Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saginaw Gears (1980-81, IHL)

Covered the Saginaw Gears earlier in this blog, but I wanted to give the 1980-81 season it's own post, since I have two programs from that year.

1980-81 Regular Season--Gears vs. Milwaukee Admirals
    The Saginaw Gears were the first pro hockey team in Saginaw. They joined the International Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1972, owned by former Bruins and North Stars executive Wren Blair. The Gears played their home games at the Saginaw Civic Center's Wendler Arena (now Dow Event Center), built shortly before the team's arrival. Their nickname was a nod to the Saginaw Steering Gear factory, now called Nexteer, on M46 on the east edge of town.
     1980-81 was the ninth season of the franchise, which had established itself as one of the elite clubs in the IHL. They had already been to three Turner Cup Finals (1974, 1975, 1977), winning the Cup once (1977). Off the ice, the Gears were very popular in the Tri-Cities, often filling the 5500-seat Wendler Arena and finishing near the top of the league in attendance. The Gears were affiliated with three NHL clubs that year: Boston, Hartford and Los Angeles.
     Head Coach/GM Don Perry (the only coach the team had to that point) was back behind the bench that year. His roster was led by original Gears center Marcel Comeau, a one-time Minnesota North Star prospect, who would win the 1980-81 scoring title and MVP award. Comeau was joined by minor-league snipers Scott Gruhl and Brent Jarrett, defenseman Peter Luksa, and future NHL netminder Bob Froese. Their opponent on October 26, 1980, was the Milwaukee Admirals, led by Head Coach Nelson LeClair. LeClaire's squad featured future NHLer Dwight Schofield, former Detroit Red Wing Michel Bergeron, and former Saginaw Gear Stu Irving, a member of the 1972 Team USA Olympic squad.
     The Gears, already a contender, received a serious dose of talent in January. The Central Hockey League's Houston Apollos, a fellow Los Angeles farm club, folded at midseason due to losses around $500,000 and low attendance. Owner Wren Blair was able to bring in several orphaned Apollo players, including Warren Holmes, Waddell, Claude LaRochelle and Doug Harvey. Saginaw, in first place with a 21-18-3 record at that point, went 24-11-5 the remainder of the way to finish 45-29-8. They easily captured first place in the East, their franchise-record 98 points were 20 ahead of second place Port Huron.
     Saginaw led the IHL in offense that year with 392 goals. Marcel Comeau topped the team, and the league, in points with 114 on the strength of 44 goals. Scott Gruhl (56) and Mike Hartman (51) gave the team two 50-goal scorers. Three other players scored at least 30 and one other scored at least 20.
     On defense, the Gears allowed 289 goals, second only to Kalamazoo. While using five goaltenders, Bob Froese and veteran Ted Tucker were the two main goalies. Froese drew the nod for the playoffs.

1981 Turner Cup Playoffs--Gears vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     Heading into the Turner Cup Playoffs on a hot streak, the loaded Gears demolished the rest of the pack. They drew the Port Huron Flags in Round One, who finished a distant second place with a mediocre 31-35-16 record. The Gears blew away the Flags in four straight, outscoring them 15-7 in the process. They then met up with the Fort Wayne Komets, who went 37-30-15. The program on the right is from Game 2 of that series. The Gears jumped out to a 8-0 lead by the third period, crushing the Komets 10-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the series. They would take the series in five games, outscoring Fort Wayne 27-13, to reach the Turner Cup Finals.
     In their fourth Turner Cup Finals appearance, the Gears faced the two-time defending champion Kalamazoo Wings. The K-Wings finished first overall in the IHL, with a 52-20-10 record. Kalamazoo earned a first-round bye, then annihilated the Flint Generals in the semifinals. Their dreams of a third straight Turner Cup were dashed by the red-hot Gears. Saginaw shoved aside the K-Wings in four straight, allowing only 10 goals in the series. The Gears skated off with their second Turner Cup on home ice, a 4-1 triumph in front of a sold-out, delirious Wendler Arena.
     Both programs are nearly identical to each other: 47 pages, all black-and-white. The only big difference is the front cover color. A few articles in each program about several players, and directions to each IHL arena. The Gears-Milwaukee program has a picture of former Gear Stu Irving, who was recently acquired by the Admirals after the Grand Rapids Owls folded. Local ads include WEYI TV 25 (then a CBS affiliate), Peet Packing, and Schaefer & Bierlein of Frankenmuth. There's also a picture of the Gears' mascot, the crazy Gear-Rilla (the suit is now on display in the Saginaw Castle Museum).

Game 5: Hoisting the Turner Cup (photo from
Aftermath: Despite the franchise's best season and dominating playoff run, the Gears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June. Attendance slumped to 140,200 for the year, down from 178,300 in 1978-79. By this time, the country was just emerging from a serious recession. The American auto industry was also in decline by then, due to increasing foreign competition. Increasing layoffs and assembly line mechanization led to soaring unemployment and an increase in people leaving the region for work.
     While a 3,419-per game average doesn't sound awful (and would have been welcomed enthusiastically by Saginaw Lumber Kings in the 1990s), tickets sold was one of the few sources of revenue for the club. The Gears had a lopsided lease with the City of Saginaw for Wendler Arena, in which the team received no money from concessions, parking, or food and drink sold at The Blue Line Club. This was also an era before advertisement space was sold on the boards (the UHL Wheels were the first Saginaw hockey team allowed to sell ad space on the boards). While this type of lease was fine when business was booming in the 1970s, a significant drop in crowds like this put the franchise in the red.
     Having only a few home playoff dates didn't help either. "Our playoffs were so great, so good that we took the Turner Cup in just 13 games," said co-owner Ken MacDonald. "This normally would have been achieved with at least three more home games and the corresponding revenue. While it is difficult to criticize the team for winning, it is a Catch-22 situation."
     The Gears reorganized under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and emerged with new ownership. The franchise and the City of Saginaw agreed on a reduced rent for the 1981-82 season, dropping fees to 15%. However, attendance never fully recovered, and the team folded due to increasing financial losses after the 1982-83 season. Saginaw would not have pro hockey again until the Flint Generals, with former Gear Dennis Desrosiers as Head Coach/GM, arrived in July 1985. In 2013, the Gears were passed by the OHL's Saginaw Spirit as the longest-lasting hockey franchise in city history.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1980-81 (from
"Admirals Find Gears Too Tough". The Milwaukee Journal, January 10, 1981. (from Google News Archive)
"Saginaw Hockey Franchise Could Fold". The Argus Press, June 9, 1981. (from Google News Archive)
"Saginaw Spirit Salute Saginaw Gears with Throwback Night against Belleville". The Saginaw News, October 22, 2010. (from

Friday, September 26, 2014

Milwaukee Admirals (1981-82, IHL)

