Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Gretzky’
Hockey fans have been talking a lot about last June here in Los Angeles. I’ve also heard whispers about the lockout-shortened 1995 NHL season.
You can guess why last June is special to hockey fans in Los Angeles. Here’s a brief history lesson from ’94-95.
The Stanley Cup playoff brackets were decided on the final day of the regular season. The final piece of the puzzle was the Kings, who needed to win their final two games to leapfrog two teams to clinch a Western Conference playoff berth. As it often happened that year, the two games were scheduled 24 hours and 865 miles apart.
On May 2, playing their 47th game of the season, the Kings invaded Winnipeg and beat the Jets 2-1. Rob Blake and Jari Kurri scored for L.A., Randy Gilhen scored for the Jets, and Kelly Hrudey made 42 saves. One down, one to go. Barry Melrose’s bunch rolled into Chicago the next day to face a Blackhawks club that had won four straight. This one was no contest – the ‘Hawks rolled to a 5-1 win. Eddie Belfour denied Wayne Gretzky for five of his 21 saves. The losing coach, Melrose, wouldn’t coach another game for 13 years and buried himself behind a desk in Bristol, Conn.
The winning coach, Darryl Sutter, tucked a sheet of paper into his suit pocket, stepped down from the bench and headed down the tunnel to the home clubhouse without cracking a smile.
I may have made that last sentence up, but it’s not hard to imagine.
Ask any teenager to define “wha” and he or she will plainly tell you that it’s slang for “what?”, as in “wha’happened?”, knowing nothing of the short-lived hockey league that I’m about to riff on.
The World Hockey Association was built on the back of Bobby Hull’s star turn in Winnipeg. The league’s wide net brought in Gordie Howe and, briefly, Wayne Gretzky. If this is news to you, stop what you’re doing and set aside the next hour of your life to read the Toronto Sun’s awesome recent series about the WHA. If not, read it anyway. The series is well-researched and offers quite a trip down memory lane.
To this day, the WHA has at least one thing that the NHL doesn’t: Its own Hall of Fame. Go visit its website to see more of the nostalgic photos that you see above, and arrange a donation of that old Calgary Cowboys sweater hanging up in your attic.
Here at AllPuck.com, we do not ignore the looming lockout. Nor do we pretend to know the difference between the NHL’s old and new definitions of Hockey Related Revenue, or how far apart the owners are from the players, or how far apart the owners of the most profitable teams are from the owners of the least profitable clubs. We merely know that these massive details are lying somewhere beneath the ocean surface, and that all we see are the tips of the icebergs — cold and icy, like this and this.
One thing we do know is the potential of an empty hockey rink and are not afraid to address it. Behold:
A trend is building in the NHL and it’s a good one. Long-suffering franchises will either win their first title or their first in many decades. It started with the Blackhawks in 2010, continued with the Bruins in 2011 and now, the Kings have finally hoisted the Stanley Cup after 45 years of mostly ineptitude.
Not every hockey season in Los Angeles was a bad one – the Kings reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993 and have made the playoffs quite a few times – but many ended at the bottom of the Western Conference. Or in bankruptcy.
That’s what made Monday’s victory so heartwarming. Read the rest of this entry »
It started during the teenage years. Anticipation coupled with excitement created a roller-coaster effect. Up, up, up, went the emotions.
Down, down, down, they came.
My first ride was in 1992. All-Star Game? Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman, together on the same line? Imagine a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing clinic. Imagine a highlight-reel goal against Patrick Roy. What if Mario Lemieux scores 10 points?
Up, up, up …
… Down, down, down, they came. Because nothing happened.
Year, after year, after year. Nothing.
I created a monster, an anticipation of the best hockey of the year. But all of the stars disappeared, and the extended break from regular season games created full-fledged puckahol withdrawal.