This 1964-65 New York Rangers farm club in the Eastern Hockey League was the last of several versions of the New York Rovers ice hockey team. The original Rovers started out back in 1935 as a senior amateur club in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League and played until 1952. The club traditionally played Sunday matinees at Madison Square Garden. The Rovers were first revived as pro team out on Long Island in 1959, but changed their name to the Long Island Ducks after two seasons in 1961.
This final incarnation of the Rovers was born in May 1964, when Madison Square Garden Corp. signed on to operate the club. The new Rovers would revive the old tradition of playing Sunday matinees at the Garden. On dates when the Garden wasn’t available, the Rovers played at the New York State Expositon Grounds in Syracuse.
The Rovers finished the 1964-65 EHL season with a 25-39-8 record and did not make the playoffs. The team folded after only one season and the Rovers name has not been revived since.
The Greensboro Generals were a long-running minor league outfit that was one of the first pro hockey teams to establish a following in the American South. The Generals formed as an Eastern Hockey League expansion franchise in 1959, the same year that the city of Greensboro, North Carolina opened up the 7,000-seater Greensboro Coliseum. To stock the team, the Greensboro backers acquired the struggling Troy (MI) Bruins of the Midwest-based International Hockey League and brought many of the ex-Bruins to Greensboro. A crowd of 3,014 showed up at the Coliseum on November 11, 1959 for the Generals home debut, a 4-1 victory over the Washington Presidents.
From the team’s formation and through the 1960′s the Generals were operated by a group of civic leaders fronted by heating oil entrepreneur Carson Bain. (Bain would also serve a term as Greensboro’s Mayor from 1967 to 1969). In the spring of 1971, Bain and his partners sold the Generals to Tedd Munchak, owner of the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association. By this time, however, the EHL and minor league hockey in general was entering a period of decline and decay. The EHL dissolved in the spring of 1973, splitting into two offshoots. The Northeastern clubs formed the North American Hockey League and the Southeastern teams re-organized into the Southern Hockey League.
The Generals ran out of gas in the mid-1970′s. The club’s final two seasons were marred by financial problems and a move to the smaller, cheaper Piedmont Arena. On January 4, 1977, the Generals closed down in the middle of the 1976-77 campaign. Three other SHL clubs folded the same week, and the league itself threw in the towel four weeks later on January 31, 1977.
The historic Greensboro Generals brand name was resuscitated in 1999 for a new East Coast Hockey League franchise that played five seasons at the Coliseum from 1999 through 2004.
==Greensboro Generals Games on Fun While It Lasted==
Boston Breakers vs. Washington Freedom Michelle Akers Testimonial Match
September 14, 2002 Nickerson Field
We’re preparing to put our house on the market, so I’ve been rifling some old boxes from my women’s pro soccer adventures in the course of clearing out the attic. I came across this gem on a beat-up old VHS tape…
Akers was arguably the first transcendent star of the U.S. Women’s National Team program. A Hermann Trophy winner, Olympic gold medalist, two-time World Cup champion and FIFA’s Female Player of the Century. The WUSA attracted investors and got off the ground thanks in part to Akers’ heroics during the 1990′s, and the tens of thousands of young girls and women inspired by both her relentless, physical playing style and by her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome throughout her career.
But by the time WUSA launched in April 2001, Akers was 35 years old and retired from international play. She had had 13 knee surgeries, several concussions, and faced her fourth and fifth shoulder operations in 2001. She was the only player among 20 so-called “Founders” of the WUSA – top players from the U.S. National Team pool who were given an equity stake in the league – who didn’t play during the 2001 inaugural season. In October 2001, Akers announced her final retirement from soccer and that she had abandoned her hopes of playing in the WUSA.
Photo Courtesy of Tony Biscaia
11 months later, on September 14, 2002, the Boston Breakers hosted a postseason Testimonial Match to honor Akers’ legendary career. FOr one night only, Akers would don her old number 10 for the Boston Breakers. The opponents were the WUSA’s Washington Freedom who brought with them the biggest drawing card in the women’s game – Akers’ former U.S. teammate Mia Hamm. At the time, Hamm and Akers were the top two scorers in the history of the U.S. National Team.
