Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Home Pages’ Category

1987-2000 Vancouver 86ers

leave a comment

Vancouver 86ersCanadian Soccer League (1987-1992)
American Professional Soccer League (1993-1996)
A-League (1997-2000)

Born: 1986 – CSL founding franchise.
Died: October 26, 2000 – Re-branded as the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Stadium: Swangard Stadium (6,500)

Team Colors:

  • 1993-????: Red, Black & White

Owners:

 

 

 

==Vancouver 86ers Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1987 6/28/1987 vs. Calgary Kickers ?? Program

 

 

==In Memoriam==

Former 86ers owner Milan Ilich died of leukemia on June 29, 2011 at age 76.

 

==Links==

Canadian Soccer League Media Guides

Canadian Soccer League Programs

American Professional Soccer League Media Guides

American Professional Soccer League Programs

###

 

 

Written by andycrossley

July 28th, 2014 at 1:49 am

1988-1994 Fort Lauderdale Strikers

leave a comment

Fort Lauderdale Strikers APSLAmerican Soccer League (1988-1989)
American Professional Soccer League (1990-1994)

Born: 1987 – ASL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1994 – The Strikers withdraw from the APSL.

Stadiums:

Owners:

Team Colors: Red, Yellow & Black

 

The Fort Lauderdale Strikers of 1988 to 1994 were the second incarnation of the famed American soccer club.  (The brand name has subsequently been revived two more times).   The original Strikers played in the North American Soccer League from 1977 through 1983 and were owned by the Robbie family, who also owned the NFL’s Miami Dolphins at the time.  The NASL strikers attracted world class international such as West Germany’s Gerd Mueller, Northern Ireland’s George Best and Peru’s Teofilo Cubillas.  The club was popular in South Florida and occasionally sold out Lockhart Stadium to the tune of nearly 20,000 fans in the late 1970′s.

But enthusiasm for the Strikers and the NASL more generally faded in the early 1980′s and the Robbies moved the club to Minneapolis in late 1983.   In Minnesota the original Strikers soon transformed into an indoor team and dissolved in June 1988 after years of multi-million dollar losses.  Meanwhile, the NASL went out of business in early 1985, leaving the United States without a major outdoor pro soccer league for the next three years.

The American Soccer League launched in 1988 to fill the pro soccer void along the East Coast.  A number of former NASL cities joined and dusted off old their identities, including the Strikers, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and a new version of the Washington Diplomats.  One promising sign was the return of the Robbie family to operate the Strikers in Fort Lauderdale.  Several old Strikers fan favorites from the NASL era – now mostly in their mid-30′s – returned to the club as well, including Cubillas, midfielders Ray Hudson and Thomas Rongen and goalkeeper Arnie Mausser. Jimmy McGeough Fort Lauderdale Strikers

The Robbies entrusted the on-field product to long-time soccer executive Noel Lemon, another veteran of the NASL days.  Lemon hired Wim Suurbier as Head Coach and the Strikers finished the 1988 debut season of the American Soccer League in first place.  But the Strikers lost both legs of the two-game ASL championship series to the Washington Diplomats.  The deciding loss came at home on August 27, 1988 before 4,257 fans at Lockhart Stadium.  In the locker room following the match, an angry Noel Lemon cut Teofilo Cubillas, ostensibly for missing a team practice several days earlier.

“<Cubillas> is the biggest disgrace I’ve ever been associated with,” Lemon added after the loss.  Cubillas would play a handful of games for the ASL’s Miami Sharks the following summer before his pro career came to a quiet end in 1989.  The Peruvian World Cup hero is a fixture on Top 50 and Top 100 rankings of the best footballers of the 20th century.

It was an ignominious dismissal for one of the franchise’s all-time greats.  Lemon’s outburst drew a public admonition from Joe Robbie, but Robbie’s health was in decline and his time with the Strikers was short.  Robbie sold the majority interest in the Strikers to Lemon in early 1989 before the club’s second season.  Joe Robbie would pass away in January 1990.  His wife Elizabeth, founder of the original Strikers in 1977, died in 1991.

