3 Unbelievable Things You Should Know About the Early Days of the NHL

The National Hockey League was spawned from its predecessor, the National Hockey Association. See, there were four teams, but they couldn’t get along with Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts, so they formed a whole new league and froze that guy out. A hockey historian explained: “It would be like if the Rolling Stones couldn’t fire Brian Jones, so they started a new group called the Rolling Rocks and left him out.”

In additon to the NHA/NHL, two other professional leagues were running in the early part of the 20th century. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association introduced many innovations, some of which are an integral part of the game today. They came with the blue line, penalty shots, playoffs and numbers on jerseys. Our hockey historian said, “There was a lot of innovation in the early years. Heck, they didn’t even have a penalty box. You had to stand in the corner and think about what you did.”

One of the teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association was the Vancouver Millionaires. Their home games were played at Denman Arena, the first rink in Canada with artificial ice. Their official song had these lyrics:

On the ice and in da club
We’re the best, ain’t no scubs
We’re the Millionaires, we run this game
We’re poppin bottles and makin’ it rain

3 Fun Facts About the Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks were founded in 1968. The owners held a fan contest to name the team. More than 40,000 fans, which was more than the entire city of Milwaukee in those days, voted for the name Robins, the state bird. But the owners went with the second-place entry, Bucks, referring to the white-tailed deer, plentiful in the state. One fan remembers, “We went crazy. They had a fan vote. We voted. Robins won. What do they do? They go with the second best choice. It was kind of like the 2016 Presidential election.”

Herb Kohl owned the bucks for many years. He bought the team in 1985 for $18 million, and sold it 29 years later for $550 million. “I did the same thing, well on a smaller scale. I bought a set of 1963 Ben Hogan irons in 1985 for $135, and sold them in 2014 for $155.”

The Bucks have won one league title, in 1971. What, you say? The Bucks won the NBA league title in 1971, and they started up in 1968? Is that possible? Hard to believe, but they did it. For two reasons. Lew Alcindor, who you may better know as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Oscar “Big O” Robertson, who helped the team finish 66-16 in their third season, an amazing turnaround from their start at 26 wins and 56 losses. One fan said, “I had a remarkable turnaround once. My first date with Thelma, well, we accidentally drove off the road through a fence on the Stinson’s farm into a giant cow pie. She didn’t talk to me for 3 year. Then I seen her over at the Esso station last year, and long story short, we’re getting married next week — at Stinson’s farm.”

3 Fun Facts About the Houston Rockets

Did you know the Houston Rockets started out in San Diego? The San Diego Rockets were a 1967 NBA expansion team. 1967 was a a crazy year. That year the Rolling Stones released “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” A rock historian said, “Later that year they released, ‘No, I Don’t Have Time for Breakfast With You.'”

Like many new teams, they didn’t fare well, only winning 15 games that first season. Things picked up in 1968 when they drafted Elvin Hayes, who took them to their first playoff appearance. After 16 years in the NBA, Hayes returned to the University of Houston to finish the last few credits he had left for his degree. One professor asked, “Where have you been? You said you were going to make a phone call, and you disappeared for 16 years!”

Things really improved for the Rockets when they picked up Moses Malone in 1976, who took them to the conference finals that season. Malone was first drafted in 1974 with the Utah Stars, the first team in the league to employ the pre-game shootaround. One basketball expert explained: “Before that, the players just sat on lawn chairs on the court, sipping Cokes and watching reruns of “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”

3 Fun Facts About the San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs began life as the Dallas Chapparals in the ABA in 1967 before moving to San Antonio as the Spurs in 1973. Now, that was an interesting year. That year, the Philadephia Flyers scored an amazing eight goals in one period against the Islanders. One fan said, “They were all scoring, every player. I think even the Zamoboni driver scored a goal.”

The Spurs became a part of the NBA with the NBA/ ABA merger in 1976. 1976 was also a crazy year. That year the US performed a nuclear bomb test at a site in Nevada. “The biggest bomb since then was 2011’s Mars Needs Mom animated film made for $150 million and grossed $39 million. Just like my golf game — every year it’s a negative ROI.”

Before moving to San Antonio, the owners tried to sell the team, but no one would buy it. So they leased the team to a group of businesspeople who moved it to San Antonio and was an instant hit. You know your team is bad when it is being leased like a Holiday Inn meeting room rental for a multi-level marketing sales pitch. “To be a success in this business, all you have to do is buy $5,000 worth of product a month and get 457 other people to do the same thing.”

3 Fun Facts About the Washington Wizards

Did you know the Wizards started back in 1961 as the Chicago Packers? What is with pro teams that can’t come up with original team names? People didn’t like the Chicago Packers nicking the name of the football team in Green Bay, especially since they are arch rivals with the Chicago Bears. One Chicagoan said, “Forget the Chicago Packers. They can pack sand for all I care.”

