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)

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