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1974-75 Michigan Stags

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World Hockey Association (1974-1975)

Born: April 1974 – The Los Angeles Sharks relocate to Detroit.
Died: January 19, 1975 – The Stags relocate to Baltimore in midseason.

Arena: Cobo Arena (10,200)

Team Colors: Red, Black & White

Owners: Charles Nolton & Peter Shagena

 

The Michigan Stags were a brief and doomed attempt by the rebel World Hockey Association (1972-1979) to challenge the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings head-to-head during the winter of 1974-75.

The Stags began life on the West Coast, playing the WHA’s first two seasons as the Los Angeles Sharks (1972-1974).  A pair of Michigan chemical industrialists, Charles Nolton and Peter Shagena, purchased the club and moved it to Detroit in April of 1974.  Re-named the Michigan Stags, the WHA franchise would play in 10,000 seat Cobo Arena on the banks of the Detroit River.  Across town at Olympia Stadium, the city’s NHL franchise was mired in the middle of the 20-year “Dead Wings” era of futility, which seemed to offer an opening to an upstart WHA, that now featured two of the most popular ex-Red Wings of recent years: future Hall-of-Famers Gordie Howe of the Houston Aeros and Frank Mahovlich of the Toronto Toros.

Nolton and Shagena, however, proved not to be the type of owners needed to challenge a member of the NHL’s “Original Six”.  The Stags were badly undercapitalized from the start.  The roster was stocked with unremarkable minor league journeymen, which the exception of talented winger Marc Tardif.  The Stags failed to secure a local television contract, which was critical to establishing an identity in hockey-mad Detroit.  And the WHA schedule offered no favors.  The Stags could have generated huge publicity from Gordie Howe’s return to the city, but league officials didn’t schedule the Houston Aeros’ first appearance in Detroit until the second half of the 1974-75 season.  By that time, the Stags would already be gone.

In early January the IRS filed a $177,000 tax lien against the Stags and the WHA was forced to seize the franchise and meet the club’s payroll.  The Stags played their final game on January 18, 1975, a 2-1 road loss to the Cleveland Crusaders that dropped the team’s record to 18-40-3.  Shortly afterwards the WHA abruptly moved the team to Baltimore, Maryland where it finished out the season as the league-owned Baltimore Blades before disbanding in the spring of 1975.

The combined record of the 1974-75 Stags/Blades was 21-53-4, good for a distant last place in the WHA’s Western Division.

 

==Stags Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
11/24/1974 vs. Minnesota Fighting Saints W 3-2 Program
12/5/1974 vs. San Diego Mariners W 5-3 Program
12/8/1974 @ Edmonton Oilers L 7-0 Program
12/12/1974 vs. Winnipeg Jets  W 5-3 Program
12/17/1974 vs. New England Whalers T 2-2 Program
12/19/1974 vs. Cleveland Crusaders  W 1-0 Program

 

==Links==

Remembering the Woeful Michigan Stags Hockey Team – Richard Bak

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 26th, 2013 at 9:07 pm

1973-1976 Toronto Toros

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World Hockey Association (1973-1976)

Born: 1973 – The Ottawa Nationals relocate to Toronto.
Died: 1976 – The Toros relocate to Birmingham, AL.

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: John Bassett

 

 

 

