Monday, December 30, 2013

Maine Mariners (AHL, 1979-80)

Another team that (for some reason) is kinda hard to find online. It took awhile to find a Mariners program, and it wasn't that cheap.

1979-80 Regular Season--Mariners vs. Nova Scotia Voyageurs
     The Maine Mariners joined the American Hockey League for the 1977-78 season. They played their home games at the Cumberland County Civic Center, a 6,733-seat arena in Portland, Maine. The franchise was owned by Ed Snider, owner of the Philadelphia Flyers, and was the Flyers' primary affiliate. 
     Bolstered by the Flyers' prospects, the Mariners were a powerhouse in their first two seasons. They finished first overall both years and won the Calder Cup as well, the only time an AHL team has accomplished that feat. The Mariners were coached by Bob McCammon, who previously coached the Port Huron Flags of the IHL and had a brief stint with the Flyers in 1978-79.
     After two straight dominant seasons, the Mariners slipped to third place in the North with a 41-28-11 record. Their 93 points tied second-placed Nova Scotia, but the Voyageurs took second with two more wins. They were just three points behind first-place New Brunswick, and 18 ahead of fourth-place Adirondack. Fans poured into the Civic Center that season, as the Mariners averaged a league-best 5,416 per game.
     The Mariners scored the fourth-highest amount of goals in the AHL that season, lighting the red light 307 times. They were led by Gordie Clark, who scored 47 goals and 90 points on the year. Seven other players (including Dave Gardner, who was traded to Binghamton) scored 20 goals or more that year.
     On defense, the Mariners were tops in the league, surrendering a league-low 266 goals. Maine's two top netminders were Rick St. Croix and Robbie Moore. St. Croix played in 45 games that year, and had a nice 25-14-7 record, with a 2.92 GAA and 1 shutout. Moore responded by getting into 32 games, with a 14-11-4 mark, a 3.51 GAA and 1 shutout. Sam St. Laurent, Dave Settlemyre and future NHLer Bob Froese also saw playing time.
     The two-time defending champs were looking for a three-peat in 1979-80, and drew Nova Scotia in Round One. The Mariners pushed aside the Voyageurs in six games to advance to the semi-finals. Their run would end there, as New Brunswick would dethrone Maine in a tight six-game series that saw two games (including the clincher) go to overtime.
     Nice program. This one has 80 pages, mostly in black-and-white, but there are quite a few color pictures and ads. Some of the ads include Schlitz Beer, Zenith and the 1980 Chevrolet Caprice (which apparently was part of the "Team of the '80s" with the Mariners). That night's opponent was the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, Montreal's farm team. The Voyageurs featured future NHL goalies Rick Wamsley and Richard Sevigny as well as future NHL goon Chris Nilan.

Aftermath: The Mariners would continue on as the Flyers' farm team until 1983-84, when the New Jersey Devils bought the team. Maine would win the Calder Cup that year, but declining attendance would force the Devils to relocate the franchise to Utica, New York, for the 1987-88 season. The AHL immediately placed an expansion franchise in Portland for that season. The new team would also be called "Maine Mariners" and assumed the original franchise's logo and history, but would don the black, gold and white of the new parent club, the Boston Bruins. The new Mariners had one winning season in five years and attendance dipped below 4,000 per game by the time the Bruins moved the team to Providence, Rhode Island in 1993. Portland got it's third shot at AHL hockey when the Baltimore Skipjacks moved to town after the Mariners left. The new Portland Pirates won the Calder Cup in 1983-84, and still exist to this day.

AHL Statistics: 1979-80 (from
Maine Mariners history (from  

Virginia Red Wings (AHL, 1972-73)

Norfolk, Virginia--a hockey hotbed to say the least, right? Well, they've had a few teams over the years, and are currently home to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. I found this Virginia Red Wings program on eBay a few years back.

1972-73 Regular Season--Wings vs. Rochester Americans
     The Virginia Red Wings were an AHL franchise that existed from 1971-75, originally called the Tidewater Wings for their inaugural season. They were the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings for all three seasons and were owned by Bruce Norris. The team played it's home games at the Norfolk Scope, which seats just over 8000 for hockey. 
     In 1972-73, the Wings were led by former NHLer Doug Barkley, who doubled as Coach/GM. That season would be the team's finest in their five-year history. Virginia finished with an excellent 38-22-16, good enough for third place in the Western Division. The 92 points the Wings rang up was just three behind second-place Hershey, but 21 behind league champion Cincinnati. Attendance didn't reflect the success on the ice, as the Wings averaged 3,357 per game, fourth-lowest in the league.
     The Wings were sixth-best in the AHL in goal-scoring that season, lighting the red light 258 times. Art Stratton was the team's top scorer, with 30 goals and 80 points. Five other players scored 20 or more goals. 
     On defense, the Wings were even better, allowing only 221 goals, third-best in the league. They employed three goaltenders that season, led by Doug Grant's 51 games with a sparkling 2.54 GAA. George Hulme and John Voss were the other two netminders that year.
     The Wings met the Hershey Bears in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs that year. The series went the limit, but Virginia advanced with a 5-3 win in Game 7. They then faced the tall task of battling the red-hot Cincinnati Swords in Round Two. Virginia put up a fight, but fell in six games, outscored 21-13 in the process. 
     Kind of a small program. This one has 50 pages, almost all of which are black and white (there are a couple color ads). There's an article about former Wing Henry Boucha "Making it in Detroit". There's also an article about that night's opponent, the Rochester Americans, with a picture of then-Americans coach Don Cherry (you've heard of him, right?). The Wings roster that night featured former Port Huron Wings forward Len Fontaine, who would go on to play several more seasons in the minors, mostly in the IHL. 

Aftermath: Barkley would be replaced by Bob Lemieux the following season, which saw the Wings slump to a league worst 22-44-10 record. Barkley returned the following season and the Wings rebounded to a 31-31-13 record, tops in the South Division. They were easily knocked off by New Haven in five games (best-of-seven) in Round One. Despite drawing a franchise-best 3,532 per game that season, attendance was not high enough to keep the franchise afloat. The Virginia Red Wings ceased operations after the 1974-75 season.

AHL Statistics: 1972-73 (from

Adirondack Red Wings (AHL, 1986-87)

1986-87 Regular Season--Wings vs. Moncton Golden Flames
     After the 1982-83 season, the Wings hired Bill Dineen as their sixth head coach (seventh if you count Larry Wilson, who died before the first season). Dineen brought something the franchise never had: coaching stability and winning seasons. He remained as head coach through the 1988-89 season, by far the longest any coach lasted in Glens Falls. He guided the Wings to their first winning season in 1983-84, and only had one losing season during his tenure.
     Dineen was joined by returning General Manager Neil Smith, who was only 32 when hired in 1985. The Wings were again the primary affiliate of Detroit and owned by Mike Illitch.
     The previous season was an interesting one for the organization. While Adirondack claimed their second Calder Cup in 1985-86, Detroit suffered through it's worst season in franchise history, winning only 16 games. The defending champs had another excellent season in 1986-87, going 44-31-5, second place in the North Division. Their 93 points were nine behind league-leading Sherbrooke and just one ahead of Moncton, that night's opponent.
     Adirondack's offense was fourth-best in the league, as the Wings scored 329 goals. They were led by veteran forward Glenn Merkosky, who scored 54 goals and 85 points, both tops on the team. Seven other players scored 20 or more goals, and two (Dale Krentz and Chris Cichocki) had over 30.
     The Wings had a strong season on defense, allowing just 296 goals, fifth-best in the AHL. The Wings used five netminders that season. Mark LaForest played in 37 games, with a sparkling 26-8-2 record, a 2.83 GAA and three shutouts. Sam St. Laurent was in for 25 games, going 7-13-2 with a 4.21 GAA with one shutout. Chris Pusey, Randy Hansch and Corrado Micalef were the other Adirondack goalies that season.
     The Wings would face Moncton in the first round and knocked off the Golden Flames in six games. They then ran into the Sherbrooke Canadiens in Round Two, and were smoked in five games, outscored 27-14 in the process. Fans responded to the Wings success, as Adirondack averaged 4,184 per game, third-best in the league that year.
     Of all the Wings programs I have, this is probably the best-looking one. It has 72 pages, mostly in black-and-white, but on glossy paper. Plenty of ads and lots of articles about the AHL and NHL Red Wings. Lots of stats too. That night's Wings roster included Joe Murphy, who was drafted #1 Overall by Detroit that year out of Michigan State. Murphy didn't quite live up to that billing, but did carve out a solid 14-year NHL career, scoring 233 goals. Player/Assistant Coach Barry Melrose would later coach the AHL Wings and in the NHL with Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. He would later become an analyst on ESPN and NHL Network, and sport arguably the game's most famous mullet.

