Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fort Wayne Komets (1982-83, IHL)

1982-83 Regular Season--Komets vs. Flint Generals
     As you can see by the program, 1982-83 was the 31st straight season of Komets Hockey. By now, the team had changed their colors slightly, dropping black for royal blue. Former Komets center Ron Ullyot was back behind the bench, and the team was a secondary affiliate of Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg.
     Ullyot's Komets had a fine season in '82-83, with an excellent 45-26-11 record, giving them 101 points on the year. They finished second place in the Eastern Division and overall in the IHL. the Komets were second only to Huber Trophy champion Toledo and 21 points ahead of third place Flint.
     Fort Wayne had the second-best offense in the IHL that year, piling up 377 goals on the year. Ron Ullyot had a pair of 50-goal scorers that season, as both Ron Leef and Barry Scully each had 57. Leef led the team in points with 120. Two others scored at least 30 goals, and four other players had at least 20.
     The Komets were slightly weaker on the blueline, allowing 344 goals, fifth overall in the IHL. They used four different goaltenders that year, but Darrell May and Dan Sanscartier played the bulk of the games in the Fort Wayne net. Sanscartier played the majority of postseason games.
     Fort Wayne opened the Turner Cup Finals against the Flint Generals. The best-of-five series went the limit, with each team winning on home ice. The Komets took Game 5, 4-3, to advance to Round Two. They wouldn't last long, as they ran into the powerful Toledo Goaldiggers, who shredded the Komets in 5 games (best-of-seven), outscoring them 26-17 in the series. Toledo would then win it's second straight--and final--Turner Cup in six games over Milwaukee.
     Another nice Komets program at 47 pages. For it's age (31 years old), it's in excellent condition. There are a few color ads, but the majority is black-and-white. This program is from a March 16, 1983, game against the Flint Generals. The Generals, led by longtime IHL coach Ted Garvin, were led by veteran forward Len Fontaine and 50-goal scorer Tony Fiore. In net, the Generals had a fine 1-2 punch, with future Montreal Canadien Steve Penney and fellow youngster Rick Knickle, who would go on to a stellar minor league career and play in a few games with the Los Angeles Kings. There's an article by Komets Coach Ron Ullyot and a short "Around the I" article as well. Local ads include Scott's Discount Foods, WFFT-TV 55 ("Now 24 Hours a Day!") and Smitty's Lanes.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from

Port Huron Wings (1971-72, IHL)

I already covered the Flags/Wings franchise early in this blog, but I wanted to give the '71-72 Wings their own post. I did some research on the Flags/Wings this past Saturday at the St. Clair County Library in Port Huron, browsing through the Times Herald microfilm.

     Shortly after winning their second Turner Cup, the Port Huron Flags signed a working agreement with the
1971-72 Regular Season--Wings vs. Dayton Gems
Detroit Red Wings. As a nod to their new affiliation, the Flags changed their name to the Port Huron Wings, and wore uniforms identical to the parent club. Detroit would also use McMorran Arena as their home for training camp. Ted Garvin was back behind the bench, along with General Manager Morris Snider.
      Garvin's new-look Wings finished the 1971-72 season in second place, with a 37-31-4 record. Their 78 points put them 11 points ahead of third place Flint, but 22 behind Huber Trophy-winning Muskegon. Despite the second-place finish and coming off a championship the previous year, the Wings averaged just 1800 fans per game.
     The Wings had the fifth-best offense in the IHL that season, scoring 276 goals. They were led by Len Fontaine, who had 41 goals and 86 points in 70 games. Don Grierson led the team in goals with 44. Four other Wings scored at least 20 goals that year.
     Port Huron was also fifth-best in goals against that year, allowing 262 red lights. The team used four different goaltenders that year. George Hulme and Brian Cropper were the main netminders that season, playing in nearly the same amount of games that year. Cropper played the majority of games in the postseason.
Back-to-Back Champs: 1971-72 Port Huron Wings
     The Wings began their defense of the Turner Cup against the Flint Generals. In a close best-of-five series, Port Huron downed Flint in four games to advance to the semi-finals. The Wings then faced the Fort Wayne Komets, who earned a first-round bye. This was another best-of-five affair, and Port Huron needed all five games to eliminate the Komets, taking Game 5, 4-2, at McMorran Arena.
     In the Turner Cup Finals, the Wings faced the Muskegon Mohawks, the top team in the league, who made quick work of the Dayton Gems in the semifinals. The Mohawks were heavily favored, but Port Huron stunned the critics by jumping out to a 3-1 series lead. Muskegon won Game 5 at home, 5-1, to force a Game 6 in Port Huron.
     A city record crowd of 3,582 packed McMorran Arena for Game 6, the Wings' third sellout that
From the Times Herald microfilm at St. Clair Library
postseason. After a scoreless first period, Port Huron jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second, on goals from Al Genovy and Bob Brinkworth. It would remain 2-0 until late in the third, when the Wings' Steve Sutherland and Wayne Ego scored two empty-netters late in the third to seal the victory. Exuberant Wings fans poured on the ice after the buzzer sounded, celebrating Port Huron's second straight Turner Cup victory.
     Commissioner Bill Beagan, during the Turner Cup presentation, called Port Huron "The Green Bay of the International Hockey League". Sutherland, Brinkworth, Charlie Shaw and Larry Klewchuck paraded the Turner Cup around McMorran ice. Wings fan Walt Gierman, in turn, paraded goalie Brian Cropper (pads and all!) around the ice.
     Decent program at 29 pages. All of them, of course, are black-and-white. There are some game pictures, and articles about each team in the IHL that year. There's also a letter from Morris Snider, the Wings' GM, and an article from Wings Coach Ted Garvin. Local advertisements include Chick n' Joy, Bob Bair Chevrolet and London's Dairy. The Snoopy cartoon, strangely, is for an upcoming event at the Detroit Olympia, not McMorran Arena. There is also a flyer for an upcoming Wings-Komets game, in which "over 500 pounds of turkey will be given away between the second and third periods". Can't argue with that!

From the Times Herald Microfilm at St. Clair Library
     Last Saturday, I went to the St. Clair Library in Port Huron to do some research on my Flags/Wings programs. I printed off a few articles and took some notes about the game programs I had, along with the 1972 championship and the 1981 folding of the team. I found the picture of the Turner Cup being paraded around the ice, and the picture on the left as well. This was taken with about 2:39 left in the game, shortly before the Mohawks pulled goalie Glenn "Chico" Resch for an extra attacker. Some fan at the game tossed a live rooster on the ice, obviously hinting the Mohawks were chickens. On one hand, that's pretty funny, but on the other, I feel bad for the rooster, probably scared to death. And how does someone sneak a live rooster into a hockey game?! Or why, for that matter?
     Pretty cool pictures and articles I found. I was able to get the results for most of the Flags/Wings programs I own. Not this program though, as there was no date. Might have to go check the archives out again.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1971-72 (from
"A Night to Remember", Port Huron Wings 1972-73 Season Magazine, Author Unknown.
Walker, Joe. "Full House (Plus Rooster) See PH Wings Win It All". Times Herald, April 18, 1972. (from the Times Herald microfilm archive, St. Clair Library, Port Huron)
"Can This Really Be Happening?". Times Herald, April 18, 1972 (picture and caption from the Times Herald microfilm archive, St. Clair Library, Port Huron)

New England Whalers (1977-78, WHA)

