Monday, July 24, 2017

1995 Off-Season

1995 Entry Draft

After drafting sixth in their first draft, the Dallas Desperadoes were more than happy to win the lottery and pick number one in 1995. The Desperadoes made a surprising move, passing on the two top forwards in the draft to select defenseman Jean-Pierre Balanger. After taking center AJ Vernon in 1994, the Desperadoes now had a potential top-tier D-man. With the number two pick, Detroit took Swedish star Mikael Forsberg, who had been the youngest player in Swedish league history to score 50 goals in a season with 64. “Along with Igor (Kharitonov), we hope that someday Mikael can be one of the faces of our team” said GM Bob Gill. The Cleveland Cosmos also got another talented forward in Eric White at number three, while struggling Canadian franchises Winnipeg and Ottawa once again hoped their picks, Brendon Dawson for the Pioneers and Mike Hudson for the Beavers, would turn their fortunes around. Just before the ninth pick, a trade was announced. Ottawa had traded one of their younger stars, Todd Becker, to St. Louis in exchange for the ninth pick. The Beavers used the pick to select defenseman Olli Koistinen, who they hoped would become their franchise defenseman. Although the draft lacked a true generational talent, most of the remaining players in the first round were projected to at least be PHL regulars.

1.      DAL – Jean-Pierre Balanger, D, CAN
2.      DET – Mikael Forsberg, F, SWE
3.      CLE – Eric White, F, CAN
4.      WPG – Brendon Dawson, F, CAN
5.      OTT – Mike Hudson, F, CAN
6.      MIL – Matt Darwin, G, USA
7.      PIT – Oleg Popov, D, RUS
8.      LI – Ryan Shelton, F, USA
9.      OTT (From STL) – Olli Koistinen, D, FIN
10.   SEA – Scott Sherwood, F, CAN
11.   VAN – Sergei Zolotov, F, RUS
12.   NOS – Owen Fisher, D, USA
13.   DEN – Alex Leblanc, F, CAN
14.   EDM – Riley Whitt, D, CAN
15.   CAL – Trevor Reuben, F, USA
16.   WSH – Jordan O’Reilly, D, USA
17.   MIA – Gordon Quincey, D, CAN
18.   QUE – Marc Ledoux, F, CAN
19.   KC – Nils Sundstrom, F, SWE
20.   PHI – Andrew Cox, F, USA
21.   BOS – Chris Woods, D, CAN
22.   MIN – Jarkko Nurmi, G, FIN
23.   CGY – Todd Clayton, F, CAN
24.   MTL – Patrice Tessier, D, CAN
25.   NYC – Ben Coffin, F, CAN
26.   TOR – Trent Cameron, G, CAN
27.   CLE (From LA) – Chris Ballard, F, USA
28.   DAL (From CHI) – Glenn Holland, D, USA

Notable Retirements:

David Appleby, F, STL, 1974-1995
Over a spectacular 21-year career, David Appleby established himself as likely the greatest player ever to play the game. He is the only player in PHL history to score over 1000 goals with 1035 and the only one to pass 2000 points with 2218. Appleby arrived in St. Louis just five years after the PHL/GHL merger when the team was still a perennial basement dweller on the verge of relocation. In only his second season, Appleby led St. Louis to their first-ever PHL playoff berth while scoring 55 goals. By the 1980s, the Spirits had become a powerhouse, eventually winning five Lewis Cup titles between 1982 and 1991 with Appleby leading the way. The Pro Hockey Hall of Fame announced it will waive the traditional three-year waiting period to induct Appleby right away.

Bruce Gratton, F, DAL/MIL, 1975-1995
After winning only twelve games in their inaugural season, the Dallas Metros selected Bruce Gratton with the first overall pick in 1975. For the following decade, the team struggled mightily in Dallas both on and off the ice before finally relocating to Milwaukee in 1985. It was in Milwaukee that Gratton and the rest of the team finally matured into a contender, eventually winning back-to-back Lewis Cups in 1988 and ’89 as well as a third finals appearance in 1992. Gratton retires as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

Jake Fairbanks, F, SEA, QUE, 1975-1995
Along with Pete Holloway, Jake Fairbanks was one of the faces of the Seattle Grey Wolves franchise throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s. The duo led Seattle to several Western Conference Finals appearances, but only one Lewis Cup Finals appearance, which they lost in 1985. In 1991, Fairbanks left Seattle and joined the Quebec Nationale. He would play four years in Quebec before retiring.

