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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.


Team Colors:



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.



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.



The 3rd Intermission – Andrew Ferraro’s Aeros Blog 

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs



Written by andycrossley

January 25th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

1994-2000 Houston Hotshots

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Continental Indoor Soccer League (1994-1997)
World Indoor Soccer League (1999-2000)

Born: September 24, 1993 – CISL expansion franchise
Died: February 2001 – The Hotshots cease operations.


Team Colors: Red & Black

Owners: Giorgio Borlenghi & Alfredo Brener


The Houston Hotshots were an expansion franchise in the Continental Indoor Soccer League for the league’s sophomore season in the summer of 1994.   The CISL was a successor league to the Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1992), which popularized the sport of indoor soccer, but failed to find a sustainably business model and folded in July 1992.  Two MISL clubs – the Dallas Sidekicks and San Diego Sockers – joined the CISL.  A key difference from previous indoor leagues was the the CISL played during the summertime.  Many of the league’s investors were arena operators and/or NBA owners who were looking to fill empty summer dates in their buildings.

The Hotshots owner was Houston real estate developer Giorgio Borlenghi.  He owned the club for all six seasons of its existence.

During the CISL years (1994-1997) the Hotshots played in the old Houston Summit.  Announced attendance hovered in the 6,000 – 7,000 per game range during all four seasons.  The Hotshots appeared in the CISL Championship Series in back-to-back seasons, losing to Monterrey La Raza in 1996 and to the Seattle Seadogs in 1997.

Shortly after losing the 1997 CISL Championship Series, the Hotshots, the Dallas Sidekicks and the Portland Pride pulled out of the CISL in November 1997.  This caused the league to fold on December 23, 1997, although several former CISL members quickly regrouped to form the Premier Soccer Alliance, which played a short, low-profile season in the summer of 1998.

Borlenghi and the Hotshots sat out 1998, but returned in 1999 as members of the World Indoor Soccer League, which was the new name of the Premier Soccer Alliance.   As part of the relaunch, the Hotshots moved across town to the smaller Reliant Arena (formerly known as Astroarena).  The fans didn’t follow and the Hotshots drew poorly for two seasons of play in the WISL in 1999 and 2000.  Houston’s average draw of 2,887 per match in 2000 was the worst figure in the seven-team league.

In February 2001, Borlenghi folded the club, citing lack of fan, sponsor and media interest.

Odds n’ ends… a young midfielder named Diego Maradona played for the Hotshots for a few seasons in the mid-90’s.  He was the nephew of the Argentinean legend of the same name….the Hotshots mascot was named Pico de Goalie.



1996 Hotshots highlights video excerpt



Continental Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Continental Indoor Soccer League Programs

1994 Houston Hotshots Final Statistics on

1995 Houston Hotshots Final Statistics on



Written by andycrossley

February 12th, 2013 at 3:56 am

1978-1980 Houston Angels

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Houston AngelsWomen’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978 – WPBL founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1980 – The Angels cease operations.


Team Colors: Powder Blue & Dark Blue

Owner: Hugh Sweeney


Trivia question: what city won the first ever championship for women’s professional basketball in the United States?

Answer: Houston, Texas, where the Houston Angels captured the league title during the inaugural season of the Women’s Professional Basketball League in April of 1979.  The WPBL was the first attempt to create a fully-fledged pro league for women. It lasted three seasons from 1978 to 1981.  The Angels managed to hang in there for the first two only.

At the WPBL’s inaugural draft at Essex House in Manhattan in July 1978, the Angels selected UCLA star Ann Meyers with the #1 overall pick.  But Meyers declined to sign with the league, preferring to remain an amateur for the 1980 Moscow Olympics (which the U.S. subsequently boycotted).  Meyers would later join the WPBL’s New Jersey Gems for the league’s second season in 1979-80.

Houston AngelsDespite losing out on Meyers, the Angels raced out to the WPBL’s best regular season record (26-8) under Head Coach Don Knodel.  Top performers Belinda Candler (19.9 PPG) and Paula Mayo (15.9 PPG) were both named All-Pro.  The Angels met the Iowa Cornets in the WPBL Championship Series.  The best-of-five series went the distance, with the deciding Game 5 held at the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion before a crowd of 5,976.  The Angels bested the Cornets 111-104, thanks to a 36 point, 22 rebound performance by Mayo.

