Today’s TBT sports blog remembers Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe.
The godfather of modern day hockey – Gordie Howe – also checks in at #4 in my sports comic book highlighting my all-time Hockey Favorites.
Here’s a chapter excerpt from my sports comic book about hockey.
“No one will ever argue that Gordie Howe’s lengthy, unmatched career earned him the nicknames Mr. Hockey and the King of Hockey.
The legendary #9 began playing hockey professionally in 1948 at the ripe age of 20.
Five decades later, Howe retired in 1980 at the unconscionable age 52.
Upon retirement, Gordie Howe held nearly every individual record in professional hockey. The 6’1” and 205 lb. right wing played an amazing 2,421 games, scored 1,071 goals, assisted on 1,518 others and made 29 all-star appearances.
Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe: Six-Time NHL MVP
Mr. Hockey was awarded six Hart trophies as the NHL Most Valuable Player and six Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer. He finished among the top five in scoring in the NHL for an incredible 20 consecutive seasons.
In addition to celebrating four Stanley Cup Championships with the Detroit Red Wings, Howe enjoyed an unprecedented accomplishment when he played for the New England Whalers, part of the now defunct World Hockey Association.
In a grueling sport that would certainly age most players prematurely, Gordie Howe displayed amazing longevity.
Howe became the only father in the history of professional sports to play with his own kids. In Howe’s case, he skated on the same pro hockey team with sons Mark and Marty in the 1973 – 74 WHA season.
Wayne Gretzky Wanted to Be Like Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe
Howe was so revered as the complete hockey player by Wayne Gretzky, that Gretzky was quoted as saying about this King of Hockey, ”I wanted to eat, sleep, look like and play hockey like Gordie Howe.”
Howe’s amazing longevity, rugged durability and incredible skill gained him entrance into 11 different sports halls of fame.
Also, the Canadian government bestowed upon him the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor.
Well deserved, Mr. Hockey!”
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Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers world champion boxer Roberto Duran aptly nicknamed “Hands of Stone.”
This Panamanian boxer regularly pummeled his opponents.
With 70 career knock-outs, Roberto Duran punched with such power that observers claimed he possessed Hands of Stone.
ESPN.com called Duran’s nickname the greatest nickname in a sport famous for great nicknames.
Pound for pound the 5’7” and 150 lb. Duran is widely known as one the best boxers to have ever set foot in the ring.
His amazing endurance in the ring lasted five decades. Duran’s career spanned from his 1968 professional debut in Panama to his unexpected retirement in 2001 due to a near fatal car crash.
Roberto Duran Fight Against Sugar Ray Leonard
One of Duran’s most famous fights pitted him against fellow lightweight Sugar Ray Leonard in a rematch. Duran had already defeated Sugar Ray by unanimous decision in June 1980 in a fight called the Brawl in Montreal. Oddly, in their November 1980 rematch, Duran walked out of the ring uttering, “no mas,” meaning “no more,” in Spanish. As a result, he forfeited his championship belt.
An inductee into the World Boxing and International Boxing Hall of Fames, Duran fought 119 times, winning 103 bouts. He earned a reputation as a punishing brawler inside the ropes.
However, outside the ropes Duran made headlines as well Panamanian lore. The story tells of an angry Duran once knocking out a horse with his Hands of Stone. To add to his tough image, many reported that the brash boxer once paraded his pet lion Walla around a hotel.
Few boxers in history have mirrored Duran’s varied success in the ring.
Roberto Duran Won Championship in Four Different Weight Classes
The Hands of Stone Panamanian used his punching prowess to win four world championship belts in four different weight classes. Duran captured crowns in lightweight (1972-1979), welterweight (1980), light middleweight (1983-1984) and middleweight (1989).
There may be “no mas,” or no more, of the 60 year-old Roberto Duran in the boxing ring. But, this incredible fighter is featured in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary film titled after his nickname.
In this film, boxing fans witness more, yes much more, of the boxer famous for having Hands of Stone.
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Today’s #TBT sports blog focuses on a former Stanley Cup champion and incredible overcoming athlete.
My post blog centers on former Pittsburgh Penguins center Super Mario Lemieux.
Let’s take a look back at this hockey hero.
The likeable hero of the top selling video game series of all time was introduced during the rookie season of one of the most admired National Hockey League’s players ever.
