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1975 Long Island Tomahawks

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Long Island TomahawksNational Lacrosse League (1975)

Born: 1975 – The Rochester Griffins relocate to Long Island, NY
Folded: February 1976.

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (14,300).

Team Colors:

Owner: Bruce Norris

Nations Cup Championships: None

 

The Long Island Tomahawks were a pro box lacrosse team that played at Nassau Coliseum in the summer of 1975.  The team’s ancestry is a little convoluted.  Owner Bruce Norris, who also owned the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League, was an original investor in the National Lacrosse League.  During the league’s first season in 1974, Norris owned the league’s Toronto Tomahawks franchise.  The Tomahawks floundered at Maple Leaf Gardens and the team was shifted to new ownership in Boston for the 1975 season.  Norris, meanwhile, kept the Tomahawks name and logo and bought the 1974 league champion Rochester Griffins franchise and moved it downstate to Long Island.

Bill Tierney LacrosseDespite the name lifted from Norris’ old Toronto club, the Long Island Tomahawks traced their history to the Griffins and you can see on their game program (above right) that they promoted themselves as the “1974 World Champions” of pro lacrosse.

Modern day box lacrosse fans are familiar with the game played on Astroturf carpets, but the National Lacrosse League of the 1970’s played on wooden courts laid over the ice at hockey arenas.  The Tomahawks’ court was painted an unusual white color, which you can see in the video below.  The league’s other teams typically played on green wooden surfaces.

The Tomahawks were the best team in the 6-team NLL during the 1975 season with a 31-17 record.  But they lost to the 4th-place Quebec Caribous 4 games to 2 in the semi-final playoff series in September 1975.  Doug Hayes (104 goals, 126 assists) led the league in scoring.

In February 1976 the National Lacrosse League went out of business, saying that only the Maryland, Philadelphia and Quebec franchises were prepared to move forward with a third season.  Pro lacrosse returned to the Nassau Coliseum in 1989 with the arrival of the New York Saints (1989-2003) of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.

 

Long Island Tomahawks Memorabilia

 

Tomahawks Video

The Long Island Tomahawks host the Philadelphia Wings at Nassau Coliseum. August 29, 1975

 

Links

National Lacrosse League Media Guides

National Lacrosse League Programs

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Written by AC

February 22nd, 2014 at 8:08 pm

1996 Long Island Jawz

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Long Island JawzRoller Hockey International (1996)

Born: 1995 – RHI expansion franchise.
Folded: July 1996 – The Jawz announce they will disband after the 1996 season

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (16,297)

Team Colors: Blue, Silver, Black & Red

Owner: Jim Leahy

Murphy Cup Championships: None

 

The Long Island Jawz made a brief appearance in Roller Hockey International, playing a single campaign in the summer of 1996.  The owners of the Jawz – who also owned RHI’s New Jersey Rockin’ Rollers franchise – got into an acrimonious battle with Spectacor Management Group (SMG), managers of the Nassau Coliseum, over advertising placement rights and threw in the towel before the team’s inaugural season was even over.  In July 1996, just one month after starting play, the Jawz announced they would fold after completing the 1996 RHI schedule.

The team was pretty good, finishing 16-9-3 under Head Coach Phil DeGaetano.  Winger Hugo Belanger (48 goals, 53 assists) recorded the only 100-point season on RHI’s history and won the league’s Player-of-the-Year Award.  Another key player was Glen Metropolit (39 goals, 37 assists) who later enjoyed a 9-year NHL career between 1999 and 2010.

 

==Links==

1996 Long Island Jawz Statistics on HockeyDB.com 

Roller Hockey International Media Guides

Roller Hockey International Programs

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Written by AC

February 4th, 2014 at 9:21 pm

1978-1984 New York Arrows

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New York ArrowsMajor Indoor Soccer League (1978-1984)

Born: 1978 – MISL founding franchise
Folded: July 1984

Arena: Nassau Coliseum (15,026)

Team Colors: Bordeaux Red, Blue & White

Owners:

MISL Champions: 1979, 1980, 1981 & 1982

 

The New York Arrows were the original dynasty franchise in the sport of indoor soccer in the United States.  One of six founding franchises in the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1978, the Arrows won the first four MISL championships from 1979 to 1982.  The team was virtually unbeatable during this stretch, posting a regular season record of 114-26 under Head Coach Don Popovic.

