John Chidley A blog about reading, writing, pop culture and sports.


My latest for – Like his personality, Burns leaves large legacy

I'm particularly proud of my work last weekend for I wrote a brief piece on Pat Burns' impact on the National Hockey League's Northeast Division and my hockey fandom. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Like his personality, Burns leaves large legacy
A former policeman, Burns looked the part behind the bench with his thick moustache, but didn’t act like any cop that would visit my elementary school or volunteer with my Cub Pack. He was always yelling, screaming or trying to get at the other team’s bench. My parents had to awkwardly explain what he’d just said to the referees that had gotten him in so much trouble. (Although I had no problem understanding the idea of sending him to the locker room as punishment.)

He was easily my favorite of the Leafs. As news of Burns’ death spread Friday night, it quickly became clear I wasn’t the only one.


Top 10 ideas the National Hockey League should institute

With the National Hockey League’s 30 general managers currently meeting in downtown Toronto to discuss changes to rules and policy, I figured I’d take the opportunity to chime in with my two cents. Times 10. My 20 cents, if you will.

Lengthen overtime
Extending overtime is already on the table as the GM’s try to cut down on the number of shootouts, but I wanted to voice my support for this idea.

Right now, the extra period is just five minutes of 4-on-4 followed by the shootout. OT is the tensest period of play in any hockey game with each penalty, missed pass or deflected shot putting the game on the line.

There’s been a lot of talk of having five minutes of 4-on-4 and then five of 3-on-3. The former doesn’t really strike me as too interesting - I don’t see why they couldn’t just do 10 minutes of 4-on-4, or, what the hell, a full 20 minutes of 4-on-4 followed by the shootout.

It’ll still cut down on the number of shootouts and will create more tension and therefore more excitement. Fans tend to enjoy excitement.

Get rid of archaic blackout rules
As I’ve mentioned before, my fiancée Katy and I are a mixed couple – I’m a Leafs fan and she supports the Oilers.

It makes for the occasional tense moment, but what really aggravates things is that we can only watch the Leafs and rarely the Oilers thanks to the NHL’s ridiculous TV blackout rules.  This regulation prevents anyone with a standard cable package from watching an out-of-market hockey game.

In other words, although Sportsnet West was carrying the Edmonton-Carolina game last night, we could only watch the Toronto-Tampa Bay match or the Washington Capitals-New York Rangers game. I understand the original reasoning behind this rule was to keep fans interested in their hometown markets.

However, this hurts the NHL more than it helps. If a fan in Minnesota wants to cheer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, then so be it. Associating yourself with frustrating rules that limit your fans ability to watch your product is never a good idea. Dropping this ridiculous regulation would also tie in with…

Embracing fantasy hockey
I think we can all agree that the National Football League is the best run professional sports league in North America and arguably the world. So why not tear a page out of their playbook and embrace fantasy sports?

In addition to showing the scores from games, the NFL runs tickers of the top five stat lines from each position during their Sunday broadcasts. That running update on the individual success of its players is aimed straight at fantasy football managers eager to see how their personal team is doing.

The NHL should do likewise: run a ticker with the statistics of the top five forwards, defenders and goalies each and every broadcast night.

Clamping down on vague “lower body injury” reports would be a good idea as well. Force the teams to reveal more details about their hurting players for the benefit of fantasy hockey managers. Anything to make fantasy hockey more accessible and enjoyable.

Show where shots are coming from and going
This has long been a bugbear of mine. During games broadcasters will happily tell you how many shots a goalie has faced. That’s all well and good, but not all shots were created equal. A shot from the slot is a lot more dangerous than one from the blue line.

Hockey broadcasts should show where on the ice players are shooting from and where they’re going on net. The technology is already there – Major League Baseball can track the trajectory of pitches and the National Basketball Association regularly shows where players shoot from on the court.

Both concepts should be applied to hockey. It would really help viewers understand the underlying strategies and tactics within a game as patterns begin to emerge in shot selection and location.

Is the defence successfully pushing forwards to the outside? Are they giving up a lot of breakaways? Is the power play unit feeding to the rearguard for big shots, or working it down low? Are shooters trying to pick top corners, or shooting along the ice for big rebounds? It would really add more depth and understanding for the average viewer.

No touch icing

No touch icing is an easy - and obvious - way to avoid scenes like this.

