Friday, March 23, 2018

Port Huron Prowlers (FHL, 2017-18)

2017-18 Regular Season
Prowlers vs. Cornwall Nationals
Prowlers vs. North Shore Knights
     The Port Huron Prowlers are currently in Year 3 of existence in the independent "Class-A" Federal Hockey League (FHL). They are owned by Barry Soskin, who also owns the FHL's Danville Dashers and Carolina Thunderbirds. Joe Pace, Sr. is behind the bench after taking over at mid-season last year for Trevor Karasiewicz. The team plays it's home games at 3,400-seat  McMorran Arena.
     After missing the playoffs in 2016-17, the Prowlers shipped leading scorer Ahmed Mahfouz to the Cornwall Nationals (close to his hometown of Ottawa). The team got off to a slow start in 2017-18, with a 5-5-1 record through the first 11 games....

...and then they got on the mother of all hot streaks.

     After that slow start, the Prowlers ripped through a 12-game unbeaten streak. Following an overtime loss in Carolina, the Prowlers are currently on a 23-game unbeaten streak (counting forfeits by North Shore and Cornwall). As of March 23, their record is 41-5-2 (or 38-5-3-2, depending on whether you look at or the FHL website)
     I remember the glory days of the Flint Generals Detroit Vipers and how strong those teams could be. And, yes, I know the reputation of the Federal Hockey League.  But in all the years I've followed minor league hockey teams, I have never seen a team as utterly dominant as the 2017-18 Prowlers have been.
     I have been to two Prowlers games so far this year. The first one was Friday, February 2nd, against the Cornwall Nationals. The Prowlers won that game, 8-2, the fourth win of this 23-game streak. (Note: The Nationals folded shortly after due to declining attendance). The second game I saw was Saturday, March 17th, against the North Shore Knights (formerly the St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints). The Prowlers won that one, 6-3, win #18 of this streak. That win clinched first overall for the Prowlers, who are currently 32 points head of the second-place Watertown Wolves, who have their own 10-game unbeaten streak as well.
     This is the first year that I have had to pay for Prowlers programs, but they cost only $2. The programs are 16 pages, all in color on glossy paper. Both programs say "Volume 1", so I imagine they have used the same programs for the entire year. The rosters for each team are printed on separate pages. Local advertisements include Maria's Downtown Cafe, Flagship Community Federal Credit Union, Black River Country Club, and Meijer.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Flint Generals yearbook (IHL, 1975-76)

     Here's the other Flint Generals yearbook I recently purchased. This one is from the 1975-76 season, the seventh season in franchise history. Similar format to the other yearbook, as each of the previous six Generals teams and their statistics are given. Each player from the 1975-76 campaign has their own black-and-white photo with a short blurb about them. Stats for every player that wore the Generals jersey are listed in the back of the yearbook.
     Flint Journal sportswriter Len Hoyes introduced the season and wrote about the sale of the team to a local group led by Dr. Eugene Chardoul. Chardoul, by the way, would own the franchise for not only the remainder of it's stay in Flint, but also it's final four seasons in Saginaw. Attendance apparently was as strong as ever, as Hoyes noted that the Generals averaged about 98% capacity in the 4,021-seat IMA Sports Arena. He also pointed out that the team would play host to their "One Millionth Fan" in just their seventh season of play.  Starting this season, the Generals would not only be affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, but also the Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Flames
     The 1975-76 Flint Generals would slip to third place in the IHL's Northern Division, with a 34-30-14 record, one point behind second-place Port Huron and one point ahead of fourth-place Muskegon. The Generals would be blown away in Round One of the Turner Cup Playoffs by the Port Huron Flags in four straight. The Flags would reach the Turner Cup Finals, only to lose to the Dayton Gems in four games.

