Friday, May 20, 2016

Indianapolis Checkers (CHL, 1983-84)

1983-84 Regular Season
Checkers vs. U.S. Olympic Team
     The Checkers were riding high by 1983-84. They were the two-time defending Adams Champions and one of the strongest teams off the ice as well.           The CHL, on the other hand, was not as fortunate. The league was running on fumes by then. Having lost several teams the past few seasons, the CHL was down to just five teams. The league was spread all across the country, mostly in the western US. The five teams were as far north as Billings, Montana, as far west as Salt Lake City, Utah, and as far south as Tulsa, Oklahoma. Indianapolis was easily the most easterly team in the circuit.
     Things got worse as the year went on. The owners of the Tulsa Oilers declared bankruptcy and abandoned the team to the CHL, which kept it afloat as a travel team. To balance the schedule, the CHL counted games against the Canadian and American Olympic teams in the schedule. So this program was not from an exhibition game, but one that actually counted in the standings!
     The Checkers slipped in the standings after two dominant years, finishing in fourth place with a subpar 34-36-2 record. Their 70 points were just two behind third-place Salt Lake, but 29 behind first-place Colorado. Only one team missed the postseason that year, and the Checkers were in no danger of doing so. The Montana Magic brought up the rear, with a pathetic 20-52-4.
     Fred Creighton was again Coach/GM that season, and this season was more challenging than the previous two. On offense, the Checkers popped in 308 goals, third-most in the league. Don Laurence again was tops in scoring, with 41 goals and 78 points in 69 games. Indianapolis had a very balanced attack, as seven players had at least 20 goals that year.
     Indy was also in third place on defense, allowing 289 goals. They used four different netminders that year, including future NHLer Kelly Hrudey, then-Toledo Goaldigger Lorne Molleken, Robert Holland and Todd Lumbard. Holland and Lumbard split the time in net during the playoffs.
     Indianapolis opened the playoffs against the first-place Colorado Flames.  The Flames ran away with the top seed that year, but the Checkers upset them in six games to advance to the Finals. There, they faced a Cinderella team: the Tulsa Oilers. After ownership declared bankruptcy, the Oilers then lost the lease to their arena. Instead of allowing the franchise to go under, the CHL and the New York Rangers (the Oilers affiliate) split the costs to keep the team alive as a travel team. Despite not having a home game in well over a month, the Oilers stunned Salt Lake in Round One, then dethroned the Checkers in a four-game sweep to win the Adams Cup title.
     I bought this one in the same lot I got the 1982-83 program and ad. This is a slightly larger program, at 68 pages. Most of the pages are black-and-white, but a few pages are color. The previous season is reviewed in an article titled "Road to Success". Again, Bill Torrey of the Islanders wrote a congratulatory note, included with a picture of the 1983 Islanders. Another article is titled "Around the Central Hockey League on $23.50 a Day". This one talks about the amount of travel CHL teams faced. According to the author, the Checkers had to switch planes to reach all CHL cities except for Denver. Local advertisements include Indiana Bell, Indiana National Bank, WIRE AM 1430 and John Macri's Italian Village

Aftermath: 1983-84 would be the final season for the Central Hockey League. The CHL, already in rough shape due to low attendance and soaring travel costs, would fold after that season. Three teams, the Colorado Flames, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles and the Checkers would be left standing after the CHL collapsed. The Checkers and Golden Eagles would join the IHL for the 1984-85 season, while the Flames would fold. The Islanders would switch primary farm teams, opting for the AHL's Springfield Indians, while making the Checkers a secondary affiliate.


Sources:
Central Hockey League Statistics: 1983-84 (from hockeydb.com)
The Checker Flag: 1983-84 Indianapolis Checkers program

Indianapolis Checkers (CHL, 1982-83)

