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2007-2008 New England Surge

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New England Surge Media GuideContinental Indoor Football League (2007-2008)

Born: November 21, 2006 – CIFL expansion franchise.
Spring 2009 – The Surge cease operations.

Arena: The DCU Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Roy Lucas, Jr., et al.


The New England Surge was a quixotic indoor football venture in the ramshackle Continental Indoor Football League.  Team founder (and General Manager and Head Coach) Roy Lucas Jr. was a strength and conditioning trainer without any personal wealth or pro sports experience who started the franchise with the assistance of a Football For Dummies paperback.

Lucas set up shop in Worcester, Massachusetts at the DCU Center, formerly known as the Worcester Centrum.  The building was something of a graveyard for minor league sports going back to the mid 1980’s, with series of failed promotions in pro basketball, box lacrosse and ice hockey.  The casualties also included a previous indoor football attempt, the Massachusetts Marauders of the Arena Football League, in 1994.

The Surge’s home debut on April 14th, 2007 drew a respectable announced crowd of 4,724 (video below).  Nevertheless, the team’s expenses vastly outpaced weak revenues and by the end of the Surge’s second season in 2008, the club was nearly $600,000 in the red, according to The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and up to its eyeballs in liens and small claims cases.  The club folded before a third season could be launched, amidst squabbling between founder Roy Lucas and his minority shareholders, none of whom had any real money.

Notable Surge players included former New England Patriots running back Harold Shaw and Tyler Grogan, son of long-time Pats QB Steve Grogan.

The Surge’s mascot was a leopard named Surgeo, which was somewhat clever.



Highlight’s of the Surge’s first home game, a 61-6 victory over the New York/New Jersey Revolution at the DCU Center on April 14, 2007.



The Decline and Fall of the New England Surge“, Shaun Sutner and Dave Nordman, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, April 12, 2009







Written by andycrossley

May 25th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

1994-2005 Worcester IceCats

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American Hockey League (1994-2005)

Born: May 5, 1994 – The Springfield Indians relocate to Worcester, MA.
Died: 2005 – The IceCats relocate to Peoria, IL.

Arena: The Worcester Centrum

Team Colors:


  • 1994-2000: Roy Boe
  • 2000-2004: St. Louis Blues


The Worcester IceCats were a minor league hockey team that operated for 11 seasons in central Massachusetts.  The founder of the IceCats was Roy Boe.  Boe was an active sports investor during the 1970’s, at one point controlling both the New York/New Jersey Nets basketball team and the NHL’s New York Islanders.  Never especially rich by the standards of Major League sports owners, Boe was forced to sell both teams in 1978 and sat on the sidelines during the 1980’s before re-emerging to form the IceCats in the spring of 1994.

Boe and his partners purchased the Springfield (MA) Indians of the American Hockey League and received approval from the AHL to move to Worcester in May 1994.  Due to the late start organizing the team, the IceCats were unable to secure an NHL parent club for the 1994-95 season and were forced to play as an independent team, cobbling together a team of free agents and leftovers.  No surprise they finished in last place.  As of 2014, the 1994-95 IceCats remain the last AHL to play an independent season.

Worcester IceCats ProgramIn 1995 the IceCats signed an affiliation agreement with the St. Louis Blues.  For the next 10 seasons from 1995 through the club’s demise in 2005 Worcester would serve as St. Louis’ top farm club.  During the 2000-01 season, Roy Boe sold the IceCats to the Blues, who operated the team directly for the next three seasons.  In November 2004, the Blues sold the IceCats to the owners of one of their other farm teams, the Peoria (IL) Rivermen.  The new owners announced that the IceCats would move to Peoria for the 2005-06 season in order to upgrade the Rivermen from their lower-level league to the AHL.  The ‘Cats played out their final season in Worcester as lame ducks and played their final home game on April 17, 2005 before a farewell crowd of 10,211.

The IceCats made the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs eight times in ten seasons, but never advanced beyond the 2nd Round.

