Monday, September 5, 2016

Saginaw Gears (IHL, 1972-73)

1972-73 Regular Season
Opening Night
Gears vs. Des Moines Capitols
     Professional hockey came to Mid-Michigan in 1972 with the arrival of the Saginaw Gears of the International Hockey League. The Gears were an expansion franchise awarded to North Stars executive Wren Blair, and played their home games at the new Wendler Arena, part of the Saginaw Civic Center complex. The team was named after the Saginaw Steering Gear plant, located in Buena Vista on M46, and was a nod to the city's auto industry ties. Blair's choice as head coach was Don Perry, formerly of the Eastern Hockey League. Thanks to Blair's ties to the Minnesota North Stars, the Gears would be a secondary affiliate of that NHL team.
     The Gears would take the ice in turqoise and tangerine jerseys featuring the "toothed G" logo you see on the program. Their first regular season game was in Port Huron. Despite a hat trick by forward Juri Kudrasovs, Saginaw fell, 5-4, to the defending champion Port Huron Wings.
     The Gears went through the usual struggles for an expansion team, and brought up the rear in the North Division, with a 30-41-3. Their modest 63 points would have tied the Des Moines Capitols for the final playoff spot in the South Division, but were 14 behind third place Toledo and 29 behind the first place Flint Generals.
     Saginaw didn't seem to have a problem putting the puck in the net that season. The Gears popped in 305 goals, fourth-most in the IHL. Leading the way was right winger Dennis Desrosiers, the team's first-ever signing. All "Rosie" did in Year One was set the city record for most goals in a season, with an even 60. His record would last until 1996-97, when Mark Green of the UHL Lumber Kings shattered it. Desrosiers' 97 points also led the way. He also had a certified mean streak, racking up 186 penalty minutes, and quickly became a fan favorite in the Tri-Cities. Kudrasovs, Dennis Romanesky and 1972 US Olympian Stu Irving were the other Gears with 30+ goals. Three others had at least 20 goals, including North Stars prospect Marcel Comeau, who would remain in Saginaw for the entire existence of the Gears franchise.
     Defense was a bit of an issue in 1973, as Saginaw allowed 304 goals, third-most in
1972-73 Regular Season
Gears vs. Columbus Golden Seals
the IHL. The Gears used four different netminders that year. Cal Hammond was in net for 40 games, with a 4.03 GAA. Ray Belanger, Ray Gibbs and Brad Hollister were used as backups. Belanger played the second-most games, with 19 in the Gears' net.
     No playoffs for the Gears in their inaugural season. In fact, the only time the team missed the postseason would be the first and final years of the franchise. However, Blair was able to build the core of the franchise's future success, with players such as Desrosiers, Irving and Comeau. Coach Perry would remain behind the bench through 1981, a level of stability not often seen in the minor-pro circuit. Plus, the community slowly warmed up to the team, as attendance steadily increased throughout the year. The Gears would eventually become arguably the most beloved pro sports team the region has ever had.
     Of these two programs, the first one I found online was the Gears-Capitols program. This was from opening night in 1972, the first regular season home game in franchise history. Since there wasn't any home games to take pictures of, most of the action photos are from training camp at Wendler Arena. Page 10 has the seating layout for the arena, with ticket prices listed from $2.25 to $4.25. Owner Wren Blair has his own bio on page 4, and an article declaring Saginaw "the winner" for getting into pro hockey is on page 32. Several articles throughout the program are used to educate the crowd, including what offside is, the types of penalties, even where hockey players come from. In the Seals program, Gordie Mefford, the head of minor officials for the Gears, has an article by Len Boers. Mefford would stick around not only through the Gears' entire 11-year run, but also the Generals/Hawks franchise in the mid-late 1980s. Featured on the Seals program is Mike Hornby, who scored the first goal in franchise history.
     As with all programs, these two are loaded with advertisements. The local ads include Garber Pontiac Cadillac, Larry's Lounge, First State Bank of Saginaw, WEYI TV 25 (then a CBS affiliate), the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and Pioneer Sugar. Since Since Saginaw was still a major part of the auto industry, car ads were featured here too. Those include the 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna, a full-page ad featuring General Motors' adjustable wheel, and the 1973 VW Beetle.

Note: For a great, in-depth history of the Saginaw Gears, check out, created by Wes Oleszewski, the son of the Gears' Zamboni driver. 

IHL Statistics: 1972-73 (from
1972-73 Saginaw Gears Souvenir Programs

Baltimore Clippers (AHL, 1972-73)

1972-73 Regular Season
Clippers vs. Virginia Red Wings
     The Baltimore Clippers were coming off their first-ever trip to the AHL's Calder Cup Finals in 1972. Terry Reardon was back behind the bench in '72-73. The Clippers were no longer affiliated with the California Golden Seals, and appeared to operate as an independent that season.
     After two straight years at the top of the Western Division, the Clippers crashed to the basement in 1973. Their record of 17-48-11 and miniscule 45 points were the worst in the AHL that year. Baltimore was 10 points behind the fifth place Cleveland/Jacksonville Barons and 68 behind the league-leading Cincinnati Swords. Oddly enough, attendance remained steady that year, as 2,910 fans per game went to the Civic Center, the same as last season.
     So, what happened that season in Baltimore? The lack of an NHL affiliate, even from one as awful as the Golden Seals, didn't help matters. Neither did a lack of goal-scoring, as the Clippers had all the firepower of a toy pop gun, scoring just 210 goals. Center Bob Rivard led the team on offense, with 25 goals and 75 points. Right winger Marc Dufour led the team in goals with an even 30 in 67 games. Only three other Clippers managed at least 20 goals that season. As of this program, Dufour was leading the pack with 17 goals and 37 points in 32 games, with Rivard (9 goals, 36 points) and left winger Brian Murphy (12, 19) right behind.
     Baltimore had the fourth-worst defense in the AHL, allowing 315 goals. Jim Shaw was back between the pipes after the playoff run in '72. Shaw played in 47 games, with a 3.64 GAA and two shutouts. Ken Lockett, previously from the Fort Wayne Komets and the University of Guelph, made it into 32 games, with a 4.57 GAA and no shutouts. Despite playing for a brutal Clippers team, both goaltenders would go on to bigger things in their careers. Lockett would make it all the way to the NHL, spending two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Shaw would make it to the WHA with the Toronto Toros.
     With the AHL's worst record, the Clippers were light years away from the postseason. The Cincinnati Swords would dethrone the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in the Finals.
     This program is similar to the previous year's edition. It's 40 pages thick, mostly all black-and-white. Again, the roster sheet is in color, as is the Coca-Cola ad on page 24. Head Coach Terry Reardon has a half-page bio on page 25, referring to him as "this city's Mr. Hockey". It noted that only seven players returned from the '72 Calder Cup finalist team, which likely didn't help matters in 1973. That night's opponent was the Virginia Red Wings. The Wings were coached by Doug Barkley, who apparently autographed the roster sheet in pencil. Again, no date for this game, but the Wings stats were as of December 27th. My guess is this game was played on December 30th, a 6-4 Wings win. It was the fourth-straight loss for the Clippers and dropped them to a miserable 5-21-7 record.
     Franchise records, including highest-scoring shutout (14-zip vs. Springfield in 1971!) are included on page 31. Each Clippers player has his own bio and picture on pages 2-8. Local advertisements include The Lord Nelson, Bud's Restaurant and Bar, WMAR TV-2, National Bohemian Beer ("Nat Boh"), Brooks Robinson Sporting Goods and Briggs All Meat Franks.

Aftermath: The Clippers would stick around until midway through the 1974-75 season. When the WHA's Michigan Stags relocated to Baltimore partway through that season, the Clippers franchise was terminated in order to free up the Civic Center ice. The newly renamed "Baltimore Blades" recycled the Clippers jerseys, with a Blades logo replacing the diagonal "CLIPPERS" wordmark. The Blades, already drowning in debt following their half-season in Detroit as the Stags, folded at the end of the 1975 season. The Clippers returned to the AHL in 1975-76, then switched to the Southern Hockey League for one year before folding with the rest of the SHL in 1977. Baltimore would be home to the AHL Skipjacks and AHL Bandits. After the Bandits left town in 1997, Baltimore has been without minor-pro hockey.

