Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rare: Albany Choppers (1990-91)

     Fort Wayne has had hockey continuously since 1952, but technically the city is on it's third franchise. The original franchise, which played from 1952-90, relocated to Albany, New York, for the 1990-91 season.



1990-91 Regular Season (Opponent Unknown)
     Hockey arrived to Albany for the 1990-91 season, when David Welker moved his Fort Wayne Komets to Albany. The team would be named "Albany Choppers" after the Price Chopper supermarket chain and would play their home games at the 15,000-seat Knickerbocker Arena. When asked why he chose Albany, Welker simply stated, "I didn't want to operate the team in Fort Wayne anymore...and I felt there was a tremendous amount of interest in hockey in the Capital District".
     Both the IHL and AHL were not pleased with this move. The AHL was not happy that a rival league had placed a team in it's own territory, especially close to an established franchise, the Adirondack Red Wings. Likely in an attempt to undercut the new Choppers, the AHL quickly approved the sale of a franchise to Mike Cantanucci, who placed his Capital District Islanders in nearby Troy's RPI Fieldhouse. The IHL was not pleased by Welker moving the team to Albany without league approval. Welker got his way when he agreed to cover the travel costs, hotel and per diem fees of six IHL teams.
     The Choppers never came close to filling the Knickerbocker Arena, rarely drawing over 3000 per game and, near the end, drawing around 1000. The team started missing pay days and by February 14, 1991, the franchise folded with a 22-30-3 record.
     What happened to Fort Wayne? The Franke family purchased the rights to the defunct Flint Spirits and moved them to Indiana in time for the 1990-91 season. The new Komets took over the name and history of the original franchise, and the Frankes still own the team, now in the ECHL. Albany would get another shot at pro hockey in 1993-94. The Capital District Islanders would relocate to Knickerbocker Arena and would become the Albany River Rats.

     Just like Lancers programs, I have only seen two Choppers programs online over the years. This was the first one I saw, and I made sure I got it.

Some of the info for this post is from an article in Hockey Digest called "The Albany Choppers: The IHL's Dirty Little Secret". An abridged version can be found here. Stats, of course, are from hockeydb.com.

2 comments:

  1. Looks great! Did it have an insert with rosters? I was looking for a few jersey numbers, home or road. Any chance you have any from a Choppers road game?
    Thanks
    Ben
    rfabradley@hotmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Nope, no insert. This is the only Choppers program I've seen over the years. Never seen one with the Choppers as the visiting team.

      OTOH, eBay often has Choppers trading cards for sale, if that helps you.

      Thanks for looking!

      Brent

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