Beginning in 1985, Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers reigned over video game sales. That same year, Super Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins began dominating NHL games with his speed, strength and superb hockey skill.
Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr once remarked that Mario Lemieux, nicknamed Super Mario, was the most talented hockey player he had ever seen. Lemieux’s excellence on the ice allowed him to lead the NHL in scoring six times. He also won the Hart Trophy three times as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Mario Lemieux: 1999 Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee
A 1997 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame, big #66 finished his hockey career with 690 goals and 1,033 assists. He was the only player ever to score five goals in different ways in a single game. These goals included an empty net, power play, penalty shot, shorthanded and full strength.
The 6’4″ and 235 lb. French Canadian’s career highlights include an Olympic Gold Medal in 2002, a World Cup of Hockey Championship in 2004 and two NHL Stanley Cup Championships in 1991 and 1992.
Lemieux also won a third title in 2009 as Chairman of the Board of the same NHL team he played for, the Pittsburgh Penguins, whom he rescued out of bankruptcy.
Super Mario Overcame Disease and Back Problems
The former Penguin battled injuries and illness that sidelined him for several seasons. Lemieux overcame back problems and a bout with Hodgkins disease to return to the ice after he had already retired. He proved that hockey’s Super Mario trumps any video game heroics and is much more than just a hockey hero.
Video game icon Super Mario may have shown off his heroics by successfully saving Princess Toadstool from her nemesis Bowser during their valiant Nintendo struggles.
However, ice hockey hero Super Mario Lemieux repeatedly showed bravery, courage and an amazing personal drive.
Undersized at just 5’6” and weighing in at only 135 lbs., Bobby Orr lived with his parents during his first season with the Bruins’ Junior A hockey team, the Oshawa Generals.
Despite his small size, Orr’s incredible speed and amazing skill at such a young age failed to disappoint. The phenomenal prospect not only grew taller, gained strength and developed a keen awareness for the game. He also demonstrated a superb hockey ability that prompted the Boston Bruins to promote him just four years later. As an 18 year-old, he had matured into an immensely talented 6’ tall and 200 lb. defense man.
Bobby Orr quickly flourished in Boston, becoming a fan favorite and earning the respect of both teammates and Bruins competitors. Whenever he took the ice, #4 distinguished himself with an enviable all-around game. In addition to making hard checks and blocking slap shots, he showed his strength and toughness by moving opponents away from the net and even fighting when needed.
Injury Shortened Bobby Orr’s Stellar Career
Although his career was shortened due to nagging knee injuries, Bobby Orr’s name is immediately mentioned when fans discuss all-time NHL greats like Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby.
Throughout his 12 year career, Orr displayed excellence on the ice. A speedy defense man with exceptional puck skills, Orr collected a closet full of NHL hardware during his days as a Boston Bruin.
Bobby Orr earned just about every regular season NHL award a player could receive: the Colder Trophy as the 1968 Rookie-of-the-Year; two-time Ross Trophy winner for total points in a season; three-time Hart Trophy recipient for MVP and eight Norris Trophy selections as the league’s best defense man.
Orr rightfully belongs in any conversation involving NHL’s all-time best players. His career highlights came in 1970 and again in 1972. In both years, he led the Bruins to Stanley Cup Championships and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Finals MVP.
Bobby Orr’s Career Highlight
Perhaps Orr’s most memorable career highlight is his overtime goal during Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals. An iconic picture of an air born Orr with his stick raised in front of the St. Louis Blues’ goal after scoring the series winning goal is widely regarded as one of the top photos in sports history.
The Bruins rewarded their star by signing him in 1971 to the most lucrative hockey contract ever. Orr inked the first $1 million deal in hockey history by agreeing to play for five years at $200K per season.
Unfortunately, Orr’s hard charging style of play caught up with him. His fabulous career eventually succumbed to knee injuries and this incredible defense man retired in 1978.
The Hockey Hall of Fame wasted no time in recognizing this amazing athlete. It enshrined him into their illustrious family a year later.
A once small and undersized prospect, Bobby Orr became a force on the ice and a huge star for the Boston Bruins.
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Thanks again for reading my weekly #TBT sports blog.
Today’s #TBT sports blog looks back on one of the best, but most dubious nicknames in sports history – the NBA’s Portland “Jail Blazers.”