Here are a few notable Flint Generals players from the 1975-76 season:

Rick St. Croix shared netminding duties with veteran Merlin Jenner. St. Croix played in 42 games that year, and returned as the Generals' starting netminder in 1976-77. His strong play in 1977 earned him a call-up to the AHL's Maine Mariners, the Flyers top farm team, for 1977-78. After playing ten games with Philadelphia in the next three seasons, Ric stuck with the Flyers from 1980-83. His best NHL season came in 1980-81, in which he played 27 games and carried a sparkling 2.49 GAA with two shutouts. St. Croix was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1982-83 season. After bouncing back and forth between the Leafs and their AHL affiliate in St. Catherines, he finished his career in 1985-86 with the IHL's Fort Wayne Komets.

     Detroit native Bob Goodenow joined the Generals in 1974 after two seasons with Harvard University, where he earned his degree in Government and Economics. Goodenow had a fine rookie season for Flint, scoring 18 goals and 39 points in 59 games, along with 66 penalty minutes. Injuries caused his performance to slip in 1975-76, scoring only 7 goals and 26 points in 49 games. 
     While his stint with the Generals was brief, Bob made his mark in hockey after he hung up the blades. Goodenow returned to school at the University of Detroit, graduating in 1979. He replaced disgraced NHLPA head Alan Eagleson in 1992 and kept that job until he resigned in 2005. Goodenow was in charge of the NHLPA during three lockouts, in 1992, 1995 and 2005. After resigning from the NHLPA, he helped form what would become the Kontinental Hockey League.

     Kirk Bowman played one playoff game with the 1972-73 Generals, then joined the EHL's Greensboro Generals the following season. He returned to Flint in 1974-75 and scored 29 goals and 108 points, earning a call-up to the CHL's Dallas Black Hawks in time for the postseason. Back in Flint for the 1975-76 campaign, Kirk had a career season, scoring 44 goals and 107 points to lead the Generals in scoring. After the Generals were swept in the playoffs, Bowman returned south to Dallas, helping the Hawks reach the CHL Finals. After 11 games in Flint, Kirk Bowman reached "The Show", going straight to the Chicago Blackhawks. He bounced back and forth between the Blackhawks and their minor league teams in Dallas and New Brunswick before finishing his career in Europe.


1975-76 Flint Generals Yearbook

Statistics for players from

Flint Generals yearbook (IHL, 1973-74)

     I recently bought two yearbooks from the Flint Generals of the IHL. This one is from the 1973-74 season. It's a 40-page book, all in black-and-white, and on glossy paper. Each player for that season has a full page photo and a short bio. The statistics and a team photo for each Generals season are included. Stats for every player that wore the "blue and gold" are listed in the back of the yearbook. Flint Journal sportswriter Len Hoyes added an article previewing the remainder of the 1973-74 campaign. 
     One thing that Hoyes noted in his article was about attendance:
"With all of their problems, the Generals were still attracting fans at a rate of 3,950 per game. Attendance was down slightly, but Flint's percentage rate of almost 100 percent remained the envy of minor league hockey." (Hoyes, 1974)
     The original Generals were a popular team for most of their existence, and attendance only bottomed out when the region's economy tanked in the late 1970s-early 1980s. But 3,950 per game in a 4,021-seat arena is incredible! And apparently those numbers were lower than in previous years! The UHL Generals, at their peak popularity in the mid-1990s, averaged a little over 3,700 per game. IHL attendance figures are hard to find, so this was a very interesting stat.

     The Generals stumbled to a 30-43-3 record, just two points ahead of last-place Port Huron. They won their first-ever series, downing the Toledo Hornets in 3 games (best of three) before bowing out to the eventual champion Des Moines Capitols in 5 games (best of seven) in the semifinals.

Here are a few notable players from the 1973-74 Flint Generals season:

     Bob Perani was acquired from the Muskegon Mohawks in a midseason trade. He stabilized the Flint net and became the first star player in Generals history, playing in 34 games, posting four shutouts and a sparkling 2.86 GAA on a last place expansion team. Perani would finish his career with the Generals, retiring after the 1973-74 season. He would open Perani's Pizza Arena in 1972 and Perani's Hockey World in 1976, a hockey equipment business that would grow into several franchises in the United States and Canada. He would later become part owner of the IHL's Flint Spirits in 1985 and the UHL's Flint Generals in 2007. He was also one of two original Generals to have his number retired by the UHL franchise. The IMA Sports Arena, the home of the Generals, would eventually be renamed "Perani's Hockey World and Event Center" (later Perani Arena) in his honor. Bob Perani passed away at age 69 in 2012 while flying from Detroit to Tokyo.

