Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Cobo Arena’ tag

1990-2001 Detroit Rockers

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Pato Margetic Detroit RockersNational Professional Soccer League (1990-2001)

Born: October 1989 – NPSL expansion franchise.
Folded: Postseason 2001


Team Colors:



The Detroit Rockers were an indoor soccer team that earned a modest following in the Motor City during the 1990’s.  The Rockers won the championship of the National Professional Soccer League during their second season in the winter of 1991-92.  But for most part the Rockers were also-rans, failing to make the playoffs during their final six seasons of existence.

Key performers included forward Andy Chapman (1991-1994), player-coach Pato Margetic (1994-1999), forward Drago Dumbovic, and long-time goalkeeper Bryan Finnerty.

From 1993 until 1999 the Rockers were owned by Detroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and his wife Marian. During this same period, Detroit had a competing indoor team, the Detroit Neon, owned by Pistons owner William Davidson.  But by the late 1990’s, heavy hitter investors like Ilitch and Davidson soured on indoor soccer.  The Neon folded in 1997 and Ilitch sold off the Rockers in 1999.

In a cost-cutting move, the team moved to a small suburban arena in suburban Plymouth Township in 2000. The Rockers folded quietly the following year.





==Detroit Rockers Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other


1993-94 3/26/1994 @ Buffalo Blizzard L 12-8 Program


1995-96 12/17/1995 vs. St. Louis Ambush W 22-13 Program


2000-01 1/19/2001 vs. Baltimore Blast W 14-10 Program



1999-00 Detroit Rockers promotional video.



National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs


1974-75 Michigan Stags

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Michigan StagsWorld Hockey Association (1974-1975)

Born: April 1974 – The Los Angeles Sharks relocate to Detroit.
Moved: January 19, 1975 (Baltimore Blades)

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. This 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 team stocked their roster with unremarkable minor league journeymen, with 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.


Michigan Stags Shop

Stags Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

The Rebel League: The Short & Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes


Michigan Stags Memorabilia



Remembering the Woeful Michigan Stags Hockey Team – Richard Bak

World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs



Written by AC

December 26th, 2013 at 9:07 pm

1982-1986 Detroit Spirits

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Continental Basketball Association (1982-1986)

Born: 1982 – CBA expansion franchise.
Moved: 1986 (Savannah Spirits)


Team Colors: Red, Silver & Black



The Detroit Spirits were a minor league basketball franchise that toiled in the shadow of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons for five seasons in the mid-1980’s.  The Spirits attracted some attention at the outset of their first season in 1982-83 by signing cult basketball enigma Marvin “Bad News” Barnes.  Barnes, a former Providence College star, was the American Basketball Association’s 1974 Rookie-of-the-Year. But his subsequent pro career was dogged by erratic behavior, arrests for firearms and narcotics, and general under achievement.  Playing in the CBA was a form of penance.  Barnes’ Spirits contract was worth $5,000 for the season.  Rival big man Moses Malone, the runner-up to Barnes for ABA Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 1974, had a $2.2 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982-83.  As he had in previous stops, Barnes missed Spirits practices and games. The team eventually suspended him.

The Spirits won the Continental Basketball Association championship in 1983, their first season of operation. They defeated the Montana Golden Nuggets, coached by George Karl, in the championship series.  Minor league legend Tico Brown scored 60 points, a CBA playoff record, in Detroit’s Game 5 victory.

Despite the championship, Spirits owner Agustin Arbulu endured a number of headaches during his first season. Playoff games at Cobo Arena drew only a few hundred fans per game. Then there was a bizarre episode where inmates at the Dunes Correctional Facility in Michigan somehow got hold of the Spirits’ long distance calling code. The prisoners charged over $19,000 of long distance calls to the team account.

A return visit to the CBA championship series in 1985 resulted in a loss to the Tampa Bay Thrillers.

The Spirits started out at Cobo Arena downtown, but attendance was poor. The team moved to smaller, cheaper venues in subsequent seasons, including Calihan Hall at the University of Detroit.

In April of 1986 the Spirits moved to Savannah, Georgia where they became known as the Savannah Spirits.


Detroit Spirits Shop

Bad News: The Turbulent Life of Marvin Barnes, Pro Basketball’s Original Renegade by Mike Carey


In Memoriam

Center Marvin Barnes died of a drug overdose on September 8, 2014 at age 62. Providence Journal obituary.



Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs


Written by AC

August 5th, 2013 at 2:40 am

1974 Detroit Loves

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Detroit Loves World Team TennisWorld Team Tennis (1974)

Born: 1973 – WTT founding franchise.
Moved: November 1974 (Indiana Loves)

Arena: Cobo Arena

Team Colors:

Owners: Seymour Brode & Marshall Greenspan

World Team Tennis Championships: None


The Detroit Loves were a one-year wonder, active for the inaugural season of World Team Tennis in the summer of 1974.  World Team Tennis sought to take the genteel sport of tennis and market it to the American masses in large hockey arenas.  Fans were encouraged to boo and cheer loudly.  Each match consisted of five sets – one each in men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.   Each game won was worth a point and teams earned wins and losses in league standings, as with the dominant American team sports leagues of the era.

