Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Pacific Hockey League’ Category

1967-1979 Phoenix Roadrunners

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Sandy HuculWestern Hockey League (1967-1974)
World Hockey Association (1974-1977)
Central Hockey League (1977)
Pacific Hockey League (1977-1979)

Born: May 16, 1967 – The Victoria Maple Leafs relocate to Phoenix, AZ.
Folded: June 22, 1979.

Arena: Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Team Colors:





==Phoenix Roadrunners Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1967-68 1/16/1968 vs. Seattle Totems ?? Program


1969-70 11/7/1969 @ Salt Lake Golden Eagles T 3-3 Program
1969-70 2/14/1970 @ Seattle Totems ?? Program


1970-71 10/30/1970 @ Seattle Totems ?? Program
1970-71 11/20/1970 @ Seattle Totems ?? Program
1970-71 2/25/1971 @ Seattle Totems ?? Program


1972-73 3/17/1973 @ Portland Buckaroos ?? Program


1973-74 2/27/1974 @ Portland Buckaroos ?? Program


1974-75 10/16/1974 vs. San Diego Mariners W 8-2 Program
1974-75 10/28/1974 @ Toronto Toros L 7-3 Program
1974-75 10/30/1974 @ Winnipeg Jets L 6-5 (OT) Program
1974-75 11/2/1974 @ Houston Aeros L 8-2 Program
1974-75 11/26/1974 @ Houston Aeros W 6-4 Program
1974-75 12/4/1974 vs. San Diego Mariners L 2-0 Program
1974-75 12/28/1974 vs. Cleveland Crusaders W 3-2 (OT) Program
1974-75 3/22/1975 vs. Vancouver Blazers W 4-2 Program
1974-75 3/23/1975 vs. Indianapolis Racers W 5-3 Program


1975-76 10/28/1975 @ Edmonton Oilers L 7-3 Program
1975-76 12/6/1975 vs. Houston Aeros W 6-5 (OT) Program
1975-76 1/2/1976 @ Toronto Toros L 4-1 Program


1976-77 10/26/1976 @ Quebec Nordiques L 11-3 Program
1976-77 11/2/1976 @ Quebec Nordiques W 5-3 Program
1976-77 1/12/1977 vs. Houston Aeros W 4-2 Program
1976-77 2/19/1977 @ Indianapolis Racers W 6-5 Program


1977-78 12/7/1977 vs. Fort Worth Texans ?? Program
1977-78 12/9/1977 vs. Fort Worth Texans ?? Program


1978-79 12/15/1978 vs. Los Angeles Blades ?? Program
1978-79 1/10/1979 vs. San Diego Hawks ?? Program
1978-79 1/12/1979 vs. San Diego Hawks ?? Program
1978-79 1/18/1979 vs. Spokane Flyers ?? Program
1978-79 1/19/1979 vs. Spokane Flyers ?? Program
1978-79 1/25/1979 vs. Tucson Rustlers ?? Program
1978-79 1/27/1979 vs. Tucson Rustlers ?? Program
1978-79  2/1/1979 vs. Tucson Rustlers ?? Program
1978-79 1/30/1979 vs. Cincinnati Stingers (WHA) W 5-3 Program
1978-79 2/3/1979 vs. Cincinnati Stingers (WHA) ?? Program
1978-79 2/14/1979 vs. San Diego Hawks ?? Program
1978-79 2/16/1979 vs. San Diego Hawks ?? Program
1978-79 3/1/1979 vs. Tucson Rustlers ?? Program
1978-79 3/3/1979 vs. Spokane Flyers ?? Program
1978-79 3/7/1979 vs. San Diego Hawks ?? Program
1978-79 3/9/1979 vs. Tucson Rustlers ?? Program
1978-79 3/22/1979 vs. Spokane Flyers ?? Program
1978-79 3/24/1979 vs. Tucson Rustlers ?? Program
1978-79 3/29/1979 vs. San Diego Hawks ?? Program
1978-79 3/31/1979 vs. Spokane Flyers ?? Program


==Key Players==



Pacific Hockey League Programs


January 30, 1979 – Phoenix Roadrunners vs. Cincinnati Stingers

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Robbie Ftorek Phoenix RoadrunnersPhoenix Roadrunners vs. Cincinnati Stingers
January 30, 1979
Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Attendance: ?

