Pacific Hockey League (1978-1979)
Born: 1978 – Re-branded from San Diego Mariners.
Died: 1979 – The Hawks cease operations.
Arena: San Diego Sports Arena
Owner: Elmer Jonnet
The San Diego Hawks were a minor league ice hockey team that lasted just one winter in the Pacific Hockey League.
The PHL debuted the year before as a sort of minor league offshoot of the World Hockey Association, a 1970′s rival to the National Hockey League. The WHA had flamed out in several Western cities, including San Diego and Phoenix. The PHL’s first season in 1977-78 featured only four teams, including the San Diego Mariners and the Phoenix Roadrunners, both of whom revived their WHA-era team names and logos. The Mariners were owned by San Diego Sports Arena owner Peter Graham.
In the summer of 1978 Graham sold the Mariners to Pittsburgh real estate developer Elmer Jonnet. Jonnet changed the team’s name to the San Diego Hawks and opened up his wallet to sign a roster full of World Hockey Association veterans. The Hawks also featured 42-year old San Diego hockey icon Willie O’Ree, who was a mainstay for the San Diego Gulls of the Western League from 1967 to 1974. Way back in 1958, O’Ree was the first black player to play in the NHL when he played in two games for the Boston Bruins, but he spent most of the next two decades in the minors. This was his final season and he played well, scoring 21 goals and adding 25 assists for the Hawks.
The Pacific Hockey League entered the 1978-79 season with six franchises but quickly lost two when the Los Angeles Blades and San Francisco Shamrocks dropped out of the league in January. The surviving teams weren’t in much better shape and the league cancelled the playoffs due to financial problems and declared first place Phoenix to be the league champion. The Hawks finished second with a 34-22-2 record.
26-year old center Joe Noris, a former NHL journeyman who also played for the WHA’s San Diego Mariners, led the Pacific League in scoring with 27 and 77 assists and was named Most Valuable Player. He never played another professional season. Noris would wage a protracted legal battle against former Hawks owner Elmer Jonnet for much of the 1980′s attempting to collect on the balance of the three-year playing contract and personal services agreement he signed with the developer in 1978. The litigation became as much of a circus as the Pacific League was itself, with Noris scoring a judgement against Jonnet’s Pittsburgh home and the beleaguered owner attempting to forestall payment by pleading that his attorney was a hopeless drunk and that the court discriminated against him on account of his Native American heritage.
The Pacific Hockey League folded in the spring of 1979, taking the Hawks with it.
Pacific Hockey League Programs
1978-79 San Diego Hawks Roster & Statistics on HockeyDB.com