Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘World Basketball League’ Category

1990-1992 Saskatchewan Storm


Saskatchewan StormWorld Basketball League (1990-1992)

Born: 1990 – WBL expansion franchise.
Died: August 1, 1992 – The WBL folds in midseason.

Arena: Saskatchewan Place (7,865)

Team Colors: Purple & Gold

Owners: World Basketball League & ?


The Saskatchewan Storm were a minor league basketball team that competed in the World Basketball League from 1990 until the league’s midseason demise in 1992.  The WBL played an exciting, fast-breaking style of ball, thanks to a rule that limited eligibility to player 6′ 5″ and under (later raised to 6′ 7″ in the league’s final season.)

The WBL had a handful of clubs scattered thousands of miles apart across North America.  The league was organized as a sort of modified single-entity structure, with a group of Youngstown, Ohio businessmen serving as general partners and owning 60% of most franchises. But the heart of the league was in Canada, where teams like the Storm, the Calgary 88’s and the Winnipeg Thunder drew strong crowds.  Saskatchewan led the WBL in attendance in 1990 with an announced average of 4,193 fans per game.

During the Storm’s third season in 1992, the WBL began to experience severe distress. With the centralized general partnership structure, even those franchises with partial local ownership relied on the Ohio league office to fund a significant portion of local expenses. Suddenly the flow of money stopped. The league ran up six figure debts to the Canadian franchises.  League founder and front man Mickey Monus was nowhere to be found. The WBL abruptly shuttered its two Florida franchises a few weeks into the season in June 1992. At the league All-Star Game in July, league officials handed a check for $48,000 to the host Hamilton Skyhawks. It bounced.

Eventually it came out that Mickey Monus funded the WBL for years with funds embezzled from the Youngstown-based Phar-Mor discount pharmacy chain.  In addition, many of the WBL’s sponsors and advertisers were Phar-Mor suppliers whose arms were twisted to support Monus’ basketball hobby. With Monus on the run and about to be incarcerated, the WBL collapsed like the proverbial house of cards.  The league folded in midseason on August 1, 1992.  The night before, the Saskatchewan Storm were stranded in Dayton, Ohio when no one could come up with the money to fly them home from what turned out to be their final game.

The WBL’s relatively successful Canadian franchises banded together to start a new Canada-only league in 1993 called the National Basketball League. Saskatoon had a franchise in the NBL, but with new ownership and a new identity – the “Saskatoon Slam” – to distance themselves from the scorched earth left behind by the WBL. The NBL lasted a year-and-a-half before closing down midway through the 1994 season.


==Saskatchewan Storm Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1992 6/16/1992 @ Calgary 88's L 120-114 Program



Saskatchewan Storm vs. Calgary 88’s at the Saddledome in Calgary. Summer 1991.


==Downloads & Links==

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Jimmy Oldham

Justia case summary: United States of America vs. Michael I. Monus



World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs



Written by AC

May 4th, 2015 at 1:06 am

1992-1993 Hamilton Skyhawks

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1992 Hamilton SkyhawksWorld Basketball League (1992)
National Basketball League (1993)

Born: 1991 – WBL expansion franchise.
Died: 1993 – The Skyhawks relocate to Edmonton in midseason.

Arena: Copps Coliseum

Team Colors:



The Hamilton Skyhawks were an Ontario-based minor league basketball team that played for parts of two seasons in the early 1990’s, failing to complete either campaign.

The Skyhawks’ first go around was in the World Basketball League, a circuit which only allowed players 6′ 5″ or shorter.  The WBL featured four franchises in Canada, all of which had some semblance of a following.  The league’s U.S.-based teams were considerably less popular and the whole enterprise fell apart  in July 1992 when it was revealed that the league’s primary patron was funding operations with embezzled money.  The WBL folded in midseason on August 1, 1992.

