Monday, January 15, 2018

Concordes Unveil New Look

Just days after the Philadelphia Redshirts took home the Lewis Cup, the Long Island Concordes unveiled a new uniform set for the 2001-02 season. The color scheme has now changed from teal, orange, and purple to navy, orange, and silver. The logo from the Concordes third jersey has now been promoted to primary status and has been updated in the new colors. "The teal and purple was fun but I think we all soured on it because we just didn't have much success in it" said owner and founder Ed Jeffereys. "We wanted to get back to the success we had in the past so we've put a new spin on the original colors. I think it looks good myself." The new jerseys also earned praise from none other than "Captain Concorde" himself, Stuart Burns, who was named the team's vice president in the spring. "It's a cool look" said Burns. "I just hope it's a winning one."

In addition to Long Island's new threads, two teams also introduced new alternate uniforms for the upcoming season, while one team announced they would be dropping theirs. The Calgary Wranglers decided to go with just the home white and road black, while Seattle and St. Louis both unveiled new third jerseys. The Grey Wolves unveiled a black jersey featuring the wolf's head from the secondary logo, while the Spirits introduced a new color, sky blue, to their scheme on a uniform featuring their tertiary logo. The logo had previously been featured exclusively on t-shirts, hats and other merchandise, but proved popular with fans, convincing team management to create a jersey with it.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2001 Lewis Cup Finals

For the first time in a decade, the 2001 Lewis Cup finals would be a battle between the two conference champions, as the defending champion Kansas City Twisters met the Philadelphia Redshirts. CBC commentator Graham Helm summed up the series; “The Redshirts are looking for their first title in 79 years while the Twisters are looking for their first in almost 365 days.” Right from the start, the Twisters looked just as good as the team that had won it all a year earlier. Brett Delaney had a goal and an assist on Jeremy Kitchen’s goal in a 2-0 Twisters win. Game two was closer, with Philadelphia giving up two leads throughout the game as it went into overtime. After the teams remained tied after one overtime, Alex Leblanc scored early in the second to win the game for Philly and tie the series.

Game three was in Philadelphia, where the Redshirts had lost only one game the entire playoffs. They got off to a quick start in this one too when veteran Jonathan Stafford opened the scoring just 1:23 into the first period. Philadelphia played a strong defensive game while Pierre Noel was solid in the net until midway through the third period, when a Scott Drayton point shot found its way through everybody and into the net. Just minutes later, Travis Watson put Kansas City ahead, then Mike Singer sealed it with an empty-net goal. “We need more offense” said Redshirts head coach Clint Allen. “Pierre has been great for us but we need our forwards to give him more to work with.”

Kansas City was now in the driver’s seat, having taken back home-ice advantage, while the Redshirts continued to struggle finding ways to score. In game four, All Philadelphia could muster was a goal from Brendan Carnes late in the second period. Luckily for the Redshirts, Pierre Noel played the game of his life, stopping 59 shots for a shutout as Philly won the game 1-0 to tie the series. The Twisters were confident that it was still their series to lose heading into game five back in KC, but now it was their turn to struggle with scoring. Philadelphia twice early in game five and a Brett Delaney goal halfway through the second period was the best Kansas City could do. Noel stopped 41 shots this time as the Redshirts stood just one home win away from finally ending their drought.

In the 1922 Eastern League championship, the Redshirts relied heavily on a young goaltender named Herb Schmidt to backstop them to the title. Schmidt courageously played on a broken foot and stopped 63 shots in the final game for the win. Now 79 years later, 25-year-old Pierre Noel was faced with a similar challenge. Early in game six, Noel took a hit that shook him up, it appeared he had injured his hand. Nevertheless, Noel made save after save in the first period as the Twisters applied pressure early. Even when Kansas City had a powerplay, Noel shut the door. Halfway through the period, Brendan Carnes scored to give the Redshirts the lead. The crowd cheered, but nervously. Philly fans knew their history, in 1953 the Redshirts gave up a 1-0 lead in the final moments of game seven, ultimately losing in double overtime. In 1958, they gave up a 2-0 lead before losing to Toronto. This time, the Redshirts nursed their delicate lead until early in the second, when Alex Leblanc made it 2-0. This time the PhillyDome erupted. The way Noel was playing there was no way the team would lose this time. With the clock winding down, Jared Baxter, who had not scored all series, passed the puck to 22-year veteran Jeff Waters, who slid it into the empty net. The building shook as the crowd celebrated and the referees had to keep the Philadelphia players from spilling onto the ice with 22 seconds to go. Finally, the clock counted down to zero as the players mobbed Noel and the fans went wild. For the first time in their long PHL history, the Philadelphia Redshirts were the Lewis Cup Champions. Commissioner Darryl Byrd presented the cup to Jeff Waters, who had waited to hoist the cup as a Redshirt since 1979. “I honestly can’t believe this is actually happening” said Waters. “We’ve all waited so long for this, and it’s finally here. I’m just so thankful to actually be a part of it.”

