Feeding Frenzy: Taylor stuffs Lions on Thanksgiving

LT readyMarching bands and football have filled the autumn air together for more than a century, but in 1982, as families finalized their Thanksgiving plans, the relationship grew too close. That’s when the band took the field in Berkeley and total chaos ensued. Five days later, with order seemingly restored, a one-man band took the field in Detroit and wrought a different kind of chaos, a Thanksgiving Day fury that changed the game forever. Continue reading


Frozen Perfection at Minnesota Hockey Magazine

The good folks at Minnesota Hockey Magazine launched their new website last week, and as part of the festivities, they posted my story on the 1962 St. Cloud State hockey team and its perfect season. It was frozen (and often snowy) perfection by the Huskies. Click here to read it.

Early thoughts on Boston’s power play

Boston’s penalty killers went on the offensive Thursday night, scoring twice in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Tampa Bay. It helped overshadow another troubling night for Boston’s power play, which went scoreless in three chances. Not only did the Bruins fail to score with the man advantage, they amassed just two shots on goal and only about 20 seconds of sustained possession in the offensive zone.

In Boston’s defense, the three power plays amounted to just 3:56 of actual time with the man advantage, including the game’s final 23 seconds when the outcome was no longer in doubt. But for an elite team whose power play ranked as the league’s fifth-worst last season (14.75%), Thursday’s results were disappointing, especially after a solution-seeking offseason.

Among the solutions sought was a new role for Zdeno Chara. The Bruins tinkered during the preseason, using the 6-foot-9 Slovak defenseman as a human eclipse in front of the opposing net on the power play. He remained there against Tampa Bay in the season opener, but his impact was mitigated by the Bruins’ lack of puck possession.

The acquisitions of Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson also failed to spark the opening-night power play, although Iginla did manage one of Boston’s two shots on goal with the man advantage, a relatively harmless volley from the left half-boards.

One curiosity was the absence of Brad Marchand during the Bruins’ first power play opportunity. Boston’s leading goal-scorer from last season was parked on the bench in favor of Gregory Campbell, who skated with Patrice Bergeron and Eriksson on the second unit. The first group consisted of David Krejci centering Iginla and Milan Lucic. Marchand was reinserted with Bergeron on Boston’s second power play, jumping into a rush and producing the Bruins’ only true power-play scoring chance, a near-miss backhand attempt off a slick pass through a seam in the defense from Bergeron.

As it was last season, Boston’s power play will be an ongoing storyline, for better or worse. Clearly the Bruins boast a nice collection of offensive talent. The team’s 104 even-strength goals last season ranked sixth-best in the NHL. So squeezing just a little more out of that talent while on the power play could make all the difference for a team that once again projects to be very good at keeping the puck out of its own net.

Systematically, I’m looking forward to watching the Chara-in-front experiment. His mammoth size obviously creates a challenging matchup for defensemen and goaltenders, but there’s more to being a net-front presence than bulk. And whether he develops a scoring touch or not, his lack of foot speed and offensive instincts will put the onus of puck retrieval — so important for sustained pressure — on teammates like Iginla and Lucic, who aren’t notoriously fleet-of-foot either. But with young defensemen like Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton looking like capable point-men, the Bruins are wise to experiment.

Frozen Perfection: The 1962 St. Cloud State Huskies

Only 17 indoor ice rinks existed in Minnesota, and none of them were in St. Cloud, making every Huskies game a Winter Classic of sorts during the 1960s. Few were bigger than a Saturday afternoon showdown against Bemidji State on Jan. 27, 1962, the centerpiece sporting event during St. Cloud State College Sno Days.

One year earlier, the Beavers dealt St. Cloud what was to be its only defeat of the season, a 4-1 setback in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader in Bemidji, and now the Huskies hoped to serve revenge cold, on their home ice, amidst the snow sculptures and pageantry of their annual winter carnival. Continue reading

Twins break with history in home-field triumph

Buoyed by a rare outbreak of clutch hitting, the Minnesota Twins won a ballgame at Target Field tonight. The occasion was noteworthy for snapping a franchise-record 10-game home losing streak, a dubious marked shared with the 1957 Washington Senators who never did truly break the streak. They lost their final 10 home games of 1957, including a 10-inning heartbreaker on the season’s final day, played before a sparse gathering of 2,668 at Griffith Stadium.

A young Senators infielder named Harmon Killebrew was in the lineup that day, and he made the most of his opportunity, stroking a sixth-inning double off Baltimore’s Connie Johnson and later scoring on Pete Runnels’ two-out single.

Griffith Stadium would wait seven more months for a Senators win. Mercifully it came in the 1958 season opener, a 5-2 triumph over Boston.

Looking back at a goalie swap in Boston

Thirty-three years ago today, newspapers announced that Boston and Detroit had swapped goaltenders. Gilles Gilbert, who had been both brilliant on occasion and maddeningly injury-prone for Boston, was sent to the Motor City in exchange for 35-year-old Rogie Vachon. The diminutive Vachon welcomed the deal, leaving moribund Detroit after two disappointing seasons to join a perennial contender in Boston.

The trade came just 16 days after Bruins legend Gerry Cheevers announced his retirement, leaving Boston with an unfamiliar bout of goaltending uncertainty heightened by the signing of Olympic hero Jim Craig one month earlier.

Acquired from Atlanta in exchange for Boston’s second-round pick in 1980 and a third-round pick in 1981, Craig was to be given an opportunity to compete for playing time with Vachon. Boston general manager Harry Sinden said all the right things, expressing confidence in both heading into training camp.

Ultimately, Craig’s time in the spoked-B would be brief. Vachon, however, enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, bridging the Cheevers/Gilbert Era and the Pete Peeters Era in Boston.

For more, follow @OurDailyBruins on Twitter.

Programming Note: Historically Inclined on USCHO.com

College hockey’s next frontier might be a case of “back to the future.”

The following is an excerpt from my story that posted today on USCHO.com.

“Beyond the Colorado Front Range is a strange land of beaches and sun that was once a hotbed of big-time college hockey. Many even say it was home to college hockey’s fiercest rivalry. It’s a place where crowds filled to capacity and recruits from frozen outposts lived like movie stars…”

Read the full story here.

Mann on writing style, polls and All-America teams

“As a matter of policy, we have concluded that wire-service polls in basketball and football are just as invalid nonsense as All-America teams. If you must use them to help establish the stature of a team, say: ‘California, rated fifth in the AP poll and fourth by UPI…’ Never say ‘fifth-ranked California.’ The two polls seldom agree. Similarly, it is not ‘third-ranked Sonny Liston.’ It is ‘Liston, ranked third by both the National Boxing Association and Ring magazine…'” – Jack Mann, editor, Newsday; April 25, 1960

Hat tip to Alex Belth and The Stacks.