The favourite hockey cause of the CBC’s Don Cherry, no touch icing is an idea that is long past due. With increasing concerns about head shots and concussions, why is the NHL persisting in having a rule that routinely has two players racing the full length of the ice toward unforgiving boards? Just take it out of the game already!

Crossover playoffs
The NHL has a lengthy and rich history, particularly amongst its storied Original Six franchises.

Unfortunately, thanks to their current playoff system, many of the oldest rivalries in the game will never be put on the league’s biggest stage: the Stanley Cup final.

 The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, the biggest and best feud in all of hockey will never play with the NHL championship at stake again. Neither will the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings or the Habs and Boston Bruins.

My solution is actually an old idea: have the top 16 teams in the league in one playoff pool. President’s Trophy winner will take in the 16th seed, the other conference champion will take on No. 15, and so on. It’s how the playoffs were structured in the 1970s and 80s, and it’ll work again today.

Get back in touch with the history of the game
Other than the MLB, there is no major North American sport that has as rich a history as the NHL. Unfortunately, commissioner Gary Bettman clearly sees this as a weakness and tries to cover up or even undo a lot of the league’s historical underpinnings.

This is a mistake.

By shying away from that history it makes the NHL seem like a new, fly-by-night operation, particularly when franchises are being parachuted into Sunbelt markets that are unfamiliar with the game.

The NHL should embrace its past with throwback jerseys, prominent marketing of its namesake trophies (like the Lady Byng) and make sure to compare today’s stars with some of the legends of hockey. History and tradition are strengths, not weaknesses.

No more two-piece sticks
Look, I’m all for innovation. I’m not some Luddite who poo-poos every new idea. But let’s get real: two-piece hockey sticks break a lot more than good ol’ fashion wooden sticks.

Not only is this dangerous to players, linesmen and potentially fans, but it slows down the game as the remnants of that $200 fibre composite is cleared off the ice. If an all-wooden stick was good enough for Al MacInnis’ record holding slap shot, it’s good enough now.

Reinvest in amateur hockey
I don’t actually think that the Sun Belt expansion was that bad an idea. New markets and new fans really can work. It just wasn’t done right.

The NHL should take the time to invest in amateur hockey at the grassroots level because those are the fans – and players – of the future.

Amateur hockey would help educate parents and kids about the sport and create an instant niche market of coaches taking their teams to games.

When moving in to Phoenix, Miami or Atlanta the league should have set up minor hockey systems to introduce those cities to the sport. Obviously, that ship has sailed, but it might help with some damage control if they got local kids involved in the game.

Send NHLers to the 2014 Sochi Olympics
This was, of course, a hot-button debate at the World Hockey Summit this summer, but it’s worth mentioning again.

Bettman and co. must let NHLers play in the Olympics, and they should make that announcement sooner rather than later.

Why? Because although the Stanley Cup and the Winter Classic do a great job of raising hockey’s profile, nothing does a better job of exposing the sport to the masses like the Olympics. Nothing.

This year’s men’s hockey final between the United States and Canada was the most watched hockey game, ever. It drew 44.2 million viewers across North America and was the main event of the two week sporting event.

The NHL would be foolish to give up that kind of mainstream media attention. Bettman should make the announcement soon as well and what better place than this year’s newly reformatted All-Star Game?

What do you think? What ideas do you have for the NHL GMs? Post them in the comment section below.


Taking Care of Business

It has been three weeks to the day since I last posted on here, and for that, I am sorry.

It just couldn't be helped though - I’ve been very busy with my continuing work at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. The good news is that most of my work is now done, and the final stage should be completed in about mid-July.

My work hasn’t been limited to freelancing for the Hall of Fame though. I’ve been spending the summer doing pagination for the Canadian Press, as well as a few side projects.

The first of these projects was for my friend Victor Bachmann, a professional mixed martial artist based in Edmonton.  I had interviewed him years ago for a Canadian fighting magazine. Unfortunately, they never had the space for the article and its references quickly became dated.

In addition to his prizefights, Victor is a teacher at the Hayabusa Fighting Training Centre, and he needed a profile for the gym’s website. Remembering the story I’d written about him, Victor asked me to re-write it for him.

I’ve never had to re-write an article so dramatically before, but I think I really sharpened this piece up.

My other project was for, a website that covers the National Hockey League.

