Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1985-1990 Edmonton Brickmen

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Edmonton BrickmenWestern Soccer Alliance (1986)
Canadian Soccer League (1987-1990)

Born: 1985
Folded: Postseason 1990

Stadia:

Team Colors:

Owner: Peter Pocklington

Western Soccer Alliance Championships: None
Canadian Soccer League Championships: None

 

In 1981, five Canadian cities enjoyed major league professional soccer, courtesy of the North American Soccer League. The Calgary Boomers, Edmonton Drillers, Montreal Manic, Toronto Blizzard and Vancouver Whitecaps took the field that summer, and also played fast-paced indoor soccer during the winter months. But by the spring of 1985 it was all gone. The clubs peeled away one by one until the NASL itself closed up shop in early 1985.

In July 1985 a small group of former NASL cities on the West Coast staged the Western Soccer Alliance challenge series. The tournament saw clubs from Portland, San Jose, Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia compete against one another and against the Canadian National Team, touring European clubs and a side from Alberta known as the Edmonton Brickmen. When the Western Soccer Alliance put on a more conventional league season in the summer of 1986, the Brickmen joined as a full-fledged member.

Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington owned the Brickmen. Pocklington owned the NASL’s Edmonton Drillers from 1979 to 1982 and lost millions of dollars on that team. Nevertheless, he would make continued forays into pro soccer in Edmonton in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Pocklington backed both the Brickmen and a revived indoor-only version of the Drillers in the mid-1990’s. Veteran sports exec Mel Kowalchuk, who also ran the city’s Edmonton Trappers Class AAA baseball team, headed up the Brickmen front office. Former Driller Ross Ongaro served as head coach.

The Brickmen withdrew from the Western Soccer Alliance in 1987 to join the new Canadian Soccer League. The club was never particularly good. The Brickmen never posted a winning record in four seasons and finished in last place in 1988 and 1990. Edmonton’s best showing was in 1989 when the team advanced to the CSL playoff semi-finals. They were blown out 9-3 in a two-leg series by the eventual champion Vancouver 86ers.

The Brickmen folded after the 1990 season.

 

Edmonton Brickmen Shop

The Puck Talks Here: The Amazing Life & Turbulent Times of Peter Pocklington by Terry McConnell & J’Lyn Nye
(KINDLE Edition)

 

Edmonton Brickmen Memorabilia

 

Links

Western Soccer Alliance Programs

Canadian Soccer League Media Guides

Canadian Soccer League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 14th, 2018 at 5:07 pm

1996-2000 Edmonton Drillers

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Edmonton Drillers Media GuideNational Professional Soccer League (1996-2000)

Born: August 23, 1996 – The Chicago Power relocate to Edmonton.
Folded: November 30, 2000

Arena: Edmonton Coliseum (17,400)

Team Colors: Black, Lime Green & White

Owners:

NPSL Championships: None

 

The Edmonton Drillers indoor soccer team of the late 1990’s was a brand revival of the original Edmonton Drillers (1979-1982) of the North American Soccer League.  The NASL Drillers competed year-round, playing outdoors at Commonwealth Stadium and Clarke Stadium in the spring and summer and indoors at the Northlands Coliseum during the wintertime.

Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington owned the original Drillers and he was also the man who re-established the club in 1996 by purchasing and relocating the insolvent Chicago Power franchise in the National Professional Soccer League. Pocklington hired Ross Ongaro, a veteran of the NASL Drillers squads, to coach the team.

Two years later, Pocklington’s creditors forced him to sell off the Oilers and his other sporting assets. The Drillers appeared to be dead in the water in the spring of 1998.  The team’s 10-person staff was let go and the team sat dark for much of the summer as Pocklington’s sports empire was disassembled.

In late July, a local white knight appeared in the person of advertising executive Wojtek Wojcicki.  The Drillers had their most successful on-field moments during Wojcicki’s ownership, including a divisional championship in 1999 and back-to-back playoff semi-final appearances in 1999 and 2000.  But the ad man didn’t have the money to shoulder the Drillers’ red ink and unfavorable lease at the Northlands Coliseum for long.

