Today’s #TBT sports blog looks back at the speed skater who became the most decorated American Winter Olympic Champion ever and a DWTS fan favorite.
The versatile Apolo Anton Ohno effortlessly skates and dances into not only my blog today in the same fashion he easily captured the #2 spot in my book Olympic Favorites.
The popular Ohno rose quickly as an American sports and cultural celebrity.
He displayed excellence on the ice and surprised us with fancy footwork on the dance floor.
Apolo Ohno Becomes Youngest Skating Champion
In 1997, Apolo Ohno became the youngest United States national short track speed skating champion. He was just 14 years old. Ohno proceeded to win this same American skating championship title an incredible 12 consecutive times.
The 5’8” and 134 lb. Ohno emerged on the international skating scene by winning the 1999 World Cup. Since 1999, he has accumulated 8 gold, 7 silver and 6 bronze medals in the World Championships. His 2008 gold medal was for overall performance.
Apolo Ohno’s Olympic success started in 2002 in Salt Lake City where he brought home the gold in the 1500 meter race and the silver in the 1000 meter race.
In 2006 at the Torino Games, Ohno continued his excellence in the sport. He won a gold medal in the 800 meter race and collected bronze medals in the 1000 meter and 1500 meter relays.
In the Vancouver Games that followed, Apolo Ohno skated to a silver medal finish in the 1500 meters and won two more bronze medals in relay races. His overall medal count rose to eight, making him the USA’s most successful Winter Olympian of all time.
From Olympic Ice to Dancing with the Stars
The handsome and likable skater parlayed his athletic success by competing on the 2007 season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
Paired with professional dancer Julianne Hough, Ohno added the coveted DWTS Mirror Ball Trophy to his already extensive collection of glittering awards.
In addition to winning the DWTS award, Ohno endeared himself to an adoring American public which embraced him as a sports and cultural celebrity.
It’s easy to understand why the famously successful Winter Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno skates into today’s #TBT post.
Here’s hoping the next Winter Olympics Games produce another gifted and likeable athlete like Ohno who could not just skate, ski, luge, sled and jump like a gold medal winner, but also who could eventually dance like a DWTS winner.
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Boston’s legendary Beanpot Hockey Tournament faced off this week at the TD Bank Garden.
It was the 66th time Boston’s top four college hockey programs took to the ice for this annual event.
The Beanpot Hockey Tournament may not be universally known outside the Boston area.
However, its storied tradition makes it one of the premier athletic events during the New England winter.
The Beanpot burst onto the Boston sports scene in 1952 like a bone jarring check into the boards.
Before face masks appeared on goalies and ESPN television coverage became ubiquitous, the Beanpot became an instant draw by pitting Boston’s four best college hockey programs for bragging rights among the area’s passionate hockey fans.
The Beanpot Brings Together College Hockey Rivals Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University
Now in its seventh decade, the Beanpot brings Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University to an annual battle at the Boston Garden as players vie for Hub City’s college hockey supremacy.
The former ECAC, now Hockey East, hockey programs originally faced off in the prestigious tournament over 60 years ago. They have been integral participants in this intensely localized, two day event.
With its debut, Beanpot fever emerged in the Boston area. The sports event capitalized on all four schools. They were comparable in student enrollment and located only short trolley rides away from each others’ urban campuses.
Four highly motivated hockey teams enthusiastically descended upon the bad ice of the old Boston Garden each year.
And, one school skated away with a coveted trophy from one of college sports’ best overall experiences.
Surprisingly, the Beanpot began with small expectations in December, 1952. “It was designed as a filler,” said Northeastern coach Jack Grinold, the unofficial historian of all things Beanpot. “I mean, it was originally the first two nights after Christmas of 1952. It was to help the arena on off nights. It’s way, way beyond that now.”
However, a brilliant marketing ploy moved the event to the quieter month of February. This bold move greatly boosted attendance. A few years later, the annual tournament transformed from popular to iconic.
Legendary stories have always accompanied Beanpot references. None is better than the 1978 Beanpot when the epic Boston Blizzard of that year dumped over two feet of snow and stranded hundreds of fans for two days at the old Boston Garden. Until they were able to return home, fans from the four rival schools were forced to reside harmoniously in the old Boston Garden.
The Beanpot Hockey Tournament Started in 1952
Since its inception in 1952, Beanpot rivalries have flourished in Boston hockey circles. The area’s rabid fans eagerly await each February tournament to help free them from New England winter doldrums and fuel an early spring fever.
According to former BU forward and 1980 Olympic gold medal winner David Silk, “Tradition and emotion are two words that come to mind when referencing the Beanpot. Anyone who has a pulse around here (Boston) knows about the tradition of the Beanpot.”
