Thursday, September 26, 2013

Michel Plante of the Philadelphia Firebirds

michel plante philadelphia firebirds nahl
Michel Plante along with Bob Collyard and Gord Brooks led the Philadelphia Firebirds to the 1975-76 Lockhart Cup championship in the North American Hockey League. Plante played the final three years of the NAHL’s existence followed by one more year in pro hockey before retiring.

Michel Plante – NAHL

Plante played with the Philadelphia Firebirds for three years from 1974-75 to 1976-77. He appeared in 213 regular season games, scoring 102 goals and assisted on 140 for 242 points. Like the rest of the Firebirds, Michel really shone in 1975-76.

Over 73 regular season games in 1975-76, Plante scored 52 and assisted on 66 for 118 points. He placed fifth in the NAHL for goals, ninth for assists and seventh for points. In the playoffs, he added another 27 points over 16 games as the Firebirds captured the Lockhart Cup championship with a victory of the Beauce Jaros in six in the finals.

Michel Plante – QMJHL

Michel played for the Drummondville Rangers in the first three years of existence for the QMJHL, 1969-70 to 1971-72. Plante’s hometown Rangers ceased operations after the 1973-74 QMJHL season. In his final two years with Drummondville, Plante wore the ‘A’ on his jersey. In 1970-71, he led the team offensively with 39 goals and 54 assists for 93 points over 61 games.

Michel Plante – Pro Hockey

Plante was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round of the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft, 75th overall. He played pro from 1972-73 to 1977-78 in the WHA, SHL, NAHL and IHL. Michel appeared in 92 regular season and four playoff games in the World Hockey Association with the Philadelphia Blazers in 1972-73 and 1973-74.

In his final year of pro, Michel almost had his second championship. He played for the Port Huron Flags in the International Hockey League. The Flags did not excel during the regular season, finishing fourth out of five teams in the IHL North Division with just the sixth best record in the nine team IHL.

However, the Flags knocked off the division leading Saginaw Gears in the opening round, four games to one. It then took just another five games to take out the second seed Kalamazoo Wings to earn a berth in the finals. Port Huron came up against the Toledo Goaldiggers and stretched the series to the full seven games before bowing out. Plante contributed 15 points over 17 playoff games to push the Flags to the finals.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Paul Larose of the Maine Nordiques

paul larose quebec nordiques wha
Paul Larose played in all four North American Hockey League seasons and was one of the league’s most consistent offensive producers. Larose played all four years, his final four as a pro hockey player, with the Maine Nordiques, helping the club to a Lockhart Cup finals appearance in 1976-77.

Paul Larose – NAHL

Over 287 regular season NAHL games, Paul scored 179 goals and assisted on 248 for 427 points. Twice he topped the 50 goal plateau and surpassed 100 points in three of his four years.

In his first year with the Nordiques, Larose scored 53 and assisted on 66 for 119 points over 70 games. He placed third in the NAHL for goals, second for assists and third for points.

1974-75 saw Paul score 54 but add just 49 assists for 103 points in 73 games. He was the team leader with Maine for goals, assists and points. Larose’s 54 goals placed him second in the league, one goal behind Rod Bloomfield of the Binghamton Dusters. Paul placed tenth for assists and tied for third for points.

Larose once again led the Nordiques in goals, assists and points in 1975-76 with 41 goals and 73 assists for 114 points over 71 games. His assist total placed him fifth in the league. 114 points would have tied Paul for the league lead in 1974-75. In 1975-76, the total placed him down in eighth spot in a NAHL led by Joe Hardy of the Beauce Jaros who amassed an amazing 208 points.

In his final season of pro hockey, Paul’s numbers dropped but the Nordiques excelled with their most successful season in their stay in the NAHL. Over 73 regular season games, he scored 31 and assisted on 60 for 91 points. He placed eighth in the league for assists. Maine reached the Lockhart Cup finals before being swept in four by the Syracuse Blazers.

Paul Larose – QMJHL

Paul played just one year of junior in the QMJHL, Quebec’s contribution to the Canadian Hockey League. Larose started out the season with the Trois Rivieres Ducs, scoring 31 and totalling 66 points over 33 games before being traded to the Quebec Remparts. With Quebec, he also totalled 66 points but in just 24 games.

Combined, Larose played 57 games, scoring 52 and assisting on 80 for 132 points. In the high scoring QMJHL, Paul finished ninth for goals, fifth for assists and sixth for points. The Remparts were led by Guy Lafleur who scored 103 goals and totalled 170 points in 56 games.

Quebec was crowned President’s Cup champions as QMJHL playoff champs after sweeping the St. Jerome Alouettes in the finals. Larose finished second to Lafleur on the team for playoff points with 30 in 15 games. Guy amassed 43 in the same 15 games.

