Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1972-73 Philadelphia Blazers

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Derek Sanderson Philadelphia BlazersWorld Hockey Association (1972-1973)

Born: May 1972 – The WHA’s planned Miami franchise shifts to Philadelphia.
Died: 
May 1973 – The Blazers relocate to Vancouver, BC.

Arena: Philadelphia Civic Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Bernard Brown & James Cooper

 

 

 

==Slideshow==

  • Philadelphia Blazers Media Guide
  • 1972 Philadelphia Blazers Inaugural Game Puck (Front)
  • 1972 Philadelphia Blazers Inaugural Game Puck (Back)
  • Bobby Hull Winnipeg Jets
  • Andre Lacroix Philadelphia Blazers
  • Bernie Parent Philadelphia Blazers

 

==Philadelphia Blazers Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1972-73

1972-73 12/15/1972  vs. Winnipeg Jets W 6-4 Program
1972-73 3/8/1973 vs. Minnesota Fighting Saints W 2-1 Program

 

==Links==

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 29th, 2015 at 3:33 pm

March 13, 1976 – San Diego Mariners vs. Houston Aeros

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Gordie Howe Houston AerosSan Diego Mariners vs. Houston Aeros
March 13, 1976
San Diego Sports Arena
Attendance: 8,386

World Hockey Association Programs

 

Great-looking game day mag from the short-lived San Diego Mariners (1974-1977) of the old World Hockey Association.  The Mariners had a decent club, making the WHA’s AVCO Cup playoffs in all three seasons of their existence.  But they never quite managed to rekindle the enthusiasm that San Diegans showed for the Gulls, the city’s minor league hockey team of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

The Gulls occasionally sold out the 13,600 seat Sports Arena for their Western Hockey League tilts.  That was a feat that the Mariners – who displaced the Gulls in 1974 – could only dream of.  The 8,386 fans on hand for this March 1976 contest against the Houston Aeros was one of the largest Mariners gates of the 1975-76 season.  (San Diego averaged 6,237 per game that winter, ranking 12th in the 14-club WHA, per Kenn.com).

The special attraction that goosed the box office was Gordie Howe of the visiting Aeros, pro hockey’s all-time leading scorer who was due to turn 48 years old two weeks later.  Howe set up Andre Hinse for Houston’s first score in the opening period, but the Mariners carried a 2-1 lead into the final stanza.  That’s when the Howe family took over the game.  Gordie’s son Mark Howe notched the equalizer eight minutes into the third period.  Gordie then beat Mariners netminder Ernie Wakely with less than two minutes left to lift the Aeros to a 3-2 road victory.

The Mariners and the Aeros would meet again in the AVCO Cup playoff quarterfinals a month later.  Houston would end the Mariners’ postseason run for the second straight year, knocking off San Diego in six games.

 

==Links==

Houston Aeros Home Page

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Written by andycrossley

January 27th, 2015 at 11:33 pm

1972-1978 Houston Aeros

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Gordie Howe Houston AerosWorld Hockey Association (1972-1978)

Born: March 1972 – The WHA’s planned Dayton, OH club shifts to Houston.
Died: July 9, 1978 – The Aeros cease operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Houston Aeros were a powerhouse club in the World Hockey Association, a 1970’s-era rival to the NHL.  The franchise was originally announced for Dayton, Ohio when the WHA was formed in late 1971, but arena and community issues forced the shift of the club to Houston before the league got under way in 1972.

The Aeros are best remembered for luring pro hockey’s all-time leading scorer, Gordie Howe ,out of retirement in 1973 and signing him to play alongside his sons Mark and Marty Howe.  There was no rust on the 45-year old star.  He scored 31 goals and added 69 assists to finish 3rd in the WHA in scoring and win league MVP honors in 1974.  The Aeros won the first of two straight AVCO Cup championships that spring.