Professional sports team management often turns a blind eye to the bratty behavior of their athletes when they perform well for the team and bring in big bucks for the franchise.
However, the sports world may never again witness the “pa-role model” line-up of this group of knuckleheads.
They were the NBA’s infamous Portland Trail Blazers or “Jail Blazers” of the early 2000s.
Portland “Jail Blazers”
Better named the Portland “Jail Blazers”, the franchise featured a team of felons, alcohol abusers and potheads. They were talented but troubled athletes. These jailhouse jocks quickly angered the team’s loyal fan base. They damaged the City of Rose’s reputation around the league as a model championship organization and brought embarrassment to the franchise.
This star-studded Portland team was expected to compete for an NBA title. However, the Portland “Jail Blazers” imploded as quickly as these great athletes filled the lane on the fast break. Their names regularly showed up in the local police station’s arrest reports.
Instead of taking the charge on the basketball court, these troubled athletes were being charged in police offices away from the hardwood. Ruben Patterson was charged for felony domestic abuse. Zach Randolph was booked for driving under the influence. Qyntel Woods was charged with animal cruelty and marijuana possession. Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire received misdemeanors for marijuana possession.
The “Jail Blazers” Irritated Portland Fans
While still on the court, other “Jail Blazer” players irritated Portland followers. Lazy efforts and abusive comments toward teammates, refs and coaches created more problems for the team. J.R. Rider, Bonzi Wells, Nick Van Exel and Darius Miles further upset their own fans. As if enough petals hadn’t already fallen off this rose, the team’s flaky center, Shawn Kemp, left the team in mid-season to check himself into a drug and alcohol rehab clinic.
Since the outbreak of the Trail Blazers early 2000s reputation, the Portland franchise has rebuilt its once respected team. The organization has drafted gifted athletes who also possess off the court character.
Instead of blazing a path to the local jail, here’s hoping these players pioneer a trail for the City of Roses back to the NBA Finals.
Kudos, sort of, to the former “pa-role model” Portland Jail Blazers.
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During the Detroit Pistons 1989 and 1990 championship seasons, starting guards Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars were voted Most Valuable Players in the NBA Finals respectively.
However, muscular back-up guard Vinnie Johnson was the team’s Most Valuable Appliance.
That’s because all NBA fans knew Johnson as the Microwave.
According to NBA.com writer John Maxwell, “The Microwave was one of the most colorful and appropriate nicknames in recent sports history.”
The Microwave Nickname
Johnson’s instant offense and rugged defense, coupled with an irrepressible nickname, also made him the #1 choice in my sports comic book titled NBA Favorites.
Some basketball fans may think other NBA players or teams are more worthy than Vinnie Johnson to be #1 in this book, but remember this is my book and I loved the Microwave!
Vinnie Johnson earned the Microwave nickname as an electrifying scorer off the bench for the Pistons. Johnson was the great sixth man for the Pistons that brought immediate scoring off the bench. When entering the game, he never needed time to defrost. His energy level, or power, was always set on a microwave high.
During the 1985 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the favored Boston Celtics, Johnson scored an incredible 22 points in the fourth quarter during the Pistons’ 102 – 99 comeback victory. Johnson’s scoring led Celtics star guard Danny Ainge to remark, “If that guy (William Perry) in Chicago is the Refrigerator, then Vinnie Johnson is the Microwave. He sure heated up in a hurry.”
Before his kitchen appliance fame, the Seattle Supersonics drafted the Microwave as their number one draft choice in the 1979 NBA Draft. Johnson’s draft status was high following his amazing senior season at Baylor. The 6’2” and 200 lbs. guard played two seasons in Seattle before being traded to the Pistons. In Detroit, he remained with the franchise for the next 10 years. The Pistons eventually honored Johnson by retiring his number 15 jersey in 1994.
Vinnie Johnson’s NBA Playoff Highlight
This solidly built NBA guard finished his career in 1992 with 11,825 total points. His greatest NBA moment occurred with 00.7 seconds remaining in Game 5 of the 1990 NBA Finals. Johnson’s 15 foot game winning shot helped the Pistons defeat the Portland Trailblazers 92 – 90 and capture their second consecutive NBA Championship. Johnson was never named to an NBA All-Star team.