1977-78 Regular Season--Whalers vs. Indianapolis Racers
     The New England Whalers were one of the original members of the World Hockey Association, the second major league that was born in 1972. The Whalers, originally playing in Boston, won the first Avco Cup championship (the WHA's equivalent to the Stanley Cup). The Whalers would then relocate to Hartford, Connecticut, and the new Hartford Civic Center.
     In 1977-78, the Whalers won a bidding war for Gordie, Mark and Marty Howe. The Howes had played the past several seasons with the Houston Aeros, but left that team after a falling out with ownership. The Howes were joined by former NHL stars Dave Keon and Johnny McKenzie, along with Jack and Steve Carlson (two-thirds of the infamous Hanson Brothers of Slapshot fame). Harry Neale was coach of the Whalers that year, with Jack Kelley as Director of Hockey Operations.
     The 1977-78 Whalers had an excellent season, going 44-31-5, good enough for second place in the WHA. Their 93 points put them 8 points ahead of Houston and 9 behind league-best Winnipeg. New England fans helped lead the Whalers to the third-highest attendance average in the WHA, with 8,661 per game showing up at the Civic Center.
     Neale's Whalers had the third-best offense in the league that year, pumping in 335 goals. The ageless Gordie Howe led the team on offense, with 34 goals and 96 points. Not bad for 50 years old! Three other players--Mark Howe, Mike Antonovich and George Lyle--joined Mr. Hockey in the 30-goal club that year. Three other players, including Dave Keon, scored at least 20.
     The Whalers topped the circuit on defense, allowing just 269, one less than Winnipeg. New England used
1977-78 Regular Season--Whalers vs. Edmonton Oilers
two different netminders that year, Al Smith and Louis Levasseur. Smith, who played several years in the NHL and an original Whaler, went 30-20-3 with a 3.22 GAA and 5 shutouts in 55 appearances. Levasseur, who came over from Edmonton the previous year, went 14-11-2 with a 3.50 GAA and 3 shutouts in 27 appearances.
     Entering the Avco Cup Playoffs, the Whalers drew the Edmonton Oilers in Round One. New England would make quick work of the Oilers in their best-of-seven series. The Whalers demolished Edmonton in five games, outscoring them 26-9, to advance to the semifinals vs. Quebec. After similarly dusting off the Nordiques in five games, the Whalers met the Winnipeg Jets in the Avco Cup Finals. New England's luck ran out, as the red-hot Jets crushed the Whalers in four straight games, outscoring them 24-8 in the process.
     The first program is from a regular season matchup between the Whalers and the Indianapolis Racers. Indy featured former NHLer Bill Goldsworthy, but finished dead last in the WHA, with a pathetic 24-51-5 mark. The following season, the Racers would become a footnote in history as the first pro hockey team of Wayne Gretzky. Very nice program, 72 pages that are mostly black-and-white, but there are a few color pages. There's an article on Gordie Howe in the Hall of Fame, articles about the team and the rest of the WHA, and lots of statistics. Local advertisements include Garbo's Restaurant, The Hartford Insurance and Mitchell of Simsbury Auto Dealer.
     The second program is from another regular season game later in the year, this time against the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers were a much stronger team than the hapless Racers, finishing fifth with a 38-39-3 record. Glen Sather's Oilers were also the most popular team in the league, averaging 10,235 per game at the Northlands Coliseum that year. This program is even bigger, with 80 pages. Local ads include Nationwide Storage and Moving Company, WKSS FM 96 and WPLR (Voted "Best Album Rock Station of the Year" for 1977). Two ticket stubs from that night's game are stapled to the front cover.

World Hockey Association Statistics: 1977-78 (from

White Whales: Programs I'm looking for...

Even though I have a ton of programs, there are still a few programs I'm still looking for. Here are my "White Whales":

1. 1980-81 Port Huron Flags: The final season of the Flags. Haven't seen a program for that franchise in awhile on eBay. The team didn't draw too well that final season, so a program from that season might be a bit tricky to find.

2. 1978-79 Muskegon Mohawks: 3-32-3 in the first half of the season. The Mohawks that year didn't just hit rock bottom, they slammed head-first into it at 100 mph. Have only seen schedules from that season on eBay and nothing at trade shows/flea markets.

3. Flint Spirits: I bought my first Spirits program at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens, and got a 1989-90 Spirits program on eBay. Again, have only seen schedules and the occasional pack of cards online since.  Would love to have more Spirits programs

4. 1987-88 Saginaw Hawks: The only Hawks program I own is from a Hawks-Spirits game Dad and I went to back in 1988-89. I saw a Hawks program years ago at the antique flea market in Midland, but the seller wanted $20. Haven't seen any programs online.

5. 1984-85 Flint Generals: The final season of the Generals. There's one on eBay for $29.99, but that's a bit pricey for me.

6. 1991-92 Flint Bulldogs: The first season of the Bulldogs. There's a Utica Bulldogs program on eBay, but the price is $49.99 due to Gordie Howe's autograph. No sight of Flint Bulldogs programs...though you can get Bulldogs T-Shirts at! :)

 To be honest, I haven't seen too many programs from the IHL or this state lately. Nothing too interesting or in my price range, to be honest.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Saginaw Gears (1979-80, IHL)

1979-80 Regular Season--Gears vs. Flint Generals
     The Saginaw Gears were in their eighth year of existence in 1979-80. The Gears were a secondary affiliate of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings. Don Perry was Coach/GM and Wren Blair was owner. 
     After going .500 in 1978-79, the Gears improved to 43-27-10 in '79-80, second place in the North Division. They were just one point ahead of third place Port Huron and three back of league champ Kalamazoo. Saginaw featured the third-best offense in the IHL that year, scoring 349 goals. Rookie sniper Scott Gruhl led the Gears with 53 goals and 93 points--not bad for a rookie season! Warren Holmes, Marcel Comeau and Claude LaRochelle each scored over 30 goals that year, and five other Gears scored at least 20. 
     Saginaw finished third in the league on defense, allowing 306 goals. They used four different goaltenders that season. Bob Froese, who later played with the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, played in 52 games that year. He was joined in the Gears net by Ted Tucker, Julian Baretta and Doug Keans.
     The Gears had a reputation for icing one of the toughest teams in the IHL over the years, and 1979-80 was no different. Don Perry's squad racked up 2184 penalty minutes that year, and had a few notorious tough guys on their roster. Leading the pack was left wing Mel Hewitt, who had 504 penalty minutes in 70 games! Defenseman Jim Branton was next, with 313 minutes in the "sin bin", and fellow defenseman John Gibson had 293 minutes. Three other Gears had over 100 PIM.
1979-80 Photo Album and Ticket Stub
     The Gears opened the Turner Cup Playoffs against the Milwaukee Admirals that season. The series turned ugly quickly, culminating in a brawl late in Game 2 that left Admirals forward Carey Haworth in a pool of blood on the ice, thanks to Gibson. The Admirals protested the Gears' use of "excessive violence" and demanded they be kicked out of the postseason. When the IHL declined to do so, the Admirals forfeited the remainder of the series. Saginaw then ran into the Fort Wayne Komets in Round Two. The Komets would not be intimidated, and made quick work of the Gears, advancing in five games. Kalamazoo would win their second straight Turner Cup, downing Fort Wayne in six games.
     Programs from 1979-80 are probably the most colorful Gears programs I own. This one is from a November 24, 1979, contest against the Flint Generals. According to the cover, the Gears downed the Generals 5-2, scoring two goals in the third. 
     This program is 47 pages with various colored illustrations. That night's Squirt/Dr. Pepper poster player was left winger Bryan Coates, who scored 26 goals and 60 points before being traded to Muskegon. Coates, a minor league veteran, was in his final season of hockey that year. There's an article about former Gear Paul Evans, then with the AHL's Maine Mariners, and one about Gears goalie Bob Froese. Local ads include Gracie O's Pizza Factory, Saginaw Steering Gear (where the Gears got their name) and the Bavarian Inn of Frankenmuth. Again, nice program. My parents bought a bunch of Gears programs and photo albums for me at an antique store in Saginaw a couple years ago. I have a program from every season but 1978-79. Still looking...

