Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Brantford Smoke (1993-94, CoHL)

1993-94 Regular Season: Smoke vs. Utica Bulldogs
     The Brantford Smoke were one of the "Original 5" Colonial Hockey League franchises, along with the Michigan (Detroit) Falcons, Flint Bulldogs, St. Thomas Wildcats and Thunder Bay Thunder Hawks. The Brantford Smoke played their home games at the Brantford Civic Center, a 3600-seat arena. A competitive team from the get-go, the Smoke won their only Colonial Cup championship in 1992-93, defeating St. Thomas in five games. They were given a boost in goal with former New York Islander Roland Melanson.
     The Smoke were back for Year 3 in 1993-94. Ken Gratton, who took over as coach during the previous season, was retained as Head Coach Don Robertons was the General Manager that season. The Smoke made a slight change to their logo, using a silhouette of a maple leaf behind the "Smoke Train".
     The Smoke took a big step back in 1993-94, with a 28-26-10 record. Their 66 points were good enough for second place in the Eastern Division, though 28 points behind league-best Thunder Bay. Had the Smoke played in the Western Division, they would have finished in last place.  Coming off the championship the previous season, attendance increased to about 2,005 per game in 1993-94.
     Brantford's offense was middle-of-the-pack that season, as the Smoke potted 308 goals. The Smoke were led by local boy Paul Polillo, who scored 42 goals and 141 points. Polillo, a Western Michigan University graduate and Supplemental Draft selection of Pittsburgh, was one of the greatest players in Colonial/United/International League history, a pure sniper who annually was near the top of the league in points. Greg Walters (42) and Jamey Hicks (37) joined Polillo in the 30+ goal club. It's a dropoff after that, as Andy Bezeau (midseason acquisition from St. Thomas) was the next-highest scorer with 18.
     Defense was a letdown for Brantford that year. The Smoke allowed a league-high 348 goals. The team went through 8 different goaltenders in 1993-94, with Pete Richards leading the way in net. Richards, a former Flint Spirit and original Smoke player, had a 17-17-7 record with a 5.04 GAA. Among the other 7 netminders was Darcy Austin, who was traded to Brantford from the Flint Generals.
     The Smoke qualified for the postseason for the third straight year. They faced the Muskegon Fury in Round One and swept them aside in three straight. However, their luck ran out in the semi-finals, as they faced the Thunder Bay Senators. The Senators blew away the Smoke in four straight, outscoring them 27-11 in the process. Thunder Bay would then defeat the Chatham Wheels in five games to win their second Colonial Cup in three years.
     Very nice program for the Smoke that season. It's 80 pages, all black-and-white, and loaded with
April Fools: Doug Gilmour of the Brantford Smoke
advertisements. That night's opponent was the Utica Bulldogs, formerly of Flint and buried in last place with a 9-24-3 record. The Bulldogs actually had good goaltending, with Pat Szturm and Wayne Marion, but little else. The insert has a player profile of Wayne MacPhee, a holdover from last season's team. Local advertisements include The Iron Horse Steakhouse, Canadian Tire, Davis Fuels and The Olde School Restaurant. On the right, you'll see an April Fools gag showcasing the Smoke's latest "signing", Maple Leafs superstar Doug Gilmour.


Colonial Hockey League Statistics: 1993-94 (from

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