Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Port Huron Hockey: Flags/Wings (1962-81)

Now, on to Port Huron.

     Port Huron has had a long, yet checkered, history of pro hockey. The most successful franchise, by far, was the Port Huron Flags (also called Wings for a few years) of the IHL. The Flags were, for the most part, a competitve team on the ice, making the Turner Cup Finals seven times and winning the Cup on three occasions. For three years, (1971-74), the franchise was a farm team of the Detroit Red Wings, and sent numerous players on to the NHL in it's existence. However, the team had problems drawing big enough crowds. While the Flags lasted for nearly 20 years, former GM Morris Snider later admitted that the franchise could have folded three years before it actually did, due to declining attendance.

I've found some Flags/Wings programs online over the years, and here's what I have.

1963-64 Regular Season--Flags vs. Windsor

      1963-64 was the second year of existence for the Flags. After missing the playoffs in their inaugural campaign, the team rebounded to finish 37-31-2, good enough for third place in the seven-team league. Coach Edgar "Chirp" Brenchley returned for a second season behind the Flags bench.
      This program cover held true for the remainder of the season, as the Flags were led by these four players and forward Bill LeCaine in scoring. Lloyd Maxfield led the way with 49 goals (tops in the league) and 106 points (2nd). Bill LeCaine and Ken Saunders both had 28 goals, while Ken Gribbons popped in 35. Overall, the Flags lit the lamp 279 times, third best in the league.
     In goal, Norm Jacques played 62 games, being spelled by three other netminders throughout the season. As a team, the Flags allowed 279 goals.
     In their first postseason appearance, the Flags fell to the eventual champion Toledo Blades in seven games, outscored 19-13 in the process.
     This program is the oldest Flags program I've seen online so far. It's from a game against the Windsor Bulldogs, one of two Canadian teams in the IHL (the Chatham Maroons being the other). Both Canadian clubs would fold after this season, and the IHL would not return north of the border until the Quebec Rafales and Manitoba Moose arrived in 1996.

1970-71 Regular Season--Flags vs. Des Moines
     Coming off a Turner Cup Finals run in 1969-70, the Flags stumbled to sixth place with a forgettable 25-36-11 record, 30 points behind league-leading Muskegon. Marty Reynolds led the team in scoring with 28 goals and 71 points. He was joined by seven other players in the 20+ goal club, as the team overall scored 248 goals.
     Defensively, the team struggled, as opponents lit the lamp 292 times, second-worst in the league. Three goaltenders (Phil Headley, Ted Ouimet and Ron Marlow) each played over 24 games and Dan Bruner made it into four.
     Despite their lowly record, the Flags got hot in the Turner Cup Playoffs. Port Huron upset league leading Muskegon in Round One, outscoring the Mohawks 20-18 in a six-game series. After a round-robin second round, the Flags advanced to face second place Des Moines in the Turner Cup Finals. Again playing "giant killer", the Flags knocked off the Oak Leafs in six games, including a 5-0 blowout in the clinching game at McMorran Arena. This was the second championship for the franchise, and first under coach Ted Garvin.
     This is a small program, but it's 36 pages are full of ads from around the Blue Water area. Take a look at the picture of McMorran Arena. Other than the scoreboard and the railway around the concourse edge, the arena hasn't really changed at all, even the seats are still the same!