     Doug Manchak joined the Generals for the 1972-73 and immediately made his presence felt, with 64 points in only 63 games. A consistent goal-scorer in his first three seasons in the IHL, Manchak hit career highs in 1974-75, leading the league in goal scoring with 61 goals. Injuries derailed his promising career, and he was traded to Toledo during the 1975-76 season. A popular player in his day, Manchak's #16 was retired by the UHL's Flint Generals in 1998, along with teammate Bob Perani's #1. Manchak sadly passed away in July of 1998.

     Wayne Zuk arrived in Flint after a midseason trade with the Toledo Blades. A consistent goal-scorer throughout his IHL career, Zuk's best season came in 1972-73, his first as the Generals' captain, as he scored 51 goals to go with 112 points. He followed that performance up with a 37-goal, 83-point campaign in 1973-74, a season that saw Zuk play in two games with the WHA's Edmonton Oilers, the highest level of hockey he played in his career. Zuk would be traded to the Saginaw Gears during the 1975-76 season. In 1976-77, the final season of his career, Wayne scored 24 goals and 63 points and helped lead the Gears to their first Turner Cup Championship.

     Frank Beaton had one of the greatest nicknames for an enforcer: Seldom. He arrived in Flint in 1973 as an undrafted left winger after two seasons in the Southern Ontario Junior Hockey League. He played two seasons in the "blue and gold" and established himself as one of the tougher players in the IHL. In his rookie season of 1973-74, Beaton had 9 goals, 23 points and 190 penalty minutes in 66 games. He followed that up with a 4-goal, 21-point and 175-PIM year in 1974-75. Frank went on to have a long career in hockey, spent mostly in the minors with a few seasons in the WHA. He made it to the NHL for two games with the New York Rangers in 1978-79, followed by a 23-game stint in 1980-81. He retired after the 1982-83 season with the Birmingham South Stars of the Central Hockey League.


Hoyes, Len. Article about the 1973-74 Flint Generals Season (no title). Flint Generals 1973-74 Yearbook.

1973-74 Flint Generals Yearbook

Port Huron Flags (IHL, 1967-68)

1967-68 Regular Season
Flags vs. Dayton Gems
     The 1967-68 season was the sixth season in the International Hockey League (IHL) for the Port Huron Flags. The Flags were owned by John Wismer, who also owned radio stations WHLS and WSAQ. Jerry Toppazzini, who spent twelve years in the NHL, mostly with the Boston Bruins, was player/coach that year, taking over for Lloyd Maxfield, who was now Administrative Assistant to the President. The Flags played their home games at the 3,400-seat McMorran Arena.
     Maxfield's Flags just missed the playoffs in 1967, finishing three points behind fourth-place Des Moines. Toppazzini's Flags fared much worse in 1968, finishing in sixth place (out of seven) with a 25-36-11 record. Their 61 points were twelve points behind the fourth-place Fort Wayne Komets and 37 behind the league-leading Muskegon Mohawks.
     The Flags owned the third worst offense (269 goals scored) and the worst defense (343 allowed) in the IHL in 1967-68. Randy Prior led the team in scoring, with 56 goals and 90 points. Marty Reynolds (38), Ken Gribbons (28) and Frank Golembrosky (22) were the other Flags with over 20 goals on the season. Coach Toppazzini had 37 points in 37 games (11 goals).
     Ray Reeson played in 54 games for Port Huron in his first full professional season. He would go on to play several seasons in the CHL and AHL. His backup was Norm Jacques, an original Flags player. Jacques would play in 27 games in his final pro season (though he did suit up for one game as an emergency fill-in for the Flags in 1980-81). Gaye Cooley made it into one game, and became the main netminder for the team in 1968-69.
     This program is from a Saturday, March 16th game against the Dayton Gems. The
player on the front of the program is defenseman Guy James. James, another member of the first Flags team, had become and Iron Man, having not missed a hockey game in nearly ten years at that time. That night's game was the 700th consecutive game for James. Page 9 of this program includes a nice article about his accomplishment. Another notable Flags player was center Bob McCammon. McCammon would later become head coach of the Wings/Flags himself in the mid-1970s and eventually coach the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks in the 1980s.
     This is a 19-page program, all in black-and-white. Both road and home schedules are included, as well as a team photo from last season's team. Local advertisements include Sperry's (then a department store, now a movie theater), Port Huron Paper Company, Sport Shop Toys, Little Pigs Barbecue, and Port Huron TV Cable Company.
     No playoffs for the second straight season for the Flags, and Coach Toppazzini would be shown the door after only one season. The Muskegon Mohawks would cruise through the Turner Cup Playoffs, downing both the Columbus Checkers and Dayton Gems to win the Turner Cup.

