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1976-1982 Colorado Rockies

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Lanny McDonald Colorado RockiesNational Hockey League (1976-1982)

Born: 1976 – The Kansas City Scouts relocate to Denver, CO.
: May 27, 1982 (New Jersey Devils)

Arena: McNichols Arena

Team Colors:


Stanley Cup Championships: None


The Colorado Rockies hockey team was a star-crossed organization that spent most of its six seasons in Denver attempting to move elsewhere.  The Rockies began life in 1974 as the Kansas City Scouts, a poorly vetted NHL expansion effort. After two disastrous seasons in K.C., the destitute Scouts were purchased by Colorado oilman Jack Vickers in the summer of 1976.  Vickers immediately moved the team to Denver’s McNichols Arena for the 1976-77 NHL season.

Denver trudged a long, weird path to make it into the National Hockey League.  During the late 1960’s and early 70’s, the city enjoyed the minor league Denver Spurs, who played at the Denver Coliseum.  In 1972, the World Hockey Association formed and fired a shot across the NHL’s bow by signing Chicago Blackhawks star Bobby Hull to an historic $1 million contract.  Further raids on NHL rosters followed and the warring leagues soon began fighting over expansion cities.  Denver was attractive to both leagues, especially with the brand new 16,000-seat McNichols Arena due to open in 1975.

Barry Beck Colorado RockiesIn 1974, Spurs owner Ivan Mullenix landed conditional approval for an NHL expansion club to begin play in the fall of 1976.  But with McNichols Arena ready for 1975, Mullenix pushed to get into the NHL a year earlier.  The plan called for Mullenix to acquire one of the NHL’s basket case franchises of the era – either the California Golden Seals or the Pittsburgh Penguins.  But those maneuvers collapsed in early 1975 and with the Spurs’ future in the NHL looking shaky, Mullenix abruptly joined the rival World Hockey Association instead that spring.  Denver fans, promised NHL for more than a year, were displeased with the bait and switch.  They stayed away in droves and the Spurs only lasted three months in the WHA before bolting town midway through the 1975-76 season.

This was the landscape that Vickers inherited when NHL hockey finally arrived in Denver in the autumn of 1976.  “Rocky Hockey” could have been a coronation after years of struggle.  Instead, it was just Act II of the perverse soap opera that was Colorado hockey during the Me Decade.  For starters, the Rockies were consistently terrible.  The team had seven head coaches in six seasons and in their best season finished 23 games below .500.  The Rockies never won a playoff game in their brief lifespan.

By the spring of 1978, Vickers had lost somewhere between $4.5 and $6 million on the Rockies and was fed up with the lease at McNichols Arena.  The Rockies nearly move to Houston in June 1978, but instead Vickers sold the team later that summer to New Jersey trucking baron Arthur Imperatore.  Imperatore was clear about his ambition to move the Rockies to New Jersey to play in the new Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford but the new building wouldn’t be ready until 1981.  The Rockies would stay in Denver another four years, but they always had the feel of short-timers.

Don Cherry Colorado RockiesDuring the second year of Imperatore’s ownership, in 1979-80, the Rockies made their two biggest acquisitions.  First, they hired the colorful former Boston Bruins chieftain Don Cherry and made him the highest paid coach in the National Hockey League.  And midway through the season, they traded one of their top players, Wilf Paiement, to the miserly Toronto Maple Leafs for future Hall-of-Famer Lanny McDonald.  Cherry was a fan favorite in Colorado and McDonald quickly established himself as the Rockies’ top scoring threat.

But as usual the club’s chronic instability rapidly undermined any sense of excitement or momentum.  The Rockies finished in last place (19-48-13) under Cherry, while the coach clashed all season long with General Manager Ray Miron.  Cherry was fired at the end of the season (no Rockies coach ever lasted longer than one season).  McDonald was traded to Calgary in 1981 after playing just one full season for Colorado.  And Imperatore gave up on the NHL and sold the club to Buffalo cable TV entrepreneur Peter Gilbert in late 1980, the team’s third owner in four years.

By the spring of 1982, the Brendan Byrne Arena was open for business in the swamps of northern New Jersey.  Peter Gilbert sold the team yet again, this time to Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  McMullen pulled off the complex maneuver that had eluded Arthur Imperatore, paying off the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers to gain the NHL’s blessing to move to New Jersey in May 1982.

Postscript: Don Cherry never coached again in the NHL after being dismissed by the Rockies in the spring of 1980.  But he became a Canadian icon as the between-periods host of “Coaches Corner” on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada NHL broadcasts.  In 2004, Cherry was voted the “7th Greatest Canadian” in a CBC poll.

The NHL returned to Denver in 1995 when the Quebec Nordiques relocated to the Mile High City and became the Colorado Avalanche.


