Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘AHL’ tag

2001-2006 Cleveland Barons

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American Hockey League (2001-2006)

Born: 2001 – The Kentucky Thoroughblades relocate to Cleveland, OH.
Died: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.

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

April 4th, 2014 at 3:32 am

1994-2005 Worcester IceCats

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American Hockey League (1994-2005)

Born: May 5, 1994 – The Springfield Indians relocate to Worcester, MA.
Died: 2005 – The IceCats relocate to Peoria, IL.

Arena: The Worcester Centrum

Team Colors:

Owners:

  • 1994-2000: Roy Boe
  • 2000-2004: St. Louis Blues

 

The Worcester IceCats were a minor league hockey team that operated for 11 seasons in central Massachusetts.  The founder of the IceCats was Roy Boe.  Boe was an active sports investor during the 1970′s, at one point controlling both the New York/New Jersey Nets basketball team and the NHL’s New York Islanders.  Never especially rich by the standards of Major League sports owners, Boe was forced to sell both teams in 1978 and sat on the sidelines during the 1980′s before re-emerging to form the IceCats in the spring of 1994.

Boe and his partners purchased the Springfield (MA) Indians of the American Hockey League and received approval from the AHL to move to Worcester in May 1994.  Due to the late start organizing the team, the IceCats were unable to secure an NHL parent club for the 1994-95 season and were forced to play as an independent team, cobbling together a team of free agents and leftovers.  No surprise they finished in last place.  As of 2014, the 1994-95 IceCats remain the last AHL to play an independent season.

In 1995 the IceCats signed an affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Blues.  For the next 10 seasons from 1995 through the club’s demise in 2005 Worcester would serve as St. Louis’ top farm club.  During the 2000-01 season, Roy Boe sold the IceCats to the Blues, who operated the team directly for the next three seasons.  In November 2004, the Blues sold the IceCats to the owners of one of their other farm teams, the Peoria (IL) Rivermen.  The new owners announced that the IceCats would move to Peoria for the 2005-06 season in order to upgrade the Rivermen from their lower-level league to the AHL.  The ‘Cats played out their final season in Worcester as lame ducks and played their final home game on April 17, 2005 before a farewell crowd of 10,211.

The IceCats made the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs eight times in ten seasons, but never advanced beyond the 2nd Round.

After one winter without hockey, the AHL returned to Worcester in 2006 with the formation of the Worcester Sharks, who are now in their eighth season.   The franchise formerly known as the IceCats also remains active.  After eight seasons in Peoria, the team relocated to Utica, New York in 2013 and is now known as the Utica Comets.

 

==IceCats Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1995-96 10/14/1995 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
1995-96 11/24/1995 @ Saint John Flames W 4-3 (OT) Program
1995-96 3/24/1996 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
1999-00 12/18/1999 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
2001-02 3/17/2002 vs. Manchester Monarchs W 4-1 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

IceCats founder Roy Boe passed away on June 7, 2009 at age 79.  (New York Times obit here).

 

==YouTube==

Late 1990′s home game against the Springfield Falcons in front of a big crowd at the Centrum.

 

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

March 27th, 2014 at 12:34 am

1994-2013 Houston Aeros

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International Hockey League (1994-2001)
American Hockey League (2001-2013)

Born: 1994 – IHL expansion franchise.
Died: April 18, 2013 – The Aeros announce they will move to Des Moines, IA.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Houston Aeros were formed as an International Hockey League expansion team in 1994 by Chuck Watson, CEO of Houston energy trading firm Dynegy.  The Aeros were a brand revival of the popular World Hockey Association club of the 1970′s, who famously featured ageless Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty.

The modern day Aeros played their early seasons in the IHL, and ambitious but unsustainable minor league that featured big budgets, cross-continental air travel and occasional cross-border raids to sign NHL stars to short-term deals during contract holdouts.  The Aeros were a box office hit upon their arrival in the mid-1990′s, averaging over 10,000 fans per game at the old Houston Summit during their first two seasons.  Attendance declined year-over-year for all seven seasons that the Aeros played in the IHL, but those who stuck around were rewarded with an outstanding team and perennial title contender.  From 1997 to 2005, the Aeros made the playoffs for nine straight seasons.

The Aeros won their first and only Turner Cup championship of the IHL in the spring of 1999.  After posting a league-best record of 54-15-13 in the regular season, the Aeros outlasted the Orlando Solar Bears 4 games to 3 in the best-of-seven Turner Cup finals. Brian Wiseman led the IHL in scoring that season (109 pts.) and was named MVP of the league.

The IHL collapsed under its own weight and went out of business in May of 2001.  The Aeros were one of six IHL survivors that were admitted to the American Hockey League for the 2001-2002 season.  At the same time that the Aeros entered the AHL, they signed an affiliation deal to become the top farm club of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.  In 2003, stocked with Wild prospects, the Aeros defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs to capture the AHL’s Calder Cup championship.