The group of four Canadian franchises decided to form a new Canada-only league and re-group in 1993.  Well, sort of.  Skyhawks founder Ron Foxcroft was dubious and bailed out of the new effort, dubbed the “National Basketball League“.  But new owners took over the team and kept the Skyhawks going in Hamilton.  The NBL debuted in the spring of 1993.

The new Skyhawks ownership group ran out of momentum as the season wore on.  The Skyhawks qualified for the 1993 NBL playoffs with a 24-22, but abruptly moved to Edmonton just before the playoffs got underway.  Playing as the “Edmonton Skyhawks”, the team lost in the semi-finals to the Cape Breton Breakers.  The team was never heard from again, in either Hamilton or Edmonton.

The rest of the NBL went out of business a year later, midway through the 1994 season.


==Downloads & Links==

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Jimmy Oldham



World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs




1988-1992 Calgary 88’s

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1992 Calgary 88's Media GuideWorld Basketball League (1988-1992)

Born: 1987 – WBL founding franchise.
Folded: August 1, 1992.

Arena: Olympic Saddledome (9,800)

Team Colors: Red & Black

Owner: Jon Havelock

WBL Championships: None


The Calgary 88’s were a minor pro basketball league that competed in all five seasons of the short-lived World Basketball League (1988-1992).  The WBL was restricted to player 6′ 5″ and under and featured an odd geographic mix of teams scattered from southern Florida to Western Canada.

True to is name, the World Basketball League also imported touring teams from Europe and the Soviet Union (who were not subject to the height restriction rules) to compete against the North American franchises.  These games counted in the league’s regular season standings.  Without exception the European teams were terrible and these contests basically amounted to a guaranteed win.

The 88’s were one of the WBL’s best teams, both on the court and at the box office.  They appeared in the league championship series in back-to-back seasons in 1989 and 1990, but lost to the Youngstown Pride on both occasions.

In August 1992 the World Basketball League folded in midseason after an embezzlement scandal involving the Youngstown Pride’s owner consumed the entire league. The 88’s went under with the rest of the league.


Calgary 88’s Memorabilia


88’s Video

Calgary 88’s vs. Saskatchewan Storm at the Saddledome. Summer 1991.


Downloads & Links

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Jimmy Oldham

Justia case summary: United States of America vs. Michael I. Monus

1992 Newsweek Mickey Monus Profile

1992 Business Week Profile of Mickey Monus



World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs


Written by AC

May 2nd, 2015 at 2:22 pm

1988 Chicago Express

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World Basketball League (1988)

Born: 1987 – International Basketball Association founding franchise.
Died: December 8, 1988 – The Express relocate to Springfield, IL.

Arena: Rosemont Horizon (16,644)

Team Colors: Scarlet Red, Royal Blue & White

Owner: Barry Fox


Can you launch a minor league basketball in Chicago on the shoulders of Michael Jordan’s big brother Larry?  Apparently not, as the Chicago Express of the World Basketball League lasted just one summer, playing to acres of empty seats at the suburban Rosemont Horizon in 1988.

Larry Jordan, out of North Carolina A&T, was likely the biggest “name” on the Express, but certainly not the team’s best player.  That title went to Chicago product Alfredrick Hughes, a free shooting former star at Loyola of Chicago and former 1st round pick (1985) of the San Antonio Spurs.  Hughes was a classic tweener – too short at 6′ 5″ to make it in the NBA as a power forward, but a dominant minor league, especially in the WBL, which was restricted to players 6′ 5″ and under.  In the World Basketball League, Alfredrick Hughes was a literal and figurative giant.

Jim Les was another notable player, a guard out of Bradley University in Peoria.  Les was named to the All-WBL team in 1988 and earned a spot with the Utah Jazz in the fall of 1988-89, where he appeared in 82 games.  Les eventually played parts of seven season in the NBA from 1988 to 1995.

The Head Coach of the Express was former Northwestern University coach Rich Falk.  Falk resigned late in the season and was replaced by Assistant Coach Walt Perrin.