Their editor, J.P. Hoornstra, asked me to do a preview of the Northeast Division’s draft possibilities and I happily complied.

It was a lot of fun looking at the different needs and draft picks of the hockey teams I am most familiar with: the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres, the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The next few weeks are all laid out for me - I’ll be doing a preview of the free agent prospects of the Northeast Division teams for and completing my work with Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Fortunately, I’ll also have more time to do blog posts.


Knowledge bomb – Canadian Sports History

Cliff Thorburn

Snooker player Cliff Thorburn at work.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, my I’ve been very busy doing some freelance work for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. The past two weeks have been spent researching and selecting the top two or three defining moments in the lives of 96 honoured members of the Hall.

Along the way I’ve learned a lot of quirky and interesting facts about some of Canada’s greatest athletes.

Snooker master Cliff Thorburn was the first person in world championship history to record a perfect break of 147.

For those of you who’ve never played snooker: a perfect score of 147 means that he sank every cherry ball on the table and was able to follow up with the black ball (the most valuable of the coloured balls) every time. Further, he did it without his opponent ever sinking a single ball. It’s an incredible feat of strategy, foresight and skill at any level, let alone in a world championship.

Unfortunately, Thorburn went on to lose the final match of the tournament to Steve Davis, but that doesn’t diminish his accomplishment in the first round against Terry Griffiths.

Famed strongman Louis Cyr’s records are hard to verify since few were recorded and most were hyped and exaggerated by promoters. However, he definitely set a record in 1895 by lifting 4,337 pounds on his back. As impressive as that is, the story that struck me was that at the age of 18 Cyr won a strongman competition in Boston by lifting a horse off the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, no horse weighs as much as 4,337 pounds, but they do, you know, move around and squirm. Particularly if they’re uncomfortable, like if someone was picking them up off the ground. Trying to lift something as heavy as a horse while it is moving is way more impressive than a dead lift, no matter the disparity in weight.

Finally, as many hockey fans know, Henri Richard holds the record for most Stanley Cup wins as a player. His 11 championship rings is a mark that may never be passed with the salary cap-era of the National Hockey League in full effect.

What most people don’t know is that at the time of Richard’s retirement he had won more Stanley Cups than he had had birthdays. Since he was born on February 29th, 1936 – a leap year – he had only celebrated his actual birthday nine times before his retirement during the 1974-75 season.

Anyway, thought I’d just drop some knowledge. I should have time to do some more posting as the week continues.


My latest work – Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Lionel Conacher

Lionel Conacher was Canada's Athlete of the Half-Century in 1950. He excelled in football, hockey, baseball, lacrosse, boxing, wrestling and many other sports.

As I mentioned about three weeks ago, I’ve been doing some freelance work for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The Hall is moving from its current home at the Canadian National Exhibition fairgrounds in Toronto to a new building at Calgary’s Olympic Park. The move itself is a long and protracted story - detailed in the final four paragraphs of this history – but it’s suffice to say that a permanent building is long overdue.

My job is to research and write the content of displays that will be installed in the galleries of the new Hall of Fame. Specifically, I am working on entries for timelines that will be incorporated into the entrance of each gallery. These chronologies will highlight the greatest moments in the history of Canadian sport.

For example, when I was trying out for this job I worked on moments for Lionel ConacherAngela James and Jacques Plante.

Conacher’s storied career had many incredible moments but I chose to focus on June 1922. In a single day he drove in the winning runs to lead the Toronto Hillcrests to the city’s baseball championship and then he took a cab to Scarborough where he led his lacrosse team to the Ontario senior championship.

With James I focused on the period of March 19-25, 1990 when she scored 11 goals and two assists in just five games as Team Canada swept through the first-ever Women’s World Championship of Hockey.

Of course, Plante’s tale revolved around the night of November 22nd 1959 when the Montreal Canadiens were playing the New York Rangers and the all-star goaltender’s nose was broken by a shot. After that he began wearing a mask, the first National Hockey League goalie to regularly wear one.

I even added a little bit about Andy Bathgate – the man whose shot broke Plante’s nose – and that the Rangers forward had intended to hit the goalie in the face with the puck.

Now I’ve got to do another 50 moments and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m still in the planning process of picking which athletes I want to do for this phase of the project but I am thrilled that I’ve been chosen to work with Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The intersection of sports and Canadian history is like a perfect Venn diagram of my interests and I am honoured to be playing a role – no matter how small it may be - in the creation of a new monument to the great athletes of this nation


What’s the French for “I was wrong”?

