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1972-1978 Houston Aeros

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Gordie Howe Houston AerosWorld Hockey Association (1972-1978)

Born: March 1972 – The WHA’s planned Dayton, OH club shifts to Houston
Folded: July 9, 1978


Team Colors:



The Houston Aeros were a powerhouse club in the World Hockey Association, a 1970’s-era rival to the NHL.  The franchise was originally announced for Dayton, Ohio when the WHA was formed in late 1971, but arena and community issues forced the shift of the club to Houston before the league got under way in 1972.

The Aeros are best remembered for luring pro hockey’s all-time leading scorer, Gordie Howe ,out of retirement in 1973 and signing him to play alongside his sons Mark and Marty Howe.  There was no rust on the 45-year old star.  He scored 31 goals and added 69 assists to finish 3rd in the WHA in scoring and win league MVP honors in 1974.  The Aeros won the first of two straight AVCO Cup championships that spring.

Gordie Howe Houston AerosThe Aeros would win the Western Division title all four seasons that the Howe family play in Houston from 1974 through 1977.  The Aeros had great depth beyond the Howes as well.  Goaltending was a consistent strength of the club, first with Don McLeod (1972-1974) and later with the platoon of Ron Grahame and Wayne Rutledge.  Frank Hughes and Larry Lund were the Aeros’ all-time leading scorers with 149 goals a piece and both played all six seasons for the club.  Andre Hinse, Gord LaBossiere and Ted Taylor were also prolific scoring threats.  Future NHL stars Terry Ruskowski and John Tonelli both got their starts with the Aeros and the WHA in the ’70’s.

After winning their second straight WHA title in the spring of 1975, the Aeros moved out of the old Sam Houston Coliseum and into the brand new 15,000-seat Houston Summit later that fall.  Aeros attendance reached an all-time peak at 9,180 per game during the 1975-76 season.  The Aeros (53-27) made a third straight trip to the AVCO Cup finals in 1976, but were swept by their arch-rivals, the Winnipeg Jets, in four games.

Financial cracks began to show in February 1977, as the Aeros missed their payroll for the first time and players were asked to accept an indefinite deferment that drifted through the summer of 1977.  The Howe family departed en masse via free agency with Gordie and sons all signing with the WHA’s New England Whalers in free agency. Owners George Bolin and Walter Fondren – the team’s third investor group in five years – withdrew their backing and Summit arena chairman Kenneth Schnitzer had to step in to re-capitalize the team in late 1977.

Meanwhile, merger talks with the National Hockey League got underway in 1977.  At first blush, the Aeros seemed like a strong bet for acceptance into the senior circuit (which would require a rumored fee of around $3 million).  The team was an annual contender and played in a brand new 15,000-seat arena in a large media market.  But NHL owners voted down the proposal.  When merger talks resumed in 1978, a shorter list of four WHA remained under consideration for entry to the NHL and the Aeros were left off the list .  From the time he took control of the team in November 1977, Kenneth Schnitzer made clear that he wanted into the NHL.  Schnitzer sought to purchase the NHL’s struggling Colorado Rockies in June 1978 and relocate the franchise to Houston, but NHL owners let it be known that they opposed the move.  Frustrated with the various roadblocks to NHL membership, Schnitzer folded the Aeros on July 9, 1978.


Houston Aeros Memorabilia


Aeros Video

Broadcast highlights of the Aeros vs. the Cincinnati Stingers at The Summit on January 21, 1978


In Memoriam

Defenseman Dunc McCallum (Aeros ’72-73) died on March 31, 1983 at age 43.

Kenneth Schnitzer, the final owner of the Aeros, died of lung cancer on November 1, 1999 at 70. New York Times obit.

Former Aeros goaltender Don McLeod passed away on March 11, 2015 at the age of 68. Calgary Sun memoriam.



