Born: 1973 – NAHL founding franchise.
Re-Branded: May 1980 (Binghamton Whalers)
Arena: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (4,855)
Owner: Jim Matthews
Lockhart Cup Championships (NAHL): None
Calder Cup Championships (AHL): None
The Broome Dusters, AKA the Binghamton Dusters, were a hugely popular minor league hockey team during the mid-1970’s in Broome County, New York. Bobby Orr’s brother, Ron Orr, was the Dusters’ General Manager and Binghamton resident Johnny Hart, who penned the syndicated comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id, designed the Dusters’ logo of a caveman with a hockey stick.
The Dusters were founding members of the North American Hockey League in 1973. The rough-and-tumble NAHL became the inspiration for the 1977 Paul Newman comedy Slap Shot and its member teams served as farm clubs to the World Hockey Association, a 1970’s rival to the National Hockey League. The Dusters had affiliation deals with both the San Diego Mariners of the WHA and the Boston Bruins of the NHL.
The Dusters were the best gate attraction in the NAHL, regularly selling out the 4,900-seat Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. Unfortunately, the rest of the NAHL wasn’t so strong and the circuit folded in September 1977, leaving the Dusters without a league to play in just weeks before their fifth season was due to begin. At the time, the Dusters boasted more than 4,000 season ticket holders, accounting for more than 80% of the capacity of Binghamton’s small arena.
In late September 1977, Dusters owner Jim Matthews partnered with Andre Veilleux, former owner of the NAHL’s Beauce Jaros, to purchase the American Hockey League’s money-losing Providence Reds franchise and move it to Binghamton. The 51-year old Reds franchise was the oldest continuously operating minor league hockey team in America in 1977, but had fallen on hard times during the mid-1970’s. The sale was approved, the (new) Dusters were hurriedly admitted to the AHL just days before the 1977-78 season began, and hockey survived in Binghamton. As part of the transaction, the Dusters became of farm team of the NHL’s doormat Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Dusters era came to an end in May 1980 when the Hartford Whalers of the NHL purchased the club and re-branded it as the Binghamton Whalers (1980-1990).
Broome Dusters Memorabilia
Dusters owner Jim Matthews passed away on July 15, 2011 at age 77.