Arrows owner John Luciani was also an investor in the Rochester Lancers of the outdoor North American Soccer League during the late 1970’s.  Luciani was only involved with the Lancers for a short time and would ultimately ended up embroiled in contentious lawsuits with other members of the Lancers’ sprawling and unwieldy ownership consortium.  But Luciani was involved with Rochester when the MISL formed in the fall of 1978 and this allowed him to essentially make the Arrows into a sister club of the Lancers and stock the team with talent from the outdoor club.  Don Popovic came over from the Lancers, as did the teenage scoring prodigy Branko Segota and goalkeeper Shep Messing, who was one of the few recognizable American-born stars of the era, thanks to his years with the glamorous New York Cosmos of the NASL (and perhaps also his nude photo shoot for VIVA magazine in 1974).

The biggest find for the Arrows was the Yugoslavian striker Steve Zungul.  A budding superstar for Hajduk Split in the Yugoslav First League, Zungul became embroiled in a dispute with club management. He was concerned they would send him off to compulsory military service.  In December 1978 – the same month the MISL kicked off its inaugural season – Zungul defected to the United States and signed with the Arrows.  He hoped to eventually sign with an NASL club and play outdoor soccer. But Yugoslavia successfully petitioned FIFA to ban Zungul from all FIFA-sanctioned leagues until his 28th birthday in 1982, citing a Yugoslavian rule that players could not play overseas prior to age 28.  The NASL was sanctioned by FIFA, but the upstart Major Indoor Soccer League was not.  Thus through a quirk of Cold War politics, the Arrows found themselves in sole possession of the indoor game’s first great star – the man who became known as “The Lord of All Indoors”.

Zungul would win the MISL’s Most Valuable Player award in each season from 1979 to 1982, matching the years that the Arrows won the league title.

The Arrows played at the Nassau Coliseum out on Long Island.  Despite their dominance, local interest in the team never match the enthusiasm for indoor soccer in Midwest hotbeds like Cleveland, St. Louis and Kansas City.  Announced attendance peaked for the Arrows during their third season at 8,083 fans per game and then dropped steadily through the early 1980’s.

John Luciani sold the Arrows for an undisclosed amount in November 1982 just as the Arrows fifth season got underway.  He cited $10 million in losses during the Arrows’ first four season.  The new owner was Dr. David Schoenstadt, who also happened to be the owner of the MISL’s tremendously popular Kansas City Comets club.  The purchase created a competitive conflict of interest within the MISL, but allowed the young league to maintain a foothold in the vital New York media market.  Carl Berg, owner of the Golden Bay Earthquakes, who played in the MISL that season, was also part of the new investment group.

New York ArrowsSchoenstadt and his management team were not able to replicate the success they had in Kansas City.  The ownership transition of 1982 marked the end of the Arrows dynasty and the beginning of the club’s rapid decline.  The Arrows early dominance was fueled largely by foreign – particularly Slavic – stars (with the exception of Shep Messing).  The new management promoted a process of “Americanization”, believing that American players would be more relatable and better suited to the club’s aggressive grass roots marketing strategy of promoting the Arrows through clinics and community appearances.

Other observers believed “Americanization” was a rhetorical cover for cost-cutting. They pointed in particular to the departure of Steve Zungul as Exhibit A.  The Arrows traded Zungul, who earned a reported $150,000/year at his Arrows peak, to the Golden Bay Earthquakes in the middle of the 1982-83 season for Gary Etherington and Gordon Hill. The deal effectively ended the Arrows run as an elite team.