Every morning I try to come up with a new idea to blog about. Sometimes I’ve already been turning an idea over in my head for a day or two, other times I have to spend hours scouring websites and watching various sports channels to try to come up with a good idea.

The challenge is coming up with an original angle, something to give my readers that is new and different. Often this means avoiding topics that the mainstream media is all over.

But how can I avoid talking about the Montreal Canadiens' incredible 2-1 Game Seven victory over the Washington Capitals last night?

I’m glad that I didn’t commit any kind of National Hockey League post-season because I would have never picked the Habs to better the Capitals. In fact, if anything, I would’ve picked top-seeded Washington to sweep Montreal right out of the playoffs.

I had figured that although the combination of Jose Theodore and Semyon Varlamov has been a shaky goalie-by-committee for the Caps all season, they were no worse than the netminder hydra of Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak.

Surely, Montreal’s pop-gun offence would’ve been no match for the Washington juggernaut. The Canadiens had no corresponding Mike Green. No Nicklas Backstrom or Alexander Semin. And Alex Ovechkin? He was several tiers above any forward the Habs have on their payroll.

Heck, months ago I claimed that general manager Bob Gainey’s sudden departure from the Habs would prove to be a distraction for the seemingly playoff-bound franchise.

Well, I’m not too proud to admit that I was wrong on all counts.

Halak, of course, was money for Montreal in the final games of the series. He stopped just about everything that came his way and stymied the league’s best offence.

Speaking of stopping shots – Hal Gill, Josh Gorges and especially Jaroslav Spacek put their bodies on the line shift after shift, cutting down passing lanes and blocking half of Washington’s chances.

All that defensive effort created tons of opportunities for Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. Although all three are often maligned for being relatively short (Gionta is the shortest at 5’7”) they stood tall for the Canadiens and provided a crucial spark for the Habs.

Now Montreal is taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins, the defending Stanley Cup champions, and again they’re big underdogs. I want to count them out again, say that there’s no way that their sound defensive system can create back-to-back upset.

But hey, I’ve been wrong before.


The Case for Pat Burns’ early induction into the Hall of Fame

A week ago I tweeted about the movement to have Pat Burns inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I had wanted to expand on that 140-character missive, but the Easter holidays got in the way. However, now I’ve got the chance.

As TSN later reported, the Facebook group Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame - NOW! has the support of tens of thousands of hockey fans - over 49,000 as I write this – to put the former National Hockey League coach into the Hall of Fame before he succumbs to terminal cancer.

Other media outlets have picked up on the page, including Hockey Night in Canada, Coast to Coast with Don Cherry, the Montreal Gazette, the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star and several radio stations.

Burns has a wealth of accomplishments that should earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

In his 14 straight seasons as a head coach he won 501 games with four teams, making it to the playoffs 11 times, the final twice and winning the Stanley Cup once.

To put that in a historical perspective, Burns is 11th in NHL history for number of games coached, nine behind Brian Sutter.

Burns is also 11th on the list for coaching wins, just one behind Hall of Fame member Glen Sather.

Even his losses stack up well, with Burns dropping 353 decisions in regulation and 14 in overtime (OTL was only counted in his last four seasons). That’s significantly less than Jacques Demers (468) and Brian Sutter (437), both of whom also coached for 14 years.

Granted, Burns doesn’t come anywhere close to the top 10 in terms of Stanley Cup wins, but he does at least have that one Stanley Cup ring from the 2002-03 New Jersey Devil’s championship, which is better than many other members of the Hall of Fame.

One could speculate that had it not been for Burns’ premature retirement, he’d have moved even further up these lists. Certainly, he could have moved up on the lists for games coached, and presumably climbed further up in terms of wins.

However, the Hall of Fame shouldn’t rely upon conjecture or presumptions. The man’s record speaks for itself. Even within the constraints of his shortened career he put together an exceptional coaching record.

The only question is whether or not Burns will be alive by the time he is inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Burns was present at the groundbreaking ceremony of a hockey arena that will be named in his honour two weeks ago. During the press conference, Burns was not optimistic about his chances of seeing the rink completed.

"I probably won't see the project to the end," said Burns. "But let's hope I'm looking down on it and see a young Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux."

