Welcome to the third edition of the Hockey Education Committee Mailbag! For those who are reading this blog for the first time, here are the previous two editions:
Before I answer your questions, I must begin with an apology and a public service announcement. First, I am sorry for the lateness of this blog, which is supposed to be up every Saturday. While I was writing it last night, my computer crashed, and it was lost forever... so hopefully this will be a close enough facsimile of what it once was.
Second, I urge ever reader who has the option to watch the World Junior Hockey Championships, which are currently going on in my hometown of Ottawa. This is the finest collection of young talent that you will ever see, and you also get the chance to show off your national pride.
Now, onto your queries. Like before, The Captain is unrelenting in his incessant questions, and here are two of his best of this week:
Where exactly did the Red Wings get their logo from? What does the foot on the Avalanche jersey mean?
-The Captain, Saint Leo
I'll handle these one at a time...
The Detroit Red Wings logo has a very interesting history. The team was originally named the Falcons and the Cougars, yet new owner James Norris decided to put his mark on the team in 1933. The logo is an adaptation of that of the Montreal AAA, a hockey team Norris played on, who were nicknamed the Winged Wheels. There is also thought that the logo is an homage to Detroit's automotive industry, but that seems to be unfounded.
As for the Avs, the foot is representative of a Yeti, the mythical snow creature. This is due to the Avalanche taking for themselves everything to do with snow after their relocation to Denver from Quebec City.
While I'm touring through the annals of hockey history, here come a question from my favourite Wisconsin source that truly gets to the roots of the game...
When was hockey founded? Who was it founded by? Where was it founded?
-The Rookie, Germantown
Hockey wasn't founded, per se, like basketball. Rather like baseball and football, it sprung up, evolving from other ancient ball and stick games like hurling and shinty into what it is today.
Hockey first moved to the ice in, predictably, Canada. The first players of what we would now recognize as hockey were British soldiers, who were faced with frozen ponds when they moved to Canada and decided to move their beloved ball and stick games there.
The first officially recognized hockey games were played in Kingston, Ontario, in the 1840's, leading it to be designated as the birthplace of hockey. However, Windsor, Nova Scotia has pushed for it to be named as the birthplace of hockey, thanks to author Thomas Haliburton's recollection of "ice hurley" being played there in 1796. In any event, the first official hockey game was played between university students on March 3, 1875, in Montreal.
Now, here's a question from a new contributor to this blog...
Who will be good first: Maple Leafs, Thrashers, Lightning, or Isles?
-Hockey Fan in Maryland
This is an extremely interesting question. I'm assuming your definition of good is top-four in the conference with reasonable playoff success. To me, the answer is clear... and extremely painful for me to say. The next one of these teams that will be good is...
...the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The hallmarks of great teams is great management. Detroit is always a powerhouse because they have a great coach in Mike Babcock and general manager in Ken Holland, San Jose is improving because of new coach Todd McLellan coupled with GM Doug Wilson, and Boston is rising to the top of the East thanks to Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli. The Leafs already have a great management team in place. Ron Wilson is an excellent motivator and strategist, and Brian Burke is one of the top general managers in the league.
Wilson's efforts are already paying off with their very young and untested roster; the Leafs are hustling all across the ice and are picking up wins that they shouldn't. They have many promising pieces for the future in Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, John Mitchell, Luke Schenn (who is going to be absolutely superb), and goalie Justin Pogge. They are teamed with in-their-prime contributors who shouldn't be too over the hill by the time the Leafs are ready to make a run, such as Nikolai Antropov, Matt Stajan, and Tomas Kaberle.
All the other teams have major flaws that will keep them from competing. The Thrashers have made very little effort to build around their star, Ilya Kovalchuk, and have a less-than-sterling management team. The Lightning really shot themselves in the foot this summer by overpaying mediocre free agents, and won't be able to improve as long as co-owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie are smearing their fingers all over the team. As for the Isles, they will never compete as long as owner Charles Wang surrounds himself with yes-men who have little to no hockey intel.
It's time for the...
This is where I define basic hockey terms for the unitiated. If anybody has any request for any definitions, please tell me.
Face-off: an action that occurs immediately upon the starting of play, when two players try to win the puck after it is dropped by the referee onto the ice
Linesman: a "referee" who calls only offsides and icings instead of penalties
Crossbar: the top bar of the net
Deke: when a player skillfully evades a defender by moving around him
Time for one final question...
Please, if you would kind sir, give us a history on the Winter Classic and your take on this year's matchup.
-Putting On The Foil in California
The Winter Classic, also known as the NHL's annual outdoor game, is a relatively new phenomenon in the NHL. Technically, it's only in it's second year. However, if you're looking at the Winter Classic, you first have to recognize the Heritage Classic.
The Heritage Classic was the very first regular-season outdoor hockey game, which took place on November 22, 2003, in Edmonton. The match, pitting the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens, was preceded by a game featuring some of the legendary players on each team, hence the moniker "Heritage Classic". The NHL game is remembered mainly thanks to Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore wearing a toque over his goalie mask.
The NHL decided to revive the outdoor game idea in 2008, though, thinking that it would be an excellent opportunity to showcase hockey across the United States. The game, which pitted the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins in Ralph Wilson Stadium, was also an excellent opportunity to showcase young Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Despite being played on New Year's Day, at the same time as many Bowl games, it was a smashing success. The Penguins won 2-1 in a shootout, and the game got the highest ratings for a regular-season game since 1996.
I think this year's matchup will be a great one. Not only does it match two Original Six Teams, but it matches two teams that will attract new hockey fans. The Red Wings have been incredible, and the Blackhawks are an up-and-coming team featuring young stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. This will really help the league grow. Of course, I like the Wings to win 4-2.
Thank you for reading this week's Hockey Education Committee Mailbag. If you have any questions, please FanMail them to me.