Thursday, November 21, 2002

When it comes to winning the Art Ross Trophy, for most points, goals and assists, accumulated during the season, bigger is definitely better! Since its origin, in 1948, eight players under six feet tall have won the Art Ross. Elmer Lach, Ted Lindsay, Bernie Geoffrion, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Bryan Trottier, and Marcel Dionne.They won thirteen scoring titles between them. Only Lach, Lindsay, Geoffrion and Mikita are under 185 pounds. They won eight scoring championships between them. Since 1969 only two, Trottier and Dionne have been under six feet.

Stats courtesy of
S. Korean Hockey Player Dies; From the other side of the world comes some news that should send a chill down the spine of anyone who has ever laced up a pair of hockey skates:

A South Korean hockey player died after he was hit in the chest by a puck during a league game.

Seung Ho Chi died Tuesday at Chuncheon, South Korea, the International Ice Hockey Federation said Wednesday.

The governing body said the 21-year-old player tried to block a shot, and he was dead by the time he arrived at the hospital. The Korean Ice Hockey Association said the exact cause of death was not yet known, the IIHF said.

"The puck hit the chest, close to the heart area," the IIHF said.

After taking a 14-year hiatus from my favorite sport, I climbed back on the ice just a few weeks after my 26th birthday, and played more or less year-round until shortly before I turned 33. I count myself lucky that the worst injury I ever saw was a broken clavicle, though I did come close to some harrowing injuries -- never closer than one night when my teammates and I came out for what had been billed as a friendly scrimmage.

It was early Summer, and one area rink had only signed up enough players for their Summer hockey school to form one team. Hence, the word went out that the rink was looking for teams to scrimmage against the newbies. For us, it was free ice time, so my team happily accepted two Saturday afternoon slots just a week apart from each other.

The first game was something of a laugher. My team was coming off a season where we had moved up a skill level -- one we spent most of getting thrashed pretty regularly. After 20 games of that, we weren't exactly looking to let up on a team of beginners, and I think we hung a 12-1 victory on them.

But after each goal, it was pretty clear our opposition's young coach wasn't taking it well. By the 12th goal, he was positively apoplectic, and made sure he gave us a piece of his mind as we skated off the ice and headed for the dressing room after the game.

When we came back the following Saturday for the return matchup, it wasn't hard to notice during warmups that one of the other skaters hardly looked like a beginner. It wasn't too much later that we figured out that the coach, who we discovered was a recent graduate of a Division II NCAA hockey program in New England, had decided to take to the ice himself to teach us all a lesson.

While they didn't hang a 12-1 result on us, the effect was still pretty dramatic. The "kid" simply controlled the puck about 75 percent of the time he was on the ice, which was a lot since he decided to double-shift all game long. We got pretty tired of chasing him about 5 minutes into the second period, and spent much of the rest of the game admiring the way he faked everybody on the ice out of their boots.

There were about 2 minutes left in the game when I experienced my brush with death. I was playing left defense, and had just managed to clear one of the newbies out from in front of the crease when my defensive partner managed a very weak clear up the slot. At this point, we were both straddling the faceoff circles in our zone, leaving more than enough room for our goalie to see straight up the ice.

As for the "kid" he had circled down low on the left wing side of the ice, and after a stop that threw up as much snow as a plow, was circling back to the left point along the blue line. Noticing the weak clear, he turned on the jets, and caught up with the puck about six inches before it crossed the blue line to safety.

A right handed shot, he made a quick pivot, and unleashed what was simply the most frightening slap shot I'd ever seen in my life.

Thinking he might be able to deflect the shot, my defensive partner dropped his left hand off the butt end of his stick to block the puck.

Big mistake.

At the speed it was travelling, he only had enough time to get his pinky finger in the way.

He screamed as the puck bent his finger backward, it's trajectory hardly changed.

Luckily for me, I was a few feet in back of him to his left. If I held my ground, the puck would have struck me somewhere between my stomach and my solar plexus. What I did next was simply make myself a smaller target. Pivoting on my left skate, I drew my right skate behind me. Whereas before, my shoulders were perpendicular to the flight of the puck, they were now paralell.

It turned out to be the luckiest reflex move of my young life. For some reason, that day I chose to go without a t-shirt under my pads, and had worn a smaller pair of shoulder pads where the breast plate ended an inch or two above my rib cage.