Normally, there is a three-year waiting period after retirement to gain admission to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

However, there is precedent for the Hockey Hall of Fame speeding the process up: Roger Neilson was fast-tracked as he was terminally ill, as was Mario Lemieux, whose Hodgkin's lymphoma appeared to be fatal.

Burns has everything going for him. He has a high-calibre resume, the support of many hockey insiders and the Hall of Fame has done this kind of promotion before.

All that’s left is for the selection committee to take note of his accomplishments and the groundswell of support for his induction. It would be a fitting cap to a stellar career and an inspiring life.

If you’d like to throw your support behind the Let's Get Pat Burns into the Hockey Hall of Fame - NOW! Facebook group, you can join by clicking on this link.


Where does Sunday’s Olympic final place in Canadian hockey history?

Three days after Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to lift the Canadian national team to a 3-2 triumph over Team USA in the Olympic hockey final, the Canadian people are still deliriously happy. It’s the biggest international hockey win since the 2002 Salt Lake City games.

The most recent win is always the sweetest, but how does Sunday’s game rate in Canadian hockey history? I’m sorry to say that to me, it the fifth biggest... let’s break it down.

5. Sidney Crosby and Team Canada down Team USA 3-2 in overtime for Olympic gold

It capped a thrilling two weeks where Canada, at long last, won a gold medal on home soil, and then rolled to 13 more first place finishes for the Winter Olympics record. Canada also gained a measure of revenge against the United States who had embarrassed them earlier in the tournament, beating them 5-3.

Canada’s win was big for several reasons.

First and foremost, it was on home soil, with nearly 80% of Canada’s population watching in the arena or on television. What other event could captivate four out of every five people?

It also served as the perfect cap to two weeks of patriotic build up. Like a dam straining against a swollen river, Crosby’s goal unleashed the flood gates.

Crosby himself had virtually disappeared for the last three games, being held off the point sheet even in routs like Canada’s 7-2 man-thrashing of Russia. Having him rise to the occasion in extra time made it all the more surprising.

4. Team Canada’s 3-2 win over the United States to win the Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey

The only thing better than winning at home is winning on the road and disappointing your opponents’ fans.
Cassie Campbell, Hayley Wickenheiser, Cheri Piper, Kim St. Pierre and the rest of the women on Team Canada did just that as they dropped their one – and only – hockey rivals, Team USA.

There are two factors that make this victory particularly sweet. The first is that for once, Canada was the underdog in international hockey. That’s right, the Americans had won their previous eight meetings. That’s a heck of a big monkey for Team Canada to carry on their backs and it made this ninth meeting on the biggest of all stages especially intense.

The other is that the referee (an American) called a series of questionable penalties, all against the Canadians, including five straight in the second period and a total of 13. The United States were only assessed four minors, meaning that the Canadian squad had to play on its heels the entire time.

Holding off a late surge, the Canadian women held off their arch-rivals for the biggest win in women’s hockey history.

3. Montreal Canadiens and Red Army battle to 3-3 tie on Dec. 31st 1975

Super-Series ’76 grew out of the popularity and success of the 1972 and 1974 Summit Series. Instead of playing all-star teams from the National Hockey League and the World Hockey Association, the Super-Series pitted the Soviet Wings and the Red Army (two of the top teams in the Soviet Union’s hockey league) against eight NHL teams.

The Canadiens were one of the best teams in the NHL at the time and went on to win the Stanley Cup that season. Many considered it to be a World Championship of professional hockey. It ended up being was a showcase for the considerable talents of Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak who faced 35 shots while his team only mustered 13 against future Liberal MP Ken Dryden.

Unlike the other games on this list, Canada didn’t win. However, as argued over on, it was the most entertaining game ever.

As a whole, the Super-Series underscored the fact that Soviet-style hockey could work against North American teams, moving the NHL towards the fire-wagon brand of hockey popular in the 1980s.

2. Canadian men top Team USA 5-2 in Olympic gold medal game

The most memorable and important hockey game in my lifetime, this game is significant for several reasons.

First of all, it allowed Team Canada and the nation as a whole a level of catharsis after being upset by the Czech Republic in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano as well as avenging themselves on Team USA after a devastating loss to the Americans at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey.

Both losses had wounded the national psyche and called into questions the direction of Hockey Canada.
Further, Canada hadn’t won a gold medal in the Olympics for fifty years, not since the 1952 games in Oslo, Norway. It was an opportunity to regain dominance in a sport that many Canadians consider their rightful property.
It also featured the best hockey play I’ve ever seen.

