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.
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

January 6, 1984 – Cleveland Force vs. St. Louis Steamers

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Cleveland Force vs. St. Louis Steamers
January 6, 1984
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 14,173

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
124 pages

 

Cleveland vs. St. Louis.  Two of the great hotbeds of indoor soccer in the early 1980′s squared off in this January 1984 match at Cleveland’s Richfield Coliseum.  The Cleveland Force and the St. Louis Steamers ought to have been a great rivalry.  Both teams were Midwestern clubs, both were wildly popular in their moment, and both clubs were among the league’s best at the time.  But Cleveland was in the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Eastern Division and St. Louis was in the Western group and as a result they rarely met in the regular season (and never faced each other in the playoffs).  This Friday night match was the Steamers’ only visit to Cleveland during the 48-game 1983-84 season.

The Force came into this match as the MISL’s hottest team.  They were 13-2, thanks to an early season 11-game winning streak.  Clevelanders leapt onto the band wagon.  This was the sixth season of Force soccer and all of the sudden crowds more than doubled over their previous highs.  A huge crowd of 14,173 turned out for this match and for the season the Force claimed an average of 13,692 for their 24 home dates.  By contrast, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers pulled only 5,075 per game in the same building that winter.

The Steamers were off to a slower start at 8-8, but their headline-making October signing of U.S. National Team midfielder Ricky Davis was starting to pay dividends.  Davis was arguably the best American soccer player of the early 1980′s.  At a minimum he carried that perception thanks to the Warner Communications marketing machine behind his former club, the New York Cosmos of the outdoor North American Soccer League.  The October 1983 defection of Ricky Davis from the Cosmos to the MISL was as sure a sign as any of the shifting fortunes of pro soccer in the U.S. in the early 1980′s, as the outdoor game foundered and indoor soccer enjoyed its moment.   Warner was cutting way back on the Cosmos in the fall of 1983 (they would unload the club altogether the following summer).  Davis reached the end of his contract on September 30th and balked at the Cosmos’ request for a pay cut.  That opened the door for the Steamers, a club whose commitment to fielding a championship-caliber team with American players was central to its brand.  They signed Davis to a three-year deal worth a reported $117,000 per year, which made the 24-year old one of the highest paid players in the MISL.

Davis came into the Force match hot with 10 goals in his previous five games.  He added a hat trick on this night to lead the Steamers to a 5-2 victory.  The result bumped the Steamers over .500 (9-8) and dropped Cleveland to 13-3.  St. Louis would go on to win the Western Division and appear in the MISL Championship Series, losing to the Baltimore Blast.  The Force never quite regained their invincible form of the season’s first two months.  They finished with a respectable 31-17 record, but were swept by the Blast in the semis, 3 games to none.

Written by andycrossley

June 2nd, 2013 at 6:23 pm

1967-1968 Cleveland Stokers

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United Soccer Association (1967)
North American Soccer League (1968)

Born: August 1966 – USA founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1968 – The Stokers cease operations.

Stadium: Cleveland Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Cleveland Stokers were Cleveland’s first professional soccer team of real significance.   The club began play in 1967 in the United Soccer Association (USA), a league which grew up out of the enthusiasm of the 1966 World Cup.  The USA imported entire teams from Europe and South America (who were in their off-seasons during the summer months) to represent member cities.  The Stokers were actually Stoke City F.C. from England, hence the name.  Frozen foods mogul Vernon Stouffer, who also owned the Cleveland Indians at the time, was the club’s original owner.

The Stokers/Stoke City were mediocre in 1967 posting a 5-3-4 record.

Following that campaign, the Stokers merged with the rival National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) to form the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the 1968 season.  The NASL took the more conventional route of assembling rosters player-by-player, rather than importing foreign teams to play under aliases.  So Stoke City didn’t return to Cleveland for the 1968 season, although the Stokers name endured.  Much of the Stokers’ 1968 roster came from remnants of a recently disbanded NPSL team, the Philadelphia Spartans.