International Hockey League Statistics: 1979-80 (from

Boston Braves (1971-72, AHL)

1971-72 Regular Season--Braves vs. Rochester Americans
     In 1971-72, hockey was red-hot in Boston, where Bobby Orr and the Bruins dominated the NHL. Hockey was so popular, the Bruins purchased an AHL expansion franchise to play at Boston Garden. The new team was called the Braves, and were, naturally, the top affiliate of the Bruins. The team was coached by Bep Guidolin, a former NHL forward who would go on to coach the Bruins a year later.
     The Braves would have their best season, on and off the ice, in 1971-72. Off the ice, the Braves were a smash success, averaging 11,208 per game, easily the highest in the league. The Braves finished in second place in the East Division, with a sparkling 41-21-14 record, just behind league best Nova Scotia. Guidolin's Braves had the fifth-best offense in the AHL, scoring 260 goals. They were led by former NHL winger Doug Roberts, who scored 35 goals and 75 points. Garry Peters led the team in goals with 39, and Don Tannahill was the other 30 goal scorer. Two other players had at least 20 goals.
     Boston topped the AHL in defense, allowing only 191 goals. Both Braves goaltenders would eventually make it to the NHL. Starting goalie Dan Bouchard had an excellent 2.51 GAA in 50 games with four shutouts. Bouchard would later play in the NHL with Atlanta/Calgary, Quebec and Winnipeg. Backup Ross Brooks played in 30 games, with a 2.38 GAA and one shutout. Brooks would spend part of the next four seasons with the Bruins.
     The Braves would face the Providence Reds in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Boston would zip by Providence in five games (best of seven), outscoring the Reds 20-14. However, they would run into a red-hot Nova Scotia Voyageurs squad. The Vees hammered the Braves in five games, allowing only five goals in the series. They would go on to win the Calder Cup in five games over Baltimore.
     Took forever to find a Boston Braves program, and it wasn't too cheap. It's a nice program though, at 36 black-and-white pages. Lots of articles about Braves players and personnel. Local ads include Bobby Orr, Inc., Rockingham Raceway (harness races) and Bob Lee's Islander Restaurant. The colorful cover is autographed by Terry O'Reilly, in his rookie pro season that year. O'Reilly, "The Tasmanian Devil", would go on to a long career as a Bruins power forward, piling up goals and penalty minutes. That night's opponent was the Rochester Americans, featuring 37-year old veteran defenseman Don Cherry (ever hear of him?).

Aftermath: Braves attendance would drop like a lead balloon after their inaugural season, bottoming out to a measly 1,328 per game in 1973-74. Most of the blame went to increased competition in the Boston area, as the New England Whalers of the WHA began play in the 1972-73 season. NHL expansion also hurt the Braves, as the team lost, among others, goaltender Dan Bouchard. After suspending operations, the Bruins maintained the franchise rights of the Braves, paying a small fee to the AHL to keep the team mothballed. The franchise rights were eventually sold to the Winnipeg Jets, who transferred the team to Moncton, New Brunswick, calling them the Moncton Hawks.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1971-72 (from
Boston Braves (AHL), from Wikipedia

Phoenix Roadrunners (1973-74, WHL)

1973-74 Regular Season--Roadrunners vs. Denver Spurs
     There have been numerous teams that have been called "Phoenix Roadrunners" over the years, in leagues from the ECHL to the WHA. The first version played in the Western Hockey League, a minor-pro circuit in Western North America, from 1967-74. The Roadrunners previously played as the Victoria Maple Leafs in British Columbia. The team played their home games at the Arizona Veterans' Memorial Coliseum. They were coached by Alex "Sandy" Hucul, a long-time minor league defenseman who played the last five years of his career in Phoenix.
     Coming off their first Patrick Cup championship, the Roadrunners finished in first place in the WHL. Their 43-32-3 record was three points ahead of second place Salt Lake. Hucul's squad boasted the second-best offense in 1973-74, scoring an even 300 goals. Murray Koegan led the charge, with 31 goals and 87 points. Former Detroit Red Wing Howie Young led the team in goals with 37. Four other Roadrunners had at least 20 goals.
     Phoenix was also in second place in goals against, allowing just 273 red lights to turn on. The team used three different netminders that year. Gary Simmons, who would make it to the NHL with the California Golden Seals and LA Kings, played in 49 games that season, going 30-16-1 with a 3.00 GAA. Former Muskegon Mohawk Dave Hainsworth went 9-13-2 with a 4.07 GAA in 26 appearances. Don Caley went 3-3-0 with a a 3.68 GAA in seven appearances.
     The Roadrunners didn't have much difficulty defending their Patrick Cup championship. In Round One, they drew the San Diego Gulls, who finished in third place. Phoenix swept aside the Gulls in four straight, outscoring them 19-13, to advance. In the Patrick Cup Finals, the Roadrunners faced the Portland Buckaroos, who finished in fourth place, just five points back. However, Phoenix annihilated the Buckaroos in five games, outscoring them 20-9, to win their second straight Patrick Cup.
     This program has 40 pages, most of them are black-and-white, but there are a few color ads. Dave Hainsworth is on the front cover. Local ads include Sharkey's Pizza, KPHO TV5 (which broadcast several Roadrunner games that year) and Cobre Tire. Nice program, don't see too many WHL Roadrunners programs.

Aftermath: The WHL was already on life support by 1973-74, losing several cities to the 1968 and 1970 NHL expansions and increased competition from the new World Hockey Association. The league would merge with the rival Central Hockey League after this season. The Phoenix Roadrunners would not join the CHL, though, opting for the WHA, keeping a roster very similar to last year's Patrick Cup champion squad. The Roadrunners were unable to build on their WHL success, and would fold after the 1976-77 season. Phoenix would be home to the CHL, Pacific League, IHL and ECHL Roadrunners franchises over the next three decades. In 1996, the Winnipeg Jets would relocate to Phoenix, becoming the Phoenix (later Arizona) Coyotes. 

Western Hockey League Statistics: 1973-74 (from
Phoenix Roadrunners (WHL), from Wikipedia


Fort Wayne Komets (1967-68, IHL)

1967-68 Regular Season--Komets vs. Des Moines Oak Leafs
     1967-68 was the sixteenth season of Fort Wayne Komets hockey, all in the IHL. The team was coached by Ken Ullyot, who had been with the franchise since 1958. The Komets played
     Having lost to Toledo in the 1967 Turner Cup Finals, the Komets slipped to fourth place in '67-68. While Muskegon ran away with first place, the battle for the second-fifth slots was hotly contested. Fort Wayne finished 30-29-13, their 73 points one ahead of Toledo and just five behind second place Dayton.
     The Komets were also in fourth place in offense, scoring 282 times that year. Fort Wayne legend Len Thornson led the team with 38 goals and 97 points. Three others, Bob Baird, Randy Gates and Merv Dubchak, joined Thornson in the 30+ goal club. Three others scored at least 20 goals.
     The Komets had the second-best defense in the IHL that season, allowing just 272 goals. Fort Wayne used three different goaltenders that year. Robbie Irons, who would go on to a long career with the Komets, played in the majority of the games (43), with Jerry Randall getting the nod in 35. Pete Neukomm played just one game in net that season.
     The Komets barely clinched the last playoff spot, only one point ahead of fifth place (and defending champ) Toledo. They faced the Dayton Gems in Round One. There would be no return to the Turner Cup Finals, as the Gems polished off the Komets in six games, winning the clincher at Fort Wayne, 3-2 in overtime. The Muskegon Mohawks would go on to win the Cup in five games over Dayton.
     First of all, this program was scanned horizontally, since it has a team picture on the front. Pretty small program, only 19 pages. There are short bios about members of the Fort Wayne press, and an article by Ken Ullyot. Local ads include Penguin Point Drive-In ("For Those Who Care and Little Time to Spare"), Yankee Drummer Restaurant and Atz Ice Cream Shoppe. There are also team photos of the '66-67 Komets as well as the midget and Pepsi Komets. In short, a small and to-the-point program.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1967-68 (from

Saginaw Gears (1974-75, IHL)

