Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tri City Icehawks (GLJHL, 2011-12)

2011-12 Regular Season: Icehawks vs. Wisconsin Rampage
     Here's a random program. I went to this game while my brother was still living in Bay City. 

     The Tri City Icehawks are a junior hockey team based out of Bay City, Michigan. They play their home games at the Bay County Civic Arena. The team is owned by Arthur and Colleen Dore (Colleen is also General Manager).  Chris Lacy was the head coach, with Eric Albrecht and Arthur Dore serving as his assistants.
     During the 2011-12 season, the Icehawks were part of the Great Lakes Junior Hockey League. That year, the Icehawks stumbled to a 10-32-0 record. The team scored 158 goals while allowing 288 on the year.
     This program is from the game on February 12, 2012, when the Icehawks played the Wisconsin Rampage. The Icehawks won, 4-3, in a shootout. At the time, this was their ninth win of the year.
     The Icehawks are considered a "Tier III" junior team, which would place them one step below the NAHL (where the Port Huron Fighting Falcons and Michigan Warriors once played, btw). Probably the lowest level of hockey I've watched (outside of my brother's house league games). I believe tickets were $4, about the price of high school sports. The lady taking tickets (Colleen Dore, maybe?)  seemed genuinely surprised that my brother and I came to watch the game, especially when I said where I was from. Very welcoming too, may I add. The hockey game wasn't too bad, either.
     The program is on the same level as something you'd find at, say, Deckerville High School athletic events. It's a 15-page program with advertisements (most of them pixelated), all of which are in color. Individual pictures of the players, coaching staff and front office are on the middle pages. The majority of the players from that season were from the Tri-City area, but one was from the Czech Republic! Local ads include Firehouse Soft Car Wash, Ken Wackerle Excavating and Winding Creek Boarding Kennels. BTW, the Icehawks logo on the front is pretty slick.

Aftermath: The Icehawks still exist, and still play at the Bay County Civic Arena. However, they currently play in the United States Premier Hockey League, another Tier III circuit. As of this post, the Icehawks have a 13-1-1 record, tops in the Eastern Conference of the Midwest Region. The Dore family still owns the franchise. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fredericton Express (AHL, 1982-83)

1982-83 Regular Season--Express vs. Moncton Alpines
     The Fredericton Express were in their second year of existence in 1982-83. They were members of the American Hockey League and were primary affiliates of the Quebec Nordiques and Vancouver Canucks. They played their home games at 3,278-seat Aitken Centre.
     Jacques Demers was back behind the bench for the sophomore season of Express hockey. Fredericton enjoyed a huge turnaround in 1982-83, as Demers guided the Express to a brilliant 45-27-8 record. Their 98 points (53 more than last season) were 11 better than second-place Nova Scotia and three behind league-leading Rochester. An average of 3,012 fans attended Express games that season.
     The Express pumped in 348 goals that season, fourth-most in the AHL. Tony Currie led the attack, scoring 47 goals and 95 points. Tim Tookey was next with 24 goals and 67 points. Four other players had at least 20 goals that season.
     Team defense was stellar that year, as the Express allowed only 284 goals, a league-low. Demers had five goaltenders at his disposal. The two main netminders were Brian Ford and Clint Malarchuk. Ford played in 27 games, posting a 14-7-2 record with a 3.49 GAA and no shutouts. Malarchuk played 25 games with a similar record of 14-6-5, 3.11 GAA and 1 shutout. Frank Caprice, Ken Ellacott and Michel Dufour also saw time "between the pipes". Ellacott, who went 11-6-0 on the season, drew the nod for the playoffs.
     Frederiction opened the 1983 Calder Cup Playoffs against the Adirondack Red Wings. The Wings were 21 points behind the Express, but put up a fight in the series. It took Fredericton six games (two in overtime) to eliminate the Red Wings and advance. In Round Two, the Express ran into the Maine Mariners, who upset them in six games to advance to the Calder Cup Finals, where they lost to Rochester in four straight.
     This is kind of a small program, with only 40 pages. Like many programs, it's loaded with statistics and advertisements. Defenseman Terry Johnson was the full-page insert player that night. There are articles about Jacques Demers, the arenas of the AHL and the viability of the league. Local ads include CFNB 530 AM ("Voice of the Express"), Myers's White Rum, Karnes Kitchen Ltd. and Wood Ford of Fredericton (co-sponsors of the $10,000 Score-O game with CFNB). There's also a full-page color ad for Panasonic VHS players, which apparently could be held in one hand by then!