==Toros Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1973-74 10/7/1973 vs. Chicago Cougars T 4-4 Program
1973-74 10/21/1973 vs. New England Whalers L 4-3 Program
1973-74 11/25/1973 vs. Vancouver Blazers W 3-2 Program
1973-74 12/2/1973 vs. Houston Aeros W 5-2 Program
1973-74 12/16/1973 vs. Quebec Nordiques L 4-3 (OT) Program
1973-74 12/30/1973 vs. Winnipeg Jets W 5-2 Program
1973-74 2/9/1974   @ Cleveland Crusaders W 4-3 Program
1973-74 3/17/1974 vs. Chicago Cougars L 4-2 Program
1973-74 3/31/1974 vs. Los Angeles Sharks W 5-4 Program
1973-74 4/7/1974 vs. Cleveland Crusaders L 4-0 Program
1973-74 4/9/1974  vs. Cleveland Crusaders  L 4-3 Program
1973-74 4/15/1974  vs. Cleveland Crusaders  L 4-1 Program
1973-74 4/19/1974 vs. Chicago Cougars W 6-4 Program
1973-74 4/22/1974 vs. Chicago Cougars L 4-3 Program
1973-74 5/1/1974 vs. Chicago Cougars W 5-3 Program
1974-75 10/28/1974 vs. Phoenix Roadrunners W 7-3 Program
1974-75 12/23/1974  vs. Cleveland Crusaders  L 4-1 Program
1974-75 1/3/1975 vs. New England Whalers L 5-3 Program
1974-75 2/20/1975 vs. Chicago Cougars L 4-3 (OT) Program
1975-76 10/14/1975 vs. Houston Aeros W 6-3 Program
1975-76 10/17/1975 vs. Edmonton Oilers T 4-4 Program
1975-76 10/24/1975 vs. New England Whalers L 5-4 Program
1975-76 11/17/1975 vs. Indianapolis Racers L 6-2 Program
1975-76 12/30/1975 vs. Edmonton Oilers W 6-3 Program
1975-76 1/2/1976 vs. Phoenix Roadrunners W 4-1 Program
1975-76 1/30/1976 vs. Quebec Nordiques T 3-3 Program
1975-76 2/6/1976 vs. Winnipeg Jets L 7-6 Program
1975-76 3/6/1976 vs. Calgary Cowboys W 5-2 Program
1975-76 3/9/1976 vs. Winnipeg Jets L 5-2 Program
1975-76 3/20/1976 @ Cleveland Crusaders L 6-5 Program
1975-76 3/26/1976 vs. Edmonton Oilers W 7-3 Program
1975-76 4/4/1976 vs. Quebec Nordiques L 5-4 (OT) Program

 

==Links==

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 15th, 2013 at 3:09 am

April 2, 1976 – Calgary Cowboys vs. Winnipeg Jets

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Calgary Cowboys vs. Winnipeg Jets
April 2, 1976
Stampede Corral
Attendance: 6,980

World Hockey Association Programs
80 pages

 

By contemporary media accounts, the Calgary Cowboys and the Winnipeg Jets mostly coasted through this late season World Hockey Association meeting in April 1976.  Both clubs were already confirmed as participants in the 1976 WHA playoffs, due to begin less than a week later.  Nevertheless, the game drew a standing room only  crowd to Calgary’s Stampede Corral.

The main drama was whether Bobby Hull of the Jets, the WHA’s main attraction and reigning MVP, would notch 50 goals in a season for the 9th time in his Hall of Fame career.  But Calgary held the Golden Jet to only three shots on goal.  Cowboys rookie netminder Ed Humphreys, getting a rare start, handled all three.  (Hull would get four goals in the season’s final two games to finish with 53 for the 1975-76 season).  The Cowboys beat the Jets 4-1 on this night, but the Jets went on to win the WHA’s  1976 AVCO Cup championship the following month.

So not much of a game, but I absolutely love this program cover.  Titled “The 2 Best Left Wings in the World“, it pictures Hull in his Team Canada uniform, alongside Aleksandr Yakushev from the Soviet Union.  The picture comes from the 1974 Summit Series between Canada and the USSR, when the two wingers were the tournament’s leading scorers.  This was the second Summit Series between the hockey superpowers.  The first Summit in 1972 saw Canada represented entirely represented by NHL players, while WHA players like Hull were banned from taking part.  In 1974, the Canadian team was entirely composed of WHA players highlighted by Hull and Gordie Howe.  The Soviets won the eight-game 1974 series 4-1-3.