1981-82 Turner Cup Playoffs--Admirals vs. Saginaw Gears
     The Milwaukee Admirals were in their fifth season in the IHL in 1981-82. They joined the league after their former league, the USHL, switched from minor-pro to junior hockey for the 1976-77 season. The Admirals were owned by Lloyd Pettit, the long-time announcer for the Chicago Blackhawks, and his wife Jane. They were led by Coach/GM Phil Whitliff, a Port Huron native who previously played for the Admirals and would go on to a long career with the team in the front office. Milwaukee was affiliated with Edmonton, St. Louis and Quebec.
     1981-82 was the finest season for the Admirals in their five years in the IHL. Milwaukee went 41-34-7, giving them 89 points on the season. They finished in second place, just ahead of third-place Kalamazoo and 22 points behind league-best Toledo. Whitliff's squad was third-best in goals scored, pumping in 385 on the year. They were led on offense by Fred Berry, who scored 47 goals to go along with 112 points. Danny Lecours and Doug Robb topped the team in goals, scoring 59 and 56 goals, respectively. Three other Admirals scored at least 20, but four had at least 15.
     Milwaukee was equally strong on the blueline, allowing 351 goals, third-lowest in the IHL. While the team used four different goaltenders in '81-82, Rich Sirois was the top starter. Sirois played in 64 games, going 34-21-7 with a 3.89 GAA, and got the nod for the postseason. Rob Polman-Tuin was next, with 12 games, but had only a 3-8-0 record with a 5.78 GAA.
     The Admirals qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs for the fifth straight year. Their opponent for Round One, and for this program, was the defending Turner Cup Champion Saginaw Gears. The Gears finished way behind Milwaukee, in fifth place with a 36-38-8 mark, but were second in goals scored and had entered the playoffs on a hot streak, the classic "Team that no one wants to face".
     The Admirals and Gears were no strangers to each other in the postseason. Two seasons prior, both teams faced each other in a first round series that quickly got ugly, then quickly ended. During Game 2, a 5-1 Gears blowout win, two big fights broke out late in the third. When Admirals forward Carey Haworth grabbed on to Saginaw's Marcel Comeau, Gears enforcer John Gibson drilled Haworth in the face, breaking his nose. While Haworth was down on the ice, Gibson picked him up a few times to hit him some more. Haworth was taken to the hospital with serious facial injuries. Haworth, Michel Bergeron and the Admirals filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Gears, Gibson, Mel Hewitt and Coach Don Perry. Milwaukee demanded that Saginaw be kicked out of the playoffs for "excessive violence", then forfeited the remainder of the series when Commissioner Jack Riley refused.
     While this series was nowhere near as ugly as the 1979-80 series, the winner was the same. Saginaw took Game 1 (which this program was from) and Game 2 by identical 6-3 scores. Except for a 7-3 Admirals win in Game 3, the Admirals were easily dusted off in five games (best of seven) by the red-hot Gears. Saginaw would go on to the Turner Cup Finals, only to be dethroned by Toledo in five games.
     This program is 36 pages, all-black-and-white. There are articles about each Admirals player and Coach/GM Phil Whitliff. There is also an article about former Admiral Dwight Schofield, who by then was playing for Montreal. One of the interesting pages features short explanations about how each IHL team got it's nickname. Local ads include Ye Olde Apothecary Pharmacy, The Royale Beauty Salons and, of course, Miller Beer. Nice illustration on the front by Mike Morbeck.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1981-82 (from
"Two Admirals to Sue", The Milwaukee Journal, April 20, 1980 (from Google News Archive)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Springfield Indians (1976-77, AHL)

1976-77 Regular Season--Indians vs. Rhode Island Reds
     The Springfield Indians franchise is one of the oldest minor-pro hockey franchises in North America. The Indians were born in 1926 in the Canadian-American Hockey League, lasting for seven seasons before folding. In 1935, the franchise was revived in the American Hockey League when the Quebec Beavers relocated to Springfield.
     In 1939, Boston Bruins legendary defenseman Eddie Shore purchased the Indians franchise. He ran the franchise for the next 28 years (with a short hiatus during World War 2) before selling the team to the new Los Angeles Kings, who renamed the Indians after the parent club. Shore returned during the 1974-75 season, restoring the Indians name and jerseys, and leading the team to it's fifth Calder Cup before selling the Indians the following year.
     By 1976-77, the Indians were struggling. The team slumped to a 28-51-1 record, fifth place in the six-team AHL. The Indians abysmal 57 points were just three points better than last-place Rhode Island. John Hanna started the season as head coach, but was canned after a 12-24-0 start in favor of Gary Dineen. Dineen didn't fare much better, going 16-27-1. Attendance was second-worst in the league as well, as only 2,924 fans per game bothered to show up to Eastern States Coliseum. The Indians were affiliated with the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
     Springfield had the fourth most goals scored in 1976-77, lighting the red light 302 times that year. They were led on offense by Andre Peloffy, who pumped in 42 goals and 99 points. There was a bit of a dropoff after Peloffy, as only two other players scored over 20 goals. Peter Laframboise was second in points with just 68.
     The Indians were dead-last on defense, surrendering 390 goals, 41 more than Rhode Island. They used five different goaltenders that year. Grant Cole played in 49 games that year, going a respectable 18-24-0 record with a 4.53 GAA. Jerome Mrazek played 33 games, but went 7-22-1 with a 5.38 GAA. Former Flint General Rick St. Croix made it into one game that year (the one this program is from, I believe), later making it to the NHL. Reggie Lemelin also spent time in Springfield before carving out a long NHL career. John Kiely was the other netminder that year.
     With such a miserable record, the Indians failed to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs that year. They finished 21 points behind the last playoff team, Hershey. The Nova Scotia Voyageurs went on to win the Calder Cup in six games over Rochester.
     Nice program, and I like the logo on the cover (I used the Indian for a fantasy hockey logo awhile back). A bit small, at only 32 pages, all black-and-white. Local ads include Sorrowton Tavern, The Toga Lounge ("Just a slapshot away from Eastern States Coliseum") and Balise Chevrolet-Honda (what a combination...). That night's opponent was the last-place Rhode Island Reds, coached by future Sabres coach/GM John Muckler. The original owner of this program rated several Indians players, from Bob Ritchie ("super") to goalie Rick St. Croix ("good"). They also described left wing Mike Harmon as "colored". Classy...

Aftermath: The Indians would continue to struggle on the ice, missing the playoffs 8 times in the next 14 seasons. In 1989-90, the Indians would barely make it into the Calder Cup playoffs with a 38-38-4 record, but surprised everyone by winning their sixth Calder Cup. After repeating in 1990-91, the Indians would see attendance decline in their last three seasons in Springfield. The franchise would relocate to Worcester, Massachusetts, for the 1994-95 season, renamed "Worcester Ice Cats". The Ice Cats stayed in Worcester for 10 years before moving to Peoria, Illinois, becoming the new Peoria Rivermen. The AHL Rivermen would then move to Utica, New York in 2013, becoming the Utica Comets. Springfield would be granted an expansion franchise after the Indians left, the Springfield Falcons. The Falcons still fly in Springfield to this day.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1976-77 (from
Springfield Indians page (from

Fort Wayne Komets (1988-89, IHL)

1988-89 Regular Season--Komets vs. Flint Spirts
     The Komets played their 35th consecutive season in the IHL in 1988-89. The franchise was owned by local businessman David Welker. Welker, owner of Hoosier Culverts and W&W Concrete, purchased the Komets out of bankruptcy court for a paltry $300,000 in the summer of 1987.
     The Komets, coached by former player Robbie Laird, had numerous affiliations that year. The Komets were a farm team of Boston, Quebec, Washington, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Quite a group of parent clubs!
     As you can tell, the team had radically changed their look over the course of the 1980s. The traditional orange and black jerseys with the fireball logo were long gone. In their place, were red-white-blue unis with a silhouette of Indiana (the Komets script on the front of the program was on the road jerseys). They also had a koala bear for a secondary logo, which was supposedly for non-alcoholism and "A2D2" (Athletes Against Drunk Driving).
     Coach Laird's Komets finished the 1988-89 season with a 46-30-6 record. Their 98 points were just four points behind second place Saginaw, but 23 points behind league-best Muskegon. Fort Wayne had a weak offense that season, as their 293 goals were second-worst in the IHL. Mike McNeil, in his rookie season as a pro, led the team with 27 goals and 62 points. Keith Miller was just behind him with an even 60 points, on the strength of a team-high 35 goals. Only three other players scored at least 20 goals. Future Komets coach Al Sims had a respectable 30 points on defense that season.
     Speaking of defense, the Komets were significantly better. They allowed a miniscule 274 goals, tops in the league by 20. Fort Wayne used five different goaltenders that year. Long-time minor leaguer Rick Knickle played in 47 games that year, going 22-16-5 with a respectable (for the time) 3.11 GAA and 1 shutout. Future NHLer and former Michigan State Spartan Bob Essensa made it into 22 games, going 14-7-1 with a 3.26 GAA. Stephane Beauregard (another future NHLer), Steve Averill and Al Loring also saw action in the Komets net.
     This first program is from a regular season game on October 29, 1988, vs. the Flint Spirits. It was the team's 2nd Annual Halloween Celebration (which the Komets hoped to "spook the Spirits"). Kids 12 and under that dressed up in a costume were let in for free and got to parade around the ice during the second intermission for prizes! The rest of the program is 42 pages long, mostly black-and-white, with ads ranging from Northeast Indiana Chevrolet Dealers to the Kings Tavern. Very nice program, and whoever the goalie was in the picture had a great mullet!
1988-89  Turner Cup Playoffs--Komets vs .Muskegon Lumberjacks
     The Komets qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs for the fourteenth consecutive season in 1988-89. They faced the Saginaw Hawks in Round One, who had qualified for the postseason each year since 1970-71 (as the Flint Generals). Fort Wayne knocked off the Hawks in 6 close games, outscoring Saginaw 17-12 in the process. They then locked up with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in Round Two. Despite falling in 5 games, the Komets kept the series close, as four of the five games were decided by 2-3 goals and one went to OT. The Lumberjacks would go on to win their second, and final, Turner Cup over Salt Lake.
     The program on the right is from Game 2 of the Komets-Lumberjacks series, on April 29, 1989. Muskegon won the game, 4-2, to take a 2-0 series lead. This program is almost identical to the first one. It's 40 pages, almost all black-and-white. Ads include such things as Saylor's Pizza, Schenkel's All-Star Dairy, and Valley Outlet Center. As you can see, this program was autographed by three different Komets legends: Ron Ullyot, Ken Ullyot and Len Thornson. Bob Essensa is the goaltender on the left.