Aftermath: The Express would remain in Fredericton through the 1987-88 season, then relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and be renamed "Halifax Citadels". The franchise still exists as the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins. Fredericton would be home to the Fredericton Canadiens for the next 11 seasons. That franchise still exists as the Bakersfield Condors.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from 

Buffalo Bisons (AHL, 1969-70)

1969-70 Regular Season--Bisons vs. Baltimore Clippers
     Before the Sabres, Buffalo was home to the American Hockey League's Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons existed from 1940-70, and played their home games at Memorial Auditorium. The franchise was sponsored by Pepsi-Cola, and their logo was a Pepsi bottle cap with a stylized "Buffalo" script written across the center.
     Fred Shero, future "Broad Street Bullies" Flyers coach, was back behind the bench for the final season of Bisons hockey. Buffalo repeated as Western Division champions that year, going 40-17-15. The Bisons ran away with the division that season, as they were the lone Western team to finish above .500. Second place Hershey trailed Buffalo by 23 points, and Buffalo was just five behind league-best Montreal. Buffalo fans responded to the the Bisons' great season, as a league-best 6,745-per game average walked through "The Aud's" turnstiles.
     Buffalo scored the third-most goals that year, with 280 pucks crossing the goal line. Guy Trottier led the charge on offense, potting 55 goals and 88 points. Five other players scored at least 25 goals that season.
     The Bisons sported the best defense in the AHL in 1969-70, allowing a measly 193 goals. The team used two netminders that year: Gilles Villemure and Al Johnstone. Villemure, who would join the New York Rangers the following season, played in 65 games, with a 2.52 GAA and eight shutouts. Johnstone played in 13, with a 3.49 GAA and no shutouts. Villemure got the nod for the postseason.
     The Bisons gave their fans something to cheer about in their final season. Buffalo drew the Quebec Aces in Round One of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Quebec finished with a mediocre 27-39-6 record, barely making the playoffs. However, the Aces took a 2-1 series lead on the strength of two overtime wins. Buffalo recovered to rattle off three straight wins and eliminate the pesky Aces to advance to Round Two. In the round-robin format, the Bisons emerged with a 3-1 record and drew the Springfield Kings in the Calder Cup Finals. The Bisons then went out with a bang, crushing the Kings in four straight games to win the Calder Cup for the fifth, and final, time.
     This is a 50-page program, loaded with black-and-white (but a few color) advertisements and articles. First off, you can't beat the original price for the program: $0.50! There's a team photo of the 1969-70 Bisons as well as an article about Fred Shero. Ticket prices for that year were between $2-4.00. There's also an article about the format change for the playoffs, with a remark about how the Sabres will debut the following year. Local ads include Rich's Ice Cream, Marlette Plating, Bonanza Steak House, Dave & Len's Deli and Simon Pure Beer. Schmidt's Beer sponsors the roster pages. According to that page, the Bisons defeated Baltimore, 4-3.

Aftermath: The Bisons would fold following their Calder Cup championship and were replaced by the NHL's expansion Buffalo Sabres for the 1970-71 season.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1969-70 (from 

St. Catherines Saints (AHL, 1982-83)