The Arrows final season came during the winter of 1983-84.  Schoenstadt complained about the lease terms at Nassau Coliseum while attendance declined to 5,478 per match.  Efforts to sell and relocate the team to either Charlotte or Cincinnati fell through.  In July 1984 the Arrows folded and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In early 1986, former Arrows goalkeeper Shep Messing assembled an investor group and successfully applied for an MISL expansion club to replace the Arrows on Long Island.  The New York Express joined the MISL for the 1986-87 season, but lasted only until the All-Star Break before folding with a record of 3-23.  The original MISL folded in July 1992.

 

New York Arrows Memorabilia

 

Arrows Video

The Arrows host the Baltimore Blast at Nassau Coliseum.  April 2, 1982.

In Memoriam

Arrows owner David Schoenstadt died of cancer in December 1991.

Arrows forward Paul Kitson died of a heart attack on August 25, 2005 while coaching a soccer clinic in Toronto.  He was 49.

 

Downloads

1979-80 New York Arrows Season Ticket Brochure

November 20, 1981 New York Arrows vs. New Jersey Rockets Game Notes

 

Links

Major Indoor Soccer League Media Guides

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs

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1974-1978 New York Sets & New York Apples

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World Team Tennis (1974-1978)

Born: 1973 – WTT founding franchise
Died:
October 27, 1978 – The Apples cease operations

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: Sol Berg

 

The New York Sets/Apples were a pro tennis franchise active in Manhattan from 1974 to 1978.   The club was active for all five season of World Team Tennis (1974-1978), a funky little organization that attempted to graft the classic tropes of American professional team sports (team scoring, standings, cheerleaders, booing and cheering) onto the hushed, snooty atmosphere of the pro tennis tour.   The league was founded in 1973 by serial sports entrepreneur Dennis Murphy in partnership with the game’s greatest female star, Billie Jean King, her husband/business partner Larry King, and a few others investors.

Jerry Saperstein, son of Harlem Globetrotters founder Abe Saperstein, originally held the New York franchise but quickly sold it off to Sol Berg.  WTT owners were inexplicably enamored with team names relating to the rules and equipment of the game.  Loves, Nets, Racquets and Strings were among franchise monikers.  New York ended up with one of the dullest and least imaginative – the New York Sets.

The Sets debuted on May 7, 1974, losing to the Hawaii Leis before an announced crowd of 4,990 at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.  Under WTT’s novel scoring system, each match consisted of five sets – one each of men’s singles and doubles, women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles.  There were no love or advantages – each game of a set was simply scored zero, 1, 2, 3, game.  Match scoring was simply the cumulative games won from each of the five sets.

The Sets finished in the cellar in 1974 with a 15-29 record.  Fans were largely indifferent – the club drew an average of just 2,869 for 22 home dates during the summer.  But the Sets’ fortunes changed in February 1975 when the Sets traded for league founder Billie Jean King, whose Philadelphia Freedoms franchise was about to go under.   King, still a formidable player at age 31, made the team an immediate contender.  The Sets made the playoffs in 1975 and won the World Team Tennis championship in 1976, sweeping the Oakland-based Golden Gaters.  The decisive match drew 5,730 to the Nassau Coliseum in late August.

In 1977 the club moved into Manhattan, splitting dates between the 17,800-seat Madison Square Garden and the more intimate 3,700-seat Felt Forum tucked inside the Garden. To celebrate the move, the club also re-branded, dropping the dreadful “Sets” nickname and becoming the New York Apples for the 1977 season.

The Garden was favored for bigger matches, such as a June 6, 1977 match against the Phoenix Racquets which showcased the two biggest stars of the women’s pro tour: Billie Jean King of the Sets and Chris Evert of the Racquets.  The match drew a league record 13,675 fans.  The Apples repeated as WTT champions in 1977 and attendance surged 38% with the move to Manhattan, topping 100,000 for the season and an average of 4,939 per match.