World Hockey Association Media Guides

World Hockey Association Programs


1994-2013 Houston Aeros

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International Hockey League (1994-2001)
American Hockey League (2001-2013)

Born: 1994 – IHL expansion franchise.
Moved: April 18, 2013 (Iowa Wild)


Team Colors:


Turner Cup Champions (IHL): 1999
Calder Cup Champions (AHL): 2003


The Houston Aeros were formed as an International Hockey League expansion team in 1994 by Chuck Watson, CEO of Houston energy trading firm Dynegy.  The Aeros were a brand revival of the popular World Hockey Association club of the 1970’s, who famously featured ageless Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty.

The modern day Aeros played their early seasons in the IHL. The IHL was an ambitious but unsustainable minor league that featured big budgets, cross-continental air travel and occasional cross-border raids to sign NHL stars to short-term deals during contract holdouts.  The Aeros were a box office hit upon their arrival in the mid-1990’s. The team averaged over 10,000 fans per game at the old Houston Summit during their first two seasons.  Attendance declined year-over-year for all seven seasons that the Aeros played in the IHL. But those who stuck around were rewarded with an outstanding team and perennial title contender.  From 1997 to 2005, the Aeros made the playoffs for nine straight seasons.

The Aeros won their first and only Turner Cup championship of the IHL in the spring of 1999.  After posting a league-best record of 54-15-13 in the regular season, the Aeros outlasted the Orlando Solar Bears 4 games to 3 in the best-of-seven Turner Cup finals. Brian Wiseman led the IHL in scoring that season (109 pts.) and was named MVP of the league.

The IHL collapsed under its own weight and went out of business in May of 2001.  The Aeros were one of six IHL survivors admitted to the American Hockey League for the 2001-2002 season.  At the same time that the Aeros entered the AHL, they signed an affiliation deal to become the top farm club of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.  In 2003, stocked with Wild prospects, the Aeros defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs to capture the AHL’s Calder Cup championship.

Even more so than the transition from IHL to the AHL in 2001, the summer of 2003 following the Aeros’ Calder Cup victory brought massive change to the Aeros franchise.  The old Summit/Compaq Center finally shut down after years of political wrangling.  The Aeros and the NBA’s Houston Rockets would both move into the brand new $235 million Toyota Center in the autumn of 2003.  Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that team founder Chuck Watson decided to sell the Aeros to Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the NHL’s Wild, at this time.

During the late 1990’s Watson controlled the Compaq Center and Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander was his tenant.  Alexander pushed for a new downtown arena and wanted to break his lease at Watson’s building, which ran through 2003.  Watson refused to release the Rockets from their lease and led political opposition to the new arena project. The Aeros owner helped deal a shocking referendum defeat to the project in late 1999. Watson and Alexander’s arena feud also played a role in sinking Houston’s NHL expansion bid in the late 1990’s. But after the NBA threatened Houston with the loss of pro basketball if a new arena was not in the city’s plans, the project got back on track.

The Toyota Center opened in 2003 and this time the roles were reversed. Alexander controlled the building and Watson was to be the tenant. Watson sold out to the Wild two months before the Toyota Center opened, retaining only a small minority stake in the Aeros.

The Aeros made one more championship run in the spring of 2011, advancing to the Calder Cup finals before losing there to the Binghamton Senators.

At the end of the 2012-13 season the Aeros 10-year lease expired at Toyota Center.  The team remained one of the stronger box office draws in the AHL. The club’s 2012-13 attendance of 6,793 per game ranked 7th among the AHL’s 30 clubs. But Minnesota Sports & Entertainment could not come to terms on a new lease with Toyota Center.  On April 18, 2013, the Wild announced that the Aeros would relocate to Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa for the 2013-14 season and be known henceforth as the Iowa Wild.  A few weeks later, the Grand Rapids Griffins knocked the Aeros out of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. The playoff series loss brought the Aeros era in Houston to an end after 19 seasons.


Houston Aeros Memorabilia


Aeros Video

The Houston Aeros’ IHL debut on October 7, 1994 goes to a shootout against the Atlanta Knights at a sold-out Summit.