Long-time Striker Thomas Rongen replaced Wim Suurbier as Head Coach for the 1989.  The Strikers defeated the Boston Bolts to win the ASL championship in August.  In early September, the Strikers travelled to San Jose, California to play in a “national championship” match against the San Diego Nomads, the champions of the Western Soccer Alliance.  The Strikers prevailed 3-1.  The Strikers would reach the ASL final for a third straight season in 1990, losing to the Maryland Bays.

After the Robbies left the picture in early 1989, the Strikers financial fortunes declined steadily.  Noel Lemon was not a wealthy man and the club experienced cash flow problems, ultimately resulting in Lemon’s loss of the franchise in late 1991.  The ownership turned over several times in the early 1990′s, including a period late in the 1992 season where the team became an owner-less ward of the league.  Lemon sued to regain control of the club and fought for his reinstatement until the team’s demise following the 1994 season.

 

==Fort Lauderdale Strikers Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1988 7/1/1988 @ Orlando Lions ?? Program
1989 6/11/1989 @ New Jersey Eagles W 1-0 Program
1989 9/9/1989 San Diego Nomads W 3-1 Program
1990 5/5/1990 vs. Miami Freedom ?? Program
1990 5/20/1990 @ New Jersey Eagles W 2-1 Program
1990 5/26 1990 vs. New Jersey Eagles ?? Program
1990 7/26/1990 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies ?? Program

 

 

==In Memoriam==

Strikers owner (1988) Joe Robbie died on January 7, 1990 at age 73.

Strikers founder/owner Elizabeth Robbie passed away in November 1991.

Defender Barry Wallace succumbed to cancer on October 17, 2006 at age 47.

Strikers President and owner Noel Lemon died on November 22, 2012.  Lemon was 68 years old.

 

==Links==

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

###

1988-2010 Johnstown Chiefs

leave a comment

Steve Carlson JohnstownAll-American Hockey League (1988)
East Coast Hockey League (1988-2010)

Born: December 1987 – AAHL expansion franchise.
Died: February 15, 2010- The Chiefs announced they will relocate to Greenville, SC.

Arena: Cambria County War Memorial (4,045)

Team Colors:

  • 1988-89: Black, White & Gold
  • 1998-99: Black, Gold, Red & White

Owners:

 

Johnstown, Pennsylvania holds a special place in the hearts of minor league hockey fans.  The small city 70 miles east of Pittsburgh has a hard luck history, which includes three devastating floods, the decline of the steel, iron and coal mills that fueled the local economy, and the reduction by half of Johnstown’s population since 1970.

1991-92 Johnstown ChiefsIn 1976, director George Roy Hill filmed the Paul Newman hockey comedy ‘Slap Shot’ in Johnstown.  The films fictional ‘Charlestown Chiefs’ were based loosely on the long-running Johnstown Jets (1950-1977) of the bruising North American Hockey League.  Screenwriter Nancy Dowd based the story on tales from her brother Ned Dowd, who played for the Jets for two seasons in the mid-1970′s.  (Ned Dowd also played infamous goon Ogie Ogilthorpe in the film).  ‘Slap Shot’ was released in February 1977, but unlike ‘Bull Durham’, the minor league baseball comedy featuring North Carolina’s Durham Bulls released a decade later, ‘Slap Shot’ did not inspire an economic windfall for the home team.  Instead, the Flood of 1977 hit Johnstown five months later and ruined the ice making equipment at the Cambria County War Memorial.  The Jets were out of business after 27 seasons.

