PHT Time Machine

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PHT Time Machine: The wildest hockey mascot mishaps

We like to take an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we follow up on our previous look at doomed jersey and mascot ideas by remembering some of the wildest mascot meltdowns, from S.J. Sharkie to Wild Wing.

Wild Wing Plays With Fire

The Anaheim Ducks are no stranger to mascot mishaps.

In their very first game (which featured the most insane pre-game introduction in the history of the NHL) they tried to introduce the Mighty Ice Man, an idea that was so poorly received that he was pretty much canceled before the end of the opening game.

Then there is Wild Wing, their actual mascot, who might be one of the most intimidating mascots in the league.

His big blunder came just before the team’s home-opener during the 1995-96 season when a pre-game stunt went horribly wrong.

From the Los Angeles Times, describing the scene:

“Wild Wing,” who gets dropped from The Pond rafters via guy wire like a bloated Halloween pinata before every Ducks home game, was handed the assignment of a lifetime, so to speak, before this one: Take a flying leap over a hellish wall of flames without the aid of a safety or a single cheerleading Decoy toting a cute purple and green fire extinguisher.

“Wild Wing” had completed the course without a hitch during practice but under the spotlight, with the pressure on, he stumbled on the trampoline that was supposed to propel him to safety and instead bellyflopped onto the flaming gas jets.

There is really not much else to add as that pretty much captured the spirit of the whole thing.

The person inside the mascot costume was fine and was back out in the stands mid-way through the first period.

S.J. Sharkie Gets Stuck

Let’s go back to March 12, 1999, when a game between the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks had to be delayed because S.J. Sharkie, the Sharks cuddly mascot, ended up getting stuck high above the ice surface.

As part of the pre-game routine the Sharks had attempted to lower him from the rafters when the entire thing went horribly wrong and left him dangling precariously above the ice surface.

The entire ordeal can be seen here, and while the video is more than 10 minutes long it is well worth watching just to hear the commentary.

N.J. Devil Goes Through The Window

I will always have a fond memory of N.J. Devil because I witnessed him fire some sort of T-shirt gatling gun into a crowd of people before Game 1 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final in New Jersey. What is that you ask? Imagine a T-shirt cannon, but on steroids. He made real headlines a couple of years ago when he made an appearance a kids party and literally ran through a glass window for … reasons?

Harvey The Hound Loses His Tongue

The Battle of Alberta is so intense that it doesn’t just stay on the ice with the players. It also extends to the coaches and … mascots?

Former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish had seen enough of Harvey The Hound’s tongue and ripped the whole thing out of his mouth.

Careful On The Ice

This attempt at filming a commercial for a Minnesota Golden Gopher sponsor was derailed by a lovable polar bear unable to maintain its balance on the ice.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Time Machine: The NHL’s biggest mascot and jersey blunders

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We like to take an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to some of the league’s greatest — or perhaps even unfortunate — mascot and jersey blunders. April Fools Day seems like a fitting day to look back on some of these doomed ideas.

Boomer gets silenced

You can not talk about mascot blunders without talking about Boomer, the short-lived and ultimately doomed mascot for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Boomer was introduced during the 2010-11 season and was supposed to serve as the team’s secondary mascot alongside Stinger. He was an anthropomorphic cannon that was inspired by the cannon that shakes Nationwide Arena after every Blue Jackets goal. It seemed like a pretty good idea in theory.

In theory being the key words here.

In reality, the Blue Jackets ended up getting this.

His, um, appearance ultimately resulted in him being very quietly retired a couple of months later in the middle of the season with little fanfare. A shame, really. This costume almost certainly still exists somewhere, and we can only hope it is again unleashed on the world.

Penguin Pete

This is where mascots meet tragedy and absurdity.

Penguin Pete was the first mascot of the Pittsburgh Penguins and he was an actual Ecuadorian-born Humboldt penguin. The team would parade him around on the ice until he died from pneumonia in November, 1968. Immediately after his death Pete was stuff and kept on display in the Civic Arena offices until there were some complaints about his presence.

Pete’s death did not stop the Penguins from trying the same thing again a few years later when they introduced a second Penguin mascot named — quite literally — “Re-Pete.”

Re-Pete survived the 1971-72 season.