Paul Needham, D, STL, 1976-1995
Though he was not as celebrated as teammates David Appleby and Grant Millen, Paul Needham played a huge role in the Spirits’ dynasty, serving as the team’s defensive backbone. Needham had offensive ability as well and proved to be a valuable powerplay quarterback over the course of his 19-year career.

Scott Daffney, G, DAL/MIL, 1980-1995
Scott Daffney proved to be the difference maker when he arrived in Dallas in 1980. Soon after he entered the league, the Metros finally began making the playoffs consistently. After a relocation to Milwaukee in 1985, the team became a contender as Daffney backstopped them to two consecutive championships in 1988 and 1989.

Hannes Rehnquist, MTL, 1977-1995
Rehnquist surprised everyone when he cracked the lineup of a stacked Montreal team in 1977. However it didn’t take long for the native of Malmo, Sweden to prove he belonged. Rehnquist easily won fans over with his smooth skating and passing. After some tough seasons in Montreal in the 1980s, Rehnquist became an important veteran presence on the blueline as the team once again became a powerhouse in the 1990s. Rehnquist finally hoisted the Lewis Cup in 1992, then again in 1995 before retiring.

Notable Trades

Boston trades F Kyle Boone to Chicago in exchange for D Steve Mathis.
In the blockbuster trade of the year, two young stars and recent Lewis Cup champions are swapped for one another. Boston addresses their need on the blueline by adding top-tier defenseman Mathis, while the Shamrocks add another superstar weapon up front in Boone.

Dallas trades D Reijo Rantala to Chicago in exchange for 1st round pick.
Chicago completes their load-up by adding a veteran defenseman to replace Mathis, while Dallas adds a second pick in the first round to continue building. The Shamrocks now enter 1995-96 with one of the greatest teams on paper ever assembled in the PHL.

Ottawa trades F Todd Becker to St. Louis in exchange for 1st round pick and G Anti Paavola
Unable to afford Becker’s contract extension, the Beavers are forced to trade their budding star to the Spirits, where he is expected to take Appleby’s place. In return, Ottawa gets a solid backup goalie who will push Kevin Stroud for the number one job, and second top-ten pick.

Key Free Agents

Dave Mack (NS) signs five-year deal with Kansas City worth $6 Million/year.
The biggest free agent signing of the summer. Mack’s presence immediately turns the Twisters into a top-tier contender as he becomes the league’s highest-paid player.

Jeff Brackley (MIN) signs four-year deal with Pittsburgh worth $1 Million/year.
With Christian Grayson taking over as the ‘Jack’s number one goaltender, Brackley will now try to take the starter’s job from respected veteran Jacob Martensson in Pittsburgh.

Antero Parvainen (PHI) signs one-year deal with Milwaukee worth $1 Million/year.
With 1995-96 likely his final PHL season, Parvainen leaves Philly (and the threat of backup Pierre Noel) after 15 seasons in the hopes of starting for the Choppers.

Filip Holmgren (OTT) signs one-year deal with Denver worth $900,000/year.
Wanting to finish his career with a chance to win a championship, Holmgren leaves the dormant Beavers after 18 years in Ottawa.

Kevin Trainor (CHI) signs three-year with New Orleans worth $1.5 Million/year.
With Mack gone, Trainor comes in to provide veteran leadership to a team facing big changes in a new location.


Only a month after the PHL said goodbye to the Nova Scotia Claymores, it appeared that their 1959 expansion cousins, the Ottawa Beavers, would meet a similar fate. In May, the Ottawa municipal government voted against funding a new arena for the team. As much as the government fully recognized the importance of the Beavers in the community, the concern was not only the arena cost but the rapidly rising cost of player salaries. There simply was not enough money. David Marriott, who had expressed interest in buying the franchise, ultimately decided against it. “It simply wouldn’t make sense at this time” said Marriott. “If there’s no arena or money for one, I can’t see this team surviving much longer in this market.” League commissioner Darryl Byrd stated that he wanted the team’s arena situation figured out by the following summer.

In other arena news, The Vancouver Bighorns hoped to move into their new home by the fall of 1996. Construction had begun in early 1995. “We’re excited to enter a new era in our history” said owner Donald Smythe. “My son will soon take over the team, we’ll have a new arena next year, we’ll have a new logo next year, and hopefully we’ll be able to win a championship very soon.”

Vancouver wasn’t the only team about to move to a new arena. In June, the Chicago Shamrocks broke ground for their new arena, which they hoped would be open in time for the start of the 1997-98 season. The Shamrocks have been playing in the Lincoln Sports Arena in downtown Chicago since their inception in 1930.

