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1981-1993 Baltimore Skipjacks

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1983-84 Baltimore Skipjacks ProgramAtlantic Coast Hockey League (1981-1982)
American Hockey League (1982-1993)

Born: September 1981 – Baltimore Clippers re-branded as the Skipjacks.
Died: March 26, 1993 – Skipjacks announce relocation to Portland, ME.

Arena: Baltimore Civic Center

Team Colors:

Owners:

  • 1981-????: Baltimore Hockey Advocates
  • 1987-1993: Tom Ebright and Baltimore Hockey Advocates.

 

The Baltimore Skipjacks were a minor league hockey club that served as a farm team to the Boston Bruins (1982-1983), Pittsburgh Penguins (1982-1987) and Washington Capitals (1988-1993).  Prior to the Skipjacks, Baltimore had a long and checkered history with pro hockey.  Going back to the World War II era, all of Baltimore’s various minor league clubs were named the “Clippers”.

The Skipjacks’ finest seasons came during the mid-1980’s when they served as a Penguins’ farm club and were coached by Gene Ubriaco.  In 1983-84, the Skipjacks had the best regular season record in the American Hockey League (46-24-10), thanks in part to Pittsburgh’s conscious effort to tank the NHL season and win the right to select Mario Lemieux in the 1984 NHL draft.  At one point, the 1983-84 Skipjacks set an AHL record by winning 16 games in a row, but they were bounced in the Calder Cup semis by the Rochester Americans.

Baltimore Skipjacks ProgramThe following season, Ubriaco’s charges went further, advancing to the 1985 Calder Cup finals.  The Skipjacks’ captain that season was Steve Carlson, a minor league warhorse who played one of the Hanson Brothers in Slap Shot.  The 1984-85 team also included notorious tough guys Marty McSorley and Bennett Wolf.  Rookie goaltender Jon Casey, on loan from the Minnesota North Stars, was outstanding with a 30-11-4 mark and a 2.63 GAA.   But in the Calder Cup finals, Baltimore ran into the Sherbooke Canadiens and a young Montreal goaltending prospect named Patrick Roy.  Sherbrooke beat the Skipjacks 4 games to 2 behind Roy’s heroics in net.

During their 12-year run in Baltimore, the Skipjacks played second fiddle to the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team, the ‘Jacks winter co-tenant at the Civic Center.  The Blast, whose original 1980-1992 run coincided closely with the Skipjacks’ lifespan, consistently outdrew the hockey team on a magnitude of about 3:1.

That meant that the Skipjacks consistently lost six figures a year.  After the 1986-87 season the Pittsburgh Penguins, who funded most of the club’s expenses, lost patience and shifted their top farm club relationship to Muskegon of the IHL.  Businessman Tom Ebright saved the team, buying the club for $250,000 and operating as an independent (without NHL affiliation) for the 1987-88 season.

Starting in 1988, the Skipjacks became the top farm club for the nearby Washington Capitals of the NHL.  With the switch, the Skipjacks dropped their black & yellow palate of the Penguins era in favor of a red, white & blue color scheme.  The Capitals era wasn’t particularly fruitful for Baltimore hockey fans, but the ‘Jacks did help to produce two future NHL goaltending stars for Washington in Byron Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig.

Owner Tom Ebright lost an estimated $2.5 million on the Skipjacks over six years from 1987 to 1993.  In March of 1993 he threw in the towel and signed a deal to move the Skipjacks to Portland, Maine.  The Skipjacks became the Portland Pirates for the 1993-94 AHL season and continue to play under that identity today.

 

==Baltimore Skipjacks Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1982-83 1/11/1983 @ Fredericton Express L 4-2 Program
1984-85 10/12/1984 vs. Hershey Bears L 7-4 Program Game Notes
1984-85 1/25/1985 vs. St. Catharines Saints W 3-2 Program Game Notes
1988-89 10/7/1988 @ New Haven Nighthawks  L 5-3 Program
1990-91 9/29/1990 vs. Hershey Bears (exh.) W 7-6 Program
1991-92 12/26/1991 vs. Hershey Bears T 4-4 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright passed away in 1997.

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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December 10, 1959 – Springfield Indians vs. AHL All-Stars

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1959 AHL All-Star GameSpringfield Indians vs. American Hockey League All-Stars
December 10, 1959
Eastern States Coliseum
Attendance: ?

American Hockey League Programs

 

The American Hockey League had a fitful history with All-Star Games.  After a one-off exhibition in 1942, the league didn’t stage another such exhibition until 1954.  For the net six years, the game jumped around the calendar from October to as late as January, but always with the same format: the host club would face off against a squad of stars from the rest of the league.

In the winter of 1959-60, Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians – mediocre at best for nearly a decade – were about to embark on a three-year dynasty as the finest team in the American League thanks to a farm club agreement with powerful New York Rangers.  They would finish first in the regular season and then claim the Calder Cup in 1960, 1961 and 1962.  This All-Star exhibition at the Big E Coliseum early in the 1959-60 campaign provided a taste of things to come for local hockey fans in the Western Massachusetts city.

