Wednesday, July 23, 2014

1992-93 SC Herisau Libor Dolana Jersey

July by the Numbers returns to Switzerland for jersey #23

Chances are if it's an odd and unusual jersey, it comes from Switzerland, and today's jersey fits that profile once more.

Based in the north eastern part of Switzerland, SC Herisau was founded in 1942 and play in the Sportzentrum Herisau arena, which has a capacity of 3,152.

SC Herisau logo, SC Herisau logo

The high point for the club came in 1996-97, when they won the Swiss National League B championship for the only time, earning a promotion to the top level of hockey in Switzerland, the Swiss National League A in a shocking underdog story. The club did include Canadians Claude Vilgrain, who had ten years of experience in the IHL, AHL and 89 games of NHL experience with the New Jersey Devils, and Devin Edgerton, who brought five seasons of IHL play and went on to play a dozen years in Europe. "It was one of the wonders that it is in sports," said Mark McGregor, the coach said.

Claude Vilgrain Devils, Claude Vilgrain Devils
Vilgrain while still a member of the Devils

Unfortunately, the Cinderella story ended there, as the club was unable to compete with the top level clubs and was relegated after just one season following a 9-29-2 record and a last place finish.

The team currently plays in the 1. Liga, the third level of Swiss hockey behind the NLA and NLB after having dropped down to the 2. Liga at one point.

SC Herisau 2010-11, SC Herisau 2010-11
The 2010-11 SC Herisau team

Other notable names to have played for SC Herisau include former Florida Panther Jesse Belanger and former Hartford Whaler Sylvain Turgeon, both in 1997-98.

SC Herisau fans, SC Herisau fans
Some of SC Herisau's passionate fans

Today's featured jersey is a 1992-93 SC Herisau Libor Dolana jersey. This most unique jersey features both the player name and back number rotated 45º !

Aside from the rotation of the name and numbers, this jersey is typical of a early 90's European jersey, as it is a lighter weight mesh jersey with sublimated graphics. As if the jagged, almost lightning bolt stripes running diagonally across the body and the arms weren't enough, it also features the trademark three stripes from Adidas running down each arm.

The odd thing about this jersey is, in contrast to the bold striping, large sponsor logos and unusual rotated customization, is the overly simple club name on the front, which one would expect to be bigger and in a more exciting font, if not some sort of graphic logo, in an effort to keep up with the volume of the rest of the jersey.

SC Herisau 92-93 jersey, SC Herisau 92-93 jersey
SC Herisau 92-93 jersey, SC Herisau 92-93 jersey
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

In Today's video section, the fans if SC Herisau celebrate their club with a joyful racket, drums and all, which lasts a considerable amount of time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

1995-96 San Francisco Spiders Normand Rochefort Jersey

July by the Numbers visits the City by the Bay for jersey #22.

The San Francisco Spiders were granted an expansion franchise in the International Hockey League for the 1995-96 season in November of 1994 and announced their team name and logo in December.

Spiders logo, Spiders logo

Their home rink was the famed Cow Palace and their first game was a 5-1 loss to the Los Angeles Ice Dogs in front of 11,415 fans on September 29, 1995 with the first goal in team history being scored by Sandis Ozolinsh, who played a pair of games for the Spiders while holding out from the NHL's San Jose Sharks prior to being traded to the Colorado Avalanche.

Also of note to play for the Spiders was future Hall of Famer Rod Langway. Following his retirement from the NHL in 1993, Langway hit the ice once again as a player/coach for the Spiders, seeing action in 46 games in 1995-96.

Langway Spiders
Rod Langway

Eight former members of the Sharks, who also began life also calling the Cow Palace home in 1991-92, skated for the Spiders that season.

The club finished with a respectable winning record of 40-32-10, good for third place in the South division and a spot in the IHL's Turner Cup playoffs. Goaltender Stephane Beauregard was named the winner of the James Gatschene Memorial Trophy as the league's MVP following his 36-24-8 record with a 3.09 goals against average. John Purves was by far and away the team's leading scorer, with 56 goals and 49 assists for 105 points, 45 more than the next highest Spider. Purves placed second in the league goal scoring race and seventh in points. Despite than success, Purves would finish his career with a total of seven NHL games, all of which came prior to his season with San Francisco.

