Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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2001-2006 Cleveland Barons

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American Hockey League (2001-2006)

Born: 2001 – The Kentucky Thoroughblades relocate to Cleveland, OH.
Moved: January 9, 2006 – The AHL approves the Barons move to Worcester, MA.

Arena: Gund Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: San Jose Sharks

 

The 2001-2006 Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League represented the second revival of the classic “Barons” hockey brand in Cleveland.  The original Barons played in the AHL from 1937 to 1973.  When the NHL’s woeful California Golden Seals franchise moved to Ohio to play in the old Richfield Coliseum in 1976, they reclaimed the historic Barons name.  But the club was a disaster and lasted just two seasons before financial insolvency forced the team to merge with the Minnesota North Stars in June 1978.  To this day, the NHL Cleveland Barons remain the last franchise from North American Big Four professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) to go out of business.

Pro hockey returned to Cleveland in 1992 with the arrival of the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the minor International Hockey League.  The ‘Jacks enjoyed some good crowds in the mid-1990’s, but by the end of the decade the IHL was on the verge of collapse and Cleveland was one of the league’s trouble spots, drawing fewer than 3,000 fans per night at Gund Arena.

After the IHL and the Lumberjacks folded in the spring of 2001, the San Jose Sharks moved their Lexington, Kentucky AHL farm club to Gund Arena for the 2001-02 season.  The Sharks brought back the old Barons identity, but the farm club used San Jose’s modern colors of teal and black.

Perhaps the Lumberjacks’ struggles soured the market on minor league hockey or maybe northeast Ohio fans just couldn’t get excited about the far away San Jose Sharks.  The Barons also played very poorly, failing to make the Calder Cup playoffs in four of their five seasons.  Whatever the problem, the modern day Barons failed to spark much interest in Cleveland.  Through the club’s first four-and-a-half seasons at Gund Arena, attendance averaged only 3,716 per game according to The Silicon Valley Business Journal.   The Sharks reportedly lost several million dollars on the Barons over the years.  Midway through the 2005-06 season, San Jose management applied to the AHL to move the team to Worcester, Massachusetts for the 2006-07 season.  The move was approved on January 9, 2006 and the Barons finished out the season as a lame duck team.  The franchise lives on today as the Worcester Sharks San Jose Barracuda.

 

==Cleveland Barons Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

2002-03

2002-03 3/7/2003 vs. Utah Grizzlies W 4-0 Program

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by AC

April 4th, 2014 at 3:32 am

1974-1979 Philadelphia Firebirds

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North American Hockey League (1974-1977)
American Hockey League (1977-1979)

Born: 1974 – NAHL expansion franchise.
Died:
April 11, 1979 – The Firebirds relocate to Syracuse, NY.

Arena: Philadelphia Civic Center (8,300)

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Philadelphia Firebirds minor league hockey team was owned by Mrs. Paul’s frozen foods magnate Edward Piszek and his son George.  During the team’s first season in the winter of 1974-75, Philadelphia Phillies Hall-of-Fame pitcher Robin Roberts was a co-owner, but he left the team after the Firebirds lost $400,000 their first winter.

Philadelphia was hockey mad.  The NHL’s Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975.  The Firebirds enjoyed some of the overflow enthusiasm, playing their games at the old Philadelphia Civic Center.  The Firebirds added a championship of their own, winning the North American Hockey League’s Lockhart Cup in 1976 (see team highlight film in the YouTube section below).

Weeks before the 1977-78 was due to begin the NAHL went out of business.  The Firebirds scrambled to join the American Hockey League, which was also struggling to stay alive at the time and willing to accept both the Firebirds and the NAHL’s Broome (NY) Dusters on the eve of their season.  The Firebirds played two AHL seasons in Philadelphia, but continued to lose money.  An affiliation with the NHL’s lowly Colorado Rockies in 1978-79 left the team with weak players and contributed to declining fan interest.  In April 1979, the Firebirds relocated to Syracuse, New York, where they played one final season under the Piszek family ownership before folding in the spring of 1980.