On November 15, 2000, Wojcicki missed payroll for the Drillers. The team was just one month into its fifth season of play. The NPSL took over operation of the club for two weeks. But the league’s other owners had little appetite to underwrite the Drillers’ losses for the rest of the winter. With no local buyer on the horizon, the NPSL terminated the franchise on November 30th, 2000, just 9 games into a planned 40-game schedule.

 

Edmonton Drillers Shop

The Puck Talks Here: The Amazing Life & Turbulent Times of Peter Pocklington by Terry McConnell & J’Lyn Nye
(KINDLE Edition)

 

Links

The Edmonton Drillers Archive

National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs

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1979-1982 Edmonton Drillers

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Edmonton DrillersNorth American Soccer League (1979-1982)

Born: February 22, 1979 – The Oakland Stompers relocate to Edmonton.
Folded: October 13, 1982

Stadiums:

Arena: Northlands Coliseum (17,317)

Team Colors: Orange & Blue

Owner: Peter Pocklington

Soccer Bowl Championships: None
NASL Indoor Champions: 1981

 

The Edmonton Drillers were a non-descript entry in the North American Soccer League, lasting four seasons between 1979 and 1982. The franchise originated in Connecticut in 1975 as the Hartford Bicentennials and later made short stops in New Haven (Connecticut Bicentennials, 1977) and Northern California (Oakland Stompers, 1978) before Edmonton Oilers hockey owner Peter Pocklington purchased and relocated the club in February 1979, just five weeks before the start of the NASL season.

The Drillers were mostly a mediocrity, finishing at or near the bottom of their division in 1979, 1981 and 1982.  In 1980, the Drillers actually won the NASL’s Western Division with a 17-15 record and advanced to the 2nd round of the playoffs before falling to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.  But the team’s one shining moment actually came playing indoor soccer at the Northlands Coliseum

Edmonton DrillersAt the end of the 1970’s, the NASL began experimenting with indoor soccer during the winter season.  It was a matter of baby steps.  A few teams – such as the league’s flagship New York Cosmos club – declined to participate.  But in the winter of 1980-81, 19 clubs took to the carpet to contest the NASL’s first full-scale indoor soccer season.  The Drillers were just OK during the regular season, finishing 10-8, but that was good enough to get into the playoffs, where the team came alive.  After dispatching the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Drillers swept the Chicago Sting two games to zero to capture the NASL’s 1981 indoor soccer championship.

The Drillers final season was undeniably bizarre.  By 1982 Peter Pocklington soured on his soccer investment.  According to The New York Times, the Drillers owner was $10.5 million in the red after three seasons.  He moved the club out of giant Commonwealth Stadium, where the Drillers averaged around 10,000 fans per game from 1979 to 1981 into modest Clarke Stadium.  Attendance crashed down to 4,922 per match, by far the worst in the 14-team NASL.

In April 1982, Pocklington was taken hostage by a lone gunman in a home invasion.  Police eventually raided Pocklington’s home, shooting and wounding both Pocklington and his attacker in the melee.  The following month, Pocklington declared he was putting no more money into the Drillers. He threatened to fold the club immediately unless his players took a 50% pay cut and the city of Edmonton stopped attempting to collect back rent on Clarke Stadium.

For a time it looked as though the NASL would lose a franchise in mid-season for the first time in its 15-year history.  Eventually, Pocklington relented and allowed the season to continue.  Then he tried and failed to sell the club for $1.25 million to investor groups looking to move the team to Detroit or Milwaukee.  The season mercifully ended in late August with the Drillers sitting in last place with the lowest scoring, least popular team in the NASL. The official end came about six weeks later in mid-October.

In 1996, Pocklington acquired control of the Edmonton Coliseum and bought an indoor soccer team to help fill the dates around Edmonton Oilers games.  He revived the Edmonton Drillers name for his indoor club.  The “new” Drillers played indoor soccer from 1996 to 2000, although Pocklington dumped the team after two seasons.  The team went bankrupt in 2000.  Yet another indoor team revived the Drillers name again in 2007.