Colorado Rockies Shop

Rockies Men’s Lacer Heavyweight Hoodie by Old Time Hockey

Rockies Vintage T-Shirt by Original Retro Brand

In Memoriam

Peter Gilbert, the final owner of the Rockies, died of cancer on March 26, 1989 at age 62.  New York Times obit.


1987-1991 Denver Dynamite

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Denver DynamiteArena Football League (1987 & 1989-1991)

Born: 1987 – Arena Football League founding franchise.
Died: Postseason 1991 – The Dynamite cease operations.

Arena: McNichols Arena (17,022)

Team Colors: Royal Blue & Gold


Arena Bowl Champions: 1987


The Denver Dynamite own a (very) minor place in pro football history as the answer to a trivia question: What city claimed the first championship of Arena Football?  The Dynamite won Arena Bowl I back in 1987, concluding a brief 6-game regular season with a 45-16 demolition of the Pittsburgh Gladiators before 13,000 fans at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena on August 1, 1987.

Arena Football expanded from four to six teams in 1988 and sought local limited partners for each franchise for the first time.  But no investor could be found in Denver, so the league’s defending champion was shut down and left off the 1988 schedule.

The following year, Arena Football nearly shut down after a revolt by the local limited partners against league founder Jim Foster.  Foster survived the coup, but the league was only able to stage a brief 4-game regular season contested by 5 clubs. Needing teams to fill out the 1989 schedule, the Dynamite uniforms were hauled out of storage and the team was re-formed as a league-operated club.  But the 1989 team had only one home date at McNichols Arena.  The rest of the team’s games were played on the road or as league showcases in neutral cities.

In fact, from 1987 through 1989, the Dynamite had virtually nothing to do with the city of Denver.  During those three years, the Arena League staged only four games in the Mile High City.  And three of those games came during a three-week stretch in July of 1987.  You might have heard of the team, but damned if you could ever find a game to go. Denver Dynamite In April 1990, Foster finally found a Denver-area investor named Gary J. Graham who agreed to pay $125,000 for the rights to the Denver territory.  Under Graham’s management, the Dynamite became a true local team. The Dynamite played full schedules at McNichols Arena in the summers of 1990 and 1991.  However, the team soon ran into financial problems including missed payrolls and creditor lawsuits. The Dynamite went out of  business for good in late 1991.

Marty Mornhinweg, who later became Head Coach of the NFL’s Detroit Lions in 2001-2002, played quarterback for the Dynamite in 1987, appearing in just one game before suffering an injury. Arena Football returned to Denver in 2003 with the arrival of the Colorado Crush, owned by Mile High heavyweights Pat Bowlen, Stan Kroenke and John Elway.  The Crush were a popular fixture on the local sports scene, playing from 2003 until 2008, when the original Arena Football League closed its doors and declared bankruptcy.


Denver Dynamite Memorabilia


Dynamite Video

Arena Bowl I. The Dynamite rout the Pittsburgh Gladiators 45-16 at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena on August 1, 1987.


In Memoriam

Former Dynamite Head Coach Tim Marcum (’87) passed away on December 5, 2013 at age 69. Tampa Bay Times obituary.



Denver Dynamite exploded in Arena League’s first season, then fizzled out“, Joey Bunch, The Denver Post, October 22, 2012

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


Written by AC

December 28th, 2014 at 3:13 am

1996-1998 Colorado Xplosion


Colorado XplosionAmerican Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: February 7, 1996 – ABL founding franchise.
Folded: December 22, 1998


Team Colors: Black, Blue & Yellow

Owner: American Basketball League

ABL Championships: None


The Colorado Xplosion were the Denver franchise in the women’s American Basketball League, which lasted for two-and-a-half seasons from 1996 to 1998.  After the 1996 Olympics, two rival women’s leagues sprung up.  The bootstrap ABL launched first, played in the winter time, offered the best pay, and initially signed many of the best Olympic-caliber women’s players.  The NBA-backed Women’s National Basketball Association had David Stern’s marketing machine behind it, richer owners and better television and media deals.  In less than three years, the WNBA and the generally challenging marketplace for women’s pro sports drove the ABL to bankruptcy in December 1998.

But it was fun while it lasted.  The Xplosion were a pretty strong club.  In the ABL’s inaugural season, they had the second best record in the regular season at 25-15. But the Richmond Rage bounced Colorado in the first round of the playoffs.  During their second season, the Xplosion regressed a bit, barely making the playoffs at 21-23.  Once again, they lost in the first round, this time to the Long Beach Stingrays.  Season three saw the Xplosion off to slow start and in last place in their division at 5-8 when the ABL abruptly shut down on December 22, 1998, having run out of money to continue operations.

