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2011-2014 Pittsburgh Power

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Pittsburgh Power vs. Philadelphia Soul. March 11, 2011Arena Football League (2011-2014)

Born: 2010 – Arena Football League expansion franchise.
Died:
November 17, 2014 – The Power cease operations.

Arena: CONSOL Energy Center

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The now-defunct Pittsburgh Power were the second attempt to establish an Arena Football League franchise in the Steel City.   The Power followed in the footsteps of the Pittsburgh Gladiators (1987-1990).  Both teams lasted for four seasons before departing the Pittsburgh scene.

The Power started out relatively strong.  Ex-Steelers legend Lynn Swann was a minority owner in the team and made numerous community and press appearances as the face of the franchise.  The Power debuted in Pittsburgh on March 11, 2011 against the Philadelphia Soul.  The Soul rivalry seemed to have great promise.  Like the Power, the Soul were fronted by a local NFL hero, Ron Jaworski.  The Philadelphia franchise was founded in 2004 by Jon Bon Jovi (though he was no longer involved by 2011) and had enjoyed a large and passionate following for many years.  13,904 fans showed up in Pittsburgh for the home opener and were rewarded with a high-scoring overtime thriller.  The Soul escaped with a 58-52 win.

Attendance – at least the announced figures – stayed relatively strong in Pittsburgh during the 2011 season.  The Power veraged 9,802 fans for nine dates, although the team would never again top the crowd for the franchise’s first game.  The Power finished 9-9 and narrowly missed the playoffs.

Whatever good feeling carried over from the debut season, it all evaporated at the dawn of the 2012 season.  The AFL was embroiled in a clumsy struggle with its nascent player union over player pay and benefits.  At the time, most non-quarterback AFL players earned $400 per game – the same paltry paychecks that players got a quarter century earlier when the league formed in the late 1980’s.  Just hours before the Power’s 2012 season opener on the road in Orlando, Florida, team owner Matt Shaner fired the entire team of 24 players during the team’s pre-game meal at a central Florida Olive Garden.  A handful of players who agreed to renounce the union were re-signed right before game time.  The rest of the roster was filled out with local scabs that were secretly working out in Florida for both the Power and the Predators during the week.

The owner of the Predators pulled the same stunt, firing his entire team in the hours before the game.  But it was Shaner and the Power who became national laughing stocks.  The punch-line perfect setting of an Olive Garden combined with Shaner’s stunning decision to abandon the released Power players in Central Florida made the story irresistible to Deadspin, Yahoo! Sports and other pop culture outlets.

Busting labor unions with scab workers might not be the best look in a city like Pittsburgh, where the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was born in 1881.  Whether because of the Olive Garden fallout or simply the novelty of a new team wearing off, attendance plummeted 44% in 2012 to just over 5,000 fans per game.  The team was also terrible finishing in last place with a 5-13 record.

2013 was another grim season for the Power, with a 4-14 record and attendance again languishing near the bottom of the league.

2014 seemed to bring a reinvigoration of the Power franchise.  Trib Total Media, owner of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other papers, acquired a “multi-million dollar” ownership stake in the team, with Shaner and Swann staying on as well.  A lease extension with CONSOL Energy Center was announced.  The Power turned over virtually the entire roster, acquiring a group of talented league veterans led by 2012 AFL Most Valuable Player Tommy Grady at quarterback.  The team had a fantastic turnaround on the field, going 15-3 and earning a first ever postseason berth.  The Power were upset by the Orlando Predators in the first round of the playoffs.

The circumstances around the demise of the team are murky.  In October 2014, the main news outlet still covering the AFL, the well-sourced fan site ArenaFan.com, reported that new league Commissioner Scott Butera fined the Power $100,000 for salary cap violations.  The league later sort-of denied the report.  One month later, on November 17, 2014, team owner Matt Shaner abruptly announced that the team was disbanding after four seasons.  No reason was given for the closure.

 

 

==Pittsburgh Power Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
2011 3/11/2011 vs. Philadelphia Soul L 58-52 (OT) Program
2011 7/22/2011 @ Philadelphia Soul L 61-48 Program
2012 6/24/2012 @ Philadelphia Soul L 69-34 Program
2013 5/11/2013 @ Philadelphia Soul W 53-48 Program
2014 6/14/2014 @ Philadelphia Soul W 57-56 Program

 

==YouTube==

Pittsburgh Power 2011 Inaugural Season Review Video

 

==Downloads==

2011 Pittsburgh Power Media Guide

2011 Pittsburgh Power Postseason Media Guide

2013 Pittsburgh Power Media Guide

2014 Pittsburgh Power Media Guide

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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1992-1993 Cincinnati Rockers

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Arena Football League (1992-1993)

Born: 1991 – AFL expansion franchise.
Died: October 1993 – The Rockers withdraw from the Arena Football League.

Arena: Riverfront Coliseum (15,500)

Team Colors: Green, Yellow & White

Owner: Ted Gregory

 

Short-lived entry in the Arena Football League active for two summers in 1992 and 1993.