The Detroit Loves were one of sixteen franchises that began play in the spring of 1974, playing a busy 44-match schedule.  The fledgling league was relatively successful in attracting top players from around the world, particularly from the women’s game.  The Loves boasted one of the top American females in Rosie Casals, the singles runner-up at the U.S. Open in both 1970 and 1971.

Casals was the top gate attraction on a roster that also included Aussies Phil Dent, Allan Stone and Kerri Harris and Americans Mary-Ann Beattie and Lenny Simpson.  Dent would achieve some notoriety later in that summer of 1974, reaching the final of the Australian Open where he lost to Jimmy Connors in what would turn out to be the only Grand Slam singles final of Dent’s career.  Simpson was one of the few African-Americans to play World Team Tennis in the 1970’s.  The team was highly competitive, finishing first in their division with a 30-14 record, before a disappointing first round playoff exit courtesy of the Pittsburgh Triangles.

The Loves fared poorly at the gate, attracting a disappointing announced crowd of 3,600 to their home debut on May 9th, 1974 at the 11,000-seat Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit.  Crowds for the season hovered around the 2,000 mark in the big building, according to The Associated Press, and the club lost a reported $300,000 on operations for the lone season of play.  In November 1974, Loves owners Seymour Brode and Marshall Greenspan sold the franchise to Indianapolis tennis promoter William Bereman who relocated it to that city’s Market Square Arena.

The Loves continued in Indianapolis as the Indiana Loves for four seasons (1975-1978) before folding along with the rest of the league in November 1978.

Any material from the Detroit Loves lone season is exceptionally scarce, but we were lucky to dig up these rare 8″ x 10″ glossy PR stills in a collection a few months back.


Detroit Loves Memorabilia



World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs












Written by AC

September 12th, 2012 at 3:23 am

1979-80 Detroit Lightning

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Major Indoor Soccer LeagueDetroit Lightning (1979-1980)

Born: 1979 – MISL expansion franchise
Moved: May 28, 1980 (San Francisco Fog)

Arena: Cobo Arena (10,048)

Team Colors: Black & Silver

OwnersJerry Perenchio & Norman Lear

MISL Championships: None


The Detroit Lightning were a one-year wonder in the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL).  The television production team of Jerry Perenchio and Norman Lear purchased an expansion franchise in the two-year old MISL.  Perenchio was a former talent agent who had a background in sports promotions as well.  He promoted the “Fight of the Century” heavyweight title bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden in 1971 and the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis exhibition between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King.  Lear developed some of the most popular and critically acclaimed situation comedies of the 1970’s, including All In The Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, One Day At A Time and Sanford & Son.

Indoor soccer was an unfamiliar sport in 1979, in many ways more similar to hockey than soccer.  Compounding the challenge of introducing a new sport and an unfamiliar league, the Lightning also faced local competition in the form of the Detroit Express of the North American Soccer League (NASL).  The NASL was a traditional outdoor soccer league, but had experimented with the indoor exhibitions for several years.  After the NASL watched the upstart MISL draw large crowds at the Philadelphia Spectrum, Madison Square Garden and other major arenas during its debut season in the winter of 1978-79, the older league decided to launch an indoor season of its own in the winter of 1979-80.

The Lightning played at the downtown Cobo Arena.  The Express stayed out in suburban Pontiac, staging their indoor games in a tiny corner of the 80,000-seat Silverdome, where they played conventional soccer in the summertime.


Detroit Lightning

Courtesy of the Dave Morrison collection at

The Lightning finished their only season at 15-17, good for third place in the MISL’s Central Division and enough to squeak into the sixth and final playoff spot.  Pat Ercoli – known locally as “Patrick the Hat Trick” – led the Lightning in scoring. Ercoli finished fifth overall in the MISL with 44 goals and 24 assists in 32 matches.

Detroit travelled to Kansas for a single-game Divisional semi-final playoff against the Wichita Wings on March 11th, 1980.  The Wings eliminated the Lightning 6-5 and that would prove to be the franchise’s final game as the Lightning.

Perenchio and Lear sold the Lightning to Dr. David Schoenstadt in the spring of 1980 and he officially relocated the club to San Francisco on May 28th, 1980. The team took the name ‘San Francisco Fog’, but lasted just one year in the Bay Area.

Schoenstadt relocated the team once again to Kansas City, Missouri for the 1981-82 season.  The Kansas City Comets proved one of the most popular draws in the MISL throughout the 1980’s.  The franchise that began life as the Detroit Lightning in 1979 finally went out of business in Kansas City in the spring of 1991.

Perenchio and Lear sold their film and television properties to Coca-Cola/Columbia Pictures for $485 million.  Perenchio later purchased and eventually sold Spanish-language television giant Univision, earning billionaire status.  In 2004 Perenchio ranked #186 on Forbes‘ list of the wealthiest individuals in the world.



Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Written by AC

January 16th, 2012 at 1:15 am


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