AHL Statistics: 1972-73 (from
1972-73 Baltimore Clippers Souvenir Program

Baltimore Clippers (AHL, 1971-72)

1971-72 Regular Season
Clippers vs. Hershey Bears
     Baltimore has had a long history in the American Hockey League. Prior to the Skipjacks and Bandits, Baltimore was home to the Clippers, who began play in 1962. Terry Reardon returned as Head Coach and General Manager. The Clippers played their home games at the Baltimore Civic Center, which held 11,329. For the 1971-72 season, the Clippers were the primary affiliate of the NHL's California Golden Seals.
     Reardon's Clippers successfully defended their Western Division crown in '71-72, but it wasn't easy. In a hotly contested division race, the Clippers finished with a 34-31-11 mark. Their 79 points tied with Hershey and was one point ahead of Cincinnati. The fourth place Cleveland Barons were just five back of Baltimore. Leading the way on offense for the Clippers was left winger Peter Laframboise, who what 37 goals and 81 points. Center Joe Szura had the most goals on the team, popping in 38. As a team, the Clippers scored 240 goals, third-fewest in the AHL.
     Team defense was much stronger that season. The Clippers allowed 249 goals, fourth-lowest in the AHL. Five different goaltenders were used in 1971-72, but Bob Whidden was the main netminder. Whidden played in 44 games with a 3.33 GAA and two shutouts. His career would go as high as the WHA, as Gerry Cheever's backup with the Cleveland Crusaders. As of this program, Whidden's backup in the Baltimore net was Jim Shaw, who was in goal for four games with a 4.25 GAA. Shaw played the majority of playoff games. A defenseman of note was veteran Kent Douglas. Douglas was the 1963 Calder Trophy winner as the NHL's top rookie while playing in Toronto and was part of the Leafs Stanley Cup win that year. Douglas bounced in and out of the NHL after that. In 1971-72, he scored 6 goals and 37 points.
     The Clippers opened the 1972 Calder Cup Playoffs against the fourth place Cleveland Barons. The series went to six games, but Baltimore advanced after a 4-1 win at Cleveland. Round Two's opponent was the Cincinnati Swords and, again, the series went to six before the Clippers advanced. In their first-ever Calder Cup Finals, Baltimore ran into the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, Montreal's top affiliate. Despite scoring only 8 goals, the Clippers were able to stretch the series to six games (even taking a 2-0 lead) before falling.
     I have two Clippers programs, and I believe this is the second one I got. While there is no date for the game, judging by the stats on the roster sheet, I'm guessing it's from the game on April 2, 1972. The program is 40 pages long, mostly black-and-white, but the roster sheet is in color. Pages 4-7 feature in-game pictures, one of which features future NHL executive Craig Patrick. A "History of Hockey" article is featured on page 13, while the ownership and front office of the Clippers are featured on pages 14 and 15. Each Clippers team picture through 1970-71 is included on pages 34-35.
     As usual, there are a ton of advertisements. The roster sheet is sponsored by National Bohemian Beer. This ad features the National beer bottle flanked by two cartoon characters: a pelican and a man with a banjo (if you know their names, let me know). Other advertisements include Watson's Garden Center, Frankford Garden Liquors, WFBR CBS Radio 13 and the Brass Rail.

AHL Statistics: 1971-72 (from
1971-72 Baltimore Clippers Souvenir Program

Fort Wayne Komets (IHL, 1969-70)

1969-70 Regular Season
Komets vs. Toledo Blades
     The Komets were in their 18th year of play in the International Hockey League, one of the oldest and most stable franchises in that circuit. Owned by a group headed by Colin Lister, the Komets were lead by Vice President/GM Ken Ullyot and Head Coach Moe Bartoli. The team played it's home games at Memorial Coliseum, which they still do to this day.
     Fort Wayne had a rough season in '69-70, finishing with a dismal 26-38-8 record. Their 60 points were just six ahead of the expansion Flint Generals for the final playoff spot in the North, and a whopping 40 behind league-best Muskegon. Veteran center Ray Brunel, in his only season with the team,  led the Komets in scoring, with 33 goals and 88 points. Brunel was joined in the 30-goal club by left winger Bob Baird and right winger Merv Dubchak. A player of note on the 1969-70 Komets was right winger Ron Ullyot. After a stint at Michigan, Ullyot played several seasons in Fort Wayne, including the 1972-73 Turner Cup championship team. After his playing days, Ullyot had a long coaching career, with stops in Port Huron, Fort Worth, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1969-70, Ullyot had 13 goals and 30 points in 43 games.  As a team, the Komets scored just 241 goals, better than only Flint.
1969-70 Regular Season
Komets vs. Columbus Checkers
     Fort Wayne was much better on defense that year. Though employing four different goaltenders that year, Bartoli relied on former Michigan Wolverine Jim Keough and Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Paul Hoganson. Both netminders played in over 30 games that season. As a team, the Komets allowed 266 goals, the third-fewest in the IHL.
     The Komets were able to grab the final playoff berth in the North Division. Since Muskegon earned a first round bye, Fort Wayne's opponent would be the second-place Port Huron Flags. The Flags, coached by Ted Garvin, had a solid 37-28-7 record, and their 81 points were second-highest in the IHL. The series was a best-of-five format, and the Flags swept aside the Komets in three straight, outscoring them 14-8 in the process. Port Huron would then knock off the Des Moines Oak Leafs in five games (best-of-five) in the semifinals before falling to the Dayton Gems in the Turner Cup Finals in seven games.
1969-70 Regular Season
Komets vs. Toledo Blades
     The green program at the top of this post is the first one I got from this season. I purchased all of them online over the years. As you can see, the programs from the 1969-70 season have the same format, just a different color and different picture. The background image is the same, and each have virtually the same information inside. Each are 26 pages long, all in black-and-white. Pepsi-Cola is the sponsor for the roster sheets. 
     There are a few differences though. Each program has a different article written by Treasurer Colin Lister. These articles give information about the upcoming game, the injury status of players and upcoming events.      Other than Lister's article, most of the pages are the same in each program. The IHL's major trophies, including the Turner Cup, are pictured and written about in separate pages. The 1968-69 Komets team photo is included on Page 5. Other team photos include the 1969-70 Fort Wayne "Pepsi Komets" and the 1968-69 Fort Wayne "Midget Komets", who were coached by Lister and were the "National Runners-Up" that year. Each IHL team had a paragraph dedicated to them on various pages. The Komet home and road schedules are featured on page 8.
     Despite being only 26 pages long, these programs are loaded with advertisements.
19689-70 Regular Season
Komets vs. Port Huron Flags
Inside the back cover is an ad for a Maganavox "Total Automatic TV" set. This color set included automatic tint control and fine tuning, as well as an 82-channel remote control. If you were interested, this TV would set you back a bit, costing about $650. Adjusted for inflation, that would cost you just over $4,000 in today's world! 
     Other ads include Marhoefer's Happy Wieners (actual name), who also featured Sporkee Bacon and lunch meats. The Indiana Bus Company has a half-page ad which proclaims they were the "Official Komet Carriers the Past Nine Years". Former Komets in business included Len Thornson and  State Farm Insurance Agency as well as Hartley McLeod of Hughie's Mobile Home Sales. Ted and Tom's Restaurant, Meadow Gold and Bill Hefner's Chevrolet Plaza are included as well.

Aftermath: Bartoli retired as a player after the 1969-70 season. After one year in the college ranks, he returned to the IHL with the Columbus Golden Seals. He remained with the Seals (later the Owls) throughout their time in Columbus until their move to Dayton in 1977. Bartoli was replaced in Fort Wayne by Marc Boileau, who led the team to the 1973 Turner Cup. 

