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1974-1978 Hampton Gulls

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Hampton GullsSouthern Hockey League (1974-1977)
American Hockey League (1977-1978)

Born: October 1974: The Fayetteville Arsenal relocates to Hampton, VA
Folded: January 31, 1977
Re-Born: 1977
Folded Again: February 10, 1978

Arena: Hampton Coliseum

WHA Affiliation: Cincinnati Stingers

Team Colors:

Owners:

SHL Championships: None
Calder Cup Championships (AHL): None

 

Virginia’s Hampton Gulls hockey team formed in 1974 as an expansion franchise in the tiny Southern Hockey League. The club was intended for Fayetteville, North Carolina but arena problems there led to the hasty relocation to Hampton just days before the start of the 1974-75 season. Hampton’s 10,000-seat Coliseum was available because the American Hockey League’s Virginia Red Wings vacated the building that fall to move to the nearby Norfolk Scope.

The Southern Hockey League worked as a farm system to the World Hockey Association, the 1970’s major league rival to the NHL. The WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers served as the parent club of the Gulls.

The Gulls offered their head coaching job to 41-year old John Brophy. Often cited as the inspiration for Paul Newman’s Reggie Dunlop character in Slap Shot, Brophy was a legendary minor league enforcer over 18 seasons in the Eastern Hockey League. The Gulls job was Brophy’s first full-time coaching gig and he would stay with the Gulls for the team’s entire run in Hampton. He later became a head coach in both the WHA (Birmingham Bulls) and the NHL (Toronto Maple Leafs).

The Gulls played for the Southern Hockey League championship in the spring of 1976, losing to the Charlotte Checkers in the finals.

The Southern Hockey League folded on January 31, 1977, midway through the circuit’s fourth season. The Gulls were in first place with a 32-16-2 when the league closed its doors.

The Gulls re-grouped to join the American Hockey League for the 1977-78 season, but their stay was a short and unhappy one. The franchise folded on February 10th, 1978 after playing just 46 games of an 81 game calendar. The Gulls had the worst record in the AHL at 15-28-3 when they closed their doors.

Pro hockey returned to the Hampton Coliseum 11 months later with the formation of the Hampton Aces of the Northeastern Hockey League.

John Brophy returned to the region to coach the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League in 1989. The Admirals, who played out of the Scope in Norfolk, won three ECHL championship under Brophy during the 1990’s.

 

Hampton Gulls Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Ex-Gulls coach John Brophy died in his sleep on May 23, 2016 at age 83. CBC Obituary.

Former Gulls owner Charles Wornom died on February 26, 2017 at the age of 88. The Daily Press obituary.

 

Links

Southern Hockey League Programs

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 7th, 2017 at 4:44 am

1977-1992 Maine Mariners

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Pelle Lindbergh Maine MarinersAmerican Hockey League (1977-1992)

Born: 1977 – AHL expansion franchise
Moved: May 22, 1992 (Providence Bruins)

Arena: Cumberland County Civic Center

NHL Affiliation:

  • 1977-1983: Philadelphia Flyers
  • 1983-1987: New Jersey Devils
  • 1987-1992: Boston Bruins

Team Colors:

  • 1977-1987:
  • 1987-1992:

Owners:

Calder Cup Champions: 1978, 1979 & 1984

 

The Maine Mariners were a popular minor league hockey club that played for 15 seasons at Portland’s Cumberland County Civic Center. The Mariners’ glory years came in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as the top farm club of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Maine won the American Hockey Leagues’s Calder Cup in each of their first two seasons. Future Flyers stars such as Pelle Lindbergh, Ken Linseman and Pete Peeters developed in Portland.  Maine led the AHL attendance for four straight seasons from 1979 through 1982.

Maine MarinersA special thrill of the Flyers era was the annual December exhibition game against touring Soviet teams. The contests packed in standing room only crowds and (usually) brought out the best in the Mariners. The first Cold War in December 1977 saw the two-month old Mariners shock Moscow Dynamo 1-0. In 1978, the Mariners beat up on Traktor Chelyabinsk 6-3.

On Christmas Eve 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Detente was over and, with it, the annual Soviet hockey tours of America of the 1970’s. But a Russian touring squad known as the Moscow Selects was already in the States on tour. Two days after the invasion, the Selects came to Portland. A franchise record crowd of 7,095 packed the Civic Center. For the first time, the Russians got the best of Maine, pasting the locals 7-2.