1982-83 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     The Indianapolis Checkers were in their fourth year in the Central Hockey League by 1982-83. They were the primary farm club of the New York Islanders and played their home games at the 8,421-seat State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Fred Creighton was the Head Coach and General Manager.
     As you can see by the cover, Indy was the defending Adams Cup Champions that year, defeating Dallas in the Finals. In 1982-83, Creighton's bunch had a spectacular season, going 50-28-2, cruising to first place. Their 102 points were 17 points ahead of second-place Colorado.
     The Checkers were tops in the CHL on both sides of the puck. On offense, they piled up 335 goals and were led by Don Laurence, who popped in 43 goals and 98 points. Steve Stoyanovich was the other 40-goal scorer that season, with 41. Five other Checkers had at least 20 goals on the year.
     On defense, Indy allowed just 242 goals. They used just two goaltenders in '82-83: Robert Holland and Kelly Hrudey. Hrudey would go on to a long NHL career, mostly with the Islanders and Kings. This year, he went 26-17-1 with a 3.04 GAA and 2 shutouts. Holland was even better, sporting a 24-11-1 record with a 2.87 GAA and 4 shutouts. Hrudey played in the majority of the postseason games.
Continental Airlines ad, featuring defenseman Darcy Regier
     The Checkers opened the Adams Cup Playoffs against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. The Eagles were a distant fourth, with a mediocre 41-38-1 mark. Despite being heavy underdogs, Salt Lake gave the Checkers fits. Two games went into overtime, but Indy won the series in six with an 11-4 beatdown at home in the clincher. In the Finals, they would face the Birmingham South Stars. Birmingham was a new addition to the league and finished in third place in Year One. This season's Adams Cup Finals was a strange one: a best-of-nine series instead of the usual best-of-seven! The South Stars dropped Game 1, then took a 2-1 series lead over the defending champs. The Checkers rebounded to sweep the next four games and win their second straight Adams Cup.
     Much like 1981-82, 1982-83 was a "clean sweep" for the Islanders organization. The Isles won their fourth-straight Stanley Cup, the Checkers won their second-straight Adams Cup and the IHL's Toledo Goaldiggers won their second-straight Turner Cup. Hard to top that!
     I bought this program online as part of a lot which included another program and the above advertisement. Pretty decent-sized program too, at 52 pages. Most of the pages are black and white (or black, white and red), though some pages are color. There's a two-page article about the previous season. The article noted that 1981-82 would be "a tough act to follow". Judging by how '82-83 went, I'd say they did just fine. Other articles include one about Kevin Devine, that season's captain. Islanders GM Bill Torrey wrote a letter congratulating the Checkers and their fans. Included is a picture of the 1981-82 Isles, who won the Stanley Cup. The most interesting article was about Indianapolis' rich goaltending tradition, which includes Hall of Famers Terry Sawchuk and Glenn Hall. Local advertisements include The Bedroom, Jack's Pizza, WFMS 95.5, J. Ross Browne's Whaling Station and WIBC 1070 AM.

Sources:
Central Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from hockeydb.com)
The Checker Flag: 1982-83 Indianapolis Checkers program

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Another Program I Want: 1983-84 Tulsa Oilers

I'm going to add another program to my list of "wants": the 1983-84 Tulsa Oilers. The reason? Read this article. Quite an interesting story.

Basically, the following events happened:

1. Oilers ownership declared bankruptcy midway through the season.
2. Oilers lose arena lease and fold.
3. CHL and the New York Rangers (Oilers' parent team) split the costs of keeping the Oilers alive for the rest of the season as a travel team.
4. Oilers players are put up in a Denver hotel.
5. Oilers make the playoffs.
6. Oilers win the Adams Cup while not playing a home game in over a month.
7. Oilers finally cease operations.
8. The entire CHL follows suit and folds as well.

It would make a great ESPN 30 for 30 episode. Programs do exist, but I haven't seen one from that season yet. Hopefully I can find one reasonably priced.

Dallas Black Hawks (1979-80, CHL)

