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1992-1996 Atlanta Knights

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Atlanta Knights ProgramInternational Hockey League (1992-1996)

Born: 1992 – IHL expansion franchise.
Moved: May 1, 1996 (Quebec Rafales)

Arena: The Omni (15,207)

Team Colors: Black, Light Blue, Silver & Yellow

Owners: Richard Adler & David Berkman

 

The Atlanta Knights were a minor league hockey franchise that played at the Omni Coliseum from 1992 through 1996.  The arrival of the Knights marked the return of pro hockey to Atlanta for the first time since 1980, when the NHL’s Atlanta Flames departed for Calgary.

The Knights served as the top farm club to the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, who also entered their inaugural season in the fall of 1992.  Atlanta would end up benefitting from the stunt casting undertaken by Lightning President & GM Phil Esposito as he stocked Tampa’s roster with an apparent eye towards selling tickets.  Esposito expended a 3rd round draft pick on Wayne Gretzky’s younger brother Brent, who would spend most of the next three season with the Knights.

Manon Rheaume Atlanta KnightsEsposito also signed 20-year old female goaltender Manon Rheaume and played her in a September 1992 NHL exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues.  The move generated huge notoriety for Rheaume, which carried over when Tampa assigned her to Atlanta for the regular season.  The day after the Knights played their inaugural home game at the Omni on October 17, 1992, the New York Times ran a lengthy profile on Rheaume by George Vecsey.  The International Hockey League didn’t earn too many write-ups in The Times.

What wasn’t immediately clear was whether Reaume would ever get to play.  The Knights were embarrassed early in the 1992-93 season by press reports that the team circulated a memo to other IHL clubs, offering to bring Reaume on the road only if the home team reimbursed her expenses.  The implication was that Rheaume was a promotional attraction like the San Diego Chicken or Krazy George.  The Knights denied the report.

On December 19, 1992, Head Coach Gene Ubriaco inserted Rheaume into a game against the Salt Lake Golden Eagles at the Omni in relief of starter David Littman.  Rheaume saved two of three shots and became the first female player to play in a professional hockey game in North America.

Rheaume aside, the Knights had an outstanding club in 1992-93.  Gretzky was solid in his rookie pro season (20 goals, 34 assists).  Atlanta’s oldest player was 31-year old minor league legend Jock Callander (34 goals, 50 assists).  Callander would go on to become the all-time leading scorer in the IHL’s six decade life span.  Leading scorer Keith Osborne (40 goals, 49 assists) was a career minor-leaguer who never had another season close to this good.  The goaltending tandem of Littman (23-12-4) and Jean-Claude Bergeron (21-7-1) was among the best in the IHL.

By April 1993, the Knights had the IHL’s Atlantic Division clinched.  The expansion club would finish with the 2nd best record in the league at 52-23-7.  On April 10, 1993, the final weekend of the regular season, Gene Ubriaco started Manon Rheaume in net against the Cincinnati Cyclones.  It was Rheaume’s first appearance since her brief 5-minute relief stint back in December.  A sell-out crowd of 15,127 showed up at the Omni to cheer her on.  Rheaume knocked away 11 of 12 shots in the 1st period, but wore down in the 2nd and allowed six goals in an 8-6 loss.  Rheaume never skated for the Knights again, but played sporadically for many other men’s pro teams during the 1990’s and won an Olympic silver medal with Canada’s women’s team at the Nagano Olympics in 1998.

The Knights’ debut season came to an end with a 4-0 series sweep loss to the Fort Wayne Komets in the 1993 Turner Cup semi-finals.

Atlanta KnightsAlthough leading scorers Keith Osborne and Jock Callander did not return in 1993, the Knights remained one of the IHL’s best clubs in their second season.  Stan Drulia more than filled the scoring void (54 goals, 60 assists).  Newcomers  Steve Larouche (43 goals) and Jeff Madill (42 goals) also had big campaigns.

With 17 games left in the regular season, Gene Ubriaco left the Knights to join the Tampa Bay Lightning scouting department.  The Knights made history again with his replacement, John Paris Jr.  Knights ownership had already hired Paris to coach the Atlanta Fire Ants, a new professional roller hockey team set to play at the Omni in the summer of 1994. When Ubriaco departed, Paris was asked to take over the Knights for the rest of the IHL season as well.  Paris thus became the first African-American head coach of a North American pro hockey team.  Under Paris, the Knights won their division again and went on a terrific run through the playoffs.  On May 25, 1994, the defeated the Fort Wayne Komets at the Omni to win the Turner Cup (see video below).

The 1994 Turner Cup victory was the high water mark for the Knights franchise.  With the imminent demolition of the Omni in 1997 and Atlanta’s effort to attract an NHL expansion club with the construction of Phillips Arena, the Knights’ future grew murky.  In May 1996, after four seasons in Atlanta, team owners Richard Adler and David Berkman shifted the franchise to Quebec City to replace the NHL’s departing Quebec Nordiques at Le Colisee.  The move proved to be an unhappy one.  Renamed the Quebec Rafales, the club lasted only two years before going out of business in 1998.  The IHL closed down after 56 seasons in 2001.

