Summer Reading: Heritage Jerseys, History, and the Forcing of Both

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I think I’m tired of the “Heritage Jersey” scheme that Adidas is going on about. The NHL has gone into the NBA territory by having fancy names for their alternate jerseys. While the idea of nostalgia is a great one and one that is a proven moneymaker; the fact we’ve seen some of these jerseys in the recent past proves that the NHL is all about the retread– as if you haven’t figured that out by who participates in the outdoor games. Already, we’ve seen the St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Arizona Coyotes, and the Anaheim Ducks (…kind of) that have put out their “heritage” jerseys. I’m sure we can expect the Capitals, Maple Leafs, and possibly Flames to join this trend.

While it’s nice to have this retro flare– it’s really all fake. If the NHL really cared about the “heritage” aspect of these jerseys; why wouldn’t they want to show off the Colorado Rockies or Kansas City Scouts jerseys that are the actual heritage of the New Jersey Devils instead of their white “Christmas color’ jersey motif.

Therein lies the problem with the NHL and the way they present their history. Sure, it’s the whole “to the victor goes the spoils,” but at the same time– you can’t bury the history of team’s past. Hell, those are the jerseys and logos that it seems that people crave. However, the NHL doesn’t want you to remember the past as it was. They want you to remember the history as they present– which is a raw deal for everyone involved.

Rarely do you hear about the Cleveland Barons, Kansas City Scouts, Hamilton Tigers, or St. Louis Eagles due to those teams not making any kind of positive impact in their few years in the NHL proper. People get force fed the “original” six forever and day, but that’s not really the history. Hell, they’re more like the surviving six over anything else. But that’s not what the NHL wants to portray, which I can understand. With the exception of the NBA, you don’t see many leagues touting the teams that have fallen off their radar. You might get fans talking about those teams, but rare to see the leagues promote the dead teams that relocated.

You rarely hear about players from the old days either. The lack of publicity that Joe Malone gets from the NHL is sickening, especially when you have baseball still hold up things that Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig did. Malone was one of the greatest players and the greatest goal-scorer of his generation, but the NHL really doesn’t do much to profile their players before 1950. Newsy Lalonde is really talked about for his name, but his goal-scoring prowess was up there with Malone, but you only get his nickname of Newsy as something to remember him by rather than the 124 NHL goals in 99 games over his career and 288 goals in 207 games if you combine the NHA and NHL totals. But the NHL doesn’t even give them a passing glance unless they have to– which is rarely.

The idea of having a team historian is a thing that seems to be a hot topic amongst fans with some teams putting it to use. Granted, some of them have put in the work and then were unceremoniously shown the door after the fact, but the team got what they wanted. In all honesty, it seems that the need for a historian could be a “flavor of the month” for some teams and the league itself. With the NHL Centennial over, you have to wonder how much they’ll promote Dave Stubbs’ work since the history isn’t something they need at the forefront anymore.

Jen Conway (AKA NHL History Girl) and I discussed this on the FOHS Overtime on Patreon, so if you want to shell out of few duckets to hear it– then by all means. All the money goes back into the Media Faction for shows and stuff like that.

You can bet we’ll see more “heritage” jerseys– many of which we have seen in the past, many of which won’t be the real heritage of the team. It’s this idea of history that’s great in theory– but when you put it into practice and you dig up things that aren’t all rosy; that’s stuff people don’t want to hear or pay attention to– so they turn it and it becomes a waste for many. Here’s hoping that many hockey fans can take the good with the bad, but with how things work in this social media era– it’s unlikely to happen.

Maryland Hockey History: Baltimore Failed NHL Expansion, WHA Completion

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Things could have been a lot different for the history of hockey in Maryland if you were to believe press clippings around the first rounds of expansion in the NHL. It would have definitely changed the way things are now and who knows if it the Washington Capitals would even be in the league if Baltimore would have gotten the expansion bid in 1967 or 1970.

During early expansion, Baltimore had put a bid in behind the strength of their new Civic Center, which was able to expand up to 12,700 seats for hockey– a size that was 200 seats more than the smallest arena at the time in Detroit. The biggest argument from Jake Embry– President of the Baltimore Clippers of the AHL and spokesperson for Baltimore’s 1967 NHL bid– was that Baltimore was a big league city in other sports and he felt hockey should be big league, too.

To that point, the Clippers in the AHL had been to the playoffs three times in five years and only got past the first round twice. They were brought into the Civic Center as an AHL expansion team in 1962 after the first incarnation of the Clippers played in the Eastern League out of the ashes of the Coast Guard Cutters. When Carlin’s Iceland burnt down in 1956, the Clippers moved to Charlotte with 12 games left in the 1955-56 season.

The one issue is that while the Civic Center could have expanded to 12,700, it was normally at 11,200 for hockey and even then they couldn’t fill half the arena over average with the Clippers. Embry’s idea that maybe a top league would bring more butts to the seats in the new arena, which is why he put the bid in on top of the idea that Baltimore is a big-league city. The AHL felt threatened enough to create an indemnification plan for not only Baltimore– but for Buffalo and Pittsburgh, who were also in the first expansion bids.

Obviously, Baltimore didn’t get into that first round of expansion, but they were still in the running for the next round. In fact, they were originally supposed to join Vancouver as the other team in the 1970 expansion, as Clarence Campbell felt the market was valuable. However, thanks to some stalls along the way leading up to the next round of expansion and a stronger proposal from the Buffalo area– Baltimore had to stick with the AHL for the time being.

There was a time where “pro” hockey did come to the Civic Center. In the middle of the 1974-75 season, the Michigan Stags of the WHA couldn’t afford to play there anymore and moved to Baltimore. That year was also the first for the Capitals and with the Capitals doing that badly, maybe the idea was to perhaps steal some entertainment dollars from Landover and put into Baltimore. Of course, this wasn’t without hurdles– as Embry said that he had the exclusivity rights to the Civic Center and didn’t want the WHA to use the building– which tried at first at the end of 1973-74 season with the Jersey Knights. Yet, WHA president Dennis Murphy was able to get a lease with the Civic Center management and play out the rest of the 1974-75 season (all 17 games) in Baltimore as the Baltimore Blades, while the Clippers were forced to disband.

Since local ownership was not able to found for the Blades to continue, they folded up in May of 1975 and Baltimore hockey went into a bit of a tailspin with the Clippers coming back in the AHL, the Southern League, then the Eastern League before folding completely, leading the way for the Skipjacks to start up in 1981.

While the end results didn’t happen for Baltimore in the NHL or WHA, there’s some that still may believe that if they were given the chance– they would have been able to shine a little more. However, some people don’t get over the minor league doldrums and shun a product just because. Who knows what could have happened if Baltimore had won the expansion bids in either 1967 or 1970– they could have succeeded and then the Capitals wouldn’t be around or they could have tanked and been on the move two years after their incarnation– thoroughly killing the area because of lack of support and killing the Capitals hopes.

The world will never know.

PODCASTS: FOHS, SB, and ITD

Here’s the weekly dump from me about my podcasts

Face Off Hockey Show: The Jon and Scott show happens where we rambled about people not checking their DMs, the Carolina Hurricanes, and other ramblings.

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The Soderstrom Bubble: Jen and I talk about the evolution of hockey equipment through the years. From skates to pads to sticks. We ramble on about it all.

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In The Draft: Wilson and I talk about the big news about Dale Jr.’s replacement in the 88, what it means for the sports, the recap on New Hampshire and Eldora, plus what domino could be the first to fall in Silly Season.

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