Flash forward a decade and a Virginia oil man named Henry Brabham needed a city to prop up the staggering All-American Hockey League and quick.  In December 1987, the AAHL was down a team in midseason and needed a replacement.  Brabham visited Johnstown, liked what he saw, and launched the team on two weeks notice.  Long-time Johnstown Tribune-Democrat sports writer Mike Mastovich credits then War Memorial board President and marketing director Dennis Grenell with suggesting the ‘Chiefs’ nickname to Brabham, in honor of ‘Slap Shot’.  Thus the Johnstown Chiefs were born in January 1988 as an emergency plug in the leaking All-American Hockey League.

After the 1987-88 season, Brabham pulled his clubs out of the AAHL and merged them with a couple of teams from another low-level circuit, the Atlantic Coast Hockey League.  The resulting new league was dubbed the East Coast Hockey League and had five members clubs for the 1988-89 season, three of which were owned by Brabham.  The Chiefs’ opponents for their first full season of play were Erie, Knoxville, Virginia and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

For the 1988-89 season, the Chiefs hired Steve Carlson as their new Head Coach.  Carlson’s hiring further the city and team’s tribute to ‘Slap Shot’, as he played one of the beloved Hanson Brothers in the 1977 film.  The Chiefs would enjoy some of their finest seasons under Carlson, including their only visit to the ECHL’s Riley Cup finals series in 1989.  In the championship, Johnstown outscored the Carolina Thunderbirds 14-2 in the series’ first two games en route to a commanding 2-0 series lead, but they would ultimately lose the Riley Cup to Carolina in seven games.

1998-99 Johnstown ChiefsCarlson’s tenure came to an end in 1992 and Henry Brabham sold the Chiefs to local investors a year later.  The Chiefs then struggled for a long-stretch of the 1990′s, failing to make the playoffs four straight years from 1996 until 1999.  Johnstown struggled to compete as the ECHL grew from its modest mid-Atlantic roots to a sprawling, nationwide league with more than two dozen clubs.  The team’s on-ice fortunes eventually rebounded in the early 2000′s, with several deep playoff runs under Head Coach Scott Allen.

Off the ice was a tougher story.  The Chiefs ran six-figure operating losses virtually every season and went through multiple ownership groups over the years.  None of them ever figured out how to make the Chiefs sustainable, but all displayed an admirable commitment to try to keep pro hockey in Johnstown.  In 2003, for instance, then owners Richard & Connie Mayer sold the club to former New York Rangers General Manager Neil Smith for a single dollar in return for Smith’s commitment to keep the team in Johnstown.  (The Chiefs previously sold for $600,000 in 1995).

Despite the red ink, Smith kept to the club running in Johnstown for nearly a decade with a variety of partners.  Chiefs attendance continued to rank near the bottom of the ECHL, however, which now included big city teams as far away as Anchorage, Las Vegas and Fresno.  In February 2010, Smith’s group bowed to the inevitable and announced the Chiefs would move to Greenville, South Carolina at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, the club’s 22nd campaign in the ECHL.

The New York Times sent a reporter to the Chiefs’ final game at Cambria County War Memorial on April 3, 2010.  Minority owner Ned Nakles noted to The Times that Johnstown outlasted 48 other cities that lost their ECHL franchises during Johnstown’s 22 years in the league.  Johnstown was also the last survivor of the original five cities that formed the league in 1988.

 

 

==Johnstown Chiefs Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1988-89 12/17/1988 vs. Virginia Lancers W 9-6 Program Roster Insert
1991-92 3/8/1992 vs. Hampton Roads Admirals L 4-2 Program
1992-93 3/15/1993 vs. Birmingham Bulls W 5-2 Program
1994-95 10/21/1994 @ Toledo Storm L 6-5 (OT) Program
1995-1996 11/22/1995 vs. Wheeling Thunderbirds L 5-3 Program
2007-08 10/18/2007 vs. Wheeling Nailers L 4-2 Program
2007-08 1/18/2008 vs. Dayton Bombers W 5-1 Program
2008-09 10/18/2008 vs. Wheeling Nailers L 4-2 Program

 

==YouTube==

Johnstown’s Brian Ferreira hurls a puck at ECHL Commissioner Pat Kelly before storming the press box during a playoff game against the Cincinnati Cyclones. March 20, 1992.

