23 Intently Staring Goalies
by lsefton on 11/25/11 at 10:44 PM ET
It’s "Black Friday" in the US, Grey Cup Weekend in Canada, and the inner harbour in Victoria will soon be decorated in full holiday mufti. Way back when, (okay, 1925) the Victoria Cougars won the Stanley Cup, and if you ever attended a game in the old Memorial Arena, they had the banner to make sure you knew.
Hmmm, as long as we’re dusting things off, why don’t we take a look at what was going on in the NHL (nee NHA), 100, 90, and 80 years ago? I don’t have a Wayback Machine, but I do have The Trail of the Stanley Cup, and that’s a pretty good substitute.
Hmm, we seem to have a small problem: the season doesn’t begin until late December in 1911 and 1921. Okay, let’s take a look at notable goalie activity both seasons….
In the 1911-1912 season, the NHA adopted the goal net devised by goaltender Percy LeSueur. LeSueur was a prime example of "goaltender as engineer", as in addition to the goal net, which controlled the flight path of high shots—important in the time of no glass around the rink—would be used for the next 15 seasons, he devised a catching glove that protected the goaltender’s forearm. This was a big improvement over the previous equipment, as goaltenders up to that time were using the same gloves as the rest of the team, which limited their ability to do much else than puck handle and bruise a lot when they tried to catch a flying puck. As this was the first season that goaltenders could drop to the ice to stop a puck, wrist and arm protection was a big plus, as it not only protected against errant pucks, but blades and sticks as well.
LeSueur would later write one of the first instructional books on hockey "How to Play Hockey", and later appeared on CBC, giving listeners a link to the past.
LeSueur was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
Moving forward 10 years—the NHA has now become the NHL, with four teams, and were playing for the Stanley Cup against teams from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. The PCHA and the Patrick brothers had introduced a number of changes to the game, including blue lines and the ability to pass the puck forward between the blue lines. The NHL was going to make some changes as well…
For the 1921-1922 season, the NHL Board of Governors declared the goaltender pass to the blue line legal. This is on the same order as the introduction of the forward pass in football, as it changed how the goaltender could control, and more importantly, initiate a play.
By the 1931-1932 season, NHL hockey is closer to what someone today would recognize as a modern game. Radio broadcasts started in 1924, and a number of teams had joined the NHL. Some, like the St Louis Eagles and the Pittsburgh Pirates, were going to be consigned to history and pretty cool looking retro sweaters, but another franchise, the Toronto Maple Leafs were just starting their tenure in Maple Leaf Gardens.
It was a time for transitions. One ex-goaltender, Clint Benedict was going to appear in a game as a referee….
Clint Benedict was the first NHL goaltender to wear a mask. The mask’s purpose was to protect his nose, broken in a previous game. However, the mask also blocked his peripheral vision, and Benedict stopped wearing the mask. It was going to be over 30 years before Jacques Plante was going to wear a mask in the regular season NHL game. Benedict was the first NHL goaltender to win Stanley Cups with two different teams, having been traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Montreal Maroons in 1924.
Benedict had retired from professional hockey the previous season, and wanted to return as a referee. The NHL and both teams agreed to have Benedict referee a game. He made his debut on December 6, 1931, in a match between the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Falcons (soon to be renamed as the Red Wings), Benedict skated out to the applause of the crowd, gave out penalties to his former teammates, and retired from his referee career after the game. Other than the mention in the newspapers, there’s not a lot more information. The Trail of the Stanley Cup mentions that Benedict decided to retired, but gave no more information on it.
Benedict moved on to coaching senior league teams, and would be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.
(Note: Trail of the Stanley Cup was printed in extremely limited editions; 1000 of Vol I & II, and 1500 of Vol III, and I wish the Hockey Hall of Fame or such would scan and make all three volumes available in digital format. )
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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies
23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.
On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.
I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.
We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.
It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!