1982-83 Regular Season: Saints vs. Maine Mariners
     The St. Catherines Saints were an American Hockey League franchise in it's first season of play in 1982-83. They were the primary farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs and played their home games at the 3,145-seat Garden City Arena.
     The Saints were originally the New Brunswick Hawks, from Moncton, New Brunswick. In 1982, Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard decided the Leafs needed a farm team closer to home. Despite the Hawks drawing large crowds, Ballard proposed relocating the Hawks to either St. Catherines or Niagara Falls, Ontario. This plan was originally blocked by the Buffalo Sabres and voted down by three AHL clubs.
    Rudy Pilous, director of operations for the Saints, summed up the Leafs and Sabres battle over the Saints: "The Leafs didn't feel they needed permission from a club they had allowed into the NHL 10 years ago, and the Sabres were not anxious to have another pro club so close to their city." Ballard put it more bluntly: "It was like having two bald men fight over a comb." Both franchises settled the argument, and the Saints officially moved to St. Catherines in July 1982.
     A name-the-team contest was held, and Saints was the winner, edging out Chiefs and Grape Kings. The Leafs tabbed former Flint Generals coach/GM Doug Carpenter as the team's first coach. In 1981-82, the Hawks won the Calder Cup, but the 1982-83 Saints stumbled to sixth place in the Southern Division. Their 33-41-6 record and 72 points put them eight points behind fourth-place Binghamton, 29 behind league-best Rochester.
     St. Catherines scored the seventh-most goals in the AHL that year, with 335 goals. Bruce Boudreau, future coach of Washington and Anaheim, led the Saints with 50 goals and 122 points. Reg Thomas and Normand Aubin scored over 30 goals each, and four other players scored 20 or more goals.
     Team defense was a letdown that season, as St. Catherines let in an "un-Saint-ly" 368 goals, second only to league-worst Sherbrooke. Carpenter used six different goaltenders that year, relying mostly on Vince Tremblay and Bob Parent. Parent (who played in Saginaw and Port Huron earlier), made it into 46 games, going 18-20-3 with a 4.34 GAA and one shutout. Tremblay played 35 games, sporting an 11-17-1 mark with a 4.69 GAA and no shutouts. Mike Palmateer and Jiri Crha each played rehab games that year as well. Other netminders include Bruce Dowie and Normand Aubin (a center!).
     No playoffs for the Saints that year, and attendance was dead last in the league, as the team averaged 2,339 per game, a drop from the 4,075 they averaged the previous year in New Brunswick.
     Nice program for the Saints that year, a 50-pager with mostly black-and-white photos on glossy paper. There are pictures of the old St. Catherines TeePees junior franchise. The 1959-60 TeePees picture included future NHLers Roger Crozier, Pat Stapleton, Chico Maki and Murray Hall. There are articles about the history of the AHL, the birth of the Saints franchise and a letter from the Mayor of St. Catherines. Local advertisements include Brian Cullen Chev-Olds, Harbour House Restaurant, St. Catherines Datsun and Mother's Pizza Parlour and Spaghetti House.

Aftermath: 1982-83 was the only season in Saints history when attendance was over 2,000-per game. The crowds hovered around 1800 per game the next two seasons, then bottomed out to 1,450 per game in 1985-86, the team's final season. It didn't help that the Saints were not competitive. The team made it out of Round One just once, and missed the playoffs twice in four years. After the 1985-86 season, the Saints would relocate to Newmarket, Ontario, keeping their "Saint-ly" nickname. The franchise still exists as the Toronto Marlies.

American Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from 
Winokur, Mark. "How the Saints Were Born". 1982-83 St. Catherines Saints Program. Saint Catherines Saints Hockey Club. January 1983.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Port Huron Flags (IHL, 1977-78)

