Thursday, May 12, 2016

1991-92 Kansas City Blades Arturs Irbe Jersey

The Kansas City Blades were formed when the dormant Toledo Goaldiggers International Hockey League (IHL) franchise was purchased and moved to Kansas City for the 1990-91 season. A "name the team" contest was held, but the most popular entry "Jazz" was passed over because the name was already in use by the Utah Jazz of the NBA. The owners instead went with the fans second choice, the Blades.

Blades logo 1 photo Blades logo 1.jpg

For their first season, Ron Handy was the team's leading scorer with 42 goals and 81 points, 13 more than his next closest teammate. Their number one goaltender was Wade Flaherty, who played in 56 games with a 16-31-4 record as the Blades had a rough go of it on the ice, as they missed the playoffs and finished last in the West Division of the IHL.

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Wade Flaherty

For the 1991-92 season, the Blades signed an agreement to become the primary affiliate of the San Jose Sharks of the NHL, which meant the struggles of being an independent team and having to find their own players was now behind them. Gary Emmons became the team's scoring leader with 29 goals and 83 points - a whopping 25 more than Peter Lappin. Jeff Madill led the club in goals with 32, one of four players with 28 or more. Also of note was Latvian defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, who came over from Europe midway through the schedule for his first of many North American seasons of play. Goaltending was a strong point for the Blades, as they boasted four goalies who would all spend time in the NHL, Brian Hayward (2 games), Jarmo Myllys (5), Flaherty (43) and another Latvian, Arturs Irbe (32), who would play in all 15 of the Blades playoff games.

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Latvian Arturs Irbe backstopped the Blades
to the 1992 Turner Cup championship

After finishing first in the West with a 56-22-2-2 record, during the postseason, the Blades would beat the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in five games, winning their four games by an average of over 3 goals per game. They would then eliminate the Peoria Rivermen in six games to advance to the Finals, where they would defeat the Muskegon Lumberjacks in four straight to claim the Turner Cup in only their second season with the final 5-3 victory on the road coming on this date in 1992.

Blades ring photo Blades Ring.jpg
A KC Blades championship ring

Emmons would again lead the Blades in scoring in 1992-93, this time with a team leading 37 goals and 81 points, followed by Russian Mikhail Kravets' 68. In only his second season of professional play, Ray Whitney was one of four 20 goal scorers for Kansas City and would go on to play 23 NHL seasons while scoring over 1,000 points. With Irbe gone to the Sharks, Flaherty took the reigns in goal with 61 games played. The Blades went 46-26-5-5 that season to finish in the upper half of the league but, after defeating the favored Milwaukee Admirals in six games, they unfortunately drew the #1 seed San Diego Gulls, who finished 30 points better in the standings than Kansas City and were 21 points better than the next closest team.

For the 1993-94 season, Emmons would finish second in scoring with 69 point to Kip Miller's new team record of 92 from 38 goals (also a new team record) and 54 assists. Flaherty was again the main goaltender, once more playing 60 or more games with 60 on his way to a 32-19-9 record. Unfortunately, the remainder of the goaltending staff was 8-13-1 and the Blades missed the playoffs by 3 points as only 8 of the IHL's 13 teams qualified for the postseason.

The IHL expanded by four teams for 1994-95, the league's 50th Anniversary season, and now 16 of the 17 teams made the playoffs! The Blades were led in scoring by Czech Jan Caloun with a modest 34 goals and 73 points with Emmons second with 60. Russian Viktor Kozlov appeared in 4 games for Kansas City after coming over from Dynamo Moscow during the season, while Trevor Robins led the six goalies used that season with 39 appearances followed by Larry Dyck's 21.

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Czech Jan Caloun led the team in scoring in 1995

Despite missing the playoffs the previous season with 90 points, the greatly expanded field in 1994-95 allowed the Blades in with just 76 points, just 4 ahead of the Indianapolis Ice, the only team to miss the playoffs that season. The Blades then made the most of their opportunity, as they beat the Detroit Vipers in five game best-of-five despite the Vipers finishing 26 points ahead of Kansas City.

The 113 point Rivermen were the next to fall in five games, followed by the 100 point Kalamazoo Wings in seven games, which advanced Kansas City to the Turner Cup Finals for the second time in four seasons. The Blades magic ran out though, as he first year Denver Grizzlies, who led the league with 120 points, 339 goals for and only 235 against, swept the series in four straight. Emmons led the post season scoring for Kansas City with 28 points while Caloun was tops with 13 goals.

The next season of 1995-96 saw the Blades finish near .500 at 39-38-0-5 and exit the playoffs in the first round. Caloun again led the team in scoring in 1995-96 with 68 points followed by Emmons' 63. Geoff Sargeant (41 games) split time in goal with Dyck (39) and Turner Cup hero Irbe returned for 4 games.

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Larry Dyck

Over the summer of 1996, San Jose ended their affiliation with Kansas City and they returned to being an independent team, a trend that was on the rise in the IHL. Without the Sharks feeding Kansas City players, a new face led the team in scoring in 1996-97, as John Purves 72 points topped the team, followed by David Bruce, who led the team with a record 45 goals on his way to 69 points. Returnee Dyck led all goaltenders with 58 games played. The club improved to 38-29-0-15 but were swept in three games of the opening round of the playoffs. This season also marked the last of his career for Emmons, who finished with 45 points, good for fifth on the team.