IHL Statistics: 1969-70 (from
1969-70 Fort Wayne Komets Program

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Chicago Black Hawks (NHL, 1976-77)

1976-77 Regular Season
Black Hawks vs. Colorado Rockies
     Despite the picture on the front cover, this is actually a Chicago Black Hawks program from 1976-77. Many teams used Goal Magazine as the team's official program during this time. Tommy Ivan continued his storied career as Hawks GM, dating back to 1954 after coaching in Detroit. The Hawks were part of the Smythe Division in the Campbell Conference, along with the Colorado Rockies, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota North Stars. Not the strangest division setup in the league that year, but still rather spread out. By the way, "Black Hawks" was the proper way to write the team's nickname back then. It wasn't until the late 1980s that the Hawks dropped the space in their nickname.
     Chicago had a miserable season in 1976-77, with a 26-43-11 record. However, this would still give them a third place finish in the mediocre Smythe Division, ahead of Vancouver and Colorado. In fact, no team in this division would finish above .500.  After stumbling to a 10-19-5 start, Ivan dropped Head Coach Billy Reay in favor of Bill White.
     Ivan Boldirev lead the Hawks on offense that year, scoring 24 goals and 62 points in 80 games. Dick Redmond and Darcy Rota were the only other 20-goal scorers in Chicago, though veterans Stan Mikita (19) and Pit Martin (17) came close. As a team, Chicago scored 240 goals, sixth-lowest in the league.
     The defense struggled to keep the Hawks afloat that year, surrendering 298 goals, the sixth-most in the NHL. Veteran Tony Esposito did the best he could in front of a porous defense, going 25-36-8 with a 3.45 GAA and 2 shutouts. "Tony O" had a revolving door of backups that year, including former Ranger Gilles Villemeure, Michel Dumas and Mike Veisor. Naturally, Esposito got the nod for the playoffs.
     Despite the lousy record, the Black Hawks qualified for the 1977 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their preliminary round opponent was the New York Islanders, who finished second in the much stronger Patrick Division with a 47-21-12 record. Not surprisingly, the Hawks were broomed in two straight games (best-of-three).
     This program is typical of Goal magazines: part of it is a 41-page Black Hawks program, while the rest is Goal magazine. Overall, it's about 101 pages, many of which are in color. There's an interview with Billy Cunningham, who just recently retired with the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. Turns out that Cunningham was a big hockey fan, who admitted to following the Rangers as a kid in Brooklyn. He talked about the similarities between the two sports, what he likes the most about hockey and what players excite him the most. One article is about Sabres goalie Gerry Desjardins, while another is about how hockey teams utilized CB radios, which were all the rage back then. In the Black Hawks section, you have photos of several Hawks and their families, a yearly Hawks regular season record list and both lineups.
     That night's opponent was the Colorado Rockies, who were the Kansas City Scouts the previous season, and would eventually become the New Jersey Devils in 1982. No idea what date this program is from, though. Legendary defenseman Bobby Orr was with the Hawks by now, but was on the downside of his brilliant career, thanks to constant knee problems and would only play in 20 games. Plenty of advertisements as usual, including Hanley Dawson Cadillac, Kosher Zion Beef Franks, First National Bank of Chicago and Mennen Skin Bracer. Car ads include the Jeep Pickup, the 1977 Buick Riviera Coupe and the 1977 Dodge Colt.

Chicago Black Hawks Statistics: 1976-77 (from

Saginaw Gears (IHL, 1975-76)

1975-76 Regular Season
Gears vs. Port Huron Flags
     The Saginaw Gears were in their fourth season of existence and were really starting to get on a roll, on and off the ice. In the previous three seasons, Saginaw reached the Turner Cup Finals, coming within one win of the Cup in 1975. Fans from Saginaw and throughout Mid-Michigan flocked to the Saginaw Civic Center, helping the Gears become one of the hottest tickets not only in the IHL, but in minor-pro hockey. This no doubt pleased President/GM Wren Blair, who retained Head Coach Don Perry
     The Gears built on the momentum from the past two seasons by clinching their first-ever North Division championship, with a sparkling 43-26-9 record. Their 95 points put the Gears 12 points ahead of the second-place Port Huron Flags, and 9 back of the Huber Trophy winning Dayton Gems.
     Saginaw missed having the IHL's most potent offense by a single goal, as they pumped in 339 in 1975-76. They were led on offense by Paul Evans, who had 32 goals and 85 points. The Gears also had a pair of 40-goal scorers: original Gear Dennis Desrosiers and newcomer Dave Westner (from the now-defunct Seattle Totems of the CHL). Marcel Comeau, Stu Irving and D'Arcy Ryan each had at least 30 goals, while Jim McMahon and late-season acquisition Wayne Zuk each had at least 20.
     The Gears had a decent defense that season, allowing 293 goals, fifth-best in the
1975-76 Regular Season
Gears vs. Port Huron Flags.
nine-team IHL. Mario Lessard was back between the pipes, playing in 62 games. His main backup was Harvey Stewart, who made 27 appearances.  Lessard drew the nod for the playoffs.
     The Gears opened the 1976 Turner Cup Playoffs against the Muskegon Mohawks. Muskegon finished a distant fourth place with a 34-31-13 record. Not surprisingly, the Gears downed the Mohawks in five games (best-of-seven), outscoring them 24-11 in the process. In the semifinals, the Gears ran into a buzzsaw called the Port Huron Flags. Despite being 12 points behind the Gears in the regular season, the Flags swept Saginaw aside in four straight, while only allowing 11 goals in the series. Port Huron, in turn, would be crushed by the Dayton Gems in the Finals, being outscored 25-11 in the 4-game sweep.
     Got both of these programs online awhile back. Same format for each, just with different colors and a different cover picture. On December 5th, the Flags blew out the Gears, 7-3. The return match on January 23rd was a bit closer, but Port Huron still prevailed, 4-3. Both programs were 54 pages long, with mostly black-and-white ads and photos. The usual recap of last season is included. There's a very interesting article called "Women and Hockey", which states that "the speed and constant action gratify and appeal to a woman's senses" and declares that hockey is "sensual and sexy". The article also claims that hockey "offers emotional involvement and women need emotional involvement to be happy and satisfied". Again, very...interesting. The Gears were a hot ticket back then, so these programs are loaded with advertisements. Local ads include Larry's Lounge (the "other home" of the Saginaw Gears), Lift Parts Service, INC., Fashion Square Mall, Stardust Lanes, Wolohan Lumber and Stroh's Beer. Car advertisements include Chevrolet's "Starting Lineup for '76", which inludes the Corvette Coupe, the Camaro Type LT and the Impala Custom Coupe, and the Volkswagen Rabbit.

"I.H.L. 1975-76 Regular Season Statistics", Photo Album 1978-79". Saginaw Gears Hockey Club.
IHL Playoff Results: 1975-76 (from

Saginaw Gears (IHL, 1977-78)

1977-78 Regular Season
Gears vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     The Saginaw Gears were the defending Turner Cup Champions heading into the 1977-78 IHL season. Wren Blair continued to run the six-year old franchise as President/GM, while Don Perry was back behind the bench. The Gears were still a secondary affiliate of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings.
     Championship teams often experience numerous call-ups after the season, and the Gears were no different. Coach Perry had to replace players such as leading scorer Paul Evans, future NHL defenseman Greg Hotham and goaltender Mario Lessard. Saginaw also lost forward Wayne Zuk and defenseman Gordie Malinoski to retirement. However, their replacements were more than up to the challenge in 1978. The Gears finished the season with a spectacular 40-28-12 record. Their 92 points clinched the team's third-straight North Division title, 8 points head of the Kalamazoo Wings, and just 5 behind Huber Trophy-winning Fort Wayne. Perry enjoyed coaching the second-best offensive team in the IHL that year, as the Gears lit the lamp 360 times. They were led by the always-dependable Marcel Comeau. The gentlemanly Comeau scored 42 goals to go with 103 points, while only spending 16 minutes in the penalty box. Another Gears original, Dennis Desrosiers, topped the team with 51 goals, along with a not-so-gentlemanly 288 penalty minutes. Newcomer (and Kings prospect) Warren Holmes nearly reached 50 goals himself, tallying 48, to go along with 81 points. Two other Gears scored at least 30 (Stu Irving and Rick Chinnick), while three others had at least 20.
1977-78 Regular Season
Gears vs. Kalamazoo Wings
     Saginaw's defense was the league's best that year, as the Gears allowed just 278. Losing a goalie the calibre of a Mario Lessard can be difficult, but Saginaw enjoyed a strong 1-2 punch in net. Pierre Chagnon, who faced the Gears as a Toledo Goaldigger in the 1977 Turner Cup Finals, came over to Saginaw and made it into 35 games in his final season of hockey. He was joined in net by second-year goalie Lorne Mollekon, a future Goaldigger himself, who was in goal for 39 games. Chagnon got the nod in net for the playoffs.
     Saginaw hockey fans and most hockey experts expected the Gears to make their fourth trip to the Finals in six years. However, those plans were quickly derailed by the upstart Port Huron Flags. The Flags, who finished the season at just 33-32-15, were in fourth place in the North Division in 1977-78. However, they had little difficulty with the Gears in Round One, shoving them aside in 5 games and outscoring them 31-19 in the process. Port Huron would reach the Turner Cup Finals before falling to the Toledo Goaldiggers in a memorable seven-game series.
1977-78 Regular Season
Gears vs. Fort Wayne Komets
     My parents bought several Gears programs from an antique store in Saginaw awhile back. Three of them were from the 1977-78 season, each from different games. All three have the same format, just a different colored cover and picture. Each program is 54 pages long and mostly black-and-white, though there are numerous color advertisements. Each one also has articles about the rest of the league, including one by the Flint Journal's Len Hoyes. Each one also has a profile on a Player of the Week. The red and green programs have inserts with up-to-date statistics, with the Gears Bingo game filled out on each. They also have player posters as well, featuring defenseman John Gravel (green program) and forward Stu Irving (red program). Local advertisements include Big John Steak and Onion (including the one in Caro!), Sid's Clothes Shop, Saginaw Steering Gear, Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn and Peet Packing Company. Car ads include the 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Coupe.

