Hockey Legends Revealed #5

This is the fifth in a series of examinations of legends related to Hockey and whether they are true or false.

Let’s begin!

HOCKEY LEGEND: A Superior Court Judge allowed a suspended coach to coach a playoff game.

STATUS: True

In the 1988 Eastern Conference Finals (then called the “Wales Conference”), the New Jersey Devils were playing the Boston Bruins.

Tied at a game apiece going into Game 3, the Bruins defeated the Devils badly, by a score of 6-1.

Devils coach Jim Schoenfeld was none too pleased with the referee work during the game, especially a penalty that had given the Bruins a two-man advantage (which resulted in a goal for Boston).

So as the game ended, and referee Don Koharski was exiting the rink, Schoenfeld began berating him over the calls.

Here they are…

Well, soon after that photo above, Koharski fell down.

He claimed that Schoenfeld has pushed him. Schoenfeld, naturally, disagreed.

He screamed, “You’re full of (expletive). You’re crazy. You’re crazy. You fell, you fat pig. Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!”

Due to the incident, the NHL suspended Schoenfeld for Game 4.

The Devils were outraged – the league’s investigation into the matter involved calling up both men and asking what happened, then asking some other eyewitnesses, then deciding that they believed Koharski.

The Devils could not believe that they did not even consult video tape footage of the incident.

So on Sunday, with the game on Monday, Devils President Lou Lamoriello wanted to appeal, but he was told only NHL President John Ziegler could overturn the suspension, and no one could locate him (which is utterly bizarre, right? No wonder Ziegler was gone as President within a few years).

Undaunted, the Devils found Judge J. F. Madden of the Superior Court of New Jersey, who granted a stay on the suspension on Sunday night.

When the Devils showed up on Monday, Schoenfeld was the coach.

The referees for the game refused to work the game, and without Ziegler being in contact, the decision on what to do for the game ultimately fell at the feet of the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, of all people, William W. Wirtz, who was the head of the Board of Governors.

Wirtz authorized replacement referees, and a group of off-ice NHL officials suited up using other people’s skates and were the refs for the game.

The Devils won and tied the series at 2 games apiece.

Finally, the NHL further investigated and the suspension was upheld and Schoenfeld missed Game 5, which the Devils lost (they would win Game 6 to force a Game 7, but the Bruins would hold on to win the series in Game 7).

Pretty crazy stuff, huh?

Thanks to Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger for the quotes (and the above photo, which is copyrighted by Ray Stubblebine of the Associated Press)!

HOCKEY LEGEND: A Hall of Fame goalie used to vomit before each game.

STATUS: True Enough

Besides his great goalie play, Hall of Fame Goalie Glenn Hall might be best known for his amazing consecutive games streak, where he not only played in 502 consecutive games between Oct. 6, 1955 and Nov. 7, 1963 (for two different teams), but he played in every minute of every game!

This being when goalies did not wear masks, it is pretty amazing that he was able to avoid being injured during that time. In fact, when he ultimately DID miss a game, it was after a muscle injury suffered in the LOCKER ROOM getting dressed!!!

I say the consecutive game streak is what he is best known for besides his great goalie play (he won two Vezina Trophies for Best Goalie – although he shared both, as he was platooning in both seasons as they came later in his career), but he might actually be more known for vomiting than he is for being the goaltender that led the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup in twenty three years in 1961 (they have not won one since)!

You see, Hall would always get really really pumped up before each game. So much so that while he was in the Junior Leagues, he began vomiting before games. As he would go on to become a dominant goalie in Juniors (he won the Rookie of the Year when he made it to the National Hockey League (NHL)), the vomiting went from being something born strictly out of nervousness/nausea to becoming almost a sick superstition!

As Hall himself related it:

If I weren’t up for a game enough to get sick before it, I felt I wouldn’t play well. It was no big deal. I could have a glass of water and throw it up while it was still cool…I had to get down for games rather than up. I took the game too seriously. On game day, I ate only because I had to, and then I’d throw up at the rink.

He explained how he was able to keep himself from vomiting on the ice…

I controlled it by deep breathing. I learned that from watching basketball players on the foul line.

His longtime teammate, Glen Skov, talked about how Hall’s teammates felt about his ritual…

We all felt sorry for him, you know, it wasn’t put on. He was genuinely that nervous before games. Of course, we were all nervous. You should be nervous before a game because that helps to keep you stimulated. But Glenn was really affected…we felt bad for him.

Can you imagine something like this going on today?

How many sports psychologists would the Blackhawks have on staff?

Thanks to Tom Adrahtas’ book, Glenn Hall, the man they call Mr. Goalie for the great quotes!

HOCKEY LEGEND: Wayne Gretzky coined the phrase “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is.”

STATUS: False Enough for a False

The phrase “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is” has become one of the great business seminar phrases of all time, used by all sorts of self-help gurus and business advisors and appearing in any number of books about leadership and achieving business goals.

It is always attributed to Wayne Gretzky, the “Great One.”

However, it was not coined by Gretzky.

It was originated by his FATHER, Walter Gretzky, who taught the phrase “Go to where the puck is going, not where it has been” when the Great One was just a kid.

However, Walter (and pretty much anyone associated with professional hockey) will tell you – this is not good advice for a professional hockey player, as no one needs to be told not to go where the puck no longer is!

And if everyone went to where the puck is going, you’d have a whole pile of people all around the puck, which is not good for a hockey team – spacing is usually a lot more valuable than having everyone go after the puck.

Still, in very basic terms, yes, it is fine advice – it’s just not something that the Great One came up, no matter how many more times he’ll be quoted as originating it over the years!!

Jill Rosenfield has a great examination about the legend of this phrase here. Well worth reading. She got the great quote from Walter Gretzky, as well as some other good quotes (including legendary Coach Herb Brooks mocking the phrase).

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

2 Responses to “Hockey Legends Revealed #5”

  1. About the Koharski story:

    Mike Myers made reference to it in the first “Wayne’s World” movie, when the local somewhat porty constable, Officer Koharski, stopped off at the local coffee shop to have a donut.

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