Eastern Hockey League (1967-1973)
North American Hockey League (1973-1977)
Born: July 1967 – EHL expansion franchise
Folded: Summer 1977
Arena: Onondaga County War Memorial (6,300)
Walker Cup Champions (EHL): 1973
Lockhart Cup Champions (NAHL): 1974 & 1977
The Syracuse Blazers plied their rough-and-tumble brand of minor league hockey at the Onondaga County War Memorial for 10 chilly seasons between 1967 and 1977. The Blazers’ league provided the inspiration of the 1977 Hollywood hockey comedy Slap Shot and portions of that Paul Newman cult classic were shot on location at the War Memorial.
The Blazers started out in the Eastern Hockey League (1954-1973) and won the final championship of that circuit in the spring of the 1973. The EHL shut down soon afterwards, but the Blazers and several other clubs continued on in the EHL’s successor league, the North American Hockey League, which began play in the fall of 1973. The Blazers would win two more championships in the NAHL, in 1974 and 1977.
During the mid-1970’s the Blazers outlasted a pair of competitors who offered much the same entertainment product: ornately mustachioed Canadians pounding the tar out of each other on the War Memorial floor. In 1974, a faction of former Blazers execs formed the Syracuse Eagles hockey club and entered the American Hockey League. Although the AHL offered a higher caliber of hockey, the Blazers won the hockey war of 1974-75 . They drove the Eagles out of business after a single season.
Similarly, the Syracuse Stingers of the National Lacrosse League lasted only one season in 1974. With a summertime schedule the Stingers didn’t post the same existential threat as the Eagles.
Nevertheless, the Blazers encountered financial difficulties as the late 1970’s approached. Despite winning the final Lockhart Cup title of the NAHL in the spring of 1977, the Blazers fell into insolvency that summer. The Blazers’ collapse, along with a devastating flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania that ruined the ice-making equipment in that city’s arena, reduced the NAHL to only four viable teams and the league itself disbanded in September 1977.
Pro hockey return to Syracuse two years later when the short-lived Syracuse Firebirds of the American Hockey League arrived in the fall of 1979.
Syracuse Blazers Memorabilia
February 10, 1977 Syracuse Blazers vs. Philadelphia Firebirds Press Notes
Eastern Hockey League Programs
North American Hockey League Media Guides
North American Hockey League Programs