With the United States leading 1-0, Chris Pronger carried the puck past the blue-line where he suddenly stopped, shaking off the American covering him. He wired a pass to captain Mario Lemieux who raised his stick for a one-timer. As a smile flashed across his face, the cornerstone of the Pittsburgh Penguins let the puck slip between his legs to a streaking Paul Kariya who snapped a shot past a startled Mike Richter.

Pronger’s pass was good. Kariya’s speed and skill were great. But nothing – nothing – will ever top the incredible hockey sense and awareness that Lemieux displayed on that play. I could watch that play all day, every day. It’s poetry in motion.

1. Canada wins on Paul Henderson’s goal in the final minute of the eighth game of the 1972 Summit Series

You knew this had to be number one. The gran’ daddy of them all, the 1972 Summit Series irrevocably changed the international game of hockey, undoubtedly for the better.

The context of the series itself was incredible. Canada had withdrawn from almost all international competition, even going so far as to cancel the 1970 World Junior Championship in Winnipeg.

As a result, only a handful of North Americans had ever seen the Soviets play hockey. The game developed in a vacuum behind the Iron Curtain, creating a more finessed style of play that relied heavily on teamwork and passing plays as well as conditioning and stamina.

Canada’s brand of hockey was a more physical, individual game including using their bodies to block shots. Team Canada’s stickwork was fancier, using tape-to-tape passes that didn’t touch the ice and flipping the puck in over the defence.

The styles clash was epic, and changed how the game is played as both sides of the Cold War began using each other’s tactics and strategies.

Further, sports were becoming increasingly political. Just that summer the Israeli team had been massacred at the Munich Olympics and most African nations had boycotted the summer games entirely to protest Rhodesia’s apartheid state.

Also, unlike the other matches on this list, the Summit Series was played over the course of four weeks with tension mounting after each game. By the time the eighth and final game was played in Moscow, it seemed like the Cold War was hanging in the balance.

That last game is a classic. Whether it’s Peter Mahovilich jumping over the boards to rescue Alan Eagleson from Red Army officers or J.P. Parise threatening to slash one of the referees, the tension is palpable. With Henderson’s wonderful, desperate goal all of that pent up emotion was unleashed in a moment that still sends chills down Canadian spines.

Nothing will ever be able to top that moment for Canadians.


Follow Friday: Third String Goalie

As you can undoubtedly tell from this website, I spend a lot of time cruising the Internet. It’s a big part of my job and also a nice way to spend an afternoon. In the fine tradition of Twitter I figured I’d start using Fridays to spotlight websites or podcasts that I enjoy visiting.

One of my favourite blogs to check in on is Third String Goalie. The format is simple. Each day, Jeff chooses a hockey jersey from his immense collection and explains the history of the sweater. Not his personal history with the shirt, but the career of the player, the history of the team and the events that were important to the jerseys’ era.

For example, in a run up to the Olympic games Jeff has been looking at team jerseys from international competition. On Thursday he wrote about his 1998 Czech Republic Dominik Hasek jersey from the Nagano games.

Jeff outlines the history of the Czech team and then goes on to explain how they fared in the 1998 tournament. Then comes the multimedia portion where he has photos of the 1998 jersey, the designs for the 2010 Czech jersey and video of the fateful shootout between Canada and the Czech Republic where Marc Crawford inexplicably kept Wayne Gretzky and Steve Yzerman on the bench.

Every article is filled with exhaustive research and funny asides. Fortunately for the reader, Jeff is a freelance photographer, a career the affords him the time and energy to pour himself into each of these pieces daily.

That's right, you can see brand new material every day of the week. Incredible! You can also follow him on Twitter.

It’s one of my favourite reads, and Jeff was kind enough to submit himself to an email interview.

JCH - How did you get started? Where did you get the idea for Third String Goalie?

I got started doing the blog because I participate in a message board called On the message board is a thread entitled "What are you wearing today?" It's a place on the board to show off a jersey that is separate from the "new arrivals" thread.

I found myself posting jerseys because of a significant game being played that day or an anniversary of something noteworthy, such as the anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. My explanations were getting a bit longer each time and I realized I had even more information to share than I was posting.