In the summer of 1983 the Philadelphia Flyers sold the Mariners to the lowly New Jersey Devils. The Mariners won their third and final Calder Cup in April 1984, capping off their first winter as a New Jersey farm club. But ultimately the sale to the Devils’ organization marked the start of the club’s decline. During the 1986-87 season, the Mariners bottomed out at a franchise-worst 3,361 fans per game. The Devils shifted the money-losing club to Utica, New York in April 1987.

Team President Ed Anderson quickly organized a group of investors to restore hockey to Portland. The AHL approved a new Maine Mariners franchise during the summer of 1987, affiliated with the nearby Boston Bruins. The Mariners retained their traditional Flyers’ colors of orange, black and white even during the Devils’ era. But with the arrival of the new franchise and the Bruins partnership in the winter of 1987, the Mariners shifted to Boston’s black, white and gold color scheme.

The Bruins era failed to recapture the on-ice glory of the Flyers years. The black-and-gold Mariners posted only one winning season (1987-88) in five years. The economic recession of the early 1990’s and Maine exorbitant workers compensation costs squeezed the club financially. The Mariners shut down their Maine operations in April 1992 and moved to Providence, Rhode Island a month later, where they play on today as the Providence Bruins.

Maine Mariners Shop


Mariners Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

 

Maine Mariners Memorabilia

 

Mariners Video

1989 Mariners TV commercial

 

In Memoriam

Goaltender Pelle Lindbergh (Mariners ’80-’82) died on November 11th, 1985 from injuries suffered the previous night while driving drunk. Lindbergh won both AHL Rookie-of-the-Year and Most Valuable Player honors with Maine in 1981. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s most outstanding goalkeeper of the 1984-85 season several months prior to his death. He was 26.

E.J. McGuire, the Mariners final head coach (’91-’92) died of cancer on April 7, 2011 at age 58.

 

Links

A major among the minors“, Kathy Blumenstock, Sports Illustrated, February 18, 1980

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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1990-1997 Binghamton Rangers

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Don BiggsAmerican Hockey League (1990-1997)

Born: 1990 – Affiliation change from Binghamton Whalers
Moved: June 8, 1997 (Hartford Wolfpack)

Arena: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena

Team Colors:

Owners: Bob Carr, Jim McCoy and Tom Mitchell

Calder Cup Championships: None

 

The Binghamton Rangers were the top farm club of the New York Rangers for seven seasons during the 1990’s.

The 1992-93 Binghamton squad re-wrote the American Hockey League record books. Journeyman center Don Biggs (pictured top right) had the greatest offensive season in AHL history with 54 goals and 84 assists. His 138 point campaign still stands as the league record nearly a quarter century on. Despite his amazing scoring pace, Biggs never earned a call-up to New York. His NHL career was limited to 11 games with the Philadelpia Flyers during the 1989-90 season. Biggs’ greatest claim to fame was  to serve as Patrick Swayze’s skating double in the 1986 hockey flick Youngblood.

Led by Biggs, the 1992-93 Rangers posted the best regular season the AHL had ever seen with a 57-13-10 record. With 124 points, the Rangers finished a whopping 37 points ahead of the 2nd place Rochester Americans in the AHL’s Southern Division. But Rochester shocked Binghamton in the Calder Cup playoff quarterfinals, bouncing the B-Rangers in seven games. Binghamton’s regular season record held up for 17 years until the 2009-10 Hershey Bears eclipsed it with 60 regular season wins.

In 1997 the New York Rangers purchased the AHL franchise from local ownership and moved the club to Hartford, Connecticut. Binghamton hockey fans were saddled with a far inferior product for the next five winters as the B.C. Icemen of the lowel-level United Hockey League moved in to Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. But the AHL returned in 2002 with the formation of the Binghamton Senators. The B-Sens would finally win the city’s first Calder Cup championship in 2011.

 

Binghamton Rangers Memorabilia

 

Binghamton Rangers Video

January 4, 1996 international exhibition contest against Yaroslavl Torpedo of Russia at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.

 

Links

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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1971-1976 Richmond Robins

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1973 Richmond Robins ProgramAmerican Hockey League (1971-1976)

Born: April 1971 – The Quebec Aces relocate to Richmond, VA
Folded: June 21, 1976

Arena: Richmond Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owners: 

Calder Cup Championships: None

 

The Richmond Robins were the top farm club of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers during the early and mid-1970’s. The Robins endured five straight losing seasons, even as the Broad Street Bullies-era Flyers won back-to-back Stanley Cups.

Richmond fans took an early interest in the team upon its arrival in 1971. The Robins drew 225,059 fans for 38 dates at the Richmond Coliseum during the winter of 1971-72. But attendance drop consistently in the years that followed. Two seasons later, season attendance was down nearly a third to 159,738.

