|1982-83 Regular Season: Saints vs. Maine Mariners|
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 hockeydb.com)
Winokur, Mark. "How the Saints Were Born". 1982-83 St. Catherines Saints Program. Saint Catherines Saints Hockey Club. January 1983.