"I.H.L. 1977-78 Regular Season Statistics", 1978-79 Photo Album. Saginaw Gears Hockey Club.
IHL Playoff Results: 1977-78 (from 

Saginaw Gears (IHL, 1973-74)

1973-74 Regular Season
Gears vs. Columbus Owls
     The Saginaw Gears were in their second season of existence in the International Hockey League by 1973-74. The Gears were a secondary affiliate of the Minnesota North Stars and were still owned by former North Stars executive Wren Blair. Former EHL tough-guy Don Perry returned behind the bench, and would remain their through 1981. The Gears played their home games at Wendler Arena (now the Dow Event Center).
     After a dismal inaugural season, the Gears roster got a bit of a makeover. The core of last year's team, including Dennis Desrosiers, Marcel Comeau, Stu Irving, Mike Hornby and Russ Friesen, returned for Year Two. An offseason trade with the Dayton Gems brought in defenseman Gordie Malinoski, who supplied both experience and brawn (333 PIM).
     The Gears  were a much-improved squad in their sophomore season, finishing with a 38-34-4 record. Their 80 point finish was a 17-point improvement over 1972-73 and placed Saginaw comfortably in second place, 14 points behind first-place Muskegon, but 13 ahead of third-place Toledo.
     Don Perry's team scored the second-most goals in the IHL that year, pumping in 310. Leading the way was right winger Marcel Comeau. Comeau, a North Stars prospect in his second year, scored 31 goals and 82 points on the season. Rookie Jim Johnston, fresh from Wisconsin, led the team in goals with 34, while Dave Cressman added 32. Five other Gears scored at least 20. Desrosiers, rejoined the team partway through the season and added 18.
     Team defense was improved in Year Two, as Saginaw allowed 282 goals, down from 304 in Year One. Veteran Jim Armstrong and youngster Sam Clegg shared the netminding chores that year. Clegg started the majority of playoff games that year.
     The Gears qualified for the Turner Cup Playoffs in 1973-74, and made their first trip a memorable one. They opened the playoffs with the Dayton Gems, who sported a nearly identical record (38-35-3). The Gears dropped Game One in Saginaw, then rolled off three straight wins to advance to the semifinals. The Gears then swept aside the Columbus Owls in three straight, allowing only five goals, to advance to the Turner Cup Finals. Unfortunately, Saginaw ran into the Des Moines Capitols, who held the IHL's top record at 45-25-6 as well as it's top offense (316 goals). The Gears were outscored 23-10 and were shutout twice, but stretched the series to six games before falling to the powerful Capitols.
     This is the only program (so far) I have seen from the 1973-74 season. It's in decent shape for it's age, with a little wear around the crease. One page was creased when it was printed. The program is 54 pages long, mostly in black-and-white, but there are quite a few color ads as well. The usual stats and recaps of last season are included. Stories from around "The I" are found throughout, along with pictures of every Gears player. A scorecard is found on page 24, but considering this is from 1973-74, I imagine the penalty section was too small. Local ads include Saginaw Steering Gear (where the team got it's name), Downtown Saginaw Mall (which is a parking lot now), WNEM TV 5 and the Colonial Inn.
     The opponent for that night's game was the Columbus Owls. The Owls were another team having a turnaround season in 1974. The previous year, the franchise was known as the Columbus Golden Seals and were owned by the notorious Charles O. Finley, who also owned the NHL's California Golden Seals and MLB's Oakland A's. California was a bottom-feeder and almost barren of talent, and it showed in Columbus, as the IHL Seals went a miserable 10-62-2, a league record for losses. In 1974, the team was bought by Al Savill, rechristened the Owls, became a farm club of the St. Louis Blues, and went 40-34-2, one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in IHL history.

Aftermath: The Gears would switch affiliates after the 1973-74 season, joining up with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings. The Gears would remain with these two teams for most of their existence.

"I.H.L. 1973-74 Regular Season Statistics", Photo Album: 1978-79. Saginaw Gears Hockey Club. 
IHL Playoff Results: 1973-74 (from

Monday, August 22, 2016

Indianapolis Checkers (IHL, 1985-86)

1985-86 Regular Season
Checkers vs. Flint Spirits
     The Indianapolis Checkers were back for their second season in the IHL after five seasons in the defunct Central Hockey League. The Checkers remained a secondary affiliate of both the New York Islanders and Minnesota North Stars. Larry Woods purchased the Checkers after the 1984-85 season and moved the team to the 15,900-seat Market Square Arena, home of the NBA's Indiana Pacers. The team kept their Islanders-styled uniforms, but changed the logo.
     Former Port Huron Flags coach Ron Ullyot was named Coach/GM of the Checkers, and his team greatly improved on their first IHL season. Indy finished with a 41-35-6 mark. They finished last in the very competitive West Division, which had all the teams win at least 40 games. The Checkers' 88 points would have easily taken fourth place in the East.
    Indy scored just 296 goals that year, better than only Flint and Toledo. Longtime minor leaguer Charlie Skojdt led the team with 28 goals and 93 points. Three other Checkers had at least 20 goals, including Bob Lakso with a team-best 41.
     On defense, Indy allowed 303 goals, fifth-fewest in "The I". Checkers CHL holdover Rob Holland and Mike Zanier split the goaltending chores that year, with each winning over 20 games. Both netminders saw action in the playoffs.
     Only the dying Toledo Goaldiggers and hapless Flint Spirits missed the playoffs, so the Checkers made the postseason for the seventh straight year. However, their opponent was the Muskegon Lumberjacks, who ran away with the East title with a 50-27-5 record. Indy put up a fight, but were no match for the high-powered Lumberjacks, who downed the Checkers in five games (best of seven). Muskegon would lose only one other playoff game as they roared to the Turner Cup.
     I have a program from every season of Checkers hockey except the first. This is another nice program. It's 56 pages long, mostly black-and-white, but there are some color ads. Larry Woods's purchase of the team and an interview are featured on a couple pages. Three IHL teams have bios: Saginaw Generals, Toledo Goaldiggers and Flint Spirits. Mayor William Hudnut, Stars GM Lou Nanne and Islanders GM Bill Torrey each wrote letters wishing the team good luck on the upcoming season. Skojdt was a player this year, but also was Head of Corporate Marketing. Odd combination. The previous owner said this is a program from a game between the Checkers and Flint Spirits. No roster sheet, so I guess I'll take his word for it. Local ads include Sharp Ford, Indy Connection Limousines Inc., Warren Tailors and City Taproom Bar and Restaurant.