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Written by andycrossley

November 24th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

October 26, 1976 – Quebec Nordiques vs. Phoenix Roadrunners

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Quebec Nordiques vs. Phoenix Roadrunners
October 26, 1976
Le Colisee de Quebec
Attendance: ?

World Hockey Association Programs
36 pages

 

The Phoenix Roadrunners ran smack into a red hot Quebec Nordiques club on this evening at Le Colisee de Quebec in October 1976.  The Nordiques were off to a 7-1 start as the first month of the 1976-77 World Hockey Association drew to a close.  The Roadrunners were also off to a hot start with a 5-2 record, which put them in a first place tie atop in the WHA’s Western Division with the defending champion Winnipeg Jets.  But the upstart Roadrunners proved no match for the powerful Nordiques on this night.

The Nordiques abused the Arizonans 11-3 thanks to an historic night from 20-year old winger Real Cloutier, who tied a WHA single game scoring mark with 5 goals.  Serge Bernier and Steve Sutherland added two goals apiece against shell-shocked Phoenix netminder Gary Kurl.  The 11 goals set a new Quebec franchise record.

The fortunes of the two clubs diverged sharply after this game.  Quebec went on to win the WHA’s Eastern Division going away with a 47-31-3 record.  They would defeat the Jets to win the WHA’s Avco Cup championship in April 1977.  Real Cloutier won the WHA’s Bill Hunter Trophy as the league’s leading scorer (66 goals and 75 assists for 141 points).

Phoenix, meanwhile, went 23-45 the rest of the way and finished the season in dead last place in the Western Division.  On top that, the team went out of business in the spring of 1977 shortly after the season ended.

I really like these Nordiques programs from the 1976-77 season.  All of the programs cover are portraits by local artist Claude Laroche.  The program this evening featured a portrait of Nordiques tough guy Paul Baxter, who would go on to record more Penalty Minutes (962) than any other player in the history of the World Hockey Association.

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Written by andycrossley

November 23rd, 2013 at 11:59 pm

1972-1976 Cleveland Crusaders

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World Hockey Association (1972-1976)

Born: 1972 – WHA founding franchise.
Died: August 9, 1976 – The Crusaders relocate to St. Paul, Minnesota.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Purple, White & Black

Owners:

 

The Cleveland Crusaders were one of twelve original franchises in the World Hockey Association in the winter of 1972-73.  The franchise originally intended to play in Calgary, but after reaching a dead end in Alberta, the club ended up in the hands of Nick Mileti, the owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Indians.  Mileti was also the former owner of Cleveland’s previous hockey team, the Cleveland Barons of the minor league American Hockey League, and he owned the downtown Cleveland Arena that the Barons and the Cavs called home.

Like the American Football League and the American Basketball Association before it, the WHA was formed with the intention of challenging the establishment league (in this case the NHL) for the best markets and the best talent.  The WHA really got on the map when the Winnipeg Jets signed Bobby Hull away from the Chicago Blackhawks for $1 million.  The Philadelphia Blazers lured away Boston Bruins star Derek Sanderson with a deal that briefly made Turk the highest paid athlete on Earth.  The Crusaders also landed one of the biggest stars in the new WHA, signing away goaltender Gerry Cheevers from the Boston Bruins with a seven-year contract that paid $200,000 per season.  One of the top goaltenders on the planet at the time, Cheevers earned two Stanley Cups in Boston and established an NHL record 32-game unbeaten streak in net during the 1971-72 season.

The Crusaders storyline was a tough, defensive minded club that played well in the regular season and then folded in the postseason.  The Crusaders made the playoffs in all four of their WHA seasons, but never advanced beyond the second round.

The Crusaders played their first two seasons at the Cleveland Arena, while owner Nick Mileti worked on development of the 18,500-seat suburban Richfield Coliseum.  The Crusaders moved into the Coliseum in November 1975, but the new arena require a long drive out into the middle of nowhere between Cleveland and Akron.  Crusaders attendance improved only marginally from the team’s days in the big old barn downtown, hovering between 5,200 and 7,000 for all four seasons of the club’s existence.