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John Purves

Emmons came to Kansas City during the Blades second season and their first as a Sharks affiliate. Despite leading the Blades in all-time franchise scoring with 401 points in 444 games, 115 more than the second place  Bruce, Emmons was only called up by the San Jose for a mere three games in 1993-94, the only NHL games of his career.

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Gary Emmons

The 1997-98 season saw an improvement in the standings, as the Blades posted a 41-29-12 record for 94 points. With just 50 points, Iain Fraser narrowly edged J. F. Quintin (59) and Claudio Scremin (58). In the post season, he Blades advanced past the first round for the first time in three seasons when they defeated the now Utah Grizzlies 4 games to 1, but then lost in overtime of Game 7 to the Long Beach Ice Dogs in the second round.

David Ling led the club in points with 72 in 1998-99 while Jason Cirone was first in goals with 42. Patrick Lalime (66 games) handled the bulk of the goaltending duties along with Jean-Sebastien Aubin (13), both future Pittsburgh Penguins goaltenders. The season ended quickly following a 2-1 series loss in a best-of-three series with Long Beach.

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The Blades got a new logo and jerseys in 1998-99

The Blades completed the 1999-00 season with a 36-37-0-9 record, their first losing record in five seasons. Ling again led the team in scoring with 83 points, 13 more than Dave Chyzowski who led the club with 37 goals and 70 points. Former long time Washington Capitals center Michal Pivonka was fourth in points during his final season before retiring, playing in 52 games, scoring 50 points. Bruce Racine (33 games) and Tyler Moss (36) shared the goaltending duties with Moss posting a winning 18-12-5 record. The Blades were the first team to miss the playoffs with 81 points in the now 13 team IHL, down from a high of 19 three seasons earlier.

For the 2000-01 season, the IHL was now down to 11 teams. Kansas City again finished with a losing record at 37-42-3 and missed the playoffs for a second year in a row. Russian Vadim Sharifijanov scored 63 points to lead  the club while Josh Holden's 27 goals just edged Pat Kavanagh's 26. Corey Schwab played in 50 games in goal while Alfie Michaud saw time in goal 32 times. The final game for the franchise came on April 15, 2001, a 5-4 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The IHL had been moving into major markets, including those which already had NHL teams, such as Chicago, Detroit and Long Beach, near Los Angeles. In response, many NHL teams switched their affiliations to teams in the American Hockey League, reducing the number of affiliated IHL teams to just four in 1997-98. The loss of subsidized player salaries, high expansion costs and greatly increased travel costs were too much for the IHL, which ceased operations after the 2000-01 season.

Six teams, the Chicago Wolves, Grand Rapids, Houston Aeros, Grizzlies, Admirals and Manitoba Moose were granted admittance into the AHL, while the Cincinnati Cyclones joined the ECHL. Unfortunately for the fans in Kansas City, owner Rich DeVos owned three clubs, the Orlando Solar Bears, the Blades and the Griffins and the AHL rules would only allow DeVos to own one AHL club, which was Grand Rapids. In addition to the Solar Bears and the Blades, the Cleveland Lumberjacks and Detroit also ceased operations when the IHL folded.

In addition to Emmons leading the franchise in all-time points, Bruce led the club in goals with 170 and Claudio Scremin holds the record for most games played with 550 ahead of Emmons' 444. Dody Wood was the all-time penalty minute leader with 1,695, more than double Quintin's 778. Flaherty's 221 games led all the goaltenders, ahead of Dyck's 118.

Scremin  Blades photo Scremin 
Claudio Scremin

Today's featured jersey is a 1991-92 Kansas City Blades Arturs Irbe jersey. The Blades wore this same style for their first eight seasons until a new logo and jerseys were used for the team's final three seasons.

Kansas City Blades 1991-92 jersey photo Kansas City Blades 1991-92 F.jpg
Kansas City Blades 1991-92 jersey photo Kansas City Blades 1991-92 B.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1995-96 Kansas City Blades Jeff Madill jersey. The Blades changed to two color names for the 1992-93 season and continued to use them for the remainder of their original jerseys lifespan through 1997-98.

Kansas City Blades 1995-96 jersey photo Kansas City Blades 1995-96 F.jpg
Kansas City Blades 1995-96 jersey photo Kansas City Blades 1995-96 B.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 1999-00 Kansas City Blades Eric Schneider jersey. The Blades identity underwent a change for the 1998-99 season which resulted in these highly attractive jerseys for their final three seasons. For 1999-00 they wore a 10th Anniversary patch on the upper left chest.

Kansas City Blades 1999-00 jersey photo Kansas City Blades 1999-00 F.jpg
Kansas City Blades 1999-00 jersey photo Kansas City Blades 1999-00 B.jpg

 Today's video section is minor league hockey in the 1990's - a compilation of the Blades fights from their Turner Cup championship winning season.

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