Angels owner Hugh Sweeneywas a Houston-area tennis promoter and former professional player (he had some notoriety as the last man to compete in pro tennis wearing long pants during the 1950’s).  Sweeney was not an especially wealthy owner and midway through the Angels second season, he and the team fell prey to a bizarre hoax.  In December 1979 Sweeney announced the sale of the team to an organization called Sports Resources International, Inc. for the sum of $1 million.  It was an eye-opening figure, as Sweeney and the other initial investors paid just $50,000 for their franchises when the WPBL formed in early 1978.

The sale was announced in the press, but something wasn’t right.  The principal investor of Sports Resources International was a fellow named Richard E. Klingler.  Klingler presented himself to the team at a practice session and behaved strangely, barely raising his voice above an inaudible murmur in his remarks to the team, according to women’s basketball historian Karra Porter in her WPBL history Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League.  Klingler, it turned out, was a blue collar laborer seeking media attention.

“He was like a machinist in a machine shop, and didn’t any more have a million dollars than you or me,” former Angels assistant coach Greg Williams told Porter.

Once the hoax came to light, it seemed to knock the wind out of the Angels organization.  Sweeney was out of money and needed the sale.  Shortly after Klingler was exposed in January 1980, Sweeney fell behind on rent payment to Hofheinz Pavilion to the tune of $8,800, forcing the postponement of a scheduled game against the Dallas Diamonds.    The Angels remained competitive on the court and the team managed to complete the season, winning the Western Division with a 19-14 record.  Paula Mayo and Belinda Candler were named to the All-Star team again.  The San Francisco Pioneers eliminated the Angels in the playoff quarterfinals, ending Houston’s run as league champions.

The team folded after the 1979-80 season, with the official announcement of the team’s demise coming in October 1980.


==Houston Angels Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1978-79 12/22/1978 vs. Chicago Hustle ?? Program Roster
1978-79 2/15/1979 @ Chicago Hustle L 106-105 Program
1978-79 2/16/1979  @ Minnesota Fillies  L 105-95 Program


==In Memoriam==

Former Angels owner Hugh Sweeney passed away in September 2008 at the age of 79.



December 22, 1978 Houston Angels Inaugural Home Game Program

1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

1978-79 Houston Angels Season Ticket Brochure

1979-80 Houston Angels Season Ticket Brochure



Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs



Written by andycrossley

January 9th, 2013 at 2:32 am

1996-2001 Texas Terror / Houston ThunderBears

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2000 Houston Thunderbears Media Guide
Arena Football League Media Guides
108 pages

The Arena Football League awarded a Houston, Texas expansion franchise to NBA Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander on October 26th, 1995.  Alexander, a former Wall Street stock trader who purchased the Rockets in 1993, named the team the Texas Terror and placed them in the Houston Summit, as part of his burgeoning local pro sports empire.  (Alexander would add a founding franchise in the WNBA – the Houston Comets – to his stable in 1997).

The Terror debuted at The Summit on April 27th, 1996.  An announced crowd of 11,501 watched the Terror drop a low-scoring (by Arena Football standards) 36-24 decision to another expansion club, the Minnesota Fighting Pike.  The Terror  were non-competitive under Head Coach John Paul Young, losing their first 11 games, en route to a 1-13 record, second worst in the 15-team league in 1996.  The club lost all seven of its home games, which were played before an announced average of 9,006 fans per game.

Dave Ewart replaced Young as Head Coach prior to the 1997 campaign.  Under Ewart, the Terror improved noticeably on the field to 6-8, but at the box office the season was a disaster.  Only 3,624 turned out for the Terror’s second season debut against Kurt Warner and the Iowa Barnstormers on May 2, 1997.  Announced attendance for seven home dates plunged more than 50% down to 4,153 on average, second worst in the league in 1997.

In December 1997, Alexander and his executives scrapped the Texas Terror brand concept.  The team was not resonating, for whatever reason – losing, a “statewide” identity that didn’t speak to the Houston community, or perhaps the Terror’s cartoonish, Frankenstein-inspired aesthetic which seemed about as intimidating as a box of Franken-Berry children’s cereal.  The franchise continued under Alexander’s ownership and was re-branded the Houston ThunderBears.

New name, same problems.