Even more so than the transition from IHL to the AHL in 2001, the summer of 2003 following the Aeros’ Calder Cup victory brought massive change to the Aeros franchise.  The old Summit/Compaq Center finally shut down after years of political wrangling.  The Aeros and the NBA’s Houston Rockets would both move into the brand new $235 million Toyota Center in the autumn of 2003.  Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that team founder Chuck Watson decided to sell the Aeros to Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the NHL’s Wild, at this time.

During the late 1990′s Watson controlled the Compaq Center and Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was his tenant.  Alexander pushed for a new downtown arena and pushed to break his lease at Watson’s building, which ran through 2003.  Watson refused to release the Rockets from their lease and led political opposition to the new arena project, helping to deal a shocking referendum defeat to the project in late 1999.  (Watson and Alexander’s arena feud also played a role in sinking Houston’s NHL expansion bid in the late 1990′s.)  But after the NBA threatened Houston with the loss of pro basketball if a new arena was not in the city’s plans, the project got back on track.  The Toyota Center would open in 2003 and this time the roles would be reversed: Alexander would control the building and Watson would be the tenant.  Watson sold out to the Wild two months before the Toyota Center opened, retaining only a small minority stake in the Aeros.

The Aeros made one more championship run in the spring of 2011, advancing to the Calder Cup finals before losing there to the Binghamton Senators.

At the end of the 2012-13 season the Aeros 10-year lease expired at Toyota Center.  Although the team remained one of the stronger box office draws in the AHL (6,793 per game, good for 7th among the AHL’s 30 clubs), Minnesota Sports & Entertainment could not come to terms on a new lease with Toyota Center.  On April 18, 2013, the Wild announced that the Aeros would relocate to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa for the 2013-14 season and be known henceforth as the Iowa Wild.  A few weeks later, the Aeros were eliminated by the Grand Rapids Griffins (another IHL refugee) in the Calder Cup Playoffs, bringing the Aeros era to an end after 19 seasons.

 

==YouTube==

The Aeros’ IHL debut on October 7, 1994 goes to a shootout against the Atlanta Knights at a sold-out Summit.

The Aeros defeat the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 7 to win the 2003 Calder Cup.

 

==Links==

The 3rd Intermission - Andrew Ferraro’s Aeros Blog 

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 25th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

1967-1975 Springfield Kings

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American Hockey League (1967-1975)

Born: June 5, 1967 – Re-branded from Springfield Indians.
Died: February 7, 1975 – Re-branded as Springfield Indians in midseason.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: Eddie Shore (leased to Jack Kent Cooke).

 

Springfield, Massachusetts is the administrative base and spiritual home of the venerable American Hockey League.  AHL hockey has been a winter mainstay in the Western Massachusetts city virtually without interruption for three-quarters of a century.  For much of that time, the city’s team was known as the Indians and was controlled by Eddie Shore, the legendary Boston Bruins star and Hall-of-Famer.  Shore bought the Indians in 1939 as his NHL career was winding down and actually played in the AHL and NHL simultaneously during the 1940 playoffs.

The Indians under Shore were rarely competitive with the major exception of the years 1960 to 1962, when the club had an affiliation with the New York Rangers and dominated the AHL, winning three consecutive Calder Cup championships.  As an owner, Shore was a notorious eccentric and skinflint.  His dealings with Indians players became increasingly antagonistic during the mid-1960′s.  During the 1966-67 season, Shore suspended three key players without pay – and then two more who had the temerity to approach him as spokesmen for the team.  The players felt they had little recourse to appeal to the league, since AHL President Jack Butterfield also happened to be Shore’s nephew.

Instead the players struck.  Bobby Orr’syoung agent Alan Eagleson represented the striking Indians and the resulting negotiations forced Shore to give up control of the team.  He leased the operating rights to the club to Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the expansion Los Angeles Kings of the NHL who needed a farm club for his Major League franchise for the fall of 1967.  Shore continued to control the AHL’s franchise certificate as well as the lease and concessions business at the Eastern States Coliseum, but had no say in the hockey operations of the team.  Cooke took responsibility for all of the team’s expenses, which would later become a source of dissatisfaction.  The Indians changed their name to the Springfield Kings for the 1967-68 season to coincide with the debut of the L.A. Kings in the NHL.

The Kings finest hour came during the 1971 Calder Cup playoffs.  Los Angeles provided a trio of top prospects in center Butch Goring, winter Al McDonough and future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Billy Smith.  Nevertheless the Kings were mediocre in the regular season, finishing with a losing record of 29-35-8.  They had to beat the Quebec Aces in a play-in game to make the playoffs, which they barely managed thanks to an overtime goal from Goring.

Once into the 1971 postseason, the Kings were unbeatable, reeling off ten wins in eleven games, culminating in a four-game sweep of the Providence Reds in the Calder Cups finals.  Butch Goring was unstoppable, writing his name in the AHL record books with 11 goals and 14 assists during the Kings’ Cinderella run.