Beauregard Spiders
Stephane Beauregard

Game 1 against the Chicago Wolves went to the Spiders at home 4-2, but Chicago defeated San Francisco 4-1 and then swept them back at home in Chicago 3-1 and 2-1 in overtime to eliminate the Spiders from the playoffs in what would turn out to be the final Spiders game ever.

Difficulties with the aging arena and poor attendance plagued the club. Weekend attendance was around the 7,500 mark, but weekday games ruined the average attendance as the club struggled to draw over 2,500. Citing losses of over $6 million, the team filed for bankruptcy protection and ceased operations on June 24, 1996 after but one season on the ice, becoming a footnote in the history of minor league hockey.

Dave Maley, the Spiders team captain

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 San Francisco Spiders Normand Rochefort jersey. For the Spiders one and only season, every day was Halloween with these unusual jerseys donned by the Spiders, especially when compared to the current state of the art in the NHL at the time when these were designed.

The spider web pattern contained in the red striping was a very simple but highly effective addition which created a jersey that looked much busier than it really was.

Their logo added to the overall feeling of this being a complex jersey as the spider itself was rather detailed and the radical font chosen for the team and city name created a near vortex of lines due to the length of both names.

The radical nature of the jersey continued on the back and sleeves with the addition of the numbers done in the same font as the "Spiders" wordmark from the main crest. While the sleeve numbers are somewhat difficult to read based on their shape and location at one the busiest spot on the jersey, the back numbers are surprisingly bold and legible. The simple block font for the names are unexpectedly simple and one can only imagine what suggestions for fonts the designer may have proposed that were passed over! A vertically arched block font like that used by the Detroit Red Wings, which would have followed the curvature of the top of the back numbers surely must have been considered at some point.

These jerseys unusual look, which was quite radical for the time, and their limited availability due to the incredibly brief short period of use have made these a favorite among the collecting hobby and very sought after.

San Francisco Spiders jersey
San Francisco Spiders jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1995-96 San Francisco Spiders tie dye jersey. If the standard Spiders jersey wasn't busy enough as it was, this special tie dyed jersey takes the vortex effect of the main logo to a whole new level!

And why the different font for the numbers? Surely it wasn't an effort to make the jersey "less busy" was it? The numbers certainly are an odd choice, as the treatment they received give them an almost metallic appearance, totally not keeping with the look and feel of the jersey or the team's identity. Perhaps they had something to do with radio station KFOG's visual identity, the sponsor of the game in which they jerseys were worn, and not that of the team.

San Francisco Spiders jersey
San Francisco Spiders jersey

Today's video section begins with some very rare footage of the Spiders tie-dyed jerseys in action.

In this next video, Tracey Engeland of the Los Angeles Ice Dogs has three different fights with members of the Spiders, giving you plenty of time to see how difficult the Spiders two-digit back numbers could be to read in action.

Monday, July 21, 2014

1997-98 Regina Pats Josh Holden Jersey

July by the Numbers jersey #21 takes us to the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

The oldest major junior team in the world, the Regina Pats were formed in 1917 and t heir original name was the Regina Patricia, after the military unit, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which was named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and whose regimental crest is still worn on the shoulder of the club's jerseys.

The Patricias competed for the very first Memorial Cup in 1919 and again in 1922. In 1923 the team named was shortened to the Pats and two seasons later they won their first championship in 1925 with a 2 games to none win over Toronto Aura Lee. The club won their second title in 1928 when they were briefly known as the Regina Monarchs after merging with the Regina Falcons, with a 2 games to 1 win over the Ottawa Gunners.

1927-28 Regina Monarchs
1927-28 Memorial Cup champion Regina Monarchs

Their third title in six seasons came in 1930, after having to returned to being called the Pats, with a two game sweep of the West Toronto Nationals. The club made one more trip to the finals in 1933 prior to folding following the 1934-35 season.