Per Silk’s quote, tradition certainly abounds at the Beanpot. Some fans can purportedly recite overall tournament records and individual stat sheets from all 60+ years of games.
Led for 40 years by legendary coach Jack Parker with three national titles, Boston University tops the Beanpot record book. B.U. has captured the most overall wins and has scored in an incredible 100+ straight games since 1963.
Boston College ranks second in Beanpot titles and has historically taken the ice as B.U.’s cross town rival and most hated nemesis. BC owes its success to Jerry York, college hockey’s most successful coach with five overall national titles on his resume.
Harvard’s place is secure in Beanpot history with 10 total titles and the tournament’s top scorer Joe Cavanaugh with 19 points.
Not to be overlooked, Northeastern has captured four Beanpot crowns and boasts the tournament’s best goalie in Bruce Racine who tallied an amazing 237 saves in 8 career games.
Boston sports fans have so totally embraced Beanpot hockey over the years that the wildly successful annual tournament has spawned Beanpot competitions in other collegiate sports around Boston.
Beanpot Hockey Has Spawned Other Boston Area Tournaments
Beanpot tournaments in baseball, softball, cycling, rowing, women’s hockey and lacrosse have steadily grown each year in the Boston area.
When it comes to tradition, rivalry, school spirit, great hockey and a short break from a long winter, the annual Beanpot Hockey Tournament reigns supreme for Boston sports fans.
This hallowed hockey tournament finds the back of the net in the #6 spot of my FREE sports comic book covering Boston Sports Icons.
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Read about the history of the Beanpot Hockey Tournament as well as about other iconic sports Boston sports figures like Bobby Orr, Tom Brady, David Ortiz, Larry Bird and more.
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Known by his itchy nickname the Rash, Bruce Bowen scratched, clawed or chafed his way to become an NBA Champion.
Bruce Bowen is my pick for today’s #TBT sports blog.
Not only did fans love Bowen’s clever nickname the Rash, but they admired his tireless defending on the basketball court that helped his team win three NBA Championships.
Bowen did not get drafted out of Cal State Fullerton in 1993. Instead, he bounced around in his early professional basketball days.
After playing for teams in France and in the CBA, and later for the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, Bowen finally found a home for eight years with the San Antonio Spurs.
Bowen discovered his special skill with the Spurs. He established himself as a terrific, tireless defender. Spurs teammate Sean Elliott originally referred to Bowen as the Rash. Elliott cited Bowen’s irritating pressure on the other team’s leading perimeter scorer and said, “Bowen’s just all over you like a rash.”
Bruce Bowen: Five-Time NBA All-Defensive team
As a five-time NBA All-Defensive First team, Bowen was vital to the Spurs’ success. Not only could Bowen knock down three pointers from the corner, but he could also be counted on to annoy, hound and harass high scoring opponents like Ray Allen, Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant. A frustrated former Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson even called on the NBA to investigate Bowen for his overly aggressive play on his Mavs’ top scorers.
The defensive-minded Bowen blended brilliantly with his offensive-minded Spurs teammates Tim Duncan, Man Ginobli and Tony Parker. The Rash celebrated three NBA World Championships with Duncan, Ginobli and Parker in 2003, 2005 and 2007. The San Antonio Spurs organization recognized Bowen’s unsung contributions to the team’s success by retiring Bowen’s #12 jersey in 2012.
Bruce Bowen is now a well-spoken NBA talking head on ESPN. The bow tie clad announcer shares with sports fans how he became a key member of three NBA Championships teams.
Bowen laughs that his on-court talent, named after an unsightly skin irritation, ended up serving as his ultimate claim to fame – the Rash.
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Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers the late Reggie White, an ordained pastor and Hall of Fame lineman, who brilliantly embodied his Minister of Defense nickname.
During a storied 15-year NFL career, this imposing defensive lineman known as the Minister of Defense delivered his football version of a fire and brimstone sermon by dominating opposing offenses.
Whenever Reggie White set foot on the football field, he constantly administered defensive pressure.
And, when away from the gridiron, he tirelessly catered to the needs of inner-city youth and those less fortunate through his work as a Christian minister.
Reggie White Rated #7 NFL Player Ever
NFL.com rated White as the #7 NFL player of all-time, and ESPN Sports Nation named him the greatest player in Philadelphia Eagles history. His storied career validates their lofty choices.
White graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1984 after being named SEC Player of the Year during his senior season. The Minister of Defense then played two years in the now defunct USFL with the Memphis Showboats, earning the 1985 USFL Man of the Year Award.
After the USFL folded, White proceeded to the NFL and starred for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1985 – 1992.
