Monday, 24 March 2014

Back At It

It appears my internet is back! In taking the day off yesterday, I got a lot of stuff done. Poke fun at me if you like, but I was baking up a storm in the kitchen. I now have enough cookies to rival the Keebler Elves. However, all of that was nothing compared to some of the finds I stumbled across on Saturday night that I wanted to post yesterday. Like the dog to the left who appears to be halfway to China, I did some deep digging and found some pearls to share with you. Let's get going because there's some great stuff to share.

I want to kick things off with a newly-discovered mascot for an era past. I was aware that there were mascots for some WHA teams as they looked to grow their brands in their own markets. I had never seen a mascot for the Chicago Cougars, though, until Saturday. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to Clawford! I had never once seen anything about Clawford in my life before this, and the internet has barely any information on Clawford's existence. Apparently, he also known as "Charlie", but that may have just been a more colloquial name. Adding to that, there are no photos of an actual mascot, so Clawford may be more like Sparky used by the California Golden Seals in that he existed in print only. Unlike Sparky, there's no artist's mark on Clawford either. In any case, there's Clawford, the mascot for the WHA's Chicago Cougars!

I have always wanted to see a WHA Ottawa Nationals uniform in action for one reason. I have seen players wear the uniform facing the camera, but rarely do we see the backs of uniforms. I logged into the WHA Uniform site - favorite that site if you haven't already - and noticed that the Nationals had a unique stripe that ran below the shoulder yoke. The WHA Uniform site shows that it runs into the name on the back, so I went hunting. I managed to track down this image of Bob Charlesbois skating with his back towards the camera, and there they are! I'm surprised we haven't seen many teams through the last forty years try to do something like this unique feature!

Everyone knows that the WHA and NHL differed in many ways, and one of those key differences was in the rulebook. This page from a program features six rule differences found in the WHA that made it different from the NHL. Let's go over these quickly.
  • Overtime: Everyone should know that overtime in the NHL came directly from the success of overtime in the WHA.  In 1975, though, the NHL was still ending games in sixty minutes with ties. As written in the passage, the ten-minute overtime period saw most teams settle the game in an average time of six minutes. More winners equals more happy fans!
  • Third Man In: In 1975, any fracas in the NHL where a third man intervened caused that third man to have the rest of the night off with a game misconduct. In the WHA, the third man would be given a 10-minute misconduct and a $100 fine for the first time he skated into a scrap, and would only be given a game misconduct if he did it again in the same game. While I realize that $100 isn't much of a fine nowadays, would this strategy work better than the automatic game misconduct? Leave your thoughts below in the comments!
  • Red Line Pass: As long as a player was behind the center line when a breakaway pass was sent up the ice, he could corral it without being whistled for a two-line pass like he would be in the NHL. This, of course, is similar to the removal of the red line in today's NHL. That's some forward thinking in the WHA some forty years ago!
  • Shorthanded Icing: If you're playing a man down in the NHL, you're free to dump the puck down the ice. Not in the WHA! The WHA enforced icing the same way as if you were playing at even-strength. Needless to say, there were a lot of powerplay goals scored on a lot of tired WHA penalty killers! Would you like to see this rule tested out in the NHL? It could generate a ton of offence for highly-skilled teams! Lemme know in the comments!
  • Illegal Curve: The standard NHL blade curvature in 1975 was a ½-inch, but the WHA allowed true banana curves as they opted for a curvature of up to 1¼-inches! No wonder that puck jumped off Bobby Hull's stick in 1975!
  • Less Chatter: The WHA decided in 1975 that the team captain would be the only player permitted to speak to the referee, and even allowed the captain to come off the bench to discuss a matter. While the captain can no longer hop onto the ice while the referees are mulling over an incident, the NHL followed suit in letting only the captains and alternate captains speak to the officials.
You can say that the WHA caused major issues with the pay scales in professional hockey all you want, but the men running the league actually had some pretty intelligent thoughts when it came to opening up the game and keeping the offence flowing. The NHL today could learn a few things from the "Rebel League" from yesteryear.

I wanted to post this, but you've probably seen this elsewhere. Andrew Loewen, a Winnipegger, is playing for the Columbus Cottonmouths and is their starting goaltender. Loewen is a pretty solid goaltender, and, if you haven't seen it, is a heckuva dancer!
There is a back story to this dance routine, however. During the second intermission of the March 15, 2014 game where he was backing up Shannon Szabados in her first professional start, a video was shown of Loewen teaching this dance routine known as "The Wobble". Minutes before the intermission ran out, Loewen decided to show off his skills in-person! Now, I admit that the cheerleaders were a little unenthusiastic, but Loewen looked like he was appearing on Dancing with the Stars!

In a related matter, Andrew Loewen will be appearing on The Hockey Show this summer when he returns home! You better believe we'll be asking about "The Wobble" when he appears, so make sure you watch this site for the preview so you can call in and speak with Andrew too!

Also related, Shannon Szabados is now 0-2-0 in her SPHL career. She hasn't been bad at all, losing both games by one goal in 4-3 and 3-2 decisions to the Knoxville IceBears and the Huntsville Havoc, respectively. She absolutely is proving that she play in the SPHL, and she should be tendered a contract for next season if she wishes to remain in the men's game. While her win-loss record and stats probably aren't where she'd like them to be at the moment, she's proving she can hang with the men. Well done, Shannon!

Finally, if you missed the latest blowout in Oilers Nation, their provincial rivals in the Calgary Flames came into the "City of Champions" and thumped the Oilers by an 8-1 score. Once more, we saw a fan toss a jersey on the ice in frustration, and Ben Scrivens decided to do the only thing possible: return it to its rightful owner.
Here's what I don't understand. Fans pay out a ton of money for these jerseys. Heck, I know because I've done it. In saying that, seeing stuff like this astounds me when it's equivalent to tossing $300 on the ice. I get that the fans are frustrated, but are people in Alberta really that well-off that they can toss $300 on the ice in frustration? No? Didn't think so. Use your heads, Oiler fans.

Ben Scrivens was pretty honest in his comments after the game. "I always feel like as a fan, you pay your money and you get to do whatever you want," he explained to reporters. "If you want to boo me, jeer me, call me every name, you are entitled to that. You could spit on me for all I care, if I deserve it. But when I see a jersey thrown on the ice... I'm from here. You are not just disrespecting the guys in this room, you are disrespecting guys who wore this jersey before us. All of the great guys who have pulled this sweater over their heads, Gretzky, Messier, they all took great pride wearing that jersey. That logo is a sacred thing for us. It is disheartening for me to see our fans treat it that way."

I happen to agree with Scrivens in respecting the logo. It stands for something much bigger than this season's disappointments. You're better than that, Oiler fans. I spent a number of springs watching the Oilers in the playoffs, and I still vividly remember those series against the Dallas Stars. You guys were amazing, and the passion for the team and the game was incredible. This latest act is not what I remember from Oiler fans. I know you guys are better than this. Let's live up to that.

Lots of stuff here today, but there's some beauty WHA history above! Enjoy!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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