Yet, Vinnie Johnson’s Microwave label earned him top billing here in NBA Favorites. His clever moniker is sure to heat up and quickly decide any debate about whose nickname is tops in NBA history.
That’s because scores of NBA fans like me also loved the Microwave!
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Today’s #TBT sports blog rewinds football fans’ love affair with the NFL Super Bowl way back to January 15, 1967.
That’s the day when the now most watched television event in American history made its inauspicious debut.
The initial metrics surrounding Super Bowl I pale in comparison to the pageantry and digital deluge that Super Bowl LIII will foster.
Given the NFL’s unparalleled growth into a $10 Billion+ per year enterprise, it’s hard to fathom that its 1967 experiment to pit the vaunted NFL against the upstart AFL in a winner-take-all championship game was not an immediate hit with advertisers and the general public.
Let’s replay the video and learn more.
Compared to the whopping $5 million per 30 second advertising spot that CBS Sports commands for SB53 coverage, Super Bowl I ads collected only $42,000 in revenue for each half minute spot. Per a FOX Business Report, the NFL will collect in excess of $500 Million in total Super Bowl LIII ad revenue.
In addition, the first Super Bowl was simulcast by two major sports networks. Both CBS and NBC held broadcast rights for the two (NFL and AFL) respective leagues at the time and reported a much lower than expected combined viewership.
Only 51.1 million American viewers witnessed the first big game on television, compared to an estimated 100 million fans anticipated to watch Sunday’s contest in Atlanta between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
However, a less than auspicious Super Bowl debut becomes evident upon greater scrutiny.
Securing a spot in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the historic SBI contest between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs was as easy as a chip shot field goal. A decent seat only set fans back $12. That’s right, just 12 bucks!
Amazingly, the 61,940 announced attendance in Los Angeles was nowhere near a sellout. More than 33,000 seats in the cavernous stadium were empty.
No wonder why the NFL can’t seem to locate the actual footage from Super Bowl I.
Super Bowl LIII Average Cost of Ticket
By comparison, StubHub claims that the average broker price for a Super Bowl 53 ticket commands $4,613. That’s correct! It now can take thousands of dollars just to enter the gates of the gleaming $2 billion+ Mercedes Benz Stadium where a well heeled crowd exceeding 75,000 fans is expected.
For those cash fat fans who can afford to get into the game, no expense is now spared on entertaining them. Instantly recognized super star entertainers, or at least their agents, vie for the unprecedented exposure SB53 affords individual brands.
But, Sunday’s SB53 entertainment featuring Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi is a far cry for the league’s first title contest, and it should be.
Back in ’67, the halftime entertainment comprised of the University of Arizona Marching Band, 300 pigeons and 10,000 balloons, along with Al Hirt blasting away on his trumpet.
Super Bowl: An American Cultural Phenomena
Certainly, the spectacle of modern era Super Bowls has morphed dramatically over the years to become an American cultural phenomena.
Today’s #TBT post recalls how television’s greatest single event has transformed over the course of the past half a century.
And, why, as football fans, we couldn’t be happier.
That’s because we’re all counting down the moments to Sunday’s SB53 kick-off.
Enjoy the game!
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Today’s TBT sports blog remembers Wilt Chamberlain – one of the most iconic athletes of all-time – in any sport.
Few athletes so totally dominate a sport that their professional league must enact rule changes to make the games fair for the other 99.9% of the players.
Wilton Norman Chamberlain, simply known as Wilt, so altered NBA games that the league instituted new rules.
Today’s wider lane in the NBA and goal tending penalties were imposed because my #7 choice in Favorite Single Named Athletes vanquished all opposing basketball players.
Chamberlain overpowered basketball opponents whenever he stepped onto the hardwood. The 7’1″ and 260 lb. player effortlessly prevailed over all smaller, less physically gifted competitors. His towering size, strength, scoring ability and stamina empowered him to become the greatest player the NBA ever witnessed when he entered the league in 1959.
Wilt unanimously earned Rookie of the Year honors in 1960 for posting remarkable numbers of 37 points per game (a league best) and 27 rebounds per game. He continued his scoring assault on the NBA by leading the league in scoring for the six consecutive years.
Wilt the Stilt, The Big Dipper & Goliath
Also known as The Big Dipper, Wilt the Stilt and Goliath, Wilt reigned as an unstoppable force in the pivot – in spite of being regularly double and triple teamed during games.