The Firebirds player who went on to the greatest success was goaltender Rejean “Reggie” Lemelin.  Lemelin joined the Firebirds as a rookie out of junior hockey in 1974 and played for the team during all five of its seasons in Philadelphia.  He made his NHL debut in the 1978-79 season and went on to a 15-year career with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames and the Boston Bruins.

1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team hero Mike Eruzione played six games for the Firebirds during their final season in Philly.

 

==Firebirds Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1974-75 10/18/1974 vs. Syracuse Blazers T 3-3 Program
1974-75 11/10/1974 vs. Cape Cod Cubs W 5-4 Program
1974-75 12/17/1974 vs. Long Island Cougars W 8-1 Program
1975-76 2/2/1976 @ Broome Dusters L 5-4 Program
1975-76 3/10/1976 @ Broome Dusters L 6-4 Program
1977-78 10/23/1977 @ Maine Mariners W 6-3 Program
1977-78 2/20/1978 @ Maine Mariners L 6-3 Program
1978-79 11/17/1978 vs. Binghamton Dusters L 8-2 Program
1978-79 1/31/1979 @ Maine Mariners L 12-2 Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Mike Eruzione
  • Reggie Lemelin

 

==In Memoriam==

Firebirds owner Edward Piszek passed away on March 17, 2004 at age 87.

 

 

==YouTube==

1975-76 NAHL Lockhart Cup champions highlight film:

 

==Links==

Still A Millionaire With Missions” – 1986 Philadelphia Inquirer profile of ex-Firebirds owner Edward Piszek.

North American Hockey League Media Guides

North American Hockey League Programs

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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1978-1982 New Brunswick Hawks

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New Brunswick HawksAmerican Hockey League (1978-1982)

Born: 1978 – AHL expansion franchise.
Died: 1982 – Replaced by the Moncton Alpines after affiliation shift

Arena: Moncton Coliseum (6,904)

Team Colors: Blue & White

Owner: George Urquhart, et al.

 

The New Brunswick Hawks were an American Hockey League farm club that was shared between the Chicago Black Hawks and the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasons between 1978 and 1982.  The club’s name was modeled on Chicago (and also harkened back to the Moncton Hawks hockey teams of the 1940’s – 1960’s) but wore the colors (white & blue) of Toronto.

The Hawks were a terrific team for all four of their seasons, reaching the AHL’s Calder Cup Finals in both 1980 and 1982.  In 1980, the Hawks lost to the Hershey Bears, but in 1982 they won the Calder Cup by defeating the Binghamton Whalers 4 games to 1 in a best-of-seven series.  The Hawks also produced two AHL Most Valuable Players during their short run with Rocky Saganiuk (1979) and NHL veteran Mike Kaszycki (1982).

Following the 1982 Calder Cup victory, the Black Hawks and Maple Leafs went their separate ways, with Toronto establishing a new farm club – the Saints – in St. Catharines, Ontario.  That marked the end of the Hawks, but not for AHL hockey at the Moncton Coliseum.  The Edmonton Oilers promptly swooped in and established a new farm club for the 1982-83 season named the Moncton Alpines.

 

==New Brunswick Hawks Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other

1978-79

1978-79 3/31/1979 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program

1979-80

1979-80 11/21/1979 @ Maine Mariners L 6-3 Program
1979-80 1/23/1980 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program
1979-80 3/22/1980 @ Adirondack Red Wings ?? Program
1979-80 3/26/1980 @ Maine Mariners L 8-2 Program
1979-80 3/30/1980 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program

1980-81

1980-81 10/25/1980 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program
1980-81 12/20/1980 @ Springfield Indians ?? Program
1980-81 3/7/1981 vs. Adirondack Red Wings ?? Program
1980-81 4/4/1981 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Mike Kaszycki
  • Jack O’Callahan
  • Rocky Saganiuk
  • Darryl Sutter

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Hawks General Manager John McLellan died of a heart attack at age 50 on October 27, 1979.

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

New Brunswick Hawks All-Time Roster on HockeyDB.com

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Written by AC

February 28th, 2013 at 12:12 am

December 20, 1980 – Maine Mariners vs. Nova Scotia Voyageurs

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Maine Mariners ProgramMaine Mariners vs. Nova Scotia Voyageurs
December 20, 1980
Cumberland County Civic Center
Attendance: 5,851

American Hockey League Programs

 

A rather stern-looking Santa Claus takes phone calls at the Cumberland County Civic Center during a 1980 American Hockey League tilt between the Maine Mariners and the visiting Nova Scotia Voyageurs.

