Sunday, December 15, 2013

Des Moines Hockey: Oak Leafs (IHL, 1963-72)

Now for a random one: The 1971-72 Des Moines Oak Leafs, who played in the IHL for about 10 years after five years in the USHL. Always liked that nickname.

1971-72 Regular Season--Oak Leafs vs. Columbus Seals
     The Des Moines Oak Leafs enjoyed a 10-year run in the International Hockey League after five years in the USHL. The team played it's home games in Des Moines Ice Arena, and were affiliated with the New York Rangers in 1971-72. The Leafs were coached by Terry Slater, who would eventually coach 12 years at Colgate. The team's jerseys were nearly identical to the Minnesota North Stars, with the Oak Leaf logo on the front and "DES MOINES" written above the players' numbers. 
     Coming off a finals run in 1970-71, the Oak Leafs slipped to third place (out of four) in the Southern Division, with a 35-34-3 record. Their 73 points were safely miles ahead of woeful Columbus, but 25 points behind first place Dayton. 
     The Oak Leafs were third-best in the IHL in goals scored that year, notching 296 goals in 72 games. Leading the team was Duke Asmundson, who scored 35 goals and 81 points. Two other players scored 30+ goals (Jean-Rene Losier and Ken Sutyla), while four others had over 20.
     Des Moines' fortunes on the other side of the puck were not as successful. The team allowed the third-most goals in the league, 278. In spite of this stat, the team only used three netminders. Former NHLer and assistant coach Bob Perrault played 51 games that season. Not bad for someone over 40! Richard Dumas made it into 16 games, while Wayne Bell had 6 games.
     In the playoffs, Des Moines faced second-place Fort Wayne in the opening round. The Komets knocked off the Oak Leafs in four games (best of five), outscoring them 15-7.
     Decent program, with 36 pages (all black-and-white). Lots of ads, and the roster sheets were printed on yellow paper. Lots of game pictures against the Port Huron Flags, who the Leafs faced in the 1971 Turner Cup Finals. Again, love the nickname...probably because I'm a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

     After the season, the Oak Leafs would be renamed the Des Moines Capitals. They had their finest season in 1973-74, winning the regular season title and then the team's only Turner Cup in six games over Saginaw. However, they fell to fourth place in the South (31-38-7) and were knocked out in Round One of the postseason. Rising travel costs (their closest opponent was 495 miles away) and declining attendance forced the franchise to suspend operations after the 1974-75 season.

Sources:
Des Moines Oak Leafs Stats: 1971-72 (from hockeydb.com)

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