While in Philadelphia, The Minister of Defense proved why he personified his respected title. He was awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and led the league in sacks in both 1987 and 1988. Philadelphia fans loved him, and the franchise retired his #92 in 2006, the same year he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Following his eight years in Philadelphia, White played for the Green Bay Packers from 1993 – 1998 before retiring in 2000 after one season with the Carolina Panthers.
During his NFL career, this Minister of Defense played as if his bully pulpit was his unstoppable bull rush into the offensive backfield. Plus, he reaped an earthly award by winning a 1997 Super Bowl XXXL title with the Green Bay Packers.
White ended his career as the NFL’s all-time sack leader with 198, a record subsequently broken by Bruce Smith of the Buffalo Bills.
The NFL “Minister of Defense” Passed Away in 2004
Sadly, the Minister of Defense answered to a heavenly calling when he passed away prematurely from a respiratory disease in 2004.
Reggie White is best memorialized by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, “Reggie White was a gentle warrior who will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. Equally as impressive as his achievements on the field was the positive impact he made off the field and the way he served as a positive influence on so many young people.”
And all football fans, not just those in Philly, say, “Amen” about the NFL icon fondly known as the Minister of Defense.
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Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers the old Boston Garden.
Though the storied arena was demolished in 1998, its lore lives on and remains a beloved part of Boston sports history.
In addition to playing host to Stanley Cup Finals and multiple NBA Championships, the old Boston Garden may best be remembered for the incredible sports atmosphere it evoked.
The old brick building provided a huge home court advantage and incredible championship memories for Boston sports fans.
The venue created an energized and cramped atmosphere that housed raucous spectators rooting from boisterous balconies. Some fans even had to crane their around obstructed views to see what hey paid for.
In addition, the arena’s lack of air conditioning further contributed to the home court edge and legendary mystique of the arena. Melting ice and fog during spring hockey games and exhausted, wilted players during NBA Playoff Games combined for perhaps the most unique and antiquated venue in sports.
Originally Called Boston Madison Square Garden
Initially designed in the late 1920’s by boxing promoter Tex Rickard, the old Boston Garden was originally called the Boston Madison Square Garden. Named after New York’s famed Madison Square Garden, it cost $10 million to construct. The arena was the third in what Rickard hoped would become a chain of seven Madison Square Gardens located in major cities around the US.
Like its New York City namesake, Boston’s Madison Square Garden was developed as a then state-of-the-art, multi-use entertainment complex constructed over the city’s vibrant rail transportation hub.
The Boston Madison Square Garden stood above Boston’s northern bound train terminal, also known as North Station, which serviced the city’s Amtrak and Massachusetts Transportation Authority’s needs for destinations as far away as Maine.
Old Boston Garden: Home to Concerts, Prize Fights & More
Few would have imagined how popular the arena would eventually become. The original Boston Madison Square Garden lived through several name changes and played host to concerts, prize fights, ice shows, professional and collegiate hockey and basketball games and even the circus.
Elvis, the Beatles, the Jackson 5, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead are just a few of the popular acts which performed in New England’s premier sports and entertainment arena.
The original Boston Garden’s first ever event pitted prize fighters Dick Finnegan and Andre Routis on its November 17, 1928 card. The fight drew a great opening night crowd which raved about their proximity to the actual ring.
Rickard bragged that there would be no bad seats in his house because the Boston Madison Square Garden “was built to see the sweat on boxers’ brows.”
Ironically, the fight’s attendance paled in comparison to the first hockey game ever played in the new arena only a few days later.
An exciting 1 – 0 Montreal Canadiens victory over the Boston Bruins shoe horned more than 17,000 spectators into the old Garden. The game unwittingly set a precedent that the Boston Garden would not only play host to premier boxing bouts. Hockey would also be right at home in this sparkling new showplace.
More than hockey found its way into this historic venue. Following its name change in 1936 to simply The Boston Garden, it became home to both the Boston Bruins and eventually the Boston Celtics.
The Old Boston Garden Famous Parquet Floor
In 1952 the arena unveiled its famed parquet floor. This uniquely identifiable playing surface differentiated the Boston Garden from all other NBA arenas. Plus, while sitting so close to the gorgeous floor, rabid Celtics fans for many years provided a huge home court advantage for the team.
Fortunately today in the gleaming new TD Garden, the same NHL and NBA championship banners hang as proudly as they did for years from the creaking rafters of the antiquated, original Boston Garden.
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Today’s #TBT sports blog remembers one of the greatest NHL players ever – Mark Messier. This former New York Ranger earned his fitting nickname – the Messiah – in the Big Apple during the 1994 NHL Playoffs.
The Messiah moniker was a clever adaptation of New York Rangers’ hockey savior Mark Messier’s name.