Gordie Howe Houston AerosThe Aeros would win the Western Division title all four seasons that the Howe family play in Houston from 1974 through 1977.  The Aeros had great depth beyond the Howes as well.  Goaltending was a consistent strength of the club, first with Don McLeod (1972-1974) and later with the platoon of Ron Grahame and Wayne Rutledge.  Frank Hughes and Larry Lund were the Aeros’ all-time leading scorers with 149 goals a piece and both played all six seasons for the club.  Andre Hinse, Gord LaBossiere and Ted Taylor were also prolific scoring threats.  Future NHL stars Terry Ruskowski and John Tonelli both got their starts with the Aeros and the WHA in the ’70’s.

After winning their second straight WHA title in the spring of 1975, the Aeros moved out of the old Sam Houston Coliseum and into the brand new 15,000-seat Houston Summit later that fall.  Aeros attendance reached an all-time peak at 9,180 per game during the 1975-76 season.  The Aeros (53-27) made a third straight trip to the AVCO Cup finals in 1976, but were swept by their arch-rivals, the Winnipeg Jets, in four games.

Financial cracks began to show in February 1977, as the Aeros missed their payroll for the first time and players were asked to accept an indefinite deferment that drifted through the summer of 1977.  The Howe family departed en masse via free agency with Gordie and sons all signing with the WHA’s New England Whalers in free agency. Owners George Bolin and Walter Fondren – the team’s third investor group in five years – withdrew their backing and Summit arena chairman Kenneth Schnitzer had to step in to re-capitalize the team in late 1977.

Meanwhile, merger talks with the National Hockey League got underway in 1977.  At first blush, the Aeros seemed like a strong bet for acceptance into the senior circuit (which would require a rumored fee of around $3 million).  The team was an annual contender and played in a brand new 15,000-seat arena in a large media market.  But NHL owners voted down the proposal.  When merger talks resumed in 1978, a shorter list of four WHA remained under consideration for entry to the NHL and the Aeros were left off the list .  From the time he took control of the team in November 1977, Kenneth Schnitzer made clear that he wanted into the NHL.  Schnitzer sought to purchase the NHL’s struggling Colorado Rockies in June 1978 and relocate the franchise to Houston, but NHL owners let it be known that they opposed the move.  Frustrated with the various roadblocks to NHL membership, Schnitzer folded the Aeros on July 9, 1978.

 

==Slideshow==

  • 1973-74 Houston Aeros Media Guide
  • Gordie Howe Houston Aeros
  • 1974-75 Houston Aeros Media Guide
  • Houston Aeros Program
  • Gordie Howe Houston Aeros
  • 1975-76 Houston Aeros Media Guide
  • Calgary Cowboys vs. Houston Aeros. 1975-76 season
  • Houston Aeros vs. San Diego Mariners. AVCO Cup Quarterfinals. April 1976
  • Houston Aeros Program
  • Houston Aeros vs. New England Whalers. AVCO Cup Semi-Finals. May 1976
  • Gordie Howe Houston Aeros
  • World Hockey Association Pocket Schedules
  • Terry Ruskowski Houston Aeros
  • John Schella Houston Aeros
  • Wayne Rutledge Houston Aeros
  • 1977-78 Houston Aeros Media Guide

 

==Houston Aeros Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1972-73

1972-73 10/29/1973 @ Winnipeg Jets L 5-3 Program

1973-74

1973-74 10/17/1973 @ Vancouver Blazers W 7-2 Program
1973-74 10/24/1973 vs. Los Angeles Sharks W 6-2 Program
1973-74 12/2/1973 @ Toronto Toros L 5-2 Program
1973-74 12/9/1973 @ Vancouver Blazers W 5-3 Program
1973-74 3/27/1974 @ Vancouver Blazers W 8-1 Program
1973-74 4/1/1974 @ New England Whalers W 4-1 Program