1979-80 Regular Season
Black Hawks vs. Tulsa Oilers
     The Central Hockey League's Dallas Black Hawks had been in existence since 1967-68, relocating from St. Louis after the arrival of the NHL Blues. Originally a Chicago farm club, the Hawks were now the primary farm club of the Vancouver Canucks. The Hawks played their home games at the 7,593-seat State Fair Coliseum and were coached by John Choyce, who was also GM.
     Dallas was coming off an Adams Cup championship in 1978-79. The Hawks were a juggernaut in the CHL. Since arriving in 1967-68, Dallas had reached the Adams Cup Finals nine times in 12 years (including an incredible six years straight), winning the Cup four times.
     1979-80 would see that come to a screeching halt. Dallas would fall to last place in the CHL that year (excluding the Cincinnati Stingers, who folded at midseason). Their 29-43-8 record was eight points behind sixth-place Houston, who had the last playoff berth. The Hawks were also 39 points behind league-best Salt Lake.
     Dallas actually had a decent offense that year, as they scored 291 goals, fourth-most in the league. Leading the charge was Gary Minor, with 31 goals and 83 points. Rob Tudor had the most goals with 39, while four other Hawks had at least 20.
     Fans might as well called the Hawks the "Allas Black Hawks", because there didn't seem to be any "D" that season. The Hawks allowed 334 goals, worst by 15 goals. Four different goaltenders were between the pipes in 1979-80. Ken Ellacot was the starter and went 19-28-5 with a 3.77 GAA and 5 shutouts. Gary Bromley backed him up with an 8-9-3 record and 4.10 GAA. Curt Ridley and Rick Martens were also in goal that year.
     The defending champs laid a Texas-sized egg that year, so the Adams Cup was up for grabs. The Salt Lake Golden Eagles took home the Cup that year, defeating Fort Worth in seven games. Choyce would be replaced behind the Hawks bench by Dan Belisle the following season.
     There are 64 pages in this program, all black-and-white and on glossy paper. The Canucks are given a half-page article, including a color picture of their outrageous home "V for Victory" jerseys. Not much else in terms of articles, this one is mostly advertisements. A few players have a bio, and the rosters for the Hawks and the Tulsa Oilers (that night's opponent) are listed. Former Saginaw Gear Larry Hopkins was with Tulsa that season. As of this program, the Hawks were 3-4-1, one point behind Tulsa (4-3-0). A diagram of the Coliseum is given and ticket prices that year ranged from $3-6, and students and military personel received a $1 discount with ID. Parking was free too, btw. Local ads include WFAA News Talk 570 AM, Kip's Big Boy, Wyatt's Cafeteria's, Tony Roma's and Late Chevrolet.

Aftermath: The Hawks would rebound in 1980-81, going 56-16-8 and clinch first place. One final trip to the Adams Cup Finals in 1981-82 would be the swan song for the franchise. The Central League was spread throughout the United States, and attendance numbers could not offset the soaring travel costs. The Dallas Black Hawks, along with Fort Worth and Oklahoma, folded after the season. The CHL would follow suit in 1984. Dallas would later be home to the new CHL's Dallas Freeze from 1992-95. The Minnesota North Stars would arrive in Dallas by 1993, and are still there to this day.

Sources:
Central Hockey League Statistics: 1979-80 (from hockeydb.com)
1979-80 Dallas Blackhawks program

Detroit Red Wings (1980-81, NHL)

1980-81 Regular Season
Wings vs. Washington Capitals
     By 1980-81, the Detroit Red Wings were slowly reaching the end of their "Dead Things" era. From 1966-67 to 1985-86, the Wings missed the playoffs in all but four seasons. A myriad of coaches and general managers had come and gone during that era, and the Wings remained buried deep in the standings.
     1980-81 was more of the same, as the Wings retained control of the Norris Division cellar, with an ugly 19-43-18 record. In most seasons, that would have given Detroit the #1 overall pick, but Winnipeg was especially horrific in 1981, winning only nine games. The Wings were four points behind fourth-place Hartford, but 47 behind first-place Montreal.
     Jimmy Skinner, former head coach of the 1955 Wings (the last Detroit team to win the Stanley Cup) was now the general manager. His former captain, Ted Lindsay, started the year as coach, but was canned after a 3-14-3 start in favor of Wayne Maxner. Didn't matter who was in charge. The Wings were a mess and their offense had all the firepower of a toy popgun, scoring only 252 goals, second-worst in the league. Leading the so-called attack was Dale McCourt, the #1 overall pick in 1977. McCourt, a dependable winger during the lean years, had 30 goals and 86 points. John Ogrodnick would chip in 35 goals that year as well. Young Mike Foligno was the only other forward with at least 20 goals (28), and underrated defenseman Reed Larson banged in 27. Big dropoff after that, though, as most of the veterans had disappointing seasons.
      The Wings had the sixth-worst defense in the NHL, allowing 339 goals. Most of the team was deep in the red on the +/- category, including Reed Larson, with an embarrassing -35. Gilles Gilbert, just two years removed from that heartbreaking "Too Many Men on the Ice" loss with Boston, took the brunt of the abuse that season in goal. Gilbert went 11-24-9 with a 4.01 GAA. Larry Lozinski was next in line, going 6-11-7 with a 4.32 GAA. Veteran Jim Rutherford, Claude Legris and Al Jensen also saw time between the pipes.
     Once again, the Wings failed to make the playoffs that year. But, thanks to a free agency mess in 1979, the Wings couldn't benefit from the #2 overall pick in the draft. Due to the Wings signing goaltender Rogie Vachon in 1979, the Kings countered by claiming McCourt. McCourt refused to report, and both teams made a deal: the Wings received Vachon and McCourt, the Kings helped themselves to Andre St. Laurent and the Wings' first round picks in 1980 and 1981. So if you believe the Wings are too passive in trades and free agency today, remember this one.
     This program is 62 pages long and is actually two programs in one. Inside is a copy of the NHL's Goal magazine, featuring the Capitals' Ryan Walter. The Capitals were the opponents for this game on March 26, 1981, and blanked the Wings, 2-0, in front of 12,813. Most of the pages are black-and-white, but quite a few are color. One unusual article is a "handwriting analysis" of the Wings' Jim Korn. Betty Goldner noted how "the emotional slant of Jim's handwriting analysis" showed that Korn was one that "does not show his emotions very freely". Also, Goldner wrote that Korn had "a very stubborn streak" and "enjoys activities that appeal to the senses such as good food and good company". Okay then. Local ads include Nemo's Saloon, Dino's Lounge, Taylor Sporting Goods and Vernor's Ginger Ale. Lots of liquor ads in this one too, which kind of made sense, since one likely had to have a few drinks to watch the Dead Things.