The Penguins then went without an official mascot until they introduced IceBurgh during the 1993-94 season. IceBurgh is your typical run of the mill mascot, other than the fact it also had a pretty grim cameo in a major motion picture.

The Islanders Fishstick uniforms

The 1990s were not a great decade for the New York Islanders.

Other than a cinderella run to the 1993 Wales Conference Finals, the team made just one other playoff appearance in the decade and was stuck in a rut of poor ownership, management, and all around bad results on the ice.

At the start of the 1995 season the braintrust of organization decided that it was time for a fresh start and a new look to get things turned around and going in the right direction. That meant a complete rebranding of the the team, a new logo, and new uniforms.

Gone were the iconic jerseys that featured the “NY” and map of Long Island, and in was a hockey version of the Gorton’s Fisherman logo.

Islanders fans loathed it, rival fans mocked it, and I … kind of loved it? I remember asking for a Ziggy Palffy jersey for Christmas one year even though I wasn’t even an Islanders fan (I just liked the jersey and thought Ziggy Palffy was pretty good). I never got it.

The team eventually altered the uniform a bit by keeping the same color scheme and concept, only replacing the Fisherman with the original NY logo. Those did not last long, either.

New York-based author Nick Hirshon wrote a fantastic book about this era of Islanders hockey called “We Want Fishsticks” and it is a wildly entertaining read on what was, at the time, one of the most dysfunctional organizations in pro sports. Check it out.

The Buffaslug

For the first 20-plus years of their existence the Buffalo Sabres had one of the classic NHL logo and jersey combinations. It was fantastic. It was close to perfect. There was really no need to change much. In the mid-1990s they rebranded the team a bit and went with a new black, white, and red combination that was a clear unnecessary downgrade.

But that downgrade was nothing compared to what would happen during the 2006-07 season when they introduced this monstrosity that would eventually come to be known as the “Buffaslug.”

It remains one of the most hated logos in NHL history, with the designer once saying in an interview that the backlash “felt like crap.”

Mike Keenan squashes the Cool Cat Jersey

In the mid-1990s the NHL had some of its teams introduce new alternate uniforms that were supposed to dramatic changes from their usual look. The only one that wasn’t completely hated was the Pittsburgh Penguins alternate that would eventually become their regular road jersey for several seasons.

The others? All a nightmare. The Boston Bruins introduced some bright yellow monstrosity that had a weird floating bear head on the front. The Los Angeles Kings went with a futuristic look that featured a silver swirl cutting across the middle of the jersey with a king head in the top corner. The Ducks went with a green jersey that featured a cartoon-ish version of their Wild Wing mascot lunging through a sheet of ice holding a goalie stick (seriously, it was insane and could probably get its own entry here).

Then there was the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues, according to legend, were going to go with these until then-head coach Mike Keenan vetoed them, refusing to let his team take the ice wearing these.

If you ask me, the real blunder here was not the design itself, but rather not letting them actually be worn.

Truthfully, the All-Star uniforms this season should have all been different variations of these.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Time Machine: Looking back at the 1988 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis

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Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to February 9, 1988, the most recent time the St. Louis Blues played host to the NHL All-Star Game. 

With the St. Louis Blues playing host to the NHL All-Star Game for the third time in franchise history this weekend, we wanted to take a quick look back to the most recent time they hosted it during the 1987-88 season.

It ended up being a 6-5 overtime win for the Wales Conference, a game that was highlighted by six points — including a hat trick and the game-winning goal — for Pittsburgh Penguins center Mario Lemieux.

Let’s dig into it.

The format and the uniforms

The 1987-88 season marked the return of the traditional NHL All-Star game after the league took a break during the 1986-87 season for Rendez-Vous ’87, a two-game series in Quebec that saw the NHL All-Stars play against the Soviet Union team (they split the series with the Soviets winning 8-7 on aggregate).

For 1988, it was back to the Wales Conference vs. the Campbell Conference, as it had been for the previous 11 All-Star Games.

This was also two years before the NHL’s very first All-Star skills competition, which would not be introduced until the 1990 game in Pittsburgh.

So let’s talk about the uniforms because — well — these left something to be desired. The NHL made a minor change to them by replacing the “Wales” and “Campbell” diagonal script across the front with the NHL logo. To call them bland would be an understatement. Here we see Dave Poulin, Ron Hextall, and Kjell Samuelsson modeling them before the game, sharing the exact amount of excitement these uniforms deserve.