WJAC-TV coverage of the Johnstown Chiefs’ final game in April 2010.

 

==Links==

Chiefs, Inspired by ‘Slap Shot’, Are Leaving Johnstown“, Sean D. Hamill, The New York Times, April 4, 2010

East Coast Hockey League Media Guides

East Coast Hockey League Programs

##

1974-1975 Memphis Southmen

leave a comment

Larry Csonka Memphis SouthmenWorld Football League (1974-1975)

Born: May 8, 1974 - The Toronto Northmen relocate to Memphis, TN.
Died: October 22, 1975 – The WFL ceases operations in midseason.

Stadium: Memphis Memorial Stadium (50,164)

Team Colors: Burnt Orange & Brown

Owner: John Bassett et al.

 

The Memphis Southmen (AKA Grizzlies) began life 1,000 miles to the north in late 1973 as a planned pro football franchise known as the Toronto Northmen.  The lead investor of the Northmen was Toronto media scion John Bassett, Jr., whose burgeoning sports empire at the time also included the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association and the Buffalo-Toronto Royals of World Team Tennis.  Bassett’s father, John Sr., was a Toronto newspaper and television station baron who owned part of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs before losing it to Harold Ballard in an early 1970′s power struggle.

The Northmen were to be members of the upstart World Football League, which planned to begin play in July 1974 and combat the NFL head-to-head for top collegiate & pro talent.  The formation of the WFL brought (briefly) a form of limited free agency to pro football.  Free agent movement was virtually unheard of in the NFL at the time thanks to the chilling effects of the “Rozelle Rule” reserve clause.  But with the arrival of the WFL in 1974, NFL players were no longer indentured solely to their current teams.  They could jump to the rival league for a bigger paycheck – or at least use that threat to gain some rare negotiating leverage.  The new league pursued NFL talent aggressively, signing stars such as L.C. Greenwood, Calvin Hill, Craig Morton and Ken Stabler to futures contracts to jump leagues once their current NFL deals expired.  Ultimately, no team would make a bigger splash in the NFL-WFL player battle than Bassett’s franchise.

Memphis SouthmenOn March 31, 1974, the Toronto Northmen held a press conference to announce the signings of Miami Dolphins’ stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield.  All three were heroes of Miami’s legendary 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship squad.  Bassett and his General Manager, Leo Cahill, flew the trio to Toronto and floored them with an offer that Dolphins owner Joe Robbie couldn’t or wouldn’t match.  $1.5 million over 3 years for Csonka, the MVP of Super Bowl XIII just two months earlier.  $1.0 million over three years for Warfield.  And $900,000 over the years for Csonka’s fellow running back Jim Kiick.  It was a shocking coup for the World Football League and a gut punch to one of the NFL’s elite franchises.  The Dolphins stars still had a year to run on their NFL contracts.  The plan was for Csonka, Kiick and Warfield to join Toronto for the WFL’s second season starting in the summer of 1975.

Meanwhile, Bassett found an antagonist back in Toronto who proved a much more formidable adversary than Joe Robbie.  Canadian federal minister of health and welfare set out to force Bassett out of Toronto, believing the arrival of the U.S.-based World Football League posed an existential threat to the Canadian Football League and its Toronto Argonauts franchise.  Lalonde filed the Canadian Football Act with Parliament in April 1974.  The act sought to protect the Canadian Football League and Canadian-born football players by keeping U.S.-based pro leagues out of Canada.  Although the legislation never passed, the debate created enough uncertainty and antagonism that Bassett picked up his franchise and moved to Memphis, Tennessee on May 8, 1974, barely two months before opening night of the first WFL season.

