface during the play-offs, first in 1985 and then again in 1987.  In 1985, after setting a NHL play-off record, scoring  four goals in 8:16, and in a single period, Kerr would be injured and missed the majority of the semi-finals and Stanley Cup Finals.  In 1987, Kerr suffered a serious shoulder injury versus the New York Islanders during the second round.  The Flyers, without its top goal scorer, eventually lost the Stanley Cup final to the Edmonton Oilers in seven games.
  Kerr missed all but eight games in 1987-88 due to the shoulder injury.  Kerr returned to form in 1988-89, scoring 48 goals in 68 games.  Also true to form, Kerr missed time, and a chance at another 50 goals season due to injuries.  This time to a broken jaw.  Kerr did save his best for the play-offs, scoring 14 goals and 25 points in 19 play-off games as the Flyers lost in the Semi-Finals to the Montreal Canadiens. For Kerr's determination to play and for overcoming injuries, Kerr was awarded the Bill Masterson trophy in 1989.
  Injuries continued to plague Kerr for the rest of his career.  Kerr wouldn't play more than 40 games in each of his last four seasons.  Although Kerr's on ice injuries paled in comparision to his loss in 1990, when his wife lost her life while giving birth to the couple's third child.
  Following the season, Kerr was left unprotected in the 1991 expansion draft.  he was selected by the San Jose Sharks and that same day, he was flipped to the Flyers division rival, the New York Rangers.  In another injury shortened season, Kerr had 18 points in 32 games for the Rangers.  In the offseason, Kerr was traded to the Hartford Whalers for a final, yet again, injury plagued season before retiring in 1993.
  Kerr's career is a what could have been career.  While Kerr wasn't a physically dominating player, he was extremely difficult to move once he layed down roots in front of the opponents net.Kerr could have easily had six straight career 50 goal seasons in the mid-to-late-1980s  if not for injuries.  It was the shoulder injury in 1987 that would eventually end his career.  Did injuries rob the Sultan of Slot a place in HHOF?  How do you compare him to Cam Neely's selection?

Friday, December 26, 2014

I have been Wiki linked

  The main reason I continue to do this blog is for myself.  It gives me an opportunity to post various thoughts and projects I work on.  I have learned a lot about the history of hockey while doing research for some of my posts.  Doing it for myself helps to explain my posting frequency.  I do it when I wanna do it.
  But I have to admit, I get pretty pumped when I find links to my blog.  Last year a link to my post that imagined if a certain Seals-Canadien trade had never taken place.  I stumbled across it while reading the comments on a blog entry on a popular Montreal Canadiens blog.  They sued a tiny url to link it so if I had never stumbled across that particular post, read that particular comment and bothered to click the link, I would have never known.
  Another time while trying to do research for my Gordie Howe Hat Tricks blog, I found someone on a hockey forum posting a link to one of my blog posts to validate a point they were trying to make.
  Just recently, I was checking my site statistics when I notice I was getting hits from Wikipedia.  My Perry Berezan: The Lost Cards post is being used as a reference for the Steve Smith (ice hockey, born in Scotland) entry.  I have no idea why they would use my post.  It just proves you should double check anything you read on Wikipedia. 
  While finding links takes the cake, getting post-related comments are cool too.  For the bloggers out there, do you ever check your traffic sources for your blog?  Any in particular stand out to you?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lost Cards: Marty Turco

