Monday, April 6, 2015

Flint Spirits (IHL, 1988-89)

1988-89 Regular Season: Opponent Unknown
     After such a great season in 1987-88, the Spirits saw many changes on and off the ice. Head Coach/GM Rick Dudley was hired by the Buffalo Sabres and was replaced by top defenseman Don Waddell. Star forward John Cullen also jumped to "The Show", signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Spirits were affiliated with Buffalo, Detroit, Los Angeles and Toronto.
     1988-89 was a huge disappointment, as the Spirits crashed to the league cellar, with a pathetic 22-54-6. With only 50 points on the year, Flint was 35 points behind fourth place Kalamazoo and a mind-numbing 71 behind Huber Trophy winner Muskegon.
     Waddell's first team had trouble scoring goals, bringing up the rear in the IHL with just 287. New arrival Michel Mongeau, a former Saginaw General, scored 41 goals and 117 points to lead the team. Yves Heroux was second-best with 43 goals and 85 points. The only other Spirits player with over 30 goals was Mike Hoffman. New assistant coach Peter Horachek returned to the ice after a one-year retirement, but scored just 10 goals and 32 points.
     Flint was slightly better on defense, allowing 428 goals on the year, second only to the expansion Indianapolis Ice. Waddell used six goaltenders that year. Both goaltenders from the previous year's finals run, Gary Kruzich and Ray LeBlanc, did return that year, but struggled to put up decent numbers behind a porous defense. Kruzich went 9-17-1 with a 4.84 GAA and one shutout. LeBlanc would be traded partway into the season to Saginaw for young forward Lonnie Loach. Maple Leafs prospect Dean Anderson had a brutal 1-12-0 record in 16 games, though that lone win was a shutout. Mark Reimer, Scott Brower and Kenton Rein were the other netminders that year.
     Obviously, there would be no playoff run in 1988-89, as the Spirits were one of two teams eliminated from postseason play. Don Waddell would remain on as General Manager, and the team would become the primary farm team of the New York Rangers in 1989-90, the franchise's final season in Flint.
     There are 64 pages in this program, again all black-and-white. Plenty of advertisements too, including the Raincheck Lounge, PASS Sports and Beavers IGA. Then-mayor Matthew Collier left a note welcoming fans to the game and wishing the team luck. His letter also included a picture of him playing hockey! There are also pictures of Spirits players John Cullen and Dan Woodley receiving awards from IHL Commissioner Bud Poile, an article about last season's accomplishments and an interview with current coach Don Waddell. I think this is about the time I started going to hockey games. Didn't want to go back then (I even faked being sick!), but I was only seven.

Sources:
International Hockey League Statistics: 1988-89 (from hockeydb.com)
1988-89 Flint Spirits Game Program

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