Tuesday, January 31, 2012

1977-78 Cincinnati Stingers Rick Dudley Jersey

Born on this date in 1949, left winger Rick Dudley began his career with the St. Catherines Black Hawks of the Ontario Hockey Association at the age of 19. The following season Dudley played for the one-year-only Iowa Stars of the Central Hockey League. 1970-71 was split between the Flint Generals of the IHL and the Cleveland Barons of the AHL. He was still in the AHL in 1971-72, only now wit the Cincinnati Swords, where he played in 51 games, but scored just 6 goals. In fact, in his four seasons of hockey to date, Dudley had scored just 19 goals (and 57 points) in 134 games.

That all changed when Dudley simply cut loose in 1972-73, still with the Swords, when he finished in the top five in league scoring with 40 goals, more than twice his career total to date! That performance also earned him a call-up with the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, with whom he scored his first NHL point with an assist in six games. Back with Cincinnati for the postseason, Dudley led the team in scoring with 22 points in 15 games as the Swords captured the Calder Cup as AHL champions.

He made the Sabres roster out of training camp for the 1973-74 season, during which he scored 13 goals as an NHL rookie. He returned for the following season with greater confidence, and put up a strong 31 goals and 70 points to place fourth on the club behind Don Luce and the high scoring trio known as "The French Connection".

Dudley Sabres, Dudley Sabres
Dudley's early days with the Sabres, distinguished by his choice of headband rather than helmet!

In the right place at the right time, like so many others in the early 1970's, Dudley benefited from the NHL - WHA battle over talent, and he returned to Cincinnati, only now with their major league entry, the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers for their inaugural season of 1975-76 now that the construction of their new arena was finally complete.

Dudley Stingers, Dudley Stingers

Given the responsibility as team leader and the ice time to go with it, Dudley led the club with 81 points, which included 43 goals, 11 more than his next closest teammate and enough to place 9th in the league.

He again reached the 40 goal mark the following season with 41 on his way to an 88 point season. He was named team captain for the 1977-78 season, during which he scored 30 goals and 71 points.

Dudley Stingers, Dudley Stingers
Cincinnati Stingers team captain Dudley

For the 1978-79 season, the Stingers were in a less than ideal financial situation, and after 47 games, the Stingers transferred Dudley's rights back to Buffalo after the Sabres agreed to assume the remainder of his contract. Dudley would finish his season with 11 points in 24 games, while the Stingers would finish their existence, as the club would meet it's demise when it was not included in the agreement which saw the WHA cease operations and the NHL expand by adding four of the six remaining WHA franchises, of which Cincinnati was not one.

Dudley Sabres, Dudley Sabres

He would play a season and a half in his second go round with the Sabres before being waived in January of 1981. His rights were claimed by the Winnipeg Jets, with whom he would play in 30 games to finish his NHL career. His playing days would conclude with 7 games with the Fredericton Express of the AHL in 1981-82.

Dudley Jets, Dudley Jets

Dudley was not finished with hockey by a long shot, though. He bought an ACHL franchise and worked as the club's coach and general manager, making the finals four seasons in a row, while winning three championships in 1983, 1985 and 1986. Three years later he became head coach of the Sabres in the NHL.

Dudley Sabres, Dudley Sabres

He was with Buffalo for three seasons before four additional seasons in the IHL with San Diego, Phoenix and Detroit, where he was also their general manager.

He then became an NHL general manager, having worked for the Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, where he also coached once again for half a season. He would later join the Atlanta Thrashers and now works for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Today's featured jersey is a 1977-78 Cincinnati Stingers Rick Dudley jersey. The Stingers wore essentially the same jerseys for their all-to-brief four year run. Dudley's name on a contrasting nameplate was unique to the era until recently revived as a throwback element by the Philadelphia Flyers.

In addition, the filled-in outline around the captain's "C" is not something seen in the NHL, while it has been used in various other leagues on occasion.

Our personal favorite part of the Stingers jerseys is the crest, an effective piece of graphic design that has stood the test of time with flying colors.

Cincinnati Stingers 77-78 jersey, Cincinnati Stingers 77-78 jersey

In today's video section, Dudley more than holds his own with rugged customer "Battleship" Kelly of the Broad Street Bullies.

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