Paul Larose – Pro Hockey

Larose was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round of the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft, 91st overall. He played pro hockey from 1970-71 to 1976-77 in the EHL, WHA and NAHL. In the World Hockey Association, Paul played 28 games for the Quebec Nordiques in 1972-73 and five with the Michigan Stags/Baltimore Blades in 1974-75.

Larose’s top year in pro hockey came in 1971-72 with the Syracuse Blazers of the Eastern Hockey League. Paul finished his second year of pro hockey with 67 goals and 62 assists for 129 points over 75 regular season games. His 67 goals led the EHL and his 129 points placed him second behind teammate Ray Adduono’s 165. Syracuse reached the finals before being swept by the Charlotte Checkers.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Brian Conacher: Head Coach of the Mohawk Valley Comets

brian conacher toronto maple leafs rookie hockey card
Son of National Hockey League great Lionel Conacher, Brian Conacher played his share of NHL hockey before he became a head coach in the North American Hockey League. Conacher coached the Mohawk Valley Comets for the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons, along with 12 games at the start of 1975-76. He wasn’t given much to work with and the Comets were not very successful.

Brian Conacher – Head Coach

In Conacher’s first year as head coach of the Mohawk Valley Comets, the team placed last in the seven team NAHL with 42 points over 74 games. The Comets finished 19 points behind the sixth place Binghamton Dusters and 70 points behind the first place Syracuse Blazers.

1974-75 saw a great improvement in the Comets. The team totalled 25 more points than the previous season with 67 over 74 games. Mohawk Valley finished sixth out of eight teams and got their first taste of the Lockhart Cup post season. However, the Comets fell in the opening round to the Binghamton Dusters, another team much improved over the previous season.

Mohawk Valley’s success in 1974-75 was largely due to the goaltending duo of Michel Dion and Jim Park, both in their first year with the club. Dion went on to play several years in the WHA and NHL while Park played three years in the WHA. Jim won the Terry Sawchuk Trophy in 1979-80 as the goaltender on the team in the Central Hockey League with the least goals against.

Twelve games into the 1975-76 season, Conacher was replaced by Ted McCaskill. During those 12 games, Brian returned to ice for three, scoring two goals and assisting on another. McCaskill played four games in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars in 1967-68 and was a regular in the World Hockey Association in 1972-73 and 1973-74 with the Los Angeles Sharks. In 1974-75, he played 40 games in the NAHL with the Binghamton Dusters, his final games as a pro hockey player.

The team didn’t fare much better under McCaskill, placing third of five teams in the East Division with 64 points in 74 games. The Comets then fell in the opening round of the playoffs to the Syracuse Blazers.

Brian Conacher – Pro Hockey Player

Brian Conacher played a total of 155 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1965-66 and 1971-72 with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. He also appeared in 12 playoff games, all during the 1966-67 season when the Maple Leafs captured the Stanley Cup championship.

Brian played one last year of pro hockey in 1972-73 before ending up behind the Mohawk Valley bench. He played for the Ottawa Nationals in the inaugural season of the WHA. Over his career, he also played in the AHL and CHL. Conacher played for Canada at the 1964 Winter Olympics and the 1965 World Hockey Championships. He was a Calder Cup champion in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans in 1965-66.

Brian Conacher – Author

In 2007, Conacher published a book titled As the Puck Turns: A Personal Journey Through the World of Hockey. The book chronicled his diverse life in hockey and peeked inside one of the sport’s royal families.



Monday, September 2, 2013

Dave Hanson: The Man, The Foil and The Legend

dave hanson johnstown jets nahl
Dave Hanson really needs no introduction to any true North American Hockey League fan. Hanson was a last minute replacement for Jack Carlson in the 1977 hockey cult film ‘Slapshot’. Dave played Jack Hanson, one of a trio of Hanson brothers on the fictitious Charlestown Chiefs, along with Jeff Carlson and Steve Carlson.

Dave Hanson – NAHL

Hanson played parts of three years in the NAHL from 1974-75 to 1976-77, all with the Johnstown Jets. In his first year, he placed third in the league for penalty minutes with 249. Ahead of him were Gary Sittler, brother of Darryl, of the Syracuse Blazers and teammate and movie brother Jeff Carlson, also of the Jets. Just three PIM behind Dave was teammate Jack Carlson. In that first year, the brawling Jets won the Lockhart Cup, sweeping the Binghamton Dusters in the finals.

The following year was Hanson’s last full season in the NAHL. He finished second in the league for penalty minutes with 311. Ahead of him, a far, far distance away was Gilles Bilodeau of the Beauce Jaros with 451 PIM, an NAHL record.

In 1976-77, the last for the league, Hanson played just six games for the Jets before never really unpacking his suitcase for the rest of the season. Dave played for four other teams in pro hockey, the Hampton Gulls of the SHL, Rhode Island Reds of the AHL, Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA and the New England Whalers of the WHA.