Meanwhile, in early 1968, Stouffer sold the Stokers to Howard Metzenbaum and Ted Bonda (future Indians owners themselves).  The team improved markedly in 1968, with a 14-7-11 record and a trip to the playoffs.  The Stokers lost to the eventual champion Atlanta Chiefs in a two-game semi-final playoff series.   A highlight of the 1968 season was a July 10, 1968 visit to Cleveland Stadium by Santos F.C. of Brazil and their international superstar Pele.  The Stokers upset Santos 2-1 before a team record crowd of over 16,000 at Cleveland Stadium.

The Stokers folded after the 1968 season as part of a massive contraction that saw the NASL shrink for 17 clubs to just 5.

 

 

==Stokers Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1968 5/11/1968 vs. Washington Whips ?? Program
1968 6/8/1968 vs. Detroit Cougars ?? Program

 

==Key Players==

  • Gordon Banks
  • Enrique Mateos
  • Roy Turner

 

==In Memoriam==

Stokers goalkeeperPaul Shardlow died of a heart attack while training on October 14, 1968.  He was 25 years old.

Original Stokers owner Vernon Stouffer died on July 26, 1974 at age 72.

Stokers striker Enrique Mateos passed away on July 6, 2001 at age 66.

1968 Stokers co-owner Ted Bonda died on October 12, 2005.

1968 Stokers co-owner Howard Metzenbaum died on March 12, 2008.  He was 90 years old.

==Links==

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

###

Written by andycrossley

May 8th, 2013 at 1:18 pm

1997-2003 Cleveland Rockers

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Women’s National Basketball Association (1997-2003)

Born: October 30, 1996 – WNBA founding franchise.
Died: December 26, 2003 – Rockers cease operations.

Arena: Gund Arena (11,751)

Team Colors: Black, Silver, White, Orange & Cyan

Owner: Gordon Gund

 

The Cleveland Rockers were one of the eight original franchises of the Women’s National Basketball Association when the league began play in the summer of 1997.  The Rockers were operated by Gund Arena Company, the owners of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

During the Rockers inaugural season, the team signed women’s basketball legend Lynette Woodard.  Woodard was 37 years old at the time.  She never previously had the opportunity to play professional in her home country, although she gained considerable press attention in 1985 when she became the first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters.  Woodard started 27 of the Rockers’ 28 games in 1997 and was sixth on the team in scoring with 7.8 points per game.  She went to the WNBA’s Detroit Shock in an expansion draft in 1998 and retired after one final season.  Woodard was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.

On the court, the Rockers see-sawed between winning seasons and truly terrible campaigns, but still managed to make the playoffs in five of their seven years of play. Their deepest postseason run came in 1998 when they won the East Division and then advanced to the playoff semi-finals before losing to the Phoenix Mercury 2 games to 1 in a best-of-three series.

On September 19, 2003, Gund Arena Company announced it would no longer operate the Rockers after seven money-losing seasons.  The announcement concluded a rough week for women’s sports in the United States, as the 8-team Women’s United Soccer Association had folded just four days earlier due to similar reasons of financial exhaustion.   Some Rockers fans questioned the timing, given that the Gund ownership had just invested considerable money into NBA #1 overall draft pick LeBron James and could expect to reap a huge windfall in new revenue with James’ arrival.  The WNBA kept the Rockers franchise alive on paper until Christmas time as it sought a buyer for the Rockers in a new market, but none materialized.   The league officially terminated the Rockers franchise the day after Christmas in 2003 and the Rockers players were put into a dispersal draft in early January.

 

==Key Players==

  • Merlakia Jones
  • Eva Nemcova
  • Jennifer Rizzotti
  • Lynette Woodard

 

==YouTube==

Not much Rockers footage to see here, but this is about all you’ll find from the Rockers on YouTube at this point.  This was from ESPN’s “WNBays” ad campaign from the 1999 season, which featured customized ads for each franchise based around a semi-fictional funk band.