In addition, I have a pretty sizable collection and a desire to share it with people beyond just posting pictures of them. I wanted to explain the significance of why I recreated that specific jersey, as most of my jerseys have some sort of story to tell.

Since just having pictures of them online wasn't satisfying and I didn't want to hijack the message board thread with overly long stories, it occurred to me that a blog was the way to go.

Even before I started the blog, I had the name filed away, having come across it while reading an article in an old issue of Baseball Digest from 1956 that was a humorous glossary of terms. One of the entries was "Third String Catcher", which meant a fan in the stands wearing a jersey. First, I thought "Well, that pretty much describes me." and thought it would be a great name for a website. When I started the hockey blog, I just changed it to "Third String Goalie".

JCH -You've been blogging since May and have over 280 posts, averaging more than one post per day. How do you keep up that pace?

The combination of being freelance and the economy being lousy has give me a lot of free time. Blogging is a great way to escape reality! I do most of my writing after my son goes to bed in the evening.

JCH - What was your first hockey jersey?

My first jersey was a white Minnesota North Stars jersey from the early 80's. I bought from the team souvenir stand. It was out of stock and took forever to arrive.

JCH - What is your favourite jersey?

Hard to pick just one, but my favorite is my early 90's Soviet Red Army jersey. It's such an icon with the hammer and sickle logos, stars and name on the back in Cyrillic.

JCH - What do you look for in a jersey?

I've always liked a jersey that tells a story of some sort. Any jersey that you can put an extra patch on is desirable in my book, be it an anniversary, memorial, Stanley Cup Finals or tournament patch.

I've bought jerseys because they used a cool font for the numbers, because they came up with a great looking design, because they came up with a horrible design, because it was a jersey of a favorite player or represents a significant occurrence, like the 1972 Summit Series.

JCH - What's the ugliest jersey you've ever seen? The nicest?

Yes, the Los Angeles Kings really wore this.

The ugliest in my book is the 1995-96 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim alternate "Wild Wing" jersey. While the Los Angeles Kings 95-96 alternate "Burger King" jersey is really weird and the Dallas Stars "Mooteurs" is mind-numbingly ugly and dumb, the "Wild Wing" lacks any dignity at all. It just reeks of being designed by people with no appreciation for NHL hockey and I can't believe they even asked NHL players to wear it. Of those three, it's the only one that's so stupid that it makes me mad just thinking about it. Of course, I own two of them!

The nicest. I really liked the Dallas Stars green and black jerseys with the star pattern first used as an alternate in 1997-98 that they won the Stanley Cup in. That was such a nice looking jersey when it first came out I was able to overlook the fact that it was my old North Stars team that was stolen from me wearing it and knew immediately I needed to buy one.

I also like the classic Boston Bruins jerseys worn from the mid 70's to the mid 90's.

JCH - On your blog you advise your readers to "never, ever tuck your jersey into your pants." Any other sweater faux-pas you want to speak out against?

I'm not a fan of putting you own name and number on a jersey, but can understand the reasoning why people do it. Those people are not the ones sitting there with Thrashers Kovalchuk or Wild Gaborik jerseys today. There's no hope of any resale value in putting your own name on the back, but many people don't plan on selling theirs.

The thing that's really starting to annoy me is the number of people who could care less that they have bought a horrible, horrible Chinese knockoff. There are some that are just dreadful. I once saw a vintage Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin jersey were all the red parts were orange. ORANGE! The fonts were off, the colors were off, Ovechkin never wore that style. Have some pride, man.

That said, the copies are getting much better and if Reebok hadn't jacked up the price on the new, ill-fitting edge jerseys (where if the body fits, the arms are way too long) by a good 50% to $120 over the wonderful CCM 550's that were $80 AND cheapened the jerseys at the same time with screen printed, brittle shoulder patches and screen printed numbers made to look like quality sewn numbers, there wouldn't be such a market for a lower priced alternative now, would there?

JCH - How do you do all that research for each blog post?

The Internets. It's all out there waiting to be found. I do have a library of hockey books to fall back on, but most of it comes from an assortment of websites I rely on like One place I go out of my way not to use are other blogs. I don't want to come across as having copied their work. Perhaps we will arrive at a similar story, having found the same information, but I do find my information on my own.

I do have to go out of my way to mention I bet I have visited that site every day for the last eight years.