After one winter without hockey, the AHL returned to Worcester in 2006 with the formation of the Worcester Sharks, who are now in their eighth season.   The franchise formerly known as the IceCats also remains active.  After eight seasons in Peoria, the team relocated to Utica, New York in 2013 and is now known as the Utica Comets.


==Worcester IceCats Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1995-96 10/14/1995 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
1995-96 11/24/1995 @ Saint John Flames W 4-3 (OT) Program
1995-96 3/24/1996 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
1999-00 12/18/1999 @ Hershey Bears ?? Program
2001-02 3/17/2002 vs. Manchester Monarchs W 4-1 Program


==In Memoriam==

IceCats founder Roy Boe passed away on June 7, 2009 at age 79.  (New York Times obit here).



Late 1990’s home game against the Springfield Falcons in front of a big crowd at the Centrum.




American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs


Written by andycrossley

March 27th, 2014 at 12:34 am

2005-2012 Worcester Tornadoes

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Worcester TornadoesCan-Am League (2005-2012)

Born: 2004 – Can-Am League expansion franchise.
Died: August 31, 2012Franchise revoked by Can-Am League

Stadium: Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field (3,000)

Team Colors:



The Worcester Tornadoes were a professional baseball club that played in Worcester, Massachusetts for eight seasons from 2005 to 2012.  The Tornadoes were part of the independent Can-Am League, whose clubs have no affiliation with Major League Baseball.  The arrival of the Tornadoes in the spring of 2005 marked the return of pro baseball to Worcester after a 71-year absence.

The team’s original ownership group, headed by Newton, Massachusetts developer Ted Tye, built a modest 3,000-seat baseball stadium on the campus of Holy Cross University over the span of just 10 weeks in the spring of 2005.  Just prior to opening day, Hanover Insurance agreed to pay a reported $100,000 per year for stadium naming right from 2005 to 2007, which was one of the largest corporate sponsorship deals in the Can-Am League.

The Tornadoes’ first season in 2005 was a charmed one.  The face of the ball club was field manager Rich Gedman, a Worcester native who played eleven seasons for the Boston Red Sox.  The Tornadoes got hot at the end of the season and swept the Quebec Capitales 3 games to zero in the Can-Am League Championship Series that September.  124,745 fans came out to watch, giving the Tornadoes an average of 2,599 per game.

Local interest in the Tornadoes peaked at 2,779 per game in 2006 after the club hired veteran independent baseball exec Todd Marlin to run the front office operations.  But Marlin’s efforts to reign in the club’s operational budget rankled Gedman and Marlin was dismissed at the end of the season.  Attendance began to drop and a star-crossed attempt to get into the concert promotion business crunched the team’s finances.  By 2009, attendance dipped to 1,818 per game and the original Tornadoes ownership group ran out of money.  Maryland-based investor and former minor league exec Todd Breighner assumed the team’s debt and took over ownership in the fall of 2009.  Gedman departed in 2010 after six seasons at the helm.

The Tornadoes’ great success story was the ball club’s discovery of Chris Colabello.   The strapping 6′ 4″ 220-pound 1B/3B was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Worcester’s Assumption College during the Tornadoes’ first season in 2005.  Colabello played all or parts of seven seasons with the Tornadoes from 2005 to 2011.  Overall, Colabello labored in the minors for nine long seasons before making his Major League debut as a 29-year old rookie with the Minnesota Twins in May 2013.

Less inspiring was the Tornadoes’ pursuit of 47-year old steroid casualty Jose Canseco during the team’s final grim season in the summer of 2012.  Owner Todd Breighner agreed to pay the former American League MVP $14,000 per month in a personal services contract later published by The Worcester Telegram & Gazette.  But fans had little interest and Canseco was washed up, hitting .194 with just one home run in 20 games.  Canseco later claimed he was never paid and filed suit against Breighner, issuing personal attacks against the team owner in the Worcester media.

Canseco wasn’t Breighner’s only problem during the summer of 2012.  A trio of local creditors, including the hotel that was to provide Canseco’s accommodations, filed suit for unpaid debts during the 2012 season.  They quickly attached the team’s few assets and the team was locked out of its Main Street office in August 2012.  In the final indignity, the Tornadoes’ uniforms were repossessed during the season’s final week and the team was forced to play in generic loaner uniforms from the league office.  By the end of August, the Can-Am League had seen enough and revoked the franchise on August 31, 2012.