AHL Statistics: 1986-87 (from

Adirondack Red Wings (AHL, 1982-83)

1982-83 Regular Season--Wings vs. Maine Mariners
     The Adirondack Red Wings were back for their fourth season of play in 1982-83. They were still the primary farm team of the Detroit Red Wings and now owned by Red Wings owner Mike Illitch. Jimmy Devellano, also Detroit's GM, served as AHL Wings' GM that season. Original GM Ned Harkness was gone by then, pushed out of both the AHL Wings and the Glens Falls Civic Center. Jack Kelley was the new GM of the arena and Adirondack's Director of Operations. They had yet another new coach, with Bill Mahoney this time behind the bench.
     Adirondack had another mediocre season in '82-83, finishing 36-39-5, good enough for fourth place. Their 77 points were just two ahead of Moncton and 21 behind first-place Fredericton. Despite another so-so year, Adirondack had another strong season at the gate, averaging 4,872 per game, third-best in the AHL.
     The Wings finished eighth in overall offense, scoring 329 goals. The team was led by returning forward Ted Nolan, who scored 24 goals to go along with 64 points. Six other players scored 20 or more goals, including Bobby Crawford's team-best 28.
     Adirondack struggled on the other side of the puck. Their 343 goals allowed were fourth-highest in the AHL that season. The Wings used five goaltenders that season. Larry Lozinski and Claude Legris each played 32 games that season, leading the team. Lozinski sported a 13-15-2 record with a 4.49 GAA, but did notch three shutouts. Legris had an 11-12-2 record with a 4.21 GAA and two shutouts. The Wings also used NHL veterans Gilles Gilbert and Jim Rutherford, who played briefly with Detroit that season. Rounding out the goaltending corps was Corrado Micalef, who also played 34 games with Detroit.
     Adirondack again made the playoffs that season, and again didn't last too long. They drew the first-place Fredericton Express in the first round best-of-seven series. The Wings put up a fight, but fell to the Express in six games. Two of the games went to overtime, and the teams each scored 23 goals in the series.
Mahoney would be let go after the season in favor of Bill Dineen.
     This is another nice Wings program. It has 84 pages, mostly black-and-white but numerous color photos as well. The "First National Red Wing of the Night" was Brad Smith, a winger that spent time in the NHL with Vancouver, Atlanta/Calgary and Detroit before joining Adirondack. That season's Red Wing roster included a mixture of grizzled veterans and youngsters, a format that would keep Adirondack competitive and provide leadership for the young prospects. Their opponents for the night, the Maine Mariners, included future NHLers Bob Froese, John Paddock, Dave Brown and Len Hachborn.

AHL Statistics: 1982-83 (from

Adirondack Red Wings (1979-80, AHL)

Forgot I had a program from the Wings' inaugural season. Usually I try to go in chronological order with particular teams, but we'll bend the rules with this team.

1979-80 Regular Season--Wings vs. Nova Scotia Voyageurs
     The Adirondack Red Wings joined the American Hockey League for the 1979-80 season. The franchise was originally the Tidewater/Virginia Red Wings that suspended operations after the 1974-75 season. The team was the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings (hence the name and unis), replacing the defunct Kansas City Red Wings of the CHL. They were owned by Bruce Norris, then NHL Red Wings owner. The team played it's home games in the Glens Falls Civic Center, a 4,794-seat arena built just before the team arrived.
     The franchise's first GM was former Detroit coach/GM Ned Harkness, who was also GM of the Glens Falls Civic Center. Originally, the team was going to be coached by former Red Wings forward Larry Wilson. Tragically, Wilson died of a heart attack before the season began. The Red Wings quickly filled the void by promoting Kalamazoo Wings head coach Bill Purcell to Adirondack.  Purcell was coming off a Turner Cup Championship with the K-Wings and a 40-28-12 record in his first season there.
     The expansion Red Wings stumbled in their inaugural season, going 32-37-11. Their 75 points were good enough for fourth place in the AHL's North Division, just one point better than last-place Springfield and 22 behind first-place New Brunswick. Adirondack was sixth in the AHL that year on offense, with 297 goals scored. Leading the pack was Rick Shinske, who scored 22 goals and 80 points. Five other players notched at least 20 goals that year, including Mal Davis' team-leading 34. 
     On defense, the Wings were fourth-worst in the AHL, surrendering 309 goals. Future NHLer Al Jensen, who followed Purcell from Kalamazoo, played in 57 games that season, going 27-24-5 with a 3.51 GAA and two shutouts. Claude Legris and Wayne Wood were his two backups that season.
     Purcell didn't make it through the season, getting fired in favor of co-coaches Tom Webster and forward JP LeBlanc. The Wings did make the postseason in Year One, but were blown away by New Brunswick in five games in Round One (best-of-seven). Despite the so-so season and turmoil behind the bench, the Wings were a smash hit in Glens Falls. Adirondack was second in the AHL in attendance, averaging 4,930 per game.
     The inaugural season of the Wings had a few players of note. Rookie John Ogrodnick split time between Glens Falls and Detroit, and would go on to a splendid 15-year NHL career, mostly with Detroit. Al Jensen made it to the NHL, but spent most of his career with Washington. Jensen won the Jennings Trophy in 1983-84 with the Capitals and spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues. Then there was Ted Nolan. Nolan spent the majority of his career in the AHL, appearing occasionally in Detroit before retiring in 1985-86. He went on to coach in major juniors and the NHL, winning three championships in the OHL and QMJHL. He also won the Jack Adams Award as Top NHL coach with Buffalo in 1996-97.
     Nice program, 64 pages with mostly black and white pictures. Lots of ads and several articles. BTW, the Red Wings broadcast crew included Dave Strader, who was "called up" to Detroit in 1985-86.

AHL Statistics: 1979-80 (from

And We're Back!

     It's been awhile since I last posted, hasn't it?

     During the weekend of December 20-22, we were hit with an ice storm, which knocked out the last day of school before winter break (Dec. 20). A lot of people lost power during this weekend, and many didn't have it restored until just recently. We were lucky...ours was off for only six hours on Sunday. 
    While the power was back on, our internet signal was out until the ice melted away the following Friday. Glad we were lucky and didn't have to go without electricity for a week, but it wasn't fun not having the internet for so long!

Don't forget the baseball programs blog, which can be found at this page:

Back to posting!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Adirondack Red Wings (AHL, 1981-82)

Always wanted a few Adirondack Red Wings programs, but for some reason they were hard to come by. I did end up finding a few. Here's one from 1981-82.

1981-82 Regular Season--Wings vs. Binghamton Whalers
          In 1981-82, the Red Wings were coming off their first Calder Cup Championship. That team received a mid-season dose of veteran talent cast off by the NHL Wings, which helped push the team into the postseason and the championship. This was a format the AHL Wings would use throughout their existence. The team would be made up of a mixture of young prospects and seasoned veterans, in order to keep the team competitive.
     Doug McKay was named head coach for 1981-82, replacing Wayne Maxner. Ned Harkness returned as General Manager. The Wings stumbled to fourth place in the Southern Division, with a mediocre 34-37-9 record. Their 77 points were 21 back of first-place Binghamton, that night's opponent. The offense was eighth-best in the league, scoring 299 goals. Top points producer was Mark Lofthouse, with 33 goals and 71 points. Five other players scored over 20 goals that season, including veteran Dennis Polonich's 30 goals.
     On defense, the Wings were actually pretty good, fifth-best in the AHL with 285 goals allowed. Larry Lozinski and Greg Stefan were the main netminders that season.
     The Wings made the playoffs that season and faced the New Brunswick Hawks in the best-of-five first round. Adirondack put up a fight, but fell to the Hawks in five games. McKay would be replaced by Bill Mahoney for the following season.