Aftermath: The Flags would replace Toppazzini with Sarnia native Ted Garvin. Garvin would guide the Flags (later Wings) to their greatest era. The team would reach the Turner Cup Finals four times in the next five years, winning it all in 1970-71 and 1971-72. The franchise would remain in Port Huron until ceasing operations after the 1980-81 season due to financial losses reaching over $250,000 in the final year.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1967-68 (from

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Flint Firebirds (OHL, 2017-18)

2017-18 Regular Season
Firebirds vs. Erie Otters
     2017-18 is the third year of Flint Firebirds hockey in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). The Firebirds are coming off a "bounce-back" season in 2016-17, in which they went 32-28-3-5 and made the playoffs after a disastrous inaugural season. Head Coach Ryan Oulahan returned behind the bench, but GM George Burnett was replaced by Barclay Branch (the son of OHL commissioner David Branch).
     This program is from the game I went to between the Firebirds and Erie Otters. The Firebirds were in the middle of a long winless streak, and lost to Erie, 5-2. Probably one of the more uninspired OHL games I have ever went to. Rumors were flying that "suspended" owner Rolf Nilsen and his assistants were causing trouble behind the scenes again, leading to the players being disinterested on the ice.
     The Firebirds have had nice programs in each of their three seasons, and this is no different. It's 64 pages, all in color and on glossy paper. The front office and Coach Oulahan each have their own biographies. There is an article about billet families (the families that have OHL players live with them), and one about players that have been drafted by NHL teams. Local advertisements include Black Rock Bar & Grill, Perani's Hockey World, Sagelink Credit Union and Powers Catholic High School.

Dayton Gems (CHL, 2011-12)

2011-12 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Dayton Gems were members of the Central Hockey League (CHL). They joined the CHL in 2010 when that league merged with the International Hockey League. The Gems played their home games at Hara Arena, a 5,500-seat arena in nearby Trotwood.
      Brian Gratz returned as head coach for the Gems that season. However, 2011-12 was not as good as last year, as the Gems dropped to 23-29-7-7. Their 60 points were good enough for sixth place in the CHL's Turner Division, 22 points behind Quad City for the last playoff berth. Attendance increased slightly from 2010-11, as the Gems drew 2,228 per game, the lowest average in the CHL.
     The Gems struggled both on offense and defense that season, scoring only 185 while allowing 228, both near the bottom of the league. Damian Surma led the team in scoring, with 31 goals and 65 points. Former Port Huron Icehawk Larry Sterling led the team in goaltending, with a 12-14-5 record, a 2.92 GAA and one shutout. The Gems used four other netminders that season.
     The Gems were miles out of the playoff picture in 2011-12. Fellow IHL alum Fort Wayne won the Miron Cup championship by beating the Wichita Thunder.
     Decent program for the Gems that season. It's 33 pages, all in color and on glossy paper. The team had a promotion at every game, from retro jerseys to Angry Birds plushes. Each player had a color picture with their stats. Local advertisements include Super Subby's, Cassano's Pizza and Buckminn's D&D Harley-Davidson.