Worcester was without baseball in 2013.  Groups from several independent pro leagues and collegiate wooden bat leagues have expressed interest in bringing baseball back to Fitton Field in the summer of 2014.



==Worcester Tornadoes Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
2005 8/27/2005 vs. New Haven County Cutters  ?? Program Game Notes



==Key Players==

  • Jose Canseco
  • Chris Colabello



Jose Canseco personal services contract with Streamlined Solutions, Inc. 




2012 Worcester Magazine profile of the decline & fall of the Tornadoes and owner Todd Breighner

Can-Am League Media Guides

Can-Am League Programs





Written by andycrossley

June 19th, 2013 at 3:10 am

1983-1986 Bay State Bombardiers


Bay State BombardiersContinental Basketball Association (1983-1986)

Born: March 1983 – The Maine Lumberjacks relocate to Brockton, MA.
Died: July 16, 1986 – The Bombardiers relocate to Pensacola, FL.


Team Colors:

Owners: John Ligums


The Bay State Bombardiers were a short-lived minor league basketball club in the Continental Basketball Association (1978-2009).  The CBA was the official developmental league of the NBA during the 1980’s and 1990’s, only one step removed but also million light years away from the bright lights of Madison Square Garden and the Forum.

The team originated in Bangor, Maine as the Maine Lumberjacks (1978-1983).  The club moved south in March 1983 when Lumberjacks investor John Ligums relocated the team to Brockton, Massachusetts, twenty minutes south of his home in the tony Boston suburb of Milton.  After a tumultuous first season in Brockton under the direction of former ABA star Johnny Neumann, Ligums moved the Bombardiers an hour west to Worcester, Massachusetts and hired recently retired Boston Celtics star and future Hall-of-Famer Dave Cowens to coach the team.

We’ll pick up the story there, in the spring of 1984, with former Bombardiers General Manager Steve Warshaw.

Warshaw, who took over the Bombardiers business operations at the young age of 24, has since carved out a long career in professional sports, including stops at IMG, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Moscow’s CSKA (Red Army) hockey team, and as a consultant for the NHL, AHL and KHL.  The following are excerpts from our 2013 conversation with Steven Warshaw.  You can download the full transcript here.



Tell me how you got involved with the Continental Basketball Association in the first place.


I saw a tiny little want ad in The Wall Street Journal and it said “challenging career in pro sports”.  Remember want ads, before the electronic boom?  Anyway, I was working for Spalding at the time, so I was getting some good practical experience in selling as well as public relations and merchandising.

I was invited out to interview for the Deputy Commissioner position underneath Jim Drucker in the CBA league office.  There were two guys that I was competing against.  One was Rick Horrow, who has got a very successful sports business today.  He was Joe Robbie’s guy and was involved in the building of Joe Robbie Stadium down in Miami and had crazy credentials.  The other guy was Tom Meschery, a former NBA All-Star who ended up getting the gig.

So I didn’t get the job, but I met all twelve of the CBA owners.  I had done very well in my interview.  They told me later that I was the only guy that had told the owners to stop talking when I was trying to respond to questions.  It was a big U-shaped, “Face The Nation”-type set up.  Several of the owners were talking amongst themselves.  I was just a 23-year old kid and I don’t know what got into me, but I said “Excuse me, am I boring you guys?”  It was really arrogant and they loved it, apparently, because part of Deputy Commissioner’s job was trying to keep control of these guys.

One of the guys that liked my attitude was John Ligums, who owned the Bay State Bombardiers.  We went out to dinner and had a bunch of laughs and he offered me a job to come sell for him as the team’s business manager.


And what kind of condition were the Bombardiers in at the time?