Monday, January 8, 2018

2001 Playoffs

Eastern Conference

Philadelphia (1) vs Toronto (8)
Philadelphia entered the playoffs as the PHL’s hottest team and carried that momentum into their first round series with the Toronto Racers, jumping to a 2-0 lead before the Racers tied it up with back-to-back wins at home on the strength of Joe Murdock’s four goals between the two games. But a 6-0 blowout back in Philly stopped any momentum the Racers had picked up and the Redshirts went on to win the series in game six thanks to an overtime goal from Sergei Dyatlov.

Washington (2) vs Detroit (7)
The heavily favoured Generals dominated the Mustangs in the first three games, taking a 3-0 series lead. But facing elimination at home in game four, Detroit played a tight-checking game, stifling Washington’s star forwards Rob Wentzel and Igor Zharkov while Patrick Fletcher scored the OT winner. The Mustangs pushed to tie the series with another win in game five, but the comeback fell short as Detroit ultimately lost game six 3-1 while Washington advanced.

Montreal (3) vs Pittsburgh (6)
Much of the attention was on superstar Vincent Ducharme As Montreal entered their first round rematch with the Pittsburgh Stingers. Ducharme, playing in the final playoffs of his career, scored six goals in the Royale’s five-game victory over the Stingers, while Zdeno Kadlec added five of his own. “It felt good to be back” said Ducharme, who had missed the entire regular season due to a knee injury.

New York (4) vs Miami (5)
Game one between Miami and New York had one of the most stunning first periods in PHL history. After just 40 seconds, the underdog stingrays had a 3-0 lead, forcing the Civics to replace veteran goaltender Jason Wyley with Brad Thorne. The Stingrays went on to win the game 3-1 but Wyley was back in the Civics’ net for game two as New York won to tie the series. It would not be enough however, as Miami won the next three to complete the biggest upset in the first round.

Western Conference

Kansas City (1) vs Vancouver (8)
Two years after a tough second-round battle between Vancouver and Kansas City, the two teams met again in the first round in 2001. This time around, it wasn’t even close. Kansas City won game one 4-0 and that set the tone for the remainder of the series. Vancouver did not score a goal until the third period of game two and struggled all series to solve Jason Lind, ultimately scoring only four goals the entire series as the Twisters swept them in four straight games.

Minnesota (2) vs Oakland (7)
The Lumberjacks were heavily favoured to beat the Oakland Nuggets, who had barely reached the playoffs. But the Nuggets surprised everyone beginning with a 2-0 win in game two as the series remained tight all the way to game seven. Game seven was a 1-1 tie until the final minutes, when Brendan Marlo scored what would be the eventual winner for Minnesota as the Lumberjacks advanced with a 3-1 win. “They were a tougher team than we gave them credit for” said captain Jason Crowley. “We’re just glad to get the win and move on.”

Seattle (3) vs Los Angeles (6)
The breakout story of 2001, the Seattle Grey Wolves, entered the playoffs with high expectations. But the older, more experienced Los Angeles Wizards gave them all they could handle in the first round, winning game one and then game three to twice take the lead in the series. Drake Klausen, who was having a career season, scored twice in game four to get the Wolves back on track before Seattle won games five and six to take the series.

Chicago (4) vs Dallas (5)
With Dallas making only their second playoff appearance, nobody gave them much of a chance against the Chicago Shamrocks. Chicago shut the Desperados down in the first two games, taking a 2-0 series lead. But in Dallas, the Desperados treated their fans to two overtime thrillers where Kyle Clark scored the winner in both games in front of capacity crowds. Hockey had finally arrived in Dallas. The Desperados woes on the road continued back in Chicago, as the Shamrocks took the series lead again. After forcing game seven, Dallas broke out their orange third jerseys for game seven, hoping to change their luck on the road. It wouldn’t work, as Gustav Mattsen’s hat-trick gave Chicago a 5-1 win to advance.

Second Round

Philadelphia vs Miami
The Miami Stingrays were coming off the biggest upset in the first round over the New York Civics when they prepared to face the Powerful Philadelphia Redshirts in the second round. Right from the beginning, it was clear the Stingrays were no match for the Eastern Conference’s best team. Early in game one, disaster struck for the Redshirts, as number one goalie Ben Kerrigan went down with a severe leg injury. In came Pierre Noel and Noel stole the show, shutting out the Stingrays in the first two games. Miami challenged the Redshirts at home in game three, but it would not be enough, as the Redshirts took the series in a four-game sweep.