Aftermath: The Gems suspended operations after this season, due to low attendance. They were replaced by the Dayton Demonz of the Federal Hockey League (FHL). Despite winning the FHL championship in their first season, attendance dropped significantly, leading to the Demonz folding after three years. They were replaced by the the FHL's Dayton Demolition, who promptly folded after the 2015-16 season. Hara Arena, the long time home of minor-pro hockey and concerts in the Dayton area, had by then was falling apart and losing millions and closed shortly after the Demolition folded. 

Central Hockey League Statistics: 2011-12 (from

Monday, July 3, 2017

Saginaw Gears (IHL, 1978-79)

This was the only season of Saginaw Gears hockey I did not have in my collection. Cross one off the "white whale" list....

1978-79 Regular Season
Gears vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     The Saginaw Gears began their sixth season of play in the International Hockey League (IHL). Led by owner Wren Blair and Head Coach/General Manager Don Perry, the Gears had become one of the more stable franchises on and off the ice in the league. The Gears had been a Turner Cup contender for most of their existence, reaching the Finals three times, winning it all in 1976-77. The team was very popular in Mid-Michigan, as the Gears were frequently near the top of the IHL in average attendance. 1978-79 was no different, as an average of about 4,458 fans per game packed Wendler Arena that year.

Stat Sheet from Program
   This program is from a Gears-Komets game on Saturday, February 10, 1979. If you go by what is written on the cover, Saginaw won, 5-4. This game was a battle between two of the top three teams in the IHL at that point. Saginaw was holding on to first place in the North Division, with a solid 25-18-9 record, four points better than second-place Port Huron. Fort Wayne was in second place in the South, at 32-15-4, eight points behind league-best Grand Rapids.
     The design of the cover seems to be typical for that season, only the color was changed. The picture on the front is from an autograph signing at the McDonald's across the street from the arena. Gears players Doug Keans, Mark Suzor, Dave Westner, Stu Irving and Dennis Desrosiers were on hand that day with lots of photos to sign for the fans.
     As for the rest of the program, it's 55 pages long, in black-and-white on glossy paper. One page is dedicated to analyzing broadcaster Al Blade's signature, stating that Blade "has a stubborn streak, is intuitive, broadminded and selective of friends". Tuffy Mufflers has their usual "Find the Puck" contest, with the winner receiving tickets to the next Gears home game. Local advertisements include the Banana Tree Tavern, Garber Pontiac/Cadillac, Peet Packing Company and the Saginaw Steering Gear factory.
Team Photo Album
1978-79 Season
     Here's a team photo album from the 1978-79 season. I got this a couple of years ago, along with an album from the previous season. All the Gears players and staff members have black-and-white pictures in here. I didn't scan any of the pictures, but let's say the outfits everyone was wearing were very 1970s. Lots of huge-collared shirts and a few western outfits too. Ads in this album include Osterman Jewelers, WSGW Radio 790, Sun Furnace Company and the Saginaw Gears Booster Club.
     After this game, the Gears would stumble through a 9-17-1 record the rest of the way, dropping to third in the North with a 35-35-10 record. Their 80 points were 15 behind the first-place Port Huron Flags, and just five ahead of fourth-place Flint. Six different Gears had at least 30 goals that year, led by center Marcel Comeau, with 45 goals and 110 points. Defenseman Mark Toffolo led not only the Gears, but the entire IHL, in penalty minutes with an incredible 557, easily a career-high. Saginaw went through four goaltenders that season. Two future NHL netminders, Doug Keans and Bob Froese, led the way in games played. Froese would be traded to Milwaukee during the season, and Tim Thomlinson would take over as Keans's backup. Bob Parent would also tend net for the Gears, but would be dealt to Port Huron after just two games.
     The Gears faced the second-place Kalamazoo Wings in Round One of the Turner Cup Playoffs. Saginaw was quickly swept aside by the K-Wings, being outscored 21-10 in a four-game sweep. Kalamazoo then crushed Flint in four straight in Round Two, then won their first-ever Turner Cup in seven games over Grand Rapids.

Saginaw Gears 1978-79 Program, 10 February 1979
International Hockey League Statistics: 1978-79 (from
Associated Press. "Saginaw Hockey Franchise Could Fold". Argus-Press, 9 June 1981.