Opening night for the NHL is still a couple of months away. The offseason becomes a barren land of weird s***posts after the frenzy of July 1 dies down. The big names are off the board, the RFA-holdouts storylines are a dead horse, and Auston Matthews grew a mustache. Little things like that can spark interest in a fanbase and gives them something to talk about.
To drive this interest, here are a handful of things that could win Jeopardy or that $10 off a bar tab on Trivia Tuesdays.
All of That for a Stupid Pun?
The New York Rangers are one of the most storied franchises in the league. Numerous players in recent years have turned their backs on the team that drafted them and looked to the bright lights of the city that never sleeps. Their origins go back to the 20s and have won four Stanley Cups, most recently in 1994 with a team led by Mark Messier and Brian Leetch.
George Lewis “Tex” Rickard was the founder and first owner of the team. Rickard was a boxing promoter and gambler by profession. He was also the owner of the third incarnation of Madison Square Gardens (MSG). He did not own the Americans, but they played their home games at MSG. Rickard wanted to have a second NY team in order to have a team that was owned by his arena to play in his arena. Rickard got his franchise in 1926. The original name for the franchise was going to be the New York Giants, but by April, the official name was the “New York Rangers Professional Hockey Club”. The team’s name came from their nickname, “Tex’s Rangers”. One of the most historical teams in the NHL was named after a lazy pun.
Taro Tsujimoto Or; The Player That Never Was
With the technological boom, the NHL Entry Draft is a streamlined process. Teams *coughNashvillecough* are shamed for taking a timeout to stall their pick. It’s become harder to imagine a time where information about every player in the world, from 47-year old Jaromir Jagr to 15-year olds in Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island, Canada, wasn’t readily available at the touch of a Google Search. The draft process in 1974 was a far cry from the 2019 draft. Punch Imlach, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres for the 1974 draft was fed up with the slow nature of calling in draft picks by phone. Imlach had already drafted several players that would go on to have great careers with the organization, decided to play a prank on Clarence Campbell, the president of the league at the time.
It’s Just a Prank, Bro
Imlach, with the help of PR Director Paul Wieland, created and drafted a fictitious player named Taro Tsujimoto. Wieland knew he wanted the player to be of Asian descent. He routinely drove by a store during his college days named Tsujimoto Oriental Arts and Gifts. It was revealed in 2013 that Imlach had contacted Joshua Tsujimoto, the owner of the store, to ask permission to use his name in relation to the team. He did not disclose the purpose. He also asked what Japanese names were popular that year. Imlach then selected center Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League’s Tokyo Katanas (because Sabres, get it?). The NHL made the pick official and major hockey news outlets reported and printed the name “Taro Tsujimoto”.
Campbell, to the surprise of no one, did not find the stunt amusing. The official pick was changed to “invalid claim” for official-record keeping. It is listed as “fictitious entry” in the Sabres media guide. It was a prank borne at the perfect time. The NHL’s practice of keeping picks incredibly secret (to prevent the WHA from poaching players) and the slow expansion of searching for talent in unorthodox places made Taro Tsujimoto possible. The player has become an inside joke amongst the Buffalo fanbase. The trading card company Panini America made a Tsujimoto card featuring an anonymous man of Asian descent wearing a uniform with similar colors to the Sabres.
Nathan Horton Or; The Goal That Almost Wasn’t
March 10, 2014, will stand as one of the scariest moments in NHL history. The Dallas Stars hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets and found the Jackets up 1-0 on an early 1st-period goal by Nathan Horton. Just minutes after the goal, play was immediately whistled down. The players on the ice looked around in confusion, expecting to see a fight, but instead found a flurry of movement around the Dallas bench. Rich Peverley collapsed while sitting on the bench. It was determined that an irregular heartbeat Peverley had contributed to his collapse.
The game was suspended and rescheduled for April 9; however, the league decided that the game would be a full 60 minutes but would start with the Blue Jackets up 1-0. The goal was credited to Nathan Horton and assists were credited to James Wisniewski and Matt Calvert. All other stats were scrubbed from the game and the Dallas goalie, Tim Thomas, was unable to record a shutout.
The weird thing about this goal was that Nathan Horton didn’t play in the rescheduled game. In fact, he was in Columbus with a would-be career-ending injury. Horton registered a goal in a game that he had 0:00 TOI despite not suiting up for the Blue Jackets. The only other time this has occurred was in 2005. Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench and Nashville’s Scottie Upshall (who would be traded to the Jackets from Phoenix in 2011 prior to the trade deadline) was credited with an assist in the make-up game despite not logging any ice-time.