That’s because New York sports fans attribute the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup Championship in 1994 to this 33-year-old hockey Hall of Famer who boldly led his team to “Hockey’s Promised Land.”
Mark Messier’s lore got its genesis just prior to facing elimination in Game 6 of the 1994 NHL Eastern Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils. Messier audaciously predicted a Rangers’ victory in the same fashion as Babe Ruth prophesied his “called shot” and Broadway Joe Namath predicted his “Super Bowl III guarantee.”
The Hockey “Messiah’s” Prophecy
Ensuring that his “prophecy” came to fruition, the Rangers’ long awaited hockey Messiah found the back of the net three times in the decisive third period to close out the series.
Messier cemented his legacy as a New York sports legend when the Rangers advanced to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. It marked the New York franchise’s first title in its 54 year history. The Messiah’s goal in the second period of Game 7 turned out to be the deciding factor in the Rangers’ victory.
Winning Stanley Cup Trophies was not new to Messier. He remains the only player in NHL history to captain two different teams to championships. The 26-year NHL vet won five titles when he played in his hometown in Alberta, Canada with the Edmonton Oilers.
Also known as Moose because of his strength and aggressiveness on the ice, the rugged Hockey Hall of Famer did more than accumulate team awards.
A 15-time all-star, Messier also won the sport’s highest individual accolades during his lengthy NHL career. He won the Hart Trophy in both 1990 and 1992 as league MVP. He was also awarded the Conn-Smythe Trophy as MVP of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.
A crowd favorite, Messier pocketed two ESPY awards for Best NHL Player and for Outstanding Performance Under Pressure. The NHL acknowledged Messier’s storied career by naming one of its annual trophies the Mark Messier Leadership Award. And, Hockey News recognized him as #12 on its list of greatest players ever.
Messier Inducted to Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007
In 2007, the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted the Messiah in his first year of eligibility. The hockey legend’s staggering NHL career statistics guaranteed his spot. The former Ranger and Oiler retired as second all-time in regular season points (1,887), playoff points (295) and regular season games (1,756).
Though he may be remembered as one of hockey’s best players to never have won an Olympic medal, Mark Messier will never be forgotten as New York’s hockey Messiah.
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This “spiritually” themed assortment of nicknames covers everything from spirits in the sky to demonic entities of the underworld.
Perhaps the greatest singular “spiritual” college nickname of all-time belongs to the University of Illinois’ legendary Galloping Ghost, a phantom-like figure on the football field.
In addition to Red Grange, college sports boast a much broader collection of team oriented “spiritual” nicknames, covering the gamut from heavenly emissaries to dastardly hellions from the underworld.
The Friars (Dominican order of Catholic priests) from Providence College, the Battlin’ Bishops (honored leaders in the United Methodist Church) from Ohio Wesleyan University and the Dons (esteemed nobles in church hierarchy) from the University of San Francisco serve as both ambassadors of their faiths and noble nicknames for their respective schools.
Spiritual protectors also figure prominently in my collection. The Maccabees (Old Testament Jewish rebels) from Yeshiva University, the Griffins (Biblical winged lions) from Canisius College, the Threshers (Old Testament temple laborers) from Bethel College and the Crusaders from Holy Cross College and Valparaiso University all preside vigilantly over their respective campuses.
The spiritual references don’t stop at the campus gates.
The Quakers from the University of Pennsylvania, the Fighting Saints from St. Lawrence University and the Angels from Meredith College add to the spiritual collegiate atmosphere, making proud biblical scholars and church historians alike.
Because we’re talking college sports here, godly emissaries and fighters for their faith need to be particularly strong every time they suit up for their college or university.
These spiritual mascots do figurative battle against more than just fleshly competitors. As the Bible suggests, they war against principalities with equally strong and talented teams sporting different kinds of spiritual nicknames.
The university landscape is littered not merely with heavenly representation, but with demonic entities that challenge their authority.
Demons & Devils: Spiritual College Nicknames of a Different Sort
For example, demons and devils of every color, size and shape line up on the other side of the ball against righteous Friars, Dons, Bishops, Crusaders and Saints.
In addition, demons of the underworld try their talons against one another. Blue Devils from both Duke University and DePaul University may be the most famous nicknamed scoundrels in college sports.
However, scores of other imps and villains ply their devilish trade in college sports.
Sun Devils from Arizona State University, Dust Devils from Texas A & M International, Sea Devils from Cape Fear College, Red Devils from Dickinson College and Devils and Devilettes from Mississippi Valley State University wreak their havoc on the hardwood, track, football field and baseball diamond.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, you’ve got to love the diversity of “spiritual” nicknames that pervade the landscape of college sports.
That’s why as a group, “spiritual” NCAA nicknames rank as my #7 pick in my FREE sports comic book Best About Sports.
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