Sunday, February 3, 2013

1997-98 New Orleans Brass Olie Sundström Jersey

With the National Football League holding the 47th Super Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, we thought it would be an opportune time to take a look at hockey in New Orleans.

Not too surprisingly, The Big Easy does not have a long and rich hockey tradition, but has been home to a professional hockey club, the New Orleans Brass of the East Coast Hockey League.

New Orleans Brass logo, New Orleans Brass logo

The club was founded in 1997 and originally played it's home games at the 7,800 seat New Orleans Municipal Auditorium for it's first two seasons.

The team was a member of the Southeast Division along with clubs located in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, Louisiana Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama, Biloxi, Mississippi and Pensacola, Florida. The Brass were led by former New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Sator and faired well for an expansion club, finishing fourth in their seven team division with a 36-24-10 record, which was good enough to qualify for the playoffs.

Former Boston Bruin and and Ottawa Senator Jeff Lazaro led the club in scoring with 37 goals and 101 points in 70 games. While Martin Villenuve was unquestionably the number one goaltender, with 54 games played and a fine 26-17-7 record, no less than six other goaltenders saw time in the crease for the Brass!

Lazaro Brass, Lazaro Brass
Jeff Lazaro

Lazaro returned for the 1998-99 season, but finished second in scoring to Darryl LaFrance, who had 39 goals and 39 assists for 78 points in 55 games. Villenuve again was the #1 in goal, but the situation was much, much more settled, with Chris Wickenheiser playing in 35 games with only one other goalie appearing in a single game for just 11 minutes. Another winning record, 30-27-13, saw the Brass made the playoffs again, where they had their best postseason, sweeping Jacksonville in Round 1, ousting Louisiana in Round 2 before losing to the Pee Dee Pride in the third round.

For the 1999-00 season, the club moved to the 16,500 capacity New Orleans Arena, which was to prove a fateful decision for the franchise. Lazaro again led the club in scoring with 80 points and was one of six players with 20 goals or more, but none with more than 26 for an extremely balanced offense. Another winning record saw the Brass qualify for the playoffs yet again.

For the 2000-01 season, Adam Edinger was the leading scorer with 31 goals and 76 points and the Brass kept their playoff streak intact, this time advancing to the second round after defeating the Augusta Lynx following a 35-25-12 mark.

In 2001-02, the Brass, still under the reins of head coach Sator since the beginning, extended their impressive record of never having a losing season when they finished at 36-32-4 to also qualify for the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. They were led in scoring by George Awada's 59 points.

Awada Brass, Awada Brass
George Awada

The NBA's Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans, taking up residence at the New Orleans Arena, which led to the state of Louisiana trying to require the Brass to pay for the expense of converting the basketball floor back into the hockey configuration as a condition of remaining at the arena. Being more than ownership was willing to pay, the club hoped to return to their original home, the Municipal Auditorium, only to discover that the floor had recently been replaced, and in the process the ice making capabilities had been removed. Now without a place to play, ownership was left with no alternative but to sadly fold the franchise, bringing to and end the brief era of professional hockey in New Orleans.

New Orleans Brass logo, New Orleans Brass logo

Lazaro finished as the franchise's all-time leading scorer by far, with his 307 points far outdistancing LaFrance's 175, thanks to being on the roster for every season of the Brass existence. Also of note was defenseman Steve Cheredaryk, the only other player on the roster for all five seasons. He ranks fourth in points with 111, first among defensemen, as well as first in games played and  penalty minutes at 978, nearly 200 a season.

Cheredaryk Brass, Cheredaryk Brass
Cheredaryk in the process of earning his franchise leading penalty minutes

Today's featured jersey is a 1997-98 New Orleans Brass Olie Sundström jersey from the Brass inaugural season in the ECHL. This jersey was clearly influenced by the St. Louis Blues jersey of the era with it's multiple stripes suggesting a musical staff, only executed in the expected Mardi Gras colors.

Sundström was one of no less than seven goaltenders for the Brass during their first season. After playing four seasons in his native Sweden for Leksands IF, he came to North America, where he played for 13 different teams over the course of ten seasons, stretching from Anchorage, Alaska in the west and north to New Orleans in the south and Providence, Rhode Island in the east! 

New Orleans Brass 97-98 jersey, New Orleans Brass 97-98 jersey
New Orleans Brass 97-98 jersey, New Orleans Brass 97-98 jersey

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2000-01 New Orleans Brass Kevin Colley jersey. Less successful than their original jerseys, the 2000-01 version takes the striping pattern from the Anaheim Ducks and uses a more muted color scheme, dropping the bright gold color of the earlier jersey in favor of a much darker secondary color. Additionally, the primarily black color of the jersey is not separated from the dark purple shade by the bright colors which divided the two dark shades in the original jerseys, which makes for a rather moody look this time out.

Add in the darker overall logo the club had adopted by then, combined with the rather creepy jester secondary shoulder logo, we much prefer the more vibrant jersey with it's dynamic lines from 1997-98.

Colley persevered in the minors from 1999-00 to 2005-06 before finally getting a chance to play in the NHL, when he saw action in 16 games for the New York Islanders before fracturing his neck in a game against the Washington Capitals, which forced his early retirement.

New Orleans Brass 00-01 jersey, New Orleans Brass 00-01 jersey
New Orleans Brass 00-01 jersey, New Orleans Brass 00-01 jersey

Today's video section is of course, a fight. The Brass, in white, are facing off against their rivals, the Louisiana Ice Gators with the expected minor league mayhem.

Here is a genuine New Orleans brass band playing in the city's French Quarter.

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