Aftermath: The original Komets would last for one more season, finishing in last place in the East. Their mediocre 37-34-11 record got them into the postseason again, but they were quickly knocked off by Muskegon in Round One. Attendance, a problem for several years in Fort Wayne, continued to decline, as a poor economy and general dislike of owner David Welker kept fans away from the Coliseum. Welker finally threw in the towel and moved the franchise to Albany, New York, renaming the team "Albany Choppers". Welker's move caused controversy in not only the IHL, which didn't approve of it beforehand, but also the AHL, which didn't appreciate the rival league invading it's territory. In any case, Welker's Choppers bombed in Albany, folding by Valentine's Day, 1991. Shortly after Welker left, the Franke Family purchased the Flint Spirits, moving them to Fort Wayne and assuming the Komets' name and history. They also brought back the traditional orange-and-black unis and fireball logo (the koala bear didn't survive, sad to say). The Frankes continue to own the Komets to this day, now in the ECHL.

Sebring, Blake. "Ex-Komets Owner Welker Dead at 73". Fort Wayne News Sentinel, April 12, 2011. (from
International Hockey League Statistics: 1988-89 (from

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dayton Gems (1970-71, IHL)

1970-71 Regular Season--Gems vs. Des Moines Oak Leafs
     After the 1970 Turner Cup win, Wilson stepped down as coach and was replaced by Gems winger Gerry Moore. Moore's first Gems squad finished in third place in the IHL, with a 36-29-7 record. Dayton finished a distant 12 points behind league champion Muskegon.
     Here's an unusual stat: the Gems scored the same amount of goals as they allowed that season--263. The offense finished third overall in the league. Moore's bunch were led by Barry Merrell, who scored 28 goals to go with 73 points. Clem Trembley was right behind him, with 68 points and a team-high 39 goals. Three other players had at least 20 goals on the year and six had at least 10.
     The Gems defense allowed the third-highest in the league, trailing only Toledo and Port Huron. Dayton used two goaltenders that season. Michel Dumas played the majority of the games for the Gems, getting into 49 games with a 3.56 GAA. Veteran netminder Pat Rupp made it into 27 games with a 3.78 GAA.

     The Gems qualified for the playoffs for the sixth straight season. Gerry Moore's bunch faced the second-year Flint Generals in Round One. The best-of-seven series went the limit, but the Gems advanced to the round robin second round. This unusual playoff format saw the Gems, Port Huron Flags and Des Moines Oak Leafs face each other in a best-of-three format. The Gems were eliminated  after dropping two games to Des Moines. The Oak Leafs then fell to the upstart Flags in six games in the Turner Cup Finals.
     I have three programs from this season, two of them have drawings similar to this. This cover drawing was created by Jerry Dowling, a long-time cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Very nicely done! This program is 35 pages long, all black-and-white. Local advertisements include Schoenling Beer ("Cincinnati's Finest!"), The Brown Derby Seafood Restaurant and Parkmoor Dixie Fried Chicken. There are also pictures of the Gems' Turner Cup victory over Port Huron.

Aftermath: Gerry Moore would stick around for another season before moving on to the CHL's Oklahoma City Blazers. After one year in Indianapolis of the WHA, Moore would return to the IHL as head coach of the woeful Muskegon Mohawks in 1978. The Gems would continue to be a strong team for several years, winning another Turner Cup in 1975-76. However, declining attendance due to the struggling local economy forced the Gems to suspend operations a year later. The franchise would be revived for the 1979-80 season, but would fold after one season, a last-place finish. Dayton would later be home to the ECHL's Dayton Bombers, then the CHL's Dayton Gems. After the CHL Gems folded, the Federal Hockey League's Dayton Demonz began play at Hara Arena, winning that league's championship in 2013-14.

Dayton Area Sports History, Hockey in Dayton: Dayton Gems
International Hockey League: 1970-71 (from

Dayton Gems (1968-69, IHL)

1968-69 Regular Season--Gems vs. Muskegon Mohawks
      The city of Dayton, Ohio, joined the International Hockey League in the 1964-65 season as an expansion franchise. The team was run by Lefty McFadden, who was general manager of Dayton Speedway then. A "Name the Team" contest was held and "Dayton Gems" was the winning vote, a nod to the city's "Gem City" nickname.
     The Gems were a very popular and successful franchise for most of their 16-year history.  By Year Two, they were in the Turner Cup Finals, but came up short against Port Huron. After the 1967-68 season, original coach Warren Back resigned and was replaced by former Red Wing Larry Wilson.
     Wilson inherited a team on the verge of greatness. They had won the Huber Trophy as regular season champions two years ago (44-25-3). They would do the same in 1968-69, topping the IHL with a strong 40-21-11 mark. They need every one of their 91 points, as they finished ahead of Toledo by one point. Dayton hockey fans responded to their Gems, averaging 4,500 per game at Hara Arena.
     The Gems boasted the second-strongest offense in the league, pumping in 313 goals. They were led by right winger Don Westbrooke's 59 goals and a league-best 118 points. Six other Gems scored at least twenty goals, including Dunc Rousseau with 35. Player-Coach Wilson chipped in 61 points in 50 games.
     On defense, the Gems had no equal. They allowed a miniscule 227 goals, 8 fewer than second-best Toledo. John Adams and Pat Rupp played about the same games that year, with Rupp playing 41 games and Adams getting the nod in 32. Adams played in 6 of the 9 postseason games.
     The IHL used an unusual round robin format for the first round of the playoffs that season. Six teams qualified for a best-of-three tournament. Columbus and Port Huron were eliminated, and Dayton faced Fort Wayne in Round Two. The Gems blew away the Komets in the best-of three series, outscoring them 14-4 in the series. They would then face the Muskegon Mohawks in the Turner Cup Finals, another best-of-three affair. The Gems swept aside the Mohawks in three straight to win their first Turner Cup title with a record nine straight playoff victories.
     The cover illustration was done by Cincinnati Enquirer cartoonist Jerry Dowling. Several of the Gems programs I have have Dowling drawings. I like this drawing, and considering the season the Gems were having that year, all hockey roads really did lead to Dayton in 1968-69.
     This program is 35 pages long, with black-and-white pictures and advertisements. Local ads include a variety of businesses, from The Keyhole Lounge, Miami Maid Better Bread and Blatz Beer. There are also articles about each IHL franchise and a picture of their arenas. I'm pretty sure McMorran Arena in Port Huron hasn't changed a bit since it's picture was taken for this program! Unfortunately, the previous owner clipped something out of one of the pages (a coupon, maybe?).

