Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yearbook Time Machine

Within the next couple of weeks the newsstands will be filled with all the various NHL poolie and yearbook magazines, and info-starved hockey fans will drop 10 bucks per magazine without a second thought, myself included. In fact, I've collected a sickening amount of these mags over the years and I took a quick peek at a few of them tonight and pulled this 97-98 version of the Sports Forecaster, featuring, then as now, a Toronto Maple Leaf on the cover for the Ontario version - Felix Potvin was just beginning to play out the string of his Leaf career, soon to be replaced by Curtis Joseph. The Sports Forecaster was a mag ahead its time simply because they gave scouting reports on most regular players on an NHL roster, something the Hockey News and the official NHL Yearbook didn't do back then.

Seeing that this is largely a Sens-centric blog, here's a look at the Senators section. You might see a few familiar names, as well as a few that you've either never heard of or completely forgotten about. Of course, the 97-98 season would end with the Senators winning their first ever playoff series (against Martin Brodeur and the Devils, causing coach Jacques Lemaire to resign from the team for the first, but not the last time.) and then go on to lose to the Washington Capitals in the second round. The Caps would go on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final. (Click on photos to enlarge)

There's a lot of great stuff in this book, such as the debate over who was the NHL's best player at the time, between what they called "The Fab Four" - Jaromir Jagr, Paul Kariya, Eric Lindros and Peter Forsberg. Only Jagr will play in the NHL this year. The other three were forced to retire from injury (that season, Kariya would take that all-time cheap shot crosscheck to the face by Gary Suter).

But the highlight here is the "Dirty Dozen Awards" which celebrate the worst in the NHL for the previous 96-97 season. It's interesting to note the tone here. This kind of ultra-sarcastic writing is really a pre-cursor to the hockey blog boom that would happen in the next decade, in particular the tone of the very successful blog Puck Daddy. It seems commonplace now, but you didn't really read stuff like this back then. The climate was a bit more stuffy in 1997 with all the hockey writing done by tenured hockey journalists who tended to save their best jokes for the bar after deadlines had been met. Now this style has pretty much become the norm as NHL personalities get roasted every day by the snarkiest minds you can imagine across thousands of blogs mostly trying to write in the same sort of modern hip style.

Of note here is the "Mel Bridgman Award" for worst general manager. This was named, of course, after the Senators first GM whose most famous quote will always be "Ottawa apologizes". This is great stuff if you remember the players and situations these awards refer to.

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