The Thunderbears trotted out their new “Thunder Blue, Touchdown Teal and Electric Orange” colors on May 9th, 1998 at the Compaq Center.  (Another offseason re-branding project…after nearly a quarter century as the Houston Summit, the personal computing giant bought naming rights to the building in late 1997.).  Only 4,629 curiosity-seekers turned out to see the ThunderBears defeat the Florida Bobcats.  It was the last time the would crack the 4,000 mark all season, except for a season finale outlier crowd of 9,734, a number which would seem to have all the hallmarks of a massive discounting/comping effort.

On the field, at least, the team continued to improve under new Head Coach Steve Thonn.  The ThunderBears won the Central Division title with an 8-6 record, riding the arm of former East Texas State quarterback Clint Dolezel who threw 81 touchdown passes.  The Arizona Rattlers eliminated the T-Bears in the first round of the Arena Football playoffs in August 1998.

Under Thonn, the Thunderbears led the Arena Football League in total offense for three consecutive years from 1998 to 2000, but the club fell back to losing records in 1999 and 2000, failing to return to the playoffs.  Attendance bottomed out in 1999, when the club averaged  a  league-worst 3,022 fans.  This included an embarrassing crowd of 1,517 for a May 1st, 1999 game against the Grand Rapids Rampage at Compaq Center – the smallest announced figure in the league’s 13-year history.

Under the circumstances, it was remarkable that Leslie Alexander hung in for as long as he did.  On February 16th, 2001, on the eve of the team’s 6th season, Alexander sold the franchise back to the Arena Football League for an undisclosed sum.  The league designated the now homeless T-Bears as a travel team, barnstorming across the country to gauge interest for expansion franchises for Arena Football 2, the small market developmental league.  The T-Bears “home games” would be played in far flung cities such as Bismarck (ND), Charleston (WV), Fresno (CA), Lubbock (TX) and Madison (WI).

The ThunderBears finished their final season in last place in Arena Football’s Western Division with a 3-11 record.  Arena Football folded the club following the 2001 season.


Forbes named former Terror/ThunderBears owner Leslie Alexander to its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans on several occasions between 2000 and 2006, with a personal net worth as high as $1.2 billion in 2006.  In December 2008, Forbes named Alexander as the NBA’s best owner.  He continues to own the Houston Rockets, although he divested himself of the WNBA’s Houston Comets in early 2007.

The Houston Summit/Compaq Center was rendered obsolete with the construction of the Toyota Center in 2003.  The former Summit building now hosts Houston’s Lakewood mega church, whose ubiquitous pastor and self-help author Joel Osteen broadcasts his sermons to more than 100 nations worldwide from the former arena.

Former Terror/Thundbears quarterback Clint Dolezel left the team prior to the 2000 season to sign with the Chicago Bears.  He was cut in training camp and returned to the Arena Football League in 2001, where he went on to establish numerous career passing records, including becoming the first player to pass for 900 career touchdowns indoors.  As of 2011, he is the Head Coach of the Arena Football League’s Dallas Vigilantes.


Texas Terror/Houston ThunderBears Sources

1978-1980 Houston Summit Soccer

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Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978 – MISL founding franchise.
Died: May 1, 1980 – The Summit relocate to Baltimore, MD.

Arena: The Summit (15,208)

Team Colors:

  • 1978-79: White, Red & Orange
  • 1979-80: Orange & Maroon




If you can’t buy a championship calibre team, rent one.  It’s an unusual approach in American sports, to be sure, but not unprecedented, particularly in the world of soccer.  Faced with a hurried 1967 launch to keep pace with a competitor, Jack Kent Cooke and Lamar Hunt’s United Soccer Association (USA) consisted of twelve imported European and South American club teams who spent their offseasons playing under pseudonyms in American cities.  In October 1978, Earl Foreman, the former owner of the USA’s Washington Whips, announced the formation of the six-team Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).  With only two months to assemble rosters before the MISL’s December 1978 launch, two clubs – Houston Summit Soccer and the New York Arrows – elected to lease rosters from nearby North American Soccer League (NASL) outdoor clubs.

Of the two, the Houston Summit took the more fully outsourced approach, striking a lease deal with the NASL’s Houston Hurricane for 15 players to stock the entire opening day roster, plus the Hurricane coaching staff of Head Coach Timo Liekoski and assistant Jay Hoffman.  The Arrows made a similar arrangement with the NASL’s Rochester Lancers, but unlike the Summit, the New Yorkers also signed a few players on their own, including the league’s eventual MVP Steve Zungul.