Dayton Area Sports History: Hockey in Dayton: Gems
Fun While It Lasted: Dayton Gems
International Hockey League Statistics: 1968-69 (from

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fort Wayne Komets (1962-63, IHL)

1962-63 Turner Cup Playoffs--Komets vs. Muskegon Zephyrs
     Their has been a Fort Wayne Komets franchise in minor league hockey since 1952. That's an incredible run for any minor league sport. Teams and entire leagues have come and gone, but Komets hockey has endured. The current team in the ECHL is actually the third incarnation of the Komets. The original franchise joined the IHL in 1952 as an expansion franchise. They played their home games at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which opened in 1952 and originally held 8,103. 
     Ken Ullyot coached the Komets in 1962-63. That year's squad won a hotly contested regular season title, going 35-30-5, just a point ahead of Minneapolis and two ahead of third place Muskegon. The cover picture is from the postgame celebration in Omaha. The Komets hammered the Knights, 7-1, to win the team's seventh league title in 11 years!
     Fort Wayne was third in the league in scoring, with 283 goals. Pacing the Komets attack was Len Thornson, with 32 goals and 115 points. Eddie Long led the team in goals with 56, second in the league. Three other players scored at least thirty, and two others hit the 20-goal mark.
     Fort Wayne allowed the second-fewest goals in the league that year, a measly 255. This was the era of "one goalie per team", and Chuck Adamson was between the pipes for all 70 Komets games and the postseason.
     Ken Ullyot's Komets would not disappoint in the playoffs. They drew the Muskegon Zephyrs in Round One, and advanced in six games, despite being equaled in goals by the Zephyrs, 28-28. Fort Wayne then met the Minneapolis Millers in the Turner Cup Finals. After splitting the first two games in Fort Wayne, the Komets then took the next three games to capture their first Turner Cup title.
     This is the oldest Komets program I have been able to snag on eBay. There's not much to it, just 14 pages of black-and-white pictures and ads. The ads include WGL News 1250 AM, The Embers Supper Club and Magnavox Electric Organs. There's also a small bio on announcer Bob Chase, who was then in his ninth season with the club. Chase still calls Komets hockey on WOWO 1190, and won the ECHL's Broadcaster of the Year award this past season! In short, he's the Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully of minor league hockey.
     This program also came with two ticket stubs from "Game A" of the playoff series against Muskegon. I'm guessing that's Game 1, which the Zephyrs won 7-4 on March 30th.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1962-63 (from

Toledo Goaldiggers (1984-85, IHL)

     (Note: A great website for Goaldiggers history is It includes tons of pictures from the various minor league teams in that town, even an online store to buy Goaldiggers apparel. I bought a shirt there awhile back. Very nice!)

1984-85 Regular Season--Goaldiggers vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     The Goaldiggers returned to the Turner Cup Finals in 1983-84, but their quest for 3 straight Cups ran into a buzzsaw called the Flint Generals, who swept them aside in four straight. Bill Inglis stepped down after 3 1/2 successful seasons to take the Coach/GM position in Kalamazoo.
     Toledo replaced Inglis with former netminder Tony Piroski. Piroski didn't last too long behind the bench, and after a 7-14-4 start, was replaced by former Diggers coach Ted Garvin.
     The Diggers slumped to a 32-42-5 record, their worst since 1980-81. They brought up the rear in the Eastern Division, 17 points behind Inglis' K-Wings and 31 points behind division champion Muskegon. They were just three points ahead of the worst team in the league, Indianapolis.
     Goal scoring dropped off in '84-85, as Toledo notched just 292 goals, second worst in the league. Ted Garvin did have a 50-goal scorer in Dave Gans. Gans notched 51 goals (third-best in the league) to go along with 105 points. Only two other players scored over 20 goals.
     The Diggers really struggled on the defensive side of the puck. Toledo allowed 362 goals that year, only Indianapolis allowed more. They used seven different netminders that season. Lindsay Middlebrook, a part of the 1977-78 Champions, played in 50 games that season. Dave Ross played in the next most games that year, 20. Middlebrook was the starter for the postseason.
     Despite finishing in the East Division basement, the Goaldiggers qualified for the postseason (only Indianapolis failed to qualify). However, their poor record meant they went against the Muskegon Lumberjacks in Round One. The Diggers stretched the Jacks to six games before falling, outscored 26-15 in the series. Muskegon would make it to the Turner Cup Finals before losing to Peoria in seven. Ted Garvin would step down after the season, replaced by Peter Mahovalich.
     I got this program last year on eBay. Don't see too many programs from that team online. Nice cover drawing. The program has 48 pages, all black-and-white. Local ads include Kroger, Arlington Family Restaurant and Tony Roma's ("A Place for Ribs"). That night's opponent was the rival Fort Wayne Komets. Both Komet goaltenders, Peter Sidorkiewicz and Alain Chevrier, would go on to play in the NHL. The Goaldiggers featured defenseman Don Waddell, who would later be GM of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Aftermath: The loss to the Lumberjacks would be the last postseason appearance for the Goaldiggers. It was a matchup of two franchises going in opposite directions: the Lumberjacks, revived after over a decade as a bottom-feeder, versus the Goaldiggers, on the way downhill after a decade of contention. Peter Mahovalich would coach the Diggers to a 24-48-10 record, most losses in franchise history. Only the expansion Flint Spirits kept Toledo out of the basement. Mounting financial losses and declining attendance forced ownership to suspend operations after the 1985-86 season. The dormant franchise would eventually be sold to Russ and Diane Parker and relocated to Kansas City for the 1990-91 season, becoming the Kansas City Blades. Toledo would later become home to the ECHL's Storm in 1991. Currently, Toledo is home to the ECHL's Walleye.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1984-85 (from
Toledo Goaldiggers History (from

Toledo Goaldiggers (1982-83, IHL)

1982-83 Regular Season--Goaldiggers vs. Saginaw Gears
     After winning the 1977-78 Turner Cup, the Goaldiggers stumbled through a few forgettable seasons. By 1980-81, the team hired Bill Inglis as head coach midway through the season. Inglis built a powerhouse team in 1981-82, which set team records for victories (53), then flattened the Saginaw Gears in five games to win the Turner Cup. 
     Inglis' 1982-83 Diggers were almost as good. They repeated as regular season champions, with an excellent 51-21-10 record, 10 points ahead of second place Fort Wayne. They were 25 points ahead of Western Division champion Milwaukee.
     The Diggers featured the third best offense in the IHL in '82-83, lighting the lamp 362 times. Future NHLer Dirk Graham led the way with 70 goals and 125 points (amazingly, not the league leader in goals!). Dave Falkenberg was next in goal-scoring with 51 goals. Five other players had at least 20 goals on the year for Inglis' squad.
     Toledo was even stronger on defense, allowing a league-low 269 goals during the season. They used five different goaltenders that year. Veteran Lorne Molleken (future Chicago Blackhawks coach) played in 48 games and 10 in the postseason. Paul Billing, acquired from Peoria midseason, made it into 16 games and 2 postseason games.
     As regular season champions, the Goaldiggers earned a first-round bye. In Round Two, they faced the Fort Wayne Komets and quickly knocked them off in five games to advance to the Turner Cup Finals. In the Finals, the Diggers met up with the Milwaukee Admirals. Toledo won their second straight Cup in six games, including a 16-4 slaughter of the Admirals in Game 5 at the Sports Arena. It was the fourth Turner Cup win in Goaldiggers history, and ninth in Toledo hockey history.
     This was the first Goaldiggers program I bought. I got it several years ago at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens, and I think I paid about $2 for it. It has 46 pages, and almost all of it is black-and-white. There are quite a few pictures from Game 5 of the Diggers-Gears series. There is also a team photo of the 1981-82 Goaldiggers.
     The opponent from this night was the Saginaw Gears on November 21, 1982. The Diggers had tough guy Paul Tantardini back on the roster by then. Paul was a member of all four Goaldigger Turner Cup championship teams, and one of the most popular players to wear that uniform.
     Lots of advertisements, per usual. Some of the local ads include Rax Roast Beef (A Bunful of Savings for You), Tom Clark's Players Club and Nick & Jimmy's Bar and Grill.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from

Toledo Goaldiggers (1977-78, IHL)