Montreal vs Washington
The Generals once again me the Royale in what had become one of hockey’s biggest playoff rivalries. The Generals immediately took a 2-0 series lead, leading many to speculate that the end was in sight for Vincent Ducharme. Ducharme responded by scoring the winner in a 2-0 game two win, then had an assist in game four as Montreal tied the series. The series eventually went to a seventh and deciding game, where Vincent Ducharme was the hero once again, scoring the overtime winner to send the Royale to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kansas City vs Chicago
In perhaps the best matchup of the second round, the defending champion Kansas City Twisters and the Chicago Shamrocks battled through six tight games before squaring off in a game seven showdown in Kansas City. The game remained scoreless through two periods and through most of the third before Jeremy Kitchen scored for Kansas City to give the Twisters the lead. Just seconds later, Martin Vannier tied the game for Chicago to send it to overtime. After an injury to Jason Lind early in OT, Jimmy Otterburn entered the net for Kansas City. Otterburn made 19 saves through two extra periods before Brett Delaney finally ended it for the Twisters, beating Dan Pilford with a wrist shot as Kansas City advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

Minnesota vs Seattle
Despite barely making it out of the first round, the Minnesota Lumberjacks were still favoured to beat the up-and-coming Seattle Grey Wolves in the second round. However the Wolves took advantage of some costly Minnesota penalties and won game one 4-2. That set the tone for the rest of the series, as Seattle also won game two 4-2. Despite barely winning game three, the Lumberjacks never recovered and Seattle advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in eleven seasons.

Third Round

Montreal vs Philadelphia
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Vincent Ducharme and the Royale faced the surging Philadelphia Redshirts. The Redshirts took game one at home, then Montreal tied the series with an overtime win in game two, with Ducharme setting up Sergei Vetrov with a beautiful pass as Vetrov beat Noel for the winner. It would be the last great moment for Ducharme. At the conclusion of game four, the Redshirts had a commanding 3-1 series lead. Believing it could be the last game of Ducharme’s career, the Montreal crowd gave their hero a standing ovation last lasted over 20 minutes while Ducharme saluted the crowd. Back in Philadelphia, the Redshirts finished the job, taking the game 2-0 to advance to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time since 1989. The capacity crowd at the PhillyDome took time to pay tribute to Ducharme, then celebrated the big win. “I think we can do it this time!” said one excited fan. “I can feel it.”

Kansas City vs Seattle

The Kansas City Twisters stood just one hurtle away from an opportunity to defend their title as they faced the Seattle Grey Wolves in the Western Conference Finals. After Kansas City took a 2-0 series lead at home, the Wolves won two home games of their own to tie the series, then stunned the Twisters with a 5-0 win in Kansas City. The Twisters’ confidence was rattled, but Scott Drayton remained confident that his team wasn’t out of it yet. “We just need to get back to playing simple hockey” said Drayton. Facing elimination in game six, the Twisters took the Grey Wolves to overtime, where Darian Ashmore beat Sean Harrington on a breakaway to send the series to game seven. Back home for the deciding game, the Twisters came out flying, taking a 3-0 lead in the first period and eventually winning the game 4-1 to return to the Lewis Cup Finals.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2000-01 Regular Season

Probably the most popular subject for hockey fans to discuss in the year 2000 was the fate of the New Orleans Sound. The struggling franchise was entering its sixth season in Louisiana and having a hard time finding its footing in the market. Rumours abounded that the franchise was headed to either Houston or Ottawa and it didn’t help that the team had failed to reach the post-season since it played in Halifax. As the 2000-01 season began, the team was putting all its hopes on 19-year-old Brad McNair, who had played a key role for Team Canada at the World Hockey Challenge. McNair responded in a big way, scoring thirty goals by Christmas, while veteran Mike Bidden also benefited from playing with McNair, reaching a career high in points.  The Sound looked like a playoff team until disaster struck on January 8, when McNair suffered a broken arm in a game against Carolina. McNair missed two months of action while the Sound went on a 9-game losing streak which ultimately cost them a playoff spot.

In October, 2000, three new arenas opened including one in a new city, as the Nuggets finally moved into their new home in Oakland, while Detroit and Quebec left their storied homes for brand new facilities. For the Nationale, the move coincided with the franchise’s 50th anniversary. The team brought back several legends from their past including Guy Benoit, Ben Williams, and Gilbert Giroux. It would be the only bright spot in a tough season in Quebec, as the Nationale finished last place in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Nationale’s provincial rivals, the Montreal Royale, were forced to play most of the season without their franchise player as Vincent Ducharme missed the season after undergoing knee surgery in the summer. Despite missing their best player, the Royale still managed to win the division thanks to a big effort from young star Zdeno Kadlec and veteran defenseman Jonathan Adams, who led the league in hits and plus/minus. For Adams, the successful year was a statement after the 32-year old was left off Canada’s WHC roster. “It definitely feels good to have a year like this, especially after the disappointment of missing the World tournament” said Adams.