The Aeros defeat the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 7 to win the 2003 Calder Cup.



October 7, 1994 Houston Aeros Inaugural Game Roster & Game Notes



The 3rd Intermission – Andrew Ferraro’s Aeros Blog 

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs



1994-2000 Houston Hotshots

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Continental Indoor Soccer League (1994-1997)
World Indoor Soccer League (1999-2000)

Born: September 24, 1993 – CISL expansion franchise
Folded: February 2001


Team Colors: Red & Black

Mascot: Pico De Goalie

Owners: Giorgio Borlenghi & Alfredo Brener

CISL Championships: None


The Houston Hotshots were an expansion franchise in the Continental Indoor Soccer League for the league’s sophomore season in the summer of 1994.   The CISL was a successor league to the Major Indoor Soccer League (1978-1992), which popularized the sport of indoor soccer, but failed to find a sustainably business model and folded in July 1992.  Two MISL clubs – the Dallas Sidekicks and San Diego Sockers – joined the CISL.  A key difference from previous indoor leagues was the the CISL played during the summertime.  Many of the league’s investors were arena operators and/or NBA owners who were looking to fill empty summer dates in their buildings.

The Hotshots owner was Houston real estate developer Giorgio Borlenghi.  He owned the club for all six seasons of its existence.

During the CISL years (1994-1997) the Hotshots played in the old Houston Summit.  Announced attendance hovered in the 6,000 – 7,000 per game range during all four seasons.  The Hotshots appeared in the CISL Championship Series in back-to-back seasons, losing to Monterrey La Raza in 1996 and to the Seattle Seadogs in 1997.

Shortly after losing the 1997 CISL Championship Series, the Hotshots, the Dallas Sidekicks and the Portland Pride pulled out of the CISL in November 1997.  This caused the league to fold on December 23, 1997, although several former CISL members quickly regrouped to form the Premier Soccer Alliance, which played a short, low-profile season in the summer of 1998.

Borlenghi and the Hotshots sat out 1998, but returned in 1999 as members of the World Indoor Soccer League, which was the new name of the Premier Soccer Alliance.   As part of the relaunch, the Hotshots moved across town to the smaller Reliant Arena (formerly known as Astroarena).  The fans didn’t follow and the Hotshots drew poorly for two seasons of play in the WISL in 1999 and 2000.  Houston’s average draw of 2,887 per match in 2000 was the worst figure in the seven-team league.

In February 2001, Borlenghi folded the club, citing lack of fan, sponsor and media interest.

Odds n’ ends… a young midfielder named Diego Maradona played for the Hotshots for a few seasons in the mid-90’s.  He was the nephew of the Argentinean legend of the same name….the Hotshots mascot was named Pico de Goalie.


Houston Hotshots Video

Hotshots vs. the Pittsburgh Stingers at the Summit. September 17, 1995

1996 Hotshots highlights video excerpt



Continental Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Continental Indoor Soccer League Programs

1994 Houston Hotshots Final Statistics on

1995 Houston Hotshots Final Statistics on



1978-1980 Houston Angels

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Houston AngelsWomen’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1980)

Born: 1978 – WPBL founding franchise.
Folded: Postseason 1980


Team Colors: Powder Blue & Dark Blue

Owner: Hugh Sweeney

WPBL Champions: 1979


Trivia question: what city won the first ever championship for women’s professional basketball in the United States?

Answer: Houston, Texas, where the Houston Angels captured the league title during the inaugural season of the Women’s Professional Basketball League in April of 1979.  The WPBL was the first attempt to create a fully-fledged pro league for women. It lasted three seasons from 1978 to 1981.  The Angels managed to hang in there for the first two only.

At the WPBL’s inaugural draft at Essex House in Manhattan in July 1978, the Angels selected UCLA star Ann Meyers with the #1 overall pick.  But Meyers declined to sign with the league, preferring to remain an amateur for the 1980 Moscow Olympics (which the U.S. subsequently boycotted).  Meyers would later join the WPBL’s New Jersey Gems for the league’s second season in 1979-80.

