Strange finishes for NHL legends

Bobby Orr a Blackhawk. Bryan Trottier a Penguin. Canadiens heroes in Ranger uniforms. As incongruous as it seems, these 10 Hall of Famers and others finished their careers in strange and unusual places

1. Bobby Orr – The man many consider the greatest hockey player ever – and certainly the greatest defenseman in NHL history – Orr played his first two seasons with the Boston Bruins, winning eight straight Norris Trophies, three Hart Trophies, two Conn Smythe Trophies, and a pair of Art Ross Trophies as the only defenseman ever to  lead the NHL in scoring. Orr also had a record +124 rating in 1970-71. He wound up playing 26 games over two seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks before knee injuries forced him to retire in 1978.

2. Ray Bourque – Another legendary Boston defenseman, Bourque won five Norris Trophies and scored 395 goals during his 20-year career in Boston. Bourque then went west to Colorado for two seasons, finally winning an elusive Stanley Cup with the Avalanche in 2001. He still holds NHL records for goals (410), assists (1,169) and points (1,579) by a defenseman.

3. Brian Leetch – Like Orr and Bourque before him, Leetch won the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year. He also won the Norris Trophy twice, and a Conn Smythe Trophy with the Rangers in 1994. After 17 years in New York, Leetch was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for prospects Maxim Kondratiev, Jarkko Immon, and future first and second round draft picks in 2004, then closed out his career in Boston a year later.

4. Bryan Trottier – He’s the all-time Islander leader in a multitude of team categories, including games, assists and points. He won a Calder, Art Ross, Hart and Conn Smythe Trophy. And he led the Islanders to four consecutive Stanley Cup titles beginning in 1980. Trotts signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the 1990 season and won two more Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. He retired after the 1994 season.

5. Guy Lafleur – This Montreal winger was already a Hall of Famer and retired for three years when he made a comeback with the Rangers in 1988. A five-time Stanley Cup champion with the Canadiens with three scoring titles and two MVPs, Lafleur, right, played his final two seasons with the Quebec Nordiques.

6. Doug and Max Bentley – The Bentley Brothers from Delisle, Saskatchewan, had similar careerr paths, Doug, the elder brother, broken into the NHL in 1939 and played 12 seasons with Chicago Blackhawks. Max joined Chicago the following year and was traded to Toronto in 1947, where he won three Stanley Cups. The Bentleys finished their careers wearing the Rangers crest in 1953-54. Max scored 245 career goals and Doug 219.

7. Bernie Geoffrion – Boom Boom played 14 years in Montreal and was one of the first players to score 50 goals in a season before he retired in 1964. Geoffrion won six Stanley Cups and Calder, Hart and Ross Trophies with the Habs. He joined the Rangers in 1966, and retired again in 1968. Boomer later coached the Rangers, Atlanta Flames and Canadiens.

8. Eddie Giacomin – The popular goalie played 11 seasons with the Rangers before being placed on waivers and claimed by the Detroit Red Wings on October 29, 1975. Giacomin was an outstanding netminder with the Blueshirts. Ironically, Giacomin’s first game with the Red Wings was Halloween, two days after he joined the team. Madison Square Garden partisans voiced their displeasure with the deal, and cheered on a 6-4 win for Giacomin, left. Seeing limited duty, Eddie finished his career with Detroit in 1978.

9. Ching Johnson – The Hall of Fame defenseman played 10 years with the Rangers and was a member of the 1928 and 1933 Stanley Cup champions. He was signed as a free agent by the New York Americans, and was scoreless in 31 games in his final campaign.

10.Sid Abel – A member of Detroit’s famed Production Line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay in the late 40s and early 50s, Abel won the Hart Trophy in 1949 and finished in the top five in scoring four times. He was traded to Chicago for cash before the 1952 season, and retired a year later.

Honorable MentionMarcel Dionne, fourth all-time with 731 goals, drafted by Detroit, played most of his career with the Los Angeles Kings and wound up with the Rangers; Bernie Federko, ended his career with the Red Wings in 1990 after 13 seasons with the St. Louis Blues; Pierre Pilote, three-time Norris winner with Chicago was traded to Toronto for Jim Pappin where he played one-year before retiring in 1968: and Bjore Salming, the first Swedish born player to earn an All-Star berth, signed as a free agent by Detroit after 16 seasons in Toronto.

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Wallflowers missing out on the ‘Big Dance’

Fans storm the court after Albany buzzer-beater denied Stony Brook its first NCAA ticket.

For dozens of big-time programs, an invitation to the NCAA Tournament is all but presumed every year. Failure to make the tournament is considered a huge disappointment. Coaches have been fired for less.

But not so for the vast majority of teams, some who have played Cinderella and many others who have never made the cut. Perfect example, Stony Brook. The Seawolves were literally less than a second away from the first NCAA berth in the team’s history when Albany State crushed their dreams with a dagger three-pointer at the buzzer in the American East championship game.Oh my.

Only five of the original 160 NCAA schools have never made the tournament, which began in 1939. They are Army, The Citadel, Northwestern, St. Francis (NY) and William & Mary. St. Francis came close this year, advancing to the championship game of the Northeast Conference tournament this week, only to bow out to Robert (Bob) Morris, 66-63, on their home court in Brooklyn.

Army never made it despite being coached by two all-time greats, Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski. But Northwestern may be the most puzzling of all the NCAA wallflowers. Northwestern began men’s basketball in 1901, was retro-picked as national champion in 1931, and even hosted the first NCAA championship game in 1939 and the Final Four in 1956. Playing in the Big Ten, the Wildcats have not had a winning record in conference play since 1968, when LBJ was President. They finally managed their first 20-win season in 2009.

All told, there are 44 Division 1 teams that have never tasted March Madness. Some notables beyond the five originals mentioned above are Maine, New Hampshire, Hartford, Bryant College, Youngstown State, Grambling and Presbyterian.

Finally

Meanwhile North Florida, UC Irvine and Buffalo are going to the tournament for the first time. North Florida’s Ospreys got the automatic bid after knocking off another NCAA virgin, the South Carolina Upstate Spartans, 63-57 in the Atlantic Sun championship game. And the University of California-Irvine punched its ticket after beating Hawaii, 67-58, in the Big West title game. For the Anteaters, it’s the first tournament appearance in the 38-year history of the school’s basketball program. And Buffalo cracked the brackets with ts first Mid-American Conference Tournament championship, an 89-84 win over top-seeded Central Michigan

In 2013, Florida Gulf Coast, the 15th seed in the East, won the Atlantic Sun title, and ran off two straight wins in its first NCAA, beating second-seed Georgetown and seventh-seed San Diego State before losing to Florida in the round of 16.

Last year, both Cal Poly and North Carolina Central cracked the NCAA code with first-time tournament appearances.