1974-75 Regular Season--Gears vs. Lansing Lancers
     1974-75 was the third season of Saginaw Gears hockey. The Gears were coming off a surprise run to the Turner Cup Finals in 1973-74, which they lost to the Des Moines Capitols. Don Perry returned as Coach/GM, and the Gears were a secondary affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, after two seasons in the Minnesota farm system.
     Saginaw would build on their Cinderella season by going 43-29-3, third place in the Eastern Division. Their 89 points put them 10 points behind the regular season champions, the Muskegon Mohawks, and ten points ahead of the fourth place Port Huron Flags.
     Perry's crew pumped in 302 goals that season, third-highest in the league. They were led on offense by power forward Dennis Desrosiers. "Rosie" scored 44 goals to go along with 80 points and 225 penalty minutes. Stu Irving, a member of the 1972 USA Olympic hockey team, had 32 goals and 76 points. Five other players had at least twenty goals that year.
     The Gears were fourth-best in the IHL on defense, allowing only 259 goals. The team used three different goaltenders that season, two of which later played in the NHL. The starter that year was Mario Lessard, who played in 59 games with a 3.22 GAA and 4 shutouts. Lessard would eventually make it to the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings. Mike Palmateer, who would later play with Toronto and Washington, made it into 20 games, with a 3.84 GAA and 2 shutouts. Roly Kimble played in 5 games with a 4.67 GAA. Lessard drew the nod for the majority of the playoffs.
Gears mini pennant (age unknown)
     The Gears would qualify for the Turner Cup Playoffs again in 1974-75, drawing the arch-rival Flint Generals in Round One. In the best-of-seven affair, the Gears court-marshaled (how's that for a verb?) the Generals in five games, allowing just 10 goals in the series. In Round Two, the Gears faced the first-place Muskegon Mohawks. After falling behind 3-1 in the series, Saginaw ripped off three straight wins, including an 8-2 series-clincher at Muskegon, to advance to the Finals. The Gears faced the expansion Toledo Goaldiggers for the Turner Cup, and the series was a classic. The two teams traded wins for the first six games before the Diggers won Game 7 in Saginaw, 6-5. Both teams set city attendance records during the Finals.
     The opponent for this progam was the Lansing Lancers, previously the Toledo Hornets, played on January 8, 1975. Saginaw entered the contest in first place with a 26-14-1, just two points ahead of Flint. Lansing, on the other hand, was 11-25-1, their miniscule 23 points just 3 ahead of the expansion Kalamazoo Wings. Not sure of the score, but Saginaw did win the game. Having only won 3 games on the road to that point, the Lancers were running on fumes by then. Their home stadium, Metro Ice Arena, sat only 950 fans (all bleachers), and they rarely even filled that. The Lancers would play just three games after losing to Saginaw, then fold after the IHL rejected owner Paul Bright's request to move to Grand Rapids. Defenseman John Gravel and goaltender Roly Kimble would join the Gears after the Lancers collapsed.
     These two teams only played each other four times in Saginaw, so not a common program by any means. It's 55 pages, mostly all black-and-white. Plenty of articles about the other IHL teams, and individual and team photos of the Gears. Forward Russ Friesen, in his final season of pro hockey, was the Coca-Cola feature player. Local advertisements include Farmer Peet's franks, Garber Cadillac and Pontiac and Rainbo Bread ("The 8-Hour Loaf"). I have another program from this year and it's identical to this one. Pretty sure this was the only design the Gears used that year.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1974-75 (from
Saginaw Gears vs. Lansing Lancers statistics sheet, from 1/8/1975

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saginaw Gears (1980-81, IHL)

Covered the Saginaw Gears earlier in this blog, but I wanted to give the 1980-81 season it's own post, since I have two programs from that year.

1980-81 Regular Season--Gears vs. Milwaukee Admirals
    The Saginaw Gears were the first pro hockey team in Saginaw. They joined the International Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1972, owned by former Bruins and North Stars executive Wren Blair. The Gears played their home games at the Saginaw Civic Center's Wendler Arena (now Dow Event Center), built shortly before the team's arrival. Their nickname was a nod to the Saginaw Steering Gear factory, now called Nexteer, on M46 on the east edge of town.
     1980-81 was the ninth season of the franchise, which had established itself as one of the elite clubs in the IHL. They had already been to three Turner Cup Finals (1974, 1975, 1977), winning the Cup once (1977). Off the ice, the Gears were very popular in the Tri-Cities, often filling the 5500-seat Wendler Arena and finishing near the top of the league in attendance. The Gears were affiliated with three NHL clubs that year: Boston, Hartford and Los Angeles.
     Head Coach/GM Don Perry (the only coach the team had to that point) was back behind the bench that year. His roster was led by original Gears center Marcel Comeau, a one-time Minnesota North Star prospect, who would win the 1980-81 scoring title and MVP award. Comeau was joined by minor-league snipers Scott Gruhl and Brent Jarrett, defenseman Peter Luksa, and future NHL netminder Bob Froese. Their opponent on October 26, 1980, was the Milwaukee Admirals, led by Head Coach Nelson LeClair. LeClaire's squad featured future NHLer Dwight Schofield, former Detroit Red Wing Michel Bergeron, and former Saginaw Gear Stu Irving, a member of the 1972 Team USA Olympic squad.
     The Gears, already a contender, received a serious dose of talent in January. The Central Hockey League's Houston Apollos, a fellow Los Angeles farm club, folded at midseason due to losses around $500,000 and low attendance. Owner Wren Blair was able to bring in several orphaned Apollo players, including Warren Holmes, Waddell, Claude LaRochelle and Doug Harvey. Saginaw, in first place with a 21-18-3 record at that point, went 24-11-5 the remainder of the way to finish 45-29-8. They easily captured first place in the East, their franchise-record 98 points were 20 ahead of second place Port Huron.
     Saginaw led the IHL in offense that year with 392 goals. Marcel Comeau topped the team, and the league, in points with 114 on the strength of 44 goals. Scott Gruhl (56) and Mike Hartman (51) gave the team two 50-goal scorers. Three other players scored at least 30 and one other scored at least 20.
     On defense, the Gears allowed 289 goals, second only to Kalamazoo. While using five goaltenders, Bob Froese and veteran Ted Tucker were the two main goalies. Froese drew the nod for the playoffs.

1981 Turner Cup Playoffs--Gears vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     Heading into the Turner Cup Playoffs on a hot streak, the loaded Gears demolished the rest of the pack. They drew the Port Huron Flags in Round One, who finished a distant second place with a mediocre 31-35-16 record. The Gears blew away the Flags in four straight, outscoring them 15-7 in the process. They then met up with the Fort Wayne Komets, who went 37-30-15. The program on the right is from Game 2 of that series. The Gears jumped out to a 8-0 lead by the third period, crushing the Komets 10-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. They would take the series in five games, outscoring Fort Wayne 27-13, to reach the Turner Cup Finals.
     In their fourth Turner Cup Finals appearance, the Gears faced the two-time defending champion Kalamazoo Wings. The K-Wings finished first overall in the IHL, with a 52-20-10 record. Kalamazoo earned a first-round bye, then annihilated the Flint Generals in the semifinals. Their dreams of a third straight Turner Cup were dashed by the red-hot Gears. Saginaw shoved aside the K-Wings in four straight, allowing only 10 goals in the series. The Gears skated off with their second Turner Cup on home ice, a 4-1 triumph in front of a sold-out, delirious Wendler Arena.
     Both programs are nearly identical to each other: 47 pages, all black-and-white. The only big difference is the front cover color. A few articles in each program about several players, and directions to each IHL arena. The Gears-Milwaukee program has a picture of former Gear Stu Irving, who was recently acquired by the Admirals after the Grand Rapids Owls folded. Local ads include WEYI TV 25 (then a CBS affiliate), Peet Packing, and Schaefer & Bierlein of Frankenmuth. There's also a picture of the Gears' mascot, the crazy Gear-Rilla (the suit is now on display in the Saginaw Castle Museum).

Game 5: Hoisting the Turner Cup (photo from
Aftermath: Despite the franchise's best season and dominating playoff run, the Gears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June. Attendance slumped to 140,200 for the year, down from 178,300 in 1978-79. By this time, the country was just emerging from a serious recession. The American auto industry was also in decline by then, due to increasing foreign competition. Increasing layoffs and assembly line mechanization led to soaring unemployment and an increase in people leaving the region for work.
     While a 3,419-per game average doesn't sound awful (and would have been welcomed enthusiastically by Saginaw Lumber Kings in the 1990s), tickets sold was one of the few sources of revenue for the club. The Gears had a lopsided lease with the City of Saginaw for Wendler Arena, in which the team received no money from concessions, parking, or food and drink sold at The Blue Line Club. This was also an era before advertisement space was sold on the boards (the UHL Wheels were the first Saginaw hockey team allowed to sell ad space on the boards). While this type of lease was fine when business was booming in the 1970s, a significant drop in crowds like this put the franchise in the red.
     Having only a few home playoff dates didn't help either. "Our playoffs were so great, so good that we took the Turner Cup in just 13 games," said co-owner Ken MacDonald. "This normally would have been achieved with at least three more home games and the corresponding revenue. While it is difficult to criticize the team for winning, it is a Catch-22 situation."
     The Gears reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged with new ownership. The franchise and the City of Saginaw agreed on a reduced rent for the 1981-82 season, dropping fees to 15%. However, attendance never fully recovered, and the team folded due to increasing financial losses after the 1982-83 season. Saginaw would not have pro hockey again until the Flint Generals, with former Gear Dennis Desrosiers as Head Coach/GM, arrived in July 1985. In 2013, the Gears were passed by the OHL's Saginaw Spirit as the longest-lasting hockey franchise in city history.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1980-81 (from
"Admirals Find Gears Too Tough". The Milwaukee Journal, January 10, 1981. (from Google News Archive)
"Saginaw Hockey Franchise Could Fold". The Argus Press, June 9, 1981. (from Google News Archive)
"Saginaw Spirit Salute Saginaw Gears with Throwback Night against Belleville". The Saginaw News, October 22, 2010. (from