Aftermath: The Red Wings would end up staying in the AHL for twenty years, and be one of the more competitive teams in the league during that stretch. They would win three more Calder Cups in their existence and make the playoffs every season but 1984-85. By 1998-99, attendance was starting to decline, and Detroit planned on relocating the AHL Wings to Rossman, Ohio. That move never occurred, and the franchise suspended operations. Glens Falls was home to the UHL's Adirondack Icehawks/Frostbite for several seasons, then the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms.

Adirondack Red Wings Statistics: 1981-82 (from 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Broome Dusters (1979-80, AHL)

These programs are from the final season of the Broome Dusters. They are also the thickest programs I have of that franchise.

1979-80 Regular Season--Dusters vs. Hershey Bears
    Another season, another new coach and GM. This time, Pat Kelly was behind the bench to start the year, but after an 8-19-3 record, was canned in favor of Dave Forbes. Jacques Caron was the new GM. The team had two new NHL affiliates, as Boston and Los Angeles aligned with Binghamton.
     This season's Dusters fell right back to the Southern Division cellar. Their woeful 24-49-7 was the worst in the AHL, 11 points behind Rochester. Naturally, this team had problems putting the puck in and keeping it out. On offense, the Dusters scored an anemic 268 goals, second worst in the league. Tom Songin led the team in points with only 63. Gary Burns was the only player to score 30, but four others scored over 20. 
     On defense, Binghamton allowed 334 goals, second-worst in the league. Once again, the team used six different goaltenders. Lorne Molleken played the lions-share of games that season. In 31 appearances, Molleken had a 9-18-2 record with a reasonable 3.85 GAA. Yves Belanger got into 25 games, sporting a 7-13-1 mark with a 4.27 GAA.
     Finishing in the league cellar after an exciting playoff run did not help with attendance. The numbers continued to decline after Year One, as the Dusters drew 3,329 per game, seventh in the AHL. 

     Of the three seasons, this is the largest Dusters program I have. It has 48 pages, mostly black-and-white pictures but a few color ads. There are a couple articles, but no player insert like Year One. I recognized a few players on the Dusters roster. Craig MacTavish went on to win five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. Lorne Molleken would eventually play for the IHL's Toledo Goaldiggers, then later coach in the NHL with Chicago. Hershey's roster features goaltenders Rollie Boutin (formerly of the IHL Port Huron Flags) and Dave Parro (later with the IHL's Flint Spirits). Coach Gary Green would eventually be called up to the Washington Capitals. In the program below, Syracuse featured Ron Low in goal, who played in the NHL for several teams, including Detroit. Gordie Brooks played for the Saginaw Gears.
1979-80 Regular Season--Dusters vs. Syracuse Firebirds
While the Broome Dusters were generally a bottom-feeder in their 3-year AHL existence, hockey wasn't dead in Binghamton. The franchise became the primary affiliate of the Hartford Whalers and changed names to "Binghamton Whalers". The Whalers would make the Calder Cup Finals in 1981-82, but lost to New Brunswick in five games. 
     In 1990-91, the Whalers switched parent clubs again. This time they were aligned with the New York Rangers, and thus became the Binghamton Rangers. The Rangers stuck around through the 1996-97 season. Despite averaging over 4,000 per game the past three seasons, New York relocated the franchise to Hartford, Connecticut. The franchise still exists as the Hartford Wolfpack.
     Binghamton would join the United Hockey League. The BC Icemen would exist for five seasons, but the crowds did not respond as strongly to them as they did to the Dusters/Whalers/Rangers franchise. In 2002, the AHL returned in the form of the Binghamton Senators, which exist to this day.

Broome Dusters programs
Broome Dusters Statistics, at

Broome Dusters (AHL, 1978-79)

Here's another set of Broome Duster programs, this time from the 1978-79 season. All the programs I have from this year look the same, so I'll only post one picture.

1978-79 Regular Season--Dusters vs. Nova Scotia Voyageurs

     Before I say anything about the 1978-79 season, take a look at that program cover. That is the gaudiest goalie mask I have seen, almost psychedelic! Wonder if anyone wore that in a game? It was definitely an eye-catcher when I bought it a couple years ago.
     In 1978-79, the Dusters improved somewhat on their first AHL season. The team went 32-42-5, third place in the Southern Division. Their 69 points were 32 points behind first-place Nova Scotia, that night's opponent, and just five points ahead of fourth place Rochester. Joe Hardy replaced Larry Kish as head coach, and Andre Veillieux was the new President-GM. The team was an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
     The offense improved somewhat, scoring an even 300 goals, sixth in the league. Randy MacGregor was tops in points with 75, while Richard Grenier again led the team in goals with 37. Six Dusters scored over 20 goals that season.
     On defense, the team again struggled, allowing 320 goals, fourth-worst in the league. Six different goaltenders were used that season, and Ken Holland played the majority of games. In 41 games, Holland went 19-17-3 with a 3.91 GAA. His main backup was Louis Levasseur, who went 10-12-2 in 25 starts with a 3.77 GAA.
     The Dusters qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in 1978-79. They faced Hershey in Round One, and knocked off the Bears in four games (best of five). In the semifinals, Binghamton faced New Haven, and fell in six games.
     Attendance dipped in Year Two, as the Dusters drew 3,935 per game, fifth-best in the league.

Broome Dusters Statistics: 1978-79 (from

Broome Dusters (1977-78, AHL)

The Broome Dusters, what a great name! Does the caveman look familiar? That's right, the team's logo was designed by Johnny Hart, the creater of the BC comic strip and a Binghamton resident.

1977-78 Regular Season--Dusters vs. Springfield Indians
      The Broome (as in Broome County, New York) Dusters began in 1973 in the old North American
Hockey League, a Double-A pro league in the northest. They played four years in the NAHL, then transferred to the AHL in 1977.
     According to this program, the franchise was a late addition to the AHL for 1977-78. Binghamton's population at the time was about 64,000, which was second-lowest in the league. The 4,855-seat Broome County Veteran's Memorial Coliseum was the smallest in the league. However, despite those stats, attendance for the Dusters was strong. That night's game against Springfield was the 135th straight game (playoff or regular season) with a crowd of over 4,000. The program also noted that "the team hasn't played before a home-ice crowd of less than 3,000 since 1973".
     Larry Kish was Head Coach of the 1977-78 Dusters and Paul Brown was General Manager. The team's colors were gold and brown, a combination rarely seen in pro sports anymore.

1977-78 Regular Season--Dusters vs. Hampton Gulls
     The 1977-78 Dusters finished in last place in the Northern Division. Their record of 27-46-8 put them 25 points behind third-place Springfield and 33 points behind division champion Maine.
     On offense, the Dusters scored 287 goals, third-worst in the league. Joe Hardy's 87 points led the team, while Richard Grenier was tops in goals with 46. Four other players, besides Hardy and Grenier, scored over 20 goals for the Dusters.
     Defense let Binghamton down that season. The Dusters allowed a league-worst 377 goals. Kish went through seven different goaltenders, including team executive Jacques Caron! The netminder who played in the majority of the games is Ken Holland. Holland appeared in 39 games, with a 12-19-3 record and 4.28 GAA. Name sound familiar? That's correct, that's the same Ken Holland that's currently the General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings.
     Despite the poor season, the Dusters did have a strong following. Binghamton drew the second-highest crowds in the AHL that year, as 4,636 per game made it to Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
     That night's opponent was the Hampton Gulls, coached by long-time minor leaguer John Brophy. The Gulls weren't long for this world, and folded in February of 1978.

1977-78 Regular Season--Dusters vs. Hershey Bears

     The programs from this season are pretty simple. They are 19 pages, printed on yellow or tan paper.
There are quite a few ads and a few articles. There is a black-and white poster of a Dusters player with each program.
     Take a look at those Dusters jerseys! You don't see striping like that anymore, especially with brown and yellow as team colors. Definitely straight out of the mid-1970s, especially with yellow as the team's home color! If you've ever seen Slapshot, the Dusters jerseys were the inspiration for the jersey that Hanrahan's jersey in that memorable scene.
     I have programs from a couple more seasons of the Dusters, 1978-79 and 1979-80. I'll post those next.

