Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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2002-2005 Cleveland Force

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Cleveland Force ProgramMajor Indoor Soccer League (2002-2005)

Born: August 2002 – Re-branded from Cleveland Crunch.
Folded: Postseason 2005

Arena: CSU Convocation Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Richard Dietrich, Michael Gibbons & Paul Garofalo

 

Cleveland was long a hotbed of professional indoor soccer.  The city’s original Cleveland Force (1978-1988) was the model franchise of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), attracting huge crowds to the Richfield Coliseum in the mid-80’s.  The Force folded in 1988, but were quickly replaced by the Cleveland Crunch (1989-2002) indoor squad.

By the early 2000’s, the fortunes indoor game were in sharp decline.  The premier indoor league at the time was the National Professional Soccer League, whose membership included the Crunch.  In 2001, the NPSL re-branded itself as the Major Indoor Soccer League, in the hopes of scaring up some nostalgia for the long-defunct indoor brand of the 1980’s.

Crunch management followed suit in August 2002. The franchise dropped the Crunch identity after 13 seasons in favor of reviving the Force name and colors. Team President Paul Garofalo, a former executive with the original Force franchise of the 80’s, predicted the name change alone would increase team revenues by one million dollars annually.

Garofalo’s optimism was misplaced.  Force attendance muddled along at the 4,000 – 5,000 per game level – basically unchanged from the later years of the Crunch.  Majority owner Richard Dietrich gave up hope during the third season of the Force re-boot, announcing the club was for sale in March 2005.  With no takers, the team folded following the 2004-05 MISL season.

As far as the team on the carpet, Force 2.0 were decent.  Indoor soccer’s all-time leading scorer, Hector Marinaro, played for the Force from 2002-2004.  Marinaro was a holdover from the great Crunch indoor teams that won three championships during the 1990’s. But the Force let Marinaro go in the MISL expansion draft in the summer of 2004.

The Force made the MISL playoffs in each of their three seasons.  The final Force team made it to the 2005 MISL Championship Series where they lost in a two-game sweep to the Milwaukee Wave.  The club never played another game.

 

==YouTube==

The Force in their retro Reflex Blue & Yellow unis, on the road against the Chicago Storm. March 19th, 2005

 

==Links==

2001-Present Indoor Soccer Media Guides

2001-Present Indoor Soccer Programs

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1975-1982 Cleveland Cobras

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Cleveland Cobras ProgramAmerican Soccer League (1975-1981)
Independent (1982)

Born: 1975 – Cleveland Stars re-branded as Cleveland Cobras.
Moved: January/February 1982 (Georgia Generals)

Stadium: Finnie Stadium

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

The Cleveland Cobras were a lower-division American pro soccer club, active through the mid-70’s and into the early 1980’s.  The team started out as the Cleveland Stars (1972-1974) before changing to the Cobras name in 1975.  The Cobras played their home matches on the campus of Baldwin-Wallace University in suburban Berea.  Cobras matches typically drew crowds in the low thousands.

The franchise was sold and relocated to new ownership in suburban Atlanta in early 1982, where it became known as the Georgia Generals.  The Generals played only a single year before folding.

With the original Cobras departed, a new team organized under the Cobras name and announced plans to play a short exhibition schedule against American Soccer League opponents in 1982.  The idea was to re-organize the team and apply for reinstatement to the ASL in 1983, but that never came to pass.  At least one of these exhibition matches was held in the spring of 1982, but the team faded away quietly later that year, never to be heard from again.

 

==Slideshow==

 

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

Date Opponent Score Program Other

1977

1977 8/10/1977 @ New Jersey Americans L 3-0 Program

1978

1978 5/26/1978 vs. Los Angeles Skyhawks L 2-1 Program
1978 7/29/1978 @ Southern California Lazers Program Roster

1980

1980 7/29/1980  vs. Partizan Belgrade L 4-1 Program

 

==Downloads==

1978 American Soccer League Attendance Report

 

==Links==

American Soccer League Media Guides

American Soccer League Programs

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Written by AC

April 8th, 2015 at 2:21 am

July 29, 1980 – Cleveland Cobras vs. Partizan Belgrade

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Jacob Shanee Cleveland CobrasCleveland Cobras vs. Partizan Belgrade
July 29, 1980
Finnie Stadium
Attendance: 4,627

American Soccer League Programs

 

This eye-catching match program comes from an international friendly between the Cleveland Cobras of the 2nd Division American Soccer League and Partizan Belgrade, the 8-time champions of the Yugoslav First League.