Merry Christas everyone.

February 27, 1982 – Erie Blades vs. Rochester Americans

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Erie (PA) Blades vs. Rochester (NY) Americans
February 27, 1982
Erie County Fieldhouse
American Hockey League Programs

Sometimes bigger isn’t better.  That was the lesson for the hockey fans of Erie, Pennsylvania in the winter of 1981-82.

The industrial city had a popular team – the Erie Blades – that formed in 1975 and kicked around in a variety of low-level minor leagues during the latter half of the 1970’s. From 1979 to 1981 the Blades dominated the Northeastern Hockey League and then the Eastern Hockey League, winning three straight league championships.  Crowds of 3,000+ were not uncommon at the old Erie County Fieldhouse.

The kinds of players who played in the Northeastern Hockey League and the Eastern Hockey League were not on the fast track to the NHL.  These were rough-and-tumble leagues that emphasized physicality and fighting where many players were hanging onto their pro careers by a fingernail.

But – as it turns out, according to this great 2011 retrospective by Victor Fernandes of The Erie Times-News – that’s what made the players so appealing to Erie hockey fans.  The players were familiar and relatable.  They hung out with fans after the games.  Guys like Jim Cowell, Stan Gulutzan, Ron Hansis and Brad Rhiness were terrific players within the universe of the Eastern League, but they never really went anywhere – there were no mid-season call-ups to speak of and they found themselves back in Erie each fall.

In May 1981, the Blades signed an affiliation deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins and made the leap to the American Hockey League.  The AHL was just one step below the NHL and it was an unusual move for the AHL to absorb an existing club from a lower tier league.  The team would be run as a joint venture between the Penguins and Blades owners Dr. John Caruso and Ben Kasper.  The deal called for the Penguins to supply the Blades with players (the Boston Bruins would contribute players as well) and to split the profits or losses of the team 50/50 with Caruso and Kasper.

The move to the AHL promised much better players, but also a different kind of player.  Transient players who viewed Erie as a way station on the road to the NHL and came and went in a bewildering flurry of promotions and demotions to Pittsburgh and Boston. Rhiness was the only holdover player from the Blades 1981 EHL championship team to return for the 1981-82 AHL season.

“At first we were excited,” a Blades season ticket holder recalled to Victor Fernandes in 2011.  “But after they got here, most of the season ticket holders who had been here as long as I had were very disappointed.  It just felt strange to have this team.  We missed (that connection).”

The Blades had some terrific talent that winter.  The Penguins developed a few future NHL regulars in Erie including Rod Buskas and Dave Hannan.  The Boston Bruins, who had a much stronger farm system, sent Randy Hillier, Mike Krushelnyski, Craig MacTavish, Larry Melnyk and former U.S. Olympic hockey hero Jim Craig, among others.  But the talent didn’t mesh and the Blades finished in last place with a 22-52-6 record.   Erie also saw the worst attendance in the AHL, drawing just 1,677 on average to the Erie County Field House.

The Blades lost a reported $250,000 during the 1981-82 season.   The Penguins quickly grew unhappy with the situation and sued Caruso and Kasper in May 1982 for misrepresenting their ability to capitalize the team.   In June 1982 the Pens pulled up stakes and moved their AHL farm club to Maryland, where the former Erie AHL franchise became the Baltimore Skipjacks.

##

Caruso kept going, forming the Erie Golden Blades in 1982 and entering the team in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League.  It was a back-to-basics move.  The ACHL was a ramshackle independent outfit, much like the ones Erie dominated in the late 1970’s.  In fact, a number of popular Blades of that era returned to play for the Golden Blades, including Sylvain Cote, Jim Cowell and Ron Hansis.  The Golden Blades lasted until 1987.

Downloads & Links:

1981-82 Erie Blades Statistics on HockeyDB.com

1981-82 Erie Blades article sources

Written by AC

November 4th, 2012 at 3:47 pm