US Hockey Hall of Fame Part One

Eveleth, MN isn’t on the radar for most hockey fans, or the hot vacation spot that online travel websites will be pushing deals for. Eveleth is up there, 3 hours north of Minneapolis. It’s not on the way to anywhere, unless you want to see where Christian hockey sticks were made (Warroad), or are into mining (a big industry around the Eveleth area)

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I’m not trying to slight Eveleth (but I probably am, so I’m sorry to the residents), as I didn’t get a chance to explore the town much. But I was there for one reason, and one reason only. To visit the USA Hockey Hall of Fame.

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(click any photos for a bigger version, and if you want to use any of them, go for it, just give me credit, please)

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The hall was founded in 1973, and fell on some seriously hard times, to the point that a few years ago, they were thinking about shutting down. There has also been movements to move the hall to a more populated area. The hall remains in Eveleth, though, even though it could use a few more visitors through it’s doors. Right now, the hall is trying to fix the air conditioner it has limped along with since the building was built.

The hall was actually closed for the day (call ahead for the hours, since the winter and summer hours are quite different), but a phone call to the hall was enough for the nice people who run the place to open it’s doors for me.

When you walk into the hall, it doesn’t look like much. A lobby with a few hockey jerseys in it, a small gift shop, nothing much. But it opens up when you take the stairs to the first main floor.

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First, those jerseys in the main lobby. One was the jersey Bobby Ryan wore when he scored the fastest hat trick in NHL history (3 goals in 2:21). The other was a Mike Modono jersey, on display with articles about him being the highest scoring US born player.

On to the hall. Meet Zamboni #4.

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I’ve been around the first Zamboni before, and this one was just as cool. Built on the frame of an old Willy’s jeep, this one dates back to the early 1950s.

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Beats the hell out of the old way of resurfacing the ice:

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The hall had just finished putting up their Herb Brooks exhibit, and it was full of amazing memorabilia from his legendary career, and from the 1980 gold medal winning hockey team:

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These are coats from the 1980 Olympics (I believe they were both worn by Brooks):

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Photos of the team at the White House:

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To save bandwidth for some of you, this all continues after the jump.

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Vancouver Canucks Game 2: Night of Awesome

I don’t have a lot to say about tonight’s game between the Blackhawks and the Canucks, other than it was a great time, and an amazing atmosphere for a game. I got some audio from the opening of the game, but I’m not sure if it’s usable, since the people around me were going ape-s#!+ the entire time. This is a city that loves their hockey team, which wasn’t the case a few short years ago.

My seats were great for watching a hockey game, but not so great for taking pictures. This game, though, I was more interested in the game than getting pictures from it. Still, I did get a few.

The United Center is big and imposing form the outside.

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This is not this man’s real hair:

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The UC is big. Really big.

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Warm-ups. It’s always weird when a player is looking in your general direction when you are taking their picture:

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Pre game:

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Game on:

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The crowd goes wild:

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They gave us red towels to waive for the game, but some of them didn’t make it home with their owners after the third Blackhawks goal:

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Really, there isn’t a lot to say. You watched the game, right? The short handed goal, the Canuck players bouncing off Byfuglien, it was all it looked like on TV and more.

The Blackhawks would like to remind you that there are only 11 wins until the cup can be theirs.

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Christmas Jersey 2009: Part 2

As I said just a few days ago, I got a few jerseys for Christmas and…

What? Christmas was five months ago? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Finally, the long promised jersey post is here. Meet the Lake Erie Monsters Mark McCutcheon Game Worn Jersey:

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Now, I didn’t know much about McCutcheon (actually, I didn’t know anything about McCutcheon), so I went to look up him up from the nameplate on the back of the jersey. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

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One slight problem. They misspelled his name.

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That’s right, the team misspelled his name, on his own jersey. The one he wore. The team. This is the same team that hasn’t made the playoffs in their three years of existence. Not once.

But I digress. Here are his stats, according to TSN.

OK, so we have a game worn jersey with the player’s name misspelled (Ok, I’m letting it go, but my mind is blown), but is there damage? Does it look game worn? You bet it does:

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This is an original style (1.0) RBK EDGE jersey, and I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t feel durable.

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That’s some serious damage, most likely from the shoulder pads of McCutcheon. No wonder they changed the jersey materials after the first batch.

