Owners: San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises
The Worcester Sharks were the top farm club of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from 2006 to 2015. The Sharks arrived in the small central Massachusetts city in 2006 from Cleveland, replacing Worcester’s previous AHL franchise, the IceCats (1994-2005).
The Sharks’ best season came in 2009-10 with an Atlantic Division title and a run into the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Aside from that campaign the Sharks never placed higher than 4th in their division.
In early 2015, a long-simmering re-alignment of the American Hockey League saw five western NHL franchises shift their farm clubs from the Eastern seaboard and the South to a newly-formed West Coast Division of the AHL. On January 29, 2015, San Jose Sports & Entertainment announced they would move the former Worcester Sharks to San Jose at the conclusion of the 2014-15 AHL season. San Jose’s top prospects will now share the SAP Center with their NHL parent club beginning in the fall of 2015.
Worcester’s pro hockey future in the near term looks bleak. Glens Falls, NY and Manchester, NH, the other two Northeastern cities that lost their AHL franchises in the league’s Westward shift, immediately secured replacement teams in the lower-level ECHL. No obvious ECHL prospects for relocation remain available for Worcester and it appears certain there will be no pro hockey in Wormtown in the immediate future.
The original Vancouver Whitecaps were British Columbia’s beloved pro soccer club of the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The club competed in the North American Soccer League from 1974 until 1984. The ‘Caps also brought an attractive slate of international exhibitions to Vancouver, importing top foreign clubs such as Fluminense, Manchester City, Manchester United, Rangers and Roma for friendly matches and tournaments. From 1980 to 1984, the Whitecaps played indoor soccer during the winter months.
One of the NASL’s top clubs during the late 1970’s, the Whitecaps finest hour came at the conclusion of the 1979 season. The Whitecaps dispatched the two-time defending champion New York Cosmos in the playoff semi-finals. Then, on the Cosmos’ home ground at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, the Whitecaps beat the Tampa Bay Rowdies 2-1 in Soccer Bowl ’79 to capture their first and only title. An estimated 100,000 fans gathered in downtown Vancouver for a parade to honor the team.
Midway through the 1983 season, the Whitecaps left their long-time home at Empire Stadium to move into the 60,000-seat B.C. Place stadium. The team’s first game at B.C. Place on June 20, 1983 drew 60,342 fans, which set a Canadian pro soccer attendance record which would stand for three decades.
But attendance in the new dome dipped quickly and by the start of the 1984 season, original founder Herb Capozzi had turned over controlling interest in the team to oil millionaire Bob Carter. Carter’s reign was an embarrassment. With the club bleeding millions of dollars, Carter made noises about folding the club in the middle of the 1984 NASL season. The ‘Caps would end up finishing out the year, knocked out in the playoff semi-finals by the Chicago Sting. While the ‘Caps were playing out what would be their final games in late 1984, Carter was busy getting himself into hot water for lurid S&M hijinks with a pair of underage prostitutes.
Deep in debt, and with the rest of the NASL collapsing around it, the Whitecaps declared bankruptcy in January 1985 and went out of business. The Whitecaps name was revived in 2001 and the “new” Whitecaps now compete in Major League Soccer.
==Vancouver Whitecaps Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
Cleveland-Pittsburgh isn’t just a great rivalry in the NFL. Back in the early 1980’s, the two cities had a fierce rivalry in indoor soccer, of all things. The Pittsburgh Spirit, owned by Pittsburgh Penguins boss Edward DeBartolo Sr., were relatively popular, claiming similar crowds to the pre-Lemieux Pens. Meanwhile, after several glum years at the box office, the Cleveland Force became a late-blooming hit, packing huge crowds into the Richfield Coliseum by 1983.
The Spirit-Force rivalry burned hottest during the 1983-84 season. Both clubs were virtually unbeatable at home and the two teams stayed neck-and-neck in the Eastern Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) throughout the winter. Together with a third Eastern Division foe, the Baltimore Blast, the trio were easily the three best clubs in the MISL.
The standing room-only crowd of 19,048 was a regular season record for the Cleveland Force and the 5th largest crowd in history for the MISL at the time. The home town fans would go home disappointed. Ian Sybis netted a hat trick for Pittsburgh and Polish defender Adam Topolski added a goal and three assists en route to a 6-4 win for the visitors.
The Force would take their revenge in the postseason. The clubs finished with near identical records. Pittsburgh in 2nd place at 32-16 (19-5 at home) and Cleveland right behind at 31-17 (18-6 at home). But in the quarterfinal playoffs, the Force easily dispatched the Spirit 3 games to 1 in a best-of-five series.
The Cleveland-Pittsburgh soccer rivalry dissolved when the Pittsburgh Spirit went out of business in April 1986. The Cleveland Force followed two years, shutting down in July 1988.
The Arizona Outlaws were a pro football team that competed in the third and final season of the United States Football League in the spring of 1985. The team emerged from the merger of the USFL’s Arizona Wranglers and Oklahoma Outlaws franchise in December 1984.