1929-30 Memorial Cup champion Regina Pats

It would not be until 1946 that the Regina Pats would be resurrected when two junior teams, the Abbotts and Commandos merged to form a new organization, which became a farm team of the Montreal Canadiens and members of the newly created Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, as the provence's hockey leagues had previously been divided into separate northern and southern leagues.

Only two seasons later, the Pats would join the Western Canada Junior Hockey League. It would not take the club long to attain success in the WCJHL, as they made their first appearance in the Memorial Cup final in 1950 and again in 1952, 1955 and 1956 after dominating the WCJHL, but agonizingly coming up short each time for the national title.

The club would rejoin the SJHL for 1957-58 and immediately return to the Memorial Cup Final, only to once again come up short. A new WCJHL was formed in 1966 and once again the Pats were on the move to a new league, which then changed it's name to the Western Canada Hockey League. Then, following a dispute over the upper age limit for junior players, the Pats left the WCHL for the SJHL for two seasons before the disputes were resolved and the Pats returned to the WCHL in 1970-71, but not before the Pats made the Memorial Cup in 1969.

The Pats captured the WCHL title in 1973-74, led in scoring by Dennis Sobchuk's 146 points in 66 games, followed by Clark Gilles 112 on their way to a 43-14-11 record. They finished the Round Robin portion of the schedule with a 1-1 record and advanced to the final thanks to their superior goal differential and then defeated the Quebec Remparts 7-4 to capture the first Memorial Cup since the team's rebirth 28 years earlier.

1973-74 Regina Pats
1973-74 Memorial Cup champion Regina Pats

The Pats have again made the Memorial Cup as the now renamed Western Hockey League champions in 1980 behind Doug Wickenheiser's league leading 89 goals and 170 points in 72 games.

The Pats most recent Memorial Cup appearance came in 2001 as hosts, where they fell in overtime of the semifinals.

Since the inception of the NHL Draft in 1963, Larry Wright became the first Pats player selected in the first round, when he was taken 8th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1971. In 1974, Greg Joly became the first Pat ever taken first overall when he was selected by the Washington Capitals followed by Gilles 4th overall. Wickenheiser was the next Regina player taken #1 by Montreal in 1980.

Other first round players selected after playing for the Pats have been Garth Butcher (1981-10th), Mike Sillinger (1989 - 11th overall), Jason Smith (1992-18th), Jeff Friesen (1998-11th), Derek Morris (1996-13th), Brad Stuart (1998-3rd), and Calder Cup winner Barret Jackman (1999-17th). Other notable Pats have included Dirk Graham and Stu Grimson.

The Pats have retired seven numbers in honor of eight players, #1 for goaltender Ed Staniowski, #8 for Brad Hornung, #9 for Gilles, #12 for Wickenheiser, #14 for Sobchuk, #16 for the franchise's all-time leading scorer Dale Derkatch and Sillinger and #17 for Bill Hicke.

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Regina Pats Josh Holden jersey. After a long history of classic jerseys, this style, made by Starter, suffers from the design excesses of the era, making for a loud and garish jersey, which thankfully did not last very long until a return to a more traditional style.

Regina Pats 77-78 jersey
Regina Pats 77-78 jersey

Sunday, July 20, 2014

1999-00 Cleveland Lumberjacks Evgeni Nabokov Jersey

July by the Numbers travels to the future for jersey #20!

Before we visit the future, we must visit the past in order to understand where we are going by looking back at where we've been. The history of hockey in Cleveland can be traced back to the Cleveland Athletic Club, the first winners of the MacNaughton Cup in 1914.

The first professional team to call Cleveland home was the Cleveland Indians of the International Hockey League, who relocated from Kitchener, Ontario in 1929 where they were known as the Dutchmen. They were rather successful their first season, going 24-9-9 and won the league championship, defeating Buffalo 3 games to 1. That would be the high point for the Indians, as they would slip down the standings, finishing last or next to last their final three seasons before being renamed the Cleveland Falcons in 1934.