Friday, September 26, 2014

Milwaukee Admirals (1981-82, IHL)

1981-82 Turner Cup Playoffs--Admirals vs. Saginaw Gears
     The Milwaukee Admirals were in their fifth season in the IHL in 1981-82. They joined the league after their former league, the USHL, switched from minor-pro to junior hockey for the 1976-77 season. The Admirals were owned by Lloyd Pettit, the long-time announcer for the Chicago Blackhawks, and his wife Jane. They were led by Coach/GM Phil Whitliff, a Port Huron native who previously played for the Admirals and would go on to a long career with the team in the front office. Milwaukee was affiliated with Edmonton, St. Louis and Quebec.
     1981-82 was the finest season for the Admirals in their five years in the IHL. Milwaukee went 41-34-7, giving them 89 points on the season. They finished in second place, just ahead of third-place Kalamazoo and 22 points behind league-best Toledo. Whitliff's squad was third-best in goals scored, pumping in 385 on the year. They were led on offense by Fred Berry, who scored 47 goals to go along with 112 points. Danny Lecours and Doug Robb topped the team in goals, scoring 59 and 56 goals, respectively. Three other Admirals scored at least 20, but four had at least 15.
     Milwaukee was equally strong on the blueline, allowing 351 goals, third-lowest in the IHL. While the team used four different goaltenders in '81-82, Rich Sirois was the top starter. Sirois played in 64 games, going 34-21-7 with a 3.89 GAA, and got the nod for the postseason. Rob Polman-Tuin was next, with 12 games, but had only a 3-8-0 record with a 5.78 GAA.
     The Admirals qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs for the fifth straight year. Their opponent for Round One, and for this program, was the defending Turner Cup Champion Saginaw Gears. The Gears finished way behind Milwaukee, in fifth place with a 36-38-8 mark, but were second in goals scored and had entered the playoffs on a hot streak, the classic "Team that no one wants to face".
     The Admirals and Gears were no strangers to each other in the postseason. Two seasons prior, both teams faced each other in a first round series that quickly got ugly, then quickly ended. During Game 2, a 5-1 Gears blowout win, two big fights broke out late in the third. When Admirals forward Carey Haworth grabbed on to Saginaw's Marcel Comeau, Gears enforcer John Gibson drilled Haworth in the face, breaking his nose. While Haworth was down on the ice, Gibson picked him up a few times to hit him some more. Haworth was taken to the hospital with serious facial injuries. Haworth, Michel Bergeron and the Admirals filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Gears, Gibson, Mel Hewitt and Coach Don Perry. Milwaukee demanded that Saginaw be kicked out of the playoffs for "excessive violence", then forfeited the remainder of the series when Commissioner Jack Riley refused.
     While this series was nowhere near as ugly as the 1979-80 series, the winner was the same. Saginaw took Game 1 (which this program was from) and Game 2 by identical 6-3 scores. Except for a 7-3 Admirals win in Game 3, the Admirals were easily dusted off in five games (best of seven) by the red-hot Gears. Saginaw would go on to the Turner Cup Finals, only to be dethroned by Toledo in five games.
     This program is 36 pages, all-black-and-white. There are articles about each Admirals player and Coach/GM Phil Whitliff. There is also an article about former Admiral Dwight Schofield, who by then was playing for Montreal. One of the interesting pages features short explanations about how each IHL team got it's nickname. Local ads include Ye Olde Apothecary Pharmacy, The Royale Beauty Salons and, of course, Miller Beer. Nice illustration on the front by Mike Morbeck.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1981-82 (from
"Two Admirals to Sue", The Milwaukee Journal, April 20, 1980 (from Google News Archive)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Springfield Indians (1976-77, AHL)

1976-77 Regular Season--Indians vs. Rhode Island Reds
     The Springfield Indians franchise is one of the oldest minor-pro hockey franchises in North America. The Indians were born in 1926 in the Canadian-American Hockey League, lasting for seven seasons before folding. In 1935, the franchise was revived in the American Hockey League when the Quebec Beavers relocated to Springfield.
     In 1939, Boston Bruins legendary defenseman Eddie Shore purchased the Indians franchise. He ran the franchise for the next 28 years (with a short hiatus during World War 2) before selling the team to the new Los Angeles Kings, who renamed the Indians after the parent club. Shore returned during the 1974-75 season, restoring the Indians name and jerseys, and leading the team to it's fifth Calder Cup before selling the Indians the following year.
     By 1976-77, the Indians were struggling. The team slumped to a 28-51-1 record, fifth place in the six-team AHL. The Indians abysmal 57 points were just three points better than last-place Rhode Island. John Hanna started the season as head coach, but was canned after a 12-24-0 start in favor of Gary Dineen. Dineen didn't fare much better, going 16-27-1. Attendance was second-worst in the league as well, as only 2,924 fans per game bothered to show up to Eastern States Coliseum. The Indians were affiliated with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
     Springfield had the fourth most goals scored in 1976-77, lighting the red light 302 times that year. They were led on offense by Andre Peloffy, who pumped in 42 goals and 99 points. There was a bit of a dropoff after Peloffy, as only two other players scored over 20 goals. Peter Laframboise was second in points with just 68.
     The Indians were dead-last on defense, surrendering 390 goals, 41 more than Rhode Island. They used five different goaltenders that year. Grant Cole played in 49 games that year, going a respectable 18-24-0 record with a 4.53 GAA. Jerome Mrazek played 33 games, but went 7-22-1 with a 5.38 GAA. Former Flint General Rick St. Croix made it into one game that year (the one this program is from, I believe), later making it to the NHL. Reggie Lemelin also spent time in Springfield before carving out a long NHL career. John Kiely was the other netminder that year.
     With such a miserable record, the Indians failed to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs that year. They finished 21 points behind the last playoff team, Hershey. The Nova Scotia Voyageurs went on to win the Calder Cup in six games over Rochester.
     Nice program, and I like the logo on the cover (I used the Indian for a fantasy hockey logo awhile back). A bit small, at only 32 pages, all black-and-white. Local ads include Sorrowton Tavern, The Toga Lounge ("Just a slapshot away from Eastern States Coliseum") and Balise Chevrolet-Honda (what a combination...). That night's opponent was the last-place Rhode Island Reds, coached by future Sabres coach/GM John Muckler. The original owner of this program rated several Indians players, from Bob Ritchie ("super") to goalie Rick St. Croix ("good"). They also described left wing Mike Harmon as "colored". Classy...