The Express’ first game was on May 19, 1988 against the Youngstown Pride at the Rosemont Horizon.  The game drew a decent announced crowd of 5,250 and the Express treated fans to a 115-102 victory, led by Hughes with a game high 25 points and 11 boards.

The crowds quickly evaporated though.  By the end of June, team owner Barry Fox resorted to massive free ticket giveaways, which produced the Express’ two largest crowds of the season, but failed to generate much in the way of return customers.  For the season, the Express averaged fewer than 2,000 fans in the 16,000-seat Horizon.  Late in the year, the Express moved a game to the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Illinois and drew over 4,000 fans, leading to speculation that the team would move there permanently for the 1989 season.

The Express finished the 1988 season at 27-27 and earned the WBL’s fourth and final playoff spot.  After defeating the Calgary 88’s in a semi-final game, the Express played the Las Vegas Silver Streaks in the World Basketball League championship game on September 9, 1988.  The Silver Streaks won 102-95.

In December 1988, Express owner Barry Fox made the rumors official and moved the team to Springfield, Illinois.  The club competed there for two more seasons as the Illinois Express before folding at the end of the 1990 season.   The WBL folded in 1992 midway through its fifth season.



==Express Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1988 5/19/1988 vs. Youngstown Pride W 115-102 Program Rosters



World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs



Written by AC

January 1st, 2014 at 3:48 pm

1991-1994 Halifax Windjammers

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World Basketball League (1991-1992)
National Basketball League (1993-1994)

Born: 1991 – WBL expansion franchise.
Folded: July 9, 1994

Arena: Halifax Metro Centre (9,851)

Team Colors: Blue & Gold



World Basketball League Championships: None
National Basketball League Championships: None


The Halifax Windjammers were a popular minor league basketball franchise that played parts of four seasons in two different leagues at the Halifax Metro Centre.

The Windjammers started out as a 1991 expansion entry in the World Basketball League, a high-scoring circuit that restricted rosters to players 6′ 5″ tall and under.  Halifax’s WBL opponents included three Canadians teams – the Calgary 88’s, Hamilton Skyhawks, Saskatchewan Storm and Winnipeg Thunder – as well as team scattered across the United States and foreign clubs imported from Europe.

Attendance was strong in Halifax, especially by the standards of the struggling WBL.  The Windjammers were tabbed to host the league All-Star Game during their expansion season.  Heading into the All-Star break, Halifax led the league with average attendance of 5,601 per game, which was more than double the league-wide midseason average of 2,623.  The All-Star Game itself drew 9,160 to the Metro Centre on July 10th, 1991.  The Windjammers finished 1991 at 21 wins and 30 losses and out of playoff contention.

On-court results picked up in 1992 and Halifax sat 4th place in the league with a 19-14 record with a month to go.  But then an accounting scandal sunk the World Basketball League when it was revealed that league coffers were being propped up with funds embezzled by Youngstown Pride owner Mickey Monus from Phar-Mor, his discount pharmacy chain in the United States.  The WBL folded in mid-season on August 1, 1992 and Monus later went to federal prison.

The Windjammers regrouped in 1993 to join the start-up National Basketball League.  The NBL was an All-Canadian minor league, which included fellow WBL refugees the Hamilton Skyhawks and Winnipeg Thunder, along with new clubs in Cape Breton, Montreal and Saskatoon.  If anything, the NBL was even more unstable than the World Basketball League had been.  Montreal folded midway through the 1993 schedule and Hamilton pulled up stakes and moved to Edmonton before the season ended.  In July 1994, the entire league folded without managing to complete it second campaign.  Halifax was in first place at the time with a 15-6 record.

One notable player on the Windjammers roster in 1991 was former University of Indiana star Keith Smart who hit the famous winning shot in the 1987 NCAA title game to lift  IU over Syracuse.



2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Director Jimmy Oldham




World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs


==Additional Sources==

Newcomers Halifax Windjammers Leading WBL in Attendance“, Linda Deckard, Amusement Business, July 22, 1991






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