Knocking Hockey Hall of Famers Down a Peg or Two

There’s a lot of talk today about the class of 2015 being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. And sure, it’s a great group. Among NHL stars Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chris Pronger, there is US National Team star Angela Ruggiero as well as builders Peter Karmanos and Bill Hay.

All are clearly deserving inductees, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to knock them down a peg or two.

1997-98 Score - Sergei Fedorov
1997-98 Score – Sergei Fedorov

Sergei Fedorov: I’m not sure celebrating a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings is reason enough for that shirt, and those pants, even if it was their first title in 42 years. Hall of Famer yes, Fashion Icon no.

1992-93 Score - Phil Housley
1992-93 Score – Phil Housley

Phil Housley: The Gretzky Jofa is a legendary classic. The one that Housley sports here, even on his way to 97 points, was a disgrace to the game. You can be better, Phil.

1991-92 7th Inning Sketch - Chris Pronger
1991-92 7th Inning Sketch – Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger: Someone on the Peterborough Petes’ staff was clearly angry at Chris in 1991-92, which is why they gave him the biggest helmet and visor combo they could find, like ever. Tough to make a 6-6 guy look tiny, but they found a way.

1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Nicklas Lidstrom
1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom: I actually don’t think it’s possible to make fun of Nicklas Lidstrom. I’m not even mad at him for being Swedish, or playing for the Empire of Evil in Detroit his whole career. Let’s just appreciate this Red Wings retro jersey from before the time when retro jerseys were cool.

Congratulations to the inductees.

Now, If only this baseball superstar, Canada’s Bo Jackson, was going into the Hockey Hall of Fame too:

1990 Score - Eric Lindros
1990 Score – Eric Lindros

Doug Jones: Closer, All-Star, Moustache.

1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Doug Jones
1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Doug Jones

There is a lot of 1992 to discuss here. I’ll start with the moustache. Thick and rich, getting in the way of food and drink… that’s what a real man’s moustache is supposed to look like. I’m told that he looks “like a vacuum cleaner.” I had to have that one explained to me, but think about it, it kinda makes sense. It would literally take me 17 years to grow anything close to that.

There are also the sunglasses. If you were into baseball in the early 1990’s and you didn’t want a pair of sunglasses like those, I’ll bet you didn’t even care about life. The strap on the sunglasses, you’ll notice, holds them securely in place while a glorious mullet is allowed to flourish. The sunglasses were for the business, and the flow was for the party.

Along with great fashion sense, Doug Jones was actually one of the best closers in baseball for a time, a five-time All-Star, and finished his career with 303 saves, playing for seven teams, most notably Cleveland, Houston and Milwaukee.

The card above (O-Pee-Chee Premier… classy) shows him when he was about to have the best season of his career with Houston in 1992, after his worst season with Cleveland in 1991. He had lost his closer’s job and got sent to the minors for a bit. But then he came back in September, started the only four games of his career, and was pretty decent (3-1 record) before being released and signing with the Astros in the offseason.

He also pitched in the Major Leagues until he was 43 years old. Could he have done that sans moustache? I doubt it.

The Chicago Cubs, Back to the Future and Blue Pyjamas

Well, a lot of what I believed in came crashing down around me today. See, today was the day Marty McFly got to the future in Back to the Future Part 2. It’s now October 21, 2015. We don’t have hoverboards. We don’t have flying cars. We don’t have self-drying jackets or self-tightening shoes or fax machines in every room of our houses… which is the one thing I was really counting on. Above all else, the Chicago Cubs will not win the 2015 World Series, so the predictions of Robert Zemeckis et al were just hollow and empty.

I’m left alone in the dark, shattered, wondering what it all means, and I lost a lot betting on the Cubbies. That Gray’s Sports Almanac is full of shit.

1981 Topps - Ivan DeJesus
1981 Topps – Ivan DeJesus

Like anyone else, I usually try to find the silver lining in the dark clouds. That silver lining is the baby blue pyjamas that the Cubs wore in the early 1980’s. The best part about these pyjamas is how high you can wear the pants. You can see here how Ivan DeJesus is doing everything he can to pull those elastic waist paints up to his nipples, just like Grandpa would. Another silver lining is that in January 1982, DeJesus would be traded by the Cubs to the Phillies for Larry Bowa and some kid named Ryne Sandberg. I guess that turned out alright.

Bottom line is it’s good to see the Cubs back on the map of successful teams in baseball. They’re being built well and they’re going to be around for a while this time, I think. And I’m rarely wrong.

Neil Wilkinson, Easton Air and California Cool

1991-92 Score - Neil Wilkinson
1991-92 Score – Neil Wilkinson

I’m not here to talk about Neil Wilkinson’s 460 career games in the NHL, nor am I here to talk about his induction to the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame – in the same class as Theo Fleury, no less.  I’m also not here to talk about his key role in the Minnesota North Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1991.

