Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A Uni-Watch Gem

There are a few sites I read daily to get caught up on all sorts of news, but one of these sites is Uni Watch. Paul Lukas and Phil Hecken bring daily insight into the aesthetics of athletic sportswear in terms of the uniforms these athletes wear. While they normally don't focus on hockey that often, Paul and Phil will occasionally get submissions from readers that are simply astounding. One such story happened today that concerned the Pittsburgh Penguins from yesteryear and a certain piece of winter clothing that one rarely sees players wear in an indoor arena.

St. Louis fans, having seen their 1967 expansion franchise go to the Stanley Cup twice in consecutive years, were a rowdy and raucous bunch as the 1970 St. Louis Blues were on their way to a third consecutive Stanley Cup Final. With his team needing to stay focused during an important road game in St. Louis, Penguins head coach Red Kelly did something rather incredible for his team! Check the image below!
That photo, taken by Lew Gordon in 1970, shows the Pittsburgh Penguins wearing earmuffs! No, it wasn't due to the temperature in the rink, but to drown out the St. Louis crowd! I went searching for additional info on this night, and Pittsburgh had all the details on how this happened!
January 3, 1970

Coach Red Kelly issued red, white, black and brown earmuffs to the Penguins to wear during the game to drown out the rowdy faithful at the St. Louis Arena.

The Penguins couldn’t hear anything that night, and apparently, couldn't see the back of the net, either. Kelly was concerned about the St. Louis fans from the previous game there, when the Pens were shut out, 4-0. "One guy got pretty viscous last time," Kelly said about the Nov. 13 game. He added, "My guys won’t have to hear the hecklers and won’t be disturbed by them."

Kelly purchased the assorted-colored earmuffs at Kaufmann's Department store before heading to St. Louis and distributed the headgear to his players and the only other guy on the bench, trainer Ken Carson. Kelly did not make the headgear mandatory.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd of 16,566, Kelly, Carson and about half of the players wore them at the start of the game, but the Blues scored five goals in the first 14 minutes to stun the Pens and goalie Les Binkley. "But before the end of the embarrassing first period, there was not a set (earmuffs) in sight," a local newspaper reported.

Blues' goaltender Ernie Wakely made 26 saves to shut out the Pens again, 6-0.

The Penguins didn't get a win in St. Louis in the next five visits, two seasons later, when they beat the Blues, 4-1, on Nov. 9, 1971.

Players on bench from left: Keith McCreary, Bryan Hextall, Ken Schinkel, Glen Sather, Ron Schock,Tracy Pratt and Duane Rupp (behind Kelly).
So it appears that this earmuff idea lasted all of fourteen minutes before the team ditched the headgear. And despite one fan being "viscous", it seems the idea of keeping the fans' comments out of his players was a poor one by Red Kelly. Let's give him some credit, though: the photo above would have never happened had it not been for Kelly's off-the-wall idea.

It just goes to show that not every innovative idea is a good one.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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