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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

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

May 14, 1981 – Adirondack Red Wings vs. Maine Mariners

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George LyleAdirondack (NY) Red Wings vs. Maine Mariners
1981 Calder Cup Championship Series – Game 3
May 14, 1981
Glens Falls Civic Center
Attendance: 5,175

American Hockey League Programs
76 pages

 

The Adirondack Red Wings and the Maine Mariners met in the 1981 Calder Cup finals to determine the champion of the American Hockey League.  The Mariners were the top farm club of the Philadelphia Flyers at the time.  The Mariners had a youthful roster, featuring a number of players who would see substantial time in the NHL in the 1980’s – Greg Adams, Lindsay Carson, and, most notably, the 21-year old Swedish goaltender Pelle Lindbergh.  Lindbergh took the AHL by storm during his first year in America, winning both Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player honors.

Adirondack was the top minor league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings and their roster had an entirely different look.  The Red Wings were stocked with NHL and World Hockey Association veterans on the downside of their careers.  Goaltender Wayne Wood played parts of  five seasons as a WHA back-up.  34-year old defenseman J.P. LeBlanc spent a decade in the NHL and WHA starting in 1968.  Pete Mahovlich scored 288 goals in the NHL, including back-to-back one hundred point seasons with Montreal in the mid-1970’s.

Another Red Wings vet was left winger George Lyle, who appeared on the cover of the evening’s game program.  Lyle was the World Hockey Association’s Rookie-of-the-Year in 1977, after scoring 39 goals for the New England Whalers in his first season out of Michigan Tech.  He split the 1980-81 season between Adirondack and Detroit, appearing in 40 games for the big club.

A capacity crowd of  5,175 packed the Glens Falls Civic Center.  Lyle was a fortuitous choice for the program cover.  Four minutes and nine seconds into the game, Lyle beat Pelle Lindbergh off an assist from Greg Joly to Adirondack up 1-0.  The score held up as Lindbergh turned Adirondack’s other 35 shots.  Wayne Wood was even better for the Red Wings, making 29 saves to post his first shutout of the season.

The win put the Red Wings up two games to one in the best-of-seven series.  The Mariners struck back two nights later in Portland, hanging a 10-1 defeat on Adirondack.  But the Red Wings’ veteran experience ultimately won out, and Adirondack clinched the series in Game 6 back in Glens Falls on May 20, 1981.

##

The Adirondack Red Wings played 20 seasons in Glens Falls, New York from 1979 to 1999.  The club went dark after the 1998-99 AHL season.  AHL hockey returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center in 2009 with the arrival of the Adirondack Phantoms, relocated from Philadelphia.

The Maine Mariners played in Portland from 1977 to 1992.  The Flyers pulled out in the mid-1980’s and the Mariners became a Boston Bruins farm club.  The franchise moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 1992. The Providence Bruins continue to serve as the Boston’s top affiliate to this day.

Pelle Lindbergh seemed destined for stardom in the NHL with the Flyers.  He earned All-Rookie team honors during the 1982-83 season and won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 1984-85.  On November 10, 1985 Lindbergh smashed his Porsche into a wall in Somerdale, New Jersey in a drunk driving incident.  He was declared brain dead and removed from life support the following day.  Lindbergh was posthumously named to the 1985 NHL All-Star Team.

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

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