The Oklahoma City Twisters were a one-year entry in the Minor League Football System (1989-1990), an ambitious if rather ramshackle attempt to form a nationwide feeder league for the NFL. Twisters owner Ed Watkins was one of the league’s founders.
The Twisters hired former Detroit Lions head coach (1985-1988) Darryl Rogers as Head Coach and General Manager. (Rogers would leave midway through the 1990 season). Rogers used his connections to put together an intriguing roster for what amounted to a semi-pro football team. Former Oklahoma State and Detroit Lions quarterback Rusty Hilger started the Twisters’ first game before returning to the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive lineman Ben Rudolph played five seasons with the New York Jets from 1981 to 1986. Former OU running back Rod Pegues, a backfield mate of Herschel Walker with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, was in camp with Twisters, although it’s not cleared if he made the team.
The Twisters finished their only season with a 7-2 record. The Minor League Football System folded up shop following the 1990 season.
The Twisters played their home games at Robert Kalsu Stadium in Del City. The 5,500-seat high school field was named in honor of Oklahoma City native Bob Kalsu, who died in action in South Vietnam in 1970. Kalsu, who played one season with the Buffalo Bills in 1968, was one of two NFL/AFL to perish in the Vietnam War.
The Oklahoma City Stars hockey team was a minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars (1978-1981) and Calgary Flames (1981-1982) for four seasons. The team replaced the once-popular Oklahoma City Blazers (1965-1977) on the local hockey scene after the Blazers went dark a year earlier. Both the Blazers and the Stars competed in the Central Hockey League (1963-1984).
The best player to come out of Oklahoma City during the Stars era was undrafted free agent Dino Ciccarelli. The 19-year old Ontario native signed with the North Stars in September 1979 after getting ignored in the NHL entry draft. He made his pro debut in Oklahoma City late in the 1979-80 CHL season. Ciccarelli spent most of the 1980-81 campaign in Oklahoma, scoring 32 goals in 48 games. By springtime he was in the NHL, scoring 14 playoff goals as a key member of Minnesota’s Stanley Cup finalist squad in 1981. Ciccarelli went on to play 19 seasons in the NHL and his 608 career goals are the most ever by an undrafted free agent player. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Class of 2010.
By the early 1980’s, the Central Hockey League was under severe financial strain, due in part to broad geographic expansion that required more and more air travel. The Stars competed against teams as far afield as Cincinnati, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama. Late in the 1981-82 season, the Stars declared bankruptcy. Local owner John Hail estimated the club ran a deficit of approximately $1.1 million in its final season, with local investors on the hook for $400,000 and parent club Calgary Flames footing an additional $700,000 in costs.
The Stars went of out of business in the spring of 1982. The CHL followed two years later in May 1984. Pro hockey returned to Oklahoma City a decade later with the formation of the Oklahoma City Blazers in a new version of the Central Hockey League in 1992.
The Oklahoma Coyotes played two seasons of summer Roller Hockey at the Myriad Convention Center. The franchise began life in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994 as an expansion team in Roller Hockey International, but left after one season of disappointing attendance in that city’s Omni Coliseum. The new Oklahoma investors, Don Smith of Oklahoma City and John O’Shea of New York, hoped to capitalize on the massive popularity at the time of the Oklahoma City Blazers ice hockey team. During the mid-1990’s the Blazers were one of the biggest box office draws in all of minor league hockey.
The success of the Blazers failed to rub off. The Coyotes averaged an estimated 2,200 fans per game during their two-year residency at the 13,000-seat Myriad. In December 1996, local investor Don Smith gave up his interest in the team, leaving no real connection to the city. The team claimed it couldn’t get decent dates for the summer of 1997 at the Myriad and explored moving permanently to Billy Balloo’s, a recreational roller hockey arena that already served as the Coyote’s practice facility. When that move failed, the Coyotes withdrew from Roller Hockey International in February 1997 to re-group and attempt to return to play in 1998. In December 1997, the Coyotes moved their operations to Loas Vegas.
RHI itself shut down in late 1997 to re-organize and did not play in 1998. The league made a comeback attempt in 1999 and long-time Coyotes owner John O’Shea took the team out of mothballs after a two-and-a-half year absence. The Las Vegas Coyotes played one final campaign at a 1,500-seat arena in Nevada before Roller Hockey International went out of business for good in 2000.
Down on the rink, the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs in either of their seasons in Oklahoma. Winger Doug Lawrence was a bright spot in 1995, leading RHI in total scoring (23 goals, 68 assists).
The Oklahoma City Slickers were an expansion entry in the American Soccer League in the spring of 1982. The ASL was a de facto 2nd Division league that traced its roots back to the early 1930’s. By the time the Slickers entered the league in 1982, the ASL was on its last legs, doomed by over expansion, invisibility and constant franchise turnover.
Slickers Head Coach Brian Harvey put together a stellar expansion side, led by English NASL veterans Phil Parkes in goal and Jeff Bourne at forward. Parkes played all 28 games, posting a 19-6-3 record. Bourne finished third in the ASL in scoring with 20 goals and eight assists.
The Slickers carried a 13-match winning streak into the best-of-three ASL championship series against the Detroit Express in late September 1982. The Slickers won the first match on the road at the Pontiac Silverdome and had the chance to ice the series at home, where the Slickers had a 15-game unbeaten streak. But the Express scored two late goals to defeat the Slickers 2-0 at Taft Stadium and send the series back to Pontiac for a deciding Game Three. The Express won the rubber match 4-1 before an announced crowd of 33,762 at the Silverdome on September 22, 1982.
By the 1983 season, the ASL had dwindled to just six franchises, with five southern clubs scattered from Dallas to Charlotte, plus Allentown, Pennsylvania. The team was unable to retain Jeff Bourne who joined the ASL’s lone expansion club in Dallas. Phil Parkes returned for part of the season, but the Slickers sold his contract to the Toronto Blizzard of the North American Soccer League in early July 1983. Brian Harvey’s team could not recapture the magic of the first season and the Slickers dropped to a league-worst record of 8-17.
In late 1983, the American Soccer League finally threw in the towel after 51 years of operation. The Slickers joined three other ASL clubs – the Rochester Flash, the Dallas American and the Jacksonville Tea Men – to help form a successor organization, the United Soccer League. The USL debuted in the spring of 1984 with nine franchises. The USL intended to operated year-round, playing both indoor and outdoor soccer, something the ASL had never attempted. The league also made a firm commitment to Americanization, requiring that fourteen of the eighteen players on each roster be Americans.
As part of the shift to the new league, the Slickers changed their name to the Oklahoma City Stampede for the 1984 season. The Stampede bounced back in a big way from the disappointment of the 1983 season. NASL veterans Thompson Usiyan and David Kemp provided a new scoring punch, finishing 2nd and 3rd in the league in total points. Jamaican-born Delroy Allen handled the bulk of the goalkeeping duties.
The Stampede finished the 1984 USL season at 15-9, tied for the best record in the league. The Houston Dynamos eliminated the Stampede in the semi-finals in a mild upset.
Following the 1984 season, six of the nine USL franchises folded or withdrew from the league. Stampede owner David Fraser moved his club to Skelly Stadium in Tulsa and renamed it the Tulsa Tornados. Brian Harvey was once again tabbed to coach.
The 1985 USL season was a disaster from the word go. Just one week into the campaign, the Tornados cancelled their June 1st home game after the team missed its payroll and the unpaid players balked. The league played only six matches in total before creditors foreclosed on the league, forcing its shutdown in midseason. Coupled with the demise of the 1st Division North American Soccer League several months earlier, this left the United States without any league for professional outdoor soccer during 1985.