Soviet Canuckistan’s Comrade Cosh blithely continues the Party line,
I may tackle the Howe-Gretzky thing statistically at some point, but as it stands I would cite the old sceptical maxim "The burden of proof is on the maker of an extraordinary claim." The claim that anyone who ever lived rivals Gretzky is certainly asking a lot, of me at least. Your workup actually had the sheer nerve to *penalize* Gretzky for playing longer regular seasons and four rounds of playoffs every year (and once logging 300+ consecutive games too, I might add). Surely, Howe's shorter seasons cut both ways. You don't think playing short years against guys three, four inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter might have had something to do with Howe hanging around until he was 50-plus?
What is so extraordinary about the claim that Howe is the best ever? He stood 6’1” and weighed 205. His nickname was “Power” and he ruled the rinks with a combination, since unsurpassed, of talent, strength, and intimidation. He scored both left and right-handed. His elbows were legendary and if that didn’t work he had no compunction about shooting the puck at your face. He didn’t cower behind the 6’3” formidable frame of Dave Semenko
, but met each physical challenge with devastating determination. His one blow demolition of tough-guy Lou Fontinato’s face graced the front cover of Life magazine. Opponents overplayed to his side because never before or since did a player control the game from the right wing like Howe did. Sure, some players were smaller but others like Butch Bouchard
[6’2”, 210], Jean Beliveau
[6’3” 205], Bob Goldham
[6’2” 195], Elmer, “Moose”, Vasko [6’2” 200], Eddie Litzenberger [6’3” 195],Leonard,“Red”, Kelly [6’ 195],and Frank Mahovolich [6’1” 205]all were prominent physical forces. Four inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter, is, [shall we be kind] an exaggeration. 50-plus? The post doesn’t even mentioned this fact which really is indicative of how weak the league was in the late seventies and early eighties. And even more evidence of the intrinsic weakness of this era is the fact that the Oilers compiled these hugely inflated point totals while playing shorthanded for on average, a period per game. The 1982-83 Oilers
compiled 1,771 minutes in penalties compared the the 1952-53 Red Wings who only averaged 9 minutes per game in penalties.
As for the shorter season cutting both ways, I’ll digress. When I challenged our great Alberta artificer (?) regarding his contention that Gale Sayers was the greatest running back of all time, he responded thusly,
Brown is the other serious candidate besides Sayers, I guess. But, if I'm a coach trying to choose between those two guys, do I want the violent egomaniac or the Jackie Robinson of football? If I take Sayers he'll run back kicks for my special teams; Brown won't even participate in my blocking scheme. And if I lean on him he'll convince Art Modell to fire my ass.
And here I thought football was a violent game.
In college, in the regular-season finale, a 61-7 rout of Colgate, Jim Brown rushed for 197 yards, scored six touchdowns, and kicked seven extra points for 43 points. Then in the Cotton Bowl, he rushed for 132 yards, scored three touchdowns, and kicked three extra points. Arguably, the greatest Lacrosse player of all time you gotta admit this guy did it all.
In '58 he compiles 1,527 yards and 18 touchdowns, but in the playoffs the Giants beat then 10-0 and he gets eight yards on seven carries. Seven carries for the greatest running back in the game!!!
"When you have a thoroughbred," coach Paul Brown said, "you run him."
Brown's 1,329 and 1,257 yards in 12-game seasons led NFL rushers the next two seasons. In 1961, in the first 14-game season, Brown led the league for the fifth straight season, with 1,408 yards. [And you doubt Gordie would have popped more goals in a longer season!] But again no playoffs for the Browns. In 1962, for the only time in his career, Brown failed to win the rushing title, gaining just 996 yards. Cleveland fell to 7-6-1. After the season, he tells owner Art Modell "either Paul Brown goes or I quit."
So Modell dumps Paul Brown and in his first season under new coach Blanton Collier, Brown became the first back to run for more than a mile with his 1,863-yard total. He led the league with 1,446 yards in 1963 as the Browns won the NFL championship, routing Baltimore 27-0 in the title game with Brown rushing for a game-high 114 yards.