1977-78 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Toledo Goaldiggers joined the IHL as an expansion franchise shortly after the Hornets skipped town. They wisely hired ex-Port Huron Wings coach Ted Garvin as head coach/GM, and made the playoffs in their first season. The Diggers then stormed to the Turner Cup Finals, completing the legendary "Miracle on Main Street" by defeating the Saginaw Gears in seven games to win the Cup in their inaugural season.
     The Toledo Goaldiggers existed from 1974-86, and are considered by many fans to be the glory years of pro hockey in Toledo. By 1977-78, the Diggers were firmly established as a dangerous team in the IHL. They were coming off a seven-game defeat in the Finals to Saginaw, and the Sports Arena was packed on a nightly basis. Ted Garvin's squad were affiliated with the New York Rangers and Cleveland Barons.
     Toledo finished in second place in the South Division, with a solid 34-28-18. Their 86 points were third highest in the IHL that year, 11 points behind division champion Fort Wayne. The Diggers had the third highest offensive output that year, pumping in 331 goals. They were led by IHL veteran Len Fontaine, who played for Garvin in Port Huron. Fontaine scored 34 goals and 88 points that season. Barry Scully led the team in goals that year with 42. Future "Miracle on Ice" member Mike Eruzione chipped in 30 goals and 86 points.
     On defense, the Diggers were in the middle of the pack, allowing 316 goals. The team used five goaltenders, including Tony Piroski, Lindsay Middlebrook and Ted Tucker. Piroski played the majority of the regular season games, but Middlebrook got the nod for the playoffs.
     The Diggers qualified for the postseason again in 1977-78, and faced lowly Milwaukee in round one. Toledo made quick work of the Admirals, shoving them aside in five games (best of seven) to face Fort Wayne in Round Two. The Diggers upset the Komets in five games, outscoring them 26-13 in the series, to advance to the Turner Cup Finals. The Diggers faced the Port Huron Flags, Garvin's old squad, in the finals, and it was a thriller. In a back and forth series, Toledo hung on to win 4-3 in Game Seven to win their second Turner Cup in four years.
     This program came with an insert featuring Goaldiggers forward Greg McPhee. The program is 54 pages thick, with all sorts of ads and article. Local advertisements include Vernors, Schlitz Beer and Crimping Tree Design Hair Cutting. There is no roster sheet, so no idea who the Goaldiggers played in that game. Nice drawing on the front.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1977-78 (from

Toledo Hornets (1972-73, IHL)

1972-73 Regular Season--Hornets vs. Saginaw Gears
      The Hornets had their best season in their four years of existence, but it wasn't anything special. Toledo finished third in the Northern Division, with an ordinary 36-33-5 record. Their 77 points was just one point ahead of fourth place Muskegon and twelve behind division champion Flint. Fred Burchell was behind the bench this season.
     Toledo had the second-worst offense in the IHL that season, scoring just 257 goals. The Hornets were led by Harold White, who scored 27 goals and 63 points. Moe Brunel led the team in goals with 30. Only four other players had at least 20 goals that season.
     The Hornet defense was much better, allowing the fifth-fewest goals in the league, 261. Glenn Ramsay was back for another season in the Toledo net, and had a fine season. Ramsay, one of the iron men of the IHL, played in 70 games, posting 3 shutouts and a 3.21 GAA. Dean Jeffrey was his backup that season, making it into 9 games.
     Barely making it into the postseason, the Hornets drew the defending champion Port Huron Wings in the first round. The Wings made quick work of the Hornets, blasting Toledo in four games (best of 5). Port Huron outscored Toledo 13-5 in the process, including two shutouts in the first two games. The Wings would return to the Turner Cup Finals, but fell to Fort Wayne in four straight.
     This program came with two inserts. One is a poster featuring Hornets defenseman John Gravel. The pic is mostly black-and-white, but Gravel's Hornets uniform is colored in. The other insert is a scorecard. This program is the smallest of the three Hornets programs I own--only 26 pages. Local ads include Captain Bill's Swashbuckler Buffet, 21st Century Health Spa and Papenhagen Oldsmobile ("A Great Place to Buy Your Next Olds"). Small, but nice. I like the team photo on the front.

Aftermath: The Hornets slumped to 33-42-1, but still qualified for the postseason in 1973-74. They were eliminated in Round One by the Flint Generals in 3 games (best of 3). That would be it for the Hornets franchise in Toledo. Attendance continued to be miserable, and rising debt forced owner Paul Bright to abandon Toledo for Lansing, Michigan, for the 1974-75 season. The new Lansing Lancers bombed in their lone season in Michigan's Capital City, folding halfway through the year. Toledo, deserted by the Hornets, gained the last laugh. The IHL awarded an expansion franchise for '74-75: the Toledo Goaldiggers, who went on to win the Turner Cup in their inaugural season.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1972-73 (from

Toledo Hornets (1971-72, IHL)

1971-72 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
      The Toledo Blades were renamed Hornets after the 1969-70 season. The Hornets were led by President/GM Paul Bright, and coached by Bill Needham. The Hornets four-year run is considered the low point of pro hockey in Toledo. While the Blades and Mercurys won 5 Turner Cups between them, the Hornets never made it past the first round. Finishing over .500 only once, the Hornets failed to capture the imagination of Toledo hockey fans, often playing in front of small crowds at the Sports Arena.
     The 1971-72 Hornets didn't improve much on the previous season, going a lackluster 26-46-0. That was good enough for dead last in the North Division, 15 points behind third place Flint and 48 behind division champ Muskegon.
     The Hornets had the third-worst offense in the league that year, scoring 270 goals. Needham's bunch were led by Jim Paterson, who had 46 goals and 86 points. Three other Hornets scored at least 20 goals.
1971-72 Regular Season--Hornets vs. Des Moines Oak Leafs
     Toledo had all sorts of problems keeping the puck out of the net as well. They allowed a league-worst 371 goals that season, more than even the Columbus Golden Seals, the worst team in the league. The Hornets went through four different goaltenders that year, with local legend Glenn Ramsay taking the brunt of the abuse in net.
     Finishing dead last in the Northern Division eliminated the Hornets from playoff contention. Only the woeful Columbus Golden Seals (15-55-2) were worse than Toledo that year. Needham would be let go after the season in favor of Fred Burchell.
     For such a bad team, they had decent programs that year. Both programs have 34 pages, but only the second one has rosters. The first one posted was the first Hornets program I bought. I bought it at Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens. I bought the second one on eBay. Didn't pay too much for either. Ads include Coleco Pro Stars Hockey, Jeep and "Countrypolitan" WTOD 1560 AM. There are also pictures of Toledo Amateur Hockey teams. Of the two, I like the first one more, but not by much. Both are fine programs.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1971-72 (from

Toledo Blades (1969-70, IHL)

1969-70 Regular Season--Blades vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     In 1969-70, the IHL split into two, four-team divisions with the arrival of the expansion Flint Generals. Toledo joined the Southern Division with Dayton, Des Moines and Columbus. Bill Mitchell was the coach of the Blades for this season, the seventh in franchise history.
     The Blades finished second place in the South. Their mediocre 32-33-7 record earned them 71 points, nine behind first place Dayton and 29 behind league-leading Muskegon.
     Toledo tied for the second-fewest goals in the league that year, scoring only 241. Mitchell's club was led by Ray Germain, who had 22  goals to go along with 70 points. Wayne Zuk led the team in goals with 41. Five other players on the roster had over 20 goals.
     On the other hand, the Blades defense was stellar. Toledo allowed 265 goals, second-fewest in the IHL that year. Glenn Ramsay had a solid season for the Blades, playing in 61 games, before being loaned to Port Huron. Toledo used two other netminders, Jerry Fleury and Al Cecile.
     The Blades qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs that season and faced the Des Moines Oak Leafs in Round One. In a low-scoring best of 5 series, the Leafs eliminated the Blades in 3 straight, outscoring Toledo 11-6 in the process. Dayton would go on to capture the Turner Cup in seven games over Port Huron.
     This program has 47 pages, mostly all black-and-white. There are short bios about Blades players and letters from the ownership group. Ads include A&P (which had 22 area stores then), Blatz Beer and Patchey's House of Auto Parts. McDonald's has a color picture of one of their drive-thru restaurants below the roster sheets. That night's opponent was the Fort Wayne Komets.