Aftermath: The Indians would continue to struggle on the ice, missing the playoffs 8 times in the next 14 seasons. In 1989-90, the Indians would barely make it into the Calder Cup playoffs with a 38-38-4 record, but surprised everyone by winning their sixth Calder Cup. After repeating in 1990-91, the Indians would see attendance decline in their last three seasons in Springfield. The franchise would relocate to Worcester, Massachusetts, for the 1994-95 season, renamed "Worcester Ice Cats". The Ice Cats stayed in Worcester for 10 years before moving to Peoria, Illinois, becoming the new Peoria Rivermen. The AHL Rivermen would then move to Utica, New York in 2013, becoming the Utica Comets. Springfield would be granted an expansion franchise after the Indians left, the Springfield Falcons. The Falcons still fly in Springfield to this day.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1976-77 (from
Springfield Indians page (from

Fort Wayne Komets (1988-89, IHL)

1988-89 Regular Season--Komets vs. Flint Spirts
     The Komets played their 35th consecutive season in the IHL in 1988-89. The franchise was owned by local businessman David Welker. Welker, owner of Hoosier Culverts and W&W Concrete, purchased the Komets out of bankruptcy court for a paltry $300,000 in the summer of 1987.
     The Komets, coached by former player Robbie Laird, had numerous affiliations that year. The Komets were a farm team of Boston, Quebec, Washington, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Quite a group of parent clubs!
     As you can tell, the team had radically changed their look over the course of the 1980s. The traditional orange and black jerseys with the fireball logo were long gone. In their place, were red-white-blue unis with a silhouette of Indiana (the Komets script on the front of the program was on the road jerseys). They also had a koala bear for a secondary logo, which was supposedly for non-alcoholism and "A2D2" (Athletes Against Drunk Driving).
     Coach Laird's Komets finished the 1988-89 season with a 46-30-6 record. Their 98 points were just four points behind second place Saginaw, but 23 points behind league-best Muskegon. Fort Wayne had a weak offense that season, as their 293 goals were second-worst in the IHL. Mike McNeil, in his rookie season as a pro, led the team with 27 goals and 62 points. Keith Miller was just behind him with an even 60 points, on the strength of a team-high 35 goals. Only three other players scored at least 20 goals. Future Komets coach Al Sims had a respectable 30 points on defense that season.
     Speaking of defense, the Komets were significantly better. They allowed a miniscule 274 goals, tops in the league by 20. Fort Wayne used five different goaltenders that year. Long-time minor leaguer Rick Knickle played in 47 games that year, going 22-16-5 with a respectable (for the time) 3.11 GAA and 1 shutout. Future NHLer and former Michigan State Spartan Bob Essensa made it into 22 games, going 14-7-1 with a 3.26 GAA. Stephane Beauregard (another future NHLer), Steve Averill and Al Loring also saw action in the Komets net.
     This first program is from a regular season game on October 29, 1988, vs. the Flint Spirits. It was the team's 2nd Annual Halloween Celebration (which the Komets hoped to "spook the Spirits"). Kids 12 and under that dressed up in a costume were let in for free and got to parade around the ice during the second intermission for prizes! The rest of the program is 42 pages long, mostly black-and-white, with ads ranging from Northeast Indiana Chevrolet Dealers to the Kings Tavern. Very nice program, and whoever the goalie was in the picture had a great mullet!
1988-89  Turner Cup Playoffs--Komets vs .Muskegon Lumberjacks
     The Komets qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs for the fourteenth consecutive season in 1988-89. They faced the Saginaw Hawks in Round One, who had qualified for the postseason each year since 1970-71 (as the Flint Generals). Fort Wayne knocked off the Hawks in 6 close games, outscoring Saginaw 17-12 in the process. They then locked up with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in Round Two. Despite falling in 5 games, the Komets kept the series close, as four of the five games were decided by 2-3 goals and one went to OT. The Lumberjacks would go on to win their second, and final, Turner Cup over Salt Lake.
     The program on the right is from Game 2 of the Komets-Lumberjacks series, on April 29, 1989. Muskegon won the game, 4-2, to take a 2-0 series lead. This program is almost identical to the first one. It's 40 pages, almost all black-and-white. Ads include such things as Saylor's Pizza, Schenkel's All-Star Dairy, and Valley Outlet Center. As you can see, this program was autographed by three different Komets legends: Ron Ullyot, Ken Ullyot and Len Thornson. Bob Essensa is the goaltender on the left.

Aftermath: The original Komets would last for one more season, finishing in last place in the East. Their mediocre 37-34-11 record got them into the postseason again, but they were quickly knocked off by Muskegon in Round One. Attendance, a problem for several years in Fort Wayne, continued to decline, as a poor economy and general dislike of owner David Welker kept fans away from the Coliseum. Welker finally threw in the towel and moved the franchise to Albany, New York, renaming the team "Albany Choppers". Welker's move caused controversy in not only the IHL, which didn't approve of it beforehand, but also the AHL, which didn't appreciate the rival league invading it's territory. In any case, Welker's Choppers bombed in Albany, folding by Valentine's Day, 1991. Shortly after Welker left, the Franke Family purchased the Flint Spirits, moving them to Fort Wayne and assuming the Komets' name and history. They also brought back the traditional orange-and-black unis and fireball logo (the koala bear didn't survive, sad to say). The Frankes continue to own the Komets to this day, now in the ECHL.

Sebring, Blake. "Ex-Komets Owner Welker Dead at 73". Fort Wayne News Sentinel, April 12, 2011. (from
International Hockey League Statistics: 1988-89 (from

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dayton Gems (1970-71, IHL)

1970-71 Regular Season--Gems vs. Des Moines Oak Leafs
     After the 1970 Turner Cup win, Wilson stepped down as coach and was replaced by Gems winger Gerry Moore. Moore's first Gems squad finished in third place in the IHL, with a 36-29-7 record. Dayton finished a distant 12 points behind league champion Muskegon.
     Here's an unusual stat: the Gems scored the same amount of goals as they allowed that season--263. The offense finished third overall in the league. Moore's bunch were led by Barry Merrell, who scored 28 goals to go with 73 points. Clem Trembley was right behind him, with 68 points and a team-high 39 goals. Three other players had at least 20 goals on the year and six had at least 10.
     The Gems defense allowed the third-highest in the league, trailing only Toledo and Port Huron. Dayton used two goaltenders that season. Michel Dumas played the majority of the games for the Gems, getting into 49 games with a 3.56 GAA. Veteran netminder Pat Rupp made it into 27 games with a 3.78 GAA.

     The Gems qualified for the playoffs for the sixth straight season. Gerry Moore's bunch faced the second-year Flint Generals in Round One. The best-of-seven series went the limit, but the Gems advanced to the round robin second round. This unusual playoff format saw the Gems, Port Huron Flags and Des Moines Oak Leafs face each other in a best-of-three format. The Gems were eliminated  after dropping two games to Des Moines. The Oak Leafs then fell to the upstart Flags in six games in the Turner Cup Finals.
     I have three programs from this season, two of them have drawings similar to this. This cover drawing was created by Jerry Dowling, a long-time cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Very nicely done! This program is 35 pages long, all black-and-white. Local advertisements include Schoenling Beer ("Cincinnati's Finest!"), The Brown Derby Seafood Restaurant and Parkmoor Dixie Fried Chicken. There are also pictures of the Gems' Turner Cup victory over Port Huron.

Aftermath: Gerry Moore would stick around for another season before moving on to the CHL's Oklahoma City Blazers. After one year in Indianapolis of the WHA, Moore would return to the IHL as head coach of the woeful Muskegon Mohawks in 1978. The Gems would continue to be a strong team for several years, winning another Turner Cup in 1975-76. However, declining attendance due to the struggling local economy forced the Gems to suspend operations a year later. The franchise would be revived for the 1979-80 season, but would fold after one season, a last-place finish. Dayton would later be home to the ECHL's Dayton Bombers, then the CHL's Dayton Gems. After the CHL Gems folded, the Federal Hockey League's Dayton Demonz began play at Hara Arena, winning that league's championship in 2013-14.

Dayton Area Sports History, Hockey in Dayton: Dayton Gems
International Hockey League: 1970-71 (from

Dayton Gems (1968-69, IHL)