Being Little is an Advantage. Henderson, Dave. Broome Dusters vs. Springfield Indians program, 1977-78 season.
Broome Dusters Statistics: 1977-78 (from

Detroit Jr. Red Wings (Great Lakes Junior Hockey League, 1975-76; NAHL, 1989-90)

A few posts back I had a program from the OHL's Detroit Junior Red Wings. There were actually a few teams that went by that nickname, going as far back as the 1970s. I have programs from two of those teams.

1975-76 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     This version of the Junior Wings was a member of the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League, a precursor to the North American Hockey League. There were five clubs in the GLJHL at the time, and all but one in the Detroit area (the other being in Port Huron). Skeets Harrison was the Head Coach while Tom Wilson was General Manager. The Executive Committee behind the Jr. Wings included Hall of Famers Alex Delvecchio and Budd Lynch, as well as former NHLers Billy Dea and Denis DeJordy. The Wings played their home games at both Lakeland Arena and Olympia Stadium.
     The Junior Wings were coming off a National Junior A Championship in 1974-75, so expectations were high. In 1975-76, the Wings followed that success up with an excellent 34-11-3 record. Their 71 points were just one point shy of Detroit Little Caesar's in the league standings. 
     Darryl DiPace led the Wings in scoring that season, with 37 goals and 89 points. Six other players on the roster had at least twenty goals on the year, an impressive stat for a 48-game season. As a group, the Wings scored 234 goals, second best in the league. On defense, the team allowed only 152, alternating between four different goaltenders.
     The Junior Wings had several notable alumni during it's run. Two members of the 1980 Team USA "Miracle on Ice" squad, Ken Morrow and Mark Wells, played for the Wings. Hall of Fame defenseman Mark Howe and his brother Marty played earlier for the team before jumping to the OHL.
     The Junior Red Wings continued on for several more years until suspending operations in 1983.
     For a mid-level junior hockey club, this isn't too bad of a program. It's twenty pages, full of game pictures and advertisements, as well as a schedule. When I bought this, the seller claimed this program was found in Olympia just days before they tore the building down in 1986. Not sure if that's true or not, but it's pretty cool if it is.

1989-90 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown

     The 1989-90 edition of the Junior Red Wings were part of the North American Hockey League. This version played their home games at Fraser Ice Arenas and had Lyle Miller as President. Dan Walsh was Head Coach, while Doug Sloan was Vice President/General Manager.
     The Wings finished in second place in the NAHL's Eastern Division, going 24-18-2. The 50 points the team piled up were nowhere near enough to catch Compuware, who went an incredible 42-0-2 on the year!
     I couldn't find any statistics on the Junior Red Wings, but there were some familiar names on the roster. Rob Valicevic went on to play in the NHL for parts of six years. Jeff Blum played in the UHL for several seasons as well. 
     Don't really know what happened to this version of the Junior Wings. I remember a NAHL team called the Detroit Freeze that played in Fraser when the Detroit Falcons were in town. Perhaps they switched names?
     This is an unusual program in my collection. Take a look at the spiral binder for a spine! Mostly all of the programs are simply folded and stapled together. Plenty of pictures and advertisements for a NAHL team, pretty impressive.

1975-76 Detroit Jr. Wings Program
Detroit Jr. Wings Statistics: 1975-76  (from
North American Hockey League Standings: 1989-90

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New Blog Launched!

Just a head's up, if anyone's paying attention. I've enjoyed sharing my hockey program collection, I thought I'd start another blog for baseball programs and scorecards. I have quite a few Tigers, CMU and Loons programs, but also some super rare minor league programs from across Michigan, such as:

1941 Flint Indians
1941 Saginaw White Sox
1923 Muskegon Anglers
1951 Flint Arrows
1948-50 Saginaw Bears

These scorecards are some of my favorites from my collection. I still can't believe I found them, didn't think anything from those long-gone teams still existed! Here's the link to that blog, check it out!



Des Moines Hockey: Oak Leafs (IHL, 1963-72)

Now for a random one: The 1971-72 Des Moines Oak Leafs, who played in the IHL for about 10 years after five years in the USHL. Always liked that nickname.

1971-72 Regular Season--Oak Leafs vs. Columbus Seals
     The Des Moines Oak Leafs enjoyed a 10-year run in the International Hockey League after five years in the USHL. The team played it's home games in Des Moines Ice Arena, and were affiliated with the New York Rangers in 1971-72. The Leafs were coached by Terry Slater, who would eventually coach 12 years at Colgate. The team's jerseys were nearly identical to the Minnesota North Stars, with the Oak Leaf logo on the front and "DES MOINES" written above the players' numbers. 
     Coming off a finals run in 1970-71, the Oak Leafs slipped to third place (out of four) in the Southern Division, with a 35-34-3 record. Their 73 points were safely miles ahead of woeful Columbus, but 25 points behind first place Dayton. 
     The Oak Leafs were third-best in the IHL in goals scored that year, notching 296 goals in 72 games. Leading the team was Duke Asmundson, who scored 35 goals and 81 points. Two other players scored 30+ goals (Jean-Rene Losier and Ken Sutyla), while four others had over 20.
     Des Moines' fortunes on the other side of the puck were not as successful. The team allowed the third-most goals in the league, 278. In spite of this stat, the team only used three netminders. Former NHLer and assistant coach Bob Perrault played 51 games that season. Not bad for someone over 40! Richard Dumas made it into 16 games, while Wayne Bell had 6 games.
     In the playoffs, Des Moines faced second-place Fort Wayne in the opening round. The Komets knocked off the Oak Leafs in four games (best of five), outscoring them 15-7.
     Decent program, with 36 pages (all black-and-white). Lots of ads, and the roster sheets were printed on yellow paper. Lots of game pictures against the Port Huron Flags, who the Leafs faced in the 1971 Turner Cup Finals. Again, love the nickname...probably because I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

     After the season, the Oak Leafs would be renamed the Des Moines Capitals. They had their finest season in 1973-74, winning the regular season title and then the team's only Turner Cup in six games over Saginaw. However, they fell to fourth place in the South (31-38-7) and were knocked out in Round One of the postseason. Rising travel costs (their closest opponent was 495 miles away) and declining attendance forced the franchise to suspend operations after the 1974-75 season.

Des Moines Oak Leafs Stats: 1971-72 (from

St. Thomas Wildcats/London Wildcats/Dayton Ice Bandits/Mohawk Valley Prowlers (CoHL, 1991-2001)

Here's another set of programs I don't see that often. The franchise never lasted too long in any city it was in (3 years in St. Thomas was the max), and never drew much for crowds anywhere.

1991-92 Regular Season--Wildcats vs. Flint Bulldogs
     The Colonial Hockey League was formed in 1991 with five charter members, two in Michigan and three in Ontario. At it's best, the CoHL was a Double A hockey league, a notch below the IHL. At it's worst, it was nothing more than a glorified beer league made up of has-beens and never-weres.
     One of the "Original 5" teams was the St. Thomas Wildcats. They played their home games at the St. Thomas-Elgin Memorial Centre, a 2600-seat arena in St. Thomas, Ontario. 
     During the first two seasons of the Wildcats, their head coach was Peter Horachek, a former Flint Generals and Spirits forward. The Cats were also affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues.
St. Thomas finished in fourth place in their inaugural season, going 24-29-7. Their 55 points were 12 better than last-place Flint, but 18 behind first place Michigan. They were led in the scoring department by Kent Hawley, who chipped in 30 goals and 85 points. Four others scored over 20 goals for Horachek's squad. As a unit, the Cats scored a league-low 263 goals.
     On defense, the Cats were middle-of-the-pack, allowing 288 red lights. They used four different goaltenders that season, but the main netminders were Kevin Butt and Wayne Marion. Kevin Butt played in 30 games, with a 13-10-3 record and 4.22 GAA and 1 shutout. Marion got into 23 games and recorded an 8-9-4 mark with a 5.13 GAA. Scott Luce and Doug Brown were the other two netminders that year.
     In the playoffs, the Wildcats drew regular season champion Michigan Falcons in Round One. The Falcons were favored, but St. Thomas stunned them in 5 games (best-of-seven), to advance to the first-ever Colonial Cup Finals. They faced the Thunder Bay Thunder Hawks, and after falling behind 3-1 in the series, fought back to force a Game 7. Their luck ran out in overtime, as the Thunder Hawks won, 5-4, to clinch the Cup.
     I bought this program about a year ago. This was the first Wildcats program I have seen. Didn't expect to find one, since the team never drew that many fans and it existed for only a few years. It's about 28 pages, full of advertisements and pictures of the front office, coaching staff, players and even cheerleaders. That night's opponent was the Flint Bulldogs.