In Tennessee, the franchise would officially be known as the “Memphis Southmen”.  But locals didn’t cotton to the name too well, and colloquially the team was known as the “Grizzlies”.  (You can see the duality of the team’s identity on the first season media guide cover at left).

Although Csonka, Kiick and Warfield weren’t due to arrive in town for another year yet, the Southmen/Grizzlies still had arguably the best team in the WFL during the league’s debut season in 1974.  Head Coach John McVay ran a ball control offense for the most part, with 1964 Heisman Trophy winning quarterback John Huarte at the helm.  A trio of running backs – rookie draft pick J.J. Jennings out of Rutgers, along with John Harvey and Willie Spencer – combined for 3,197 yards and 32 rushing touchdowns.  Rookie quarterback/punter Danny White - who would later succeed Roger Staubach as starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys – saw considerable late-game action behind center in a platoon role with Huarte.

The Southmen finished 17-3 and were undeated (10-0) at Memphis Memorial Stadium.  But on November 29, 1974, they were upset at home by the Florida Blazers 18-15 in the playoff semi-final.  The Blazers were an insolvent franchise at the time.  Their players hadn’t been paid in months and within months team owner Rommie Loudd would be charged with both tax fraud and cocaine distribution charges.  The chaos surrounding the Blazers was only slightly more extreme than the turmoil enveloping the entire league.  Founder Gary Davidson was expelled from the league by disgruntle owners late in the season.   Several clubs relocated in midseason or simply folded without completing their schedules.  Amidst it all, the Southmen were a beacon of stability.  The team paid its bills and Bassett reportedly had to bail out other owners on several occasions.

At the end of the season, halfback J.J. Jennings (1,524 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) was named Rookie-of-the-Year and one of the WFL’s ‘Tri-MVPs” for the 1974 season.

Ed Marshall Memphis SouthmenThe World Football League was all but dead by December 1974.  Many of the teams that survived the 1974 season now faced tax liens, property seizures and myriad lawsuits.  The Southmen’s arch rivals, the Birmingham Americans, defeated the Blazers to win World Bowl I, only to see sheriff’s deputies interrupt their post-game celebration to confiscate the team’s equipment.  But Hawaiians owner Christopher Hemmeter took the lead to re-organize the league under a new corporation and recruit new investors.  Bassett was one of only a handful of original investors who returned for the second season.

The WFL returned for a second season in July 1975 and that meant that Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield were headed to Memphis, Tennessee.  To make room the Csonka and Kiick in the already crowded backfield, the team’s 1974 sensation J.J. Jennings was shipped out to play for the WFL’s Philadelphia Bell franchise.  The trio of ex-Dolphins earned a cover shoot on the July 28, 1975 edition of Sports Illustrated in their Grizzlies uniforms- the first and only time that the WFL would be so honored by the nation’s premiere sports periodical.

Despite the arrival of the big stars, the Southmen seemed to take a step back during the first half of the 1975 season.  Csonka battled nagging injuries and missed games.  He would score only two touchdowns during his time in Memphis.  Kiick had the biggest impact, scoring 10 touchdowns, but Memphis’ leading rusher was the unheralded 1974 holdover Willie Spencer.  No one replaced the production of the departed J.J. Jennings.

At quarterback, 2nd year pro Danny White took over the primary role from Huarte, who accepted back-up status.  White showed flashes of the promise that would make him a started in the NFL for much of the 1980′s but was still very much a developing player.  By late October, the Southmen had a record of 7-4 and sat in 2nd place in their division behind arch rival Birmingham.  As with the first season, the rest of the league was in chaos.  The new Chicago franchise had already folded up shop after just five games.  On October 22, 1975, the league owners voted to shutdown the league immediately rather than complete the 1975 season.

Csonka, Kiick and Warfield returned to the NFL.  John McVay was hired as an assistant coach by the New York Giants in 1976 and brought several ex-Southmen with him, including Csonka, defensive back Larry Mallory, wide receiver Ed Marshall, offensive lineman Ron Mikolajczyk and tight end Gary Shirk.