Well, the team was in Brockton, Massachusetts at the time.  A former ABA star named Johnny Neumann was the Head Coach and he had just been fired after he failed his drug test.  That actually made Sports Illustrated.  The Sports Illustrated writer asked him what happened and Johnny Neumann said “Well, I had been clean, but on the way to take the test, I got so stressed out that I smoked a joint.”

John Ligums told me he was going to hire the former Boston Celtics All-Star Dave Cowens as the new coach.  And then we moved to Worcester in a heart beat.  I might have been in Brockton for a couple of weeks before we pulled up stakes for Worcester.


I was the General Manager of the Brockton Rox baseball team for a couple of years and our stadium was right next to Brockton High School where the Bombardiers played.  I’ve been in that gym.  I know the CBA wasn’t glamorous by any stretch, but it’s still hard to imagine a pro basketball team playing there.


I never saw one game there.  Actually, no, I take that back.  I went to see one game there towards the end of the season.  And yeah, it was a joke.  It was a high school.  But I remember learning a few tricks of the minor league trade at that game. I remember watching the Bombardiers’ game operations guy pouring so much salt into the popcorn that everyone had to buy extra cups of his crappy Coke that he poured out of two-liter bottles.

So then we moved to Worcester and spent a couple of years there.  Dave Cowens lasted the first year only and it’s fair to say that John and Dave are certainly not on each other’s Christmas lists.

Bay State Bombardiers Dave Cowens

Photo courtesy of Steven Warshaw


What was John Ligums like?  I’ve seen a few articles about the CBA and it seemed like he was always good for a sharp one-liner.


John is a really bright guy, an interesting guy.  He went to Johns Hopkins.  He was a wrestler. I think he always felt that he wanted to be a pro athlete.  A lot of athletes who don’t make it never really get over it and I think he was one of those guys.  He was extremely competitive in business and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  But with me he was very fair and I always enjoyed John and I still do.  He’s a very interesting character and I wish he had a little more money so we could buy another team!

I learned a lot from John.  He was my first boss in the minors.  One thing he was great to me about was that he really let me run the operation.  My first year I brought in a lot of money from national advertising accounts such as Spalding, Nissan, Converse and the Army.  Big, big accounts.  He gave me the reigns to his team and he really let me do anything I wanted promotionally and in terms of media relations and PR.  I’ve always respected owners that would let me do my job and not interfere and those guys are few and far between.  From that standpoint, John was great.

He was also a great interview.  Always said controversial things, got himself in trouble.  He got a lot of media.


Was John Ligums the kind of owner that was more concerned about wins and losses and making the playoffs, or was he bottom line oriented?

Bay State Bombardiers

Photo Courtesy of Steven Warshaw


John was bottom line. I had convinced him early on that winning is not everything in the minor leagues.  It’s more about the experience than actual wins and losses.  But let’s put it this way – he didn’t like to lose.

I think the reason there was so much strain between John and Dave Cowens was because John’s expectations were ridiculously high.  To win in the CBA, you have to have a player personnel network that’s crazy good.  You really have to know where to get players.  And with Dave, well, there’s no way he should have known how to do that.  He didn’t have any experience at the time.  The CBA was a very specialized player market.  Dave was just really focused on the coaching and he didn’t have the horses to win and to dominate in the playoffs.  So that’s why the friction occurred between John and Dave.  Unrealistic expectations by the owner and a rookie coach, whowas a great coach, but didn’t have the player personnel chops to unearth the talent.


Tell me about Captain PJ.


<Laughing> Captain P.J. was our mascot and probably one of the greatest parts of our team.  He was this crazy local disc jockey.  I think he still might have a show in Worcester.  He ran around the auditorium in a flight suit.  He slid across the court on his belly and choked himself with his aviator scarf.  Captain P.J. was sort of like Chuck Yeager meets Rain Man.

Bay State Bombardiers

Photo Courtesy of Steven Warshaw


Did you ever play any games at the Worcester Centrum, or was everything at the Worcester Auditorium?


