Monday, January 6, 2014

Indianapolis Checkers (IHL, 1986-87)

The second Checkers program I found online. Definitely an eye-catching cover. Kinda reminds me of that arcade hockey game "Hit the Ice".


1986-87 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     Following the 1983-84 season, the Central Hockey League folded. The Checkers, along with Salt Lake, responded by joining the IHL for the 1984-85 season. The IHL was still a Midwestern-based league at the time, giving the Checkers several nearby opponents, including new rival Fort Wayne. The team was originally owned by Al Savill, former owner of the Grand Rapids Owls. After one season, Savill sold the franchise to Larry Woods.
     By now, the Checkers played their home games at Market Square Arena, which sat 15,900 and was also the home of the Indiana Pacers. The Islanders were no longer the parent club, having dropped the Checkers after the 1983-84 season. Instead, Indianapolis relied on New Jersey and Minnesota for prospects.
     Veteran minor-league coach Ron Ullyot was Head Coach/GM of the 1986-87 Checkers. Veteran forward Charlie Skojdt was now Ullyot's assistant coach, as well as Director of Sales.
     The Checkers had a mediocre season in 1986-87, going 37-38-7. Their 81 points were good enough for fourth place in the Western Division, 23 points behind league-leading Fort Wayne. They had the third-best offense in the IHL that season, piling up 360 goals. Indianapolis was led by Ron Handy, who scored 55 goals and 135 points on the year. George Servinis followed him with 41 goals and 95 points. Four other players had at least 20 goals on the season for Ullyot's squad. The defense was another story, as the Checkers allowed a league-worst 387 goals. They used five different goaltenders that year, including future NHLer Jon Casey, who made it into 31 games. 
     The Checkers qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs that season and drew the top-seeded Fort Wayne Komets in Round One. Indianapolis battled the Komets in a close series, but fell in six games.
     Another nice Checkers program. What drew me to this one was the cover. Again, reminds me of that old arcade game, Hit the Ice. There's an article in here about owner Larry Woods' desire to bring NHL hockey to Indianapolis. It even details four important criteria that Indianapolis must reach in order to make it to the NHL. The last one was attendance, and it was said that the Checkers must average about 6,000 per game in order to draw interest from the NHL. Very interesting article, kind of a reach for Indianapolis, but that city would have fit in with the Norris Division at the time.

Aftermath:  Attendance continued to be a problem for the Checkers, and after the 1986-87 season, the franchise relocated to Denver, Colorado, and renamed Colorado Rangers for the 1987-88 season. Indianapolis was granted an expansion franchise, the Indianapolis Ice, for that season. In 1989-90, the Ice became the primary affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, and won their only Turner Cup. The franchise remained in the IHL through 1998-99, then joined the new CHL. The team folded after the 2003-2004 season. And no, Indianapolis never joined the NHL.

Sources:
IHL Statistics: 1986-87 (from hockeydb.com)

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