Aftermath: 1969-70 was the final season of the Toledo Blades. In an attempt to boost attendance, ownership changed the team name to Toledo Hornets. They would remain in town for four more seasons.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1969-70 (from

Toledo Blades (1967-68, IHL)

1967-68 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
     The Toledo Blades were the third professional hockey club to play in Toledo, Ohio. They were members of the International Hockey League from 1963-70, when they were renamed Toledo Hornets. They played their home games at the Toledo Sports Arena, a 5,230-seat arena.
     The Blades were coming off their second Turner Cup victory in 1966-67, having defeated Fort Wayne in the Finals. The 1967-68 Blades slipped to fifth place in the IHL that year, with a 29-29-14 record. While Muskegon ran away with the regular season title, the battle for the second-fourth playoff seeds was hotly contested, as only six points separated second place Dayton and fifth place Toledo.
     Coach Terry Slater's squad scored only 261 goals, second-fewest in the league. Stan Maxwell led the charge on offense, with 34 goals and 78 points. Richard Balon led the Blades in goals with 41. Five other players scored at least 20, including two players with over 30 goals.
     The Blades allowed the second-most goals in the IHL that season, with 307 pucks getting past Toledo netminders. The Blades used five different goaltenders that season. Toledo legend Glenn Ramsay played the lions-share of games in '67-68, making it into 53 games. Jim Helkie played in 11 games, the second-most on the team. Lyle Carter, Barry Olson and Hal Murphy appeared in a few games each.
     The Blades narrowly missed the playoffs in 1967-68, finishing just a point behind fourth place Fort Wayne. Muskegon captured the Turner Cup, defeating Dayton.
     Sharp program that's still in excellent condition for it's age. There are a lot of in-game action pictures in this program. All of them are pictures of a Blades-Flags game at McMorran Arena. Nice cover picture of Glenn Ramsay making a kick save in the Blades net! This program has 34 pages, all black-and-white. Ads include McDonald's, Econo-Car of Toledo and WOHO 1470 AM.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1967-68 (from

Fort Worth Texans (1974-75, CHL)

Quite a few programs from the CHL, eh?

1974-75 Regular Season--Opponent Unknown
      The Fort Worth Texans were members of the Central Hockey League from 1967-82. The Texans were the third pro hockey franchise in Fort Worth since 1941. The franchise arrived in town after a three-year stay in Memphis, Tennessee. The Texans played their home games at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, which seats 6500.
     For the first seven years of it's existence, the Texans were called "Fort Worth Wings" and were a farm team of the Detroit Red Wings. In 1974, the Wings became Texans and were affiliated with the up-and-coming New York Islanders, hence the logo. This program is from the team's first season as the Texans.
     Head Coach Ed Chadwick's Texans struggled through a rough 1974-75 campaign, bringing up the rear in the CHL. Their 26-40-12 record gave them a paltry 68 points. They tied Tulsa for fewest points, but earned dead last by having the fewest points. They finished five points behind the next worst team in the league (Seattle Totems) and 24 points behind division champion Dallas.
     On offense, the Texans were fifth in the league, scoring just 264 goals. They were led by Jim Webster, who had 75 points on 22 goals. Ron Kennedy led the team in goals with 34. Five other players scored at least 20 on the year.
     On defense, Fort Worth struggled, allowing a league-worst 322 goals. They went through four different goaltenders that season. Bill Hughes took the brunt of the abuse in the Texans' net, playing 57 games, going 17-26-10 with a 4.09 GAA and 1 shutout. Don Cutts played the second-most games, going 2-10-0 with a 4.50 GAA in 15 appearances. Ron Marlow and Steve Miskiewicz also saw playing time.
    Finishing dead-last in the league meant no playoffs for the Texans that year. Chadwick would be replaced with Terry Gray for the 1975-76 season.
     Nice-looking program, it has 32 pages with lots of pictures and stats. Local advertisements include The Keg Steak and Lobster, Kip's Big Boy and Washer Bros. Suits (featuring the Johnny Carson line, no less!). Some nice in-game action pictures of a Dallas-Fort Worth game. Those two teams had a serious blood feud, often leading to bench-clearing brawls. Old-time hockey!

Aftermath: The Texans would win their only Adams Cup championship in 1977-78, knocking off arch-rival Dallas in a thrilling seven game series. By 1979, the Texans became the primary farm team of the Colorado Rockies. The franchise would continue playing until 1982, when declining attendance brought on by the recession of the time forced the franchise to fold. The CHL itself would last just two more seasons before going under.

Central Hockey League Statistics: 1974-75 (from

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Kalamazoo Wings, (1990-91, IHL)

1990-91 Regular Season--Wings vs. Peoria Rivermen
     By 1990-91, the K-Wings were the primary affiliate of the Minnesota North Stars. They also dropped their original red-white-blue color scheme for the North Stars green and gold look.
     Ted Parfet still owned the franchise, then in it's 16th season in the IHL. Bill Inglis was by then just General Manager. John Marks was behind the bench for the fourth straight season.
     The IHL was becoming a coast-to-coast league with many teams in major US cities. Many of Kalamazoo's longtime rivals, such as Flint, Saginaw, Port Huron and Toledo, were long gone from the IHL. In their places were cities as far west as San Diego and as far east as Albany.
     The K-Wings were still in the Eastern Division, and captured the division crown in 1990-91. Their sparkling 52-29-1 record was good for 105 points, 16 behind league-best Peoria. John Marks' squad was third-best in offense that year, lighting the lamps 354 times. Steve Gotaas led a balanced K-Wings attack that year, scoring 30 goals and 79 points. Ed Courtenay led the team in goals with 35 on the year. Two other players scored 30 and four others scored at least 20.
     On defense, the K-Wings were fourth best in the league. Kalamazoo allowed just 302 goals on the year. They used five different netminders in 1990-91, led by Larry Dyck and Jarkko Myllys. Both played in 38 games a piece, with Myllys going 24-13-1 with a 3.79 GAA. Dyck responded with a 21-15-0 mark with a 3.66 GAA. Bryan Hayward, Kari Takko and John Blue filled in throughout the season.
     Kalamazoo opened the Turner Cup Playoffs against rival Muskegon. The K-Wings downed the Lumberjacks in five games (best of 7), out scoring the Jacks 20-12 in the process. In the semifinals, the K-Wings would fall to Fort Wayne in six games. Fort Wayne would then fall to Peoria in six games in the Finals.
     This is the first K-Wings program I bought, and it's the biggest one. It's made up of 58 pages, and includes the game insert, featuring Mario Thyer, and a stats page with a copy of "Wingo" on the back (think Bingo, but a K-Wings version). The usual local ads are there, including Godfather's Pizza, Scott's Baseball Cards and WMSH Radio ("Michiana's Sports Connection!"). That night's opponent was the Peoria Rivermen, the St. Louis Blues' main affiliate. The K-Wings were red hot at that point, having won 7 in a row to get off to a 15-2-0 record. Peoria was even better, having won a phenomenal 16 games in a row after dropping their opener to be 16-1-0 at that point. Sounds like a good game! The Albany Choppers (the original Fort Wayne Komets) were still around by then, but would fold by Valentine's Day.
     The action shot on the cover features the K-Wings and Flint Spirits. Might be from a playoff game the previous year. After getting destroyed by Kalamazoo in the first round, the Spirits would be bought by the Franke family and moved to Fort Wayne to replace the original Fort Wayne Komets.

Aftermath: The Kalamazoo Wings would continue to be the top farm club of the Minnesota/Dallas Stars for the remainder of their existence. The franchise would be renamed "Michigan K-Wings" after the 1994-95 season, to promote a more regional appeal. The IHL would continue to expand to major cities across the country, even returning to Canada. Attendance remained strong, but rising travel costs were beginning to take their toll on the franchise. Dallas pulled out of Kalamazoo after the 1999-2000 season, and the Parfet family suspended operations of the K-Wings franchise. Shortly afterwards, the United Hockey League filled the void when the Madison Kodiaks relocated to Kalamazoo and became the new K-Wings. That franchise now plays in the ECHL.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1990-91 (from

Kalamazoo Wings (1985-86, IHL)