Dave Hanson – Pro Hockey

Hanson played pro from 1974-75 to 1983-84 in a handful of leagues, including the NAHL, SHL, AHL, WHA, CHL, NHL and IHL. He was not drafted into the NHL but was a fourth round pick of the Fighting Saints at the 1974 WHA Amateur Draft, 59th overall. Dave appeared in 33 National Hockey League games with the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota North Stars. In the World Hockey Association, he played 103 total regular season games with the Fighting Saints, Whalers and Birmingham Bulls.

Perhaps Dave’s pinnacle in pro hockey came in 1980-81 with the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League. He placed fifth in the league for PIM but, more importantly, won a championship. The Red Wings won the Calder Cup with a victory over the Maine Mariners in six in the finals. Maine outscored Adirondack 22-19 in the series on the strength of a 10-1 drubbing in game four.

Dave Hanson – The Author

In 2008, Hanson authored Slap Shot Original: The Man, the Foil, and the Legend. This is a firsthand account of the behind-the-scenes antics while filming Slap Shot. Dave also gets into how the movie changed his life, along with the other cast members, taking them from minor hockey league players to movie stars.

Big names abound with Bob Costas and Gordie Howe providing the Foreward. Also included are introductions from Jeff Carlson and Steve Carlson, the other two thirds of the Hanson Brothers.

The book is having a bit of a re-release on October 1, 2013. Slap Shot Original: The Man, The Foil and the Legend will once again be available via Amazon. The book qualifies for Amazon’s pre-order guarantee, meaning if you pre-order and the price drops before the book is available for shipping, they refund the difference.

If you order the book and the DVD of the original movie ‘Slapshot’, you just might qualify for free shipping if the total is $25 or more!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Don Hay - Philadelphia Firebirds

don hay philadelphia firebirds nahl
Long, long before he was the legendary coach of Canadian junior hockey, Don Hay put in a decent year of pro hockey with the Philadelphia Firebirds in the NAHL. It was 1976-77, Hay’s last year as a player and the league’s last year of existence.

Don Hay – NAHL

Hay played just one year in the North American Hockey League, 1976-77 with the Philadelphia Firebirds. The Firebirds moved on to the American Hockey League for the 1977-78 season but Don hung up the blades and headed back to British Columbia.

The right winger played the full 74 game schedule for Philadelphia, scoring 20 goals and assisting on 15 for 35 points, while also sitting 96 minutes in the sin bin. He played in all of the Firebirds four playoff games, contributing two assists. After finishing fourth in the eight team league, Philadelphia met up with the Erie Blades in the opening round of the Lockhart Cup playoffs, falling three games to one.

Don Hay – Pro Hockey

After playing two years of junior hockey in the WCHL, 1972-73 with the Calgary Centennials and 1973-74 with the New Westminster Bruins, Hay was drafted into both major hockey leagues. However, he was drafted very deep.

At the 1974 NHL Amateur Draft, Don was taken by the Minnesota North Stars in the 12th round, 193rd overall. It got worse at the 1974 WHA Amateur Draft. Hay was taken by the Houston Aeros way down in the 16th round, 230rd overall.

Don played pro hockey from 1974-75 to 1976-77. In his first two years, he bounced around the IHL. In his final year, of course, he spent the full season with the Firebirds.

Don Hay – The Coach

Hay has been coaching hockey since 1986-87, mostly in the WHL. He had a few shots at the National Hockey League, acting as assistant coach of the Calgary Flames in 1995-96, head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996-97 and assistant coach of the Anaheim Ducks in 1997-98. He got a chance at the head coaching job with the Flames in 2000-01 but was quickly replaced midseason. Besides a stint as head coach of the Utah Grizzlies in the AHL from 2001-02 to 2003-04, it’s been the WHL all the way.

Five times, Hay has been behind the bench of an Ed Chynoweth Cup champion in the WHL. He was an assistant coach in 1989-90 and 1991-92 for the Kamloops Blazers as they captured the championship. The 1991-92 team went on to win the Memorial Cup tournament. Don was head coach of the Blazers in 1993-94 and 1994-95 as Kamloops won both the Ed Chynoweth Cup and Memorial Cup in both seasons. In 2005-06, he was head coach of the Vancouver Giants team that won the WHL championship.

Don has also twice been the bench boss of Team Canada at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. In 1995, Canada won gold in Red Deer, Alberta with what many consider to be the best WJC team ever. Canada went undefeated in the round robin only tournament. Hay returned to coach the 2012 Canada team in the WJC tournament jointly held in Calgary and Edmonton. Canada took the bronze medal.

Hay has coached the Vancouver Giants since 2004-05. Besides the Blazers and Giants, Don also had a two year stint with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL.