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Re: First European Goalie in NHL?

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  • William Underwood
    Yes the Jets did challenge for the Cup as did several the WHA champs for the first several years as I recall. I know the Whalers and Nords also did so. By this
    Message 1 of 26 , Jul 21, 2006
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      Yes the Jets did challenge for the Cup as did several the WHA champs for the
      first several years as I recall. I know the Whalers and Nords also did so.
      By this point the Cup was pretty much NHL property. The Trustees were NHL
      people.



      This is ALL GREAT again!



      Do you know what other teams contacted Tumba? How hard did the Leafs go
      after Hedberg before he went to the WHA? I know that they owned his rights,
      Buffalo owned Nilsson and Minnesota owned Sjoberg. I discussed Widing a bit
      at one point, He is an interesting case as he came over here to play junior
      from Div 2 in Goteborg. I ALWAYS thought that this was an interesting
      approach. Do you have any info about how that transpired and did he ever
      talk much about it? As he is gone now it is a shame if no one did a book on
      that as is the case with Tommy Williams the league's 'only American for most
      of the 60's.And he did GREAT in junior here before he went pro! In a real
      way he was the first European produced player to play as a regular here for
      a full season as he had developed in Sweden until well into his teens. What
      was the general reaction to Widing in Sweden? Did many people really pay
      attention as he left so young and not a major player in the top league?



      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Mikael Uhlin
      ... I think most people didn t know about him until the Canada Cup in 1976. Of course, hockey players and journalists did but not the man in the street. I ve
      Message 2 of 26 , Jul 22, 2006
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        Posted by: "William Underwood" wausport@... wau60:
        >I discussed Widing a bit at one point, He is an interesting case as
        >he came over here to play junior from Div 2 in Goteborg. I ALWAYS
        >thought that this was an interesting approach. Do you have any info
        >about how that transpired and did he ever talk much about it? As he
        >is gone now it is a shame if no one did a book on that as is the
        >case with Tommy Williams the league's 'only American for most of the
        >60's.And he did GREAT in junior here before he went pro! In a real
        >way he was the first European produced player to play as a regular
        >here for a full season as he had developed in Sweden until well into
        >his teens. What was the general reaction to Widing in Sweden? Did
        >many people really pay attention as he left so young and not a major
        >player in the top league?

        I think most people didn't know about him until the Canada Cup in
        1976. Of course, hockey players and journalists did but not the man
        in the street. I've checked some of my litterature and he's mentioned
        every now and then over the years. In the summer of 1971, Widing and
        Ralph Backstrom participated as "teachers" in a summer hockey school
        for kids in Scania in south Sweden. BTW, the name Backstrom looks
        like it originally was a Swedish name. I bet Ralphie have Swedish
        ancestors.

        Anyway, during this visit in Sweden, Widing was interviewed
        for "Årets Sport" (Sport of the year) 71-72. Widing said that without
        his experiences in the minors he wouldn't have made it to the NHL.
        Initially, he said, he agreed with Ulf Sterner that being a foreigner
        was quite tough but when he had passed this rough "school", he was
        fully armed to play in the NHL. Widing entered the Rangers' training
        camp in 1964, at the same time as Sterner and another Gothenburg-
        player, "Totte" Bengtsson (I think his first name is Torsten).
        Bengtsson stayed a month, Sterner a year and Widing "for ever" (a
        statement wich means a lot more today than when it was written in
        1971). Apparently, GAIS (Gothenburg AIS) had a Canadian coach at the
        time, Gordie Garant, and he helped with the contacts. Before playing
        with GAIS, Widing had played with Grums in the province of Värmland.
        Among others, Dan Labraaten and Thomas Steen also originates from
        Grums. Värmland is one of the big hockey districts in Sweden with
        Färjestad from Karlstad as the number 1 team today. Other well-known
        hockey-värmlanders are Sterner, Thommie Bergman, Bengt-Åke Gustafsson
        a.o.

        Anyway, Widing played three years in Brandon and in 1971, he still
        had a house there where he lived off-season with his wife Susan and
        son Jimmy. I also got the impression that his parents lived there.
        Maybe the whole family went to North America in 1964. After all, Juha
        was just 17. After Brandon, he played two years in Omaha before
        making his début in the NHL in 1969-70. In 1971, his best NHL-
        memories were the first game, his first goal (in 1969) against
        Oakland Seals and his 20th goal (in 1971) against Boston. Widing was
        also asked if he would play in the Swedish national team if he was
        asked and if it was possible and he said he would. He also said that
        he intended to play in Sweden before retiring.

        In Canada Cup 1976, Widing finally played for Sweden. He played with
        Inge Hammarström and ex-London Lion Tord Lundström. It seems as if
        his health problems started in the mid-70s and he retired in 1978. He
        died in 1984 after a heart attack, only 37 years old. I haven't yet
        found any Swedish obituary, so maybe he was forgotten again after
        Canada Cup. A possible relative of Juha is Daniel Widing, born in
        1982 and drafted by the Nashville Predators. He's also played in
        Finland and some websites speculates that there might be a
        relationship with Juha but I don't know for sure.

        >Do you know what other teams contacted Tumba?

        No. In his book he just mentioned that three clubs were interested
        and then went on specifically to talk about the invitation he got
        from Boston.

        >How hard did the Leafs go after Hedberg before he went to the WHA? I
        >know that they owned his rights, Buffalo owned Nilsson and Minnesota
        >owned Sjoberg.

        In an article on Hedberg in a Swedish hockey-annual from 1977-78, it
        says that Toronto liked Hedberg's performance in the World
        Championships in Moscow 1973 and that they pretty much expected him
        to join them the next year. Apparently they thought they had a deal
        and got pretty disappointed when Hedberg in 1974 went to the WHA.
        Hedberg said that he didn't expect the competition to be quite as
        hard in the WHA and also, he got a chance to play with Nilsson and
        Hull. But all along, he wanted to play in the NHL, so I guess
        that "warming-up" in the WHA was a better (and more profitable)
        alternative to playing in the minors like the previous Swedes (except
        Salming and Hammarström). Even Bergman did, I think.

        >Yes the Jets did challenge for the Cup as did several the WHA champs
        >for the first several years as I recall. I know the Whalers and
        >Nords also did so. By this point the Cup was pretty much NHL
        >property. The Trustees were NHL people.

        Interesting. Exactly how did the Avco Cup champions challenge the
        Stanley Cup champions? In letters, ads or press conferences? And did
        the NHL clubs just ignore them or did they formally neglect?
      • William Underwood
        The WHA clubs more or less did it through the press. And the NHL predictably more or less ignored it. Many people felt it was mostly a publicity stunt. And why
        Message 3 of 26 , Jul 23, 2006
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          The WHA clubs more or less did it through the press. And the NHL predictably
          more or less ignored it. Many people felt it was mostly a publicity stunt.
          And why not do it? If the NHL said "yes" the WHA got recognition as a major
          league. The NHL did not want to give them that status. Plus they had
          everything to lose, beating the WHA would do little for them but to
          reinforce what they considered status quo, but if they lost or if it was
          even close, it would not have been good for them! The WHA did not even lose
          by the NHL saying "no", they could still shout "chicken"!



          Now the NHL did have several earlier challenges.



          In the 1930's, the then rival AHA challenged them and were rebuffed by the
          trustees. The Cleveland Barons of the AHL challenged them in the early 50's
          but they too were rebuffed. Both times the trustees cited that they were not
          major league teams. And there was some merit to this as the AHL was indeed a
          minor league and the AHA never was like the WHA in quality.



          The Soviets also challenged both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto
          Maple Leafs to play them in the late 60's after those teams had won the Cup.
          It was not to be a Cup challenge but a Summit Series ala what Team Canada
          later did. Both times the answer was "no." As Stafford Smythe said "it is
          worth 750,000 nnow but it will be worth over a million in a few years." The
          time was not yet right for it.



          That is an interesting connection that brought Widing over here. I always
          wondered how the Rangers did that! But it seems like it was a one shot deal.
          I can not remember any other Europeans to come over and play junior until
          much later on, am I wrong? I know Esa Tikkanen played a few game sin Regina.
          Were any more pursued? You would think that with Widing's success there
          would have been more. Although the end of sponsorship made it more difficult
          as junior teams lacked the resources to really scout in Europe and would not
          want to spend the money to fly guys over unless theyw ere more or less sure
          bets.



          You bring up Thommie Bergman. It is interesting as he actually played in the
          NHL before Salming, most people forget that. He was not as successful. What
          was Bergman's general reaction to North America? And when Salming came over
          here how highly rated was Hammarstrom in Sweden? Obviouvly he was no
          Hedberg.Were people surprised that Salming was the first Swede to make it so
          big over here?



          Tord Lundstrom also got some time in Detroit, did he ever say much about it?
          Did Homqvist get and serious looks for Detroit when he went to London?



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Mikael Uhlin
          ... Yeah, that s true. It s also interesting that when teams from the two leagues met (http://www.geocities.com/Pipeline/5206/whanhl2.html), it was mostly
          Message 4 of 26 , Jul 25, 2006
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            "William Underwood" <wausport@...> wrote:
            >The WHA clubs more or less did it through the press. And the NHL
            >predictably more or less ignored it. Many people felt it was mostly
            >a publicity stunt. And why not do it? If the NHL said "yes" the WHA
            >got recognition as a major league. The NHL did not want to give them
            >that status. Plus they had everything to lose, beating the WHA would
            >do little for them but to reinforce what they considered status quo,
            >but if they lost or if it was even close, it would not have been
            >good for them! The WHA did not even lose by the NHL saying "no",
            >they could still shout "chicken"!

            Yeah, that's true. It's also interesting that when teams from the two
            leagues met (http://www.geocities.com/Pipeline/5206/whanhl2.html), it
            was mostly expansion teams that played the WHA. And of the 67 games
            played between 1974-78, Montreal and Toronto played none. Was there a
            real fear of losing or just a coincidence?

            >Now the NHL did have several earlier challenges. In the 1930's, the
            >then rival AHA challenged them and were rebuffed by the trustees.
            >The Cleveland Barons of the AHL challenged them in the early 50's
            >but they too were rebuffed. Both times the trustees cited that they
            >were not major league teams. And there was some merit to this as the
            >AHL was indeed a minor league and the AHA never was like the WHA in
            >quality.

            For how long was the Cup open for several leagues? Up to the 1920s?

            >The Soviets also challenged both the Montreal Canadiens and the
            >Toronto Maple Leafs to play them in the late 60's after those teams
            >had won the Cup. It was not to be a Cup challenge but a Summit
            >Series ala what Team Canada later did. Both times the answer was
            >"no." As Stafford Smythe said "it is worth 750,000 nnow but it will
            >be worth over a million in a few years." The time was not yet right
            >for it.

            But apparently it was when the Super Series was played in 1975-76.
            Isn't it generally considered that the game on New Years Eve 1975
            when Central Red Army tied the Montreal Canadiens 3 to 3 is one of
            the best games ever played?

            >That is an interesting connection that brought Widing over here. I
            >always wondered how the Rangers did that! But it seems like it was a
            >one shot deal. I can not remember any other Europeans to come over
            >and play junior until much later on, am I wrong? I know Esa Tikkanen
            >played a few game sin Regina. Were any more pursued?

            I'm not sure. Wasn't Björn Johansson quite young when he went to play
            with the Barons? At least he hadn't played in the National team over
            here.

            >You bring up Thommie Bergman. It is interesting as he actually
            >played in the NHL before Salming, most people forget that. He was
            >not as successful. What was Bergman's general reaction to North
            >America?

            I think he was very satisfied with his first year. After that, it got
            tougher in Detroit, he had several injuries and he played a lot in
            the minors. He never went to London, though. In the third year (I
            think) he went to Winnipeg and the WHA, which suited him better. I
            mean, at the time almost half of the Jets were Scandinavians.

            >And when Salming came over here how highly rated was Hammarstrom in
            >Sweden? Obviouvly he was no Hedberg.

            No, but he was established in the national team. Like Salming and
            Lundström, he played for the top Swedish team at the time, Brynäs.
            And like Hedberg, all three came from northern Sweden. Salming and
            Lundström were born in Kiruna above the arctic circle. Hammarström
            was born in the Sundsvall area, like Mats Näslund, Fredrik Modin,
            Henrik Zetterberg a.o.
            Anders Hedberg was born in the Örnsköldsvik area - home of MODO -
            like myself, Thomas Gradin, Lars Molin, Peter Forsberg, Markus
            Näslund, the Sedin twins and lots of others.

            >Were people surprised that Salming was the first Swede to make it so
            >big over here?

            No, not really. He was so determined and so well-trained.

            >Tord Lundstrom also got some time in Detroit, did he ever say much
            >about it?

            No, but I think he considered it a big failure. At the time,
            Lundström's fate was explained in several ways in Swedish media, i.e.
            he hadn't practised enough during pre-season (which seems very odd),
            his wife never liked it in Detroit (but then again, they only lived
            there for a month or two) and so on. Apparently, Detroit first
            contacted him in the mid 60s when he played with the junior national
            team in North America. He also had an offer from the WHA - from New
            York Golden Blades! I suppose that would have been a REAL challenge
            to him! BTW, I'm actually related to Tord - his dad and my paternal
            granddad were first cousins - but I've never met him.

            >Did Homqvist get and serious looks for Detroit when he went to
            >London?

            Yes. There's a photo of Holmqvist, Lundström and Bergman at Arlanda
            airport in August 1973, all heading for Detroit. Ulf Sterner arrived
            later. I think he had to go to the Rangers' camp first to get the
            right signatures to become a free agent. I'm not sure if he actually
            expected to play with Detroit or if he already was destined for
            London. Some sources claim that Bruce Norris had selected Sterner as
            one of the figureheads for the European League. However, Holmqvist
            didn't care much about where he played. When he went to the WHA, he
            originally was going to Houston but then was just as content to play
            with the Indianapolis Racers.

            Speaking of the European League and the London Lions, was there ever
            any talk about that in North America at the time? I've mostly found
            negative info from Sweden and positive info from the UK but not much
            from the other side of the pond.
          • William Underwood
            On WHA exhibitions-It had a lot to do with how a team felt about the WHA. Harold Ballard in Toronto DESPISED them! He dismissed any talk of merger and was
            Message 5 of 26 , Jul 26, 2006
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              On WHA exhibitions-It had a lot to do with how a team felt about the WHA.
              Harold Ballard in Toronto DESPISED them! He dismissed any talk of merger and
              was determined to kill them. Although the almighty buck could compromise
              "Pal Hal's" morals (I'm not sure that morals and Harold belong in the same
              sentence:-)) as he did rent MLG to the Toros.albeit at an exorbitant rate,
              on bad nights and he refused to turn all of the lights on without an
              additional fee! Montreal was also anti merger as they wanted no part of
              sharing Quebec with the Nords. Both teams were also concerned about
              splitting Hockey Night in Canada money with more Canadian teams. Believe it
              or not that was also originally and issue in Vancouver.



              The Cup- the last non NHL team to vie for the Cup was in 1926. After that
              year the old WCHL folded and most of its top players came to the NHL.



              On Super Series-Yes it was a CLASSIC. And as Stafford said, the money was
              WAY better!



              Bjorn Johansson was 20 and had not played for the national team yet. But he
              came directly to then pros, he was too old for junior. You are right, he may
              have been the first 20 or older player to have come over to have not played
              for the national team. How was he regarded in Sweden? Was there a surprise
              that a player went over so young?



              Bergman-There was also a lot of turmoil in Detroit, they were not a very
              good organization at the time.