Pacific Hockey League Programs
46 pages


This attractive program comes from an unusual in-season exhibition contest between the Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association and an independent minor league club, the Phoenix Roadrunners of the crumbling Pacific Hockey League.

The Pacific League started its second season in the fall of 1978 with six franchises.  But the Los Angeles Blades and the San Francisco Shamrocks both closed their doors in January of 1979, leaving the circuit with just four teams.  The hastily re-worked schedule didn’t offer much variety to the league’s remaining fans.  The Roadrunners played the Tucson Rustlers over twenty times.

Roadrunners owner Mike Skerlak came up with inspired idea to inject some novelty into these proceedings: bring Major League hockey back to Phoenix, if only for a couple of nights.  Starting with this two-game series against the Stingers on January 30th and February 3rd, 1979, he paid appearance fees to WHA clubs to travel to Arizona for exhibition games.  The Roadrunners themselves had been part of the World Hockey Association from 1974 until 1977 before financial problems forced the team out of business.  (Skerlak would re-organize his “new” Roadrunners within a few months to play minor league hockey).

The Winnipeg Jets said “no”, but the Cincinnati Stingers agreed to come in for two games and that offered a compelling story line: the return to Phoenix of Robbie Ftorek.   Ftorek, pictured on the cover of the evening’s game program (above right), was the greatest star for the WHA-era Roadrunners.  During the club’s final WHA season in the winter of 1976-77, Ftorek won the Gordie Howe Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player.  The Massachusetts native was the first American-born player to win MVP honors in a Major pro hockey league.

Ftorek was the WHA’s leading scorer midway through the 1978-79 season when the Stingers arrived in Phoenix at the end of January.  (He would ultimately finish 2nd in scoring for year to Quebec’s Real Cloutier).  But the Roadrunners held Ftorek in check, limiting him to just one assist on the evening.   Roadrunners goaltender Jim Park was superb, stopping 42 of 45 shots.  Michel Dion of the Stingers was not, allowing two first period scores to the minor league on just six shots.  Phoenix held on for a 5-3 upset of the WHA squad.

The two teams met again four days later for a Saturday afternoon matinee on February 3, 1979, but I can’t find any record of that result.



Cincinnati Stingers Home Page

Phoenix Roadrunners Home Page



1978-79 San Diego Hawks

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Pacific Hockey League (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – Re-branded from San Diego Mariners.
Folded: Spring 1979.

Arena: San Diego Sports Arena (13,039)

Team Colors:

Owner: Elmer Jonnet


The San Diego Hawks were a minor league ice hockey team that lasted just one winter in the Pacific Hockey League.

The PHL debuted the year before as a sort of minor league offshoot of the World Hockey Association, a 1970’s rival to the National Hockey League.   The WHA had flamed out in several Western cities, including San Diego and Phoenix.  The PHL’s first season in 1977-78 featured only four teams, including the San Diego Mariners and the Phoenix Roadrunners, both of whom revived their WHA-era team names and logos.  The Mariners were owned by San Diego Sports Arena owner Peter Graham.

In the summer of 1978 Graham sold the Mariners to Pittsburgh real estate developer Elmer Jonnet.  Jonnet changed the team’s name to the San Diego Hawks and opened up his wallet to sign a roster full of World Hockey Association veterans.  The Hawks also featured 42-year old San Diego hockey icon Willie O’Ree, who was a mainstay for the San Diego Gulls of the Western League from 1967 to 1974.  Way back in 1958, O’Ree was the first black player to play in the NHL when he played in two games for the Boston Bruins, but he spent most of the next two decades in the minors.  This was his final season and he played well, scoring 21 goals and adding 25 assists for the Hawks.

The Pacific Hockey League entered the 1978-79 season with six franchises but quickly lost two when the Los Angeles Blades and San Francisco Shamrocks dropped out of the league in January.  The surviving teams weren’t in much better shape and the league cancelled the playoffs due to financial problems and declared first place Phoenix to be the league champion.  The Hawks finished second with a 34-22-2 record.

26-year old center Joe Noris, a former NHL journeyman who also played for the WHA’s San Diego Mariners, led the Pacific League in scoring with 27 and 77 assists and was named Most Valuable Player.  He never played another professional season.  Noris would wage a protracted legal battle against former Hawks owner Elmer Jonnet for much of the 1980’s attempting to collect on the balance of the three-year playing contract and personal services agreement he signed with the developer in 1978.  The litigation became as much of a circus as the Pacific League was itself, with Noris scoring a judgement against Jonnet’s Pittsburgh home and the beleaguered owner attempting to forestall payment by pleading that his attorney was a hopeless drunk and that the court discriminated against him on account of his Native American heritage.