Aftermath: The Wings would continue to struggle the following year, going 21-47-12. After the 1981-82 season, longtime owner Bruce Norris sold the franchise to Little Caesar's founder Mike Illitch. Illitch would then hire Jim Devellano from the New York Islanders as GM, and together would begin to rebuild the franchise from the ground up. By 1987, the Wings were in the Campbell Conference Finals, and Stanley Cup Champions ten years later. Illitch continues to own the Wings to this day.

Sources:
1980-81 Detroit Red Wings program
Goldner, Betty. "Handwriting Analysis of the Red Wings: Jim Korn".
National Hockey League Statistics: 1980-81 (from hockey-reference.com)

Flint Generals (2008-09, IHL)

2008-09 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     The Flint Generals were in their 16th season of operation by 2009. This tied the original Flint Generals of the IHL for the longest stay by a pro hockey team in the Buick City. The modern Generals were now part of the "new" IHL, which the United Hockey League renamed itself the season before. The team was owned by a consortium called The Perani Group (TPG), which included Perani's Hockeyworld owner and Flint legend Bob Perani (hence the name). The team played it's home games at Perani's Hockey World and Event Center.
     The franchise, and the league for that matter, had been in decline for the past several seasons, attendance-wise and in the standings. 2008-09 saw the Gens hit rock bottom both on and off the ice. Head Coach Peter South, an unpopular midseason replacement the previous year, was suddenly expected to "co-coach with former General Bobby Reynolds after a slow start to the year. Seeing the writing on the wall, South stepped aside and Reynolds finished out the year. Problems with unpaid bills, unpaid players and unpaid rent hounded the team throughout the season. Players faced eviction notices from their apartment complex when TPG failed to pay the rent. In February, injured forward Mike Alexiou sued TPG and the Generals, claiming he was owned thousands of dollars due to the franchise not having workman's compensation available.
     Due to a weak lineup and all the drama off the ice, the Generals crashed to a 22-47-7 record. Their 51 points and 22 wins were the worst in franchise history, and only behind the 1985-86 Flint Spirits for ineptitude. The Gens were 14 points behind the fifth-place Bloomington Prairie Thunder, and a whopping 53 behind first-place Fort Wayne. As a result, just 1,613 per game bothered to show up to Perani Arena, easily a franchise low.
     The Generals had the second-worst offense that season, scoring just 241 goals. They were led by Greg Bullock, who had 27 goals and 85 points. Left-winger Steve Rymsha ended up with 32 goals, but was traded to Port Huron at the deadline. John DiPace, who was traded himself to Muskegon, was the other 20+ goal scorer in 2008-09.
     The Generals were rather porous on defense, allowing an IHL-worst 359 goals. It wasn't even close that year--the next worst team, Muskegon, allowed 298. The Gens cycled through eight different goaltenders that year, a high number even for the minors. The main netminder was former MSU Spartan Chad Alban. Alban played in 51 games, going 15-29-6 with a 4.36 GAA and 1 shutout. Of the other seven goaltenders, a noteworthy one was Manon Rheaume. Rheaume played in part of a game that season for charity.
     With a record that bad, the Generals were miles away from the postseason. Fort Wayne won their second-straight Turner Cup, this time over Muskegon. The Perani Group disintegrated during the offseason, and the Gens were propped up by the Franke family for 2009-10.
     As for the program, it's not too bad, better than I expected. It's 47 pages, all on glossy paper and all in black-and-white. There are a few articles about the IHL's history and hockey history in Flint. Each player has their own bio as well. IHL stats for that season are available as well. Unfortunately, there are spelling errors here and there. Also, some of the pictures are pixelated. Not a bad design, but I've seen better with the Generals. Local ads include Firkin & Fox, Scott Stetson Photography and YaYa's Flamebroiled Chicken.
     I remember this season being a joke from the get-go. Unpaid bills, unpaid players, unpaid rent, it was both sad and frustrating. Granted, the economy was in the gutter, and Flint was hit hard by the recession. But, the fact is, the players didn't deserve to go through this mess. It just seemed like TPG tried to put the worst team possible on the ice. The glory years of 1995-2000 were a distant memory. I didn't go to any Generals games that year, opting for Port Huron and Saginaw instead.