No.  Everything was at the Aud.  We tried to go into the Centrum, but the GM at the time wanted no part of it.  He didn’t even want to let us play a game of the month there, or even one game.  I remember I even brought Cowens to the meeting and that didn’t help.  I thought, Jesus, I’ve got Dave Cowens here and you won’t even try one game with us.  That’s just hubris.  We do one night with Cowens and he could bring in all of his Celtics buddies, but this guy wouldn’t hear of it.  It was just a really foolish attitude by the management of the Centrum at that point, so, no, we never played a game there.


What players stand out in your memory from the Bombardiers days?


We had probably one of the greatest players in the history of the CBA.  A guy named “Awesome” Joe Dawson.  He was clearly our John Henry, our mythical 6’ 5” CBA god.  But Joe could never make it in the bigs because he was a tweener.  Joe played football and basketball at Southern Mississippi.  He used to train with Walter Payton.  He was a really interesting character.

He was just an absolute gentleman and yet on the court he was absolutely vicious.  Vicious body, big sharp elbows, and tough.  I mean, no one messed with Joe Dawson.  There were a lot of brawls and nobody would go near this guy.  I mean he looked like John Henry.  Joe was my all-time favorite Bombardier.

We also had some wild guys like Kevin Williams, the former St. John’s point guard who played in the NBA for a bunch of teams.  He was actually a really nice guy, Kevin, but he was also a city kid from a very tough part of New York City.  He was a brawler.  Kevin started a couple of big brawls in the CBA.  He also led our team in scoring.  Kevin Williams was probably the best player I ever saw in the CBA.


And you also had Michael Adams for a little while also, correct?


Michael, in my opinion, was the most marketable, fantastic CBA All-Star and the league really didn’t do anything with him.  It was ridiculous.

His agents Frank Catapano and Larry Fleisher came to me.  They worked on Michael together and represented him.  I remember Frank said to me “Listen, I’ll let you beat me up in the salary negotiation so you look good in your boss’ eyes. I‘ll just need one favor”  We signed Michael for $450 a week.  That’s what this future NBA All-Star was making in the minors.

Anyway, Frank says, “The only thing I’d ask you to do is call the NBA GM’s for me every Friday when there’s a point guard that goes down to injury and let them know about Michael.”  He gave me a list of all their phone numbers.  I thought that was the greatest offer I’d ever gotten.  I was a 24-year old in the minors and I got to talk to NBA GM’s every week and send them stats.

Michael was just a great kid.  We’re the same age almost.  We would actually go out dancing together at the Best Western in Worcester.  I was the same age of a lot of these players, so it was a lot of fun for me.

Michael Adams was the most telegenic, the most interesting, thoughtful, caring guy that I knew in the CBA.  The media loved him.  He also got it done on the court.  This guy was a phenomenal talent.  His speed was even more obvious in the CBA.  His first step was just so good.  He absolutely dominated.  It was a pleasure to see and he didn’t last in the CBA too long.  He played for us for one season and then he stuck in the NBA for good after that, becoming an NBA All-Star in the process.


After Dave Cowens departed in 1985, your new coach was a CBA institution.  Mauro Panaggio.


A legend.  A legend of the CBA.  One of the league’s winningest coaches.  Remember I was talking before about the need to have a player personnel grapevine?  He had that, unlike Dave Cowens.  That was Mauro.

He was a bit of a monster in terms of practices.  He really kept his distance from the players.  He knew how to be successful in that league.  He was old school and he was a winner.

He was a very nice guy away from the court.  We went to the beach a couple of times, we hung out a couple of nights.  Just a warm guy.  But certainly the public persona of Maura Panaggio was more cut from the Bobby Knight cloth.


How did the Bombardiers come to an end?


We did as well as we could in Worcester for two years.  It just couldn’t work in Worcester.  It didn’t have its own television station.  It didn’t have it’s own identity.  It was always sort of in the penumbra of Boston and the Celtics were the kings there.  They were always winning, winning, winning and the people in Worcester thought of themselves as a Boston suburb.  Worcester is not a great sports city.  Or rather it’s not a great minor league city, I should say.

I remember Jim Drucker, the CBA Commissioner, came to me at the end of the second year and said “Can you squeeze any more blood out of this stone?”