The Eastern Conference belonged to the Philadelphia Redshirts in 2000-01. The Redshirts won the division for the first time since 1989 as Jared Baxter enjoyed a career year, winning the scoring title with 112 points while playing with Brendan Carnes, who had 80 points of his own in a career year. Elsewhere in the East, Miami returned to the playoffs after a big win over the Carolina Raiders in their final game of the regular season, which eliminated the Raiders from the playoffs. In Boston, the Bulldogs endured another rebuilding year, though the Boston fans were treated to a final season with their longtime captain Craig Bush. The 40-year-old Bush played in 48 games for the Bulldogs, including their final games of the season. In his last game in Philadelphia, Bush was given a standing ovation from the Philadelphia crowd, who were normally hostile to any Boston player, especially Bush. “It was a classy move on their part” said Bush. Two nights later, Bush played his final home game in Boston. The crowd gave him a standing ovation that lasted nearly an hour after the game as Bush waved to the crowd. “I am very grateful for the two decades in Boston” said Bush.

In the West, the defending champion Kansas City Twisters were eyeing a repeat. With 110 points, the Twisters were the top team in the league while Scott Drayton took home top defenseman honours, and Brett Delaney led the team with 102 points, fifth in the league. The Twisters trailed Minnesota by just one point heading into their final game against St. Louis. After the Lumberjacks lost to Chicago, the Twisters had an opportunity to seal top spot. The Spirits, long out of the playoff picture and playing spoiler, held a 2-0 lead over Kansas City heading into the third period. Goals from Delaney and Jeremy Kitchen tied the game to send it to overtime, where Taylor Coldwell beat goaltender Travis Pulford to win the game and clinch first place for the Twisters.

In Seattle, the Grey Wolves won the Pacific Division for the first time in eleven years. Though Randy McAllen struggled, Drake Klausen had a big year, while head coach Bruce Dickenson was named coach of the year. For the Grey Wolves, it was the reward for a dark decade for the franchise, as the team had only made the playoffs four times in the 1990s. “It feels great to have success like this again” said longtime captain Jason Radford, who had been with the team for 19 seasons. “For a few years I wondered if we’d be this good again during my career.” In Dallas, the Desperados enjoyed their best season ever, winning 40 games for the first time in franchise history. Young power forward AJ Vernon was the driving force for the Desperados, scoring 43 goals while putting fear in opposing defensemen with his size and speed. Dallas also made a trade in late November that would set off a historic few weeks for one player. Elliot “U-Haul” Andrews was already playing for his sixth PHL team when the Desperados dealt him to the Cleveland Cosmos on November 27. After Andrews played just nine games for the Cosmos, he was then dealt to the Vancouver Bighorns on December 17. Andrews not only now had the record for most teams played for in PHL history, he also set the mark for most teams played for in a single season. “It’s not exactly what you expect going into the year but I like Vancouver and hopefully I can stick around for a while” said Andrews.

Vancouver acquired Andrews in an attempt to return to the playoffs and by the end of the regular season, the Bighorns sat just two points out of the final spot in the West, which was held by Milwaukee Choppers. If Vancouver tied Milwaukee, they would get the final spot as they had swept the season series with the Choppers. On the last day of the season, Milwaukee faced Winnipeg, while Vancouver faced Oakland. The Bighorns trailed the Nuggets with only 29 seconds to go when Sergei Zolotov tied the game, sending it to overtime. Early in the overtime, Trevor Kerwick blasted a point shot past Bradley Pope to give the Bighorns the win and forcing Milwaukee to beat the Pioneers if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive. Milwaukee and Winnipeg also went into overtime where Dan Crow broke the Choppers’ hearts with a big goal near the end of the extra frame. The Bighorns celebrated in the locker room as they were headed back to the post-season to face the powerful Twisters in the first round.

The hockey world received some shocking news on March 20, 2001. It started with good news when Vincent Ducharme began skating again. He then stated that he would return in time for the playoffs, followed by the stunning announcement that he would retire after playoffs were over. Plagued by knee problems, Ducharme stated that he wanted to maintain his health for the sake of his family while he was still young. “This is a very difficult decision to make but I think it’s the right one” said Ducharme. “I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the career I’ve had and I look forward to giving it one last shot in the playoffs.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2000 World Hockey Challenge

After over a decade of instability in Europe, the World Hockey Challenge saw all the nations from the previous tournament return fully intact for the first time since 1988. That 1988 tournament had also been the last time Team Canada had come away with the Challenge Cup thanks to heroics from a 20-year-old kid named Vincent Ducharme. Twelve years and three Lewis Cups later, Ducharme was now among the greatest players in PHL history and had been named the captain of the Canadian team in the summer of 1999. Unfortunately, knee problems had sidelined Ducharme and he had announced just prior to the tournament that he would be unable to play. Filling Ducharme’s massive skates as the Canadian captain would be 22-year-old budding star Jared Baxter of the Philadelphia Redshirts. Baxter would lead a young team all around whose key players would include 22-year-old Joe Murdock, 24-year-old Randy McAllen, and 19-year-old Brad McNair. Aaron Duplacy and Adam Lawless would be the only remaining players from that 1988 team.

