Monday, 7 June 2010

Watching Hockey History

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to bring to you a video all about the Quebec Nordiques, and I was pretty happy with what was shown in the video. The Nordiques' story was all about how they prepared for their first season in the upstart WHA, and the video by the National Film Board of Canada was pretty impressive for both its clarity and its information. This led me to start looking around on video sites for more WHA videos as it is literally a window in hockey's history. While the NHL will never speak of the WHA's effect on its business, there are a lot of interesting things that the WHA did. Thankfully, great people are posting these videos, and we now get to see the WHA in all its glory. Let's take a look at some hockey history.

This first video has a few amazing things shown in it. I'll post them below. Honestly, once you get past the 3:00 mark, it's all some campy 1970s dream sequence of Bobby Hull. My recommendation? Fast forward or stop the video.

There are a couple of good things happening above:
  • Bernie Parent wore #00 as a member of the Philadelphia Blazers!
  • Alton White can be seen standing next to the goalpost at the :20 mark.
  • The Winnipeg Jets took a page out of the Flyers' book as they wore white nameplates on their blue jerseys - similar to the Flyers' orange jersey.
Here is Part One of the Chicago Cougars' 1973-74 WHA season. Lots of great stuff in here as well.
We'll run through this as quickly as possible:
  • Recognize the coach of the Cougars? That's Jacques Demers! Check his hair at the 4:00 mark! Very 1970s indeed!
  • The team in stripes at the 2:15 and 2:35 marks is the Cleveland Crusaders. They're playing the Minnesota Fighting Saints, but the footage is from 1972-73. The Saints are wearing the stylized "S" instead of the Fighting Saints logo!
  • Check the skates on the visitors at the 3:00 mark. Those neon white skates are worn by the New York Golden Blades, and we actually can see them in colour! For the :25 the Golden Blades are on the video, I can't stop staring at their skates.
  • Check out the referee at the 7:35 mark. His stripes are red-and-white, rather than the standard black-and-white. The linesmen? Standard black-and-white.
Part Two of the video has some more good stuff in it.
Again, moving through this video, we see:
  • That phenomenal referee's uniform is seen from the back at the :57 mark. Wow.
  • You can see Gerry Cheevers as a member of the Cleveland Crusaders at the 1:20 mark wearing #30.
  • From 1:42 to 1:52, you can see the Toronto Toros and their New York Rangers-inspired drop-shadow on their rear numbers.
  • At the 2:02 mark, you can clearly see the front numbers on the Chicago Cougars. The NHL has apparently learned something from the league they won't recognize when it comes to jersey design, it seems.
  • Good side-by-side comparison of the referee and linesman at the 3:44 mark. The red is clearly different on the referee.
  • At the 5:36 mark, check out the rollerblades sported by Chicago's Ralph Backstrom. Backstrom calls them "street skates", and they show him skating all over his neighbourhood. Backstrom puts on a pretty impressive display with his "street skates" in his 48 seconds of airtime!
  • At the 6:45 mark, you can see a Toronto goalie by the name of Gratton. That's Gilles Gratton in the Toronto net, sporting #33.
And we finish with Part Three.
Lots of good stuff here as well:
  • Everyone's favorite WHA official is visible at the 2:04 mark. That's Ron Ego. Yes, that's his real name. Can you imagine hearing, "Tonight's referee - Ego #3"? Wow.
  • A great look at the Dave Dryden signing at the 4:00 mark.
  • Jacques Demers mentions the name "Jersey" at the 5:42 mark as one of the teams "you play against". The New York Golden Blades would become the New Jersey Knights midway through the 1973-74 season. Rather than re-design brand-new uniforms, the newly-named Knights simply recycled their old New York Raiders jerseys by replacing the logo.
  • You can see Mark Howe's full name on his Aeros jersey at the 6:57 mark. As the camera scrolls, Marty Howe is just visible before it cuts to the crowd.
One last video before we go will show you an incredible piece of history.
That is Wayne Gretzky's first professional goal. The team and goalie he victimized? The Edmonton Oilers, and goaltender Dave Dryden.

Lots of WHA goodies seen in these videos today. Honestly, the Golden Blades' skates are still astounding in how white they are. It's pretty remarkable to see all the former and soon-to-be NHL goaltenders in the WHA in 1972-73. And those rollerblades worn by Backstrom? They look like they could be straight out of a sporting goods store today!

How cool is hockey history? Very, if you ask me.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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