==Links==

WNBA Media Guides

WNBA Game Programs

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Written by andycrossley

April 11th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

1992-2001 Cleveland Lumberjacks

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International Hockey League (1992-2001)

Born: 1992 – The Muskegon Lumberjacks relocate to Cleveland, OH.
Died: May 23, 2001 – The IHL terminates the Lumberjacks franchise.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

  • Black, Gold & White (1994-95)

Owners:

 

The Cleveland Lumberjacks hockey team traced their history all the way back to the formation of the Muskegon Zephyrs of the International Hockey League in 1960.  The franchise spent most of its existence in Muskegon, going through two name changes over the decades.  A turning point in the team’s fortunes came in 1984, when former Edmonton Oilers executive Larry Gordon purchased the financially troubled team (then known as the Muskegon Mohawks) for $1.00.

Gordon renamed the team the Muskegon Lumberjacks and built his club into the dominant IHL franchise of the 1980′s.  In eight seasons between 1984 and 1992, Gordon’s Lumberjacks appeared in the IHL championship series six times, winning the Turner Cup in 1986 and 1989.

In the early 1990′s, the IHL began to attract wealthier investors and took move beyond its upper Midwest roots.  Cities like Muskegon and Port Huron were left behind as the league expanded into cities such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Orlando.  Expansion fees rose to $6.0 million dollars by 1994, a decade after Gordon had paid one dollar for his club.  In keeping with the trend, Gordon uprooted his Lumberjacks out of Muskegon in the summer of 1992 and move to Cleveland, where the new 20,000-seat Gund Arena was set to open in 1994.  (In the meantime, the ‘Jacks would play in the old suburban Richfield Coliseum, the former home of the NHL’s Cleveland Barons and WHA’s Cleveland Crusaders of the 1970′s).

The Lumberjacks’ days as an IHL dynasty ended when the team left Muskegon.  They never again appeared in a Turner Cup finals series.  But the team did feature some outstanding players, including two of the most prolific scorers in minor league hockey history – Jock Callander and Dave Michayluk, who both moved with the team from Muskegon.  The Lumberjacks also helped develop Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who spent part of the 1999-00 season in Cleveland before embarking on a decade-long career with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.

The IHL boom of the early 1990′s turned out to be a speculative bubble.  By the latter half of the decade, the 50-year old league was shedding franchises at an alarming rate.  The costs of seven-figure payrolls, cross-continental air travel and unfavorable leases at massive big city arenas were killing the league.  The Lumberjacks managed to hang in, but they had one of the worst leases in the league at Gund Arena, paying $10,000 per game with no participating in parking or concessions revenue.  By 2000, the club was reportedly more than $2 million in debt and on the verge of financial collapse.  Crowds, which occasionally topped 10,000 in the mid-1990′s, were down to only 2,700 paid per game in 1999-00, according to a 2001 expose by Cleveland Scene magazine.

On the eve of the 2000-01 season opener, Gordon sold the ‘Jacks to Hank Kassigkeit for $1.8 million and retired to Mexico.  Kassigkeit fancied himself as a turnaround specialist, but rapidly grew disenchanted as the money pit opened beneath him early in the 2000-01 campaign.  By the end of January 2001, after just four months of ownership, Kassigkeit was out a reported million bucks.  He threatened to fold the team immediately without completing the season.  The IHL sued Kassigkeit on January 30, 2001 for breach of contract.  Ultimately, the IHL and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild – parent club of the ‘Jacks – took over the franchise from Kassigkeit and let it finish out the season as a ward of the league.

The IHL terminated the franchise on May 23, 2001 after more than 40 years of play.  The league itself followed a few weeks later.

Pro hockey returned to Cleveland and Gund Arena the very next fall with the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League.

 

 

==Key Players==

  • Jock Callander
  • Dave Michayluk
  • Evgeni Nabokov

==In Memoriam==

Former Lumberjacks owner Larry Gordon died on March 19, 2013 at age 74.

 

==YouTube==

Lumberjacks vs. Atlanta Knights at the Richfield Coliseum, 1992.

Lumberjacks vs. Orlando Solar Bears at Gund Arena, April 1998.  2nd Round of IHL Turner Cup Playoffs.

 

==Downloads==

1992-93 Cleveland Lumberjacks Season Ticket Brochure

 

==Links==

February 2001 Cleveland Scene article on the financial collapse of the Lumberjacks.

Cleveland Lumberjacks All-Time Roster on HockeyDB.com

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

March 27th, 2013 at 1:59 pm