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2001-2004 Detroit Fury

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Detroit Fury Media GuideArena Football League (2001-2004)

Born: Arena Football expansion franchise.
Folded: September 20, 2004

Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills (20,804)

Team Colors: Black, Red, Purple & Silver

Owners: William Davidson & William Clay Ford, Jr.

Arena Bowl Championships: None


The Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League were a short-lived joint venture between Bill Davidson’s Palace Sports & Entertainment (owners of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons) and  Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford, Jr.

An earlier Motor City entry in the league, the Detroit Drive (1988-1993), won four Arena Bowl championships and drew large crowds to the Joe Louis Arena downtown.  But the Fury were unable to revive that promise at the suburban Palace of Auburn Hills.  The Fury compiled a 22-41 record over four seasons of play, never finishing better than .500 under Head Coaches Mouse Davis (2001-2002), Al Luginbill (2003) and Al’s son Tom Luginbill (2004).

Detroit never really took to the team either – the Fury consistently ranked near the bottom of league at the box office. Overall, the team claimed an average of 8,152 fans for 30 home dates over four years.

Palace Sports & Entertainment folded the club on September 20, 2004 after four money-losing seasons.

Years later, former Fury staffer Dave Wieme gave an lengthy interview to Crain’s Detroit Business where he recalled the business challenges of operating the team.


Detroit Fury Memorabilia



What killed the AFL’s Detroit Fury? The rent was too damn high” Bill Shea, Crain’s Detroit Business, January 23, 2013

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


1996 Minnesota Fighting Pike

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Arena Football League (1996)

Born: November 1995 – AFL expansion franchise.
Died: November 1996 – The Fighting Pike cease operations.

Arena: The Target Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Tom Scallen


This isn’t just about high-speed, in-your-face football action, it’s about saving an entire generation of Minnesota’s game fish from becoming shore lunch.”  – Minnesota Fighting Pike President Tom Scallen describing – obliquely – his Arena Football team’s offbeat nickname in November 1995.

I love this name and logo, but not nearly as much as I love Tom Scallen’s nonsensical explanation for it. As far as I know, Scallen did not contribute any of the proceeds of his Arena Football club to bolster the Minnesota’s fragile freshwater ecosystem.  Far from it – the team’s creditors were reportedly stiffed to the tune of $200,000 when the team tanked after a single season.  But anyway…

The Pike were a 1996 expansion franchise in the Arena Football League.  Scallen was/is a colorful Minneapolis attorney and businessman, the one-time owner of the Ice Follies, the Ice Capades and the Harlem Globetrotters.  Scallen also was the man who brought the NHL to Vancouver as the first owner of the Vancouver Canucks in 1970.  Scallen conducted a controversial public sale of Canucks stock during their first season of play.  Canadian authorities investigated and eventually sent Scallen to prison for nine months and later deported him, bringing his tenure as an NHL owner to a swift end.  (Scallen’s view – recounted to the Toronto Globe & Mail three decades later – is that the charges were politically motivated, designed to drive out American ownership).

Scallen’s Fighting Pike debuted in Minneapolis on May 4th, 1996 at the Target Center.  Their opponents were the Iowa Barnstormers, whose starting quarterback was future Super Bowl hero Kurt Warner.  But the better known quarterback at the time for the reported 14,840 Minnesotans on hand was Fighting Pike starter Rickey Foggie, pictured on the evening’s game program (left).  Foggie was a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher star (’88) who enjoyed a long career in the Canadian Football League before returning to Minnesota with the Pike.

The Barnstormers got the best of it on this night, defeating the Fighting Pike 59-43.  It was the start of a downhill slide, as the team dropped eight in a row under former CFL and USFL coach Ray Jauch.  A late season rebound saw Minnesota finish its only season at 4-10.

The bigger problem was that the curiosity seekers who turned out on opening night failed to return.  Attendance never again topped 9,000.  Scallen shut down the team right after the season and the franchise was formally dropped from the Arena Football League in November 1996, one year to the month after it was awarded.  A 2006 retrospective by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune pegged Scallen’s financial loss at $400,000 and noted that creditors were left holding the bag for $200,000 in unpaid bills when the franchise was liquidated.

If the Fighting Pike had any real legacy, it was the the now forgotten club gave an opportunity to an unheralded kicker from the University of West Virginia named Mike Vanderjagt who had been released four times in the Canadian Football League.  Vanderjagt only lasted a few games with the Pike, before he was replaced by the immortal Ty Stewart.  But in 1998 Vanderjagt hooked on with the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and enjoyed a nine-year NFL career, that included an All-Pro selection in 2003.  He retired as one of the most accurate placekickers in NFL history.


