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

###

 

Written by AC

April 4th, 2014 at 3:32 am

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

###

Written by AC

February 28th, 2013 at 12:12 am

1989-1997 Greensboro / Carolina Monarchs

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1992-93 Greensboro (NC) Monarchs Program
East Coast Hockey League Programs

FWiL contributor Hoffman Wolff grew up watching ECHL hockey in Virginia and the Carolinas in the 1990’s.  His father, Miles Wolff, owned the ECHL’s Raleigh (NC) IceCaps club from 1991 to 1995.

If there were ever a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” in minor-league sports, it would certainly apply to the Carolina Monarchs, who played two unmemorable seasons in the American Hockey League from 1995 to 1997.

Their predecessors, the East Coast Hockey League’s Greensboro Monarchs, were one of many success stories during the hockey boom of the 1990’s.  Led by former AHL and NHL goon Jeff Brubaker, the proudly rowdy Monarchs engaged in heated rivalries and rough-and-tumble games that were a hit with the team’s boisterous fan base.

In 1994, renovations to the team’s home, the Greensboro Coliseum, had finally finished, and a mammoth, 21,000-seat building was unveiled.  The updated facility helped the Monarchs draw 216,865 fans over 34 home games in 1994-95.

At the same time, the higher-level American Hockey League began eyeing expansion southward.  After courting the ECHL’s clubs in Norfolk, Greensboro, Charlotte and Charleston, the Monarchs made the jump to the new league alone for 1995-96.  The Monarchs’ spinning turnstiles, along with the “new” Coliseum, made success at a higher level seem natural.  If fans liked the middling skill level of the ECHL, the reasoning went, just wait until they got a look at players just one step away from the NHL.  (There was precedent: after two wildly successful seasons in the ECHL, the Cincinnati Cyclones joined the higher level International Hockey League in 1992-93, and were still drawing over 8,000 per game three years later).

Now dubbed the “Carolina Monarchs,” the club hovered around the .500 mark to start the season.  But an average team wasn’t the Monarchs’ main concern.  It quickly became apparent that the AHL style of hockey wasn’t clicking.  Attendance was down, and the Coliseum had become lifeless.

Monarchs management realized that they had work to do.

“We’ve got a marketing job to do with a new product we’ve got,” Monarchs owner Bill Black told The Greensboro News & Record in December 1995.  “You can’t judge this product in light of the old one.  Fans who came out for what the old product offered – the fights and stuff like that – there’s not much here for them anymore.  There was an element out there we were a little frustrated with.  I thought they were running off some of our families, detracting from our ability to market to our clientele.  Those were the ones who fought in the parking lot after the game.”

With an attendance of 6,400 per game the previous season, obviously not too many families had been “run off” by the ECHL brand of hockey; as it turned out, Greensboro supporters were quite fond of the “fights and stuff like that,” level of play be damned.  Fans had also grown familiar with the ECHL Monarchs’ cast of characters: Brubaker had been the club’s coach since its inception in 1989, and with player development not stressed in the league, he could keep popular players on the roster for as long as they were productive.
Moreover, the club was helped by the ECHL’s smaller geographical footprint.  With all of the Monarchs’ Southern Division opponents within a four-hour drive, travel expenses were low.  Meanwhile, large contingents of visiting supporters were a frequent occurrence throughout the league, building rivalries even further.

The “new” Monarchs were now missing all of the ingredients that had made the previous club successful.  Now just a phone call away from the NHL, Greensboro was a waiting room for players in hopes of a callup.  Fans complained that the intensity was gone, and that the players were trying to not to get hurt, lest they jeopardize their NHL chances.  The numbers didn’t lie: most of the rough stuff was gone.  The Monarchs averaged 39.1 penalty minutes per game in their final ECHL season; after the jump to the AHL, it dipped to 23.2 minutes a game.

Furthermore, with hockey a niche sport in North Carolina, only a limited number of fans really took to the improvement in play.  The “farm system” concept, which worked well for baseball (especially in North Carolina, with ten minor-league teams), didn’t translate to hockey.  The number of fans who cared to see “prospects” was small, and the number of people who cared about the Florida Panthers, the Monarchs’ NHL parent club, was even smaller.

Finally, the rivalries had disappeared.  Southern Division opponents from nearby Raleigh, Richmond or Charlotte each had their own colorful players whom Greensboro fans loved to jeer.  Now, clubs from distant locales like Worcester, Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island came to town, and were largely composed of the same anonymous fringe NHLers who populated the Monarchs’ roster.

An end-of-season dive put Carolina in last place with a 28-38-1-3 record in the AHL’s version of a “Southern Division,” which also featured the Dixie strongholds of Binghamton, New York, and Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The bulk of the goaltending duties were carried by Kevin Weekes, who was of no particular importance to Monarchs fans at the time, but would become better known to hockey fans in North Carolina several seasons later, spending two seasons as the NHL Carolina Hurricanes’ number-one goalie.

But the larger story was the club’s alarming drop in attendance of over 1,700 a game, to an average of 4,734.  After the season, ownership continued to bemoan the fans failure to appreciate the higher level of play, as well as a perceived lack of sponsorship from area businesses (which never was thought to be a problem in the ECHL days):

“Obviously, the quality of the product is only part of the package.  We failed to factor in that there were some people who came to games for the lesser aspects of hockey – the goonery. The other major disappointment is the lack of major corporate support,” Black griped to The News-Record after the season.