Look at Hextall’s pads!

The beginning of the end of the Oilers’ dynasty

The Edmonton Oilers were on their way to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years and understandably had the largest presence at the game.

Glen Sather served as coach, while the Oilers had a league-high six players in the game: Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, and Grant Fuhr.

Gretzky, Kurri, Lowe, and Fuhr were starters.

But while the Oilers were still at the top of the NHL, their dynasty was starting to develop some cracks.

Defenseman Paul Coffey had been traded to Pittsburgh just a few months earlier (he started for the Wales Conference), while Gretzky would be traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the end of this season. The Oilers would still win another Stanley Cup in 1990 and play in a couple of of Campbell Conference Finals, but this season was one of the last times they were truly at the height of their power as an NHL dynasty.

Twenty-three future Hall of Famers on the ice

Every All-Star is a collection of amazing talent, and this one had a ton of the game’s all-time giants, including 23 future Hall of Famers.

Al MacInnis, Jari Kurri, Luc Robitaille, Grant Fuhr, Wayne Gretzky, Glenn Anderson, Dale Hawerchuk, Mark Messier, Denis Savard, Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Paul Coffey, Mario Lemieux, Denis Potvin, Michael Goulet, Ray Bourque, Mark Howe, Cam Neely, Mike Gartner, Pat LaFontaine, Larry Robinson, Peter Stastny, and Patrick Roy.

Mario Lemieux truly begins to breakout, dominates game

This was Lemieux’s fourth season in the NHL and it was already clear that there was something special about him.

He had already won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, won the Lester B. Pearson award in 1986, had played in two other All-Star Games, and had two top-four finishes in Hart Trophy voting. He was great. But at this point his team still stunk (trading for Coffey helped turn that around) and he was still mostly playing in Gretzky’s shadow.

But the 1987-88 season was when that all started to change.

Lemieux would go on to lead the league in goals and total points for the first time in his career, while also winning his first MVP award even though the Penguins missed the playoffs (no player on a non-playoff team has won it since).

He also completely took of the All-Star game with what was then a record-setting six points (factoring into every goal his team scored!), including a hat trick and the game-winning goal in overtime.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Time Machine: Karma bites fan who mocked Steve Sullivan

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Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back to when a fan mocked Steve Sullivan for getting hit in the face by a high stick … and was then later hit in the face by a puck.

With the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche facing off on Wednesday Night Hockey (watch live on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET) we are hopping in the ole time machine to take a quick look back at the most absurd moment to happen between these two teams. Yes, it’s the Steve Sullivan fan incident from Jan. 26, 2001, when a heckler in the stands ended up getting a taste of his own medicine.

Chapter 1: The matchup

During the 2000-01 season the Blackhawks and Avalanche were two trains going in two very different directions.

The Blackhawks were stuck in the middle of the most irrelevant stretch in franchise history and looking completely hopeless. It was an impossibly bad 10-year run where they made the playoffs one time, were in the process of ruining the relationship with fans, and were on their fifth different head coach in four years.

The Avalanche, meanwhile, were one of the elite teams in the league. They had an All-Star laden roster that was five years removed from a Stanley Cup, had been in the Western Conference Final three more times since then, and were on their way to winning a second Stanley Cup a few months later.

It was a mismatch, and the game started exactly as you would expect with with the Avalanche racing out to an early 3-0 lead.

Chapter 2: Steve Sullivan gets high-sticked

It was at that point, midway through the second period, that an otherwise random high-sticking incident took place involving Sullivan and Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay.

As Tanguay attempted to clear the puck out of the Avalanche zone, his stick inadvertently clipped Sullivan in the face leaving a cut on the bridge of his nose. When Sullivan skated back to the bench, slumped over and in pain with a towel to his face, a glass-banger in the front row decided to start heckling the injured forward.

It did not go unnoticed by Sullivan.

Steve Sullivan Fan Incident

Banging on the glass is annoying, but I’m not going to stop you.

If you want to try to heckle the other team, just keep it clean and within the lines of good taste. You’re the fan paying the money to sit in the good seats, do what you want (again, within reason).

A good rule of thumb, though, is do not mock the injured players.