Moe Roberts Indians, Moe Roberts Indians
Moe Roberts of the Cleveland Indians hockey team

The Falcons would play two seasons in the IHL, which then merged with the Canadian American Hockey League to form the new International-American Hockey League for the 1936-37 season.

Tommy Cook Falcons 36-37, Tommy Cook Falcons 36-37
Tommy Cook of the Cleveland Falcons

After one more year as the Falcons, the franchise was again renamed, this time as the Cleveland Barons for the 1937-38 season. The Barons would win the Calder Cup as IAHL champions in 1939 before the league shortened it's name to simply the American Hockey League for the 1940-41 season.

The Barons would provide Cleveland with it's longest, most stable and successful period of hockey in the city's history, playing 36 seasons, during which time they won nine championships, those coming in 1939, 1941, 1945, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1964 in front of standing room only crowds in what was the Golden Age of Cleveland hockey. So successful was the franchise, that at one point in the early 1950's ownership tried to apply for entrance into the National Hockey League and so confident their owner that the Barons issued a challenge to the NHL for the right to play for the Stanley Cup!

Barons Calder Cup, Barons Calder Cup
The Cleveland Barons accepting another of their nine Calder Cups

Eventually, ownership of the franchise passed to Nick Mileti, who became the owner of the Cleveland entry in the new World Hockey Association in 1972. The combination of the competition for the fans of Cleveland, who now had a major league team to support for the first time, and the dramatic increase in competition for players against not only the new WHA, but the expanding NHL, spelled the end for the Barons, as Mileti moved the team to Florida in the middle of the 1972-73 season.

Mileti's new WHA club, the Cleveland Crusaders, made a splash by luring goaltender Gerry Cheevers away from the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Cheevers Crusaders, Cheevers Crusaders
Gerry Cheevers

The team had a good first season, but moderate attendance for four seasons, combined with issues with their new arena located too far from the city and the impending arrival of the relocating California Golden Seals of the NHL, sent the Crusaders out of town after just four seasons.

1974-75 Cleveland Crusaders team, 1974-75 Cleveland Crusaders team
The 1974-75 Cleveland Crusaders of the WHA

The club that drove the Crusaders out of town revived the Cleveland Barons name, but did not come anywhere near duplicating their original Barons success, as they not only brought all the competitive issues the Golden Seals suffered on the ice with them from California, but compounded those by moving into the problematic Richfield Coliseum. The doomed Barons only lasted two troubled seasons, finishing with a 47-87-26 record overall.

Meloche Barons, Meloche Barons
Goaltender Gilles Meloche anchored the NHL's Cleveland Barons

Cleveland would be without professional hockey until the 1992-93 season when the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the IHL relocated to Ohio and were the top affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Dave Michaylu Cleveland Lumberjacks Penguins, Dave Michaylu Cleveland Lumberjacks Penguins
The Lumberjacks sharp jerseys based on the Penguins jerseys of the early 1990's

The Lumberjacks had five winning seasons in their nine years of existence., including four seasons of 90 points or more, but managed only one deep playoff run, that coming in 1997, when they reached the third round of the Turner Cup playoffs. At the end of the 2000-01 season, the IHL, which had been around since 1945, collapsed due to a combination of expanding too quickly and not nearly enough teams having affiliations with NHL franchises. While 6 of the 11 IHL franchises were accepted into the AHL, Cleveland was not among those, and the Lumberjacks run came to an end.

Drake Berehowsky IHL Cleveland Lumberjacks, Drake Berehowsky IHL Cleveland Lumberjacks
The trendy late 90's teal and black look of the Lumberjacks, complete with Beaver logo and buzzsaw waist stripe

Cleveland was not left without hockey though, as the San Jose Sharks of the NHL purchased their AHL affiliate, the Kentucky Thoroughblades, and relocated them to Cleveland, where they revived the Cleveland Barons name once again. While the Lumberjacks had averaged between 8,200 and 9,000 fans their first six seasons, their attendance had dropped to 4,200 in their final season, which proved to be the equal of the new Barons best season, due in part to the team's struggles on the ice, as they had only one winning season in five years, winning less than 30 games three times and only qualifying for the playoffs once, that being a first round exit.