Through the rather downbeat season, there was one bright spot: the new team logo had been awarded The Hockey News’ top spot in their annual ranking of minor-league insignias, replacing the rather pedestrian sultan’s crown that had adorned the team’s jerseys during the ECHL days.

The Monarchs carried on through year two of the AHL experiment with equally lackluster results: another last-place finish and another drop in attendance, to 4,166 per game. The future of the club was now in question – the larger budget of the AHL was taking its toll on ownership, and with the demise of the Baltimore Bandits, the Monarchs’ closest opponent was now over 400 miles away, creating even higher travel expenses.

The uncertainty was answered by the NHL’s Hartford Whalers, who rather suddenly announced their relocation to North Carolina in the spring of 1997. With a new arena in Raleigh not due to open until 1999, the Whalers intended to use the Greensboro Coliseum as their home for two seasons. The Monarchs still held the lease at the Coliseum, and, knowing they had the upper hand, the AHL club refused to give it up without compensation. After the nameless NHL team looked at a few other unappealing possibilities (for a short time, the team seriously considered playing their home games at the 8,900-seat Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C.), the Whalers relented and paid the Monarchs $350,000 to step aside.

Monarchs management made a halfhearted attempt to revive the team through a public share offering after the Hurricanes departed for Raleigh, but the plan went nowhere. Instead, the ECHL returned to the Coliseum with the Greensboro Generals for the 1999-2000 season. But the old Monarchs magic was gone, and the club trudged through five poorly-attended seasons before calling it quits after the 2004 campaign.

Written by AC

August 2nd, 2012 at 8:24 pm

1992-1994 Hamilton Canucks

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Hamilton Canucks

American Hockey League (1992-1994)

Born: April 1992 – AHL expansion franchise.
Died: May 1994 – The Canucks relocate to Syracuse, NY.

Arena: Copps Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owners:

  • 1992-1993: Pat Hickey, Dieter Beer and Bernie Faloney
  • 1993: Brad Sherman & Donald Starr
  • 1993-1994: Vancouver Canucks

 

The Hamilton Canucks were a short-lived American Hockey League farm club that lasted two seasons from 1992 to 1994.  The club was done in by the combination of an unfavorable lease at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum and ownership turbulence throughout its twenty-four month existence.

The driving force to bring professional hockey to Hamilton was Pat Hickey, a Hamilton-area native and former NHL and World Hockey Association player (1973-1985).  Hickey assembled an ownership group that included Dieter Beer and former Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Canadian Football League Hall-of-Famer Bernie Faloney.  The AHL awarded an expansion franchise to the group in April 1992 and the new club signed an affiliation deal with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.

The 1992-93 Canucks finished last in the AHL’s six-team Southern Division with a 29-45-6 record.  In addition to Canucks prospects, the club also featured a couple of well-known NHL veterans finishing out their playing days in the NHL.  Defenseman Mario Marois enjoyed a fifteen-year career in the NHL (1977-1992) before playing a final season as a player/assistant coach in Hamilton.  Rick Vaive  was a former linemate of Hamilton owner Pat Hickey with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the early 1980’s.  Vaive recorded three straight 50 goal seasons for the Leafs from 1982 to 1984.  Like Marois, the 1992-93 campaign would be Vaive’s last before retiring.

Rick Vaive Hamilton CanucksOff the ice, the Hamilton Canucks claimed average attendance of 4,773 for the 1992-93 season, which was fourth best in the 16-team AHL and the highest among the league’s six Canadian clubs.  Nevertheless, Hickey’s original partners departed during the summer of 1993 as the club prepared for its second season.  Beer and Faloney left, replaced by  new investors Brad Sherman and Donald Starr.  The new owners quickly ran into money problems and grew disenchanted with the Copps Coliseum lease, seeking to get it reworked.  In mid-October 1993, less than a month into the 1993-94 season, Hickey was forced to resign.  Two weeks later in early November, the Canucks ownership group, Double Hitch Enterprises, shutdown their team offices at the Coliseum and ceased operations.

The possibility loomed that the Hamilton Canucks would fold in midseason.  Double Hitch Enterprises went into receivership in mid-November.  The Vancouver Canucks of the NHL reluctantly assumed responsibility for operating the ownerless club through the duration of the 1993-94 campaign.  Attendance dropped over 25% to 3,349 per game for the lame duck club.

On the ice Hamilton rebounded in 1993-94, finishing 36-37-7, good enough for a playoff series against the Cornwall Aces.  The Aces eliminated Hamilton from the Calder Cup playoffs on April 20th, 1994.  The following day, Vancouver Canucks officials announced that the club would not return to Hamilton for a third season.  In May 1994, the club was officially transferred to a new ownership group in Syracuse, New York and the franchise became the Syracuse Crunch.

The Syracuse Crunch continues in the AHL to this day, entering its twenty-first season in the winter of 2014-15.

One last thing … The Hamilton Canucks featured a mascot known as “Canuckosaurus Rex”.

 

==Hamilton Canucks Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1992-93 12/30/1992 @ Rochester Americans W 6-3 Program
1992-93 3/2/1993 vs. Cape Breton Oilers L 5-3 Program
1993-94 1/12/1994 @ Hershey Bears L 5-3 Program
1993-94 1/15/1994 @ Hershey Bears L 4-1 Program
1993-94 4/9/1993 @ Hershey Bears W 4-0 Program

 

==Links==

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

###

 

 

 

Written by AC

February 11th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

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