More jerseys coming soon.

Ft. Wayne Komets vs Port Huron IceHawks: Never Say Die

How do you talk about the Fort Wayne Komets without talking about hockey history in the United States. Sure, Ft. Wayne, IN isn’t what you would call a major metropolis. The NHL will never look at the city for expansion. But Fort Wayne has a rich hockey history, with the Komets going back to at least 1952 in the city, when they started playing in the IHL (which was larger and better represented than today’s IHL). When the IHL folded, the Komets moved to the UHL, then to the new (or renamed UHL) IHL. The Komets are kind of like this sign:

Old school team support

Old school. If you want to find out more about the history of the Komets, check out Komets Legends.

Fort Wayne loves their Komets, leading the league in attendance in 2007-08, 2008-09, and this season as well. For this season, the Komets beat the other teams in attendance on average by over 3,700 per game, and almost doubled the attendance for the season of their nearest competitor.

When you see their arena, it’s easy to tell why:

(as with every photo, click to make it bigger)

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To the left of the arena is a convention center, but when you get inside the arena, it’s impressive:

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This is an arena most minor league teams at this level would kill for.

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These two photos are a bit of an experiment:

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On to the warm-ups. It isn’t unusual for minor league teams to wear sponsored warm up jerseys. The Motor City Mechanics of the old UHL had some of the worst, sponsored by McDonald’s (at least they didn’t have to wear red permed wigs), while the Quad City Mallards had the coolest, ditching the sponsors and creating something fairly unique (they are way cool in person). The Komets? They go where the money is. Mind you, check out the ice surface and tell me they are hurting for money.

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Kick ass Komets merch? Sure, how about a bowling ball?

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This game found the Komets fighting elimination, down three games to one in their series against the Port Huron Icehawks. Winner of the series moves on to the IHL Turner Cup finals, which the Komets won the last two years. With a lot on the line, we go to the action.

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This did not go in:

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What did go in was an Icehawk puck with 3.2 seconds left in the first period. It wasn’t how the Komets wanted to head to the dressing room, and the Icehawks followed up with their second of the night only fifteen seconds into the second period. Things were looking ugly for the Komets, and the season had all the earmarks of a disappointing home loss and series finish. It took until the 7:50 mark of the second for Fort Wayne to get on the board.

Back to the action. I don’t want to give it all away just yet.

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This could be the most perfect face off ever. The linesman should be proud of this one.

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This is not how you want to see your goalie. Ever.

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This one went in:

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Why, yes, I was playing with the burst shooting on my camera. Why do you ask?

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I don’t know what happened to the ref in a previous game, but it had to hurt.

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This one is in:

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The Komets came back from behind to score seven unanswered goals. Seven. To say the wheels fell off the Icehawks bus would be putting it mildly. Things got a little chippy at the end of the game, but not as bad as some minor league games can get. A lot was at stake, and players wanted to avoid even a single game suspension going forward in the playoffs.

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Still, seven unanswered goals is quite something. Even the coaching staff couldn’t take it, heading back to the dressing room before the game was over (OK, in the last minute of play or so).

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Look at the equipment manager on the right, being left out to dry.

The Komets went on to finish the game 7-2, and live to play another day (the next night actually). Here is the game sheet.

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As the team was skating off the ice, one of the Komets grabbed the mic from the live post game interview and told the crowd they would see them back at the War Memorial Arena Monday night. It was a bold statement, meaning the team would have to win game six in Port Huron to force the game seven. A bold statement indeed.

Well, the Komets lived up to that promise, and beat the Icehawks in their own barn Saturday night, sending the game back to Fort Wayne for game seven. The game winning goal came with three seconds left in the game.

The day in Fort Wayne started with a trip to Sweetwater (an online music retailer), and a rather disturbing sight. It ended with a hell of a game, and a team that showed a lot of heart. Most of the hockey universe has turned it’s attention to the NHL playoffs, and it’s some of the best hockey in the world. But compared to the Blackhawks collapse at the feet of the Vancouver Canucks, it’s a damn shame more people can’t see the kinds of games that happen in the sheds, barns, and arenas around the minor leagues. I’m fairly lucky I get to see it. I love bringing it to you.

My only regret is I won’t be in Fort Wayne on Monday night. I never thought I would say that.