Unusual among Arena Football teams of the era, the Cincinnati Rockers employed ex-NFL quarterbacks in both of their campaigns.  The starter in 1992 was gambling casualty Art Schlichter, twice banned from the NFL by Commissioner Pete Rozelle.  Schlichter found a revival of sorts in the Arena League, winning Most Valuable Player honors in 1990 as the signal caller for the league champion Detroit Drive.  It was a modest rebound – Schlichter was one of the highest paid players in the AFL in 1992, but that still only meant a salary of $40,000 annually.   The Rockers thrived at first with Schlichter under center in 1992.  The team went 7-3 and made the playoffs as Schlichter passed for 45 touchdowns.  But late in the season the former Ohio State star fell back into his old ways and was arrested for passing a bad check.  Schlichter left the team after the 1992 season and never played another down of pro football.  He spent much of the next decade in prison.

The Rockers tried to rebuild in 1993 around former NFL journeyman Blair Kiel at quarterback.  Unlike Schlichter, Kiel struggled to pick up the indoor game and ended up splitting time with Brent Pease, a former replacement QB for the Houston Oilers during the 1987 NFL strike.  Pease couldn’t rally the Rockers either, and the franchise regressed to a league-worst 2-10 record, matched only by the Rockers’ in-state rival, the Cleveland Thunderbolts.

Other former NFL notables who played for the Rockers included former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ira Hillary and ex-New England Patriots running back Tony Collins.

After a promising start at the box office in 1992, the Rockers’ attendance crashed through the floor in 1993.  Owner Ted Gregory, the late Cincinnati rib baron, shuttered the faltering club in late 1993.  Gregory later sold off the inactive franchise certificate to Connecticut investors and the ex-Rockers franchise became the Hartford-based Connecticut Coyotes in 1995.

 

==Cincinnati Rockers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992 5/30/1992 vs. Detroit Drive  W 37-34 Video
1993 7/3/1993 @ Tampa Bay Storm L 61-51 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Rockers owner Ted Gregory passed away on December 2, 2001 at age 78.

Ex-Rockers quarterback Blair Kiel died of a heart attack on April 8, 2012.  Kiel was 50 years old.

 

==YouTube==

Rockers inaugural game at the Riverfront Coliseum on May 30, 1992.  Art Schlichter leads the Rockers to a 37-34 upset over his former team, the Detroit Drive before 13,317 fans.

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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August 21, 1993 – Detroit Drive vs. Tampa Bay Storm

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Arena Bowl VIIDetroit Drive vs. Tampa Bay Storm
Arena Bowl VII
August 21, 1993
Joe Louis Arena
Attendance: 12,989

Arena Football League Programs
62 pages

 

Arena Bowl VII was the second and final meeting between Arena Football’s two greatest dynasties: the Detroit Drive, who played in the title game in all six seasons of their existence, and the Jay Gruden-era Tampa Bay Storm, who won four titles in six years with Gruden under center.  In fact, the Storm were the only force standing between the Drive and a perfect six-for-six record in championship games.  Gruden & Co. handed Detroit their only two Arena Bowl losses in 1991 and in this 1993 rematch.

The Storm took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, winning or tying every quarter en route to a 51-31 victory.  Gruden was named the MVP of Arena Bowl VII, passing for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Gruden, the brother of Super Bowl champion coach and Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden, ultimately won four Arena Bowls with the Storm.  He later won two more as an Arena Football head coach.  In 2014 he was named Head Coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

Another standout was Storm OL-DL Keith Browner, who recovered a fumble for a touchdown on defense and also caught a 9-yard touchdown pass.  Browner, a former 2nd round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who played five seasons in the NFL, is part of the remarkable Browner family.  His brothers Ross and Joey were NFL standouts during the 1980’s.  Joey Browner’s son Keith Jr. and nephew Max Starks would also play in the NFL.  Keith Browner was named the “Ironman of the Game” as the top two-way player in Arena Bowl VII.

Arena Bowl VII proved to be the final appearance of the Detroit Drive franchise.  During the offseason, owner Mike Ilitch sold the team and the new owners relocate it to Worcester, Massachusetts where it became the Massachusetts Marauders.  The Marauders lasted just one season and failed to extend the Drive’s dynasty.

The evening’s game program (above right) pictured the Arena Football League’s 1993 award winners on the cover:

 

==YouTube==

 

==Downloads==

1993 Detroit Drive Arena Bowl VII Roster

1993 Tampa Bay Storm Arena Bowl VII Roster

 

==Links==

More Arena Bowls on Fun While It Lasted

Detroit Drive Home Page

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1992-1994 Cleveland Thunderbolts

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Cleveland ThunderboltsArena Football League (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – The Columbus Thunderbolts relocate to Cleveland, OH.
Died: 1994 – The Thunderbolts cease operations.