1993-94 Regular Season--Wildcats vs. Brantford Smoke
     After a second straight Finals appearance (and loss), Peter Horachek moved on to become the head coach/GM of the new Flint Generals. He was replaced by veteran coach Wayne Maxner, who had previously coached for years in the OHL and a two-year stint with the Detroit Red Wings. 
The CoHL was now split into two 4-team divisions, with St. Thomas in the East. The Wildcats finished in third place, sporting an unspectacular 22-34-8 record. Their 52 points were second-worst in the league, only 6 better than last-overall Utica. The team still qualified for the postseason (only Utica was eliminated).
     St. Thomas scored the second-fewest goals in the league this season, a paltry 284 in 64 games. However, they did have two 40-goal scorers, Tim Bean (40) and Gary Callaghan (43). They were the only 20-goal scorers left on the team after winger Don Martin was sent to Muskegon.
     Team defense was a weak spot, as the Cats allowed 343 goals, second-worst in the league. Maxner's bunch used four different goaltenders, but Ron Bertand played the lion's share of games. Bertand got into 53 games, and went 16-23-5 with a 5.09 GAA.
     In previous seasons, the Wildcats turned mediocre regular seasons into Cinderella playoff runs. This time, the Cats would have no such luck. They drew West Division champion Chatham in Round One and were blown away by the Wheels in three straight, outscored 22-9 in the process.

1994-95 Regular Season--Wildcats vs. Flint Generals
     Playing in one of the smallest cities and smallest rinks in the Colonial League, the Wildcats drew small crowds, sometimes in the hundreds. Attendance dropped from 1428 per game in 1993 to 1288 in 1994. Owner Doug Tarry had had enough and relocated his team to London, Ontario, a much larger city with a larger arena. Sounds good, right? Well, just one problem: London was already home to an established OHL franchise, the London Knights. While the Knights were pretty awful back then, the quality of OHL hockey was leaps and bounds over what the Colonial League could ever hope to showcase. After one mediocre season and an average of 1254 fans per game, the Wildcats suspended operations for the 1995-96 season. In the summer of 1996, the franchise was purchased by Campus Green Hockey, LLC, and relocated to Dayton, Ohio.

1996-97 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
      After taking a year off, the franchise returned with a new town and new identity. The team was named Dayton Ice Bandits and played their home games at 5500-seat Hara Arena. Again, sounds like a great idea, right? catch: Dayton already had an established pro team. The Dayton Bombers of the rival ECHL were a popular team, and had recently moved to Nutter Center, which held just over 9,000 fans. The Colonial League got into hot water with the Bombers and ECHL when they tried to invade the Bombers' territory.
     The Ice Bandits hired Dan Belisle as their head coach, but his team was a flop on and off the ice. They won only 4 of their first 20 games and never recovered. They ended up deep in the Colonial League cellar with a horrific 13-53-8 record. Their meager 34 points were 13 points behind the next-worst team, Saginaw, and a whopping 77 behind league-leading Flint.
     With a record like that, Dayton was naturally the worst in both offense and defense. Their miniscule 216 goals were the worst by 47. Here's an amazing stat: the team's leading points producer scored only 9 goals! Center Bob Clouston didn't reach the 10-goal mark that year, but his 51 points gave him a team-best 60 on the year. Three players on the team scored over 20 goals, including Sean Ortiz, who was traded to Utica. 
     The defense was a sieve all year, as they allowed 412 goals, easily worst in the league. The Ice Bandits went through four goaltenders, with Brian Renfrew and Scott Vetraino being abused the most. Renfrew survived 37 games, going 7-23-4 with a 5.09 GAA, while Vetraino made it into 35 games, going 4-20-4 with a 5.59 GAA. Marc Morningstar and Darryl Foster were the other two netminders.
     Seeing that team only existed for one year and never drew that many fans, I didn't expect to find a program for this team. I grabbed it as soon as I saw it on eBay. For as awful as the Ice Bandits were, they had a really nice-looking program. It's 68 pages, mostly black-and-white, on glossy paper. It's loaded with ads, articles and pictures. So the team did sell a lot of advertising in their program, but just couldn't get the crowds to stick around.

     Playing in a city with an established, popular pro team and icing a terrible product, the Ice Bandits never really had a chance in Dayton. After one season and drawing only 1955 per game (sadly, a franchise high at that point), the Dayton Ice Bandits suspended operations for the 1997-98 season. The franchise would be purchased by Jack Tompkins and relocated to Utica, New York, for the 1998-99 season.

1999-2000 Regular Season--Prowlers vs. Port Huron Border Cats

     Hey, recognize that logo? In an unusual move, the franchise changed cities and nicknames, yet kept the logo. The team was now the Mohawk Valley Prowlers, yet kept the logo previously used by the Dayton Ice Bandits. In an unusual (for this franchise) turn of events, their new city did not have an established team already in place. The Utica Blizzard had skipped town for Winston-Salem after the 1997-98 season. The Prowlers played their home games at Utica Memorial Auditorium, which held just over 3900 fans.
     For 1999-2000, the Prowlers were coached by Shawn Evans, a long-time minor league defenseman.  His Prowlers had a so-so season, going 28-31-15, second place in the Eastern Division. That was somewhat misleading, as only the first-place B.C. Icemen were over .500 in the East, and the Prowlers were 30 points behind that team.
     Mohawk Valley scored the 11th-most goals in the league, with 254. Chris Palmer (featured on the program) led the team with 40 goals and 92 points. John Vecchiarelli and Nic Beaudoin each scored over 30 goals, and Nick Kotary was the only other player with over 20. 
    On defense, the team was fifth-worst in the league, surrendering 295 goals and went through five different goalies. Patrick Charbonneau made it into 50 games, going 20-20-4 with a respectable 3.45 GAA. His main backup was Mike Torchia, who played in 23 games and compiled an 8-9-4 mark with a 3.85 GAA. 
     After several years of forgettable-downright awful hockey by the Bulldogs and Blizzard, Utica fans seemed to respond to the Prowlers. The attendance average reached a franchise high in 1999-2000, as 3308 per game made it to the Aud. That stat was more than double what the team ever averaged in St. Thomas and London, and about 1300 more than they did in Dayton.
     In the playoffs, the Prowlers drew the Missouri River Otters in Round One. In a best of three series, Mohawk Valley upended the Otters in 3 games to advance to Round Two. However, they then faced regular season champ Quad City. The Prowlers were no match for the powerful Mallards, and were crushed in 5 games (best of seven), outscored 26-16 in the process.
     Again, another fine program. It's mostly black-and-white, but there are 48 pages full of ads, stats and pictures. It also has an article about The Assemblyman's Cup, which was awarded to the one New York UHL team that won the regular season series.

     1999-2000 was the last gasp for the franchise. Ownership ran into serious financial troubles the following year and began missing payroll. The players responded by walking out and going on strike midway through the year. The team went into a 10-game tailspin towards the end, which included an 18-4 annihilation by the Icemen in Utica. At the 54-game mark, the Prowlers were 15-32-6. The franchise had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but the UHL requested it be changed to Chapter 7, to immediately end the season. The UHL got it's wish, and terminated the franchise. Utica would not have professional hockey again until the AHL's Utica Comets arrived this season.