There were a few coaching changes around the league in 1995. Philadelphia fired head coach Kurt Hopkins after seven seasons, replacing him with former Lumberjacks defenseman Clint Allen, while Toronto made a big move after yet another playoff disappointment, firing longtime head coach Dave Mills and replacing him with widely respected junior coach Bob Lacey. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

1995 Uniform Changes

Teams continued to make changes to their identities in 1995, this time it was LA, Edmonton, and Toronto who unveiled new looks. The LA Wizards new identity even came with a slight name change, changing the official name to the Los Angeles Wizards. LA Wizards would still be used as an abbreviated name. The new primary Wizards logo features a full-body wizard holding a hockey stick above his head in celebration. the secondary logo, which will be found on the shoulders, features a hockey stick doubling as a magic wand crossed over map of California, while a tertiary logo, which is basically an updated version of the classic Wizards logo will be used on the front of the pants as well as in some promotional materials. The updated color scheme features a new shade of purple, closer to blue than the old shade, a new, redder shade of orange, and black, which is the base color for the road jersey. The jerseys feature a sublimated design at the bottom. "It's an exciting time for our franchise and I believe the new uniforms and logo reflect that" said owner Ron Nichol. 

Elsewhere, the Edmonton Northern Lights also came out with a new look. The Northern Lights' primary logo features a bear paw with a tundra-like landscape and Northern Lights contained within it in the new team colors of purple, black, blue, and a much brighter shade of  neon green. The home uniform is white, while the road uniform is now purple with a gradient pattern at the waist. "I like them, I think they look cool" said veteran defenseman Dwight Ingram. 

The final team to make an update to their uniforms was the Toronto Racers. Toronto retains the classic steering wheel logo used since the 1950s, but with some modern tweaks. A new alternate logo has been added as well, featuring the initials "TO" with the O stylized to look like a tire. The uniforms have a more classic feel than the previous uniforms, the vertical striping down the arms gives way to horizontal stripes at the waist, reminiscent of the old Racers uniforms from the 1950s and 60s. The colors have been updated as both shades of blue have been darkened. The jerseys also feature an italicized number font to invoke speed. "I love the uniforms" said veteran winger Scott Whitmore, a Toronto native and lifelong Racers fan before joining the team. "I love that we're going back to a more classic look."

In addition to the changes in Los Angeles, Edmonton, and Toronto, the league also entered the second year of their third jersey program. Calgary, Miami, and Milwaukee. The Stingrays will wear a black alternate with a wave pattern at the waist, Milwaukee will wear orange alternates with a flame design on the bottom, while Calgary will wear brown jerseys styled to look like a cowboy vest.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Orleans Sound Unveil Identity

At the conclusion of the 1995 Lewis Cup playoffs, the newly relocated New Orleans Sound finally unveiled their much-anticipated logo and uniforms. The primary logo is a trumpet featuring the team name in the team colors of gold, purple, and green. The secondary logo features a stylized treble clef on a music staff, while the tertiary logo, which will be used on the shoulders of the uniforms, simply features the treble clef on its own. The home jersey is white trimmed in purple, gold, and green, while the road jersey is purple, trimmed in gold and green. Both jerseys feature a waist stripe stylized to look like a music staff. "Overall, I'm happy with the look" said owner Sam Bendt. "The delay in the move gave us a lot more time than we had anticipated to come up with the right identity and we're happy with how it turned out."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

1995 Lewis Cup Finals

After an epic seven-game showdown in ’94, the Montreal Royale and Chicago Shamrocks prepared for round two of their new championship rivalry. As the teams prepared for game one in Chicago, the city threw its support behind the Samrocks. The John Hancock Center flew a giant “Let’s go Shamrocks” banner that could be seen from everywhere in the city, while local radio station, Rock 103-5, called for everyone to wear green throughout the finals, whether they were attending the games or not. The overwhelming fan support seemed to work in game one, as the Shamrocks skated to a 5-1 win thanks to a 2-goal performance from Vladimir Kozakov. In game two, Montreal goaltender Ari Hannula, acquired from LA in November, played one of his best games in years, stopping 51 Chicago shots in a 3-1 Montreal win.