JCH - I was most impressed with your Jan. 29 post on Bob Sauve's Buffalo Sabres jersey. How did you ever get all that detail on the players' experiences combating the blizzard?

I got lucky and found an article on that had the quotes in it. I don't use that site as much as I should, as I often find their information concerning factual things differs at times from other websites. For example, the number of Sabres players they listed having made the plane trip to Montreal was different that other sites. Perhaps SI originally stated "Don Luce arrived at the airport and he and 14 others made the trip". Other websites will take that and repeat is as "14 players made the trip". I assume that an article written in February 1977 based on first hand interviews with the participants will be more accurate than one created in 2007 with second and third hand information.

It's funny how often I find conflicting information. I've seen Clint Benedict credited with wearing the first goalie mask for just one, four and five games on different websites.

JCH - What are you most proud of on your blog?

That I have stuck with the idea, that my work has gotten recognized somewhat and that I've tried to bring enough variety to my topics that it will catch people off guard from time to time. Like the blizzard story for example, or the one where I discovered that the entire reason the NHL was formed in 1917 was for the four owners to rid themselves of a fifth owner from their previous league who they couldn't stand!

JCH - What do you hope your readers get out of Third String Goalie?

An appreciation for a cool looking jersey, an appreciation for a player they may not have known much about before, like Stan Mikita, an appreciation for hockey beyond the NHL, especially international hockey with the Olympics on the horizon, and an appreciation for hockey prior to Wayne Gretzky.

The NHL didn't start with Gretzky and has over sixty years of history to tell that many people are not aware of. Heck, the Stanley Cup was around a quarter of a century before the NHL even came to be. Most people have no idea that is the case.

It's my hope that each day a number of people think "Well I didn't know that before" or are reminded of something from the past they hadn't thought of in a while.

JCH - And finally... How can we get more Marie-Pier on Third String Goalie?

If I ever do a story on the Montreal Canadiens, I see if she's got any relevant videos available. More Habs equals more Marie-Pier, even if I can't understand a single thing she's said.

I try not to be too English-centric and have no fear posting videos in Latvian, Finnish, Russian, Swedish or French. I've had readers from 86 different countries, so it's nice to make them feel at home from time to time. There's something universal about an excited announcer screaming his head in Czech off after a goal that we can all understand and appreciate.


Gainey’s departure hurts the Habs more than it helps

Bob Gainey resigned from his position as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens Monday afternoon, making way for interim GM Pierre Gauthier.

Say what you will about Gainey’s tenure as the boss in Montreal - and many people have - I think we can all agree that the timing could not be worse.

The Canadiens are currently in sixth place, at the top of the Eastern Conference’s playoff log jam. They’re one point ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning, and, incredibly, just 13 points ahead of the last place Toronto Maple Leafs.

With 22 games left in their season, anyone could overtake Montreal. The East is wide open. As unlikely as it seems, even Toronto could wind up in the postseason.

Between now and the playoffs there is also a little event called the trade deadline, where the Habs will undoubtedly be looking to move one of either Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak. Also, prized centre Tomas Plekanec is entering into negotiations to sort out his contract for next season. Otherwise he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with the highest bidder.

This is the time for a strong leader, one who can represent the franchise and present themselves as a powerful figure who has the support of ownership. Gauthier may be a canny negotiator, but the word “interim” in front of his title will be a handicap.

GMs from other teams will try to fleece the Canadiens for Price and Halak, knowing that Gauthier must move one of them and that he is only in charge by default. Don’t believe me? Ask John Ferguson Jr. what it’s like to try and work deals without the full, vocal support of your ownership. Ask Cliff Fletcher what it’s like trying to swing a trade when you’re just an interim GM.

Further, Plekanec’s agent will have a hard time taking Gauthier seriously. There’s more than just money at stake when you sign a free agent. They also want to be on a winner. Since Gauthier will probably be relieved of his duties in the off-season, he can’t make any kind of guarantee of what the team will look like in the 2010-11 season. He stinks of lame duck.

That cannot be appealing to the Plekanec camp.

During Monday’s press conference Gainey said he had to leave because he couldn’t take the day-to-day grind of being a GM any longer.

That may be so, but he’s left his team in the lurch. If he could have bucked up until the off-season, he would have broken ties with the Canadiens at an optimal time. Instead, his departure might distract the Habs during their playoff run and will undoubtedly hinder personnel negotiations.