I’m here to talk about the gloves he’s wearing in this picture from the San Jose Sharks inaugural season, 1991-92 (the year they went 17-58-5, not the next year when they went 11-71-2).  Those teal, black and silver Easton Airs.

If you were ten years old then, trust me, you wanted those gloves.  If you were lucky enough to have these gloves and an Easton Aluminum stick, holy shit, were you ever cool.  Look good, play good, so they say.

Looking Good Losing with the Hartford Whalers

1990-91 Pro Set - Ron Francis
1990-91 Pro Set – Ron Francis

Today, in Uniforms I Miss, the Hartford Whalers.  Whether it’s the green beauty modelled above by Ron Francis, who was pretty good, or the blue one sported below by Robert Petrovicky, who is 41 years old and still plays professional hockey, the Whalers had a great look.

1993-94 Upper Deck - Robert Petrovicky
1993-94 Upper Deck – Robert Petrovicky

A few things that are worth noting about the Whalers franchise:

  • They were originally based in Boston for the first two years of their WHA tenure, throughout which they were known as the New England Whalers.
  • They had a theme song.  It was called “Brass Bonanza
  • They were the first Avco Cup winners as WHA champions in 1972-73, but when the trophy wasn’t yet ready, the team had to use their divisional trophy instead for their celebration.
  • They missed the playoffs in ten of their 18 NHL seasons, but, in a magical run in the 1985-86 season, made it all the way to the second round before losing.  In fairness, they lost game seven in overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, but the point is they were never very good.  But they looked good.

All this and I didn’t even mention the Cooperalls!

All About Joe Carter, High Tops and Cool

1992 Donruss – Joe Carter – Highlights

So, 21 years ago tonight, Joe Carter hit a three run home run to win the 1993 World Series for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Just to make that extra clear, I said twenty-one years ago, and 1993 World Series.  If that doesn’t make you feel old, you’re probably not that old.  You can watch it here if you feel like getting a little bit emotional:

I’m not here to get all emotional about that home run and what it meant for baseball fans in Canada, and how we all remember exactly where we were when it happened (Ithaca, New York – and then I was a very obnoxious 12-year-old the next day dressed head to toe in Blue Jays swag).  What I’m here to talk about is how cool Joe Carter looked back then.

I’m not going to get into the Oakleys, the necklace, the one armband, or the batting gloves with the bright red swath.  What I really care about is the cleats.  You see, in 1992 and 1993, we all wanted Reebok Blacktop Pumps or Nike Air Jordans.  But if you were a Blue Jays fan (or, let’s face it, a human being) then, you also wanted high top baseball cleats that almost covered your stirrups completely.  Joe Carter had them, and he was hitting home runs to win the World Series.

And for a little bit of bonus Joe Carter Cool, I present to you this delightfulness courtesy of 1992 Score.  You can see all the cool is exaggerated.  Goodnight.

1992 Score – Joe Carter – All-Star

On Borje Salming, Skate Cuts and Bad Letters

1988-89 Esso – Borje Salming

Borje Salming was a great hockey player.  He was a trail blazer, one of the first Swedish players to make an impact in the NHL.  But, I’ll tell you, that sat very poorly with seven-year-old me.  Very poorly indeed.

Let me explain.  The card you see above was issued by Esso during the 1988-89 season and went into an album called the “Esso NHL All-Star Collection.”  All of this was pretty much the coolest thing ever.  I took the cards and the album everywhere and read the articles hundreds of times.  As an aside, to this day I’m convinced that “the computer at NHL headquarters was in danger of overheating because of the extra demands Gretzky’s statistics placed upon its circuits,” because an article called “The Gretzky Era” inside told me that was the case.

Anyway, I was not thrilled with the fact that Borje Salming was Swedish.  I wanted him to be Canadian.  So, I scratched out “Kiruna, Sweden” in the album and wrote in “Canada.”  That seemed to make it better.  Imagine if that logic worked – our Canadian national teams would never lose another game.  I was clearly a genius, even at an early age.

Now, with the perspective of a (fairly immature) adult, I am proud of the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs were once forward-thinking enough to give a Hall of Famer like Borje Salming a chance to come to North America.

Three quick things about Borje, while we’re on the subject:

1. During the 1986-87 season, he took a 200-plus-stitch cut to the face from a skate cut in a scramble in the crease and now, years later, looks exactly like a former hockey player who once took a 200-plus-stitch cut to the face from a skate.
2. He had originally been suspended for the entire 1986-87 season for admitting he had tried cocaine.  The NHL later realized that it was the 1980’s, and they did not want to have to suspend everyone, so they shortened his suspension to just eight games.
3. He now runs an underwear company called Salming Underwear.  True story.

Can we also talk about the A on those 1980’s Leafs jerseys?  What was that all about?  Has anyone ever seen a letter A that looks like that anywhere else, ever?  Didn’t think so.

At least the Leafs look good losing now.