Cleveland Barons Sharks, Cleveland Barons Sharks
The Cleveland Sharks logo

When the Sharks relocated the franchise to Worcester, Massachusetts for the 2006-07 season, Cleveland was left without a team for just one season before the inactive Utah Grizzlies AHL franchise was purchased and moved to Cleveland, where it was named the Lake Erie Monsters where they remain today as affiliates of the NHL's Colorado Avalanche. Unlike several of their immediate predecessors, the Monsters have enjoyed a steady increase in attendance over their now seven seasons and hope to maintain a steady presence as they write their chapter in the history of hockey in Cleveland.

Lake Erie Monsters, Lake Erie Monsters
The Lake Erie Monsters in action

Today's featured jersey is a 1999-00 Cleveland Lumberjacks Evgeni Nabokov jersey. This wild jersey is emblematic of the many special occasion jerseys seen in the minor leagues. Special one-off designs can often be seen on various holidays that occur during the hockey season, such as Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick's Day and Valentine's Day in particular which often results in the players having to sacrifice their dignity as they are forced to wear pink jerseys with red hearts.

Other club's will create a special jersey simply to go along with a special themed promotion, such as jerseys made to look like tuxedos, cowboys, pirates, prison uniforms and guards, cows or the clothing worn by Ronald McDonald, Don Cherry, Bob Uecker and Michael Jackson, which included the players each wearing one white glove!

Tributes and awareness themes have also spawned many sets of unique jerseys, such as those for military tribute or breast cancer awareness nights, with the jerseys regularly auctioned off to the fans following the game.

In 1999 the approach of the Millennium occupied the minds of many, particularly the threat of computers world wide crashing due the "Y2K" scare - to not being able to recognize the difference between "2000" and "1900" due to only having two digits to signify the year.

Major League Baseball recognized the upcoming flipping of the calendar with the notorious "Turn Ahead the Clock" promotion, wearing jerseys from twenty some years in the future, and the Lumberjacks also got into the spirit of the event with their own Millennium special occasion jersey, filled with futuristic imagery and decorated with the inspired choice of the same font used on bank checks, "MICR".
Cleveland Lumberjacks 99-00 jersey, Cleveland Lumberjacks 99-00 jersey
Cleveland Lumberjacks 99-00 jersey, Cleveland Lumberjacks 99-00 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2008-09 Lake Erie Monsters Aaron Mackenzie jersey from the most recent professional team to call Cleveland home. This jersey illustrates the modern template and lines of the newest generation of Reebok designed jerseys, which have moved away from the classic horizontal striping of hockey jerseys of the past.

While the Monsters regularly wear their modern jerseys, they have also worn AHL Baron's throwback jerseys as well as WHA Crusaders throwbacks in recognition of the team's that built a foundation of Cleveland hockey history.

Lake Erie Monsters 08-09 jersey, Lake Erie Monsters 08-09 jersey
Lake Erie Monsters 08-09 jersey, Lake Erie Monsters 08-09 jersey

Today's video section begins with the Cleveland Baron's star Fred Glover, and AHL legend and one of the best players you have never heard of.

Here is a look at the history of the original Barons and the WHA's Crusaders.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

1997-98 Brandon Wheat Kings Ryan Robson Jersey

July by the Numbers returns to Canada for jersey #19.

Founded in 1936 as a member of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, the Brandon Wheat Kings competed in the MJHL for two seasons prior to changing their name to the Brandon Elks for two seasons, which included winning the MJHL championship and the Turnbull Cup in 1938-39.

Following a five year hiatus for World War II, the club returned to the ice for the 1945-46 season as well as returning to the name Wheat Kings to reflect the agricultural nature of their surrounding community in western Manitoba. The club quickly found their stride, winning championships in 1947, 1949 and 1950. They also went on to capture the 1949 Abbott Cup as champions of all of western Canada after defeating the Calgary Buffaloes.

