About Me

My photo
I am a HOCKEY fan! * Gardening and Quilting are fun hobbies for me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

“ History Will Be Made” PART 1

“ History Will Be Made”
That was the tagline for Stanley Cup Playoffs for the NHL this past season.

It’s been 30 years since I became a hockey fan, so it’s time to write about my hockey history:
a timeline, memories and photos for Ann.

It began by winning tickets to a hockey game from a radio station. I was living in Hutchinson Kansas at the time. Central Kansas is an unlikely place to be exposed to hockey.
I had seen the publicity from the 1980 Olympics of the Miracle on Ice team.
I had heard of a hockey team in Kansas City called the Scouts. Born in Kansas, I was living in Royals baseball, KU basketball and K-State Football country. The tickets I won were for a game at the Kansas Coliseum near Wichita, 45 miles away.

It was the winter of 1981. The team was the Wichita Wind of the Central Hockey League. It was an affiliate or farm club of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League.

Don, the guy I lived with at the time and I used the free tickets, attending the game not knowing what to expect.

Don, 10 years older than me, having grown up in Kansas City area, was familiar with the KC Scouts name and knew that they had left Kansas City. He was skeptical that seeing live hockey would be anything enjoyable since it had not been successful there.

The Scouts failed to make the playoffs in either season in Kansas City and won only 27 of 160 games. The Scouts began to suffer from an economic downturn in the Midwest. For their second season, the Scouts sold just 2,000 of 8,000 season tickets and were almost $1 million in debt. The Scouts' owners did not have the resources or the patience to handle such massive losses, and decided to get out after only two years. After the 1975-76 season, the franchise was moved to Denver and was renamed the Colorado Rockies.

I had no idea that I would come to love the sport!

First Hockey Experience PART 2

We liked the first game, although we did not know any of the rules. Don ran into Dan LeValley, a friend and fellow Hang Gliding pilot. At the next game we attended, we sat with Dan and his friends in the corner of the arena a few rows from the glass. They answered our questions about the game. We found the games to be good entertainment and began attending on the weekends and occasionally on a weekday night. As I became more familiar with the game, I began to comment on the players. I didn’t know it at the time, but sitting behind me was the general manager of the Coliseum. Later, he commented that I was pretty rough on the players. He also gave me the nickname - The Nacho Queen, as I enjoyed a tray of them at nearly every game. (Don had just introduced me to jalapenos)

One especially snowy night, while driving home from a game we crossed a curved bridge and found it to be icy. As we slowly approached the next bridge, the car coming toward us slid across the bridge sideways and skidded along the rail in our lane sending sparks flying into the cold night sky. Ah, winter in Kansas.

We continued to attend games and soon had favorite players. I was drawn to the big blueline defensemen: Charlie Huddy, Mike Forbes, Owen Lloyd and Brad Knelson and of course the goalie Andy Moog. The coach for this season was John Muckler who replaced Ace Bailey*. 
Charlie Huddy Button

One player that still sticks in my memory is Curt Brackenburry.
He was a wild man on the left wing. Nothing smooth here - only rough. He would fly around the rink during his shift, checking anyone in sight and return to the bench breathless. He had asthma and while on the bench, would suck on an inhaler several times a night to get through the game. Lots of heart with this guy! He played for Wichita the first season and then with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles the next to end his career.

Following a game against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in which the team received 19 fighting penalties, Muckler and eight other members of the organization spent a night in jail for a nightclub altercation. The owner of a disco club asked police to remove the players from his property; Muckler said police "panicked" and "didn't handle the situation very professionally".

During a game in Wichita, when the strip of carpet was rolled out for a ceremonial puck drop or flag color guard, out came a mouse. He must have been sleeping in the warm carpet when suddenly it was carried away and rolled out on the ice with bright lights shining down on him. He scurried along the boards looking for an escape while getting a laugh from the crowd.

In August 1982, Muckler was named assistant coach of the Oilers and replaced by Andy Laing. Additionally, the New Jersey Devils replaced the Oilers as the Wind's parent team. The Wind missed the playoffs for the first time, finishing in sixth place with a 29–48–3. They were eliminated from playoff contention early in the season. It was announced after the season that the team would not play in Wichita a fourth year because of conflicts over the lease on the Kansas Coliseum. The Coliseum's owners wanted a two-year commitment while GM Gordon wanted a one-year lease. Additionally, the team lacked a practice facility; Gordon said the team "bent over backward to keep hockey in Wichita". A preliminary agreement was reached to move the team to Yellowstone METRA (now Rimrock Auto Arena) in Billings, Montana, but the move never occurred.