This Philadelphia native and University of Kansas product now ranks as one of the NBA’s top 50 players ever. A 1978 NBA Hall of Fame inductee, Wilt’s gaudy NBA resume includes 13 All-Star selections, 4 Most Valuable Player awards, 11 rebounding titles and 2 NBA Championships. The first occurred in 1967 with the Philadelphia 76ers and the second in 1972 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Wilt may best be remembered for becoming the only NBA player to score 100 points in a single game. On the memorable night of March 2, 1962 Wilt reached the century scoring mark against the New York Knicks in front of only 4,124 fans at the old Hershey Sports Arena. Ironically, the game was not televised. No video footage of that historic night was ever taken.
Wilt retired in 1973. His record included staggering NBA career statistics of 30.1 points per game, 22.7 rebounds per game and 4.4 assists per game. Oddly, his career FG% of 54.0 was higher than his FT% of 51.1.
Wilt Chamberlain & His NBA Nemesis Bill Russell
Wilt also battled his career long nemesis Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics. Many sports fans regard this as the greatest individual rivalry in all of team sports. Russell’s Celtics bested Chamberlain’s teams (Warriors, 76ers and Lakers) seven out of eight times they squared off against each other in the NBA Playoffs.
Wilt’s incredible dominance as an NBA player prompted many NBA fans to root against this giant of a man. The fans treatment of him led Chamberlain to famously respond, “No one ever roots for Goliath!” Sadly, Wilt passed away in 1999.
Whether you were a fan of the Big Dipper or not, no one can argue that Wilt Chamberlain was truly a dominating Goliath as a basketball player and we can all celebrate the single named legacy of this NBA superstar. There won’t be another one quite like him – Wilt.
Like an easy open net goal, former Chicago Blackhawks great Bobby Hull effortlessly skates into today’s #TBT sports blog.
If you’ve ever visited Chicago’s United Center, you’ve seen his bronze statue standing proudly beside Bulls legend Michael Jordan and fellow Blackhawk great Stan Mikita.
Though he never actually skated inside this cavernous arena, Bobby Hull will always be remembered for what he accomplished as a Chicago Blackhawk, long before the team moved from the Old Chicago Stadium to its gleaming new home.
During his 23 year career, this legendary left winger played in both the established NHL as well as the then fledgling WHA.
Hull will always be wedded to the franchise that originally drafted him and ultimately lionized him with his life-sized likeness.
Bobby Hull Epitomized His Golden Jet Nickname
Between 1952 and 1980, Hull epitomized his Golden Jet nickname in more ways than one. The brilliant, blond haired Hockey Hall of Famer skated at an astounding 29.7 mph. In addition to his amazing speed on the ice, Hull recorded a 118.3 mph slap shot, making him the most physically gifted – and feared – hockey player of his generation.
Hull’s shot strength and banana bladed hockey stick proved such a lethal combination, especially for maskless goalies, that the NHL minimized the curvature of the sticks to reduce the danger (of his strokes / strikes).
Besides incomparable speed and a killer shot, Hull possessed an uncanny ability to put the puck in the net. In 1966, he became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season, a feat he replicated another four times.
Hull led the NHL in scoring an impressive seven times, while accumulating career NHL total numbers of 610 goals and 560 assists in his 1,063 games.
Without doubt, Bobby Hull is best remembered as a Blackhawk for having won the 1961 Stanley Cup, two Hart Memorial trophies and three Art Ross trophies. In deference to the legend, the Hawks retired Hull’s famous #9 jersey, which he originally wore as a tribute to his own idol Gordie Howe.
Hull made hockey history following his earlier accolades and awards. In 1972, he eschewed the Chicago franchise to become the face of the new World Hockey Association. His decision also captured headlines because the Hartford Whalers signed him to the most lucrative hockey contract ever: $1.75 million over 10 years with a then-whopping $1 million signing bonus.
Hull went on to become the WHA’s greatest player ever. He scored a never before seen 77 goals during the 1974 – 75 season and led his squad to three AVCO or WHA championships.
There’s no doubt why The Hockey News named Hull #8 on its list of top 100 hockey players ever.
It’s also why The Golden Jet is revered as the most venerated hockey star in Chicago Blackhawks history.
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