1974-75

1974-75 9/26/1974 vs. St. Louis Blues (NHL) W 5-4 Program
1974-75 11/2/1974 vs. Phoenix Roadrunners W 8-2 Program
1974-75 11/26/1974 vs. Phoenix Roadrunners L 6-4 Program
1974-75 11/28/1974 vs. Edmonton Oilers W 2-0 Program
1974-75 11/30/1974 vs. Cleveland Crusaders  L 5-4 Program
1974-75 12/28/1974 vs. New England Whalers W 6-1 Program
1974-75 1/4/1975 vs. Michigan Stags W 5-2 Program
1974-75 1/12/1975 vs. Toronto Toros L 7-4 Program
1974-75 1/26/1975 @ Winnipeg Jets W 3-1 Program
1974-75 2/19/1975 vs. Quebec Nordiques W 10-4 Program
1974-75 2/22/1975 vs. Vancouver Blazers L 4-2 Program
1974-75 3/1/1975 vs. Chicago Cougars W 4-2 Program
1974-75 3/2/1975 vs. Indianapolis Racers W 4-3 (OT) Program
1974-75 3/17/1975 @ Toronto Toros L 5-4 Program
1974-75 3/20/1975 vs. Quebec Nordiques W 5-3 Program
1974-75 4/2/1975 vs. Cleveland Crusaders  W 7-6 Program

1975-76

1975-76 10/14/1975 @ Toronto Toros L 6-3 Program
1975-76 12/13/1975 @ Minnesota Fighting Saints L 4-3 Program
1975-76 1/15/1976  @ Ottawa Civics W 5-4 (OT) Program
1975-76 1/20/1976 vs. Toronto Toros L 7-5 Program
1975-76 1/31/1976 @ Minnesota Fighting Saints L 4-1 Program
1975-76 3/13/1976 @ San Diego Mariners W 3-2 Program

1976-77

1976-77 1/12/1977 @ Phoenix Roadrunners L 4-2 Program

 

==YouTube==

Broadcast highlights of the Aeros vs. the Cincinnati Stingers at The Summit on January 21, 1978

 

==In Memoriam==

Defenseman Dunc McCallum (Aeros ’72-73) died on March 31, 1983 at age 43.

Kenneth Schnitzer, the final owner of the Aeros, died of lung cancer on November 1, 1999 at 70. New York Times obit.

 

==Links==

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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2001-2004 Wichita Stealth

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Wichita Stealth Pocket ScheduleArena Football 2 (2001-2004)

Born: 2001 – AF2 expansion franchise.
Died: 2004 – The Stealth cease operations.

Arena: Kansas Coliseum (9,686)

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Wichita Stealth were an indoor football team that played in Arena Football 2, the small-market minor league for the Arena Football League, in the early 2000’s.  During the franchise’s first two seasons, the club was operated on a management contact by the DeVos family of Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The DeVos’ owned the Orlando Magic of the NBA, several Midwestern minor league hockey teams and the Grand Rapids Rampage of the Arena Football League.

Shortly before the Stealth’s third season in 2003, the Devos’ sold the team to a local buyer in Wichita named David Key.  Key was a novice sports investor who owned a rapidly growing facilities management business called Premier Maintenance Management.  Less than a year after purchasing the Stealth, Key ran into a string of legal and financial troubles.  Late in the 2004 season, Key handed the franchise back to the league and the Stealth finished out the season as wards of the league office.  Postseason efforts to find a new buyer were hampered by uncertain over the availability of the Kansas Coliseum for the 2005 season and franchise quietly closed it doors.

Arena Football 2 went out of business after the 2009 season.

 

==Links==

Arena Football 2 Media Guides

Arena Football 2 Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 24th, 2015 at 8:16 pm

1976-1982 Colorado Rockies

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Lanny McDonald Colorado RockiesNational Hockey League (1976-1982)

Born: 1976 – The Kansas City Scouts relocate to Denver, CO.
Died
: May 27, 1982 – The Rockies relocate to East Rutherford, NJ.

Arena: McNichols Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

Hockey’s Colorado Rockies were a star-crossed NHL franchise that spent most of their six seasons in Denver attempting to move elsewhere.  The Rockies began life in 1974 as the Kansas City Scouts, a poorly vetted NHL expansion effort. After two disastrous seasons in K.C., the destitute Scouts were purchased by Colorado oilman Jack Vickers in the summer of 1976.  Vickers immediately moved the team to Denver’s McNichols Arena for the 1976-77 NHL season.