1985-86 Regular Season--Wings vs. Salt Lake Golden Eagles
     The Kalamazoo Wings were back for their 11th season of IHL hockey in 1985-86. They were still part of the Red Wings farm system, but were also affiliated with Vancouver and Philadelphia. Ted Parfet was still owner of the franchise. Bill Inglis returned as coach/GM for a second season after three years in Toledo.
     The IHL emerged from the recession of the early 1980s to begin expanding across the continent to much larger towns. The demise of the Central Hockey League brought teams from Salt Lake City, Utah, and Indianapolis, Indiana, into the IHL for the 1984-85 season. Peoria became the Rivermen and Muskegon became the Lumberjacks. After the 1984-85 season, the Flint Generals would move to Saginaw and would be replaced by the expansion Flint Spirits.
     Bill Inglis' 1985-86 K-Wings finished in second place in the Eastern Division. Their 47-29-6 record gave them an even 100 points just five behind first place Muskegon and 12 behind league-best Fort Wayne. The K-Wings were the fourth best team on offense that season, scoring 341 goals. They were led by center Bill Terry, who had 43 goals to go along with 109 points. Wayne Crawford led the team in goals with 51. Three more players had over 20 goals, and three others had at least 15.
     Defense was a weak spot for Kalamazoo that year. The K-Wings surrendered 310 goals, fourth-worst in the IHL. The team used four different netminders that season. Veteran Georges Gagnon played the bulk of the games, sporting a 3.40 GAA in 63 appearances, then started in all the playoff games. Corrado Micalef, Shawn MacKenzie and Dave Ross made it into several games apiece.
     Kalamazoo faced the Saginaw Generals in Round One of the Turner Cup Playoffs. The Generals, despite finishing 10 points back in third place, upset the K-Wings in six games. Saginaw would then fall to eventual champion Muskegon in five games in the semi-finals.
    This is probably the nicest K-Wings program that I own. It's much larger than the previous ones I have posted, at 53 pages. It's almost all black-and-white, and features lots of local ads, from D&G Vac Distributors to Asphalt Protection Service. There's even an ad for the Mc D.L.T. (remember those?)! That night's opponent was the Salt Lake Golden Eagles, in their sophomore season in the IHL. The game was played on October 25, 1982, 3 games into the season. Kalamazoo was in third place at that point, a point behind Toledo. Salt Lake was in fourth place at the time.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1985-86 (from

Kalamazoo Wings (1982-83, IHL)

1982-83 Regular Season--Wings vs. Saginaw Gears
     Before I give the recap for this season, take a look at the cover. See what the K-Wings foward is wearing? Those are called Cooperalls, a long-legged hockey pant that was around during the early 1980s. Two NHL teams, Hartford and Philadelphia, even wore these things at this time. Cooperalls were much lighter than traditional equipment, and allowed players more agility. However, they were also a safety risk, as they greatly reduced friction, sending players hurtling quicker across the ice. They were soon declared unsafe and discontinued. Note the continuation of the pants stripes along the sides of the K-Wings' jerseys.
     Anyway, on to that season. 1982-83 saw the IHL expand to eight teams with the arrival of the Peoria Prancers. They also brought back the two-division format after a one-year hiatus. Kalamazoo was now in the Western Division, along with Milwaukee, Muskegon and Peoria. They were still part of the Detroit Red Wings farm system.
     The 1982-83 K-Wings were again coached by JP LeBlanc, and finished second in the new West Division. However, their miserable 32-44-6 record was their worst in several seasons. Milwaukee ran away with the division crown that year, 22 points ahead of the K-Wings.
     Offense was a big letdown that season, as Kalamazoo scored the fewest goals in the league, 311. Bill MacNaught's 82 points (21 goals) led the team. Steve Banonis led the team in goals with 42. Four other players scored at least 20 goals.
     The K-Wings were middle-of-the-pack on the defensive side of the puck. The team allowed 341 goals that season, good enough for fourth in the IHL. Three different goaltenders defended the K-Wings net that year, led by Georges Gagnon, who played in 56 games. Michel Dufour played in 23 games before being dealt to Milwaukee. Larry Lozinski returned to play in 12 games.
     Despite their weak record, Kalamazoo again qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs. They would face third-place Muskegon in Round One, and knocked off the Mohawks in four games (best of 5). They then ran into first place Milwaukee, who clipped the K-Wings in five games (best of 7), outscoring them 18-9 in the process. Milwaukee would fall to defending champion Toledo in six games in the Finals.
     Another nice program, 38 pages just like the previous two. Lots of black-and-white local ads, from Fetzer Broadcasting to Gilmore's ("A Kalamazoo Tradition since 1881"). That night's opponent was the Saginaw Gears, who were in their final season. No idea when the game was played, since there is no insert. And you can't forget the picture of the infamous Cooperalls!

Rosenhek, Eric, The Death of the Cooperall. The Good Point, May 12, 2009.
Wikipedia Article: Cooperalls
International Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from

Kalamazoo Wings (1981-82, IHL)

1981-82 Regular Season--Wings vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     The country was going through a recession during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the industrial Midwest was especially hit hard. With fewer and fewer fans having disposable income for hockey games, attendance began to drop off for many IHL franchises. The league was coming off a forgettable offseason in 1981. The Grand Rapids Owls and Port Huron Flags both ceased operations after the season's end. The Saginaw Gears filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after winning the Turner Cup, and Muskegon came close to being evicted from their arena. The league, now down to 7 teams, scrapped their divisional setup.
     The Kalamazoo Wings opened the 1981-82 season in an unfamiliar role: ex-champions. The K-Wings were routed in the 1981 Turner Cup Finals by a red-hot Gears squad in five games, ending their two-year dynasty. Coach Doug McKay moved on to coach the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings and was replaced by JP LeBlanc. The franchise was still a part of Detroit's farm system.
     The K-Wings slipped to third overall in the league. Their ordinary 41-36-5 record had them just two points behind second place Milwaukee, but 22 points behind runaway league champion Toledo.
     Kalamazoo was fifth in the league on offense, scoring 355 goals. They were led by Brent Jarrett, who was later traded to Saginaw during the season. Jarrett notched 40 goals and 122 points for both the K-Wings and Gears that year. Another midseason acquisition, Bill MacNaught, popped in 35 goals and 98 points between the K-Wings and Flint Generals. Six other players scored over 20 goals, including three who reached 38.
     On defense, Kalamazoo was much better. Their 333 goals allowed mark was second-lowest in the IHL, behind Toledo. The team used four different netminders that year. Holdover Georges Gagnon played the bulk of the games (59) , with a 3.70 GAA. Future Red Wings netminder Corrado Micalef played in 20 games and would make it all the way to Detroit that season. Claude Legris and Randy Wilson were the other two netminders that year.
     There would be no fourth-straight appearance in the Turner Cup Finals in 1982. Kalamazoo faced the Fort Wayne Komets in Round One and were quickly dispatched in five games. The Komets would then be the odd-team out in the round robin second round series, and Toledo would dispatch Saginaw in the Turner Cup Finals.
     Another nice K-Wings program. It's the same size as the one from 1979-80. All of the pages are black-and-white. There are the usual local advertisements, from Vicksburg Tune & Turn Motorcycle Shop to Taco John's Super Burrito ("IT'S TACORRIFIC!!"). That night's opponent was the Fort Wayne Komets. The game was on November 20, 1981, and both the Komets and K-Wings were tied for third place with 20 points. Slick program, very good condition too.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1981-82 (from

Kalamazoo Wings (1979-80, IHL)