The Wranglers were a top-flight squad, coached by future Hall of Famer George Allen, and had appeared in the USFL Championship Game in 1984. But team owner Dr. Ted Diethrich, a Phoenix heart surgeon, had lost millions on the club and went looking for someone to take the team off his hands. He found his partners in William Tatham Sr. and his son, William Jr. The Tathams owned the Oklahoma Outlaws and they had suffered a nearly immediate case of buyer’s remorse after choosing Tulsa’s Skelly Stadium to host their expansion franchise in 1984. The stadium was inadequate, it rained nearly every time the team played at home in 1984, and the Outlaws lost their final ten games to finish 6-12. The Tathams would control 75% of the new club while Diethrich stepped back into quiet anonymity as a minority shareholder
The net effect of the merger was to combine the Wranglers’ stout defense of NFL veterans, built up by Allen over the past two years, with Oklahoma’s management and offensive skill players. The Tathams also made the dubious decision to re-brand the team as the “Arizona Outlaws”, eradicating two years of marketplace investment in the Wranglers identity.
Allen had already resigned his post prior to the merger. The Tathams appointed former Arizona State head coach Frank Kush to coach the team in 1985. Three of the Wranglers key offensive threats from 1984 departed the team: quarterback Greg Landry returned to the NFL. Top running back Tim Spencer departed for the USFL’s Memphis Showboats. And wideout Trumaine Johnson, one of the most dangerous weapons in the league, would sit out the entire 1985 season in a contract dispute.
What the Tathams brought with them from Tulsa wasn’t a whole lot. The main asset among the ex-Oklahomans was former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first round draft pick Doug Williams, who capably replaced Landry at quarterback. Al Williams, another Oklahoma holdover, posted a 1,000-yard season, making up for some of Trumaine Johnson’s lost production.
After a promising 4-2 start, the Outlaws went into a tailspin and missed the playoffs with a 8-10 record. Attendance took a big plunge to 17,877 per game, down from over 25,000 for the 1984 Wranglers. Nevertheless, the Tathams and the Outlaws were on board for the USFL’s planned move to a fall season in 1986. Those plans came to naught when the USFL’s massive anti-trust suit against the National Football League fizzled out in a $3.00 “victory” the summer of the 1986, leaving the USFL owners with no will or funds to continue. The Outlaws folded along with the rest of this very fun league in August 1986.
In early 1988, St. Louis Cardinals (NFL) owner Bill Bidwill moved his club to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, former home of the Outlaws. When the move occurred, the terms of an unusual agreement between the defunct Outlaws and Arizona State University came to light. All fans who put $125 down towards 1986 Outlaws season tickets were offered the right of first refusal on NFL season tickets if and when the USFL folded and an NFL team came to Tempe instead. The agreement was good for up to two years from the date that the USFL ceased operations, which meant the contract was still binding when Bidwill and the Cardinals arrived in early 1988. The former Outlaws season ticket holders now controlled nearly 12,000 prime loge season tickets. Further, Outlaws officials had horse-traded with the tickets, transferring the rights to various people in lieu of payments and salaries. By the time the deal was revealed, Bill Tatham Jr. personally controlled the rights to 1,728 prime season tickets for the city’s new NFL franchise. The revelation caused an uproar in Phoenix. Tatham was investigated by the university on allegations of ticket scalping and the resulting bad publicity over the handling of ticket sales (and the Cardinals league-high pricing) helped cement negative perceptions of the Bidwills in Arizona for years to come.
==Arizona Outlaws Programs on Fun While It Lasted==
Nice find at the bottom of a box sent over by a former New York sportswriter late last year. This oversize tabloid-style program is from the inaugural home game of the old New York MetroStars of Major League Soccer back in April 1996. (The MetroStars are the ancestors of today’s New York Red Bulls). U.S. National Team goalkeeper Tony Meola shouts from the cover.
There was a big crowd on hand for the first pro soccer game at Giants Stadium since the demise of the New York Cosmos in 1985. In fact, 62-year old Eddie Firmani, the man who coached the Cosmos to two Soccer Bowl titles in the 1970’s and helmed the club’s final NASL game at the Meadowlands in September 1984, was behind the bench for the Metros.
Firmani’s fleeting cameo – he would be the first MLS coach to resign/get fired, lasting just eight matches – was the closest any of the North Jersey old-timers would come to mistaking the Metros for the powerhouse Cosmos of old. Twenty years on, the Metros-turned-Red Bulls have never won a game of any consequence. And the club’s more mystically-inclined diehards apportion some of the blame for those decades of futility squarely back here on the night of April 20th, 1996. The evening that a 33-year old Italian defender brought the “Curse of Caricola” down upon the MetroStars/Red Bulls franchise in the very first home game.
I’d explain the doomed sequence here, but why bother when we have this video…
The Curse of Caricola grabs hold of the MetroStars…