1977-78 Regular Season: Flags vs. Fort Wayne Komets
      The Port Huron Flags were in their fifteenth season of IHL hockey during the 1977-78 season. They were a secondary farm club of the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals that season. The Flags played their home games at McMorran Arena, which had a capacity of 3,582.
     The Flags were coming off a disastrous 1976-77 campaign, a mess both on and off the ice. The Flags slumped to a league-worst 27-43-8 record, nine points behind the next worst team, Columbus. Off the ice, attendance slumped to dangerously low levels. A last-minute cash donation of about $50,000 kept the team afloat for the following season.
     Morris Snider returned as General Manager (he was also GM of McMorran Arena), and the team had a new face behind the bench: former Komets center Ron Ullyot. This was Ullyot's rookie year as a head coach, and he helped pull the Flags out of the cellar. Port Huron finished the season with a 33-32-15 record, good enough for fourth place in the Northern Division. The Flags' 81 points were just three behind second-place Kalamazoo and 11 behind first-place Saginaw.
     Ullyot's Flags scored the fourth-most goals in the IHL that season, pumping in 322 on the year. Left winger Larry Gould led the attack, with 36 goals and 105 points. Paul Nicholson and Dave Faulkner were the other thirty-goal scorers in Port Huron that season. Five other players lit the lamp at least 20 times.
     Port Huron struggled a bit on defense, as they surrendered 331 goals, third highest in the league. Rollie Boutin was the main netminder that season, making it into 58 games with a 3.85 GAA. Dale Ridout was his backup, playing 15 games with a 4.57 GAA. Ted Tucker was loaned to the Flags during the season from Toledo.
     The 1977-78 Flags iced a physical team, to say the least. The team racked up 2,232 penalty minutes in the rough-and-tumble IHL that year. Leading the march to the "sin bin" was right winger and league superpest Archie Henderson. Henderson, who was 6'6" and 220 pounds, piled up a team-best 419 PIM, also a career high. Left winger Gary Rissling was next with 341 minutes, followed by Brent Tremblay (281), Jim Gustafson (202), Reid Bailey (162) and Les Auge (104).
1977-78 Regular Season: Flags vs. Kalamazoo Wings
     Port Huron opened up the Turner Cup Playoffs against the defending champion Saginaw Gears. Most were expecting Saginaw to make quick work of the Flags, but the opposite happened. Port Huron crushed the Gears in five games (best-of-seven), outscoring Saginaw 31-19 in the process. In the semifinals, the Flags faced second-place Kalamazoo. After dropping Game 1 in Kalamazoo, Port Huron rattled off three straight wins to advance to their second Turner Cup Finals in three years.
     The Flags would face the Toledo Goaldiggers in the 1978 Turner Cup Finals, who had lost the previous year. The series was a back-and-forth classic. Port Huron had a 2-1 series lead, then fell behind 3-2 after getting smoked 11-2 in Game 5. They rebounded on McMorran ice, 6-3, to square the series at 3, but fell in Game 7 at Toledo, 4-3.
     Though no Flags won any individual trophies, two players made the postseason all-star teams. Larry Gould made the first team all-star roster on left wing, while Jim Bannatyne was named to the second team on defense.
     I bought both of these programs on eBay recently, and they just arrived. Both are from early in the 1977-78 season. Not sure about the results of each
1977-78 Flags Team Photo and Roster insert

game, though. They are 48 pages full of the usual ads, articles and stats. All the pictures are black-and-white. There are messages from GM Morris Snider and Head Coach Ron Ullyot in both, and the green program includes a brief article about former Capitals goaltender (and then scout) Roger Crozier. Both still have the inserts: the green program's insert is a picture of right winger Mike McDougal and the orange program's insert is of center Jim Gustafson. Local advertisements include WHLS 1450 AM, Bob's Hairstyling for Men, Ruiz Taco Hut, Sperry's Department Store and London's Dairy. There's also a team photo of the 1976-77 Flags, featuring future NHL on NBC announcer Mike Emrick, who was the Flags' announcer and PR Director.
     I added two pictures of Flags artifacts that I got a few years before. I think the first picture was an insert from a program, or may have been a giveaway. Dad got this for me at the Croswell Flea Market (I think). The second picture is a set of souvenirs Dad bought for me at the Croswell Flea Market. It includes a plastic cup, several pins, some keyrings (there are four, one is hanging in my room), a hockey stick pencil (still has lead!) and a '77-78 team photo patch. 

Port Huron Flags souvenirs
Aftermath: 1977-78 was the final time the Flags would reach the Turner Cup Finals. Port Huron was the smallest city in the IHL at the time, and the Flags would continue to struggle to draw decent crowds to McMorran Arena. Operating losses hovered around $150,000 per year. The crippling recession of the early 1980s would do even more damage to the Flags (and most of the league, for that matter). Their two home games in the 1981 Playoffs averaged under 900 per game, causing Snider and the McMorran Authority to fold the franchise shortly after.

  International Hockey League Statistics: 1977-78 (from
1978-79 International Hockey League Yearbook. Matt Dennis, Editor, 1978.