Arena: Richfield Coliseum (17,606)

Team Colors: Black, Silver & Purple

Owners:

  • 1992-1993: John Kuczek
  • 1994: Robert H. Crane, Kuczek family trust

 

The Cleveland Thunderbolts were a bottom-dwelling Arena Football League franchise that played for three seasons at the suburban Richfield Coliseum from 1992 to 1994.  The Thunderbolts originated an expansion team in Columbus, Ohio in 1991.  After a winless (0-10) campaign playing in small agriculture fairgrounds arena in Columbus, the team was sold to Ohio insurance salesman John Kuczek in late 1991 and he moved the T-Bolts to Cleveland.

Cleveland ThunderboltsThe T-Bolts were one of the weakest entries in the Arena League in the mid-1990’s, posting an 8-26 record during their three seasons in Cleveland, including back-to-back 2-10 campaigns in 1993 and 1993.  During their brief run, the team signed two big names from the world of college football.  Quarterback Major Harris, a holdover from the 1991 Columbus team, played for the T-Bolts in 1992 and 1994.  Harris was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist (1988 & 1989) at West Virginia.   He never played in the NFL and his Arena Football career was not ultimately that distinguished.  He was one of the league’s premier rushers as a scrambling QB, but the ground attack was not a major factor in the indoor game.

The other big name, at least locally, was head coach Earle Bruce, formerly of Ohio State University.  Bruce was hired to turn around the team in 1994, but ultimately produced an identical 2-10 last place finished as his predecessor Dave Whinham did in 1993.  Bruce resigned shortly after the 1994 season.

The Thunderbolts were run as a family business. Team owner John Kuczek was an insurance broker from Boardman, Ohio.  His son Jeff was the team’s General Manager.  Early in the T-Bolts short existence in Cleveland, John Kuczek was implicated in a federal securities fraud case in Florida.  Prior to the team’s second season in 1993, the elder Kuczek divested himself of ownership in the club and placed it in a trust for his grandchildren.  Son Jeff continued as the front office leader of the organization.  Kuczek was ultimately convicted on one count of the indictment.  The day before he was due to begin serving his sentence in February 1995, he committed suicide in a Salem, Ohio hotel room.

The Cleveland Thunderbolts did not return for the 1995 season.  Arena Football returned to Cleveland in 2008 with the arrival of the Cleveland Gladiators, a transplanted franchise from Las Vegas.  The Gladiators continue to play today under the ownership of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

 

==Cleveland Thunderbolts Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1994 6/25/1994 vs. Las Vegas Sting  W 46-20  Program
1994 7/22/1994 @ Milwaukee Mustangs  W 42-41   Video

 

==YouTube==

One of the final Thunderbolts games – on the road against the Milwaukee Mustangs on July 22, 1994.

 

 

==Downloads==

1992 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

1993 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

 

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

May 4th, 2014 at 12:01 am

1994-2001 Milwaukee Mustangs

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Milwaukee MustangsArena Football League (1994-2001)

Born: August 9, 1993 –  Arena Football expansion franchise.
Died: 2001 – The Mustangs cease operations.

Arena: TheBradley Center (17,819)

Team Colors: Purple, Teal & Black

Owner: Andrew Vallozzi

 

The Milwaukee Mustangs were a popular indoor football attraction in Wisconsin’s largest city during the mid-to-late 1990’s.  Although rarely in serious contention for the Arena Bowl championship – the Mustangs had only two winning seasons out of eight and never advanced beyond the playoff quarterfinals – they regularly ranked among Arena Football League attendance leaders.

During the Mustangs’ debut season in 1994, the team went winless in 12 games with former NFL signal callerJohn Fourcadeat quarterback.  But the expansion team still averaged 14,231 fans for six home dates, which was third best in the 11-team league.  During the 1996 season – the franchise’s high water mark with a 10-4 record – the Mustangs tied for the league lead in attendance with 15,567 fans on average for seven openings.

The Milwaukee Mustangs were owned throughout their existence by the Vallozzi family.  During the Mustangs’ final season in 2001 the Vallozzi’s feuded publicly with management of the Bradley Center over date conflicts and planned renovation projects.  The Mustangs closed their doors in August 2001 and blamed the closure of the team on the intractable arena disputes.

Arena football returned to Milwaukee in 2009 with the formation of the Milwaukee Iron of Arena Football 2, which was initially owned by the Vallozzi’s as well.  The new franchise was unable to rekindle Milwaukee’s earlier enthusiasm for the sport, despite reclaiming the Mustangs brand name in 2011.  The Vallozzi’s bailed out after the 2010 season and the Iron/Mustangs franchise shut down for good after the 2012 season.

 

==Milwaukee Mustangs Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1994 5/23/1994 @ Fort Worth Cavalry L 65-28 Video
1994 7/22/1994 vs. Cleveland Thunderbolts L 42-41   Video
1995 7/28/1995 vs. Memphis Pharaohs W 53-37 Program
1997 7/5/1997 @ Iowa Barnstormers L 47-29 Program
2000 6/29/2000 Los Angeles Avengers  W 64-52 Program

 

==YouTube==

Mustangs host the Cleveland Thunderbolts at the Bradley Center on July 22, 1994.

 

 

==Links==

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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