              The European League and the London Lions-It was mentioned a little but not
              much. You would see as blurb in the Hockey News or a hockey magazine and if
              a player had played for the Lions and played in the NHL you would hear a
              little bit about the experience. As I recall the guys lived in trailers and
              the North Americans had a lot of fun.



              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Mikael Uhlin
              As for Björn Johansson, I think everybody thought that he went far too early, i.e. he was too inexperienced, and with the problems he had over there they
              Message 6 of 26 , Jul 27, 2006
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                As for Björn Johansson, I think everybody thought that he went far
                too early, i.e. he was too inexperienced, and with the problems he
                had over there they apparently were right. For some time it seemed
                like every guy who went would make it, both in the NHL and certainly
                in the WHA. True, there had been some setbacks (like Sterner and
                Lundström) but Björn Johansson was the first major failure. In fact,
                I think he never really recovered after returning home because he
                retired soon afterwards. I checked it up and noticed that he at least
                played a total of 5 games for Swedish national team.

                Regarding WHA exhibitions and the planned European League in the
                1970s, I get the impression that the NHL clubs were much more
                independent back then compared with today. I would expect the NHL of
                today to act much more in unison in similar cases (like exhibition
                games and - definitely - the creation of a new league, albeit in
                another continent). Maybe it was all down to the much more powerful
                leaders of yesteryear, guys like the Patricks, the Norrises (sp?) and
                the one you mentioned, Harold Ballard. As for the creation of the
                London Lions and the plans for the European League, it has always
                surprised me that Bruce Norris seemed to act on his own. Maybe he
                didn't, but the rest of the NHL at least didn't give any visible
                support. A somewhat similar project may have been the Russian
                Penguins. If they and the London Lions had existed simultanously, the
                planned league may had come to fruition.
              • Jason Kasiorek
                Bill, I have listed the training camp rosters for 1968, 1969, and 1970 on my site under the history section. You can get there by following this link:
                Message 7 of 26 , Jul 31, 2006
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                  Bill,

                  I have listed the training camp rosters for 1968, 1969, and 1970 on my site
                  under the history section. You can get there by following this link:

                  http://www.griffinscentral.com/hist/camp.html

                  I will be adding 1971-73 either tonight or tomorrow. There is lots of
                  updating to be done in this section, but I will be updating training camp
                  rosters, etc. from 1968-present over the next few months.


                  --
                  Jason Kasiorek
                  Publisher
                  http://www.griffinscentral.com



                  From: "William Underwood" <wausport@...>


                  GREAT STUFF Jason! Do you have any info on US/College guys that the Wings
                  gave a shot to back then other than the ones we know played like Roberts?

                  Keep it coming guys! We are finding some great pieces to an old puzzle!

                  I'd love to see if the NHL has any records of old negotiation lists from
                  that era or camp rosters. They MUST have some transactions listings that
                  tell us who was signed to try outs for camp.





                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • William Underwood
                  Great stuff Jason! Is there any stuff out there from the 6 team era? [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  Message 8 of 26 , Aug 1, 2006
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                    Great stuff Jason! Is there any stuff out there from the 6 team era?



                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Jason Kasiorek
                    Bill, I am sure there is, but my collection only goes back to 1968. I am always on the lookout for older stuff though. -- Jason Kasiorek Publisher
                    Message 9 of 26 , Aug 1, 2006
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                      Bill,

                      I am sure there is, but my collection only goes back to 1968. I am always on
                      the lookout for older stuff though.


                      --
                      Jason Kasiorek
                      Publisher
                      http://www.griffinscentral.com



                      From: "William Underwood" <wausport@...>

                      Great stuff Jason! Is there any stuff out there from the 6 team era?



                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Mikael Uhlin
                      ... With my research on the London Lions in mind, it ll be very interesting to take part of the 1973 training camp info. Do you have info on the pre-season
                      Message 10 of 26 , Aug 4, 2006
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                        Jason Kasiorek <jkasiorek@...> wrote:
                        >I have listed the training camp rosters for 1968, 1969, and 1970 on
                        >my site under the history section. You can get there by following
                        >this link: http://www.griffinscentral.com/hist/camp.html
                        >I will be adding 1971-73 either tonight or tomorrow.