First NHL Experiences PART 3

My sister Patty and her family lived in the Detroit Michigan suburb of Fraser. Knowing we had lost our hockey team and that TV stations in Kansas did not broadcast hockey, she began sending video tape recordings to me of Hockey Night in Canada games and Don Cherry’s Coach’s Corner with his dog “Blue”.

* Fraser Michigan was part of the Colonial Hockey League in the fall of 1991.

 The 1984 Stanley Cup Final was held between the Edmonton Oilers and the then-defending champion New York Islanders. Edmonton was making their second-straight Finals appearance, and New York was making their fifth-straight (they had won the previous four). The Oilers would win the best-of-seven series four games to one to win their first Stanley Cup, becoming the third post-1967 expansion team and first former WHA team to win the Cup.

Don and I took a vacation to Los Angeles and saw a LA Kings hockey game in the Fabulous Forum.

The 1985 Stanley Cup Finals was played between the defending champion Edmonton Oilers in their third-straight Finals appearance and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Oilers would win the best-of-seven series four games to one, to win their second Stanley Cup.

In May of 1985, Don and I were married and moved to Topeka. Don’s new position with Southwestern Bell in Topeka required that he travel to St. Louis for meetings. So of course, I went along to attend St. Louis hockey games held at “The Saint Louis Arena” popularly referred to as "The Barn".
The huge structure was completed in 1929, just over a year after construction began. At 476 feet long and 276 feet wide, it was behind only Madison Square Garden as the largest indoor entertainment space in the country. A 13-story building could have been erected inside of it.

The Arena   St. Louis Missouri

My first introduction to NHL hockey was in this classic old building, complete with a big booming hockey organ!

We saw the Blues play several teams,
but most important to me was seeing the Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky.
My all-time favorite player!

Judy getting Wayne Gretzky's Autograph

GREAT Wayne Gretzky PART 4

We were staying in the Embassy Suites hotel near Laclède's Landing.
(a multi-block collection of cobblestone streets and vintage brick-and-cast-iron warehouses dating from 1850 through 1900, now converted into shops, restaurants, and bars.)
From the hotel, after a game, we walked down to a corner bar called “Muddy Waters”. It was crowded. As we were standing near the bar enjoying a beer, Don was looking out the window as a limo pulled up outside. Next, he said to me “Look beside you” and as I turned to look, there next to me was Wayne Gretzky with Mark Messier at the bar ordering drinks. As I looked again, next to Gretzky I saw Grant Fuhr and Kevin Lowe. Messier passed the mugs of draft beer to Gretzky and Lowe. Goalie Grant Fuhr being the first star of the game was required to drink whatever the others ordered for him. The drink was called “the BRAIN” with the liquor layered in a way to resemble a brain. The Oilers stayed only a short time to enjoy their drinks. As they left the bar, I reached over and grabbed the mug that Gretzky had drank his beer from and took it with me. What a thrill!

Mark Messier

Glen Sather and John Muckler

Jari Kurri and Kevin Lowe

Grant Fuhr
Charlie Huddy

In 1986, St. Louis made it to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Don bought some tickets to see some weekend games. The tickets were mailed in those days.

The Blues were beat in the 3rd round by the Calgary Flames who met the Montreal Canadiens in the finals who decided to go with a rookie goaltender by the name of Patrick Roy.

The 1986 Stanley Cup Final was contested by the Calgary Flames in their first Final appearance and the Montreal Canadiens in their 32nd. The Canadiens would win the best-of-seven series four games to one, to win their twenty-third Stanley Cup.

The "Shrine" & Mr. Hockey PART 5

Wayne Gretzky Doll - Oiler Uniform

It was about this time that my sister Patty in Detroit sent me a Wayne Gretzky doll. (THANKS PATTY!)

For the next few years I began to collect Wayne Gretzky memorabilia. 

John Groezinger's Basement

I met a guy from St. Louis who also collected Wayne Gretzky memorabilia. His name was John Groezinger. While in St. Louis, we met John at a game and the following day went to his house to see his collection. His whole basement was covered with posters and all things Gretzky. He gave me names of guys from Canada who he had purchased obscure collectable items.

The 1987 Stanley Cup Final was played between the Edmonton Oilers and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Oilers would win the series 4–3, for their third Stanley Cup victory.

In June of 1987, my family traveled to Detroit for my niece Andrea’s high school graduation.

The 1987 NHL Entry Draft was held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan.

During that trip, on June 13, 1987, at Joe Lewis Arena in Detroit, I saw the NHL draft, saw the Stanley Cup (for the first time) and met Mr. Hockey - Gordie Howe!


To Canada & The Trade PART 6

The 1988 Stanley Cup Finals was between the Edmonton Oilers and Boston Bruins. The Oilers would win the series 4–0 in five games; game four was abandoned due to a power failure at the Boston Garden with the score tied 3–3 and replayed.

During the summer of 1988, Don and I traveled to Canada for vacation. We visited the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. It was in a modern building of the Canadian National Exhibition, not where it is located today.

We also visited Brantford Ontario - home of Wayne Gretzky. It was a Saturday morning as we drove down Varadi Avenue past Walter and Phyllis Gretzky’s home. On that same day, across Canada in Edmonton Alberta, Wayne and Janet Jones were being married on July 17, 1988.
We purchased newspapers in Brantford with the wedding photos on the cover. During this trip we visited the guys that John G. had told us about to purchase memorabilia.
And from this and more, the Gretzky Shrine was created. That is what Don called the spare bedroom in our Topeka duplex where my collection was displayed.


On Aug. 9, 1988, the NHL made headlines across both the United States and Canada. The NHL’s greatest player, Wayne Gretzky, who at the age of 27 had just led the Edmonton Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup championship in five seasons, was traded (sold) to the Los Angeles Kings.

This was not just a monumental trade; it was a true piece of sports history forever to be entrenched in hockey legend and lore.

And less than one year later, the shrine is boxed and stored to make that room a baby nursery for Ann!

Detroit Red Wings PART 7

During another trip to visit Patty’s family in Detroit, we attended a Red Wings game at Joe Louis arena. It was my mother’s first and only hockey game. She was quite shocked at the things yelled by the fans toward their own Bob Probert. The left winger was know for being an enforcer/fighter leading the league in penalties in minutes with 398 in 1987-88 season. Off the ice he was known for his arrests and legal problems with drinking, drugs, etc.

In Detroit, when leaving the arena after the game, fans pass through elevated walkways to the frozen parking garages - “mooing” like cattle.

During the 1988-89 season we traveled to Bloomington Minnesota to see the L.A. Kings with Wayne Gretzky play the Minnesota North Stars at the MetCenter.

Luc Robitaille and Wayne Gretzky

The 1989 Stanley Cup Final was between the Calgary Flames and the Montreal Canadiens, the top two teams during the 1988–89 NHL regular season. Calgary won.

During the early summer of 1989, during Don’s Windsurfing vacation at Hood River on the Columbia River Gorge in Washington state, (I was about 6 months pregnant) we traveled to Canada. We visited Calgary and Edmonton. Being summertime, there were no hockey games, but we saw the Calgary Saddledome and Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum hockey arenas. And of course, the West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping mall in North America.

Ann is born!          Ann’s first hockey game in St. Louis, fall of 1989.

I have a video clip of me reading the Hockey Digest to Ann at about 6 months of age.

1990 - 1998 We continued to follow hockey on TV, and trips to St. Louis.

We attended a minor league game in Ft. Wayne while visiting Don‘s sister Jean‘s family. At that time a member of the International Hockey League.

We also occasionally saw games at Kemper arena in Kansas City.
The Kansas City Blades of the IHL played from 1990 to 2001.

In the 1990 Stanley Cup Final, the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Boston Bruins four games to one. For the Oilers, it was their fifth Cup win in seven years, and the only one without Wayne Gretzky.

The 1991 Stanley Cup Final NHL championship series was contested by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota North Stars. It was the Penguins' first Final series appearance and their first Stanley Cup victory.

In September of 1991 we traveled to Quebec and saw a Nordique game at the Colisee de Québec. Ann loved to say Bonjour on this trip. (a French word meaning "Good Day" or "Hello")

New Teams & Stanley Cup PART 8

In 1992 we enjoyed skating at a rink in Kansas City.

The 1992 Stanley Cup Final - Pittsburgh Penguins and the Chicago Blackhawks. After the Blackhawks jumped to an early 4-1 lead in Game 1, Mario Lemieux and the Penguins came back to win the game, sweep the series in four games, and win their second straight and second overall Stanley Cup.

A MILESTONE - In 1992 Manon Rheaume tried out for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and was signed as a free agent. This was the first time a woman tried out for an NHL team or signed a professional hockey contract. She played one period in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues, allowing two goals, and played in another exhibition game against the Boston Bruins in 1993.

Manon Rhéaume (born February 24, 1972) is a Canadian ice hockey goaltender. An Olympic silver medalist, she achieved a number of historic firsts during her career, including becoming the first and only woman ever to play in a National Hockey League exhibition game.

We saw Manon play one game for the Atlanta Knights.
A bonus that night was also seeing Brent Gretzky, Wayne's younger brother, also playing for the Knights.
Manon Rheaume - 1992

Brent Gretzky - Atlanta Knights

In 1992 Rhéaume signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, appearing in preseason exhibition games in 1992 and 1993. She spent five years in professional minor leagues, playing for a total of seven teams and appearing in 24 games. She also played on the Canada women's national ice hockey team, winning Gold Medals at the IIHF Women's World Championship in 1992 and 1994, and the Silver Medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics. (from Wikipedia)

On February 27, 1996, Gretzky joined the St. Louis Blues.

I didn't get to see Gretzky play (LIVE) in a St. Louis Blues uniform.

On July 22, 1996 Gretzky signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent, rejoining longtime Oilers teammate Mark Messier.

Kansas Expocentre, Topeka KS
In 1997 the CHL committed itself to the goal of having a franchise in Topeka for the 1998-1999 season. I remember the Shawnee County commission (owner of the KS Expocentre) were negotiating with possible team owners over who would control operations. A grass roots group was formed to get “ice” equipment into the arena and show support of hockey coming to Topeka. Julie Mead and I were part of that campaign group. Julie and Mike Mead were cycling friends of ours and co-investors in Tailwinds Bike Shop. Mike also became the team dentist.

Julie and Mike Mead

In February of 1998, we traveled to Phoenix and our friends Gary and Riki took us to see the Phoenix Coyotes play the New York Rangers. I got to see Gretzky play in a NY Ranger Uniform.

Don and Ann at the Kansas Coliseum near Wichita - our first hockey home.

The Wichita Thunder were one of the first six original teams of the new Central Hockey League.

The Wichita Thunder are a minor league hockey team based in Wichita, Kansas. The team plays in the Central Hockey League. From 1992 until January 2010 the Thunder played in the Britt Brown Arena located in the northern Wichita suburb of Park City. In January 2010 (the second half of the 2009-10 season) the team began playing its home games at the newly built Intrust Bank Arena.

In the summer of 1998 we traveled to Toronto and visited the Hockey Hall of Fame now located in a former Bank of Montreal building in Downtown Toronto.

Hockey Hall of Fame on Yonge Street - where Judy does a U-Turn.

The 1993 Stanley Cup Final series was contested by the Los Angeles Kings and the Montreal Canadians. The Canadiens won the series 4-1. The 1993 Canadiens are also the last Stanley Cup championship team to be composed solely of North American-born players.

The 1994 Stanley Cup Final was a best-of-seven playoff series contested between the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. The Rangers ended their record 54-year championship drought with a victory in Game 7 to claim the long-awaited Stanley Cup.

The 1995 Stanley Cup Final series was contested by the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings. The Devils swept the series four games to none to win their first Stanley Cup.

The 1996 Stanley Cup Final series was contested by two teams that had not existed three seasons before, the Colorado Avalanche and the Florida Panthers. The Avalanche won the Cup in a four game sweep to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup, in their first season in Denver since moving from Quebec City in 1995.

The 1997 Stanley Cup Final was contested by the Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers. Detroit won the series in four games to win the Stanley Cup for the eighth time in franchise history and the first time since 1955.

The 1998 Stanley Cup Final series was contested by the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals. It was the Capitals' first appearance in a Stanley Cup Final since the franchise's inception in 1974. The Red Wings won the series for the second year in a row, four games to none.