 

Edmonton Drillers Shop

Rock n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life & Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith

The Puck Talks Here: The Amazing Life & Turbulent Times of Peter Pocklington by Terry McConnell & J’Lyn Nye
(KINDLE Edition)

 

Edmonton Drillers Memorabilia

 

Links

North American Soccer League Media Guides

North American Soccer League Programs

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1982-1984 Moncton Alpines

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Moncton Alpines American Hockey League (1982-1984)

Born: 1982
Moved:
1984 (Nova Scotia Oilers)

Arena: Moncton Coliseum (6,904)

Team Colors:

Owner: Edmonton Oilers (Peter Pocklington)

Calder Cup Championships: None

 

This is a great looking program.  Maybe because I’m a sucker for orange.  Have been ever since I watched Super Bowl XVII back in 1983 at age 7 and fell in love with the Miami Dolphins (temporarily) and their overmatched quarterback David Woodley (even more temporarily, as the Fish drafted Dan Marino a few months later) solely because of their aqua & orange uniforms.

The Edmonton Oilers were another great orange team of the era.  The Oilers were loaded with young talent in the early 1980’s, from the scoring trio of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri to the goaltending tandem of Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog.  Between 1984 and 1990, the Oilers would reel off five Stanley Cup victories in seven seasons.

Alpine Lager BeerIn 1982 Edmonton owner Peter Pocklington purchased an American Hockey League team to play at the Moncton Coliseum in New Brunswick and serve as an Oilers farm club.  Mark Messier’s dad, Doug Messier, served as Moncton’s Head Coach and General Manager.

In that era, it was conventional for farm clubs to simply adopt the brand identity of the parent club.  For example, the Alpines opponent on the program shown above right was the Sherbrooke Jets from the province of Quebec.  The Jets were a farm club of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets.  But the Oilers went a different direction, striking a $125,000 naming rights deal with Moosehead Breweries to name the club after Moosehead’s Alpine lager beer brand.  It was a creative promotion on the part of Moosehead, since traditional media advertising of alcohol was illegal in the province of New Brunswick at the time.  And thus the short-lived Moncton Alpines were born.

Moncton’s success under Doug Messier didn’t mirror that of their NHL dynasty parent club.  The Alpines failed to make the AHL playoffs in either season of their existence from 1982 to 1984.  The Alpines didn’t develop much talent for the big club either, instead producing a handful of journeymen the likes of John Blum and Don Nachbaur who bounced around the league in limited action in the mid-late 1980’s.  Future Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr did spend a brief 10-game stint with the Alpines during the 1982-83 season, however.

Attendance was mediocre at the Moncton Coliseum according to hockeydb.com, with average crowds of 3,447 in 1982-83 and 3,117 in 1983-84.

One roster curiosity for the Alpines with Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe who came out of retirement (or was it imprisonment?) to play a single game for the ‘Pines during the 1983-84 season.  The infamous goon of the 1970’s was the inspiration for the dreaded Ogie Oglethorpe character in the 1977 Paul Newman classic Slap Shot.

In the spring of 1984 the Oilers pulled their AHL affiliate out of Moncton and relocated to the Halifax Metro Centre in Nova Scotia.  The AHL quickly filled the void, placing another team – the Golden Flames – at the Coliseum for the 1984-85 season.  Pro hockey remained in Moncton until 1994 when the AHL left, seemingly for good, as part of the growing league’s withdrawal from the small cities of Canada’s maritime provinces in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

On a semi-related note, let me make a plug here for Len Whisler’s excellent website Stubby.ca, which presents a fascinating history of the Canadian provincial beer industry during the 1960’s through the early 1980’s, specifically the once ubiquitous but now defunct “stubby” bottle.   Len provided the photo of Alpine Lager Beer for this post.

 

Moncton Alpines Memorabilia

 

Links

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

##

Written by AC

August 22nd, 2012 at 2:59 am

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