Yet, Mr. Cosh dismisses him outright because he’s an uppity nigger
. Now that’s serious statistical analysis!
However, in Brown’s case, he averaged 107 yards per game in a twelve game season and 102 yards per game in a 14 game season.
Mr. Cosh admonishes my straight up bonus to Gordie -
Oh, I don't doubt Gordie Howe would have scored more goals in a longer regular season--that's pretty much true in principle. But you gave him a straight-up per-game bonus in your calculations--assuming that the last ten are as productive as the first seventy. The extra ten, as I see it, are the hard ones. What I said was, the factor *cuts both ways*, and it does. It's *tougher*, not easier, to play a longer schedule. Especially if you account for the extra-super-duper-long playoff that comes after it.
However, if we look at Brown’s numbers this unsupported notion doesn’t cut it.
And still more,
And that European thing--*honestly* now. Anyone who thinks the European presence in the NHL began in 1990 must have been asleep for several thousand games involving Borje Salming, a whole boatload of Statsny brothers, Matti Hagman, Hakan Loob, Jaroslav Pouzar, Kjell Dahlin, Petri Skriko, Risto Siltanen, Rexi Ruotsalainen, Kent Nilsson, Thomas Gradin, Markus Mattsson, Bengt Gustafsson, Pelle Lindbergh, Mats Naslund, Thomas Steen, a couple of Sundstroms and a Sandstrom, Ulf Samuelsson... Not that too many of these guys would have held up Howe, although Pouzar could no doubt have bench-pressed him one-handed; but the fact remains that NHL hockey did much of the heavy lifting on globalization after Howe left and while Gretzky was still a kid.
No one is saying that the European influx started in the 1990’s, only that the trickle that began in the mid-seventies did not become significant until the nineties. Mr. Cosh’s list, and generously we’ll add Jari Kurri
, Inge Hammarstrom
, Willy Lindstrom
, Anders Hedbergh, and Ulf Nilsson
for a total of 26 only accounts for approximately five percent of a 21 team league. The Oilers had Kurri, Pouzar and Lindstrom on the ’82-83 team and the 1980 Stanley Cup-winning New York Islanders had 21 North Americans and two Swedes on their roster. Pouzar may have been able to bench-press Gordie with one hand but he wasn’t good enough to carry his skates with the other by anyone’s measure. This was a assemblage of Swedes and Finns with a couple of Slovak defectors
.The European tsunami came after the collapse of communism.
Last year NHL teams drafted a record number of 142 European players. It marked the sixth consecutive year that the number of European players has increased in the Entry Draft.
1996: 58 European players selected
Last season marked the first time when the amount of drafted Europeans (142) virtually equalled the number of selected North Americans (147). Since the modern draft system was introduced in 1969, a total of 1350 Europeans have been selected. Four Europeans have had the distinction of being picked first overall:
1989 Mats Sundin
, SWE, by Quebec
1992 Roman Hamrlik
, CZE, by Tampa Bay
1999 Patrik Stefan
, CZE, by Atlanta
2001 Ilia Kovalchuk, RUS, by Atlanta
The first player ever drafted from Europe was Finnish left wing Tommi Salmelainen
(from IFK Helsinki). Salmelainen, who never played an NHL-game, was picked 66th overall by St. Louis in 1969. The first European trained player in the NHL was Swedish centre Ulf Sterner
(from V. Frolunda, Goteborg) who played four games for the NY Rangers in 1965.
Last season (2001-2002) a record number of 293 (30.3 percent) Europeans played in the NHL.
During the Howe era, the Europeans had barely emerged from the hockey hinterland. Undermining Howe’s dominance because he did not compete against Europeans is nonsense. Questioning axiomatic norms, whether it is Marc Herrold’s
death total of innocent Afghanis or Gretzky’s inflated point totals in the weakest decade of NHL history will always be of value. It is the myopic denial by fat-ass fops that poses the greatest danger.