IHL Regular Season Statistics: 1985-86 (from

Saginaw Hawks (IHL, 1987-88)

1987-88 Turner Cup Playoffs
Hawks vs. Flint Spirits
     1987-88 was a fresh start for the Saginaw Generals. After two seasons in Saginaw (using the nickname and colors of Flint's former team), the franchise was rechristened the Saginaw Hawks. The team became the primary farm team of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks and adopted uniforms virtually identical to the parent club. The lone difference was the shoulder patch, which had an S instead of a C with the interlocking tomahawks. Dr. Eugene Chardoul remained as President of the club, while Dennis Desrosiers returned for his fifth year behind the bench (two in Flint, three in Saginaw). Peter Horachek took off the skates and joined "Rosie" behind the bench as his assistant coach.
     The Hawks had an excellent season in 1987-88, finishing with a 45-30-7 record. Their 97 points would have won the Western Divison crown, but was only good enough for third in the very competitive Eastern Division. The Hawks were four points ahead of Flint, just three behind Fort Wayne, but 29 behind league-best Muskegon.
     The Hawks scored the fourth-fewest goals in "The I" that year, lighting the lamp a respectable 325 times. Leading the way was Generals holdover Jeff Pyle, with 30 goals and 77 points. Glenn Greenough, a Chicago prospect in his final IHL season, scored 35 goals to lead the team. Dave Mackey and Mark LaVarre were the other 20+ goal scorers.
     On defense, the Hawks were much stronger, allowing just 294 goals, topped by only Muskegon and Flint. Saginaw's starting netminder was a rookie signed as a free agent from North Dakota State University. He went 32-20-5 with a 3.19 GAA and 3 shutouts and would share Rookie of the Year honors with Flint's John Cullen. You might have heard of this netminder: Ed Belfour. Belfour would go on to a Hall of Fame career, mostly with Chicago. Other netminders for Saginaw included former Blackhawk Murray Bannerman, Chris Clifford and John Reid. Belfour earned the nod for the postseason.
     A notable player on the blueline was veteran defenseman/enforcer Archie Henderson. A towering defenseman at 6'6", Henderson had previously played in the IHL with the 1977-78 Port Huron Flags. In 1987-88, he was in the final season of his long career, which included stops in the NHL with Washington, Minnesota and Hartford. Archie would chip in 4 goals, 13 points and 231 penalty minutes in 55 games. Dad told me a story about Henderson that year. The Hawks were playing against Milwaukee, and Henderson lined up for the opening faceoff. As soon as the puck was dropped, Henderson dropped the gloves and bludgeoned the nearest Admiral. After the beating, Henderson was thrown out, prompting Dad to tell my uncle, "Well, I guess Archie didn't feel like playing tonight."
     The Hawks had qualified for the playoffs every season since 1970-71, when they were still the Flint Generals. This season was no different, as they opened the playoffs against the Fort Wayne Komets. It was an evenly matched series, and the Hawks advanced in six games. They would face their archrivals, the Flint Spirits, who upset the heavily-favored Lumberjacks in six. This would be the last time Saginaw and Flint faced each other in the Turner Cup Playoffs, and the Spirits would have the last laugh, sweeping the Hawks aside in four straight. Flint would then fall to Salt Lake in the Turner Cup Finals in six games.
     This program is similar to the other Hawks program I own. It's 64 pages thick, full of advertisements, articles and stats. The coaching staff and trainer each have their own bios. The history of the Black Hawks has a full page. This program is from Game 3 of the Eastern Division Finals. The Spirits won, 6-5, in overtime, to go up 3-zip in the series. Ed Belfour is the program's special insert poster player that night. Local advertisements include Pat Curtis Chevrolet of Caro, Bill Carr Signs, Texan Family Restaurant, WSMH FOX 66 and Wohlfeil's. SVSU also had their basketball schedule, but were still known as Saginaw Valley State College then.

IHL Statistics: 1987-88 (from

Flint Generals (IHL, 1984-85)

1984-85 Turner Cup Playoffs
Generals vs. Kalamazoo Wings
     The Flint Generals were in their sixteenth year of existence in 1984-85. The franchise was coming off it's finest hour in the previous year, winning their first-ever Turner Cup championship. The Generals swept aside both Milwaukee and Toledo in four straight, the first team to sweep to the Cup since the 1969 Dayton Gems.
     Dr. Eugene Chardoul led the consortium that had owned the Generals for the past several years. Former Saginaw Gears and Generals forward Dennis Desrosiers returned for his second season as head coach and general manager. The team played their home games at the 4,021-seat IMA Sports Arena.
     Desrosiers' Generals had a fine season in 1984-85, going 43-32-4. Their 93 points placed them in second place in the IHL Eastern Division, ten points behind league-best Muskegon. Flint had the third-most goals scored that season, with 349. Gilles Thibaudeau, a rookie from the Montreal system, led the team in scoring with 52 goals and 97 points. Four other players had at least 35 goals that year, including future (Colonial League) Generals coach Peter Horachek, who had 38.
     Defense seemed to be a bit of a weak spot in the Vehicle City, as the Gens surrendered 340 goals, third-worst in the league. Rick Knickle and Rick Wilson were the two main netminders in Flint, though the Gens used six throughout the season. Knickle was in net for the postseason.
     The Generals opened the Turner Cup Playoffs against a tough opponent, the third-place Kalamazoo Wings. The K-Wings were just four points behind the Gens and allowed about 50 fewer goals. In a back-and-forth series, the Generals fell in Game 7 on IMA ice, 4-3 in overtime. Kalamazoo would be swept aside by Muskegon in the second round, and Peoria would claim the Turner Cup.
     The Generals always had nice-looking programs, and this one is no different. It's 58 pages, black-and-white, and loaded with the usual advertisements. This program is from Game 3 of the series, which the Generals won, 2-1. There's a recap of the 1983-84 playoff run. Nice to see they drew big crowds for their two Finals games. Former Gears forward Dave Westner was not only the broadcast booth, but was also an assistant coach. Len Hoyes offered an article about the Generals' luck in playoff overtime games. A directory of the IHL is included as well. Local advertisements include WCRZ Cars 108 FM, WHNN 96 FM ("Alive and Lite"), Stroh's Beer and James Lumber. The Windmill Place shopping center, one of Flint's attempts to diversify after the auto industry tanked, also had a small ad. Car advertisements included the Buick Somerset and the Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport.

Aftermath: 1984-85 would be the last hurrah for the Flint Generals. Ownership spent the majority of the summer battling with the City of Flint over lease agreement for the IMA. When talks stalled, the Generals moved up I-75 to Saginaw for the 1985-86 season. The Generals would be replaced by the expansion Flint Spirits.

IHL Statistics: 1984-85 (from

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Flint Generals (IHL, 1969-70)

1969-70 Regular Season
Generals vs. Des Moines Oak Leafs
     Flint's long run in professional hockey began in 1969, when a group led by Frank Gallagher purchased an IHL expansion franchise for the Vehicle City. The team was called "Flint Generals" in a nod to the city's close ties to General Motors, which had several factories in town then. Gallagher, a former IHL commissioner as well as former General Manager of the Port Huron Flags, was named GM of the new Generals. He then named Ken Hodge as the team's first head coach. The Generals would play at the similarly new IMA Sports Arena, which held 4.031 with 1,000 standing room.
     The new Generals went through the usual growing pains in Year One. Flint finished the 1969-70 season in last place, with a 21-39-12 record. Their 54 points were six behind the Fort Wayne Komets and 46 behind league-best Muskegon. The Generals were actually strong on defense, allowing 270 goals, fourth-fewest in the IHL. This was thanks to a midseason trade with Muskegon that brought in goaltender Bob Perani. Perani solidified the Gens' netminding and quickly became a fan favorite, playing in 34 games that year.
Generals Roster (as of 3/4/1970)
     It was the offense, or lack thereof, that did the Gens in that season. Flint scored a league-worst 217 goals. Wally Kozak, fresh off a stint with the Canadian National Team, led Flint with 27 goals and 78 points. Ron Ringler, the team's first selection in the expansion draft (from the Port Huron Flags), scored the most goals on the team with 29. Two other Generals had at least 20 goals that year, Doug Abel and Wayne Ego. Randy Prior, the winger on this program's cover, scored 16 goals and 28 points between Port Huron and Flint.
     Thanks to their last-place finish, the 1969-70 Flint Generals did not qualify for the playoffs. This would be the only season in franchise history (including their four-year stint in Saginaw) that the Generals would not qualify for the postseason, a remarkable stretch of consistency. Off the ice, the Generals did quite well, as fans flocked to the IMA to see the new team play. Flint would have strong attendance in the IHL for years, until the recession and plant closings of the early 1980s.