1971-72 Regular Season--Wings vs. Dayton

     After their stunning Turner Cup win in 1970-71, the Flags became a farm team of the Detroit Red Wings. The team changed it's name to "Port Huron Wings" for the 1971-72 season, and dressed identically to their parent club. With prospects from Detroit, Ted Garvin's squad improved to 37-31-4, good enough for second place in the North, 22 points behind league-leading Muskegon.
     The Flags had a pair of 40-goal scorers on the roster, Len Fontaine (44 goals) and Don Grierson (41). Bob Brinkworth, Marty Reynolds, Randy Sokoll and Steve Sutherland each scored over 20 goals. As a team, the Wings popped in 276, fourth highest in the league.
     On defense, the Wings greatly improved on last year's effort, allowing 262 goals, 30 less than 1970-71. George Hulme and Brian Cropper played over 35 games each, with Cropper getting the nod for the majority of the playoffs.
      The Wings made it back to the Turner Cup Finals in 1971-72. In Round One, they defeated Flint in a tight four-game series (best of 5), then defeated Fort Wayne in five (best of 5) in Round Two. In the Finals, the Wings defeated first-place Muskegon in six games. Brian Cropper blanked the Mohawks in Game Six, 4-0 in front of a delirious McMorran crowd of 3582, which stormed the ice after the win. This would be the franchise's final Turner Cup win and the last Port Huron hockey championship to date.
     Snoopy graces the cover of this program, though the advertisement is for an event at Olympia Stadium in Detroit. Check out the announcement to Snoopy's right. On November 19th, the Wings held "Turkey Night", where they gave away over 500 pounds of turkey (24 birds!) to lucky fans during the second intermission. Now that's a promotion!

1972-73 Exhibition--Red Wings vs. Philadelphia

    Another year, another winning Ted Garvin squad in Port Huron. The Wings, coming off their second-straight Turner Cup, continued to improve in the regular season. The team finished with a solid 41-31-1 record, again finishing in second place, six points behind first place Flint.
     Larry Klewchuk led a balanced Wing attack, scoring 28 goals and 67 points. Nine players scored at least 20 goals, and a mere 7 points separated Klewchuk from the fourth-highest goal scorer, Gary Holt. As a team, the Wings lit the lamp 266 times.
     Defensively, the team had a strong year. The Wings allowed 237 goals, third-lowest in the league. Bill McKenzie was in goal for 45 games, registering a solid 2.84 GAA. Glen Seperich made it into 33 games, with a 3.32 GAA.
     In the playoffs, the Wings made it to their third straight Turner Cup Finals. They knocked off Toledo in five games (best of 5) in Round one, outscoring the Hornets 13-5 in the process. Round Two brought on the Dayton Gems, who the Wings swept away in three straight, allowing only 7 goals in the series. In the finals, the Wings ran into league-leading Fort Wayne, who had blown out Flint in the second round. The Komets would crush the Wings in four straight, outscoring Port Huron 19-8, including a 5-1 romp in Game Four at McMorran.
     After the season, Ted Garvin was promoted to head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, but only lasted 11 games in 1973-74 before being fired.
     This program isn't from a Wings game, but an exhibition game between Detroit and Philadelphia, held at McMorran Arena. It does, however, have pictures from Game 6 of the 1972 Turner Cup Finals and the locker room celebration. Then-Michigan Governor William Milliken wrote a congratulatory and best-wishes note on the first page. Wings programs are rare online. I have only seen two, and bought them both.

1974-75 Regular Season--Flags vs. Saginaw
     After three straight trips to the Turner Cup Finals, the Wings collapsed to the North Division basement in 1973-74. After that season, the Red Wings switched IHL affiliates to the new Kalamazoo Wings. Port Huron reverted back to the Flags nickname and became a farm team of the New York Rangers and Kansas City Scouts.
     Coach Bob McCammon returned behind the bench for a second year, and the Flags improved to 35-38-3, good enough for fourth place in the North, 26 points behind Muskegon and 34 points behind last place Kalamazoo (Lansing folded partway through the year).
     McCammon's crew was led by Ray Germain, who scored 30 goals and 69 points. Six other players scored at least 20 goals. As a team, the Flags scored 255 goals, seventh in the league.
     The Flags used six different goaltenders. Mike Ralph and Ty Langton played the most, making it into about 40 games each. The team allowed 270 goals.
     The Flags drew Muskegon in Round One of the Turner Cup Playoffs. Unlike previous years, there would be no upset, as the Mohawks cruised to a five-game (best of 7) series victory.
     Nice design on the program. This time, the advertisement on the front is for events happening in Port Huron, not Detroit. A program insert features a poster of forward Larry Jacques, who scored 20 goals and 41 points in his rookie season. The Flags played the Saginaw Gears that night, and several of the game pictures inside are of games against the Gears. The radio announcer for the Flags that year? Future NHL on NBC voice Mike Emrick, who called Flags games on WHLS from 1973-77.

