Saturday, December 30, 2017

Port Huron Flags (IHL, 1967-68)

1967-68 Regular Season
Flags vs. Dayton Gems
     The 1967-68 season was the sixth season in the International Hockey League (IHL) for the Port Huron Flags. The Flags were owned by John Wismer, who also owned radio stations WHLS and WSAQ. Jerry Toppazzini, who spent twelve years in the NHL, mostly with the Boston Bruins, was player/coach that year, taking over for Lloyd Maxfield, who was now Administrative Assistant to the President. The Flags played their home games at the 3,400-seat McMorran Arena.
     Maxfield's Flags just missed the playoffs in 1967, finishing three points behind fourth-place Des Moines. Toppazzini's Flags fared much worse in 1968, finishing in sixth place (out of seven) with a 25-36-11 record. Their 61 points were twelve points behind the fourth-place Fort Wayne Komets and 37 behind the league-leading Muskegon Mohawks.
     The Flags owned the third worst offense (269 goals scored) and the worst defense (343 allowed) in the IHL in 1967-68. Randy Prior led the team in scoring, with 56 goals and 90 points. Marty Reynolds (38), Ken Gribbons (28) and Frank Golembrosky (22) were the other Flags with over 20 goals on the season. Coach Toppazzini had 37 points in 37 games (11 goals).
     Ray Reeson played in 54 games for Port Huron in his first full professional season. He would go on to play several seasons in the CHL and AHL. His backup was Norm Jacques, an original Flags player. Jacques would play in 27 games in his final pro season (though he did suit up for one game as an emergency fill-in for the Flags in 1980-81). Gaye Cooley made it into one game, and became the main netminder for the team in 1968-69.
     This program is from a Saturday, March 16th game against the Dayton Gems. The
player on the front of the program is defenseman Guy James. James, another member of the first Flags team, had become and Iron Man, having not missed a hockey game in nearly ten years at that time. That night's game was the 700th consecutive game for James. Page 9 of this program includes a nice article about his accomplishment. Another notable Flags player was center Bob McCammon. McCammon would later become head coach of the Wings/Flags himself in the mid-1970s and eventually coach the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks in the 1980s.
     This is a 19-page program, all in black-and-white. Both road and home schedules are included, as well as a team photo from last season's team. Local advertisements include Sperry's (then a department store, now a movie theater), Port Huron Paper Company, Sport Shop Toys, Little Pigs Barbecue, and Port Huron TV Cable Company.
     No playoffs for the second straight season for the Flags, and Coach Toppazzini would be shown the door after only one season. The Muskegon Mohawks would cruise through the Turner Cup Playoffs, downing both the Columbus Checkers and Dayton Gems to win the Turner Cup.

Aftermath: The Flags would replace Toppazzini with Sarnia native Ted Garvin. Garvin would guide the Flags (later Wings) to their greatest era. The team would reach the Turner Cup Finals four times in the next five years, winning it all in 1970-71 and 1971-72. The franchise would remain in Port Huron until ceasing operations after the 1980-81 season due to financial losses reaching over $250,000 in the final year.


References:
International Hockey League Statistics: 1967-68 (from hockeydb.com)

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