After competing for four more seasons through 1953-54, the club once again went dormant for four seasons from 1954-55 to 1957-58.

1953-54 Brandon Wheat Kings
The 1953-54 Brandon Wheat Kings

Similar to their previous break during World War II, the Wheat Kings returned with a vengeance. After a third place finish in 1958-59, Brandon reeled off five consecutive first place finishes and converted that dominance into four league playoff victories in five tires, winning titles in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964, after a regular season record of 27-1-2! During their five year period of MJHL dominance, the Wheat Kings posted a combined record of 132-34-7.

After three more seasons in the MJHL, the Wheat Kings joined the Western Hockey League for the 1967-68 season where they found life a lot harder going, as it was not until ten seasons for them to achieve a first place regular season finish, all without any playoff success.

The 1976-77 club was led by the trio of Bill Derlago (a WHL record 96 goals and 178 points), Ray Allison (137 points) and Brian Propp (135 points) who took the top three places in the WHL scoring race. They repeated their first place finish in 1977-78 with Propp taking the scoring title with 182 points, but it all really came together in 1978-79 when the Wheat Kings set not only a WHL record, but a Canadian Hockey League (encompassing both the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as well) with a stellar 58-5-9 record for 125 points. Propp set the all-time franchise record, as well as setting a new WHL single season scoring record, with 194 points to take his second straight scoring title, 39 points clear of second place teammates Allison (153 points) and Laurie Boschman (149 points).

1978-79 Brandon wheat kings
The 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings

Brandon went on to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL playoff champions, which earned them a place in the Memorial Cup. While the Wheat Kings finished first in the round robin portion, they lost in the final 2-1 in overtime.

The Wheat Kings fell into a down period with 13 seasons with only one finish above 5th and eight seasons out of the playoffs. The highlight of this era was the 1983-84 season when Ray Ferarro set a WHL record with 108 goals on his way to a league scoring title with 192 points. Cam Plante also set an all-time league record with 140 points for a defenseman that same season.

Beginning in 1992-93, the Wheat Kings rebounded with back-to-back second place finishes before a trio of first place finishes from 1995 to 1997 and another Memorial Cup appearance in 1995 and a playoff championship and subsequent Memorial Cup appearance in 1996.

Five seasons later they were back on top once again for three of the next four seasons (2002, 2003 and 2005), but playoff success eluded them each time. In 2004-05 a trio of Wheat Kings again led the WHL in scoring - Eric Fehr (111 points), Ryan Stone (99 points) and Tim Konsorada (87 points).

Since then the Wheat Kings have managed a pair of first place finishes in 2006-07 and 2009-10, a season during which they also hosted the Memorial Cup and were able to reach the final.

Other notable players for Brandon include Ron Hextall, Brian McCabe, Brad McCrimmon, Jeff Odgers, Chris Osgood, Wade Redden, Jordin Tootoo and Oleg Tverdovsky.

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 Brandon Wheat Kings Ryan Robson jersey. This jersey uses the template of the Philadelphia Flyers traditional jersey where the stripe down the arm wraps around the wrists, a look that was much more popular back in the 1980's when it was also used by the Los Angeles Kings.

Brandon Wheat Kings 97-98 jersey

Friday, July 18, 2014

1972-73 Chicago Cougars Ron Anderson Jersey

July by the Numbers visits the Windy City for jersey #18.

One of the founding member clubs of the World Hockey Association, the Chicago Cougars had a tremendous challenge ahead of them as they took on the established Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL on their own turf.

Unlike other WHA clubs who took on NHL teams by playing as tenants in the NHL's home arenas, such as the New York Raiders and Toronto Toros, the Cougars made the ancient International Amphitheater, built in 1934, their "temporary" home, with the hopes of relocating to the Rosemont Horizon when it was completed.

The Cougars opening game was a memorable affair, as the club hosted former Black Hawks standout Bobby Hull and the Winnipeg Jets, who Chicago defeated by a score of 3-1. The remainder of the season proved to be tough going, as the club finished dead last in the WHA with a 26-50-2 record and just 54 points in the standings, 14 behind the Raiders. The team was led in scoring by Bob Sicinski with 88 points and Rosarie Paiement's team leading 33 goals.

