Tuesday, July 15, 2014
July by the Numbers makes a visit to the American desert southwest for jersey #15.
The Phoenix Roadrunners were originally a team in the Western Hockey League from 1967 to 1974 after relocating from Vancouver, BC where they played for three seasons. The WHL folded after the 1973-74 season and the franchise then joined the WHA for the 1974-75 season.
They were led in scoring by Dennis Sobchuk, who was on loan from the Cincinnati Stingers franchise who were awaiting the construction of their arena before they could begin play, who had 77 points with 32 goals and 45 points.
Michel Cormier came second with 74 points and led the club with 36 goals, one more than John Gray and Murray Keogan, a holdover from the club's days in the WHL. Joining the group with 30 goals or more was Robbie Ftorek with 31.
The Roadrunners posted a winning record with 39 wins against 31 losses and 8 ties to qualify for the playoffs in their maiden WHA season, where they were bounced out by the Quebec Nordiques 4 games to 1.
Ftorek led the team in scoring in 1975-76 with 113 points from 41 goals and 72 assists, good for fifth overall in the league. Del Hall had a career season with 47 goals and 91 points for second on the club while Gray was the only other 30 goal scorer with 35.
In the standings, Phoenix earned 84 points, which again earned them a playoff spot, but they were defeated by the San Diego Mariners by a single goal in their decisive Game 5 of their Round 1 series.
In 1976-77, Ftorek led the club in scoring once more, this time with a team leading 46 goals, 71 assists and 117 points which placed him fourth in league scoring and earned him the league MVP award.
Despite Ftorek's outstanding season, the Roadrunners attendance dropped, causing the owners to sell some of the players for a needed influx of cash. An unpopular change in coaches combined with the team finishing dead last in the standings, thanks in part to the selling off of some key players, caused the owners to try to look for a buyer for their franchise. When none was forthcoming, they chose to cut their losses and fold the franchise, ending their three year run in the WHA.
Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Phoenix Roadrunners John Gray jersey. The Roadrunners wore mesh jerseys for their first season and then changed to dureen jerseys for their second season which feature a beautifully chain stitched main roadrunner logo with the addition of the state of Arizona as a background as well as an attractive striping pattern lacking on their first seasons jerseys.
The only complaint we have is the heavy-handed application of the nameplate on the back, which encroaches into the shoulder yoke to the point of covering up half the yellow stripe, but it is still easily one of the most striking jerseys in WHA history.