The exhibition had huge appeal in Boston. Akers, Hamm and Breakers’ star Kristine Lilly threw out ceremonial first pitches at the Boston Red Sox game the night before. The Testimonial Match sold out Nickerson Field in advance. In fact, the crowd of 10,279 was the second largest in the 9-year history of the various incarnations of the Breakers, trailing only the club’s inaugural WUSA game in May 2001.
The Breakers won the match 1-0. An interesting footnote – the Breakers finished a disappointing 2002 campaign a month earlier and fired Head Coach Jay Hoffman. The club’s new Head Coach would be Pia Sundhage, the Swedish-born manager who would later lead a restoration of the U.S. National Team program from 2008 to 2012. It would have been a compelling cross roads – the dominant star of the 1990′s in her final match and the woman who would become one of the key figures for U.S. Soccer in the early 21st century managing her first game (albeit an exhibition) in the States. But as it was, Sundhage hadn’t arrived in Boston yet and the Breakers were guest-managed on this evening by former Harvard coach Jape Shattuck.
Michelle Akers Tribute Video, played in-stadium during halftime of her Testimonial Match at Nickerson Field.
The Detroit Cougars were a well-financed but short-lived effort to bring pro soccer to Detroit in the late 1960′s. The club was backed by Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford, grandson of Henry Ford and largest single stockholder in the Ford Motor Co., and Detroit Tigers owner John Fetzer, among others.
The Cougars formed in 1967 as one of twelve founding members of the United Soccer Association (USA). The USA was one of two U.S. pro leagues formed in 1967, the other being the rival National Professional Soccer League (NPSL). In order to keep pace with the NPSL’s 1967 launch date, the USA elected to import entire European and South American clubs to compete under stage names during the 1967 season. (The USA’s spring/summer schedule conveniently coincided with the offseason for Continental and South American leagues).
The 1967 Detroit Cougars were actually Glentoran F.C. of Northern Ireland. The Cougars/Glentoran finished out of contention at 3-6-3.
After the 1967 season, the USA and NPSL ended their competition and merged to form the 17-club North American Soccer League. For the 1968 season, each franchise would assembled a roster in the conventional manner and the USA’s practice of importing foreign clubs was abandoned.
34-year old English forward Len Julians was tabbed as player-coach of the Cougars for the 1968 campaign. The season was a disaster for the Cougars and Julians would resign in mid-August with the club mired in last place in the NASL’s Lakes Division. Andre Nagy was hired to manage the final meaningless games as the Cougars finished 6-21-4. Only the hapless Dallas Tornado (an historically awful 2-26-4 mark) were worse in the 17-team circuit.
At the box office the situation was just as grim. Although the American Soccer History Archives has the Cougars average attendance at 4,266 in 1968, the Associated Press reported in September 1968 that Cougars fans numbered fewer than 1,500 per game. Either way, it was a bad scene and the Cougar’s well-heeled backers pulled the plug on September 23, 1968. Detroit was the first NASL club to fold after the 1968 and it began an exodus that saw the league shrink down to just five active clubs in 1969.
Pro soccer would return to Detroit a decade later with the formation of the NASL’s Detroit Express in 1978.
==Detroit Cougars Matches on Fun While It Lasted==
The Ottawa Nationals were a short-lived original franchise in the defunct World Hockey Association (1972-1979). Originally the WHA and team founder Doug Michel hoped to place the club in either Toronto or Hamilton, but the Nationals struggled to line up an arena in those cities and ultimately ended up at the Ottawa Civic Centre.
While upstart franchises in Winnipeg, Philadelphia and elsewhere made headlines luring big-name players away from the NHL, the cash-poor Nationals were unable to lure big names to Ottawa. Nevertheless, the club was competitive under Head Coach Billy Harris, finishing with a 35-39-4 record and a 1973 playoff date with the New England Whalers. Ex-NHL journeyman Wayne Carleton was the Nats’ leading scorer with 42 goals and 49 assists.
The team was poorly supported in Ottawa and chose to move its home playoff games to Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The Whalers eliminated the Nationals 4 games to 1.
In May 1973, John Bassett Jr., the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs owner John Bassett, Sr., purchased the Nationals. Bassett was considerably wealthier than the club’s previous owners. He moved the franchise to Varsity Arena in Toronto and re-named the team the Toronto Toros prior to the 1973-74 season.