Monday, February 7, 2011
While the first organized team in Green Bay, Wisconsin can be traced back to 1916, professional hockey in Green Bay, Wisconsin can be traced back to 1958 when the Green Bay Bobcats joined the Mid-America Hockey League and played in the brand new Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena. It was a successful debut for the Bobcats, as they placed second in the regular season standing and went on to capture the Gibson Cup as league playoff champions when they defeated the Marquette Sentinels.
1959 Gibson Cup Champion Green Bay Bobcats
Their first season would prove to be their only one in the MAHL, as they played an independent schedule of games for the next two seasons. In 1958-59 they went 27-14-1 and under the guidance of Minnesota hockey legend John Mayasich, posted a 30-6-3 record in 1960-61 with a roster that included U. S. Olympian and United States Hall of Famers player/coach Mayasich, a gold medalist at the 1960 Olympics, and Dick Dougherty, a silver medalist at the 1956 Olympics.
The Bobcats then found a home, joining the United States Hockey League for the 1961-62 season. Mayasich would continue to guide the team until 1966, which included winning the league title in 1963 after going 25-7 during the regular season. While they may not have lit up the scoreboard in 1963-64, the Bobcats had the top five players in league penalty minutes that season! They followed that up by winning the national championship in 1965 after only managing a fourth place finish in the five team USHL!
The Bobcats were chosen as the United States representatives at the World Championships in 1969 following a 30-7-1 season the year before. They won another USHL title in 1972 and continued to play in the USHL as a senior semi-professional team through 1979 when the league changed to become a junior hockey league. Bob Purpur was the club's all-time leading scorer with 364 points in seven seasons, followed by Tom O'Brien with 338 and Ed Chestolowski's 304.
1971-72 USHL champion Green Bay Bobcats
The team continued to play in the now amateur USHL for two seasons prior to folding at the end of the 1980-81 season. Their most notable player while a junior club was goaltender Bob Mason, who went on to play for the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the 1984 U. S. Olympic Team and the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks and Quebec Nordiques of the NHL.
Green Bay returned to the USHL in 1994 with a new franchise called the Green Bay Gamblers. It was rough going at first, with the inaugural club struggling through the season with a 9-34-1-4 record, but the turnaround was quick and dramatic, as the Gamblers won the league regular season title and the Anderson Cup the very next year with a 32-11-3 record, the Clark Cup as the USHL playoff Champions and the Gold Cup as national champions.
They repeated as Anderson Cup and Gold Cup champions the following season as the Gamblers romped to a 41-11-0-2 record led by Kevin Granato's league leading 41 goals.
The Gamblers would again win the league's regular season title in 2008-09 and 2009-10 and go on to claim the Clark Cup as playoff champions both times as well.
Captain C. J. Lee of the Green Bay Gamblers with the massive Anderson Cup in 2009
As a member of the USHL, the goal of the Gamblers is to aid their players in advancing to play United States college hockey, and to date more than 150 players have advanced to the NCAA Division I level, with 50 going as far as playing professional hockey and 24 being drafted by NHL teams.
NHLers who have played for Green Bay include Stanley Cup winners Adam Burish and Ryan Carter, goaltender Ty Conklin, Jeff Finger, Matt Greene, Tom Preissing and Blake Wheeler.
Today's featured jersey is a 2001-02 Green Bay Gamblers Troy Lother jersey. The Gamblers original logo was a cowboy holding a hand of cards contained in a triangle with the club's wordmark overlaid. They then changed to the initials "GB" over the word "Gamblers" seen both with and without a spur, before changing in 2008 to a new logo which features a hockey playing bobcat with an ace of spades tucked into his glove, with the bobcat being a tribute to the Green Bay Bobcats franchise of the 60's and 70's.
Oh yea, it's crazy naked goalie fight time in the USHL!
On a more positive note, here is the spectacle that is the Teddy Bear Toss for charity as 7,000 bears rain down on the ice following the first Green Bay goal of the game.
Shouldn't this perhaps take place at the end of the game or at least between periods?
Finally, the Gamblers win the Clark Cup as national champions in 2009 adding to Green Bay's moniker of "TitleTown, USA".