St. Thomas Wildcats Stats: 1991-92 and 1993-94 (from
Dayton Ice Bandits Stats: 1996-97 (from
Mohawk Valley Prowlers Stats: 1999-2000 (from
At A Glance. The Post and Courier, February 18, 2001. (from Google News Archive)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Detroit Hockey: Junior Red Wings/Whalers (OHL, 1993-present)

The Detroit Area has been in the OHL since 1990-91, when the Compuware Ambassadors joined the league. The team has changed it's name and home arena a couple times since then, but still exists. Here are a couple programs I have.

1993-94 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown

 The 1993-94 Junior Red Wings, coming off their first playoff berth the previous year, won the Emms Division, their first divisional title. Their sparkling 42-20-4 record was 11 points better than second place Sault Ste. Marie. The team was coached by Paul Maurice, who would eventually coach in the NHL for several teams. 
The Wings were the fourth-highest scoring team in the OHL that season, racking up 312 goals. The team was led by Kevin Brown, who popped in 54 goals in 57 games, to go along with 135 points. Five other players scored over 20 goals. 
On defense, the team was even better. Their 237 goals allowed was third-best in the league. Between the pipes for the majority of the season was Jason Saal. Saal played in 45 games, going 28-11-3 with a 3.36 GAA. Backup Aaron Ellis went 14-9-1 with a 3.71 GAA. Chris Mailloux played in one game.
With such a talented roster, the 1993-94 Jr. Wings earned a first round bye. In Round Two, they swept aside Owen Sound in four straight, then knocked off Sault Ste. Marie in six to reach the OHL Finals. They battled the North Bay Centennials in a thrilling seven-game series, but fell in overtime in Game 7, 5-4.
I got this program at a Red Wings Fan Fest at Joe Louis Arena in 1994. It's autographed by Bill McCauley, Dan Pawlaczyk and Jason Saal. It's a 71-page program, all in black-and-white, with tons of ads and stats. 
Just looking at their record that season, the Jr. Wings were a talented team. They also had several players who went on to play in the NHL. Guys such as Kevin Brown, Sean Haggarty, Eric Cairns and Todd Harvey went on to "The Show".

The Junior Red Wings would win the OHL Championship in 1994-95 and participate in the Memorial Cup Tournament, falling in the final game. After that season, the NHL Red Wings kicked the Jr. Red Wings out of Joe Louis Arena. Needing a new home, the Jr. Wings split their schedule between the Palace of Auburn Hills and Oak Park Arena. They would also change their name to "Detroit Whalers".
I went to a few Whalers games when they played at the Palace. Back then, you could get "2-for-1" tickets when the Whalers and Vipers played on the same night. Can't argue with two hockey games in one night!

1995-96 Regular Season--Whalers vs. London Knights

The Jr. Red Wings became the Detroit Whalers for 1995-96. No, there isn't a whaling tradition in the Detroit area. Team owner Peter Karmanos had recently purchased the Hartford Whalers and chose that nickname for his OHL squad. 
Peter DeBoer was the coach that season, with Greg Stefan as assistant coach. For this game, the Whalers played host to the London Knights at the Palace. This game was a matchup of two teams going in opposite directions. The Whalers entered the game with a solid 20-12-2 record, first in the West. The Knights, however, were a putrid 0-29-1, dead last in the league (they would win only 3 games all year!). However, the Knights kept it close for the first half of the game, even taking a 2-1 lead. Six unanswered goals by the Whalers put the game away pronto. 
Detroit would finish the season 40-22-4, first in the West, two points ahead of Sarnia. They were led on offense by Sean Haggarty, who scored 60 goals and 111 points. Defenseman Bryan Berard had a fine season, with 31 goals and 89 points. Four other players scored over 20 goals, and as a team, the Whalers notched 319, second in the league.
On defense, the Whalers were seventh best, allowing 243 goals. Mike Minard led the way in net, appearing in 43 games and going 25-10-4 with two shutouts and a 3.32 GAA. Robert Esche played in 23 games, going 13-6-0 with a 3.74 GAA and 1 shutout. Darryl Foster made it into 8 games, but went 2-6 with a 4.89 GAA.
The Whalers played their home playoff games at Oak Park Arena. In Round One, they knocked off Windsor in seven, then shoved aside Kitchener in five in Round Two. Their luck ran out in the semifinals, as they fell to Peterborough in a closely fought, 5-game series.
The 1995-96 squad featured three players that would make it to the NHL. Robert Esche and Bryan Berard would play several years in the NHL, while Sean Haggarty would play a handful of games over the course of a few seasons. Coach Peter DeBoer would also make it to the big leagues. He coached in Florida and is the current head coach of New Jersey.

The following season, the Whalers moved into their new home, Compuware Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. In 1997, they would change their name to Plymouth Whalers.

Detroit Jr. Red Wings Statistics: 1993-94 (taken from
Detroit Whalers Statistics: 1995-96 (taken from

Rare (and Bizarre): Victoria Salsa (BCHL, 1996-97)

Haven't seen too many of these programs on eBay. Don't really know anything about the British Columbia Hockey League, but I remembered the Victoria Salsa. One of the more unusual team names I've ever heard!

1996-97 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown


     The Victoria Salsa, now there's a strange nickname for a Canadian hockey team! The Salsa were part of the British Columbia Hockey League from 1994-2006. In 1996-97, the team was coached by Garry Davidson. The Salsa finished in sixth place in the Coastal Division, with a 24-35-1 record, just three points ahead of last place Langley. 
     I honestly don't know anything about this team, and aside from the standings, does not have individual stats from that season. I recognized one player from the Salsa roster: Corey Laniuk, who played for the Flint Generals for four seasons.
     Don't think I paid too much for this program. Just thought it was a strange nickname and wanted to add it to my collection. Check out the logo...pretty pissed-off pepper!

BCHL Standings: 1996-97 (from

Rare: Traverse City Bays (USHL, 1975-77)

This is another one of those programs where you say to yourself, "Better grab this one or you'll kick yourself forever if you don't". This is the only Traverse City Bays program I have seen online or anywhere. The second I saw it on eBay, I grabbed it. Paid more than I usually do, but it was worth it.

1976-77 Regular Season--Bays vs. Milwaukee Admirals

     The Traverse City Bays were a team in the United States Hockey League. The USHL was a semi-pro outfit that was a notch or two below the IHL until 1979, when it switched to junior hockey. The Bays played in the old Glacier Dome, which is now owned by Cherry Capital Foods. 
     In their inaugural season, 1975-76, the Bays had a respectable 24-23-1 record, good enough for second place in the Northern Division, 16 points behind Green Bay. Their sophomore season, however, was a big step back. Despite having former NHLer Dean Prentice as player-coach, the Bays collapsed to a 12-35-1 mark. Their 25 points were easily worst in the league, and 35 points behind 2nd place Green Bay. 
     With a record like that, the Bays struggled with putting the puck in the net and keeping it out. It's meager 205 goals were the lowest in the circuit, though they did have 3 player score over 20 goals. Traverse City was led by John Preville, who scored 35 goals and 78 points. Reese Dobrick (30 goals) and Ray Tonelli (27) were the other two 20+ goal scorers. Prentice, doing double duty as player-coach, contributed 5 goals and 27 points.
     On defense, the Bays surrendered 328 goals, easily the worst in the league. The team went through about 11 goaltenders, a stunning number considering the USHL schedule was only 48 games!
     The Bays opponent that night was the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals would jump to the International Hockey League shortly after this season, then join the American Hockey League in 2001 after the IHL folded. As for the Bays, they weren't as fortunate. Citing low attendance and financial difficulties, the team folded after only two years of play. Traverse City would be represented by two mid-level junior teams, but would never again be home to a pro hockey team.
     This program has 20 pages, not too bad for a semi-pro team in a small town. It also has an issue of Goal: The National Hockey League Magazine in the middle, which nearly doubles the size of the program. There are pictures of the players and front office staff, and rosters for both the Bays and Admirals, but mostly the program is advertisements. Still, it's easy to call this one a rare program.