Top players included two-time ABL All-Stars Debbie Black and Crystal Robinson.  Black was the shortest player in the league at 5′ 3″. Nevertheless, she tenacious on the boards and ranked among the league’s top 15 total rebounders during the ABL’s first two seasons.  She also was the ABL’s all-time steals leader and ranked third in assists for the two full seasons the league completed. Robinson led the Xplosion in scoring both seasons was among the league’s top three-point threats.

Sylvia Crawley drew the most national media attention for the team. The 6′ 5″forward executed a blindfolded dunk at the 1998 ABL All-Star Game and won what was billed as the first ever slam dunk contest for women.

The Xplosion split their home games between McNichols Arena and the smaller Denver Coliseum in each of their season.  Attendance was pretty consistent through the team’s brief run, holding a steady average of just under 4,000 per game.  A February 1st, 1998 game at McNichols against the New England Blizzard set the club’s all-time mark with 13,489 fans on hand.


Colorado Xplosion Memorabilia



American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs


Written by AC

February 9th, 2014 at 3:57 pm

1996 Denver Daredevils

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Denver DaredevilsRoller Hockey International (1996)

Born: 1996 – RHI expansion franchise
Folded: Postseason 1996

Arena: McNichols Arena (16,061)

Team Colors: Daredevil Blue, Purple, Yellow & Red

Owners: Norton Herrick, Stephen Kurtz & Paul Jacobs


The Denver Daredevils were one of two expansion teams admitted to the shaky Roller Hockey International (1993-1999) for the 1996 season.  The Long Island Jawz were the other one and both clubs went bust after just one season, condemned for eternity to FWIL’s One-Year Wonders file.

The Daredevils finished last place in their division with a 8-17-3 record.  Daredevils Head Coach Kevin Cheveldayoff was a former 1st round draft pick of the New York Islanders (1988).  He later became an accomplished front office executive in the minors and the NHL.  As of this writing in 2014, Cheveldayoff is General Manager of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.

Team owner Norton Herrick also owned RHI’s league champion Orlando Jackals during the 1996 season.



1996 Denver Daredevils Statistics on 

Roller Hockey International Media Guides

Roller Hockey International Programs



1982-1984 Colorado Flames


Central Hockey League (1982-1984)

Born: July 1982 – CHL expansion franchise.
Died: May 1984 – The CHL ceases operations.

Arena: McNichols Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Douglas Spedding


Denver lost its NHL hockey team when the Colorado Rockies were sold and shipped east to become the New Jersey Devils in May of 1982.  Two months later, Denver car dealer Douglas Spedding stepped into the pro hockey void, entering the Colorado Flames expansion team into the Central Hockey League (1963-1984).  The Flames would serve as a farm club for the NHL’s Calgary Flames and play at McNichols Arena, the same building just abandoned by the Rockies.

Calgary had a strong farm system at the time.  Although the Flames lasted only two seasons in Denver, the club played a role in developing two future NHL All-Stars for Calgary in defenseman Al MacInnis and goaltender Mike Vernon.  MacInnis was Calgary’s 1st round selection in the 1981 NHL entry draft and Vernon was the team’s 3rd round pick in the same draft.  In 1989, five years after the demise of the Colorado Flames, Calgary won its first and only Stanley Cup.  MacInnis and Vernon were both All-Stars that season, and MacInnis won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player of the postseason after becoming the first defenseman ever to lead the NHL in playoff scoring.

During the Colorado Flames’ second season in the winter of 1983-84, the Central Hockey League began to collapse around the team.  League membership was down to just five teams.  The Montana Magic nearly folded during the season, and the Tulsa Oilers went bankrupt and had to play most of the season as an ownerless barnstorming team (amazingly, the Oilers won the title anyway).  The CHL folded in May of 1984.  Spedding made a few noises about applying for membership to the International Hockey League, which took in the two other solvent CHL clubs, the Indianapolis Checkers and the Salt Lake Golden Eagles.  But nothing came of those talks and the Flames ended up going out of business.

Perhaps this was because Doug Spedding had found a new plaything by this time.  In April 1984, as the CHL was coming apart, Spedding purchased the Denver Gold of the spring season United States Football League for $10 million.  As with the Flames, the auto dealer’s timing was terrible.  Just four months after he bought the Gold, a faction of USFL owners led by Donald Trump pushed through a plan to move to a fall season in 1986, which would pit the league head-to-head with the NFL.   This spelled doom for the Gold, who were one of the USFL’s most popular franchises prior to this move, but had no hope competing against the Denver Broncos in the fall.  Gold fans saw the writing on the wall and abandoned the team and Spedding lost millions operating the Gold for a year-and-a-half before the USFL folded in early 1986.


==Key Players==

  • Al MacInnis
  • Mike Vernon




Central Hockey League Media Guides

Central Hockey League Programs




Written by AC

November 2nd, 2013 at 5:53 pm


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