For the 1978 season, the Apples added a male superstar to pair with King, adding 23-year old Vitas Gerulaitis, who ranked as one of the top five males in the world at the time.  The Apples also added a 21-year old rookie out of Douglaston, New York named Mary Carillo.  Carillo would go on to become one of the great broadcasters of tennis and a highly respected reporter on HBO’s Real Sports and NBC’s Olympics coverage in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

There would be no third straight title for the Apples in 1978.  The New Yorkers ran into another star-studded team in the playoff semi-finals – the Los Angeles Strings led by Evert and the temperamental Romanian Ilie Nastase.  Here JoAnne Russell of the Apples takes on Evert in the decisive August 24th, 1978 semi-final match:

The Strings ousted the defending champion Apples on this night and went on to win the final championship of World Team Tennis in September 1978.  This televised match turned out to be the final one the Apples franchise ever played.  Team owner Sol Berg shutdown the Apples on October 27, 1978 in tandem with Boston Lobsters owner Robert Kraft.  Berg and Kraft cited an inability (or unwillingness – it wasn’t totally clear) of WTT owners to sign the biggest stars of the men’s and women’s game as their reason for withdrawing.

 

Downloads

1978 New York Apples Media Guide

1975 World Team Tennis Season Advertising Rates Brochure

 

Links

World Team Tennis Media Guides

World Team Tennis Programs

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1995-2008 Iowa Barnstormers / New York Dragons

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The inspiring story of Kurt Warner, who rose from supermarket stock boy to Super Bowl Champion and MVP over the course of five years, is one of the great legacies of the original Arena Football League (1987-2008).  Warner, undrafted out of college and later released in training camp by the Green Bay Packers in 1994, famously signed on with the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers in 1995.  He led the Barnstormers to the Arena Bowl title games in 1996 and 1997, before finally earning his shot at the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.  By 1999, he was the NFL’s MVP and quarterback of a Super Bowl championship team in his first season as a starter.  Warner’s fame briefly made the Iowa Barnstormers an object of cult fascination, if not quite a household brand name.

So what became of the Barnstormers?

The Barnstormers started out as an Arena Football expansion franchise in the spring of 1995.  Jim Foster, founder of the Arena Football League in 1987, owned the club, which played in the 11,400-seat  Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, dubbed “The Barn”.  Head Coach John Gregory was a long-time Canadian Football League coach.  Gregory brought in CFL vet Willis Jacox to play the role of Iowa’s Offensive Specialist – most AFL players played “Ironman” football in this era, meaning they played both offense and defense.  The offensive specialist was akin to the DH in baseball, playing offense only and returning kicks.  Gregory also plucked Warner out of the Hy-Vee grocery store aisle prior to the Barnstormers’ first season in 1995.

The team was competitive in 1995, advancing as far as the playoff semi-finals.  Gregory earned AFL Coach-of-the-Year honors (he would repeat in 1996) and the team drew terrific cowbell-clanging crowds to The Barn.  In a 2012 celebration of Arena Football’s 25th Anniversary, the league ranked the 1990’s atmosphere at The Barn as the 2nd best in the sport’s history.

The Barnstormers glory years came in 1996 and 1997, when Warner and Jacox led the Barnstormers to back-to-back Arena Bowls.  In 1996, the Barnstomers hosted Arena Bowl X before a national cable TV audience but lost to the Tampa Bay Storm 42-38.  The following year, the Barnstormers fell to the Arizona Rattlers 55-33 in Arena Bowl XI in Phoenix, in what would prove to be Warner’s last AFL game.

Warner headed the Rams and Jacox retired after the 1997 season.  But Gregory and the Barnstormers uncovered more great players in WR-DB Carlos James, offensive specialist Mike Horacek and, especially, quarterback Aaron Garcia.  Garcia would go on the set every major career passing record in Arena Football over the course of the next decade plus.

On November 1st, 2000, after the conclusion of the Barnstormers’ sixth season in Des Moines and nine months after Warner’s historic Super Bowl performance, Jim Foster sold the team to New York Islanders owners Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar.  The franchise relocated to Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum as the New York Dragons for the 2001 Arena Football League season.