As the puck passed, I could feel it creasing my light mesh jersey, with the sharp breeze it created tickling the skin on my stomach.

With that, our goalie simply moved out of the way and let the shot in. It hit the back of the net, and bounced back out, finally coming to rest about 10 feet from the top off the crease.

Message recieved.
A New Hockey Blog: Chris Corrigan has a blog devoted to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Intriguingly, I stumbled upon an ESPN Readers' List: Greatest career records. In a poll, ESPN asked its readers to vote for their choice of greatest career record. Gretzky’s point total ranked second to Cy Young’s 511 wins. However, what really tweaked my interest were the following two letters.

To me, the greatest career record must be judged by how a career record compares to one's peers. Wayne Gretzky's 2,857 points gets my vote. Gordie Howe is second in career points with only 1,850. That is more than 50 percent more points for Gretzky than Howe. If you look at all other major sports, there is no one who is first in a statistical category who has 50 percent more anything than the player who is 2nd. For example you have Ty Cobb first with a career average of .366. That is indeed amazing but not all that much better than Rogers Hornsby, who had a career average of .358. Gretzky annihilated the scoring records in the NHL.
Fred Schwartz
Cockeysville, Md.

Wayne Gretzky's 2,857 points ranks No. 1 in my mind because of the incredible distance between him and No. 2, Gordie Howe at 1,850. That's just a ridiculous shattering of Howe's record. Imagine if Pete Rose had 6,000 hits or if Hank Aaron hit 1,100 home runs for his career. Or if Abdul-Jabbar scored 60,000 points. You get the idea. What's particularly amazing about Gretzky's feat is that he broke Howe's record only halfway or so through his career. Granted, NHL seasons have been about 80 games for Gretzky's career while Howe had only 60, but still ...
Zach Gorchow
Okemos, Mich.

The obvious question is why, if one has an ounce of curiosity in his soul. If you look at all other major sports, there is no one who is first in a statistical category who has 50 percent more anything than the player who is 2nd. Even Young’s record, which most readers consider completely unassailable, does not meet this standard. Walter, “Big Train” Johnson has 417 wins. Think about it!!
Mr. Steven Cardwell has some kind words for this old man, as well as some very interesting statistics.
I've enjoyed your ruminations on Gretzky and Howe's statistics. It doesn't hurt to remind people that the phenomenal scoring numbers of the eighties (Gretzky's included) were a product of the diluted talent of the league.

I've been looking at assist totals in different eras and done some calculations of the sort you were asking Rick Charlton about.

In the 50's
51-52 7.76 assists per game
52-53 7.21
53-54 7.41

over all three seasons 7.46

81-82 13.30

If you want more details drop me a line.

I enjoy the blog. Your play diagrams and analysis are the kind of thing that is missing from hockey writing everywhere else.


PS For my money Howe was the best because he did it all and kept doing it for 30 years.

Dafoe returns to the league, but probably not to the team he was looking for. The AP reports that the Atlanta Thrashers reached an agreement on a contract with free-agent goalie Byron Dafoe on Tuesday.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

You say it best Howard and Rick Charlton echoes your sentiment!

"But come on! Hockey is a game, and this research, despite its awards and pretension, is just fun."

Different eras, different statistics: Charles, I figured you might be interested in an old LCS Hockey article of mine, which deals with cross-era NHL statistics.
Jason Wooley gets booted from Buffalo to Detroit: Defenseman Jason Woolley agreed to take a $125,000 pay cut, allowing the Buffalo Sabres to trade him to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

The cost-conscious Sabres received a conditional pick in next year's draft, while freeing themselves of Woolley's $1,425,000 salary.

Woolley cleared waivers Friday, and the Sabres gave him permission to talk to teams about a trade. Woolley's agent, Pat Brisson, said the player agreed to take a lower salary from Detroit, but the money could be made up in new bonus clauses. The 33-year-old Woolley is in the final year of his contract and eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Red Wings needed an offensive defenseman after losing Jiri Fischer this week to a torn knee ligament. Fischer is expected to miss up to six months.
Bob Probert will no longer beat people up -- at least on the ice: One of the NHL's most feared enforcers (and AA members), Bob Probert has moved from little-used player to radio broadcaster.