Sources:
International Hockey League Statistics: 2008-09 (from hockeydb.com)
Savage, Brendan. "Forward Mike Alexiou to sue Flint Generals". Mlive, 25 February 2009.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Peoria Rivermen (1993-94, IHL)

1993-94 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     As you can tell by the programa cover, the Peoria Rivermen were in their tenth season of existence. The franchise originally started in 1983 as the Peoria Prancers, but changed their names after two lackluster seasons and new ownership. The Rivermen were the primary affiliate of the St. Louis Blues and played their home games at the 9,315-seat Peoria Civic Center.
     Long-time NHL forward Paul MacLean was behind the bench for the 1993-94 season. The Rivermen were coming off a last-place finish in the Midwest Division (third place out of three teams, actually) in 1992-93. This year would be different, as they jumped to first place, with a 51-24-6 record. Their 108 points just barely edged out second-place Cincinnati and was only seven points behind league-best Las Vegas.
     MacLean's squad scored the fourth-most goals in the IHL that year, piling up 327 goals. They were led by Doug Evans, who scored 27 goals and 90 points. Tony Hrkac led the team in goals with an even thirty, while three others scored at least 20.
     Peoria used four different goaltenders that year. Leading the way between the pipes was Geoff Sargent, who went 25-9-2 with a 2.45 GAA and 2 shutouts in 41 games. His main backup was Parris Duffus, who sported a 19-10-3 record with a 4.58 GAA. David Goverde and Nick Vitucci also saw action in the Rivermen net. As a team, Peoria allowed 294 goals.
     Peoria drew the defending Turner Cup Champion Fort Wayne Komets in Round One of the 1994 Turner Cup Playoffs. The Komets finished the season at 41-29-11--not an easy opponent. In the best-of-seven series, Fort Wayne downed the Rivermen in six. The Komets would go on to lose in the Turner Cup Finals to the Atlanta Knights in six games.
     Very nice program, comparable to the Vipers programs I own. The picture on the front is a picture of the team's first goal from a game against the Flint Generals. As for the program, it's 96 pages long, all on glossy paper and mostly black-and-white. The front office and coaching staff each have their own bios, as do the players. There's a section about the Peoria Rivermen Hall of Fame as well as a preview of the 1993-94 Blues season. Local advertisements include Hunt's Family Restaurant, WTAZ "Talk Radio 102", Illinois State Redbirds basketball and Mulligan's Irish Pub and Grill.

Aftermath: The Rivermen would exist through the 1995-96 season. The franchise then relocated to San Antonio, Texas, and were renamed the San Antonio Dragons, who lasted just two seasons before folding. A new Rivermen team played in the ECHL from 1996-2005, then were part of the AHL from 2005-13. That franchise then relocated to Utica, New York, for the 2013-14 season. Peoria is now home to a third Rivermen franchise, this time in the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League.