Tied 1-1, the teams would head to Montreal, where enthusiasm from the fans matched, if not surpassed, that of the Chicago fans. The Colisée Expo was shaking from the fan noise starting around 5 PM. Vincent Ducharme and  Sylvain Landry each scored while Hannula was spectacular once again as Montreal won the game 2-0 to take a 2-1 series lead. Despite being down in the series, the Shamrocks remained confident. “We went down 2-1 last year too” said forward Kevin Trainor. “Things turned out OK for us last year, there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played.” Game four would be a much higher-scoring affair. Vladimir Gaganov opened the scoring with two quick goals to give Chicago a 2-0 lead entering the second period. Midway through the second, Ducharme and JC Girard each scored to tie the game. Late in the second period, Ted MacDougall was given a cross-checking penalty and the Royale took advantage, with Ducharme scoring on the powerplay to give them the lead. Knowing his team was in trouble, Don Saleski called a timeout. After regrouping following the go-ahead-goal, the Shamrocks came out much stronger in the third period, but Hannula once again was incredible in net. finally, with eight minutes to go in the game, Martin Vannier took a crisp pass from Vladimir Kozakov in the slot and flipped it into the top corner of the net to tie the game. Both goaltenders played very well as the game went into overtime. Just 48 seconds into the extra frame, Kevin Trainor was sprung on a breakway. He deked Hannula and beat him, giving Chicago the win to tie the series.

The teams headed back to the Windy City for what was now a best-of-three. Montreal received some bad news upon arrival in Chicago. Ari Hannula, who had been incredible for the Royale so far, had gotten food poisoning and would miss game five. 20-year-old Jonathan Bouret would get his first career playoff start. Bouret was tested early by the Shamrocks but met every challenge. Meanwhile, Sergei Vetrov opened the scoring for Montreal before Vannier made it 2-0. A goal early in the second period from Ducharme made it 3-0 and it looked like the Royale would head home with a chance to claim the Cup. Chicago finally responded early in the third, when a Theo Sprouse point shot found its way through traffic and into the net. Just 29 seconds later, Ted MacDougall brought the Shamrocks to within one. Bouret, who had looked so good at the beginning of the contest, was getting shaky. Throughout the third period, Chicago pushed hard for the tying goal, but Bouret stepped up, stopping everything until defenseman Hannes Rehnquist, likely playing in one of his final games, sealed the win with an empty net goal. The Montreal Royale were now just one win away from avenging the previous years’ loss on home ice.

Jonathan Bouret was lauded for his efforts in game five, but Don Shelburne decided to go back to a now-healthy Ari Hannula for game six, where the Lewis Cup was in the building. After a scoreless first period, JC Girard opened the scoring for Montreal before Gaganov tied it just seconds later. Towards the end of the second period, Ducharme once again put the Royale ahead. The 2-1 Montreal lead lasted until halfway through the third period, when Vannier, who was having the most memorable playoff of his career, tied it once again. It appeared overtime was inevitable, as both teams played a more conservative game through the second half of the third period. Finally, the Royale caught Chicago on a bad line change. Sergei Vetrov passed the puck ahead to Sylvain Landry, sending him on a breakaway. Landry opted to shoot and made no mistake, beating John Gage over his glove. The Colisée erupted. With just four minutes to go, the Royale now held the lead. Chicago called a timeout, then pushed desperately for the tying goal, but Hannula stood tall, holding on until the last second. As the buzzer sounded, the Royale players piled off the bench and mobbed their goaltender. Vincent Ducharme was named playoff MVP with an incredible 39 points in the post-season. With their second Lewis Cup of the decade in their fourth finals appearance, Montreal was beginning to emerge as the team of the 1990s.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

1995 Playoffs

The 1990s had yet to see a back-to-back Lewis Cup winner but the Chicago Shamrocks entered the post-season confident that they would be the first one. Facing the 76-point Denver Bulls in the first round, The Shamrocks were almost unanimously picked to win the series with many predicting a sweep. Game one would be a shocker, as vintage Ron Buckner showed up in the Denver goal, earning a shutout in a 3-0 Bulls win. Game two was tight but seemed to be going Chicago’s way until Chris Falkner tied the game for Denver with just seconds left before Kaino Rippola won it for the Bulls just 31 seconds into overtime. In Denver, the Shamrocks won game three out of sheer desperation, but dropped game four when they once again struggled to solve Buckner. The defending champions were now down three games to one and facing elimination. Head coach Don Saleski altered his lines for game five, splitting up the Russian Connection line and placing Vladimir Kozakov on Martin Vannier’s line. It seemed to work, as Vannier and Kozakov combined for four points in a 5-2 win. After a hard-fought win on the road the Shamrocks managed to force a game seven at home. The Bulls opened the scoring on a goal from Oleg Markov, but the floodgates opened for Chicago after that. Gaganov, Kozakov, Ted MacDougall and Kavin Trainor all found the back of the net. As the Shamrocks and Bulls shook hands, Chicago fans breathed a huge sigh of relief as the Shamrocks advanced to the second round.