Denver trudged a long, weird path to make it into the National Hockey League.  During the late 1960’s and early 70’s, the city enjoyed the minor league Denver Spurs, who played at the Denver Coliseum.  In 1972, the World Hockey Association formed and fired a shot across the NHL’s bow by signing Chicago Blackhawks star Bobby Hull to an historic $1 million contract.  Further raids on NHL rosters followed and the warring leagues soon began fighting over expansion cities.  Denver was attractive to both leagues, especially with the brand new 16,000-seat McNichols Arena due to open in 1975.

Barry Beck Colorado RockiesIn 1974, Spurs owner Ivan Mullenix landed conditional approval for an NHL expansion club to begin play in the fall of 1976.  But with McNichols Arena ready for 1975, Mullenix pushed to get into the NHL a year earlier.  The plan called for Mullenix to acquire one of the NHL’s basket case franchises of the era – either the California Golden Seals or the Pittsburgh Penguins.  But those maneuvers collapsed in early 1975 and with the Spurs’ future in the NHL looking shaky, Mullenix abruptly joined the rival World Hockey Association instead that spring.  Denver fans, promised NHL for more than a year, were displeased with the bait and switch.  They stayed away in droves and the Spurs only lasted three months in the WHA before bolting town midway through the 1975-76 season.

This was the landscape that Vickers inherited when NHL hockey finally arrived in Denver in the autumn of 1976.  “Rocky Hockey” could have been a coronation after years of struggle.  Instead, it was just Act II of the perverse soap opera that was Colorado hockey during the Me Decade.  For starters, the Rockies were consistently terrible.  The team had seven head coaches in six seasons and in their best season finished 23 games below .500.  The Rockies never won a playoff game in their brief lifespan.

By the spring of 1978, Vickers had lost somewhere between $4.5 and $6 million on the Rockies and was fed up with the lease at McNichols Arena.  The Rockies nearly move to Houston in June 1978, but instead Vickers sold the team later that summer to New Jersey trucking baron Arthur Imperatore.  Imperatore was clear about his ambition to move the Rockies to New Jersey to play in the new Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford but the new building wouldn’t be ready until 1981.  The Rockies would stay in Denver another four years, but they always had the feel of short-timers.

Don Cherry Colorado RockiesDuring the second year of Imperatore’s ownership, in 1979-80, the Rockies made their two biggest acquisitions.  First, they hired the colorful former Boston Bruins chieftain Don Cherry and made him the highest paid coach in the National Hockey League.  And midway through the season, they traded one of their top players, Wilf Paiement, to the miserly Toronto Maple Leafs for future Hall-of-Famer Lanny McDonaldCherry was a fan favorite in Colorado and McDonald quickly established himself as the Rockies’ top scoring threat.

But as usual the club’s chronic instability rapidly undermined any sense of excitement or momentum.  The Rockies finished in last place (19-48-13) under Cherry, while the coach clashed all season long with General Manager Ray Miron.  Cherry was fired at the end of the season (no Rockies coach ever lasted longer than one season).  McDonald was traded to Calgary in 1981 after playing just one full season for Colorado.  And Imperatore gave up on the NHL and sold the club to Buffalo cable TV entrepreneur Peter Gilbert in late 1980, the team’s third owner in four years.

By the spring of 1982, the Brendan Byrne Arena was open for business in the swamps of northern New Jersey.  Peter Gilbert sold the team yet again, this time to Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  McMullen pulled off the complex maneuver that had eluded Arthur Imperatore, paying off the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers to gain the NHL’s blessing to move to New Jersey in May 1982.

Postscript: Don Cherry never coached again in the NHL after being dismissed by the Rockies in the spring of 1980.  But he became a Canadian icon as the between-periods host of “Coaches Corner” on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada NHL broadcasts.  In 2004, Cherry was voted the “7th Greatest Canadian” in a CBC poll.

The NHL returned to Denver in 1995 when the Quebec Nordiques relocated to the Mile High City and became the Colorado Avalanche.

 

==Colorado Rockies Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978-79 9/26/1978 @ Winnipeg Jets (WHA) W 5-3 Program
1980-81 4/2/1981 @ Calgary Flames L 5-3 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Peter Gilbert, the final owner of the Rockies, died of cancer on March 26, 1989 at age 62.  New York Times obit.

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Written by andycrossley

January 24th, 2015 at 2:24 pm