Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1975-76 Cleveland Crusaders Paul Shmyr Jersey

The arrival of the World Hockey Association was a blessing for many players, such as those toiling in the minor leagues, unable to crack an NHL roster. Others who benefitted were those already in the NHL in need of a sizable raise, a chance to be a "big fish in a small pond" or simply a change of scenery.

One such player was Paul Shmyr, born on this date in 1946. Shmyr began his professional career after playing with the New Westminster Royals in junior hockey when he joined the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL. The hard-nosed defenseman played 70 games, scoring 22 points and being whistled for 91 penalty minutes and was a part of the Komets run to the Turner Cup Finals in the postseason.

He spent the next two seasons with the Dallas Black Hawks of the CHL. His 46 point, 118 penalty minute season led to a call-up by the Chicago Black Hawks for his NHL debut with three games, during which he scored his first NHL goal.

Shmyr Black Hawks
Shmyr while wearing #23 early in his career with Chicago

The next season saw him play another 48 games in Dallas as well as 24 games with Chicago plus an additional seven playoff games. The improvement in his game led to him being with the Black Hawks full time in 1970-71 where he got into 57 games, scoring his second NHL goal as well as a dozen assists plus an additional nine playoff games.

Just when it looked like Shmyr had found a home in the NHL, things changed when the West Division champion Black Hawks traded Shmyr to the California Golden Seals, easily the worst team in the NHL.

While life in California certainly meant more playing time for Shmyr, and a resultant increase in both points, with 27, and penalty minutes, his first season over 100 with 156, the team failed to qualify for the playoffs as they finished 47 points behind his former club in Chicago.

Shmyr Golden Seals
Perhaps it was the white skates that led Shmyr to want to leave the Golden Seals

It was then that Shmyr jumped to the rival WHA for the league's inaugural 1972-73 season, joining the Cleveland Crusaders franchise, with a roster consisting of absolutely no one you've ever heard of outside of former Boston Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers.

Cleveland Crusaders team photo
The inaugural Cleveland Crusaders of 1972-73

And with that leap of faith in the brand new franchise playing in a brand new league, Shmyr's career was transformed. The wide open style of play in the WHA allowed Shmyr, who was named team captain and the only one the team would ever have, to set a personal high in points with 48, while the brawling, rugged element of the league also saw him set a career high in penalty minutes with 169. Following the season he was named to the WHA First All-Star Team.

1973-74 was a near repeat of the previous season, only this time he set a career high in goals with 13 on his way to 44 points, 165 penalty minutes and another berth on the WHA First All-Star Team.

Shmyr Crusaders
Shmyr defending for Cleveland against the Minnesota Fighting Saints.
Note the clear boards in the St. Paul Civic Center.

Shmyr was then rewarded with a spot on Team Canada for the 1974 Summit Series versus the Soviet National Team prior to the 1974-75 season. He was limited to 49 games but rebounded the next season with 70 games and a new personal high in points with 50 and his third WHA First All-Star Team selection. He was also named the recipient of the Dennis Murphy Trophy as the WHA's Top Defenseman for 1976.

With the financial troubles of the Crusaders on the rise, Shmyr, who was owed money by Cleveland declared himself a free agent and signed with the San Diego Mariners of the WHA.

With the Mariners, Shmyr tied his career high in goals with 13 and his career high from the previous season in points with 50. Following the season, the Mariners folded, and the free agent Shmyr signed on with the Edmonton Oilers where he would again be named team captain. Two more rock solid seasons followed with 49 and then 47 points, as well as two more 100+ penalty minute seasons, his sixth and seventh consecutive while a member of the WHA.

Shmyr Oilers
Can anyone explain the Russian captain's "K" on Shymr's Oilers jersey?

While Shmyr's franchise remained in business for the 1979-80 season, his league did not, as the four surviving WHA teams were admitted into the NHL as the WHA ceased to exist. With the former WHA severely limited in the number of players they could protect, he was claimed by the Minnesota North Stars who held his NHL rights.

He was installed as the North Stars team captain, providing much needed leadership to a young squad. Shmyr played well in Minnesota, appearing in 63 games and finished the season with a +25 rating. After one more season with the North Stars, he signed as a free agent with the Hartford Whalers, a former WHA franchise, for his final season before retiring.

Shmyr played seven NHL seasons and all seven in the brief history of the WHA. His combined numbers show 854 games played, 74 goals and 320 assists for 394 points as well as 1,388 penalty minutes, a testament to his rugged play.

Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Cleveland Crusaders Paul Shmyr jersey as worn during the season he was named the WHA's top defenseman.

The original Crusaders sweaters had "Northwestern" style stripes on the arms and waist, with a thicker black stripe bordered by two thinner purple ones separated by white spaces for their first two seasons. They also had black names to contrast their purple numbers.

They then simplified their design in 1974-75 with one thick purple stripe on both the arms and waist as well as making the names purple as well, with the only black remaining being the collar and the outer circle and shield of the crest.

Cleveland Crusaders 75-76 jersey
Cleveland Crusaders 75-76 jersey

In our video section today, Shmyr explains his departure from Clevleand and discusses the Mariners training camp and violence in hockey.

Oh yea, time to get funky with the 1973-74 Cleveland Crusaders. Love the way the announcer is trying to explain the game to the viewer. Note the "Northwestern" stripes on the first generation Crusaders jerseys.



  1. Well I don't know for sure why the K, but I have a theory.

    The last 2 seasons of the WHA, 1977-78 and 1978-79, both a Soviet and Czechoslovakia All-Star Team came over and played each WHA team, and these games counted in the Standings. Perhaps Shmyr wore a K instead of a C for the Oiler-USSR game, either for TV or diplomacy?

    And chicken wire in Cleveland, anywhere and anytime, doesn't surprise me in the least ;-).

  2. The old Cleveland Arena, home of the Crusaders in their first two seasons had chicken wire instead of glass right up until the very end. I don't think any other rink in the NHL or WHA had it and I'm surprised the league didn't mandate glass. When they moved to the Coliseum in Richfield in 1974 they, of course, had glass in what was a state of the art building.

  3. The way I've heard it is that although Paul was Canadian, he was of Ukrainian descent, therefor the K. Very well possible at the times you are talking about, I don't know. He still remains my fav player ever.

  4. The "K"on Shmyr's jersey was for his Ukrainian heritage. I know that for sure!


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