Oak Leafs Roster (as of 3/4/1970)
   This is the first program from the inaugural season I have been able to buy, and it came from the United Kingdom, of all places! It's 24 pages, all black and white, expect for the pink roster sheet. That night's opponent was the Des Moines Oak Leafs. The Leafs were, by far, the western-most team in the Great Lakes-based IHL. The Leafs featured player-coach Bob Perrault, who had a couple stints in the NHL during the Original Six era. Strange to see a goaltender double as head coach. Defenseman Larry Klewchuk and left winger Steve Sutherland would later win Turner Cups with the Port Huron Flags. No idea who won this game.
     As with all programs, this one has it's fair
share of local advertisements. Several of them are General Motors related, which makes sense due to the strong presence the company had in Flint at the time. Car ads include the 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the 1970 GS455 Stage 1. Each IHL arena is given it's own page, and several of them also list the attendance numbers. The standard pages of official signals, rules of the game and "hockey facts" are there too. Other local advertisements include Valley Coach Lines, Weinstein Electric Co., Genesee Bank, Heap Big Beef and AC Spark Plugs. WTRX AM 1330 has a full-page ad as well, featuring the "Sports Hotline" with Dick Bing. Interesting that 1330 played music and had news broadcasts as well back then. That station still exists, but is a "Sports Talk" channel affiliated with CBS Sports.

IHL Statistics: 1969-70 (from

Friday, May 20, 2016

Indianapolis Checkers (CHL, 1983-84)

1983-84 Regular Season
Checkers vs. U.S. Olympic Team
     The Checkers were riding high by 1983-84. They were the two-time defending Adams Champions and one of the strongest teams off the ice as well.           The CHL, on the other hand, was not as fortunate. The league was running on fumes by then. Having lost several teams the past few seasons, the CHL was down to just five teams. The league was spread all across the country, mostly in the western US. The five teams were as far north as Billings, Montana, as far west as Salt Lake City, Utah, and as far south as Tulsa, Oklahoma. Indianapolis was easily the most easterly team in the circuit.
     Things got worse as the year went on. The owners of the Tulsa Oilers declared bankruptcy and abandoned the team to the CHL, which kept it afloat as a travel team. To balance the schedule, the CHL counted games against the Canadian and American Olympic teams in the schedule. So this program was not from an exhibition game, but one that actually counted in the standings!
     The Checkers slipped in the standings after two dominant years, finishing in fourth place with a subpar 34-36-2 record. Their 70 points were just two behind third-place Salt Lake, but 29 behind first-place Colorado. Only one team missed the postseason that year, and the Checkers were in no danger of doing so. The Montana Magic brought up the rear, with a pathetic 20-52-4.
     Fred Creighton was again Coach/GM that season, and this season was more challenging than the previous two. On offense, the Checkers popped in 308 goals, third-most in the league. Don Laurence again was tops in scoring, with 41 goals and 78 points in 69 games. Indianapolis had a very balanced attack, as seven players had at least 20 goals that year.
     Indy was also in third place on defense, allowing 289 goals. They used four different netminders that year, including future NHLer Kelly Hrudey, then-Toledo Goaldigger Lorne Molleken, Robert Holland and Todd Lumbard. Holland and Lumbard split the time in net during the playoffs.
     Indianapolis opened the playoffs against the first-place Colorado Flames.  The Flames ran away with the top seed that year, but the Checkers upset them in six games to advance to the Finals. There, they faced a Cinderella team: the Tulsa Oilers. After ownership declared bankruptcy, the Oilers then lost the lease to their arena. Instead of allowing the franchise to go under, the CHL and the New York Rangers (the Oilers affiliate) split the costs to keep the team alive as a travel team. Despite not having a home game in well over a month, the Oilers stunned Salt Lake in Round One, then dethroned the Checkers in a four-game sweep to win the Adams Cup title.
     I bought this one in the same lot I got the 1982-83 program and ad. This is a slightly larger program, at 68 pages. Most of the pages are black-and-white, but a few pages are color. The previous season is reviewed in an article titled "Road to Success". Again, Bill Torrey of the Islanders wrote a congratulatory note, included with a picture of the 1983 Islanders. Another article is titled "Around the Central Hockey League on $23.50 a Day". This one talks about the amount of travel CHL teams faced. According to the author, the Checkers had to switch planes to reach all CHL cities except for Denver. Local advertisements include Indiana Bell, Indiana National Bank, WIRE AM 1430 and John Macri's Italian Village

Aftermath: 1983-84 would be the final season for the Central Hockey League. The CHL, already in rough shape due to low attendance and soaring travel costs, would fold after that season. Three teams, the Colorado Flames, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles and the Checkers would be left standing after the CHL collapsed. The Checkers and Golden Eagles would join the IHL for the 1984-85 season, while the Flames would fold. The Islanders would switch primary farm teams, opting for the AHL's Springfield Indians, while making the Checkers a secondary affiliate.

Central Hockey League Statistics: 1983-84 (from
The Checker Flag: 1983-84 Indianapolis Checkers program

Indianapolis Checkers (CHL, 1982-83)

1982-83 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     The Indianapolis Checkers were in their fourth year in the Central Hockey League by 1982-83. They were the primary farm club of the New York Islanders and played their home games at the 8,421-seat State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Fred Creighton was the Head Coach and General Manager.
     As you can see by the cover, Indy was the defending Adams Cup Champions that year, defeating Dallas in the Finals. In 1982-83, Creighton's bunch had a spectacular season, going 50-28-2, cruising to first place. Their 102 points were 17 points ahead of second-place Colorado.
     The Checkers were tops in the CHL on both sides of the puck. On offense, they piled up 335 goals and were led by Don Laurence, who popped in 43 goals and 98 points. Steve Stoyanovich was the other 40-goal scorer that season, with 41. Five other Checkers had at least 20 goals on the year.
     On defense, Indy allowed just 242 goals. They used just two goaltenders in '82-83: Robert Holland and Kelly Hrudey. Hrudey would go on to a long NHL career, mostly with the Islanders and Kings. This year, he went 26-17-1 with a 3.04 GAA and 2 shutouts. Holland was even better, sporting a 24-11-1 record with a 2.87 GAA and 4 shutouts. Hrudey played in the majority of the postseason games.
Continental Airlines ad, featuring defenseman Darcy Regier
     The Checkers opened the Adams Cup Playoffs against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. The Eagles were a distant fourth, with a mediocre 41-38-1 mark. Despite being heavy underdogs, Salt Lake gave the Checkers fits. Two games went into overtime, but Indy won the series in six with an 11-4 beatdown at home in the clincher. In the Finals, they would face the Birmingham South Stars. Birmingham was a new addition to the league and finished in third place in Year One. This season's Adams Cup Finals was a strange one: a best-of-nine series instead of the usual best-of-seven! The South Stars dropped Game 1, then took a 2-1 series lead over the defending champs. The Checkers rebounded to sweep the next four games and win their second straight Adams Cup.
     Much like 1981-82, 1982-83 was a "clean sweep" for the Islanders organization. The Isles won their fourth-straight Stanley Cup, the Checkers won their second-straight Adams Cup and the IHL's Toledo Goaldiggers won their second-straight Turner Cup. Hard to top that!
     I bought this program online as part of a lot which included another program and the above advertisement. Pretty decent-sized program too, at 52 pages. Most of the pages are black and white (or black, white and red), though some pages are color. There's a two-page article about the previous season. The article noted that 1981-82 would be "a tough act to follow". Judging by how '82-83 went, I'd say they did just fine. Other articles include one about Kevin Devine, that season's captain. Islanders GM Bill Torrey wrote a letter congratulating the Checkers and their fans. Included is a picture of the 1981-82 Isles, who won the Stanley Cup. The most interesting article was about Indianapolis' rich goaltending tradition, which includes Hall of Famers Terry Sawchuk and Glenn Hall. Local advertisements include The Bedroom, Jack's Pizza, WFMS 95.5, J. Ross Browne's Whaling Station and WIBC 1070 AM.

Central Hockey League Statistics: 1982-83 (from
The Checker Flag: 1982-83 Indianapolis Checkers program

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Another Program I Want: 1983-84 Tulsa Oilers

I'm going to add another program to my list of "wants": the 1983-84 Tulsa Oilers. The reason? Read this article. Quite an interesting story.