Sources:
Peoria Rivermen Statistics: 1993-94 (from hockeydb.com)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Syracuse Blazers (1973-74, NAHL)

1973-74 Regular Season
Blazers vs. Broome Dusters
     Syracuse, New York, has been part of numerous minor-pro hockey leagues. The Blazers arrived on the scene in 1967, joining the Eastern Hockey League as an expansion franchise. When the EHL split up, the Blazers switched to the North American Hockey League (no relation to the junior league). Ron Ingram was General Manager and Head Coach that season. The Blazers were an affiliate of the WHA's New York Golden Blades and played their home  games at the Onondaga County War Memorial, which sat 6,000.
     Syracuse had an excellent season in Year One of the NAHL, running away with the league crown with a 54-16-4 record. Their 112 points were 19 more than second place Maine.
     Ingram's Blazers had no problem scoring goals, as they notched 359 goals, second-most in the league. The team had a trio of 40-goal scorers, led by Mike Morton, who had 44 goals and 95 points. Four other players had at least 20 goals on the year.
     Syracuse was easily tops in the NAHL on defense, allowing only 219 goals. They went with four different goaltenders that year, led by former Port Huron Flag Ted Ouimet. Ouimet was in 35 games with a 3.03 GAA. His main backup was Gary Kurt, who played in 24 games. Russ Gillow and Guy DeNoncourt also saw action that year. Ouimet and Gillow played in the playoffs.
     The Blazers opened the playoffs in a bizarre 5-team round robin setup. After going 6-1 in that tournament, Syracuse then quickly dispatched Johnstown in five games. In the finals, the Blazers crushed the Long Island Cougars in four straight, outscoring them 27-5.
     This is one of my most beat-up programs. There are quite a few stains and dirt marks on it, but none of the 42 pages are torn. The usual ads and articles are there too. Articles include a season preview of the New York Golden Blades, a preview of that night's opponent (the Broome Dusters) and the success of the Blazers on and off the ice. There's a picture of "Syracuse's New Matinee Idol", Bill Goldthorpe. Goldthorpe, as of this program, had already spent 43 minutes in the "sin bin" in only 7 games. He would go on to hit 285 PIM in just 55 games that year. "Big afro, 22, 23, look out for him...". Local ads include The Board Room, North Syracuse Music, The Copper Kettle and Mattydale VFW Post 3146.

Aftermath: The Blazers would exist until 1976-77 season, winning one more NAHL Championship. The team would  fold after that year. Syracuse would later be home to the AHL's Syracuse Firebirds and are currently home to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch.


Sources:
Syracuse Blazers Program, 1973-74 season
NAHL Statistics: 1973-74 (from hockeydb.com)

Rochester Americans (1974-75, AHL)