Throughout the late 1970’s and into 1980, Cobras management imported a series of foreign clubs to Cleveland.  This July 1980 contest against Partizan was the last such exhibition the Cobras would ever play and it was one of the most compelling.  Thomas Hatfield, in his exhaustive History of Soccer in Greater Cleveland From 1906 Until 1981, reports that Croatian protesters burned the Yugoslavian flag before the match.  The crowd of 4,627 at Finnie Stadium on the campus of Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea was one of the largest in club history for the Cobras.

Cleveland State grad Walter Schlothauer spotted the Cobras a 1-0 lead in the first half.  The Ohio native would go on to win ASL Rookie-of-the-Year honors at the end of the 1980 season.  Cleveland keeper Marine Cano held Partizan scoreless in the first half.  Partizan unloaded in the 2nd half though, roughing up Cano’s replacement, Fred Bass, with four goals after intermission.

Dzevad Prekazi of Partizan was named offensive Man of the Match, with one goal and one assist on 9 shots.  Prekazi went on to become a star for Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray in the late 1980’s.  He also returned to the United States briefly in the winter of the 1984-85, where he played under the name “Jeff Prekazi” with the Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Jacob Shanee of the Cobras is pictured on the cover of the evening’s match program.

 

==Links==

Cleveland Cobras Home Page

More ASL International Friendlies

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Written by AC

November 16th, 2014 at 3:42 pm

1992-1994 Cleveland Thunderbolts

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Cleveland ThunderboltsArena Football League (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – The Columbus Thunderbolts relocate to Cleveland, OH
Folded: Postseason 1994

Arena: Richfield Coliseum (17,606)

Team Colors: Black, Silver & Purple

Owners:

  • 1992-1993: John Kuczek
  • 1994: Robert H. Crane, Kuczek family trust

Arena Bowl Championships: None

 

The Cleveland Thunderbolts were a bottom-dwelling Arena Football League franchise that played for three seasons at the suburban Richfield Coliseum from 1992 to 1994.  The Thunderbolts originated an expansion team in Columbus, Ohio in 1991.  After a winless (0-10) campaign playing in small agriculture fairgrounds arena in Columbus, the team was sold to Ohio insurance salesman John Kuczek in late 1991 and he moved the T-Bolts to Cleveland.

Cleveland ThunderboltsThe T-Bolts were one of the weakest entries in the Arena League in the mid-1990’s, posting an 8-26 record during their three seasons in Cleveland, including back-to-back 2-10 campaigns in 1993 and 1993.  During their brief run, the team signed two big names from the world of college football.  Quarterback Major Harris, a holdover from the 1991 Columbus team, played for the T-Bolts in 1992 and 1994.  Harris was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist (1988 & 1989) at West Virginia.   He never played in the NFL and his Arena Football career was not ultimately that distinguished.  He was one of the league’s premier rushers as a scrambling QB, but the ground attack was not a major factor in the indoor game.

The other big name, at least locally, was head coach Earle Bruce, formerly of Ohio State University.  Bruce was hired to turn around the team in 1994, but ultimately produced an identical 2-10 last place finished as his predecessor Dave Whinham did in 1993.  Bruce resigned shortly after the 1994 season.

The Thunderbolts were run as a family business. Team owner John Kuczek was an insurance broker from Boardman, Ohio.  His son Jeff was the team’s General Manager.  Early in the T-Bolts short existence in Cleveland, John Kuczek was implicated in a federal securities fraud case in Florida.  Prior to the team’s second season in 1993, the elder Kuczek divested himself of ownership in the club and placed it in a trust for his grandchildren.  Son Jeff continued as the front office leader of the organization.  Kuczek was ultimately convicted on one count of the indictment.  The day before he was due to begin serving his sentence in February 1995, he committed suicide in a Salem, Ohio hotel room.

The Cleveland Thunderbolts did not return for the 1995 season.  Arena Football returned to Cleveland in 2008 with the arrival of the Cleveland Gladiators, a transplanted franchise from Las Vegas.  The Gladiators continue to play today under the ownership of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

 

Cleveland Thunderbolts Memorabilia

 

Cleveland Thunderbolts Video

One of the final Thunderbolts games – on the road against the Milwaukee Mustangs on July 22, 1994.

 

 

Downloads

1992 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

1993 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

 

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

##

Written by AC

May 4th, 2014 at 12:01 am

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

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