Despite the loss of Ducharme, Canada seemed to roll over the competition during the round robin, going undefeated with their biggest victory a 14-1 thumping of Germany with both Murdock and Jeremy Sutton scoring hat-tricks. Their toughest game had been against Sweden, on the final day of round-robin play, when they were forced to come back twice from a two-goal deficit before Baxter won the game with only 19 seconds left. It would be Sweden’s only loss in a tournament where they had brought the strongest team they ever had, full of PHL talent led by LA’ Viktor Skogg, Miami’s Jonas Andersson and Quebec’s Anders Hendriksson.

In Group A, Both the Americans and the Russians entered the tournament with high expectations. Team USA boasted a strong mix of veterans and youth, led by defensemen Kevin Hoyle and Scott Drayton, and forwards Jason Crowley, Kyle Boone, and Scott Rose. Meanwhile, the Russians welcomed legend Vladimir Gaganov back from retirement in addition to a strong squad featuring PHL superstars such as Igor Kharitonov, Igor Zharkov, and Sergei Gulinov. In Russia’s opening game against Finland, the Chicago crowd gave Gaganov a standing ovation before the 40-year-old became the oldest player in tournament history to score a hat-trick in a 6-2 Russian win. The Russians and Americans were slated to meet on the last day of the round-robin in a rematch of the 1996 final, a game many felt would decide first place. After the Russians cruised through their first three games, the Americans shockingly had to settle for a tie against the Czech Republic. Team USA now needed a win in the final game to take top spot, while the Russians needed only a tie. The game would be close, with the teams deadlocked at 2-2 through two periods. Early in the third, a point shot from Randy Fernandez gave the Americans the lead, but it was followed seconds later by a Zharkov goal to tie the game. Needing a win, the Americans pulled goaltender Matt Darwin in the final seconds of the game. Team USA made a push for the winner, but Andrei Alexeev sealed the win for Russia with an empty net goal as the Russians took first place.

It was expected that Russia’s reward for their first place finish would be a date with Finland in the Quaterfinals. The Fins entered their final game against Great Britain without a win, but confident going up against a British squad featuring only a handful of PHL players. Despite their lack of big names, however, the Brits were a confident team as well. “I think we’ll surprise some people here” said captain Bruce Evans, a PHL star with the Long Island Concordes. The British team certainly did surprise everyone, beginning with a tie against the Czechs. Facing a struggling Finnish team, the British held the Fins to a 2-1 lead through the third period, before pulling goaltender Brayden Thomas in an attempt to tie the game. With only six seconds left, winger Jesse Wallace beat goaltender Antti Paavola to tie the game. The time ran out and the British players piled off the bench and celebrated. The tie meant that Great Britain would advance to the medal round, while Finland would be going home. “Probably the biggest upset in hockey history without anyone actually winning or losing” said one analyst after the game.

The British team would continue their impressive tenacity in the quarterfinal against their Commonwealth rivals, Team Canada. The Canadians were largely expected to roll over the British, so naturally it was a shock when Britain scored the opening goal, while Brayden Thomas was spectacular in net. By the third period, the teams were tied 2-2. Both Thomas and Jake Borman continued to shut the door through the third period. Finally, with just four minutes left, Winnipeg Pioneers captain Dan Crow proved to be the hero, beating Thomas for the winner to send Canada to the semifinal against Sweden, who had defeated the Czechs 6-3.

In the Semifinals, the Russians and Americans faced off again in what was quickly becoming the biggest rivalry in international hockey. Team USA was coming off a 4-1 victory over Slovakia in the quarters, while the Russians had just routed Germany 7-2. The Americans came out hitting early on and the physical pressure seemed to work, as Scott Rose opened the scoring midway through the first period. The Americans held the lead well through the second period as elite defensemen Scott Drayton, Randy Fernandez, and Kevin Hoyle allowed minimal Russian pressure on Matt Darwin. Halfway through the third, Russia began to turn things around. Alexei Stepanov of the Cleveland Cosmos suddenly tied the game. Seconds later, Stepanov’s Cleveland teammate, Sergei Gulinov put Russia ahead 2-1. The Americans were suddenly on their heels, trying desperately to tie a game they had led for over 50 minutes. Despite some decent chances in the final minutes, they would fall short, as Ilya Severov of the Long Island Concordes clinched the victory for the Russians with an empty-net goal. Team Russia would have the opportunity to defend their title against Canada, who had beaten Sweden earlier that afternoon.

Throughout the history of the World Hockey Challenge, no other rivalry matched Canada vs Russia. While the Russia/USA rivalry had heated up considerably over the course of the 2000 tournament, the Russians still came to Chicago primarily prepared to face the Canadians, while the heartbreaking semifinal loss to the Russians in 1996 still weighed heavily across Canada.