==1996 Fighting Pike Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
4/27/1996 @ Texas Terror W 36-24
5/4/1996 vs. Iowa Barnstormers L 53-49 Program
5/10/1996 vs. St. Louis Stampede L 59-22
5/18/1996 @ Albany Firebirds L 85-30
5/24/1996 vs. Tampa Bay Storm L 41-16
5/31/1996 vs. Anaheim Piranhas L 49-23
6/7/1996 vs. Arizona Rattlers L 59-27
6/15/1996 @ Florida Bobcats L 63-28
6/28/1996 vs. Milwaukee Mustangs L 61-49
7/5/1996 @ Connecticut Coyotes W 44-40
7/12/1996 @ Orlando Predators L 56-12
7/19/1996 vs. Texas Terror L 54-51
7/26/1996 @ San Jose Sabercats W 40-31
8/3/1996 @ Memphis Pharaohs W 50-25


==Key Players==

  • Mike Vanderjagt



Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

1996 Minnesota Fighting Pike Statistics on


June 23, 2012 – Kansas City Command vs. Chicago Rush

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Kansas City Command vs. Chicago Rush
June 23, 2012
The Sprint Center
Arena Football League Programs
38 pages

The Arena Football League lost its first franchise in what many observers expect to be a grim offseason last Friday when the Kansas City Command quietly pulled out of the league on August 23rd.  Also purportedly in trouble: the Georgia Force and Milwaukee Mustangs, both of whom have pitiful followings in their markets, and the league-run Chicago Rush, which has been adrift since its previous investor group walked away last fall.  The Pittsburgh Power (more on them in a moment) saw announced attendance decline over 50% in their second year of action.

It’s been a weird year for an increasingly weird league. The AFL’s tag line this year was “Year of the Fan”, but “Year of the Scab” would have been more like it.  The season was dominated by a protracted and disorganized labor dispute that saw players and owners squabbling  publicly over the handful of pocket change left in the sport after the recession and a disastrous 2009 bankruptcy.  Some (or all?) of the players may (or may not?) be represented by Ivan Soto, a mysterious financial adviser from Ohio who rails against ownership to his tiny army of 200 Twitter followers.  Soto’s questionable tactics included persuading a single team – the Cleveland Gladiators – to strike on their own for one game, resulting in a forfeit that helped knock them out of the playoffs.  Whoops.

Owners and league execs have seen and raised Soto’s buffoonery on several occasions, most majestically when Pittsburgh Power honcho Matt Shaner fired his entire team during dinner at Olive Garden and abandoned them in Florida a few hours before the first game of the season.  Shaner’s theatrics drew more attention to the AFL than any other story in this Year of the Fan, including the league’s showpiece Arena Bowl XXV championship game, played before a comically inflated announced crowd of 13,648 in New Orleans two weeks ago.

The AFL promoted the 2012 season as the league’s 25th Anniversary, harkening back to the founding of the original Arena Football League in 1987.  But that’s rather disingenuous.  It’s kind of like saying you’ve seen Motley Crue in concert, when what you really mean is that you saw a tribute band called Shout At The Devil play in a South Carolina bowling alley.  While the sport (and some of the intellectual property) is indeed a quarter century old, today’s Arena Football League is just three years old and boy is it different than what came before.

The original league (1987-2008) played for two decades and had quite a few problems of its own.  Most fundamentally, it never solved the eternal revenue/expense problem faced by leagues that play as tenants in other people’s buildings.  But these business model problems were hidden by a speculative bubble in expansion fees in the early 2000’s, a charismatic chief executive in C. David Baker, and a brief fling with the NFL, that saw investment pour into the AFL from deep-pocketed NFL owners like Arthur Blank, Pat Bowlen, Tom Benson and Jerry Jones.  For a half decade or so, the money kept flowing and the creditors remained patient.

The bubble deflated for the original AFL in 2008 after three years without new expansion money.  The NFL guys got out and never looked back.  There was no Arena Football in 2009 as the league went bankrupt.  This new league, launched in 2010, is primarily composed of the poorer owners from the old league and its former small-market minor league system.  These guys scraped together $6.1 million bucks in late 2009 to purchase the old league’s IP rights at a bankruptcy auction.  Many of the old team identities have been revived and the original league’s history has been reclaimed and packaged as if it were never interrupted.  The only elements missing are the high quality players of the first league – driven away by salary reductions both draconian and inevitable – and the fans, who seem to detect the aura of shabbiness that envelops this new entity.

The question now is whether Arena Football is poised to go the way of indoor soccer, which was bigger than outdoor soccer (and more popular than the NBA in a few cities) in the 1980’s, but has now languished for more than a decade in state of complete and utter irrelevance.  Kansas City may be the first domino to fall in a decisive autumn/winter for the “new” AFL.   But more likely, the league will muddle through for many more years, chasing an elusive formula of smaller arenas, cheaper workers (both on field and off) and lowered expectations in a “Puppet Show and Spinal Tap” kind of way.   There are several second tier football leagues out there trying to carve out a piece of market share – the new, retro-themed USFL, the zombie carcass of the United Football League – but the Arena Football League is the only one that has already fired the silver bullet that the others so obviously covet: partnership with the NFL.  The AFL had that chance once.  It didn’t work out and it’s probably never coming back.  It’s hard to imagine what’s next to resuscitate this sport.



Written by AC

August 28th, 2012 at 8:25 pm


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