Sunday, July 8, 2012

1968-69 Houston Apollos Bob Ellett Jersey

July by the Numbers travels south for jersey #8.

Born during the hysteria of the Apollo space program, which began in 1963 to send men to the moon for the first time, the Houston Apollos were members of the Central Hockey League from 1965-66 to 1968-69.

Houston Apollos pennant, Houston Apollos pennant

They played their games at the Sam Houston Coliseum and were, oddly enough, a farm team of the far away and very, very French Montreal Canadiens. This led to some of the Canadiens prospects from Quebec finding themselves in a very foreign culture, while the fans in Houston were treated to seeing some of the finest prospects in the game, who would go on to rule the NHL from 1968 to 1979, winning 8 Stanley Cups in 12 seasons.

Andre Boudrias led the inaugural club in scoring with 73 points in 70 games as the team finished fifth out of the six teams, missing the playoffs by four points.

1965-66 Houston Apollos team, 1965-66 Houston Apollos team
The 1965-66 Houston Apollos

Prior to the NHL expansion of 1967-68, minor league franchises enjoyed a certain level of stability during what was still the Original 6 era and it's limited job opportunities for players. This resulted in their top scorers from the season prior, Boudrais and Bill Inglis, returning, along with holdovers Bob Charlebois and Garry Peters, who made up four of their top five scorers in 1966-67.

The Apollos roster also boasted future stars Jacques Lemaire, Serge Savard, Carol Vadnais, Pat Quinn and Rogie Vachon in goal all learning their craft in the deep south. The influx of talent raised the Apollos to a 32-28-10 record, which earned them a third place finish and a spot in the CHL playoffs for the first time.

Savard Apollos, Savard Apollos
Serge Savard

The 1967-68 expansion doubled the size of the NHL, which resulted in a shakeup with the Apollos roster, which was led in scoring by Jude Drouin, who had 22 goals and 60 points, while Chris Bordeleau led the team in goals with 23. Ernie Wakely led the goaltending with 57 games while several future NHLers dotted the roster, including Garry Monahan, Bryan Watson, Ernie Hicke, Vadnais, Danny Grant, Micky Redmond and Claude Larose all going on to play 500 games or more in the NHL.

Hicke led the 1968-69 Apollos to the playoffs with a team leading 72 points, while newcomer Alain Caron had the most goals with 38. The big news was in goal, as the tandem of Phil Myre (53 games) and Tony Esposito (19) shared the crease. The other notable arrival on the club that season was defenseman Guy Lapointe, who would play for the Canadiens for the next 13 seasons.

Guy Lapointe, Guy Lapointe
Apollos graduate Guy Lapointe

While men touched down on the moon in July of 1969, the Apollos also took flight following the 1968-69 season, landing in Montreal where they became known as the Montreal Voyageurs, ending their four seasons in Houston, a move deemed necessary by the Canadiens due to travel costs, low attendance, poor dates in the arena and a lack of practice time operating the club in Houston.

Today's featured jersey is a 1968-69 Houston Apollos Bob Ellett jersey, a beautiful sweater clearly based on the home jersey of the parent Canadiens, as seen in the red shoulders and cuffs, blue numbers outlined in red and the lace-up collar, all traits shared with Montreal's sweaters.

While the Canadiens had a red stripe over a blue stripe around the waist, the Apollos had the color order reversed and the stripes much farther apart.

What really makes this jersey stand out is the fantastic crest of the two-color rocket with contrasting fins which contains the name "Apollos" in beautifully chain-stitched lettering. Simply gorgeous!

Houston Apollos 68-69 jersey, Houston Apollos 68-69 jersey

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