On the day of the championship game, the maple leaf was a common sight as the Garfield Center was packed with fans who had made the trip from all over Canada. Up north, living rooms, bars, and even some movie theaters were packed with excited fans across the country. The game itself was a tight contest, remaining scoreless until the third period while nervous fans across both countries held their breath. Jake Borman and Alexei Rolonov were both spectacular in net as both teams had several scoring chances. It was the Russians who finally opened the scoring, with 1996 tournament MVP Igor Zharkov beating Borman with a hard wrist shot. With nine minutes left in the game, Canada needed a big goal. Joe Murdock nearly tied the game on a breakaway with three minutes left, but Rolonov stopped him. The clock wound down to just 57 seconds left when the Canadians finally pulled Borman in an attempt to tie it. After Rolonov turned away chance after chance, Milwaukee Choppers captain Brent Zahorsky banged in a rebound to tie the game with just 8 seconds left. The roar in Canada could be heard from Victoria to St. John’s. Team Canada was still alive. Overtime solved nothing so for the first time in WHC history, the title game would go to a shootout.

As the home team, Russia elected to shoot last. Zahorsky and Brett Delaney both failed to score, as did Andrei Alexeev and Igor Kharitonov for the Russians. After Brad McNair hit the post, Igor Zharkov finally broke the deadlock, pressuring Jared Baxter to respond. Baxter deked Rolonov and put the puck top corner and the shootout was tied once again. Alexei Stepanov would shoot fourth for Russia. Stepanov went in fast and snapped the puck past Borman to restore Russia’s lead. Canada’s hope of survival fell on the stick of Joe Murdock, who attempted to deke Rolonov. Rolonov stuck out his left leg and got just enough of the puck that it deflected over the net. The Russian players poured over the bench and mobbed their goaltender, who took home MVP honours, while the devastated Canadians consoled eachother. The loss only capped off a decade full of heartbreak in which the country had lost two beloved PHL franchises, and now three straight World Hockey Challenges. Meanwhile, Russia had become the only team besides Canada to win multiple World Hockey Challenges and to win two back-to-back. Vladimir Gaganov confirmed that this was the extent of his comeback, he would not return to the PHL. But with young superstars like Igor Zharkov and Sergei Gulinov leading the way, Russia had now clearly taken over as the leading country in the hockey world.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2000 Off-Season

2000 Entry Draft

After the European “invasion” of the 90s, the 2000 draft was dominated by North American players. The Northern Lights held the first pick, selecting Red Deer, AB native Brett Reed, who grew up cheering or the Northern Lights. “I’m so excited right now” said Reed, a tough winger with scoring touch. “My dream was to play for this team.” The New Orleans Sound added another piece to the defence, selecting talented and smooth-skating defenseman Ricky Wolfe second overall, while Denver selected the first European player, speedy Russian Alexei Suvorov at number three.  Long Island, already developing into a big, hard-hitting team, took another big winger in Justin Pratt. Pratt, a native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, was the first American to lead the Canadian Junior Hockey Association in scoring, also leading the Prairie league in penalty minutes. Trent Cameron was the highest goaltender selected, going to Calgary at number six, while Vancouver took Ricky Wolfe’s twin brother, Devan, at number ten. Chicago made things interesting when they traded young defenseman Bryan Briggs to Miami  the 11th pick to select Jonathan Wheatley, who had captained the Prarrie Hockey League’s Lethbridge Tornadoes to a National championship. “You don’t often see an 18-year-old with the leadership skills that Jonathan has” said Shamrocks new GM Mark Raines. “We simply couldn’t pass him up.”

1.      Edmonton – Brett Reed, F, CAN
2.      New Orleans – Ricky Wolfe, D, CAN
3.      Denver – Alexei Suvorov, F, RUS
4.      Long Island – Justin Pratt, F, USA
5.      St. Louis – Kevin Gilmore, F, USA
6.      Calgary – Trent Cameron, G, CAN
7.      Quebec – Marcel Boivre, D, CAN
8.      Boston – Travis Tearney, D, CAN
9.      Winnipeg – Teemu Niskanen, F, FIN
10.   Vancouver – Devan Wolfe, F, CAN
11.   Chicago (From Miami) – Jonathan Wheatley, F, CAN
12.   Cleveland – Hendrik Soderstrum, D, SWE
13.   Oakland – Jordan Rifken, D, USA
14.   Milwaukee – Adam Wyrzykowski, F, CAN
15.   Dallas – Dan Smoulders, D, USA
16.   Carolina – Evgeni Babkin, D, RUS
17.   Detroit – Brad Rich, D, USA
18.   Pittsburgh - Mikael Edstrom, F, SWE
19.   Seattle – Nick Spears, D, USA
20.   Philadelphia – Reid Kraft, F, CAN
21.   Toronto – Theo Galvin, F, CAN
22.   Montreal – Jayson Strickland, D, CAN
23.   Kansas City – Matt Wilhelm, F, USA
24.   Los Angeles – Matt Mosley, D, CAN
25.   New York – Devon Darcy, F, CAN
26.   Washington – Kyle Logan, D, CAN
27.   Minnesota – Joni Kita, D, FIN
28.   Chicago – Ryan Sturm, D, USA

Phenom Alert
PHL scouts are already drooling over a 15-year-old from Saskatchewan named Kris Nazarenko. Nazarenko is just entering junior hockey this season and won’t be eligible for the PHL draft until 2002. He scored 133 goals in bantam hockey back in 1998-99, and many wondered if he could keep it up playing for the Canadian Development team at 15. Playing for the national team in 1999-00, Nazarenko led his team in scoring with 76 goals despite being as much as three years younger than most of the other players. Nazarenko is a big center with great hands that many PHL teams would love to have on their top line.