1974-75 Regular Season
Americans vs. Syracuse Eagles
     The Rochester Americans have been one of the longest-lasting minor league hockey teams in history. Starting in 1956, the Amerks have been a member of the American Hockey League every season since--only the Hershey Bears and Fort Wayne Komets have lasted in the same city longer.
     In 1974-75, the Amerks were the primary affiliate of the Boston Bruins. Rochester's previous coach was now the bench boss in Boston. You might have heard of him. Outrageous suits, 12-inch collars, controversial fan of "Rock 'em, Sock 'em" hockey? That's right, Don Cherry. Cherry was replaced by Dick Mattiussi, former defenseman. Mattiussi inherited a talented bunch, as the working agreement with Boston allowed the Americans to keep the best players from last year's team and the Bruins' former affiliate, the now-defunct Boston Braves.
     The 1974-75 Americans would finish 42-25-9, good enough for second place in the Northern Division. Had they played in the Southern Division, the Americans would have ran away with first place, but ended up just five points back of Providence in the North. Rochester fans flocked to the War Memorial that year, averaging 5,510 per game in the 7,010-seat arena.
     Rochester scored the most goals in the AHL in '74-75, with 317 goals (tied with Providence). Center Doug Gibson led the attack, notching 44 goals and 116 points in 75 games. Two other Amerks hit the 40-goal plateau: Barry Merrell and Dave Hynes. Ron Garawasiuk (36) and Gordie Clark (22) had at least 20.
     On defense, the Americans were almost as good, allowing just 243 goals, which was the second-fewest in the AHL (not counting Baltimore, a mid-season casualty). Dave Reece and Bob Snedden more or less shared the netminding duties that year. Reece went 19-16-7 with a 2.92 GAA and 1 shutout, while Snedden went 22-7-2 with a 3.14 GAA. Ken Broderick made it into 3 games (1-2-0, 5.00 GAA).
     Rochester qualified for the 1975 Calder Cup Playoffs. Their first opponent was Nova Scotia, who the Americans eventually put away in six games (two went to OT). In Round Two, the Amerks ran into an inspired Springfield Indians club. The Indians started the season as the Springfield Kings, then were purchased by original owner Eddie Shore, who renamed the team and watched them get hot at the right time. Springfield downed the Amerks in six games, then went on to defeat New Haven to win the Calder Cup.
     Pretty nice program, 55 pages that are mostly black and white, though some ads are in color. Articles include a rehash of the previous seasons and the revival on and off the ice for the Americans. Dick Mattiussi has his own bio page. There's also a memorial page to former Americans player "Red" Armstrong, who died in 1974. The most interesting article is called "Rink Ramblings", which has news from around the AHL and Boston. As of this program, the Amerks were "closing in on the 100,000 mark in attendance that season. Local ads include Uncle Angelo's, WROC 1280 AM, Rochester Griffins Lacrosse and Genesee Beer.
     That night's opponent was the Syracuse Eagles, who included former NHL goaltender Jacques Caron and legendary tough guy Bill Goldthrope (the inspiration for Ogie Oglethorpe in Slapshot).

Sources:
1974-75 Rochester Americans Program
American Hockey League Statistics: 1974-75 (from hockeydb.com)

Philadelphia Ramblers (1957-58, EHL)

1957-58 Regular Season
Ramblers vs. Charlotte Clippers
     Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been home to two NHL clubs: the Quakers who lasted just one season, and the Flyers, who were born in 1967. In between, Philly was home to a handful of minor-pro clubs in various leagues. One of them was the Philadelphia Ramblers of the Eastern Hockey League, a blood-and-guts league that was a couple notches below the NHL. The Ramblers played their home games at the old Philadelphia Arena and were coached by Edgar "Chirp" Brenchley.
     Brenchley's Ramblers had a so-so season in 1957-58, going 30-31-3. Their 63 points put them in fifth place, just two behind fourth-place Johnstown and 14 behind league-best Charlotte.
     On offense, the Ramblers potted 223 goals, fourth in the league. They were led by Bill Kurtz (featured on the cover), who had 35 goals and 71 points in 64 games. Three other players, Rheal Savard (24), Nick Rukavina (22) and Ross Turnbull (20) were the other Ramblers with at least 20 goals.
    Philadelphia allowed the third-fewest goals in 1957-58, just 211. This was the era of teams employing just one goaltender, and the EHL was no different. Ivan Walmsley played in all 63 games that year.
     No playoffs for the Ramblers that year, as they, along with last-place Clinton, were the lone teams left out in the cold. As for the program, this is one of the older ones I own. It's also one of the smallest hockey programs I own too--just 13 pages, but with plenty of ads. It starts off with an articles about Coach Brenchley and Ray Crew. Each player has their own "thumbnail sketch", aka short bio. Local advertisements include Berry Bros. Buick, Pop Corn Sez. Co., Vincent P.Sully Commercial Printer and Ballantine Beer.

     The Ramblers played the Charlotte Clippers that night. Notable participants include:

John Muckler (Charlotte D): Long-time NHL Coach in Edmonton and Buffalo
John Brophy (Charlotte D): Coached the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1980s
Bill Sinnett (Charlotte RW): Future Port Huron Flags star
Les Binkley (Charlotte G): Future Pittsburgh Penguin
Ted Harris (Philadelphia D): Long-time NHL defenseman, four-time Stanley Cup winner with Montreal
"Chirp" Brenchley (Philadelphia Coach): First Coach in Port Huron Flags history

Aftermath: The Ramblers would exist through the 1963-64 season before folding. Philadelphia, of course, would join the NHL as part of the "Class of '67" group. The city would still be home to minor-league hockey since then, including the AHL Firebirds in the 1970s and AHL Phantoms from 1996-2009.