Basically, the following events happened:

1. Oilers ownership declared bankruptcy midway through the season.
2. Oilers lose arena lease and fold.
3. CHL and the New York Rangers (Oilers' parent team) split the costs of keeping the Oilers alive for the rest of the season as a travel team.
4. Oilers players are put up in a Denver hotel.
5. Oilers make the playoffs.
6. Oilers win the Adams Cup while not playing a home game in over a month.
7. Oilers finally cease operations.
8. The entire CHL follows suit and folds as well.

It would make a great ESPN 30 for 30 episode. Programs do exist, but I haven't seen one from that season yet. Hopefully I can find one reasonably priced.

Dallas Black Hawks (1979-80, CHL)

1979-80 Regular Season
Black Hawks vs. Tulsa Oilers
     The Central Hockey League's Dallas Black Hawks had been in existence since 1967-68, relocating from St. Louis after the arrival of the NHL Blues. Originally a Chicago farm club, the Hawks were now the primary farm club of the Vancouver Canucks. The Hawks played their home games at the 7,593-seat State Fair Coliseum and were coached by John Choyce, who was also GM.
     Dallas was coming off an Adams Cup championship in 1978-79. The Hawks were a juggernaut in the CHL. Since arriving in 1967-68, Dallas had reached the Adams Cup Finals nine times in 12 years (including an incredible six years straight), winning the Cup four times.
     1979-80 would see that come to a screeching halt. Dallas would fall to last place in the CHL that year (excluding the Cincinnati Stingers, who folded at midseason). Their 29-43-8 record was eight points behind sixth-place Houston, who had the last playoff berth. The Hawks were also 39 points behind league-best Salt Lake.
     Dallas actually had a decent offense that year, as they scored 291 goals, fourth-most in the league. Leading the charge was Gary Minor, with 31 goals and 83 points. Rob Tudor had the most goals with 39, while four other Hawks had at least 20.
     Fans might as well called the Hawks the "Allas Black Hawks", because there didn't seem to be any "D" that season. The Hawks allowed 334 goals, worst by 15 goals. Four different goaltenders were between the pipes in 1979-80. Ken Ellacot was the starter and went 19-28-5 with a 3.77 GAA and 5 shutouts. Gary Bromley backed him up with an 8-9-3 record and 4.10 GAA. Curt Ridley and Rick Martens were also in goal that year.
     The defending champs laid a Texas-sized egg that year, so the Adams Cup was up for grabs. The Salt Lake Golden Eagles took home the Cup that year, defeating Fort Worth in seven games. Choyce would be replaced behind the Hawks bench by Dan Belisle the following season.
     There are 64 pages in this program, all black-and-white and on glossy paper. The Canucks are given a half-page article, including a color picture of their outrageous home "V for Victory" jerseys. Not much else in terms of articles, this one is mostly advertisements. A few players have a bio, and the rosters for the Hawks and the Tulsa Oilers (that night's opponent) are listed. Former Saginaw Gear Larry Hopkins was with Tulsa that season. As of this program, the Hawks were 3-4-1, one point behind Tulsa (4-3-0). A diagram of the Coliseum is given and ticket prices that year ranged from $3-6, and students and military personel received a $1 discount with ID. Parking was free too, btw. Local ads include WFAA News Talk 570 AM, Kip's Big Boy, Wyatt's Cafeteria's, Tony Roma's and Late Chevrolet.

Aftermath: The Hawks would rebound in 1980-81, going 56-16-8 and clinch first place. One final trip to the Adams Cup Finals in 1981-82 would be the swan song for the franchise. The Central League was spread throughout the United States, and attendance numbers could not offset the soaring travel costs. The Dallas Black Hawks, along with Fort Worth and Oklahoma, folded after the season. The CHL would follow suit in 1984. Dallas would later be home to the new CHL's Dallas Freeze from 1992-95. The Minnesota North Stars would arrive in Dallas by 1993, and are still there to this day.

Central Hockey League Statistics: 1979-80 (from
1979-80 Dallas Blackhawks program

Detroit Red Wings (1980-81, NHL)

1980-81 Regular Season
Wings vs. Washington Capitals
     By 1980-81, the Detroit Red Wings were slowly reaching the end of their "Dead Things" era. From 1966-67 to 1985-86, the Wings missed the playoffs in all but four seasons. A myriad of coaches and general managers had come and gone during that era, and the Wings remained buried deep in the standings.
     1980-81 was more of the same, as the Wings retained control of the Norris Division cellar, with an ugly 19-43-18 record. In most seasons, that would have given Detroit the #1 overall pick, but Winnipeg was especially horrific in 1981, winning only nine games. The Wings were four points behind fourth-place Hartford, but 47 behind first-place Montreal.
     Jimmy Skinner, former head coach of the 1955 Wings (the last Detroit team to win the Stanley Cup) was now the general manager. His former captain, Ted Lindsay, started the year as coach, but was canned after a 3-14-3 start in favor of Wayne Maxner. Didn't matter who was in charge. The Wings were a mess and their offense had all the firepower of a toy popgun, scoring only 252 goals, second-worst in the league. Leading the so-called attack was Dale McCourt, the #1 overall pick in 1977. McCourt, a dependable winger during the lean years, had 30 goals and 86 points. John Ogrodnick would chip in 35 goals that year as well. Young Mike Foligno was the only other forward with at least 20 goals (28), and underrated defenseman Reed Larson banged in 27. Big dropoff after that, though, as most of the veterans had disappointing seasons.
      The Wings had the sixth-worst defense in the NHL, allowing 339 goals. Most of the team was deep in the red on the +/- category, including Reed Larson, with an embarrassing -35. Gilles Gilbert, just two years removed from that heartbreaking "Too Many Men on the Ice" loss with Boston, took the brunt of the abuse that season in goal. Gilbert went 11-24-9 with a 4.01 GAA. Larry Lozinski was next in line, going 6-11-7 with a 4.32 GAA. Veteran Jim Rutherford, Claude Legris and Al Jensen also saw time between the pipes.
     Once again, the Wings failed to make the playoffs that year. But, thanks to a free agency mess in 1979, the Wings couldn't benefit from the #2 overall pick in the draft. Due to the Wings signing goaltender Rogie Vachon in 1979, the Kings countered by claiming McCourt. McCourt refused to report, and both teams made a deal: the Wings received Vachon and McCourt, the Kings helped themselves to Andre St. Laurent and the Wings' first round picks in 1980 and 1981. So if you believe the Wings are too passive in trades and free agency today, remember this one.
     This program is 62 pages long and is actually two programs in one. Inside is a copy of the NHL's Goal magazine, featuring the Capitals' Ryan Walter. The Capitals were the opponents for this game on March 26, 1981, and blanked the Wings, 2-0, in front of 12,813. Most of the pages are black-and-white, but quite a few are color. One unusual article is a "handwriting analysis" of the Wings' Jim Korn. Betty Goldner noted how "the emotional slant of Jim's handwriting analysis" showed that Korn was one that "does not show his emotions very freely". Also, Goldner wrote that Korn had "a very stubborn streak" and "enjoys activities that appeal to the senses such as good food and good company". Okay then. Local ads include Nemo's Saloon, Dino's Lounge, Taylor Sporting Goods and Vernor's Ginger Ale. Lots of liquor ads in this one too, which kind of made sense, since one likely had to have a few drinks to watch the Dead Things.

Aftermath: The Wings would continue to struggle the following year, going 21-47-12. After the 1981-82 season, longtime owner Bruce Norris sold the franchise to Little Caesar's founder Mike Illitch. Illitch would then hire Jim Devellano from the New York Islanders as GM, and together would begin to rebuild the franchise from the ground up. By 1987, the Wings were in the Campbell Conference Finals, and Stanley Cup Champions ten years later. Illitch continues to own the Wings to this day.