Wow, those are some strong feelings. Maybe some of that vitriol comes from the fact the team had the worst record in the NBA at 18-62. Either way, they quickly changed their named to Chicago Zephyrs for one season. One highlight of the Zephyrs was Terry Dischinger, who captured Rookie of the Year honors. In addition to high school basketball, Dischinger also played football and was coached by his father. No pressure there. “Son, do your best. But if you don’t score, there will be no mashed potatoes at dinner tonight, and you know how you love mashed potatoes.”

The Zephyrs pulled up stakes and moved to Baltimore as the Baltimore Bullets, the name taken from an old 1950s franchise. One of their stars was Bailey Howell, who holds a crazy number of records at Mississippi State including single-game points scored, single-game free throw percentage, single-season rebounds, single-fame rebounds, career scoring average, single-season and career rebounding average, single-season and career free throws made AND MOST shots made with one hand while making spaghetti and meat balls with garlic toast with the other.

3 Amazing Fun Facts About the Toronto Raptors

Along with the Vancouver Grizzlies, now Memphis Grizzlies, The Toronto Raptors were founded in 1995 when the NBA expanded into Canada as part of their goal for total worldwide domination. The only other market the NBA considered in Ontario was Punkeydoodles Corners, yes, that’s a real town. An NBA executive explained, “The team name was going to be the Punkeydoodles Corners Doodleheads, but they couldn’t fit it on the jerseys, so we went with Toronto.”

Right around this time that the NBA was expanding into Canada, the Canadian Football League was busy expanding into America. The first team was the Sacramento Gold Miners, which was largely made up of the former Sacramento Surge, a team with the defunct World League of American Football. The league failed partly because the games were played in spring, and Americans don’t think of football in spring. They think of baseball, golf, and sucking in their gut at the beach for the next 6 months instead of actually exercising.

The Raptors originally played at the SkyDome, well-known for its motorized, retractable roof. The roof worked well until that one year it broke and it snowed on the court for the entire first half of the game. An arena spokesperson said, “It was the first time we brought out the Zamboni for a basketball game.”

3 Wild Fun Facts About the Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers started playing in 1970. That was a crazy year. That same year, the Jackson 5 made their debut on American Bandstand. I remember because I was a kid and I tried to spin like Michael, but I lost my balance and crashed into my dad’s liquor cabinet, breaking $30,000 worth of vodka and Jim Beam.

The Cavaliers finished their first season with a record of 15-67. John Johnson was named an All-Star that year. Did John’s parents have a hard time coming up with his name, John Johnson? But it has character. My parents should have called me Ditz Ditzel. But they saddled me with Joe, and now everybody asks me where I’m going with that gun in my hand. (For the kids, that’s a Jimi Hendrix reference.)

Johnson was drafted by both the Cavs of the NBA and the Dallas Chapparals of the now defunct ABA. The Chapparals later moved to San Antonio and switched to the NBA as the San Antonio Spurs. The Chapparals were lucky to get a few hundred people in the stands. At one game, there were more people selling hot dogs than there were fans.

“Beer here! Hot dogs! Red Hots! Cokes!….Anybody?…Aaannnnnyyyybody?…Beer! Hot dogs! Cokes!….Anyone?….I’m just going to sit down here and watch the game….Maybe I’ll have better luck in San Antonio.”

Things You Should Know About the Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators were founded in 1992. That was a crazy year. That year Janice Pennington won a lawsuit against the Price is Right for an accident on the set in 1988. She won $1.3 million dollars because a Plinko chip bounced out of the game and hit her in the head. The headlines read, “Pennington Procures Payback from Plinko Puck Packing a Punch and Poking Her in the Pecker.”

The Senators play at Canadian Tire Centre, which is also home of the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, which coincidentally is mostly filled with tires. A tour guide said, “Follow me. Please keep up with the group. OK, this Canadian Tire was used on the Monster Truck Sixteen Tons of Savage when it won the 1999 Monster Truck Championships right here in Ottawa. Unfortunately, the driver passed away when he fell 3 stories from the cab to the arena floor.”

This is the second go round for the Senators in Ottawa. The original Ottawa Senators played from 1883 to 1954, and was one of the founding members of the league. These were no pikers – the OG Senators won 11 Stanley Cups. They were the first organized hockey club in Ontario, but the only problem was there was no one to play. One player on the team said, “We spent that whole first year playing imaginary teams. We made players out of hay and propped them up with broken hockey sticks. If you body checked one of them, you were covered in hay for weeks.”

