Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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.

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

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