Thursday, April 28, 2016

Portland Buckaroos (1964-65, WHL)

1964-65 Regular Season
Buckaroos vs. Victoria Maple Leafs
     The Portland Buckaroos were in their fifth season of existence in 1964-65. The franchise began as the New Westminster Royals, who played from 1945-59. The Buckaroos were members of the Western Hockey League, a minor-pro circuit based in the West Coast of the United States and Canada. This was prior to the NHL's 1967 Expansion, so the WHL was practically the closest thing to major league hockey.
     Hal Laycoe, longtime NHL defenseman (mostly with Boston), followed the team from New Westminster and was back behind the bench this season. The team had yet to miss the playoffs, and 1964-65 was no different. Laycoe's Buckaroos went 42-23-5, first overall in the WHL. Portland's 89 points were 13 better than the second-place Seattle Totems. As a result of the great season,  just under 8,200 per game attended Buckaroos games.
     The Buckaroos' offense pumped in 267 goals, tops in the league. They were led by Art Jones, who scored 34 goals and 90 points in 70 games. Pat Stapleton, who would go on to a long career in the NHL, followed Jones with 29 goals and 86 points. Andy Hebenton, who played several seasons with the New York Rangers, scored 34 that year. Tom McVie (the cover-boy of this program), led the team with 37 goals.
     Portland's defense was pretty strong as well, allowing the second-fewest goals in the WHL with just 218. They used three different goaltenders that year, but Don Head (who would appear off-and-on in the NHL) led the way with 50 games played. Stapleton was the top defensive scorer. Doug Messier and Connie "Mad Dog" Madigan added toughness to defense, with 175 and 158 PIM, respectively.
     The Buckaroos faced the Vancouver Canucks in Round One of the 1965 WHL Playoffs. The Canucks were a distant third place, going 32-32-6. Portland won the best-of-seven series in five games, but the Canucks made it interesting, winning Game 1, 6-3, and were only blown out in Game 5.
     Portland advanced to the Patrick Cup Finals against the Victoria Maple Leafs, who upset the Seattle Totems in seven. The Leafs barely edged out San Francisco for the final playoff berth that year, with a dismal 32-36-2 record. Victoria won Game 3, 4-3 in overtime, but the Buckaroos won their second Patrick Cup championship in five games.
     This is one of the smaller programs I own, just 36 pages. It is mostly black-and-white with some red highlights to the ads. Lots of advertisements and statistics. Information about that night's visiting team, the Victoria Maple Leafs. As of this game, the Buckaroos were one point ahead of Seattle for first place, with a 24-15-4 record. Victoria was in fourth (21-23-1). Local ads include the New Heathman Hotel, Shakey's Pizza Parlors, Sunny Jim Fine Foods and KOIN-TV6, a CBS affiliate.

Aftermath: The Buckaroos stuck around for another 10 seasons. The Western Hockey League at one point attempted to challenge the NHL as another major league, but lost several key cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver) to NHL expansion in 1967 and 1970. The league then went into a tailspin and collapsed after the 1973-74 season. After the WHL folded, the Buckaroos joined the semi-pro WIHL, but that league folded shortly after. Portland is now home to the WHL Portland Winterhawks.


References:
Western Hockey League Statistics: 1964-65 (from hockeydb.com)    

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