Chapter 3: Sullivan gets some revenge on the scoreboard

Maybe he was feeling some extra motivation. Maybe it was some good luck. Whatever the case, Sullivan did his best to bring the Blackhawks closer on the scoreboard by scoring a pair of shorthanded goals against Patrick Roy on the same penalty kill to cut the deficit to 3-2 late in the second period.

Sullivan was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise bad Blackhawks team, finishing the season with 34 goals including a league-leading eight shorthanded goals.

A good way for a player to silence a heckler is to do something during the game that impacts the result. For a few minutes, it looked like Sullivan might be able to do that. But again, the gap in talent between these two teams was so much that not even two shorthanded goals in less than a minute were enough to swing the result in Chicago’s favor (the Avalanche went on to win 5-2).

Chapter 4: Sullivan strikes back

It turned out to the best way to get even for Sullivan in this case was simply the opportunity to return the favor.

With the second period coming to a close, Roy attempted to clear the puck off the glass and accidentally put it in the stands where it hit an unsuspecting fan in the head.

You will never guess which fan it ended up hitting.

In the video posted above, Sullivan points out that he didn’t realize what happened until teammate Tony Amonte pointed it out to him. Sullivan then skated over to the glass and shared some “choice words” with the fan who had done the same earlier in the period.

Probably the best part of the exchange is the fans wife/girlfriend/friend holding the towel on the fan’s head, laughing, and giving Sullivan a thumbs up.

You can see everything, as well as Sullivan’s commentary, in the video above.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Remembering Gretzky passing Howe, 30 years later

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Throughout the season we will be taking an occasional look back at some significant moments in NHL history. This is the PHT Time Machine. Today we look back 30 years when Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s all-time points record … against his former team.

Exactly 30 years ago Tuesday Wayne Gretzky, then a member of the Los Angeles Kings, made NHL history by breaking Gordie Howe’s points record with a late third period goal to tally his 1,851st career point in the league.

In what was perhaps the most fitting way possible, he managed to do it in Edmonton against his former team where he spent the first nine years of his NHL career, winning four Stanley Cups. “The Great One” also accomplished the feat just a little more than a year after he was traded to Los Angeles in one of the biggest trades in sports history. There was already a statue built of him outside the building in which he broke the record.

Gretzky entered the game trailing Howe by just a single point and tied the all-time mark with a first period assist on a Bernie Nicholls goal to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.

He broke Howe’s record with less than a minute to play in the third period, tying the game and sending it to overtime where Gretzky would end up winning the game to cap off the night.

Not only did he break the record in Edmonton on a game-tying in the closing seconds, but it came at the end of what was a three-minute shift for Gretzky, via the October 15, 1989 Associated Press:

A couple of random facts to keep in mind about Gretzky’s climb up the NHL’s all-time points leaderboard and the absurdity of his production…

  • He recorded his 1,850th point in his 11th NHL season at the age of 28.
  • By comparison, Howe played 26 seasons in the NHL and recorded his 1,850th point at the age of 51. Yes, there was a brief three-year retirement and a six-year stop in the WHA thrown in there, but even if you look at Howe’s career when he retired the first time at age 42 (after 25 seasons in the NHL) he was still *only* at 1,809 points. Gretzky shattered that by age 27.
  • The craziest stat about Gretzky’s career is still the fact that if he never scored a goal in the NHL he would have still eventually broken Howe’s point record by 113 points just based on assists alone.
  • At the time of Gretzky’s record setting day, he had already registered 1,207 assists, a mark that (again excluding goals) would have been enough to put him in the top-12 in points all-time at that moment.
  • Gretzky would go on to finish his career with 2,857 points. The NHL’s second-leading scorer, Jaromir Jagr, is 936 points behind him (1,921 points). The gap between Gretzky and Jagr at No. 1 and 2 is the same as the gap between Jagr and the 91st leading scorer of all-time, Dave Keon.
  • The active players that are closest to Gretzky are Joe Thornton with 1,480 points, Sidney Crosby with 1,226, and Alex Ovechkin with 1,218. It is entirely possible — if not likely — that Crosby and Ovechkin will eventually pass Howe’s mark and climb into the top-five, but none of them have any chance of matching Gretzky’s point record, a mark that seems almost unbreakable given the way the game has evolved and become a more defensive and goaltending dominated sport.

For more stories from the PHT Time Machine, click here.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.