After the team’s third season (and first in Richfield), Nick Mileti sold controlling interest in the team to one of his investment partners, Jay Moore.   Moore presided over a contentious fourth and final season of Crusaders hockey in the winter of 1975-76.   In late January 1976, Crusaders GM publicly criticized Cheevers, accusing the All-Star of not providing “major league goaltending” to the club.  Cheevers, fed up with Vivian, prepared a retirement statement, while the GM slapped a fine and an indefinite suspension on the goalie.  A week later, attorneys for both sides agreed to void Cheevers contract and he left the WHA to return to the Boston Bruins.

Two weeks later, Vivian and owner Jay Moore incensed the remaining Crusaders players by traveling to Kansas City, Missouri, allegedly to pitch the NHL’s troubled Kansas City Scouts franchise on relocating to Cleveland.  The players viewed this as a betrayal of the team and a dereliction of management’s duty to stay in Cleveland promoting the team they had.  On March 10, 1976, the Crusaders took the ice at the Richfield Coliseum wearing black armbands to protest the actions of team management.  Vivian resigned the next day, realizing he had lost control of the club.

After the Cruaders’s annual rite of spring – an early playoff exit – Jay Moore attempted to sell the Crusaders to former World Football League owner Bill Putnam, who planned to move the team to Hollywood, Florida and call them the Florida Breakers.  The deal fell through and Mileti ended up stepping back in to take the team back from Moore.  Meanwhile, the NHL was relocating to Cleveland after all.  It wasn’t the Kansas City Scouts, but rather another troubled club – the California Golden Seals.  With the NHL coming to town, Mileti realized the Crusaders’ days were numbered in Cleveland.

The WHA granted approval to move the team to St. Paul, Minnesota on August 9, 1976.  The Crusaders became the second edition of the Minnesota Fighting Saints, replacing an original WHA franchise the ran out of money and folded during the season in February 1976.   Mileti was never a big money guy in any of his sports dealings – he put deals together with loans and other people’s money.  In St. Paul, Mileti could not find local investors to buy into the club and as a result the “New Fighting Saints” ran out of funds after just a few months play in January 1977.  Minnesota’s WHA franchise folded in mid-season for the second year in a row and that was the end of the franchise that began life as the Cleveland Crusaders in 1972.

 

==Crusaders Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1972-73 1/30/1973 @ New England Whalers L 4-1 Program
1973-1974 10/23/1973 @ Los Angeles Sharks L 4-3 Program
1973-1974 11/29/1973 @ Quebec Nordiques T 4-4 Program
1973-74 2/9/1974 vs. Toronto Toros W 4-3 Program
1973-74 4/7/1974 @ Toronto Toros L 4-0 Program
1973-74 4/9/1974 @ Toronto Toros L 4-3 Program
1973-74 4/15/1974 @ Toronto Toros L 4-1 Program
1974-75 11/8/1974 @ Vancouver  Blazers W 2-1 Program
1974-75 11/30/1974 @ Houston Aeros W 5-4 Program
1974-75 12/19/1974 @ Michigan Stags L 1-0 Program
1974-75 12/23/1974 @ Toronto Toros L 4-1 Program
1974-1975 12/28/1974 @ Phoenix Roadrunners L 3-2 (OT) Program
1974-75 1/27/1975 @ New England Whalers L 2-0 Program
1975-76 11/9/1975 @ Edmonton Oilers L 4-1 Program
1975-76 3/20/1976 vs. Toronto Toros L 6-5 Program

 

==YouTube==

21 minute featurette on Cleveland Crusaders Hall-of-Fame goaltender Gerry Cheevers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGFIEmHhm_w

 

==Key Players==

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Crusaders center Bob Dillabough, who skated for the team in the 1972-73 season, died on March 27, 1997 at age 55.

 

==Links==

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

February 18th, 2013 at 9:41 pm