1968-69 Regular Season--Gems vs. Muskegon Mohawks
      The city of Dayton, Ohio, joined the International Hockey League in the 1964-65 season as an expansion franchise. The team was run by Lefty McFadden, who was general manager of Dayton Speedway then. A "Name the Team" contest was held and "Dayton Gems" was the winning vote, a nod to the city's "Gem City" nickname.
     The Gems were a very popular and successful franchise for most of their 16-year history.  By Year Two, they were in the Turner Cup Finals, but came up short against Port Huron. After the 1967-68 season, original coach Warren Back resigned and was replaced by former Red Wing Larry Wilson.
     Wilson inherited a team on the verge of greatness. They had won the Huber Trophy as regular season champions two years ago (44-25-3). They would do the same in 1968-69, topping the IHL with a strong 40-21-11 mark. They need every one of their 91 points, as they finished ahead of Toledo by one point. Dayton hockey fans responded to their Gems, averaging 4,500 per game at Hara Arena.
     The Gems boasted the second-strongest offense in the league, pumping in 313 goals. They were led by right winger Don Westbrooke's 59 goals and a league-best 118 points. Six other Gems scored at least twenty goals, including Dunc Rousseau with 35. Player-Coach Wilson chipped in 61 points in 50 games.
     On defense, the Gems had no equal. They allowed a miniscule 227 goals, 8 fewer than second-best Toledo. John Adams and Pat Rupp played about the same games that year, with Rupp playing 41 games and Adams getting the nod in 32. Adams played in 6 of the 9 postseason games.
     The IHL used an unusual round robin format for the first round of the playoffs that season. Six teams qualified for a best-of-three tournament. Columbus and Port Huron were eliminated, and Dayton faced Fort Wayne in Round Two. The Gems blew away the Komets in the best-of three series, outscoring them 14-4 in the series. They would then face the Muskegon Mohawks in the Turner Cup Finals, another best-of-three affair. The Gems swept aside the Mohawks in three straight to win their first Turner Cup title with a record nine straight playoff victories.
     The cover illustration was done by Cincinnati Enquirer cartoonist Jerry Dowling. Several of the Gems programs I have have Dowling drawings. I like this drawing, and considering the season the Gems were having that year, all hockey roads really did lead to Dayton in 1968-69.
     This program is 35 pages long, with black-and-white pictures and advertisements. Local ads include a variety of businesses, from The Keyhole Lounge, Miami Maid Better Bread and Blatz Beer. There are also articles about each IHL franchise and a picture of their arenas. I'm pretty sure McMorran Arena in Port Huron hasn't changed a bit since it's picture was taken for this program! Unfortunately, the previous owner clipped something out of one of the pages (a coupon, maybe?).

Dayton Area Sports History: Hockey in Dayton: Gems
Fun While It Lasted: Dayton Gems
International Hockey League Statistics: 1968-69 (from

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fort Wayne Komets (1962-63, IHL)

1962-63 Turner Cup Playoffs--Komets vs. Muskegon Zephyrs
     Their has been a Fort Wayne Komets franchise in minor league hockey since 1952. That's an incredible run for any minor league sport. Teams and entire leagues have come and gone, but Komets hockey has endured. The current team in the ECHL is actually the third incarnation of the Komets. The original franchise joined the IHL in 1952 as an expansion franchise. They played their home games at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1952 and originally held 8,103. 
     Ken Ullyot coached the Komets in 1962-63. That year's squad won a hotly contested regular season title, going 35-30-5, just a point ahead of Minneapolis and two ahead of third place Muskegon. The cover picture is from the postgame celebration in Omaha. The Komets hammered the Knights, 7-1, to win the team's seventh league title in 11 years!
     Fort Wayne was third in the league in scoring, with 283 goals. Pacing the Komets attack was Len Thornson, with 32 goals and 115 points. Eddie Long led the team in goals with 56, second in the league. Three other players scored at least thirty, and two others hit the 20-goal mark.
     Fort Wayne allowed the second-fewest goals in the league that year, a measly 255. This was the era of "one goalie per team", and Chuck Adamson was between the pipes for all 70 Komets games and the postseason.
     Ken Ullyot's Komets would not disappoint in the playoffs. They drew the Muskegon Zephyrs in Round One, and advanced in six games, despite being equaled in goals by the Zephyrs, 28-28. Fort Wayne then met the Minneapolis Millers in the Turner Cup Finals. After splitting the first two games in Fort Wayne, the Komets then took the next three games to capture their first Turner Cup title.
     This is the oldest Komets program I have been able to snag on eBay. There's not much to it, just 14 pages of black-and-white pictures and ads. The ads include WGL News 1250 AM, The Embers Supper Club and Magnavox Electric Organs. There's also a small bio on announcer Bob Chase, who was then in his ninth season with the club. Chase still calls Komets hockey on WOWO 1190, and won the ECHL's Broadcaster of the Year award this past season! In short, he's the Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully of minor league hockey.
     This program also came with two ticket stubs from "Game A" of the playoff series against Muskegon. I'm guessing that's Game 1, which the Zephyrs won 7-4 on March 30th.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1962-63 (from

Toledo Goaldiggers (1984-85, IHL)

     (Note: A great website for Goaldiggers history is It includes tons of pictures from the various minor league teams in that town, even an online store to buy Goaldiggers apparel. I bought a shirt there awhile back. Very nice!)

1984-85 Regular Season--Goaldiggers vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     The Goaldiggers returned to the Turner Cup Finals in 1983-84, but their quest for 3 straight Cups ran into a buzzsaw called the Flint Generals, who swept them aside in four straight. Bill Inglis stepped down after 3 1/2 successful seasons to take the Coach/GM position in Kalamazoo.
     Toledo replaced Inglis with former netminder Tony Piroski. Piroski didn't last too long behind the bench, and after a 7-14-4 start, was replaced by former Diggers coach Ted Garvin.
     The Diggers slumped to a 32-42-5 record, their worst since 1980-81. They brought up the rear in the Eastern Division, 17 points behind Inglis' K-Wings and 31 points behind division champion Muskegon. They were just three points ahead of the worst team in the league, Indianapolis.
     Goal scoring dropped off in '84-85, as Toledo notched just 292 goals, second worst in the league. Ted Garvin did have a 50-goal scorer in Dave Gans. Gans notched 51 goals (third-best in the league) to go along with 105 points. Only two other players scored over 20 goals.
     The Diggers really struggled on the defensive side of the puck. Toledo allowed 362 goals that year, only Indianapolis allowed more. They used seven different netminders that season. Lindsay Middlebrook, a part of the 1977-78 Champions, played in 50 games that season. Dave Ross played in the next most games that year, 20. Middlebrook was the starter for the postseason.
     Despite finishing in the East Division basement, the Goaldiggers qualified for the postseason (only Indianapolis failed to qualify). However, their poor record meant they went against the Muskegon Lumberjacks in Round One. The Diggers stretched the Jacks to six games before falling, outscored 26-15 in the series. Muskegon would make it to the Turner Cup Finals before losing to Peoria in seven. Ted Garvin would step down after the season, replaced by Peter Mahovalich.
     I got this program last year on eBay. Don't see too many programs from that team online. Nice cover drawing. The program has 48 pages, all black-and-white. Local ads include Kroger, Arlington Family Restaurant and Tony Roma's ("A Place for Ribs"). That night's opponent was the rival Fort Wayne Komets. Both Komet goaltenders, Peter Sidorkiewicz and Alain Chevrier, would go on to play in the NHL. The Goaldiggers featured defenseman Don Waddell, who would later be GM of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Aftermath: The loss to the Lumberjacks would be the last postseason appearance for the Goaldiggers. It was a matchup of two franchises going in opposite directions: the Lumberjacks, revived after over a decade as a bottom-feeder, versus the Goaldiggers, on the way downhill after a decade of contention. Peter Mahovalich would coach the Diggers to a 24-48-10 record, most losses in franchise history. Only the expansion Flint Spirits kept Toledo out of the basement. Mounting financial losses and declining attendance forced ownership to suspend operations after the 1985-86 season. The dormant franchise would eventually be sold to Russ and Diane Parker and relocated to Kansas City for the 1990-91 season, becoming the Kansas City Blades. Toledo would later become home to the ECHL's Storm in 1991. Currently, Toledo is home to the ECHL's Walleye.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1984-85 (from
Toledo Goaldiggers History (from

Toledo Goaldiggers (1982-83, IHL)