 

==Atlanta Knights Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1992-93

1992-93 10/17/1992 vs. Cincinnati Cyclones W 7-5 Program Rosters

1995-96

1994-95 11/3/1992 vs. Soviet Wings W 7-3 Video

 

==YouTube==

Manon Rheaume’s debut as the first female pro hockey player.  Knights vs. Salt Lake Golden Eagles. December 13, 1992.

The Knights win the Turner Cup at the Omni. May 25, 1994

 

==Links==

Paris helped put Atlanta hockey on the map“, Adam Kimelman, NHL.com, January 14, 2008

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 1st, 2015 at 3:42 pm

1994-1996 Minnesota Moose

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1995-96 Minnesota MooseInternational Hockey League (1994-1996)

Born: December 16, 1993 – IHL expansion franchise.
Died: 1996 – The Moose relocate to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Dark Purple, Forest Green & Black

Owners: Kevin MacLean & Roger Sturgeon

 

The Minnesota Moose were a high-caliber minor league hockey team that played two seasons in the Twin Cities shortly after the departure of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars for Dallas in 1993.  The Moose played out of the Saint Paul Civic Center, but also played 14 dates at the Target Center in Minneapolis during their second and final season.

The Moose’ debut game in St. Paul on October 7, 1994 – a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals – attracted 11,652 fans.  Attendance dropped off quickly and the Moose finished the year ranked 12th in the 17-team International Hockey League with average crowds of 6,787 – a somewhat disconcerting result for an expansion team in what should have been its honeymoon phase.  On the plus side, the team’s fun, eye-catching logo was a big hit.  The Hockey News named the Minnesota Moose logo as the best in all of minor league hockey in February 1995 and the team would later claim an eye-popping $1.3 million in souvenir sales during their inaugural season.

Minnesota Moose IHLOn the ice, the Moose squeaked into the 1995 Turner Cup playoffs with  34-35-12 record.  They were swiftly dispatched by the eventual champion Denver Grizzlies in a three-game sweep in the first round.  Center Stephane Morin led the IHL in scoring with 38 goals and 71 assists.  The team’s big name was Minnesota native Dave Christian, a 14-year NHL veteran and member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey “Miracle On Ice” squad.  Christian finished second on the team in scoring with a 38-42-80 line.

In 1995 the City of St. Paul launched a courtship to persuade the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets to relocate to Minnesota.  The prospect of the NHL returning to the Twin Cities further eroded interest in the Moose.  Ultimately the Jets moved to Arizona instead, but the experience seemed to sap the enthusiasm of Moose ownership.  A few days after the Jets’ move to Phoenix was revealed in December 1995, the Moose announced a sale and relocation of their own – to Winnipeg, of all places, to replace the Jets at Winnipeg Arena.

The Moose played out their second and final season in Minnesota as lame ducks.  They missed the playoffs with a 30-45-7 record.

The franchise flourished in Winnipeg, lasting 15 seasons at the Manitoba Moose.  The team was displaced by the NHL (and the Jets!) once again in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg to become a revival of the Winnipeg Jets.  The hockey franchise that started out as the Minnesota Moose in 1995 to Newfoundland and plays on today as the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League.

 

==Minnesota Moose Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1995-96 10/5/1995  @ Los Angeles Ice Dogs ?? Program

 

==Downloads==

1995 Minnesota Moose Postseason Review & Media Guide

 

==Links==

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

September 16th, 2014 at 3:10 am

1962-1981 Port Huron Flags & Port Huron Wings

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Port Huron FlagsInternational Hockey League (1962-1981)

Born: 1962 – IHL expansion franchise.
Died: 1981 – The Flags cease operations.

Arena: McMorran Arena (3,582)

Team Colors: Red & White

Owners:

 

The Port Huron Flags were a long-standing minor league hockey outfit in the small northern Michigan border city of Port Huron (pop. 30,000).  From the 1971 through 1974, a period that saw Port Huron affiliated with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, the team was briefly known as the “Port Huron Wings“.

The Flags/Wings played in the International Hockey League’s Turner Cup championship series seven times in 19 seasons, winning the crown in 1966, 1971 and 1972.

The Flags folded after the 1980-81 season.

 

==Port Huron Flags Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
11/16/1963 @ Fort Wayne Komets ?? Program
1/27/1979 @ Toledo Goaldiggers ?? Program
4/13/1979 vs. Flint Generals  ?? Program

 

==Links==

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

June 17th, 2014 at 1:37 pm

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.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

 

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.

 

==YouTube==

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.

 

==Links==

The 3rd Intermission – Andrew Ferraro’s Aeros Blog 

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 25th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

1982-1984 Peoria Prancers

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International  Hockey League (1982-1984)

Born: 1982 – IHL expansion franchise.
Died: Summer 1984 – Re-branded as Peoria Rivermen.

Arena: Peoria Civic Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Ken Wilson

 

The Peoria Prancers were a short-lived farm club of the New York Rangers notable mainly for having perhaps the least intimidating name in the history of pro hockey.  The club was owned by a long-time itinerant minor league hockey executive Ken Wilson.  Wilson ran out of money in 1984 after two losing seasons and handed the keys to the franchise back to the International Hockey League.  The money-losing Peoria Civic Center, faced with the loss of 40 booked dates at the building in the winter of 1984-85, agreed to buy the team, but quickly changed the name to the infinitely manlier Peoria Rivermen prior to the 1984-85 IHL season.

 

==Links==

International Hockey League Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by andycrossley

January 24th, 2014 at 2:56 am