Notable Retirements:

Don Saleski, Head Coach/GM, CHI, 1969-2000
After a long and successful playing career in Chicago, Don Saleski was then hired to run the team in 1969. What followed was perhaps the greatest management career in PHL history. Saleski guided the Shamrocks to Lewis Cup championships in 1983 and 1994, and also played a big role in helping legend Vladimir Gaganov defect from the Soviet Union and become a star in the league. But Saleski’s most impressive achievement took his entire career to accomplish. During his 31-year tenure, the Shamrocks never missed the playoffs, and were almost always in contention. It is the longest playoff streak in the history of the four major team sports.

Stuart Burns, F, LI, TOR, 1979-2000
Drafted by Long Island just three years after the franchise started, Stuart Burns became the first true franchise player in its history. After a rocky start with troubled head coach George Allen, Burns flourished under Cam Norton, leading the Concordes to the Lewis Cup finals in 1984, 1987, and 1990, where they finally won their first championship. In 1996, Burns left Long Island for his hometown Toronto, where he played the final four years of his career with the Racers.

Dave Mack, F, NS, KC, 1980-2000
Growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Dave Mack dreamed of playing for the hometown Claymores. In 1980, that dream was finally realized when the Claymores selected him second overall. Playing with his childhood idol, Russell Buchannan, Mack soon became one of the most popular players one the team, eventually becoming captain. In 1995, the Claymores were forced to relocate to New Orleans, at which point Mack, a free agent, signed with the Kansas City Twisters. After twenty seasons, Mack finally raised the Lewis Cup for the first and only time in his career with the Twisters.

Jaroslav Danek, G, STL, MIL, 1983-2000
After defecting from Czechoslovakia, Jaroslav Danek came aboard the St. Louis dynasty after a trade with the Nuggets in 1983. Danek backstopped the Spirits to four Lewis Cups between 1984 and 1991 before leaving for Milwaukee in 1994, where he would ultimately finish his career.

Jean-Claude Girard, QUE, MTL, KC, 1978-2000
Montreal native JC Girard made his debut with the Quebec Nationale in 1978, playing eleven years there before signing with his hometown Royale in 1989. Girard won three Lewis Cups with Montreal during the 1990s before signing with Kansas City, where he won his fourth and final title with the Twisters in 2000.

Notable Trades

Chicago trades D Bryan Briggs to Miami in exchange for 1st round draft pick.
The Briggs brothers become teammates in Miami as Bryan joins his older brother Wade on the Stingrays’ blueline, meanwhile, the Shamrocks trade up in the draft and use the pick to select promising junior player Jonathan Wheatley.

Kansas City trades F Josh McKenzie to New Orleans in exchange for F Mike Singer.
Needing a veteran to replace Dave Mack, the Twisters send prospect McKenzie to the Sound for disgruntled veteran Singer.

Key Free Agents


Sergei Gulinov signs new 12-year deal with Cleveland worth $12 Million/year.
Dominik Musil signs new 6-year deal with Calgary worth $9 Million/year.
Zdeno Kadlec signs new 8-year deal with Montreal worth $ 8 Million/year.
Peter Lundholm signs new 10-year deal with Milwaukee worth $8 Million/year.
Andrei Yegorov signs new 7-year deal with Vancouver worth $6 Million/year.
Olli Heikkinen signs new 6-year deal with Seattle worth $7 Million/year.
Kyle Clark signs new 7-year deal with Dallas worth $7 Million/year.


Jason Luna (BOS) signs five-year deal with Toronto worth $5 Million/year.
The biggest signing of an otherwise quiet summer sees the Racers snag another superstar in Luna.

Jarkko Turunen (LA) signs 4-year deal with New Orleans worth $3 Million/year.
The Sound now have a veteran who can set up scoring star Brad McNair.

Cedric Thibault (VAN) signs 4-year deal with Chicago worth $3 Million/year.
Following one of his biggest offensive years in which he scored 28 goals, the tough 34-year-old winger hopes to pursue his first championship in Chicago.

Elliot Andrews (KC) signs 3-year deal with Dallas worth $2.5 Million/year.
Andrews joins his sixth PHL team as the Desperados strengthen their defense.

Craig Bush (SEA) signs 1-year deal with Boston worth $2 Million/year.
One of the most popular Bulldogs of all time, Bush returns after three years in Seattle at age 40 to finish his career in Boston.