In 1972 the Kings moved out of the Eastern States Coliseum and into the brand new Springfield Civic Center.  However, the move coincided with a steep drop in the team’s attendance, falling from over 5,000 per game during the team’s final two seasons at the Big E to under 3,500 in 1972-73.  It didn’t help that the Kings were awful that winter, with an 18-42-6 record.

In the winter of the 1974-75, the New England Whalers of the World Hockey Association played the early portion of their home schedule in Springfield while waiting for construction to be completed on the Hartford Civic Center.  This further damaged the Kings’ faltering box office, which was down to approximately 2,500 customers per night.  Out in L.A., Jack Kent Cooke was fed up with the reported $800,000 in red ink rung up by the Kings since moving into the new Civic Center two seasons earlier.  In January 1975 Cooke threatened to pull 15 of his prospects out of Springfield immediately midway through the season and stop funding the team.  In February 1975 the Kings gave the keys to the franchise back to Eddie Shore, who immediately reinstated the classic Springfield Indians name and colors midway through the season.  Crucially though, the Kings agreed to keep their prospects in Springfield and to pay their salaries.  Despite the winter of turmoil, the Kings/Indians went on to win Springfield’s fifth Calder Cup championship in the spring of 1975.

The Indians remained in Springfield until 1994, when the franchise moved across the state to become the Worcester IceCats.  The AHL, whose central office is located in the Western Massachusetts city, immediately awarded a new franchise known as the Springfield Falcons to begin play in the fall of 1994.  The Falcons continue to play today and AHL hockey has now run continuously in Springfield for 60 seasons.

 

==Kings Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1971-72 12/10/1971 @ Boston Braves ?? Program
1971-72 12/17/1971 @ Boston Braves ?? Program
1971-72 2/5/1972 vs. Tidewater Wings ?? Program
1972-73 3/30/1973 vs. Boston Braves ?? Program
1974-75 1/10/1975 vs. Baltimore Clippers ?? Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Butch Goring
  • Billy Smith

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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1973-1980 Broome Dusters

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North American Hockey League (1973-1977)
American Hockey League (1977-1980)

Born: 1973 – NAHL founding franchise.
Died: May 1980 – The Dusters re-brand as the Binghamton Whalers.

Arena: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (4,855)

Team Colors:

Owner: Jim Matthews

 

The Broome Dusters, AKA the Binghamton Dusters, were a hugely popular minor league hockey team during the mid-1970′s in Broome County, New York.  Bobby Orr’s brother, Ron Orr, was the Dusters’ General Manager and Binghamton resident Johnny Hart, who penned the syndicated comic strips B.C. and The Wizard of Id, designed the Dusters’ logo of a caveman with a hockey stick.

The Dusters were founding members of the North American Hockey League in 1973.  The rough-and-tumble NAHL became the inspiration for the 1977 Paul Newman comedy Slap Shot and its member teams served as farm clubs to the World Hockey Association, a 1970′s rival to the National Hockey League.  The Dusters had affiliation deals with both the San Diego Mariners of the WHA and the Boston Bruins of the NHL.

The Dusters were the best gate attraction in the NAHL, regularly selling out the 4,900-seat Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.  Unfortunately, the rest of the NAHL wasn’t so strong and the circuit folded in September 1977, leaving the Dusters without a league to play in just weeks before their fifth season was due to begin.  At the time, the Dusters boasted more than 4,000 season ticket holders, accounting for more than 80% of the capacity of Binghamton’s small arena.

In late September 1977, Dusters owner Jim Matthews partnered with Andre Veilleux, former owner of the NAHL’s Beauce Jaros, to purchase the American Hockey League’s money-losing Providence Reds franchise and move it to Binghamton.  The 51-year old Reds franchise was the oldest continuously operating minor league hockey team in America in 1977, but had fallen on hard times during the mid-1970′s.  The sale was approved, the (new) Dusters were hurriedly admitted to the AHL just days before the 1977-78 season began, and hockey survived in Binghamton.  As part of the transaction, the Dusters became of farm team of the NHL’s doormat Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Dusters era came to an end in May 1980 when the Hartford Whalers of the NHL purchased the club and re-branded it as the Binghamton Whalers (1980-1990).

 

==Dusters Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1975-76 10/29/1975 vs. Syracuse Blazers ?? Program
1975-76 1/11/1976 vs. Cape Codders ?? Program
1975-76 1/18/1976 vs. Mohawk Valley Comets ?? Program
1975-76 1/21/1976 vs. Johnstown Jets ?? Program
1975-76 1/27/1976 vs. Syracuse Blazers ?? Program
1975-76 2/2/1976 vs. Philadelphia Firebirds ?? Program
1975-76 2/25/1976 vs. Erie Blades ?? Program
1975-76 3/10/1976 vs. Philadelphia Firebirds ?? Program
1977-78 10/15/1977 @ Maine Mariners ?? Program
1978-79 11/17/1978 @ Philadelphia Firebirds ?? Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Dusters owner Jim Matthews passed away on July 15, 2011 at age 77.

 

==Links==

North American Hockey League Media Guides

North American Hockey League Programs

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

###

 

Written by andycrossley

November 21st, 2013 at 3:05 am