Crazy Fun Facts About the Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins were founded in 1967 in the NHL’s first expansion. The league went from six to twelve teams. Can you imagine a professional sports league with six teams? “OK, we play you guys on Monday, then we play the other guys on Wednesday, they you play us on Saturday, and we play those other guys next week. And then we just repeat that 45 times.”

There was a lot going on in 1967. “The Milton Berle Show” last aired on ABC. Hey, have you heard this Milton Berle joke? “I’m 83, and I feel like a 20-year-old, but unfortunately, there’s never one around.”

The Penguins weren’t the first NHL team in town. The Pittsburgh Pirates were active on and off from 1925-1931. They took their name from the baseball team in town. “Sure, why not call every team in town ‘The Pirates.’ Pittsburgh Pirates football, Pittsburgh Pirates basketball, Pittsburgh Pirates roller derby, Pittsburgh Pirates tiddlywinks…”

When the Penguins took the ice in 1967, the American Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Hornets shut down. They franchise appeared for the first time in Pittsburgh in 1936, moving from Detroit after nine years there as the Detroit Olympics. The Hornets used to play at the old Duquense Gardens, the very first rink to use Glass on top of the boards. Prior to glass, arenas used wire mesh. “I liked the wire mesh better,” one fan said. “That way, when a fight broke out right in front of you, you could stick your finger in the eye of guy on the opposing team. Old time time hockey, good times.”

3 Fun Facts About the Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals were founded in 1974. The top single that year? Barbara Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” Here are the lyrics:

It’s cold outside Baby
Brr Brr
I wish it was like it used to be
The Way we Were

“Um, first of all,” a Streisand fan wrote me. “Those are NOT the lyrics. And did you rhyme WERE with BRRRR? Wow.”

The Capitals have won one conference championship. In 1998, they captured the Eastern Conference crown and faced the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup. They lost four games to none. It’s disappointing to do so well the whole year and then get shut out at the very end, kind of like how my senior prom.

The Capitals goalie that year was Olie Kolzig, also known as Olie the Goalie, or among close friends, Godzilla. “Sir, it says on your license your name is Godzilla. Is that all one word or is it God Zilla. Are you Mr. Zilla?

Olie was born in South Africa but moved to Canada as a kid. How did that conversation go around the dinner table? His dad says, “Kids, we are leaving the almost eternal sunshine of South Africa to go to the land of endless winter, Canada.” Olie said, “Dad, how about we compromise? How about you and the rest of the family go to Canada. I’m going to stay here and play golf.”

3 Fun Facts About the Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks were founded in 1926. That was a crazy year. In January of that year. John Logie Baird, a Scottish engineer and inventor, gave a demonstration of the very first TV in London. What did he show on the screen? The Real Housewives of Great Britain. “Clara, oh she’s always been a cow! Oh, here she is now, are we going to have an argy-bargy, then? Why, you little…” (Fight!)

The Blackhawks are staight up OGs of the NHL, one of the “Original Six” that formed the league. The other five are the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Boston Bruins. “Well, there as a seventh member, Thunder Bay, Ontario,” a hockey historian explained. “But they got kicked out because they insisted on using the name “Thunder Bay Thunder Thighs.”

For 65 years, the Blackhawks played at Chicago Stadium. It was the site of the very first NFL Playoff Game in 1932. That’s right, NFL. Playoff game. Indoors. See, there was a tie at the end if the season between the Portsmouth Spartans, a team that would later become the Detroit Lions, and the Chicago Bears. They decided to play indoors because of the cold in Chicago. It was also the very first Kiss Cam shot, the Chicago Bear mascot started making out with the Bears Gatorade team cooler.

3 Fun Facts About the Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings were founded in 1967 in Southern California. Coincidentally, the University of Southern California was in the Rose Bowl on Jan 2, 1967, where they lost 14-13 to Purdue. Purdue’s team name is the Boilermakers, which reflects our nation’s industrial past. But now we live in a digital age, the age of YouTube, where people like Dr. Pimple Popper gets millions of views. What if Purdue named their team the Purdue Pimple Poppers?

The Kings originally played at The Forum in Inglewood, a suburb of Los Angeles. Suburb? There are no suburbs in Los Angeles. The city is one, giant, amorphous, vibrating blob of humanity, expanding across the state, gobbling up good towns and citizens in its wake.

The other five teams added to the NHL in the 1967 expansion include the Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, and the California Seals. The California Seals were then the Oakland Seals for a while, then the California Golden Seals, then they moved to Cleveland to become the Cleveland Barons where attendance was even worse than it was in California, so they merged with the Minnesota North Stars to become the Dallas Stars. The only thing that has moved more is my receding hairline.