Darryl Sittler

Hockey legends like Brady leaving Patriots Orr Howe Hull Brodeur
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With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

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As mind-blowing as it is to type this, it’s true: Tom Brady said goodbye to the Patriots on Tuesday. It’s something that’s difficult to process, even if you’re not a Patriots or even a football fan. Yet, as Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra chronicles for baseball, legends donning strange uniforms late in their careers is no new phenomenon, and certainly not limited to the land of pigskins. So what about hockey and the NHL, then?

Hockey fans have been treated to quite a few one-team legends, including Mario Lemieux saving the Penguins more than once.

Even so, there are plenty of legends who ended spent time in jerseys that just felt wrong. Let’s ponder the hockey answers to Brady leaving the Patriots, Johnny Unitas on the Chargers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards, and Babe Ruth on the Boston Braves.

Orr down hockey Brady comparison
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque leave Boston with very different results

At least with Brady, Boston-area fans couldn’t reasonably ask for more. Meanwhile, Bobby Orr’s career concluded with questions of “What could have been?”

Knee injuries ravaged his later career, and after 10 seasons, Orr left the Bruins for the Blackhawks. Between two seasons, Orr could only appear in 26 games for Chicago.

In something of a sequel, the Bruins traded Ray Bourque during his 21st season with the team, setting the stage for Bourque to eventually win a Stanley cup inspiring enough to essentially demand a parade in Boston.

Brodeur Blues Brady leaving Patriots hockey comparison
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Brodeur finishes with the Blues

If Orr on the Blackhawks isn’t the Brady comparison you think of for hockey, then it’s probably Brodeur appearing in seven games for the Blues after winning three Stanley Cups, four Vezinas, and setting the all-time wins record over 1,259 games with the Devils.

(That contrast still makes me chuckle, to be honest.)

As awkward as Brodeur’s brief Blues stint was, it lacked the angst of how Orr’s career ended. That might make it closer to a 1:1 hockey comparison for Brady, although the QB could easily prove that his tank isn’t empty.

Much of this list shows examples of players trying to prove that they could still play, with most sputtering out after running on fumes.

(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hull of a change, and Howe

Bobby Hull already experienced quite a journey going from the Blackhawks to the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets (scoring 303 goals in the WHA alone). Hull’s final hockey and NHL season was especially odd, though, starting with 18 NHL games for the Jets before being traded to the Hartford Whalers, playing nine games for The Whale. Gordie Howe ended up being a Whalers teammate of Hull, which is … yeah, pretty mind-blowing. Bobby Hull also attempted a comeback with the Rangers.

(Howe’s legendary career featured quite the second [and maybe third?] acts after his Red Wings days, including playing with his sons, and somehow managing 15 goals and 41 points with the Hartford Whalers at age 51.)

Bobby’s son Brett Hull experienced a journeyman career of his own. Brett convinced the Coyotes to unretire Bobby’s number 9, but that story ended with a whimper (five games) as Brett realized he couldn’t adjust to the post-lockout style of play in 2005-06.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Random Red Wings

If you’re playing trivia and “This player finished his career/briefly played for this team …” comes up, blurting out Detroit Red Wings isn’t the worst bet.

Lightning round, sometimes involving Lightning

  • Mats Sundin stunned Maple Leafs fans by joining the Canucks. There was some Alfredsson-like logic of linking Sundin with fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, yet the experiment lasted just 41 games.
  • Brian Leetch playing for the Maple Leafs was a little strange, but Leetch in a Bruins sweater will never look right.
  • Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens legend, as a Quebec Nordique? Yes, that happened. Jacques Plante bounced around quite about post-Habs, too, including eight games with the (gasp) Bruins.
  • Like Plante, Grant Fuhr pinballed around the NHL quite a bit after parting ways with the Oilers, but joining the Flames? Wow. Fuhr didn’t just play for the Calgary Flames, either, as he suited up twice for the Saint John Flames.
  • File Ed Belfour and Igor Larionov under “people you might not have known played for the Panthers.”
  • Olaf Kolzig was persistent in Washington as Godzilla could be in Tokyo, playing 711 of his 719 games for the Capitals. The eight other games came with the Lightning. (Vincent Lecavalier playing for the Kings was strange, but softened by his years with the Flyers.)

Feel free to mention other fish-out-of-water memories in the comments. Also, if you had to guess, which hockey legend will Brady mirror the most?

(Hopefully we won’t ever get that “Halloween Olajuwon as a Raptor vs. Patrick Ewing with the Magic” feeling from Brady’s final act.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Maple Leafs add Bower and Sittler to Legends Row

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The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Johnny Bower and Darryl Sittler as the second and third members inducted into its’ legends row on Saturday.

The pair join Ted Kennedy as the only other member of the Leafs to hold the honor.

The legends row is a 30-foot bench outside Toronto’s Air Canada Centre with bronze statues of Leafs greats from the franchise’s 97-year history.

Sittler, 63, was a Maple Leafs first-round pick in 1970 (8th overall) and played in parts of 12 seasons for the Leafs. He led the team in scoring, a franchise record, eight straight times.  Prior to the 1975-76 season, Sittler was named captain of the Leafs at just 24.  Sittler still holds NHL records for most points in a game (10) and most goals in a single playoff game (5).

Bower, 88, spent parts of 12 seasons with the Maple Leafs winning Stanley Cups in 1962, 1963 and 1964. The hall of famer won 255 regular season and Playoff games with Leafs to go along with two Vezina Trophies. Following his playing days, Bower spent time with the Leafs as a goalie coach and scout.

The team will continue to add players to the monument leading up to and beyond its’ centennial season in 2017.

Sittler, Delvecchio, Lindsay headline Detroit-Toronto Winter Classic alumni games

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It promises to be a star-studded affair in December when Detroit’s Comerica Park transforms into the Hockeytown Winter Festival.

Especially for the annual Alumni Showdown — well, make that Showdowns.

According to Detroit GM Ken Holland, there will be a pair of alumni contests to facilitate the large number of players that wanted to participate.

On Wednesday, we got a glimpse at that overwhelming number as partial rosters for both the Maple Leafs and Red Wings were named, headlined by Hockey Hall of Famers Darryl Sittler, Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay.

Here are the players that have committed for both sides thus far:

Toronto

Mike Palmateer, Felix Potvin, Curtis Joseph, Doug Gilmour, Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark, Dave Andreychuk, Kevin Maguire, Darcy Tucker, Rick Vaive. (Jim McKenny, Ron Ellis and Johnny Bower will participate as well.)

Detroit

Chris Osgood, Mike Vernon, Dino Ciccarelli, Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Joe Kocur, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Mickey Redmond, John Ogrodnick, Larry Murphy, Mark Howe, Luc Robitaille.

The Detroit team will be coached by Hockey Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman.

The Alumni Showdown(s) will be played at Comerica on Dec. 31. They will be the culmination of the two-week long Winter Festival, which includes amateur games, open skates, the Great Lakes Invitational (featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech), an Ontario Hockey League doubleheader (featuring Windsor, Saginaw, Plymouth and London) and an AHL game between the affiliates of the Wings and Leafs — the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies.

Sittler on Gagner’s eight-point night: “It’s magical”

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Few people are qualified to speak about what it’s like to score eight points in an NHL game.

One such person is Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, who put up not just eight, but 10 points against Boston in 1976. As such, it was no surprise when the Associated Press tracked down Sittler to get his thoughts on Edmonton’s Sam Gagner, who registered four goals and four assists in a 8-4 win over Chicago on Thursday.

“[Gagner’s] been struggling a little bit this season — I don’t know if he’s had injuries or what it is — but he certainly put up the points last night,” Sittler said, trying to explain how it feels to put up such huge numbers. “Everything falls into place. Every shot you take pretty well goes in or you make a pass and the guy completes it.

“It’s magical those types of nights. They don’t happen very often.”

Gagner is now just the 11th player in NHL history to accomplish this task and the first in 23 years. (He also joins Mario Lemieux as the only player in NHL history whose eight points figured into all of his team’s goals.) In terms of Oilers records, he joins Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey as the only players to score eight points in a game — and as expected, the 22-year-old was a tad overwhelmed at being in the same conversation of hockey royalty.

“I didn’t think I would ever be mentioned in the same breath as Gretzky or Coffey,” said the 22-year-old Gagner. “You never expect to do something like this.”

“It’s a great lesson to never set limits,” he added. “The great players who played here never did that. It was just one of those games where everything went in and just a great feeling.”

As for Sittler, he’s proud his record is still standing almost 40 years later — though Gagner’s outburst was a bit of a reminder that it could fall at any time.

“If the stars are aligned right and everything is working, it might happen someday,” Sittler said. “I’m glad to have done it in a Leafs uniform and I’m proud to have held the record for as long as I have so far.

“If it happens to somebody, I’d be happy for them. But, hey, am I glad to hold the record and would like to continue holding it? Sure, definitely.”

Leafs release new third sweater

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What do you do when everyone is releasing third jerseys to increase revenue, but you own a traditional brand that has withstood the test of time. You release a throwback jersey, of course! Toronto released the third sweaters at a press conference on Friday. The new alternate sweaters were the Leafs wore between 1967-1970.

Nothing like rolling out former Leafs captains Wendel Clark and Darryl Sittler to help model the new jerseys. Those two could wear Senators jerseys on Carlton St. in downtown Toronto and still get cheered as they walked down the street.  Still, the former captains joined current Leafs Dion Phaneuf and Colby Armstrong to show off the new look for fans and media.  The Maple Leafs’ official site describes the new threads in painstaking detail (for the link for pictures of the jersey):

“First introduced at the start of the 1967 NHL playoffs, the Maple Leafs captured the Stanley Cup that spring and went on to wear it for the following three campaigns. Some of the attributes of the sweater include; a solid, snow white, wool-felt, 11-point Maple Leaf crest similar to the Maple Leaf on the Canadian Flag as the country celebrated its centennial year in 1967, felt fabric numbers and lettering, one set of thin-wide-thin stripes adorning the waist and both elbows, no shoulder patches, and a six-eyelet lace at the front of the neck. Pants adorned with a new white vertical stripe along the sides will also be worn by the hockey club for games in which the third sweater will be used.”

The Leafs will wear their new/old jersey fourteen times this season beginning with their first game of the season on October 6 against the rival Montreal Canadiens. Interestingly, Toronto will wear the dark alternates five times on the road—meaning fans of home teams wearing their white jersey will get their wish a few times this season. They’ll wear them twice against the Rangers, Senators, Sabres, and Bruins. In fact, they’ll wear their old-time jerseys against each of the other five teams that make up the Original Six at some point this season. Here’s the full schedule of games the Maple Leafs will wear the new jerseys this season:

October 6 vs. Montreal

October 29 vs. Pittsburgh

November 5 vs. Boston

November 12 vs. Ottawa

November 19 vs. Washington

December 3 at Boston

December 5 at New York Rangers

December 17 vs. Vancouver

January 7 vs. Detroit

January 13 at Buffalo

February 4 at Ottawa

February 29 at Chicago

March 24 vs. New York Rangers

March 31 vs. Buffalo

What say you? Do you like the new/old alternates? Do you think the Leafs could have done better? Or could you not care less? Let us know what you think in the comments.