1979-80 Regular Season--Wings vs. Port Huron Flags
     The Kalamazoo Wings joined the International Hockey League as an expansion franchise in 1974-75. They were a farm team of the Detroit Red Wings and were owned by Ted Parfet. The Wings played their home games in new Wings Stadium, a 5,121-seat stadium.
     In 1978-79, the Wings captured their first-ever Turner Cup championship, besting the Grand Rapids Owls in seven games. New head coach Doug McKay would improve on that success in 1979-80. The Wings would win the regular season title that year, going 45-26-9, three points ahead of second place Saginaw and six ahead of Southern Division leader Fort Wayne.
     McKay's K-Wings led the league in both offense and defense. Kalamazoo potted 366 goals on the year. They were led by Tom Milani's 49 goals and 111 points. Tom Ross joined Milani in the 40-goal club, lighting the red light 43 times to go with 103 points. Seven other K-Wings scored over 20 goals on the season.
     Kalamazoo was equally strong on defense, as they allowed a miniscule 274 goals. The next closest team that year, Port Huron, allowed 300. Larry Lozinski and Georges Gagnon were in goal for Kalamazoo that year. Lozinski, who eventually played 30 games for Detroit in 1980-81, played 69 games for the K-Wings and all the playoff games. Gagnon filled in for 18 that season, and would go on to a long minor-league career, mostly in Kalamazoo.
     In the postseason, the K-Wings would "Go For It...Again", as this program says. As the top team in the league, Kalamazoo drew lowly Muskegon in Round One. The K-Wings made short work of the rival Mohawks, hammering them in 5 games (best of 7), outscoring them 29-11 in the process. Second Round opponent Port Huron was a more formidable opponent, as the Flags pushed the K-Wings to six games (three in OT) before falling.
     Kalamazoo would face Fort Wayne in the 1980 Turner Cup Finals. Fort Wayne took a 2-1 series lead on the defending champs before the K-Wings regrouped and swept the last three games to take the series. It was the second straight Turner Cup championship for the franchise.
     Almost all of the pages in this program are blue-and-white. This program has 38 pages with all sorts of local advertisements, from Century Buick to WBUK "Big Buk Country" 1560 AM. The opponent for that night's game was the Port Huron Flags, who would finish just seven points behind the K-Wings in the North Division race. The ad on that page, for Peschke Great American Hot Dogs (The Official Wings Hot Dog, no less!) is the lone color ad in the program. Nice program for it's time. Nice-looking cover graphic too.

International Hockey League Statistics: 1979-80 (from

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Knoxville Knights (1966-67, EHL)

1966-67 Regular Season--Knights vs. Florida Rockets

     The Knoxville Knights were part of the old Eastern Hockey League from 1961-68. The franchise originally began as the Washington Lions in 1954, heading to Tennessee in 1961 after a one-year stop in New Jersey. The Knights played their home games at the Civic Auditorium-Coliseum, a 7,141 seat arena.
     Doug Bentley, former Red Wings forward, was back behind the bench for the 1966-67 season. The Knights slumped that season to a 27-42-3 record, fourth place in the Southern Division, just a point ahead of last place Florida and two ahead of league-worst New Haven.
     Knoxville scored the third-fewest goals in the league that year, with only 232. Chuck Stuart led the team with 37 goals and 83 points. Five other players reached 20 goals, but most split time between Knoxville and other EHL teams.
     The Knights were middle-of-the-pack on defense, allowing 268 goals. They went with two goaltenders that season, Wayne Doll and Bev Bentley.
     Knoxville faced the Nashville Dixie Flyers in Round One of the playoffs. The Knights didn't last long, as they lost to Nashville in four games (best-of-five), outscored 17-7 in the process. Nashville would go on to win the league championship in five games over the Jersey Devils.
     As you can tell by the record, the Knights were not a very good team that season. One player of note on the roster is Dennis Hextall. Hextall was a rookie in 1966-67, and would go on to a long NHL career, mostly with Minnesota and Detroit.
     This is a pretty small program, just 24 pages, but it does have the usual ads and articles, as well as the rosters for both teams. There's also an ad for an intermission game called "Beat the Goalie". Definitely a random program in my massive collection.

Aftermath: The Knights would last one more season before folding. Knoxville would not return to pro hockey until the Knoxville Cherokees of the ECHL in 1988. Currently, the city is home to the Knoxville Ice Bears of the Single-A SPHL.

Eastern Hockey League Statistics: 1966-67 (from

Dallas Black Hawks (CHL, 1974-75)

Continuing to stay out west, here's a program from the Dallas Blackhawks of the old Central Hockey League.

1974-75 Adams Cup Finals--Dallas vs. Salt Lake Golden Eagles
     Before the arrival of the NHL's Stars, Dallas had a long, successful run as a minor-pro hockey city. The Dallas Black Hawks were one of the old Central Hockey League's more successful franchises. Existing from 1967-82, the Hawks made it to 10 CHL Finals series, winning four Adams Cups.
     As you can tell by the logo, the Black Hawks were an affiliate of the Chicago Black Hawks. They wore jerseys that were nearly identical to the parent club. The only difference was the shoulder patch, which featured a capital D with crossed tomahawks.
     Bobby Kromm was GM/Coach of the Dallas Black Hawks for their first 8 years of existence. Kromm guided the Hawks to six CHL Finals series, winning three Adams Cups. After such a stellar run in Dallas, Kromm would move up to the WHA's Winnipeg Jets for two seasons (winning one Avco Cup) and the Detroit Red Wings for three seasons.
     Kromm's 1974-75 squad was it's usual powerful self. Having won the previous year's Adams Cup, the Hawks finished in first place in the Southern Division, with a strong 40-30-8 record. They were 10 points ahead of second place Oklahoma City, and 9 points behind league-leading Salt Lake. Dallas was the second-highest scoring team in the CHL, with 302 goals. The Hawks were led by Jim Koleff, who notched 77 points on the strength of 35 goals. Six others scored at least 20 goals.
     On defense, the Hawks were the second-best team in the league, allowing just 259 goals. They used three different goaltenders that season. Michel Dumas led the way for Dallas, going 26-20-6 with a 3.10 GAA and 4 shutouts. Mike Veisor and Bernie Germain picked up the remainder of games in net.
     The Hawks continued their postseason success in 1974-75. Earning a first-round bye, the Hawks annihilated Oklahoma City in 3 straight games in Round Two, outscoring the Blazers 19-4. Dallas then battled Salt Lake in a thrilling seven-game finals series. There would be no repeat for the Hawks, as they lost Game 7 in OT, 5-4.
     Nice program, short and to the point. It's 32 pages, loaded with black-and-white pics and ads. It includes lyrics to O Canada, The Star Spangled Banner and Here Come the Hawks. This team was dominant for most of their existence, to say the least. One player of note on the Hawks roster is Kirk Bowman, who also played for the Flint Generals. Salt Lake had goaltender Ray Martyniuk, a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens who never reached the NHL.
     Notice I'm writing the team's nickname as "Black Hawks" (with a space)? That was the correct way to spell Dallas and Chicago's team nicknames back then. It was in the late 1980s that Chicago removed the space in their nickname and became "Blackhawks".

Central Hockey League Statistics: 1974-75 (from

San Diego Gulls (WHL, 1973-74)

1973-74 Regular Season--Gulls vs. Seattle Totems
     1973-74 was an improvement over the previous season, as Jack Evans' Gulls finished 40-33-5. That record was good enough for third place in the Western Hockey League, only four points behind league-leading Phoenix.
     Goals-against went up this season, but so did the offense. San Diego was still next-to-last in goal scoring, but they lit the lamp 278 times, a marked improvement from the previous year. Mike Bloom was the leading point-scorer, with 69 points, while Tom Trevelyan had a team-best 31 goals. Five other Gulls scored at least 20.
     San Diego was third best in the goals-against department, allowing 281. The team went through five different goaltenders, but John Adams played the majority of games (69). Bob Champoux, on the roster for that night's game against Seattle, was later dealt to Salt Lake.
     The Gulls again made the WHL Playoffs in 1973-74 and, again, faced Phoenix in Round One. The Roadrunners advanced in four straight, but the series was a close one, as three of the four games were decided by one goal.
     As you can see, this program was autographed by three different players: Bernie Gagnon, Connie Madigan and Jake Rathwell. Madigan would later be dealt to Portland, Gagnon scored 40 points (19 goals) and Rathwell had 16 points (6 goals).
     A Gulls' player of note in that night's program is Willie O'Ree. O'Ree made history in 1957-58 for becoming the first African American to play in the National Hockey League, playing 2 games with Boston. He later played in 43 games for the Bruins in 1960-61, his final year in the NHL.

Aftermath: 1973-74 proved to be the final season of not only the San Diego Gulls, but the Western Hockey League itself. Due to rising costs and competition from the new World Hockey Association, the WHL folded, with several teams joining the rival Central Hockey League for the 1974-75 season. The Gulls, a very popular team in their time, did not join the CHL. The franchise folded and was replaced by the San Diego Mariners of the WHA. The Mariners were originally the New York Raiders/Golden Blades/Jersey Knights, who flopped in their two seasons in the New York area. The Mariners lasted three seasons, drawing small crowds, before folding. Two different teams used the "San Diego Gulls" monicker years later in the IHL and WCHL/ECHL. 

Western Hockey League Statistics: 1973-74, (from