                        With my research on the London Lions in mind, it'll be very interesting
                        to take part of the 1973 training camp info. Do you have info on the
                        pre-season games as well?
                      • Jason Kasiorek
                        Mikael, I don t have much information on the preseason games for that year. I am 75% done with the 1973 training camp roster and will have that up tonight most
                        Message 11 of 26 , Aug 4, 2006
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                          Mikael,

                          I don't have much information on the preseason games for that year. I am 75%
                          done with the 1973 training camp roster and will have that up tonight most
                          likely. I was working on it this morning before work, and 2 things stood
                          out, the first is that Ulf Sterner was not on the list of training camp
                          invitees. The second is Duffy McCarthy. He was invited to camp in 73,
                          assigned to London, and then not invited back in 1974. He is not listed in
                          the media guide anywhere, and its almost like he didn't exist. Very strange
                          that he earned an invite and a contract, but was not mentioned anywhere
                          else.


                          --
                          Jason Kasiorek
                          Publisher
                          http://www.griffinscentral.com



                          From: "Mikael Uhlin" <u-line@...>
                          Reply-To: hockhist@yahoogroups.com
                          Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2006 16:51:15 -0000
                          To: hockhist@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: [hockhist] Re: First European Goalie in NHL?


                          Jason Kasiorek <jkasiorek@...> wrote:
                          >I have listed the training camp rosters for 1968, 1969, and 1970 on
                          >my site under the history section. You can get there by following
                          >this link: http://www.griffinscentral.com/hist/camp.html
                          >I will be adding 1971-73 either tonight or tomorrow.

                          With my research on the London Lions in mind, it'll be very interesting
                          to take part of the 1973 training camp info. Do you have info on the
                          pre-season games as well?



                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Mikael Uhlin
                          ... Incidentally, McCarthy is one of the ex-Lions whom I ve been in contact with. In an email he sent me in March 2005, he wrote: ...after our season with
                          Message 12 of 26 , Aug 4, 2006
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                            Jason Kasiorek <jkasiorek@...> wrote:
                            >I don't have much information on the preseason games for that year.
                            >I am 75% done with the 1973 training camp roster and will have that
                            >up tonight most likely. I was working on it this morning before
                            >work, and 2 things stood out, the first is that Ulf Sterner was not
                            >on the list of training camp invitees. The second is Duffy McCarthy.
                            >He was invited to camp in 73, assigned to London, and then not
                            >invited back in 1974. He is not listed in the media guide anywhere,
                            >and its almost like he didn't exist. Very strange that he earned an
                            >invite and a contract, but was not mentioned anywhere else.

                            Incidentally, McCarthy is one of the ex-Lions whom I've been in
                            contact with. In an email he sent me in March 2005, he wrote:
                            "...after our season with London I played pro lacrosse that summer
                            with Toronto Tomahawks. Once it was known there was not going to be a
                            league in Europe Detroit sent me to Kalamazoo Michigan of the
                            International league. Once I got there I decided to hang them up and
                            get a job. Detroit paid me out and I came home. I [...] was offered a
                            job with the Fire Dept which I took, and had 25 great years there."

                            As for Sterner, I've read somewhere that he first went to the
                            Rangers' training camp, as he still belonged to them. He's also
                            missing on the photo showing the other Swedes (Bergman, Holmqvist and
                            Lundström) on the airport on their way to the training camp. I'm not
                            familiar with the procedures but I believe Sterner went to the
                            Rangers to get the signatures to become a free agent to be able to
                            join London. He at least was with the Lions when they played their
                            first game vs the IHL-Toledo Hornets in Detroit 11 October 1973.

                            While in Port Huron, Detroit played at least one game against
                            Pittsburgh (or their affiliate). I've got a very brief glimpse from
                            that game on VCR, showing Leif Holmqvist in goal, and I believe the
                            team in question is Detroit. There's at least a winged wheel on the
                            jersey, so it may be one of the affiliates, though - except London
                            (which of course sported a winged Lion).
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