Sicinski Cougars
Bob Sicinski

With changes obviously needed, veteran leadership was provided by long time Montreal Canadien Ralph Backstrom who was lured away from the Black Hawks along with Pat Stapleton. Backstrom led the Cougars offensively with 33 goals, 50 assists and 83 points and Paiement also reached 30 goals once again while Stapleton had 52 assists from the blueline to lead the team in that category.

Backstrom Cougars
The signing of Ralph Backstrom

While the club improved in the standings to 81 points, it was only good for fourth in the Eastern Division, one point ahead of the Quebec Nordiques for the final playoff spot. Once in the playoffs, the Cougars upset the top seeded and defending champions the New England Whalers in seven games, including the final game on the road in Boston.

In one of the typically odd stories surrounding the WHA, the Cougars were unable to play their second round home playoff games against the Toronto Toros in the International Amphitheater due to a traveling production of "Peter Pan" with former Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby in the title role having been booked into the arena.

An unsuccessful attempt was made to move the games to Chicago Stadium, home of the Black Hawks and the team settled on the undignified solution of playing it's games at a suburban shopping center in Randhurst, where they was a public skating rink called the Randhurst Twin Ice Arena which could hold only 2000 spectators!

The Cougars managed survive this indignity to win two of their three games in Randhurst and play well enough on the road to force a Game 7, which they won on the road to make a surprising appearance in the Avco Cup Finals.

With the Peter Pan show having concluded, the team expected to return to their home rink for the finals, only to find out they arena staff had melted the ice surface and the pipes used to chill the ice were being dismantled for the offseason! Apparently the arena and it's staff were not fans of the team and hadn't been following the Cougars progress against the Toros...

Forced to return to Randhurst, they were swept by Gordie Howe and the Houston Aeros in four straight where the Aeros took the title in the tiny arena next to the shopping mall. The bad publicity from the arena situation caused a sportswriter to come up with one of the all-time classic quotes, "The Cougars were beaten by the greatest lightweight of them all - Peter Pan."

Rookie Gary MacGregor led the 1974-75 Cougars with 42 goals and 76 points, two ahead of Paiement's 74. Dave Dryden came over from the NHL to tend goal. Things were not going well at the box office though, and the team was facing a major financial crisis which threatened to put the team out of business during the 1974-75 season, but the team's three major players, Backstrom, Stapleton and Dryden, purchased the team to keep it going through the end of the season in which the Cougars dropped to 12th place overall out of the 14 teams and failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Dryden Cougars
Dave Dryden

Unfortunately, the reality of the financial situation set in and the club folded following the season, ending their challenge to the superiority of the NHL's Black Hawks, as did every other WHA team who took on an NHL club in the same city, a scene repeated in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Toronto, Vancouver and Detroit, giving the NHL a perfect 9-0 record and causing the WHA to retreat to outposts such as Cincinnati, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Calgary and San Diego.

Incidentally, construction of the Rosemont Horizon would not begin until 1977, two years after the demise of the Cougars. It was eventually be completed in 1980 - after the WHA itself had ceased to exist - and has been home to the Chicago Wolves of the AHL since 1994.

Today's featured jersey is a 1972-73 Chicago Cougars Ron Anderson jersey as worn during the club's first season. It features the Cougars prowling cat logo contained in a rink shaped "C", somewhat reminiscent of the Vancouver Canucks original "stick in rink" logo. Additionally, the jerseys featured the player's number on the chest, predating the Buffalo Sabres use of chest numbers, which were hailed as "innovative", by a full 34 years!

The Cougars attractive multi-striped jerseys would remain unchanged through their three years of existence.

Chicago Cougars 72-73 jersey

Our video section today features the 1973-74 Chicago Cougars in three parts in that classic 1970's style, which of course includes the soundtrack. Lots and lots of game action footage in this treasure trove of WHA video.

Don't miss the use of early rollerblades, or "street skates" in part two!


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