The move to New York was in keeping with Arena Football’s growing ambition to become a “5th Major League”, as the league began favoring major markets over cities like Des Moines and Grand Rapids, Michigan.  In the course of a decade, Arena Football franchise valuations ballooned from $125,000 in 1990 to $7 million – the price paid by Wang & Kumar for the Barnstormers, and for another AFL franchise, the New England Sea Wolves, which also changed hands in the autumn of 2000.

Several top Barnstormers made the move from Iowa to New York, including Head Coach John Gregory and All-AFL quarterback Aaron Garcia.  In New York, the franchise also produced another future NFL star, as it had with Kurt Warner in Iowa.  In 2002, the Dragons signed WR-DB Mike Furrey, a refugee of World Wrestling Entertainment chief Vince McMahon’s defunct XFL.  Furrey became the favorite target of Garcia in 2002 and 2003.  Furrey left the Dragons partway through the 2003 season – he was leading the AFL in receptions at the time – to sign with the St. Louis Rams.  Furrey went on to play both wide receiver and defensive back in the NFL, leading the NFC in receptions in 1996 with 98 catches for 1,086 years as a member of the Detroit Lions.  In a bizarre coincidence, Furrey played college football at Northern Iowa University, just like Warner.

Back in Des Moines, a new Iowa Barnstormers expansion team was issued to play in AF2, a small market minor league spinoff of the AFL.  The new minor league Barnstormers were not able to re-capture the interest of area fans and this version of the Barnstormers folded after a single season in 2001.

The Dragons were never one of Arena Football’s top draws and the Nassau Coliseum was typically regarded as one of the league’s worst venues, much as it was in the National Hockey League.  Announced attendance averages peaked in 2005 at 11,922 per game.  By 2008, announced attendance dipped to 9,072, the second lowest figure in the 17-team league.

In July 2008, Wang sold the Dragons to Steve and Shanna Silva for an estimated $12 million.  This would prove to be the last time a franchise changed hands in the original Arena Football League.  By this time, the league was struggling under $14 million in accumulated debt.  A postseason attempt to sell a $100 million controlling stake in the league to leveraged buyout firm Platinum Equity and re-organize the league as a single-entity structure fell through in late 2008.  The league suspended the 2009 season in December 2008 and ultimately filed for bankruptcy in August 2009 after owners failed to come together on a way forward.

The Silvas were left with nothing for their unfortunately timed investment.  Another Arena Football investor who bought into the league late at the peak of the bubble – Dr. Robert Nucci who bought the Tampa Bay Storm for approximately $18 million in 2007 – later filed a lawsuit claiming that the late-era Arena Football League was little more than a debt-laden ponzi scheme that relied on constantly rising expansion fees to finance its existence.  The Silvas, for their part, got as far as announcing a new logo and color scheme for the Dragons in September 2008.  The new green-and-black color scheme would have been used for the 2009, but the league collapsed first:

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A group of former Arena Football League owners and officials called Arena Football One purchased the assets of the original Arena Football League out of bankruptcy for $6.1 million in December 2009.   It was a long way down from the proposed Platinum Equity purchase of the AFL just a year earlier, which valued the league at approximately $250 million.

A much more budget-conscious (and non-union) reinvention of the Arena Football League debuted in 2010, with many franchises returning under their old names and, in some cases, their old investors.   The New York Dragons and the Silvas were not among them.  But the Iowa Barnstormers were.   A third incarnation of the Iowa Barnstormers joined AF2 for the 2008 season as an expansion team playing in the new $99 million Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.  The team retained the old logo of the original Kurt Warner-era Barnstormers and still practices in The Barn – venerable Veterans Memorial Auditorium.   When the Arena Football League went dark in 2009, AF2 kept playing.  In 2010, the new Barnstormers took a leap up to rejoin the new Arena Football League.

Kurt Warner retired from the NFL in January 2010.  He led two different franchises to Super Bowl appearances, starting in three and winning one.  As of 2011, he holds one of the top ten passer ratings in NFL history.

Mike Furrey played seven seasons in the NFL, ending in 2009.  He is now one of the growing number of former NFL players filing suit against the league over concussion-related health problems.

 

 

 

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