Traverse City Bays Stats: 1976-77 (Taken from
Traverse City Bays Quits (sic) as Semi-Pro Hockey Team. Toledo Blade, March 26, 1977. (Taken from Google News Archive)

Historic Night: Seattle Totems vs. USSR National Champions

Now here's a historic program! This is from a game between the Western Hockey League's Seattle Totems and the USSR National Champions. This is the first-ever encounter between a Soviet team and a North American professional hockey team.

1972-73 Exhibition--Totems vs. USSR
     USSR teams would eventually play exhibition games against NHL teams in the mid-late 1970s, but their first game against a North American pro squad was against the Totems. The game was held at Seattle Center Coliseum (now Key Arena).
     Seattle was part of the old Western Hockey League, a minor-pro loop that was about on-par with the American Hockey League and, at one time, was rumored to make a jump to major league status. A competitive team for most of it's existence, by 1972-73 the Totems were in decline. The team finished 26-32-14, in fifth place and out of the playoffs. 
     Despite their mediocre season, the Totems did have some talent. Rob Walton led the way in scoring with 40 goals and 101 points, with Danny Seguin right behind with 32 goals and 79 points. Future Saginaw Gears forward Dave Westner played 71 games with the Totems, scoring 15 goals and 40 points. Dan Brady played the bulk of the games in net, going 16-19-14 with a 3.84 GAA.
     The USSR squad was a loaded roster, one that could have challenged for the Stanley Cup. The Soviets had star players such as Vladislav Tretiak, Aleksandr Maltsev, Boris Mikhailov, Aleksandr Yakushev and Valeriy Kharlamov. Several of the players on this roster would eventually be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Ticket Stub for the game!
     Despite being over-matched, Seattle put up a fight. After the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Totems eventually tied the game at 4 in the second period. However, the Russians were simply too talented, and scored 5 unanswered goals to win, 9-4.
     Two years later, the Totems would exact revenge on the USSR, scoring an 8-4 win over the same Russian squad.
     I found this program on eBay a few years ago and grabbed it as soon as I saw it. It came with two newspaper clippings as well as an actual ticket stub from the game. It cost a little more than I like to spend on programs, but I thought it was worth it, considering the history involved.

Totems vs. the U.S.S.R. From the website
Seattle Totems Stats: 1972-73 (from
Russian National Champions lineup from Seattle Totems-Russian National Champions: Souvenir Magazine. December 25, 1972

Detroit Hockey: Michigan Stags (WHA, 1974-75)

I just dug this program out today, one of the first "vintage" programs I got in my collection. I think I got this for either a Christmas or birthday present, along with a media guide.

 In the early 1970s, a rival to the National Hockey League was formed. Called the World Hockey Association, or WHA, the league began play in the 1972-73 season, with teams from New York to Los Angeles. The WHA scored a huge coup when it signed NHL star Bobby Hull to a then-unheard of $1 million contract. Many NHL players, from stars to journeymen, made the jump to the new league thanks to significant increase in pay. Detroit was represented in the WHA by the Michigan Stags, but only for a brief time.

1974-75 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Michigan Stags began as the Los Angeles Sharks, one of the original franchises in the WHA. The Sharks made a splash in the hockey world by signing away Montreal sniper Marc Tardif. After a decent inaugural season (37-35-6), the Sharks collapsed to 25-53-0 in 1973-74. 
     The Sharks were purchased by Detroit businessmen Peter Shegena and Charles Nolton and relocated to the Motor City for the 1974-75 season. The team would be renamed "Michigan Stags" and would play their home games at Cobo Arena. The hope was that the Stags could be an alternative to the woeful Detroit Red Wings and build a strong following. Cobo Arena, with about 10,000 seats, was one of the better rinks in the WHA as well.
     The Stags hired former Red Wings forward Johnny Wilson and had two minor league affiliates: the Greensboro Generals and Syracuse Blazers. Along with Tardif, the team also had former NHLers Arnie Brown, Larry Johnston and Gerry Desjardins.Tardif, having signed his contract while the team was in sunny California, wanted nothing to do with a cold Midwestern factory town, and demanded a trade. Michigan gave in and sent the disgruntled winger to Quebec in a lopsided deal.
     Unfortunately, the Stags never quite caught on with Detroit hockey fans. While the Red Wings were a losing team back then, the Stags were even worse. They stumbled out to an 18-40-3 record, worst in the league at the time. Fans showed how impressed they were with the WHA product by staying away from Cobo, as Michigan drew about 3,000 fans per game. Scheduling didn't help matters, as the anticipated return of Gordie Howe and his sons wasn't scheduled until February 2nd. By then, it was too late for the Stags. 
     In January 1975, the IRS filed a lein for $177,870 against the team owners. Due to sagging attendance and heavy financial losses, the Stags folded shortly after. The league took control of the franchise and shifted it to Baltimore, Maryland, for the remainder of the year. The new Baltimore Blades went 3-13-1, giving the franchise a total record of 21-53-4. Their pathetic 46 points were 40 points behind fourth place Phoenix in the Western Division, yet 7 points better than league-worst Indianapolis. 

1974-75 Media Guide
     The Stags/Blades franchise were dead last in offense and defense in their sole season. On offense, the team scored a miniscule 205 goals. They were lead by longtime minor league and Sharks holdover Gary Veneruzzo, who had 33 goals and 60 points. Not surprisingly, he was the only player on the roster that scored over 20 goals, as the next closest player was JP LeBlanc, who had 16. 
     On defense, Michigan/Baltimore surrendered 341 goals. However, they only used three goaltenders. Desjardins played 41 games and sported an ugly 9-28-1 record with a 4.26 GAA. Paul Hoganson made it into 32 games, and sported a similarly ugly 9-19-2 mark with a 4.12 GAA. Jim McLeod played in 16 games with a 3-6-1 mark and 4.58 GAA. Not an easy task to put up decent goalie stats behind such an atrocious team.

Following the season, the Baltimore Blades franchise was terminated by the WHA. Despite having a reputation as a good hockey town, Detroit's run in the WHA can best be described as a "cup of coffee", and a bad one at that.

Stags Sag in Treasury. The Milwaukee Journal. January 7, 1975. (Taken from Google News Archive) 
Michigan Stags/Baltimore Blades Stats: 1974-75 (Taken from

Friday, December 13, 2013

Owls Hockey: From Columbus to Grand Rapids...With a Cup of Coffee in Dayton

All of the programs I have displayed so far are from Michigan cities. For this post, I'll be looking at the Columbus/Dayton/Grand Rapids Owls. Most of the Owls programs I've found are from their four-year stay in Columbus, Ohio, but I do have one from Grand Rapids.

     Columbus's time in the IHL began with the arrival of the Columbus Checkers in 1966. The Checkers lasted for four mediocre seasons, their best being in 1967-68, when they went 32-30-10 and lost in the first round. That franchise folded after the 1969-70 season and was replaced in 1971 by the expansion Columbus Golden Seals. The Seals were owned by Charles O. Finley, who owned both the Oakland A's baseball team as well as the NHL's California Golden Seals (hence the name). 
     The NHL Seals were a complete disaster on and off the ice, and Columbus was no different. In two seasons, the IHL Seals won a whopping 25 games, including a horrific 10-62-2 record in 1972-73. The fans stayed away in droves, as the Seals often played before "crowds" of under 1000 paying customers in the 5,003-seat Fairgrounds Coliseum. Finley had enough after 1973 and sold the Seals to local mortgage dealer Al Savill. Savill renamed the team "Columbus Owls" and aligned his team with the St. Louis Blues.