After the WFL folded, Bassett kept some of his key staff in place to petition for admission to the NFL as an expansion franchise.  A winter 1975-76 season ticket drive resulted in 40,000 pledges.  But the NFL turned down Bassett’s application.   Bassett responded with an anti-trust suit against the league – Mid-South Grizzlies v. National Football Leaguedragged on until 1983.  By that time, Bassett was back in pro football as owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the springtime  United States Football League.  Memphis would get a USFL expansion franchise the following year – the Showboats – to finally replace the Southmen/Grizzlies after nearly a decade’s absence.

 

==Memphis Southmen Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1974 8/7/1974 @ Philadelphia Bell L 46-15 Program
1974 8/14/1974 @ Detroit Wheels W 37-7 Program
1975 7/14/1975 @ Southern California Sun (exh.) L 47-16 Program
1975 7/26/1975 @ Shreveport Steamer (exh.) W 14-7 Program
1975 8/2/1975 vs. Jacksonville Express W 27-26 Program
1975 9/7/1975 vs. The Hawaiians W 37-17 Program
1975 9/14/1975 vs. Shreveport Steamer W 34-23 Program
1975 9/28/1975 @ San Antonio Wings L 25-17 Program
1975 10/12/1975 vs. Birmingham Vulcans L 18-14 Program

 

==Downloads==

1975 WFL Standard Player Contract

 

==Links==

They’re Grinning and Bearing“, Robert F. Jones, Sports Illustrated, July 28, 1975

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Game Programs

###

1981-1988 Fredericton Express

leave a comment

Fredericton ExpressAmerican Hockey League (1981-1988)

Born: 1981 – AHL expansion franchise.
Died: June1988 – The Express relocate to Halifax, Noa Scotia.

Arena: Aitken Centre

Team Colors:

Owner:

 

The Fredericton Express was an American Hockey League team in the Canadian Maritime province of New Brunswick.  The club was founded as an expansion team in 1981 to serve as a farm club to the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques.  In 1982, the Vancouver Canucks entered a partnership with the Nordiques to jointly operate and provide prospects to the club, although Quebec continued in the lead role, including appointing the Fredericton President and the farm team’s Head Coach.

Fredericton ExpressStrains in the arrangement between the two NHL clubs came out in the open after the Canucks hired Brian Burke as Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations in 1987.  Burke visited Fredericton for the first time in October of that year.  The previous season the Express had the 2nd worst record in the AHL and the team’s top five scorers were all sent down by the Canucks.  Burke made clear to the local press that the Canucks were unhappy with the partnership and with Quebec’s track record in contributing worthy coaches and players to the farm club.

Despite the management turmoil, the Express had their finest season in 1987-88.  The team advanced to the Calder Cup championship series for the first and only time, where they were swept in four games by the Hershey Bears.  The losses to Hershey in the Finals series turned out to be the final games ever played by the Express.  The following month, Vancouver, as expected, bought out the final year of its agreement with Quebec.  The Canucks set up their own farm team at Milwaukee in the International League to replace Fredericton.  The Nordiques, meanwhile, moved the former Express franchise to Halifax, Nova Scotia in June of 1988, where team was re-branded as the Halifax Citadels prior to the 1988-89 season.

After a two-year absence, the AHL returned to Fredericton in 1990 with the arrival of the Fredericton Canadiens (1990-1999).

 

==Fredericton Express Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1982-83 1/11/1983 vs. Baltimore Skipjacks ?? Program
1984-85 1/26/1985 vs. Nova Scotia Oilers ?? Program
1986-87 3/19/1987 vs. Springfield Indians ?? Program
1986-87 3/29/1987 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program
1987-88 12/27/1987 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program
1987-88 3/6/1988 @ Binghamton Whalers Program
1987-88 4/24/1988 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

###

 

Written by andycrossley

July 19th, 2014 at 2:59 am