Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Portland Buckaroos (1968-69, WHL)

1968-69 WHL Playoffs--Buckaroos vs. San Diego Gulls
     The Portland Buckaroos were members of the Western Hockey League (WHL), a six-team minor-pro circuit based along the West Coast of the US and Canada. The Buckaroos were two-time Patrick Cup Champions (1961 and 1965) and played their home games at the 10,128-seat Memorial Coliseum.
     Led by former NHLer Hal Laycoe, the Buckaroos had a fine season in 1968-69. Portland won the regular season title that year, with a 40-18-16 record, 10 points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks. Despite the strong showing on the ice, attendance dipped below 6,000 per game for the first time, as the Buckaroos drew 5,655 per game to the Coliseum.
1968-69 Team Photo
     The Buckaroos topped the WHL in both offense and defense that season. Portland scored 291 goals in 1968-69. Longtime center Art Jones led the team in scoring, with 38 goals and 114 points. Bill Saunders, with the Buckaroos since 1961, had a career season, scoring 53 goals and 112 points. Norm Johnson potted 43 goals, while Cliff Schmautz, Roger Bellerive and longtime NHLer Andy Hebenton (who recently passed away) also joined the 20-goal club. Another notable player on the 1968-69 Buckaroos is legendary WHL tough guy Connie "Mad Dog" Madigan. Madigan played in 71 games that year, and racked up 175 penalty minutes to lead the team. He would eventually make it all the way to the NHL, at 38 years old, for a 20-game stint with St. Louis in 1972-73.
     As for the other side of the puck, the Buckaroos allowed only 201 goals that season. Portland used three different goaltenders that year. Jimmy McLeod played in 42 games that year, sporting a 23-9-8 record, a 2.29 GAA and 3 shutouts. Dave Kelly had similar numbers in 34 games, going 17-9--7 with 3 shutouts and a 3.10 GAA. Bob Sneddon played in two games that year. McLeod and Kelly alternated in the postseason.
     The Buckaroos qualified for the postseason and faced the San Diego Gulls in Round One. The Gulls finished in third place that year (33-29-12) with 78 points, 18 points behind Portland. Despite this, San Diego gave the Buckaroos all they could handle before bowing out in 7 games. The Buckaroos were then obliterated by the Vancouver Canucks in four straight in the Patrick Cup Finals, being outscored 16-8 in the process.
Gulls-Buckaroos Game Action
 Even though the cover has come off, this is a fine program. It's 36 pages long, mostly black-and-white (though some of the ads are red/pink and white). This program is from Game 7 of the Portland-San Diego series, which the Buckaroos won, 5-4. The picture on the left is from page 9, which includes an article titled "It'll be Canucks--But Against Whom?". The team picture is found on page 10. The usual stats, schedule, roster and scoresheet are included in here as well. Local advertisements include Waddle's Drive-In, KPOJ Radio 1330 (the radio home of the Buckaroos), Gateway Toyota, Sherwood Inn and Boulevard Motel & Court.


Western Hockey League Regular Season Statistics: 1968-69 (from

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