1980-81 Detroit Red Wings program
Goldner, Betty. "Handwriting Analysis of the Red Wings: Jim Korn".
National Hockey League Statistics: 1980-81 (from

Flint Generals (2008-09, IHL)

2008-09 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     The Flint Generals were in their 16th season of operation by 2009. This tied the original Flint Generals of the IHL for the longest stay by a pro hockey team in the Buick City. The modern Generals were now part of the "new" IHL, which the United Hockey League renamed itself the season before. The team was owned by a consortium called The Perani Group (TPG), which included Perani's Hockeyworld owner and Flint legend Bob Perani (hence the name). The team played it's home games at Perani's Hockey World and Event Center.
     The franchise, and the league for that matter, had been in decline for the past several seasons, attendance-wise and in the standings. 2008-09 saw the Gens hit rock bottom both on and off the ice. Head Coach Peter South, an unpopular midseason replacement the previous year, was suddenly expected to "co-coach with former General Bobby Reynolds after a slow start to the year. Seeing the writing on the wall, South stepped aside and Reynolds finished out the year. Problems with unpaid bills, unpaid players and unpaid rent hounded the team throughout the season. Players faced eviction notices from their apartment complex when TPG failed to pay the rent. In February, injured forward Mike Alexiou sued TPG and the Generals, claiming he was owned thousands of dollars due to the franchise not having workman's compensation available.
     Due to a weak lineup and all the drama off the ice, the Generals crashed to a 22-47-7 record. Their 51 points and 22 wins were the worst in franchise history, and only behind the 1985-86 Flint Spirits for ineptitude. The Gens were 14 points behind the fifth-place Bloomington Prairie Thunder, and a whopping 53 behind first-place Fort Wayne. As a result, just 1,613 per game bothered to show up to Perani Arena, easily a franchise low.
     The Generals had the second-worst offense that season, scoring just 241 goals. They were led by Greg Bullock, who had 27 goals and 85 points. Left-winger Steve Rymsha ended up with 32 goals, but was traded to Port Huron at the deadline. John DiPace, who was traded himself to Muskegon, was the other 20+ goal scorer in 2008-09.
     The Generals were rather porous on defense, allowing an IHL-worst 359 goals. It wasn't even close that year--the next worst team, Muskegon, allowed 298. The Gens cycled through eight different goaltenders that year, a high number even for the minors. The main netminder was former MSU Spartan Chad Alban. Alban played in 51 games, going 15-29-6 with a 4.36 GAA and 1 shutout. Of the other seven goaltenders, a noteworthy one was Manon Rheaume. Rheaume played in part of a game that season for charity.
     With a record that bad, the Generals were miles away from the postseason. Fort Wayne won their second-straight Turner Cup, this time over Muskegon. The Perani Group disintegrated during the offseason, and the Gens were propped up by the Franke family for 2009-10.
     As for the program, it's not too bad, better than I expected. It's 47 pages, all on glossy paper and all in black-and-white. There are a few articles about the IHL's history and hockey history in Flint. Each player has their own bio as well. IHL stats for that season are available as well. Unfortunately, there are spelling errors here and there. Also, some of the pictures are pixelated. Not a bad design, but I've seen better with the Generals. Local ads include Firkin & Fox, Scott Stetson Photography and YaYa's Flamebroiled Chicken.
     I remember this season being a joke from the get-go. Unpaid bills, unpaid players, unpaid rent, it was both sad and frustrating. Granted, the economy was in the gutter, and Flint was hit hard by the recession. But, the fact is, the players didn't deserve to go through this mess. It just seemed like TPG tried to put the worst team possible on the ice. The glory years of 1995-2000 were a distant memory. I didn't go to any Generals games that year, opting for Port Huron and Saginaw instead.

International Hockey League Statistics: 2008-09 (from
Savage, Brendan. "Forward Mike Alexiou to sue Flint Generals". Mlive, 25 February 2009.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Peoria Rivermen (1993-94, IHL)

1993-94 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     As you can tell by the programa cover, the Peoria Rivermen were in their tenth season of existence. The franchise originally started in 1983 as the Peoria Prancers, but changed their names after two lackluster seasons and new ownership. The Rivermen were the primary affiliate of the St. Louis Blues and played their home games at the 9,315-seat Peoria Civic Center.
     Long-time NHL forward Paul MacLean was behind the bench for the 1993-94 season. The Rivermen were coming off a last-place finish in the Midwest Division (third place out of three teams, actually) in 1992-93. This year would be different, as they jumped to first place, with a 51-24-6 record. Their 108 points just barely edged out second-place Cincinnati and was only seven points behind league-best Las Vegas.
     MacLean's squad scored the fourth-most goals in the IHL that year, piling up 327 goals. They were led by Doug Evans, who scored 27 goals and 90 points. Tony Hrkac led the team in goals with an even thirty, while three others scored at least 20.
     Peoria used four different goaltenders that year. Leading the way between the pipes was Geoff Sargent, who went 25-9-2 with a 2.45 GAA and 2 shutouts in 41 games. His main backup was Parris Duffus, who sported a 19-10-3 record with a 4.58 GAA. David Goverde and Nick Vitucci also saw action in the Rivermen net. As a team, Peoria allowed 294 goals.
     Peoria drew the defending Turner Cup Champion Fort Wayne Komets in Round One of the 1994 Turner Cup Playoffs. The Komets finished the season at 41-29-11--not an easy opponent. In the best-of-seven series, Fort Wayne downed the Rivermen in six. The Komets would go on to lose in the Turner Cup Finals to the Atlanta Knights in six games.
     Very nice program, comparable to the Vipers programs I own. The picture on the front is a picture of the team's first goal from a game against the Flint Generals. As for the program, it's 96 pages long, all on glossy paper and mostly black-and-white. The front office and coaching staff each have their own bios, as do the players. There's a section about the Peoria Rivermen Hall of Fame as well as a preview of the 1993-94 Blues season. Local advertisements include Hunt's Family Restaurant, WTAZ "Talk Radio 102", Illinois State Redbirds basketball and Mulligan's Irish Pub and Grill.

Aftermath: The Rivermen would exist through the 1995-96 season. The franchise then relocated to San Antonio, Texas, and were renamed the San Antonio Dragons, who lasted just two seasons before folding. A new Rivermen team played in the ECHL from 1996-2005, then were part of the AHL from 2005-13. That franchise then relocated to Utica, New York, for the 2013-14 season. Peoria is now home to a third Rivermen franchise, this time in the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League.

Peoria Rivermen Statistics: 1993-94 (from

Monday, May 2, 2016

Syracuse Blazers (1973-74, NAHL)

1973-74 Regular Season
Blazers vs. Broome Dusters
     Syracuse, New York, has been part of numerous minor-pro hockey leagues. The Blazers arrived on the scene in 1967, joining the Eastern Hockey League as an expansion franchise. When the EHL split up, the Blazers switched to the North American Hockey League (no relation to the junior league). Ron Ingram was General Manager and Head Coach that season. The Blazers were an affiliate of the WHA's New York Golden Blades and played their home  games at the Onondaga County War Memorial, which sat 6,000.
     Syracuse had an excellent season in Year One of the NAHL, running away with the league crown with a 54-16-4 record. Their 112 points were 19 more than second place Maine.
     Ingram's Blazers had no problem scoring goals, as they notched 359 goals, second-most in the league. The team had a trio of 40-goal scorers, led by Mike Morton, who had 44 goals and 95 points. Four other players had at least 20 goals on the year.
     Syracuse was easily tops in the NAHL on defense, allowing only 219 goals. They went with four different goaltenders that year, led by former Port Huron Flag Ted Ouimet. Ouimet was in 35 games with a 3.03 GAA. His main backup was Gary Kurt, who played in 24 games. Russ Gillow and Guy DeNoncourt also saw action that year. Ouimet and Gillow played in the playoffs.
     The Blazers opened the playoffs in a bizarre 5-team round robin setup. After going 6-1 in that tournament, Syracuse then quickly dispatched Johnstown in five games. In the finals, the Blazers crushed the Long Island Cougars in four straight, outscoring them 27-5.
     This is one of my most beat-up programs. There are quite a few stains and dirt marks on it, but none of the 42 pages are torn. The usual ads and articles are there too. Articles include a season preview of the New York Golden Blades, a preview of that night's opponent (the Broome Dusters) and the success of the Blazers on and off the ice. There's a picture of "Syracuse's New Matinee Idol", Bill Goldthorpe. Goldthorpe, as of this program, had already spent 43 minutes in the "sin bin" in only 7 games. He would go on to hit 285 PIM in just 55 games that year. "Big afro, 22, 23, look out for him...". Local ads include The Board Room, North Syracuse Music, The Copper Kettle and Mattydale VFW Post 3146.

Aftermath: The Blazers would exist until 1976-77 season, winning one more NAHL Championship. The team would  fold after that year. Syracuse would later be home to the AHL's Syracuse Firebirds and are currently home to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch.

Syracuse Blazers Program, 1973-74 season
NAHL Statistics: 1973-74 (from