1982-83 Regular Season--Goaldiggers vs. Saginaw Gears
     After winning the 1977-78 Turner Cup, the Goaldiggers stumbled through a few forgettable seasons. By 1980-81, the team hired Bill Inglis as head coach midway through the season. Inglis built a powerhouse team in 1981-82, which set team records for victories (53), then flattened the Saginaw Gears in five games to win the Turner Cup. 
     Inglis' 1982-83 Diggers were almost as good. They repeated as regular season champions, with an excellent 51-21-10 record, 10 points ahead of second place Fort Wayne. They were 25 points ahead of Western Division champion Milwaukee.
     The Diggers featured the third best offense in the IHL in '82-83, lighting the lamp 362 times. Future NHLer Dirk Graham led the way with 70 goals and 125 points (amazingly, not the league leader in goals!). Dave Falkenberg was next in goal-scoring with 51 goals. Five other players had at least 20 goals on the year for Inglis' squad.
     Toledo was even stronger on defense, allowing a league-low 269 goals during the season. They used five different goaltenders that year. Veteran Lorne Molleken (future Chicago Blackhawks coach) played in 48 games and 10 in the postseason. Paul Billing, acquired from Peoria midseason, made it into 16 games and 2 postseason games.
     As regular season champions, the Goaldiggers earned a first-round bye. In Round Two, they faced the Fort Wayne Komets and quickly knocked them off in five games to advance to the Turner Cup Finals. In the Finals, the Diggers met up with the Milwaukee Admirals. Toledo won their second straight Cup in six games, including a 16-4 slaughter of the Admirals in Game 5 at the Sports Arena. It was the fourth Turner Cup win in Goaldiggers history, and ninth in Toledo hockey history.
     This was the first Goaldiggers program I bought. I got it several years ago at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens, and I think I paid about $2 for it. It has 46 pages, and almost all of it is black-and-white. There are quite a few pictures from Game 5 of the Diggers-Gears series. There is also a team photo of the 1981-82 Goaldiggers.
     The opponent from this night was the Saginaw Gears on November 21, 1982. The Diggers had tough guy Paul Tantardini back on the roster by then. Paul was a member of all four Goaldigger Turner Cup championship teams, and one of the most popular players to wear that uniform.
     Lots of advertisements, per usual. Some of the local ads include Rax Roast Beef (A Bunful of Savings for You), Tom Clark's Players Club and Nick & Jimmy's Bar and Grill.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from

Toledo Goaldiggers (1977-78, IHL)

1977-78 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Toledo Goaldiggers joined the IHL as an expansion franchise shortly after the Hornets skipped town. They wisely hired ex-Port Huron Wings coach Ted Garvin as head coach/GM, and made the playoffs in their first season. The Diggers then stormed to the Turner Cup Finals, completing the legendary "Miracle on Main Street" by defeating the Saginaw Gears in seven games to win the Cup in their inaugural season.
     The Toledo Goaldiggers existed from 1974-86, and are considered by many fans to be the glory years of pro hockey in Toledo. By 1977-78, the Diggers were firmly established as a dangerous team in the IHL. They were coming off a seven-game defeat in the Finals to Saginaw, and the Sports Arena was packed on a nightly basis. Ted Garvin's squad were affiliated with the New York Rangers and Cleveland Barons.
     Toledo finished in second place in the South Division, with a solid 34-28-18. Their 86 points were third highest in the IHL that year, 11 points behind division champion Fort Wayne. The Diggers had the third highest offensive output that year, pumping in 331 goals. They were led by IHL veteran Len Fontaine, who played for Garvin in Port Huron. Fontaine scored 34 goals and 88 points that season. Barry Scully led the team in goals that year with 42. Future "Miracle on Ice" member Mike Eruzione chipped in 30 goals and 86 points.
     On defense, the Diggers were in the middle of the pack, allowing 316 goals. The team used five goaltenders, including Tony Piroski, Lindsay Middlebrook and Ted Tucker. Piroski played the majority of the regular season games, but Middlebrook got the nod for the playoffs.
     The Diggers qualified for the postseason again in 1977-78, and faced lowly Milwaukee in round one. Toledo made quick work of the Admirals, shoving them aside in five games (best of seven) to face Fort Wayne in Round Two. The Diggers upset the Komets in five games, outscoring them 26-13 in the series, to advance to the Turner Cup Finals. The Diggers faced the Port Huron Flags, Garvin's old squad, in the finals, and it was a thriller. In a back and forth series, Toledo hung on to win 4-3 in Game Seven to win their second Turner Cup in four years.
     This program came with an insert featuring Goaldiggers forward Greg McPhee. The program is 54 pages thick, with all sorts of ads and article. Local advertisements include Vernors, Schlitz Beer and Crimping Tree Design Hair Cutting. There is no roster sheet, so no idea who the Goaldiggers played in that game. Nice drawing on the front.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1977-78 (from

Toledo Hornets (1972-73, IHL)

1972-73 Regular Season--Hornets vs. Saginaw Gears
      The Hornets had their best season in their four years of existence, but it wasn't anything special. Toledo finished third in the Northern Division, with an ordinary 36-33-5 record. Their 77 points was just one point ahead of fourth place Muskegon and twelve behind division champion Flint. Fred Burchell was behind the bench this season.
     Toledo had the second-worst offense in the IHL that season, scoring just 257 goals. The Hornets were led by Harold White, who scored 27 goals and 63 points. Moe Brunel led the team in goals with 30. Only four other players had at least 20 goals that season.
     The Hornet defense was much better, allowing the fifth-fewest goals in the league, 261. Glenn Ramsay was back for another season in the Toledo net, and had a fine season. Ramsay, one of the iron men of the IHL, played in 70 games, posting 3 shutouts and a 3.21 GAA. Dean Jeffrey was his backup that season, making it into 9 games.
     Barely making it into the postseason, the Hornets drew the defending champion Port Huron Wings in the first round. The Wings made quick work of the Hornets, blasting Toledo in four games (best of 5). Port Huron outscored Toledo 13-5 in the process, including two shutouts in the first two games. The Wings would return to the Turner Cup Finals, but fell to Fort Wayne in four straight.
     This program came with two inserts. One is a poster featuring Hornets defenseman John Gravel. The pic is mostly black-and-white, but Gravel's Hornets uniform is colored in. The other insert is a scorecard. This program is the smallest of the three Hornets programs I own--only 26 pages. Local ads include Captain Bill's Swashbuckler Buffet, 21st Century Health Spa and Papenhagen Oldsmobile ("A Great Place to Buy Your Next Olds"). Small, but nice. I like the team photo on the front.

Aftermath: The Hornets slumped to 33-42-1, but still qualified for the postseason in 1973-74. They were eliminated in Round One by the Flint Generals in 3 games (best of 3). That would be it for the Hornets franchise in Toledo. Attendance continued to be miserable, and rising debt forced owner Paul Bright to abandon Toledo for Lansing, Michigan, for the 1974-75 season. The new Lansing Lancers bombed in their lone season in Michigan's Capital City, folding halfway through the year. Toledo, deserted by the Hornets, gained the last laugh. The IHL awarded an expansion franchise for '74-75: the Toledo Goaldiggers, who went on to win the Turner Cup in their inaugural season.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1972-73 (from

Toledo Hornets (1971-72, IHL)

1971-72 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
      The Toledo Blades were renamed Hornets after the 1969-70 season. The Hornets were led by President/GM Paul Bright, and coached by Bill Needham. The Hornets four-year run is considered the low point of pro hockey in Toledo. While the Blades and Mercurys won 5 Turner Cups between them, the Hornets never made it past the first round. Finishing over .500 only once, the Hornets failed to capture the imagination of Toledo hockey fans, often playing in front of small crowds at the Sports Arena.
     The 1971-72 Hornets didn't improve much on the previous season, going a lackluster 26-46-0. That was good enough for dead last in the North Division, 15 points behind third place Flint and 48 behind division champ Muskegon.
     The Hornets had the third-worst offense in the league that year, scoring 270 goals. Needham's bunch were led by Jim Paterson, who had 46 goals and 86 points. Three other Hornets scored at least 20 goals.
1971-72 Regular Season--Hornets vs. Des Moines Oak Leafs
     Toledo had all sorts of problems keeping the puck out of the net as well. They allowed a league-worst 371 goals that season, more than even the Columbus Golden Seals, the worst team in the league. The Hornets went through four different goaltenders that year, with local legend Glenn Ramsay taking the brunt of the abuse in net.
     Finishing dead last in the Northern Division eliminated the Hornets from playoff contention. Only the woeful Columbus Golden Seals (15-55-2) were worse than Toledo that year. Needham would be let go after the season in favor of Fred Burchell.
     For such a bad team, they had decent programs that year. Both programs have 34 pages, but only the second one has rosters. The first one posted was the first Hornets program I bought. I bought it at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens. I bought the second one on eBay. Didn't pay too much for either. Ads include Coleco Pro Stars Hockey, Jeep and "Countrypolitan" WTOD 1560 AM. There are also pictures of Toledo Amateur Hockey teams. Of the two, I like the first one more, but not by much. Both are fine programs.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1971-72 (from