Gump Worsley – slumming it in the AHL during a 15-game demotion from Springfield’s parent club, the New York Rangers – minded the nets for the Indians.  Worsley allowed a goal to Fred Glover of the Cleveland Barons at the 0:56 mark and another to Larry Wilson of the Buffalo Bisons (9:45) to spot the All-Stars a 2-0 lead less than 10 minutes in.  But then the future Hall-of-Famer settled down.  Worsley made 36 saves and limited the All-Stars to just one further tally.

At the other end of the ice, the All-Stars split the goaltending duties evenly between Hershey’s Bobby Perrault and Rochester’s Ed Chadwick.  Perrault let in a couple of Springfield goals in back end of the 1st period to know the game at 2-2 at the first intermission.  There the score still stood when Chadwick relieved him midway through the second period.  Chadwick would go on to win the Hap Holmes Award as the AHL’s stingiest goalie that winter, but this wasn’t his night.  The Indians peppered him for six goals in the exhibition’s final 30 minutes to run away with an 8-3 victory.   Bill Sweeney and Dennis Olson notched a pair each for the hosts.

This would turn out to be the last All-Star Game for the AHL for 35 years, until the league revived the format in January 1995.

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Written by andycrossley

July 26th, 2014 at 4:35 am

1981-1988 Fredericton Express

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Fredericton ExpressAmerican Hockey League (1981-1988)

Born: 1981 – AHL expansion franchise.
Died: June 1988 – 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 W 4-2 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

1971-1974 Cincinnati Swords

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Cincinnati SwordsAmerican Hockey League (1971-1974)

Born: 1971 – AHL expansion franchise.
Died: June 1974 – The Swords cease operations.

Arena: Cincinnati Gardens

Team Colors:

Owner: Buffalo Sabres

 

Popular but short-lived minor league hockey team that played at the Cincinnati Gardens from the fall of 1971 through the spring of 1974.  The Cincinnati Swords were formed as an American Hockey League farm club of the NHL’s expansion Buffalo Sabres franchise (hence the name).

The team was outstanding, posting winning records in all three seasons of play.  The Swords ran away from the rest of the AHL in their second season, posting a dominant 54-17-5 record and defeating the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in the Calder Cup finals.

Following the 1973-74 season, the Swords closed down to make way for the expansion Cincinnati Stingers of the World Hockey Association, due to arrive in the Queen City in the fall of 1975.  The Sabres signed an affiliation with the AHL’s Hershey Bears to replace Cincinnati in their farm system.

 

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

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1971-72  4/23/1972 vs. Baltimore Clippers W 4-1 Program
1973-74 4/9/1974 @ Hershey Bears L 1-0 Program

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

July 13th, 2014 at 2:09 pm

1980-1990 Binghamton Whalers

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AHL ProgramsAmerican Hockey League (1980-1990)

Born: May 1980 – Broome Dusters are re-branded as the Binghamton Whalers.
Died: 1990 – The Whalers are re-branded as the Binghamton Rangers.

Arena: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Binghamton Whalers were a long-running club in the minor league hockey hotbed of Binghamton, New York.  As of 2014, only seven cities in North America have hosted more American Hockey League games than Binghamton, according to local AHL beat writer Matt Weinstein.

Binghamton WhalersThe Baby Whalers came on the scene in 1980 when the NHL’s Hartford Whalers acquired Binghamton’s previous AHL club, the Broome Dusters, and re-branded the team.  (The Baby Whalers logo was a clever re-purposing of Hartford’s NHL logo, which formed a “B” when rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise.

Hartford owned and operated the Baby Whalers directly for the team’s first five seasons in the AHL.  This included the club’s finest campaign during the winter of 1981-82.  Under Head Coach Larry Kish, the Whalers won the AHL’s South Division with a 46-28-6 record.  They advanced all the way to the 1982 Calder Cup finals, where they lost to the league’s best team in the regular season, the New Brunswick Hawks, four games to one.

During the 1989-90 season, the Baby Whalers were historically awful.  Their 11-60-9 record offered the worst winning percentage in AHL history at the time.  Following that campaign, Binghamton’s long-time affiliation with the Hartford Whalers came to an end and the club became the top farm team for the New York Rangers.  The team was re-branded as the Binghamton Rangers for the 1990-91 AHL season.  The former Baby Whalers franchise later shifted to Hartford in 1997  – ironically to replace the departed Whalers of the NHL – and continues to play on today as the Hartford Wolf Pack.

 

==Binghamton Whalers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1980-81 10/10/1980 @ Rochester Americans ?? Program
1980-81 10/15/1980 @ Adirondack Red Wings ?? Program
1982-83 1/11/1983 @ St. Catharine's Saints W 6-5 (OT) Program
1985-86 1/15/1986 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
1987-88 3/6/1988 vs. Fredericton Express ?? Program
1989-90 11/11/1989 vs. Utica Devils ?? Program
1989-90 2/28/1990 vs. Utica Devils L 7-4 Program

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

###

 

 

 

Written by andycrossley

July 5th, 2014 at 2:53 pm