Monday, September 5, 2016

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.

References:
AHL Statistics: 1972-73 (from hockeydb.com)
1972-73 Baltimore Clippers Souvenir Program

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