  In a previous post, I mentioned that I was a passive player collector of Marty Turco.  One card that I did seek out, but never found, was of Marty Turco in a Bruins uniform.  I am pretty sure one was never made, or at least a base card was never made.  Turco, who was an unrestricted free agent, wasn't able to secure a deal with a NHL for the 2011-12 season.  After playing for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup, he signed on in Austria, which included an out-clause for any NHL team.
  During the 2011-12 season, the Bruins had a deadly duo of goalies in Tim Thomas, and Tuukka Rask.  Then Rask went down with an injury at the start of March.  The Bruins didn't have another goalie in their system who was NHL ready and they didn't want to overwork Thomas before the play-offs.  Unfortunately for the Bruins, the trade deadline was February 27th, which was a few days before Rask was injured, so Bruins had to look at free agents.  Marty got the call.
  Turco struggled with the Bruins.  He played in five games, winning two and losing two.  His 3.68 GAA and .855 save percentage were not in the same ballpark as the other Bruins goalies, 2.26 GAA and .926 Save percentage.  His brief time with the Bruins was not good.
  Turco was once again a UFA in the offseason, and once again, was unable to find work.  He held out hope until he finally announced his official retirement in January of 2013. 
  No card company bothered to make a Marty Turco Bruins card.  I figured Score would have been the best bet to have included Turco, so here`s my version of a 2012-13 Score Marty Turco card.

2012-13 Score #549 Marty Turco

Monday, December 15, 2014

So ugly, I ain't gonna buy it

  I am not much of a player collector, but I do passively collect Mike Bossy, Matt Martin and Marty Turco.  So when I recently found out that Marty Turco had a card in the 2013-14 Team Canada set, I was a bit excited.  Except imagine my horror when I saw the following.

  What an ugly card!  It's from the team picture for christ's sake.  If you can't find a decent picture, why even put they guy in the set?  There's pictures of Turco from the year he played in the Spengler Cup, couldn't they use that?  Or is the Spengler Cup not prestige enough when compared to cropping a team photo?  I am not buying that card.
  Have you refused to buy a card of player you collect, just cause it's too damn ugly?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lost Rookies: John Wensink

  By 1976, Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito had both played their last games as Boston Bruins.  Being unable to replace that level of skill, the Bruins head coach, Don Cherry, went in another direction, they became big and bad.  While not the biggest, John Wensink may have been the baddest.
  Wensink was drafted  by the St. Louis Blues in the 7th round, 102nd overall, in the 1973 draft.  Wensink played a total of three NHL games with the Blues.  A back injury, suffered in the minors, during the 1975-76 season sidelined Wensink for a season and a half.  The Blues would not resign Wensink, allowing him to become a free agent in 1976.
  Wensink never had a card with Blues.  Here's my version of a John Wensink rookie.

1974-75 OPC #397 John Wensink (RC)

  Wensink signed with the Boston Bruins prior to the 1976 season.  He previously played in Rochester of the AHL under Bruins head coach Don Cherry, becoming one of Cherry's favourite players.  Wensink scored his first career goal against the St. Louis Blues on February 1st, 1977.  Interesting fact, HHOFer Bernie Federko also scored his first career goal in the same game.  Wensink's signature moment came the next season against the Minnesota North Stars on December 1st, 1977.  Check out the recent ESPN's 30 for 30 feature covering Wensink and the incident.

  As mentioned in the video Wensink started scoring more goals and getting into less fights.  He scored 16 goals in 1977-78, and 28 in 1978-79 but would only score 22 in the next 211 games before retiring.  Cherry claimed that since Wensink fought less, opponents feared him less.  The space that opened up while opponents feared him, had now closed and that Wensink could never regain that edge that made him so feared.
  Before the 1980 season, he was claimed off waivers by the Quebec Nordiques.  Wensink was often a healthy scratch while in Quebec.  This led to a peculiar deal during the 1981 preseason.  The Nordiques loaned Wensink to the Philadelphia Flyers.  He played two preseason games with the Flyers before NHL deemed it to be illegal.  Wensink would be released and signed with the Colorado Rockies. 
  Wensink played two years for the franchise; one year in Colorado, and then a second year as the team moved and renamed themselves the New Jersey Devils.  After retiring from the NHL, Wensink was a player/coach in the Netherlands. Today, he is active with the St. Louis Blues alumni and coaching youth hockey.  Here's what a John Wensink final year card may have looked.

1983-84 OPC #397 John Wensink