Sunday, 2 October 2011

Flipping Through The Newspaper

I was doing a little research today when I discovered that the online digital newspaper archives that Google is no longer supporting is pretty awesome. I've gone into these newspapers before to find information, but I was on a hunt for something today that made the newspaper archive a valuable tool. As I kept digging, I kept finding more and more golden newspaper articles that needed to be clipped! Well, as far as one can clip a digital newspaper anyway. The point is that I found some articles that are absolute gems that I want to bring to light today. One story in particular had me laughing and scratching my head at the same time due to how ridiculous it sounds. Let me assure you, though, that the events in question definitely did happen.

The story that had me entertainment and puzzled at the same time featured the rather flamboyant Derek Sanderson of the Boston Bruins. Sanderson was a one-in-a-million personality while he played in the NHL and WHA, so there's no doubt that some of the stories about him may have been blown out of proportion a little.

There is one story, however, that seems to be almost surreal in that Sanderson's inclusion is entirely believable yet unbelievable. As you're probably aware, pro sports franchises like their players to be squeaky clean if nothing else so that no bad press is transferred to the team's identity. Well, an article in The Telegraph, a Nashua, New Hampshire newspaper, from February 25, 1972 tells the story about how Derek Sanderson appeared in an X-rated film!

The film, entitled Loving and Laughing, apparently was getting good reviews in Montreal with Sanderson in it, but he made a request to have his scene cut when the film opened in the United States. The Bruins star filmed the bit part (no pun intended) during a contract dispute with the Bruins in August 1970. He appeared for less than one minute in the movie and did not disrobe, but could you imagine the backlash that may have had against the Bruins? The Milwaukee Sentinel confirmed that Sanderson pulled out (excuse the pun) of the movie one day later.

Also in that same February 26, 1972 edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel was a quick blurb about how a group of businessmen were looking to bring the NHL to Cincinnati so the city could have a team iced by 1974. A brand-new arena was being built next to Riverfront Stadium, home of the Reds baseball team, and it appears that the Cincinnati City Council was behind this proposal as well.

As you're probably well aware, Cincinnati never got an NHL team. They did get a WHA franchise in 1975 and this new franchise played out of Riverfront Coliseum. They were called the Stingers, and they saw a number of successful NHL players play for them such as Mike Gartner, Mark Messier, Rick Dudley, Mike Liut, and Robbie Ftorek.

From there, I stumbled upon a March 12, 1974 edition of the Montreal Gazette that was loaded with awesome stuff. Personally, finding this edition of the Gazette was like finding a treasure chest full of gold. I was that excited by it.

First, we learned that Winnipeg Jets star Bobby Hull sat out of a game that saw the worst beating the Jets ever took at the hands of a WHA team to that point. The reason Hull sat out? He had ulcers! The Jersey Knights pumped ten goals past the Jets in front of a sparse crowd of 2146 fans as they matched the team record for most goals on one game. That may have been the highlight for that team considering their short existence.

To get an insight as to how these two teams were doing, check out the WHA standings. The Jets were having a horrible season by their standards, yet still found themselves in third-place in the West Division. By contrast, they would have been in fifth-place in the East Division. Jersey, meanwhile, sat in last-place in the East, but would have been fifth-place in the West. That 10-2 victory doesn't really show how close these two teams really were. If you're keeping score at home, Houston swept Chicago in the WHA Final that year.

In a moment that could have been the basis for the stripping scene in Slapshot, the first streaker in the WHA was Toronto Toros' goaltender Gilles Gratton. Gratton was always a bit of an odd cat, but the reason for his streaking seems very peculiar: he was repaying a debt!

Said Gratton, "I took a few sticks and the trainer said I'd have to pay for them if I didn't streak around the rink with only my mask and skates on. So I streaked a couple of times around the rink."

Wow. And moving on, I like checking out the masks of goaltenders every year to see the new designs and paint jobs. There are always some that stand out from the rest, and a great place to find some of these masks is over on Uni Watch Blog. However, it seems that the Associated Press was doing a little uniform watching before Paul Lukas made it his obsession.

Here are the 19 different masks worn by the goaltenders of the WHA and the NHL. As you may notice, there are 20 images, but goaltender Andy Brown hadn't taken to wearing one in 1974, so his mask is of the same design as the Emperor's New Clothes.

I'll admit: masks in black-and-white newsprint aren't as impressive as the high-definition colour photos we get today, but how cool is it that the newsies in Montreal and at the AP were interested in that kind of stuff back in '74?

I'll dive into more digital newspapers in the future, but these stories made the day for me today. Especially that Sanderson one. I mean, it's $4000, but an X-rated feature film? I may have to do an entire piece on Sanderson just to prove how out there he was.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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