Thursday, October 22, 2020

This is all your team’s fault: One part of the modern NHL to blame on every team (Western edition)

Welcome to the conclusion of a two-part series in which I try to find a rule, tradition or other piece of the hockey world that each team can take the credit (or blame) for introducing.

On Tuesday, we looked at the 16 Eastern Conference teams, and thank them for giving us icing, the draft lottery, trade calls and the all-star game, among other things. Today, it’s on to the West. As before, we’ll be looking at changes that were big and small, good and bad, important and trivial, and everything in between. We just want to make sure all 15 Western teams – sorry, Seattle, maybe next year – have some small piece of today’s NHL that they can claim as their own.

Chicago Blackhawks

Thank them for: The limit on how curved a stick blade can be

For the first century or so of hockey, stick blades were flat. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the curve blade fell into wide use, making it easier to lift the puck and occasionally producing unpredictable shots that were harder for goalies to stop.

There’s some dispute over who actually came up with the curved stick; most versions of the story mention Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita of the Hawks, although New York’s Andy Bathgate had claimed that they got the idea from him and some sources credit the initial innovation 1920s star Cy Denneny. But either way, it was Hull and Mikita who took the idea to the next level, taking to the ice with ridiculous curves that became known as banana blades. The NHL eventually put a limit on how much curve was too much, a fact that still makes Kings fans cry.

Edmonton Oilers

Thank them for: The post-Cup group photo

The 1980s Oilers had plenty of chances to innovate when it came to winning Cups, since they did it kind of a lot. They’re often given credit for starting the tradition of the first handoff by giving it to Steve Smith in 1987, the year after his infamous own-goal. But I’ve always loved the story behind the 1988 win, when Wayne Gretzky made the apparently impromptu decision to gather everyone for a team photo.

We hadn’t seen that before, and it was an undeniably cool moment – especially since it became Gretzky’s last moment in an Oiler jersey.

Los Angeles Kings

Thank them for: Your current coach not being able to take a job with another team

Not your current coach in the sense of a guy you fired but who remains under contract. I mean the guy who’s behind your bench, right now, for tonight’s game. Other teams can’t just show up and hire that guy for a different job.

Yeah, that doesn’t seem like the sort of thing we should need a rule about. There’s a story here.

It comes from December 1986, as the legendary Pat Quinn was halfway through his third season as Kings’ coach. He stunned the league, and his employer, by announcing that he’d accepted a job as the new GM of the Canucks, with the intention of starting after the season ended.

Quinn, a former lawyer, argued that he was within his legal rights to negotiate with another team, even as he was still working for the Kings. The NHL didn’t necessarily dispute that, but considered Quinn’s attempt to coach one team while signing a contract with another a conflict of interest. They hammered everyone involved with heavy fines, and suspended Quinn from working anywhere for the rest of the season, and from coaching a team until 1990. Not surprisingly, various appeals, threats and lawsuits followed. It was kind of a mess.

So the next time you about a team needing to ask permission to talk to a coach that some other team already fired, you can trace it back to the Kings, the Canucks, and the lawyer/coach who knew an upgrade when he saw it.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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