Friday, September 18, 2015

Cleveland Barons (AHL, 1946-47)

1946-47 Regular Season--Barons vs. Indianapolis Capitals
     The Cleveland Barons were a long-time member of the American Hockey League, the second-highest level of pro hockey in North America. They existed from 1937-73 and played their home games at Cleveland Arena, a 9953-seat arena.
     In 1946-47, the Barons were coached by former New York Rangers star forward Frederick "Bun" Cook, who would coach the team from 1943-56. His Barons would win the AHL Western Division crown by one point, edging out second place Buffalo. Cleveland's 38-18-8 record and 84 points would tie the Hershey Bears for first overall that season, with Cleveland winning the regular season with two more victories. This program is from a November 30, 1946, game against the Indianapolis Capitals, who were coached by future Red Wings coach Tommy Ivan. Cook's Cleveland bunch won this game, 7-3, to improve their record to 13-4-0.
     Cook's Barons would score the third-most goals in the AHL that season, with 272. Bob Carse led the team in scoring, with 27 goals and 88 points. Johnny Holota scored the most goals, lighting the lamp 52 times. Five other players scored at least 20 goals.
     Cleveland was fourth-best in the goals-against department, allowing 215 pucks to cross the goal line that season. The Barons employed two different goaltenders. Roger Bessette, who played 24 games that season, had a familiar partner in the Barons crease that season. Johnny Bower was in his third year of pro hockey by this season. Bower would play 40 games for the Barons that year, and would continue to tend
goal for the Barons through the 1950s. Bower would finally make it to the NHL by the 1952-53 season. He wouldn't stick in the NHL until 1958-59 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
     In the playoffs, the Barons would, strangely enough, face the East Division champion Hershey Bears in Round One. Despite finishing so close in the standings, the Bears obliterated the Barons in four straight games. Cleveland managed only 3 goals in the series, and were shut out twice. Hershey would earn a second-round bye, then win the Calder Cup championship in seven games over the Pittsburgh Hornets, erasing a 3-1 series deficit in the process.
     This program is in surprisingly good shape for it's age. There are three strips of tape along the binding, but I'm not seeing any tears or water damage. All the ads are in black and white, and quite a few of them are full-page. Local advertisements include the Hotel Mayflower ("Home of the Famed Terrace Room"), Harry Mamolen's Restaurant and Mexican Cocktail Bar, Regal Beer ("Cleveland's Prince of Beers") and Steve Gresch's Nickel Plate Grill. There are also team pictures of the 1946-47 Barons, the 1946-47 Cleveland Rebels basketball team and the 1946-47 Cleveland Browns (of the All-America Football Conference!). Note the flags on the cover of the program. This was before Canada became it's own country, so the British Union Jack is displayed with the United States flag.

Aftermath: The Barons would make headlines in the early 1950s by issuing an open challenge to the  Stanley Cup champions, then applied to join the NHL. They were turned down both times. The Barons would win nine Calder Cups in their existence, the last coming in 1963-64. The team would be forced out of Cleveland in 1973, with the arrival of the WHA's Cleveland Crusaders. In January, 1973, the Barons would relocate to, of all places, Jacksonville, Florida. Attendance slumped for the Barons after their first game in their new home, and the franchise folded after the season. Two other franchises used the "Cleveland Barons" moniker after the AHL team: The NHL's California Seals from 1976-78 and the AHL's Kentucky Thoroughblades from 2001-06. Both teams struggled to draw fans and left shortly afterward. Cleveland is currently home to the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1946-47 (from

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