Ted McDougall (CHI) signs 3-year deal with Los Angeles worth $1.5 Million/year.
The Wizards become one of hockey’s toughest teams, adding McDougall to lineup already featuring bruisers Kay Swafford, Owen Betts, and Marshall Jackson.


One of the most exciting stories during the summer of 2000 actually came out of Russia, where legend and future hall of famer Vladimir Gaganov announced he would be coming out of retirement to play for his home country in the 2000 World Hockey Challenge. It would be Gaganov’s third time playing in the tournament, he played for Russia in 1996 and for the Soviet Union in the inaugural tournament in 1976. Gaganov also addressed speculations about a PHL return, saying it is extremely unlikely. Meanwhile, Gaganov’s former team, the Chicago Shamrocks introduced their new staff in the wake of Don Saleski’s retirement. The Shamrocks decided to promote from within, as they had done with Saleski 31 years ago, hiring former assistant coach Brian Cullen as the new head coach and former head scout Mark Raines as the new GM. Cullen has been with the Shamrocks as an assistant since 1995, while Raines was in charge of scouting since 1989. “We’ve both been around this organization for a few years and we both learned from the best” said Raines. “I think it’s important that we carry one the rich tradition of this franchise.”

As the summer went on, more news came out regarding the PHL’s two newest franchises. In June, both clubs announced their names, the Portland Cascades and the Atlanta Copperheads. Neither team would unveil a logo but Portland did confirm their team colors would be navy and silver. Both teams will begin play in the fall of 2001.

After another poor season for the New Orleans Sound, there was widespread speculation that the franchise would leave New Orleans. In July, team owner Sam Bendt issued a statement that the Sound would not be going anywhere. “We’ve just added a new section of boxes to our arena and we’re looking to improve things on the ice as well” said Bendt. “We’re not ready to throw in the towel just yet.” On July 19, the Sound announced the hiring of former Denver Bulls Coach Grant Dunlop as their new General Manager. Dunlop promised to turn things around for the team on the ice, with the intention of building the franchise around Brad McNair, the 19-year-old center from Corner Brook, Newfoundland who had already helped draw fans to the Jewel Center in his rookie season with his natural scoring ability. The Sound’s acquisition of Jarkko Turunen from LA gave New Orleans a veteran playmaker to feed McNair. “I think if nothing else, we will be more exciting to watch this year” said Dunlop.

Despite the optimism within the Sound organization, the hockey world continued to prepare for another possible relocation. Houston billionaire Bernie Cratt, who had just barely lost the expansion vote, expressed interest in purchasing the Sound, as did an investors group from Ottawa led by young software tycoon Craig Boulton. Ground was finally broken in the spring of 2000 for a new 18,000-seat arena just a few miles from downtown Ottawa.

The Montreal Royale and Team Canada both received devastating news as the summer wound down. Vincent Durcharme continued to have problems with his knee at Canada’s evaluation camp just prior to the World Hockey Challenge. On only the second day of the camp, Ducharme left, announcing he would miss the tournament. After Ducharme underwent knee surgery on August 20, Royale team doctors announced he would be out of the Montreal lineup until at least Christmas. Ducharme has had a history of knee problems, the most recent injuring occurring during the 2000 playoffs when he received a devastating hit from Philadelphia’s Alex Leblanc. “With or without Vince, our goals remain the same” said Royale head coach Todd Beirness. “Our other guys know they’ll have to step up, we’ll be ready.” Veteran defenseman Jonathan Adams will serve as Montreal’s captain in Duchamre’s absence.

The hockey world was hit with sad news just as training camps opened in September, 2000. Bobby Sorel, arguably the greatest goaltender in PHL history, passed away at his summer home in Montreal after a two-year battle with cancer. Sorel played 20 years in the league from 1966 to 1986, mostly with Minnesota, backstopping the Lumberjacks to two Lewis Cups in the 1970s but also spent time with Chicago and Long Island. Sorel is perhaps best known for making what became known as “The Save” in the final moments of the 1980 World Hockey Challenge to give Canada the title. Sorel passed away at the age of 52.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Oakland Nuggets Unveil New Look

On June 27, 2000, the newly relocated Oakland Nuggets unveiled their new look for the 2000-01 season. The new logo features a pick axe breaking through a gold nugget in the team's new color scheme of Navy, Steel Blue, and Gold. The uniforms have a very traditional look compared to the previous ones, featuring a laced collar. "We really wanted to go for a dynamic look" said team president and co-owner Bill Pyke. "The jerseys are more conservative in order to give our new logo more visibility." Team captain Kevin Hoyle, a member of the team since the red, blue and yellow days, offered his opinion as well. "I like them, I just hope we can win some hockey games in them." The Nuggets will open their inaugural season at the new Allico Center on October 10, 2000.

In addition to the Nuggets' new look, three other teams made minor changes to their uniforms. The Miami Stingrays retired their teal road uniforms, promoting the popular black third jerseys to full-time road use, while the Winnipeg Pioneers and Carolina Raiders both unveiled alternate uniforms.