And I said “Nope.  Time to sell it and get the hell out of here.”

But having said that, we are hoping to pull of a 30-year reunion for the Bombardiers someday soon!


John Ligums sold the Bombardiers to Pensacola, Florida interests in July 1986.  The nomadic franchise became the Pensacola Tornados (1986-1991) and later played in Birmingham (AL), Rochester (MN) and Harrisburg (PA) before finally folding in 1995.

Pro basketball returned to Worcester in 1989 with the Worcester Counts, who lasted just one season in the World Basketball League.  You can read the story of the Counts here.


==Bay State Bombardiers Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1984-85 2/12/1985 vs. Detroit Spirits W 136-128 Program
1985-86 1/24/1986 vs. Albany Patroons W 115-108   Ticket


==Key Figures==



2013 FWiL Interview with former Bombardiers GM Steven Warshaw



Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs


1969-1975 Boston / Worcester Astros

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American Soccer League (1969-1975)

Born: 1969 – Joined American Soccer League.
Died: Postseason 1975 – The Astros cease operations.


Team Colors:

Owner: John Bertos


The Boston Astros were a classic mom & pop operations in the rough & tumble business of American pro soccer in the 1970’s.  The “pop” in this instance was John Bertos, a Greek immigrant and former soccer player who more or less single-handedly organized, financed and coached the Astros for their seven seasons in the lower rungs of the professional game.

The Astros claimed to trace their origins back to the early 1950’s with the formation of an amateur team in Lowell, Massachusetts called the Lowell Pan-Hellenic Soccer Club.  This was kind of a stretch – the main connection here was that Bertos started coaching Pan-Hellenic in 1064.  The real history of the Astros as a pro club began in 1969 when they were invited to join the American Soccer League, the nation’s longest running soccer loop, dating back to the early 1930’s.  Despite the ASL’s long history, it was comically disorganized and constantly on the brink of implosion.

Bertos ran the Astros with the proceeds from his Lowell-based janitorial service and helped to employ some of his immigrant players in the business.  Bertos’ specialty was recruiting players from Brazil and his Astros’ squads of the 1970’s had a heavy Brazilian presence.  Two of this top Brazilian finds were strikers Helio “Boom Boom” Barbosa and Jose Neto.  Barbosa was ASL Most Valuable Player in 1973 and Neto captured the same honor after lighting up the league scoring tables as a 20-year old rookie in 1975.

The Astros initially played their home matches in the Northern Massachusetts industrial city of Lowell, but moved into Boston in 1972, splitting the next few years between Boston University’s Nickerson Field and aAlumni Stadium at Boston College in the nearby suburb of Chestnut Hill.

In 1974, Bertos got some outside investment help for the first time, in the person of Worcester fuel company executive David Adams (which perhaps explains the really nice media guide produced for 1974 at the top of this post).  But competition also arrived in the form of the Boston Minutemen, a 1974 expansion club in the superior North American Soccer League.  In 1975, the Minutemen moved in to Nickerson Field, meaning Boston now had two pro teams playing the in the same stadium.

Bertos couldn’t survive the competition and moved his club to Worcester late in the 1975 season, setting up shop at Foley Stadium to finish out the year.  Occasionally, the 1975 team is referred to as the Worcester Astros.  Thanks to Jose Neto’s scoring heroics, the team advanced the the ASL championship against New York Apollo in Mt. Vernon, New York.  When the decisive game went into overtime and then remained knotted for nine more overtime periods until the local curfew was reached, ASL Commissioner Bob Cousy (yes, that Bob Cousy) stepped in and simply declared the Apollo and the Astros co-champions.  Minor league soccer’s version of a hung jury.

This proved to be the last game the Astros ever played.  The club folded after the 1975 season.  In 1976, Bertos briefly assumed the General Manager and Head Coach position of his former rivals, the NASL’s Boston Minutemen.  But his job was only to oversee the club’s dissolution, as the Minutemen were themselves out of money and in the midst of selling off all their players and going out of business.  In 1977, he returned to the American Soccer League as Head Coach of the Providence-based New England Oceaneers for a single season.