Sources:
Eastern Hockey League Statistics: 1957-58 (from hockeydb.com)
1957-58 Philadelphia Ramblers Program, 22 November 1957

Indianapolis Checkers (1984-85, IHL)

1984-85 Regular Season
Checkers vs. Muskegon Lumberjacks
     The Indianapolis Checkers were born in 1979, to replace the defunct WHA Racers, who folded during the 1978-79 season. The team was the primary affiliate of the New York Islanders and were originally part of the Central Hockey League. The Checkers played their home games at the Indiana Fairgrounds Coliseum, which held 8,421.       The Islanders had a talent-rich farm system and the Checkers greatly benefited, winning two Adams Cups in 1982 and 1983, then lost in the final Adams Cup Finals in 1984.
     The Checkers were a solid franchise in a successful farm system, but the CHL itself was a different matter. Unlike the Great Lakes-based IHL, the CHL was spread throughout the country, mostly west of the Mississippi River. Teams would have to travel as far north as Billings, Montana, as far south as Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, to as far east as Indianapolis. Due to sky-high travel costs and declining attendance, the CHL eventually collapsed after the 1983-84 season. The Checkers, along with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, joined the IHL for 1984-85.
     The Islanders moved their primary farm club from Indianapolis to the AHL's Springfield Indians after the CHL blew apart. They, in turn, swapped their secondary farm rights from Toledo to the Checkers, who were also affiliated with Boston and Minnesota. The Checkers were then sold to Al Savill, who once owned the Columbus/Grand Rapids Owls, former Checkers Coach/GM Fred Creighton. Creighton stayed on as GM and hired former defenseman Darcy Regier as coach.
     The Checkers could not replicate their CHL success in the IHL. In fact, the team slumped to fourth place in the IHL's West Division. Their forgettable 31-47-4 record was the third-worst in the league, just nine points ahead of league-worst Milwaukee.
     Indianapolis iced the weakest offense in the IHL that year, scoring just 264 goals.  They were led by CHL holdover Charlie Skojdt, who had 33 goals and 67 points. The only other 30-goal scorer that year was Neal Coulter, who bagged 31. Bob Lakso and Garth McGuigan were the other Checkers with at least 20 goals.
     While Indy allowed far more goals than they scored (318), that amount was the fourth-lowest in the IHL. Rob Holland, another Checker from the CHL days, was the main netminder in '84-85. Holland played in 57 games, going 23-29-3 with a respectable 3.28 GAA and 4 shutouts. Todd Lumbard, picked up from Flint, and Don Sylvestri were his backups that year. Holland drew the nod for the playoffs.
     Despite their woeful record, the Checkers did make it into the Turner Cup Playoffs, as only Milwaukee was left out. For Round One, Indy drew the Peoria Rivermen, who went 48-25-9 and won the Huber Trophy. The Checkers stretched the Rivermen to the limit, but fell in seven games. Peoria would go on to win the Turner Cup over Muskegon in seven games.
     This program is from the October 30 game against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The Lumberjacks were owned by former CHL boss Larry Gordon, who purchased the moribund franchise for $1. The revitalized Jacks featured several CHL alums, including sniper Jock Callander. Muskegon would end up winning 50 games, a near 180-degree turnaround from last season, but the Checkers won that night, 2-1. As for the program, it's 68 pages, mostly black-and-white. The usual program essentials are there. There are letters from the Mayor of Indianapolis and the General Managers of each NHL affiliate. Savill, Creighton and Regier each have their own half-page bios early on. There is also an article about the "New Indianapolis Checkers" and about Indy's last IHL team, the Chiefs. Local ads include Lowell's Discount Foods, WIBC 1070 AM, Indianapolis Indians baseball and Jim Murphy's Steakhouse.

Aftermath: The Checkers would play two more seasons in the IHL, then relocate to Denver, Colorado, for the 1987-88 season. After two years there, the renamed Denver Rangers would move south to Phoenix and become the Phoenix Roadrunners. The franchise would fold in 1997. The expansion Indianapolis Ice would replace the Checkers in 1988 and receive a big boost when the Chicago Blackhawks made them their top farm club. Indianapolis is now home to the ECHL's Indy Fuel.

Sources:
International Hockey League Statistics: 1984-85 (from hockeydb.com)
1984-85 Indianapolis Checkers program