photos courtesy of Classic Auctions
Saturday, July 7, 2012
July by the Numbers remains in the World Hockey Associaton for jersey #7.
The WHA franchise originally slated to be the Miami Screaming Eagles was foiled by a lack of finances and a suitable arena which silenced that plan and the team participated in the inaugural WHA season as the Philadelphia Blazers. After just one season, the team packed it's bags and moved all the way to the west coast, becoming the Vancouver Blazers.
After two seasons of being unable to compete with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, the franchise was moved yet again, this time to Calgary, where they became the Calgary Cowboys.
The WHA had originally hoped to place a team in Calgary back in 1972 as a rival to the Edmonton Oilers, but that plan never came to be. When Blazers team owner Jim Pattison chose to relocate his last place team to Calgary, the WHA was already having difficulties with instability, evidenced by two franchises folding in the middle of the Cowboys first season in Calgary, which hurt their image as a major league product.
The team was housed in the 6,500 seat Stampede Corral with the hopes that strong attendance would encourage the the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede board to expand the seating to a size which would allow the club to be profitable, something not possible with the Corral's current small size.
The Stampede Corral
Led by Danny Lawson and Ron Chipperfield, the team surprised many with a 41-35-4 record. Lawson led the club in scoring with 44 goals and 96 points while Chipperfield followed with 42 goals and 83 points, the only two to surpass 60 points.
Butch Deadmarsh added 26 goals while George Morrision, Rick Sentes and Don Tannahill all added 25 goals to the cause while the goaltending was handled by Don McLeod, who played in 63 of the Cowboys 80 games.
Despite the small arena, they team still did not play to capacity, averaging a dismal 4,948 fans, next to last in the league by 1,200 fans and one of only two teams under 5,000, the other being the troubled Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics franchise which did not even survive the season.
The Cowboys entered the playoffs as underdogs to the Quebec Nordiques, who finished 18 points ahead of them in the standings, but Calgary won the first two games on the road in Quebec on their way to a 4-1 series win, which included a legendary brawl that cleared both benches and lasted 20 minutes before the teams were escorted to their locker rooms by the Quebec police! Eventually, Calgary's Rick Jodzio, who started the melee by cross checking the Nordiques Marc Tardif in the head, pleaded guilty in a Quebec court to a charge of assault and the Cowboy's coach Joe Crozier was suspended for the rest of the series over the incident.
Having moved on to the next round, the Cowboys were eliminated in five games by the eventual champion Winnipeg Jets.
For the Cowboys second season, Lynn Powis stepped up with a 30 goal, 30 assist season to lead the club with 60 points. Warren Miller (55), Chipperfiled (54) and Peter Driscoll (52) all chipped in over 50 points. McLeod once again held down the duties in goal, playing in 66 games.
Unfortunately, the team slipped in the standings, winning 31 while losing 43 and tying 7 which resulted in them earning 69 points, missing out on the postseason by 3 points to the Oilers.
The 1976-77 Calgary Cowboys
Attendance sagged to 4,313, by far the lowest in the league. Think about that for a moment. A professional hockey team in Alberta, Canada not only finished last in the 12 team league, but they were 1,700 below a team in San Diego, California and 4,100 per game down to a club in Birmingham, Alabama and their attendance was doubled by a team in Houston, Texas.
Clearly it was a situation that could not continue, and there were rumors of the team relocating to Ottawa, which had already failed fours years earlier, causing the league to veto the plan. In a familiar refrain, Pattison hoped to keep the team going long enough to be part of a deal to join the NHL, but the NHL made it clear they had no interest in having a team play in the Stampede Corral. With just 2,000 season tickets sold for 1977-78 and no hope for a new arena and not enough time to find a new city to play in, Pattison chose to fold the franchise in August of 1977, bringing to an end the Cowboys after just two seasons.
Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Calgary Cowboys Ron Chipperfield jersey as worn during the Cowboys first season in Calgary after the franchise, originally destined for Miami, had played one season in Philadelphia and two in Vancouver.
The team's cartoon logo of a smiling cowboy with a stick and skates was overly simplified to just his hat for the main logo on the team's jerseys, which were a simple, attractive red and white design with multiple stripes, with the red likely chosen to contrast with their hoped rival, the Oilers blue. Had the club survived, the very 1970's smiley face logo would have become dated very quickly and would have been in need of a replacement in short order.
Today's bonus jersey is a 1976-77 Calgary Cowboys Ron Chipperfield jersey as worn on the road during the Cowboys second and final season in Calgary.
Today's video is brief footage of the infamous playoff brawl between the Cowboys and Nordiques, started when Jodzio crosschecked Quebec's Tardif with commentary by Tardif and others in French that we only wish we could understand.