At the end of the Robins’ fifth season, the club made it to the Calder Cup semi-finals, despite another losing regular season. After the playoffs the team embarked on a “Save The Robins” campaign with a goal of 3,000 season ticket deposits of $100 each. When the deadline arrived on June 21, 1976, the team had secured fewer than 1,000 commitments. Team founder E. Claiborne Robins pulled the plug, citing more than $1 million in financial losses over the Robin’s five-year run.

 

Richmond Robins Memorabilia

 

Links

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 21st, 2017 at 8:29 pm

1972-1992 New Haven Nighthawks

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New Haven Nighthawks ProgramAmerican Hockey League (1972-1992)

Born: 1972
Re-Branded:
1992 (New Haven Senators)

Arena: New Haven Coliseum (8,765)

Team Colors:

Owners:

Calder Cup Championships: None

 

The New Haven Nighthawks were the first (and by the far the finest) of four minor hockey franchises to make their home in the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum.  The Coliseum, opened in 1972, was a capstone of the massive urban renewal investments in New Haven during the long Mayoral regime of Richard C. Lee (1954-1970).  The 11,000-seat building was a ghastly concrete and steel edifice with a novel design element: a four-story steel parking garage balanced atop the arena’s roof.

The Nighthawks joined the American Hockey League as an expansion club in 1972 and would be the anchor tenant of the building for the next twenty years.  The Nighthawks first appearance in New Haven was an exhibition contest against their NHL parent club, the Minnesota North Stars, on September 27th, 1972. The crowd of 8,114 was the largest that would ever watch a Nighthawks game at the Coliseum.

The Nighthawks’ finest years came during the 1970’s. The Coliseum was still new and the team served as a farm club for NHL teams with local Connecticut fan appeal, including the New York Islanders (1972-73) and New York Rangers (1977-1981).  In a five-season stretch between 1975 and 1979, the Nighthawks made three Calder Cup finals appearances, losing all three times.

The Nighthawks’ fortunes declined in the 1980’s.  The Rangers affiliation ended in 1981, replaced by the Los Angeles Kings who bought the team outright from local ownership in 1983.  The steel parking garage on the Coliseum roof began to rust and corrode. In 1980 a piece concrete fell from the garage and struck Coliseum Executive Director Anthony Tavares as he walked on the sidewalk below.  By the middle of the decade, more than half of the 2,400 parking spots on the roof were cordoned off as unsafe. Inside the arena, enormous curtains draped off the thousands of Coliseum seats that went unsold for Nighthawks games.

In the spring of 1987, the Los Angeles Kings issued an ultimatum to the Nighthawks local advisory board: sell 1,300 season tickets for the 1987-88 season or lose the team.  Joel Schiavone, the team’s former owner and still chairman of the advisory board, ascended to the Coliseum roof and camped out for a week in a plywood shack with a telephone and a portable toilet.  Schiavone’s Save the Team stunt worked and bought the Nighthawks another five seasons in New Haven, even as public officials openly discussed plans for tearing down and re-developing the Coliseum.

In the spring of 1989, despite a 4th place regular season finish, the Nighthawks caught fire in the playoffs and  made it to the Calder Cup finals.  The Adirondack Red Wings defeated the Nighthawks in five games.  It was the Nighthawks’ fourth and final championship series appearance. The club never managed to hoist the Calder Cup.

In 1992, the NHL’s newest expansion franchise, the Ottawa Senators, became the new parent club of the Nighthawks. The Senators compelled New Haven’s new owner, Peter Shipman, to re-brand the team as the New Haven Senators for the 1992-93 season. With the demise of the beloved Nighthawks, fan interest crashed through the floor the next winter.  The former Nighthawks franchise left town for Prince Edward Island, Canada in the summer of 1993.

The AHL returned to New Haven and the Coliseum with the Beast of New Haven franchise. That club lasted just two seasons and was quickly replaced by the New Haven Knights of the lower-level United Hockey League.  The Knights folded up shop in 2002 and the Coliseum closed down later that year.  The hulking carcass of the Coliseum remained downtown for five more years as parts of the building were plucked away and city fathers debated who would pay for the final demolition. After years of inertia, the remaining structure of the Coliseum was imploded in January 2007.

 

New Haven Nighthawks Shop

Hockey in New Haven by Heather Bernardi & Kevin Tennyson

 

New Haven Nighthawks Memorabilia

 

Links

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by AC

October 25th, 2015 at 10:06 pm

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