Saturday, September 13, 2014

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

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