1978-79 Regular Season--Flags vs. Saginaw
     In 1977-78, the Flags made a surprise run to the Turner Cup Finals. They upset defending champion Saginaw in Round One, then defeated Kalamazoo in Round Two before falling to Toledo in a grueling seven game finals.
     Ron Ullyot was back behind the bench in 1978-79, as the Flags were now affiliated with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. With prospects from these teams, the Flags finished first in the North Division, with a 44-29-7 record, 14 points behind league-leading Grand Rapids.
     The Flags led the league in scoring, pumping in 393 goals. They were led by four players who scored over 40 goals. Serge Menard led in goal-scoring with an even 50, while Wes Jarvis led in points with 109. Lou Francheschetti, a mid-season acquisition from Saginaw, was next with 103 points.
     While the Flags used four goaltenders, Rick Heinz and Bob Parent did the majority of the work. Heinz went 28-13-5 with five shutouts and a 3.36 GAA. Parent went 8-11-2 with a 3.67 GAA. As a team, the Flags allowed 292 goals, second-lowest in the IHL.
     Despite the strong record, the Flags were upset in Round One of the Turner Cup Playoffs by the Flint Generals. The Generals won in seven games, including a 7-4 victory on McMorran ice in Game Seven. Coach Ullyot would move on to the Fort Worth Texans of the CHL after the season, replaced by ex-Wing Doug Hinton, who coached at Michigan the previous three years.
     The Flags began using a secondary logo around this time. Not sure exactly what the animal is...maybe an eagle? They are also sporting different uniforms by now. For years, the Flags wore Red Wings-like jerseys with the Flags emblem on the front. Now, the jerseys are similar to the Maple Leafs stripes at the time, but still the traditional red and white with the classic Flags logo.

1979-80 Turner Cup Playoffs--Flags vs. Flint
     The Flags opened up their 17th season with a new coach and different uniforms. Doug Hinton, ex-Michigan coach and former Wing, was behind the bench, replacing Ron Ullyot. The Flags added yellow stripes to their jerseys, the first time a color besides red and white was prominent on their uniforms. The Flags "crossed stick" logo was also dropped in favor of a stylized "Flags" script. The team was still affiliated with St. Louis and Washington.
     Despite the changes, the Flags had another solid season. They went 38-26-16 in 1979-80, good enough for third place in the North, seven points behind first place Kalamazoo and fourth overall in the IHL.
     The Flags offense continued to be powerful, as they scored 352 goals, second-best in the league. They were led by eight players who scored at least 20 goals. Denis Houle led the way in goals, lighting the lamp with 49 to go along with 104 points.
     On defense, allowed an even 300 goals, second-best in the league. Paul Skidmore and Bob Parent nearly split the netminding duties, playing 36 and 37 games, respectively.
     In the playoffs, the Flags again drew the Flint Generals in Round One. Port Huron would exact revenge on Flint, defeating the Generals in a tight five-game series (best of 7). In the second round, the Flags would face defending champion Kalamazoo. Three of the games went to overtime, but the Wings would eventually prevail in six games on their way to a second-straight Turner Cup.
     The photo collage on the front of this program will give you an idea of the Flags new look for this season. Not a huge fan of the script logo; I just think that "crossed sticks" logo is a classic. The addition of yellow isn't too bad.

     The Flags would return for the 1980-81 season, their 18th in the IHL. However, the economic downturn of the late 1970s-early 1980s led to declining attendance numbers. With fewer and fewer fans coming to games, McMorran Arena management (who owned the team since the early 1970s) decided to suspend operations after that season. Other than the one-and-done Port Huron Clippers of the AAHL (1987-88), McMorran Arena would not be home to a pro hockey team for fifteen years. Hockey would return in the summer of 1996 when the Detroit Falcons of the Colonial League would relocate to Port Huron.


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