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.


Sources:
Syracuse Blazers Program, 1973-74 season
NAHL Statistics: 1973-74 (from hockeydb.com)

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