Houston AngelsDespite losing out on Meyers, the Angels raced out to the WPBL’s best regular season record (26-8) under Head Coach Don Knodel.  Top performers Belinda Candler (19.9 PPG) and Paula Mayo (15.9 PPG) were both named All-Pro.  The Angels met the Iowa Cornets in the WPBL Championship Series.  The best-of-five series went the distance, with the deciding Game 5 held at the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion before a crowd of 5,976.  The Angels bested the Cornets 111-104, thanks to a 36 point, 22 rebound performance by Mayo.

Angels owner Hugh Sweeney was a Houston-area tennis promoter and former professional player (he had some notoriety as the last man to compete in pro tennis wearing long pants during the 1950’s).  Sweeney was not an especially wealthy owner and midway through the Angels second season, he and the team fell prey to a bizarre hoax.  In December 1979 Sweeney announced the sale of the team to an organization called Sports Resources International, Inc. for the sum of $1 million.  It was an eye-opening figure, as Sweeney and the other initial investors paid just $50,000 for their franchises when the WPBL formed in early 1978.

The press covered the sale announcement, but something seemed off. The principal investor of Sports Resources International was a fellow named Richard E. Klingler.  Klingler presented himself to the team at a practice session and behaved strangely. He barely raised his voice above an inaudible murmur in his remarks to the team, according to Karra Porter in her WPBL history Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League.  Klingler, it turned out, was a blue collar laborer seeking media attention.

“He was like a machinist in a machine shop, and didn’t any more have a million dollars than you or me,” former Angels assistant coach Greg Williams told Porter.

Once the hoax came to light, it seemed to knock the wind out of the Angels organization.  Sweeney was out of money and needed the sale.  Shortly after Klingler evaporated in January 1980, Sweeney fell behind on rent payment to Hofheinz Pavilion to the tune of $8,800. The debt forced the postponement of a scheduled game against the Dallas Diamonds.   The Angels remained competitive on the court and the team managed to complete the season. Houston won the Western Division with a 19-14 record.  Paula Mayo and Belinda Candler were named to the All-Star team again.  The San Francisco Pioneers eliminated the Angels in the playoff quarterfinals, ending Houston’s run as league champions.

The team folded after the 1979-80 season, with the official announcement of the team’s demise coming in October 1980.


Houston Angels Shop

Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women’s Professional Basketball League 1978-1981 by Karra Porter


Houston Angels Memorabilia


In Memoriam

Former Angels owner Hugh Sweeney passed away in September 2008 at the age of 79.



December 22, 1978 Houston Angels Inaugural Home Game Program

1978-79 Women’s Professional Basketball League Brochure

1978-79 Houston Angels Season Ticket Brochure

1979-80 Houston Angels Season Ticket Brochure



Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs



Written by AC

January 9th, 2013 at 2:32 am

1996-2001 Texas Terror / Houston ThunderBears

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2000 Houston Thunderbears Media Guide
Arena Football League Media Guides
108 pages

The Arena Football League awarded a Houston, Texas expansion franchise to NBA Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander on October 26th, 1995.  Alexander, a former Wall Street stock trader who purchased the Rockets in 1993, named the team the Texas Terror and placed them in the Houston Summit, as part of his burgeoning local pro sports empire.  (Alexander would add a founding franchise in the WNBA – the Houston Comets – to his stable in 1997).

The Terror debuted at The Summit on April 27th, 1996.  An announced crowd of 11,501 watched the Terror drop a low-scoring (by Arena Football standards) 36-24 decision to another expansion club, the Minnesota Fighting Pike.  The Terror  were non-competitive under Head Coach John Paul Young, losing their first 11 games, en route to a 1-13 record, second worst in the 15-team league in 1996.  The club lost all seven of its home games, which were played before an announced average of 9,006 fans per game.