Summit Soccer took its unusual name from its home arena, the $18 million Houston Summit, constructed in 1975.  The team’s original owner was the Arena Operating Co., the private management company formed to operate the city-owned building by Summit developer and Houston Rockets NBA owner Kenneth Schnitzer.  Arena Operating Co. reportedly took an interest in the start-up MISL to fill winter time dates at the Summit after the shut down of the Schnitzer-controlled Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association during the summer of 1978.  Summit arena President Burrell Cohen served a dual role as President and General Manager of Summit Soccer.

The rent-a-team model worked wonders for both Houston Summit Soccer and the New York Arrows during the 1978-79 MISL season.  The Summit finished the regular season in first place among the MISL’s six clubs with an 18-6 record.  The Arrows tied for second place at 16-8 and went on to win the championship after the Philadelphia Fever upset the Summit during the semi-finals.  Summit forward Kai Haaskivi finished third in the league in scoring in 1978-79 with 39 goals and 64 points, and was joined in the MISL’s top ten by Ian Anderson, Stewart Jump and John Stremlau.  Goalkeeper Paul Hammond posted a 13-3 record and a league-best 4.16 goals against average to earn 1978-79 MISL Goalkeeper-of-the-Year honors.  Liekoski was named Coach of the Year.

In the spring of 1979, the NASL moved forward with plans for a full-fledged winter indoor league of their own, to head off the threat from the MISL.  The Houston Hurricane announced their intention to play NASL indoor soccer in Houston and that they would therefore terminate their agreement to loan players to Houston Summit Soccer for the 1979-80 season.  But the Summit was the only suitable site in Houston that met NASL standards and Arena Operating Corp. controlled it.  When the 1979-80 NASL indoor season kicked off in November 1979, only 10 of the 24 NASL clubs participated.  The Hurricane sat out the season.

Meanwhile, Arena Operating Corp. got out of the professional soccer business.  New York developer Bernie Rodin, a part owner of the NASL’s Rochester Lancers, purchased the Houston Summit Soccer in 1979 for a price reportedly between $500,000 and $1,000,000.

Liekoski departed as Head Coach and Rodin replaced him with former Dallas Tornado player Kenny Cooper.  On the field, Houston Summit Soccer didn’t miss a beat under Cooper.  The club finished the 1979-80 season in first place in the MISL’s Central Division with a 20-12 record.  Haaskivi once again finished third in the league in scoring.  Sepp Gantenhammer replaced the departed Paul Hammond in goal and, like Hammond the year before, earned MISL Goalkeeper-of-the-Year honors.  In the playoffs, Summit Soccer swept the expansion Wichita Wings in the semi-finals to earn a spot in the title game against the defending MISL champion New York Arrows at Nassau Coliseum in March 1980.  The Arrows defeated Summit Soccer 7-4.

Off the field, the Summit ranked near the bottom of the ten-team MISL in attendance in 1979-80 despite two seasons of winning soccer.  Rodin pegged his operating losses in Houston at $750,000 for the season.  In late March 1980 as the Summit advanced through the playoffs, team and league officials acknowledged that Rodin intended to move his club to the Baltimore Civic Center for the 1980-81 season.

On March 27th, 1980 the Houston Hurricane of the NASL filed suit against Houston Summit Soccer, seeking to block the move until Rodin made payments of $94,560 in unpaid player loan fees and other claims.  The suit delayed the move only temporarily and the club’s arrival in Baltimore was made official on May 1st, 1980.  The relocated club took on the new name “Baltimore Blast” and became one of the most enduring and successful indoor soccer teams of the 1980’s.


Bernie Rodin sold the Blast in February 1984 to Nathan Scherr, a man who had never seen an indoor soccer game, for $2.9 million.

The franchise that began life as the Houston Summit in 1978 lasted until the original Baltimore Blast folded along with the rest of the MISL in July 1992.  Kenny Cooper moved with the team from Houston and coached the original incarnation of the club for its entire existence in Baltimore.  The name has subsequently been revived by a successor club that also plays at the Baltimore Civic Center.





Houston Summit Sources



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Written by andycrossley

June 24th, 2011 at 11:16 am