The Pacific Hockey League folded in the spring of 1979, taking the Hawks with it.


==San Diego Hawks Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


2/8/1979 @ Phoenix Roadrunners ?? Program
2/14/1979 @ Phoenix Roadrunners ?? Program
2/16/1979 @ Phoenix Roadrunners ?? Program



Pacific Hockey League Programs

1978-79 San Diego Hawks Roster & Statistics on


1979 Tacoma Tugs

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Pacific Coast League (1979)

November 16, 1979 – Tugs re-branded as the Tacoma Tigers.

Stadium: Cheney Stadium

Team Colors:



The Tacoma Tugs were a one-season only Class AAA farm club of the Cleveland Indians in the Pacific Coast League during the summer of 1979.  The Tugs appeared (briefly) during an unsettled period in Tacoma’s baseball history, when the city’s Pacific Coast League franchise cycled through four different parent clubs in four seasons between 1977 and 1980.  The Tugs replaced the Tacoma Yankees (1978) and gave way to the Tacoma Tigers (1980-1994).

The Tugs were 74-73 in Tacoma’s only season as an Indians affiliate.

25 Tugs players saw service time in the Major Leagues at some point in their pro careers.  Among the more accomplished of these players were relief pitcher Larry Andersen, who played parts of 17 seasons in the Majors, pitcher Juan Berenguer (15 seasons), catcher Ron Hassey (14 seasons), and the late Bo Diaz, a two-time Major League All-Star.


 ==In Memoriam==

Tugs catcher Bo Diaz died in an accident on November 23, 1990 while trying to fix a satellite dish on his roof in his native Venezuela.  He was 37.

Tugs infielder Taylor Duncan passed away from a stroke on January 3, 2004 at age 50.



Pacific Coast League Media Guides

Pacific Coast League Programs








Written by AC

June 2nd, 2013 at 1:14 am

1978-79 Tucson Rustlers

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1978-79 Tucson RustlersPacific Hockey League (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – PHL expansion franchise.
Died: 1979 – PHL ceases operations.

ArenaTucson Community Center (6,628)

Team Colors:

Owner: Alf Cadman


The Rustlers were part of Tucson, Arizona’s procession of short-lived pro hockey teams in the 1970’s, following the Central Hockey League’s Tucson Mavericks (1974-1975) and the Tucson Icemen (1976-1977) of the Southwest Hockey League.  Like their predecessors the Rustlers lasted only one season before evaporating, and they were lucky to make it that far.

Tom Simpson Toronto TorosThe club was an expansion franchise in the second-year Pacific Hockey League.   The PHL was a small independent circuit organized by former World Hockey Association execs in January 1977.  Teams had no major league affiliations with WHA or NHL clubs, but had plenty of available talent to choose from, since the WHA was in a contraction phase, leaving many players without work.  The Rustlers lured a pair of top former WHA scorers in Frank Hughes and Tom Simpson.  Hughes had back-to-back 40-goal seasons with the WHA’s Houston Aeros in the mid-1970’s.  Simpson was a 50-goal scorer for the Toronto Toros in 1975.

Another noteworthy Rustler was Wild Willie Trognitz, a goon so notorious he was banned for life by the International Hockey League in 1977.  (Trognitz earned his own Sports Illustrated feature story that same year – quite an honor for a career minor league enforcer.)

Team owner Alf Cadman, a former hockey player and promoter from Red Deer, Alberta abandoned the club and returned in to Canada in December 1978.  The Rustlers somehow managed to limp through the rest of the 1978-79 season as a ward of the league.  Meanwhile, the rest of the six-team PHL started to fall apart.  The Los Angeles Blades and San Francisco Shamrocks clubs both shut down in January 1979.  Only four clubs finished the regular season and the PHL cancelled the playoffs due to financial woes.  The league went out of business in the spring of 1979, ending the brief run of the Tucson Rustlers.


==Tucson Rustlers Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other


1/4/1979 @ Los Angeles Blades ?? Program
3/24/1979 @ Phoenix Roadrunners ?? Program



Pacific Hockey League Programs

1978-79 Tucson Rustlers Roster & Stats on


Written by AC

January 30th, 2013 at 2:11 am


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