1973-74 Regular Season--Owls vs. Muskegon Mohawks
     After the Golden Seals went 10-62-2 in 1972-73, the new Owls really had nowhere to go but up, right? That's right, as the team soared to a 40-34-2 record, good enough for second place in the South Division, 14 points behind league-leading Des Moines. The 60-point turnaround was one of the largest single-season improvements in IHL history.
     Two things helped revive the franchise that season: local ownership and a solid NHL affiliation. After years of absentee ownership for the Checkers and Golden Seals, the Owls were bought by local mortgage company owner Al Savill. Savill retained head coach Moe Bartoli, who played for the Checkers. He then aligned his new team with the St. Louis Blues, a franchise much deeper and more financially stable than the woeful California Golden Seals.
     The Owls were the third-highest scoring team in the IHL that season, lighting the lamp 288 times. They were led by veteran forward Marty Reynolds, who scored 37 goals and 87 points. Ed Kenty (38 goals) and Norm Cherrey (31) were the other 30+ goal scorers, and four others scored over 20 goals.
     Defense was the biggest improvement in Columbus, as goals-against plummeted to 270, fifth-best in the league. Former NHL Draft bus Ray Martyniuk (#5 Overall by Montreal in '70, no NHL games) led the way in the net. Ray had a sparkling 2.76 GAA and four shutouts in 57 games. Three other netminders backed up Martyniuk that year.
     Bartoli's Owls made the playoffs and faced the Muskegon Mohawks in Round One. Columbus swept aside the Mohawks in three straight, but ran into another upstart team, the Saginaw Gears, in Round Two. Saginaw swept the Owls aside in three straight, outscoring them 14-5 in the process, to advance to the Turner Cup Finals.
     Ray Martyniuk is on the cover of this program. He would go on to the CHL's Salt Lake Golden Eagles for several years, but would play a handful of games with the Owls when they were in Grand Rapids. Most of the pictures are black-and-white, but there are some color ads.

1974-75 Regular Season--Owls vs. Kalamazoo Wings
      After the successful 1973-74 season, the Owls posted a nearly identical record in 1974-75. Columbus went 40-32-4, good enough for 84 points and second place in the South, 11 points behind first place Dayton. Moe Bartoli was back behind the bench, and the Blues returned as NHL affiliates.
     The Owls offense continued to improve, as they scored 307 goals, second-best in the league. Rookie Mike Powers, fresh from Boston College, scored 50 goals and 100 points to lead the team's attack. Marty Reynolds was back with another fine season (30 goals, 77 points). Six others scored 20 or more goals.
     The defense turned in another fine season, allowing 275 goals, fourth-best in the circuit. Bill Yeo inherited the starting job, and had a 3.36 GAA and four shutouts in 56 games. Sam Clegg and Dave Heitz were the backups.
     Despite the fine season, the Owls were upset by the expansion Toledo Goaldiggers in Round One of the Turner Cup Playoffs, going down in five games (best of seven). The Goaldiggers went on to complete their "Miracle on Main Street", winning the Turner Cup in their first season.
1974-75 Regular Season--Owls vs. Flint Generals
     As you can see, I have two programs from the 1974-75 season. The one on the left is my favorite. It kind of reminds me of the back cover of Queen's The Miracle (the side with nothing but the band members' eyes). Both programs have 35 pages, loaded with ads and even some color (blue, instead of the usual black-and-white).

1976-77 Regular Season--Owls vs. Flint Generals
      The Owls fell to the South cellar in 1975-76, going 24-47-7, the only team to not make the playoffs. Savill, growing more frustrated with attendance figures, attempted to move the franchise to Grand Rapids, but was rejected. The Owls returned to Columbus for one more season. Moe Bartoli was General Manager, while Ron Ullyot was Head Coach. The team was now affiliated with the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins.
     1976-77 wasn't much better, as the Owls went 28-35-15, last place in the South yet only four points behind second-place Dayton. The team scored 294 goals, seventh-best in the league. Tom Cassidy led the way, with 47 goals and 108 points. Two other players had over 30 goals, while three had 20+.
     The Columbus defense turned in a respectable season, allowing 309 goals, fourth-fewest in the IHL. Gary Carr and Greg Rendquest played the bulk of the games. Carr got the nod in 58 games, earning a 3.65 GAA and one shutout.
     Despite the last place finish, the Owls qualified for the postseason (only one team failed to qualify back then), drawing the Toledo Goaldiggers in Round One. The Diggers outscored the Owls 29-19, but Columbus stretched the series to seven games before falling.
     This program is unique from the other Owls programs in that it has a full-color insert of Goal: The National Hockey League Magazine in the middle. Not counting Goal, this program has 40 pages, loaded with ads and articles on glossy paper. There's an ad for Tiffany's, which (according to the ad) was "Where the Owls Meet". The ad features a rear view of a nude woman standing in front of a 19th century bicycle. The previous owner of the program decided to draw a bikini top and bottom on this lovely lady with a blue pen. He/She also referred to the Flint Generals, that night's opponent, as "Nerds", while proclaiming the Owls to be #1.
     A player of note on the Owls roster that year was enforcer/goon Willie Trognitz. Trognitz piled up 232 penalty minutes in 71 games that year. The following year, during a brawl in Port Huron, Trognitz hit Flags forward Archie Henderson over the head with his stick, sending Henderson to the hospital with a concussion and multiple head injuries. The league banned Trognitz for life a few days later.

  Attendance continued to decline in Columbus, and a severe natural gas shortage threatened to wipe out the 1976-77 season. The Owls survived, but Savill had had enough of Columbus and the Fairgrounds Coliseum. Not given priority for playoff dates at the Coliseum, the Owls had to schedule postseason games at nearby Hobart Arena in Troy, Ohio. Rumors of a move to Indianapolis never materialized, and the Owls instead flew to Dayton's Hara Arena for the 1977-78 season. Dayton's previous team, the Gems, had suspended operations after the 1976-77 season due to declining attendance and heavy financial losses, leaving an opening for the Owls.
     The Owls stay in Dayton was a total disaster on and off the ice. Attendance hovered around 1500 per game at Hara Arena and Savill projected to lose nearly $300,000 if the team finished the season in Dayton. In an emergency league meeting, the IHL approved the mid-season move of the franchise to Grand Rapids. 
     The team played it's home games in Stadium Arena (seriously, that was the name), now called DeltaPlex Arena. The midseason move had it's share of problems. The Grand Rapids Owls program I have talked about problems such as "the 90 minute delay the night the wheel fell off the zamboni" and "having to plod through about three inches of water" when going from one side of the building to another. Wonder what that was about?

I doubt I'll ever see any Dayton Owls programs, since they only existed for 20 games. The only Grand Rapids Owls program I've seen so far is the one you see below. I got this at Gibraltar Trade Center years ago, one of the first "vintage" programs I bought


     The first full season for the Owls in Grand Rapids was the greatest season in franchise history. Led by Head Coach/GM Moe Bartoli and affiliated with Boston and Pittsburgh, the Owls dominated the regular season. Their record of 50-21-9 easily clinched the regular season title, 14 points better than North Division champ Port Huron.     
1978-79 Regular Season--Owls vs. Saginaw Gears
     The Owls had the third-best offense in the IHL in 1978-79, scoring 368 goals. Kim Davis led the way with 44 goals and 103 points, to go along with 235 penalty minutes. Henry Taylor had 47 goals, and five others had over 30.  
     On defense, the Owls topped the league, allowing only 267 goals. Gordie Laxton, who played in 14 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was in goal for 63 games, with a 3.08 GAA and 3 shutouts. The Owls used five other goalies behind Laxton that year.
     In the playoffs, the Owls eked by Milwaukee in seven in Round One, then Fort Wayne in seven in Round Two to reach the Turner Cup Finals. They would face the Kalamazoo Wings. The Owls would take a 3-2 series lead before falling to the K-Wings in seven games. Grand Rapids was outscored by a combined 11-4 in Games 6 and 7.

The Owls would come crashing back to Earth the following season, going 27-41-12 and missing the playoffs by two points. Local investors had purchased the team from Al Savill, but also absorbed all the debt. Despite the excellent season in 1978-79, the Owls were evicted from Stadium Arena after owing over $12,000 in back rent. The franchise folded in the summer of 1980. Pro hockey would not return to Grand Rapids until Van Andel Arena was built and the Griffins joined the IHL in 1996-97.

Columbus Owls Stats: 1973-74 , 1974-75, 1976-77 (from
Grand Rapids Owls Stats: 1978-79 (from
"Owls Evicted" Ludington Daily News. August 25, 1979. (from Google News Archive)
"Owls to Move". The Bryan Times. December 3, 1977. (from Google News Archive)
"Governors Uphold Bar of Trognitz" Toledo Blade. December 1, 1977. (from Google News Archive)