Dave Ewart replaced Young as Head Coach prior to the 1997 campaign.  Under Ewart, the Terror improved noticeably on the field to 6-8, but at the box office the season was a disaster.  Only 3,624 turned out for the Terror’s second season debut against Kurt Warner and the Iowa Barnstormers on May 2, 1997.  Announced attendance for seven home dates plunged more than 50% down to 4,153 on average, second worst in the league in 1997.

In December 1997, Alexander and his executives scrapped the Texas Terror brand concept.  The team was not resonating, for whatever reason – losing, a “statewide” identity that didn’t speak to the Houston community, or perhaps the Terror’s cartoonish, Frankenstein-inspired aesthetic which seemed about as intimidating as a box of Franken-Berry children’s cereal.  The franchise continued under Alexander’s ownership and was re-branded the Houston ThunderBears.

New name, same problems.

The Thunderbears trotted out their new “Thunder Blue, Touchdown Teal and Electric Orange” colors on May 9th, 1998 at the Compaq Center.  (Another offseason re-branding project…after nearly a quarter century as the Houston Summit, the personal computing giant bought naming rights to the building in late 1997.).  Only 4,629 curiosity-seekers turned out to see the ThunderBears defeat the Florida Bobcats.  It was the last time the would crack the 4,000 mark all season, except for a season finale outlier crowd of 9,734, a number which would seem to have all the hallmarks of a massive discounting/comping effort.

On the field, at least, the team continued to improve under new Head Coach Steve Thonn.  The ThunderBears won the Central Division title with an 8-6 record, riding the arm of former East Texas State quarterback Clint Dolezel who threw 81 touchdown passes.  The Arizona Rattlers eliminated the T-Bears in the first round of the Arena Football playoffs in August 1998.

Under Thonn, the Thunderbears led the Arena Football League in total offense for three consecutive years from 1998 to 2000, but the club fell back to losing records in 1999 and 2000, failing to return to the playoffs.  Attendance bottomed out in 1999, when the club averaged  a  league-worst 3,022 fans.  This included an embarrassing crowd of 1,517 for a May 1st, 1999 game against the Grand Rapids Rampage at Compaq Center – the smallest announced figure in the league’s 13-year history.

Under the circumstances, it was remarkable that Leslie Alexander hung in for as long as he did.  On February 16th, 2001, on the eve of the team’s 6th season, Alexander sold the franchise back to the Arena Football League for an undisclosed sum.  The league designated the now homeless T-Bears as a travel team, barnstorming across the country to gauge interest for expansion franchises for Arena Football 2, the small market developmental league.  The T-Bears “home games” would be played in far flung cities such as Bismarck (ND), Charleston (WV), Fresno (CA), Lubbock (TX) and Madison (WI).

The ThunderBears finished their final season in last place in Arena Football’s Western Division with a 3-11 record.  Arena Football folded the club following the 2001 season.


Forbes named former Terror/ThunderBears owner Leslie Alexander to its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans on several occasions between 2000 and 2006, with a personal net worth as high as $1.2 billion in 2006.  In December 2008, Forbes named Alexander as the NBA’s best owner.  He continues to own the Houston Rockets, although he divested himself of the WNBA’s Houston Comets in early 2007.

The Houston Summit/Compaq Center was rendered obsolete with the construction of the Toyota Center in 2003.  The former Summit building now hosts Houston’s Lakewood mega church, whose ubiquitous pastor and self-help author Joel Osteen broadcasts his sermons to more than 100 nations worldwide from the former arena.

Former Terror/Thundbears quarterback Clint Dolezel left the team prior to the 2000 season to sign with the Chicago Bears.  He was cut in training camp and returned to the Arena Football League in 2001, where he went on to establish numerous career passing records, including becoming the first player to pass for 900 career touchdowns indoors.  As of 2011, he is the Head Coach of the Arena Football League’s Dallas Vigilantes.


Texas Terror/Houston ThunderBears Sources


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