American Hockey League Programs
The Adirondack Red Wings and the Maine Mariners met in the 1981 Calder Cup finals to determine the champion of the American Hockey League. The Mariners were the top farm club of the Philadelphia Flyers at the time. The Mariners had a youthful roster, featuring a number of players who would see substantial time in the NHL in the 1980’s – Greg Adams, Lindsay Carson, and, most notably, the 21-year old Swedish goaltender Pelle Lindbergh. Lindbergh took the AHL by storm during his first year in America, winning both Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player honors.
Adirondack was the top minor league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings and their roster had an entirely different look. The Red Wings were stocked with NHL and World Hockey Association veterans on the downside of their careers. Goaltender Wayne Wood played parts of five seasons as a WHA back-up. 34-year old defenseman J.P. LeBlanc spent a decade in the NHL and WHA starting in 1968. Pete Mahovlich scored 288 goals in the NHL, including back-to-back one hundred point seasons with Montreal in the mid-1970’s.
Another Red Wings vet was left winger George Lyle, who appeared on the cover of the evening’s game program. Lyle was the World Hockey Association’s Rookie-of-the-Year in 1977, after scoring 39 goals for the New England Whalers in his first season out of Michigan Tech. He split the 1980-81 season between Adirondack and Detroit, appearing in 40 games for the big club.
A capacity crowd of 5,175 packed the Glens Falls Civic Center. Lyle was a fortuitous choice for the program cover. Four minutes and nine seconds into the game, Lyle beat Pelle Lindbergh off an assist from Greg Joly to Adirondack up 1-0. The score held up as Lindbergh turned Adirondack’s other 35 shots. Wayne Wood was even better for the Red Wings, making 29 saves to post his first shutout of the season.
The win put the Red Wings up two games to one in the best-of-seven series. The Mariners struck back two nights later in Portland, hanging a 10-1 defeat on Adirondack. But the Red Wings’ veteran experience ultimately won out, and Adirondack clinched the series in Game 6 back in Glens Falls on May 20, 1981.
The Adirondack Red Wings played 20 seasons in Glens Falls, New York from 1979 to 1999. The club went dark after the 1998-99 AHL season. AHL hockey returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center in 2009 with the arrival of the Adirondack Phantoms, relocated from Philadelphia.
The Maine Mariners played in Portland from 1977 to 1992. The Flyers pulled out in the mid-1980’s and the Mariners became a Boston Bruins farm club. The franchise moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1992. The Providence Bruins continue to serve as the Boston’s top affiliate to this day.
Pelle Lindbergh seemed destined for stardom in the NHL with the Flyers. He earned All-Rookie team honors during the 1982-83 season and won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 1984-85. On November 10, 1985 Lindbergh smashed his Porsche into a wall in Somerdale, New Jersey in a drunk driving incident. He was declared brain dead and removed from life support the following day. Lindbergh was posthumously named to the 1985 NHL All-Star Team.