Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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 hockeydb.com)

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