Chicago wasn’t the only contending team to survive a first-round scare. The Minnesota Lumberjacks continuously found themselves falling behind in their first-round series with Kansas City, eventually facing elimination in game six. With an opportunity to advance at home, Kansas City took an early 3-0 lead. But Minnesota came charging back in the second period, reducing the lead to 3-2 on goals from Jason Crowley and Greg Willis. Simon Brassard tied the game with four minutes left in the third period to send it to overtime. The first OT was scoreless, as goaltenders Christian Grayson for Minnesota and Jason Lind for Kansas City made save after save. Finally, just two minutes into the second OT, Pavel Vana beat Lind to force the series to a seventh game. The Lumberjacks completed the comeback with a 3-1 win in game seven.

In other Western Conference action the Calgary Wranglers swept the California Nuggets, while Edmonton pulled off the biggest upset of the first round, taking out LA in six games.

The Eastern Conference playoffs saw many of the same matchups from the previous year, as Toronto repeated their victory over Washington in five games, while Montreal once again won the battle of Quebec also in five. In the only new matchup, the New York Civics took six games to end Miami’s first playoff appearance.

In another rematch from ’94, the Boston Bulldogs met their longtime bitter rivals, the Philadelphia Redshirts. Boston got off to a strong start, winning game one 5-2, but went on to drop the next two as Philadelphia took a surprising 2-1 series lead. In game four, an overtime goal from captain Craig Bush tied the series, restoring home-ice advantage for the Bulldogs. Back home for a pivotal game five, the Bulldogs were confident they could take the lead in the series and give themselves an opportunity to advance. They found themselves down early when Jonathan Stafford and Brendan Carnes each scored to give the Redshirts a 2-0 lead. However, Boston battled back in the third period, with Kyle Boone and Jason Luna each scoring to bring the game to a 2-2 tie. The game would eventually go into overtime, where disaster struck for Boston. Veteran defenseman Dale Knight attempted to clear the puck from behind the net, but deflected it off the stanchion separating the glass and right onto the stick of Redshirts forward Owen Betts, who beat Kevin Washer for the win to give Philly a 3-2 series lead heading home. Game six at the PhillyDome was close, tied at 2-2 until midway through the third period, when Brendan Carnes gave the Redshirts the lead. Jeff Waters sealed the win with an empty-net goal and the Redshirts completed the upset and moved on to the second round.

The Redshirts reward for their upset over Boston was a second-round date with the first-place Toronto Racers. Heavily favoured to win the Eastern Conference title, the Racers appeared to be in control of the series. Despite dropping game two at home, Toronto dominated the Redshirts at both ends of the ice throughout the first three games, taking a 2-1 series lead. In game four they ran into trouble, giving up a 2-0 lead in the third period as Philly took the game 3-2. Game five went to overtime and Randy Fernandez ended it just 28 seconds in with a booming shot from the point, giving the Racers a chance to take the series in game six. In game six in Philadelphia, the Redshirts never let Toronto into the game. Waters and Carnes each scored while Stafford scored twice in a 4-1 Philly win. Game seven was close, going into overtime with the two teams tied 1-1. Both goaltenders, Tom Branson and Antero Parvainen were spectacular as one overtime turned into two. Finally, with one minute to go in the second overtime, Redshirts defenseman Brett Swift beat Branson with a hard shot to send the redshirts to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would face the Montreal Royale, who were coming off a five-game victory over New York.

In the Western Conference, Chicago got another good scare when the Edmonton Northern Lights took a 2-1 series lead. Beginning in game four, however, Vladimir Gaganov took the team on his back, scoring two goals in game four, a goal and an assist in game five, and two more goals in a 4-0 win in game six to send Chicago back to the conference final.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Wranglers were beginning to earn a reputation as a team that couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. The Wranglers were determined to erase this reputation as they faced the Minnesota Lumberjacks. Game one was decisive, as Calgary won 6-1. Minnesota clung to a 2-1 lead in game two until late in the second period when Shannon Michaels tied it before Jay Lydon scored the eventual game-winner just minutes later. In Minnesota, game three would go to overtime, where Jason Crowley hit the post twice for the Lumberjacks before Sergei Krayev ended it for Calgary, giving them a commanding 3-0 series lead. Minnesota managed to avoid a sweep with a 4-1 win in game four, but it was too little too late as Calgary advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since their championship season in 1981.

Facing the defending champion Chicago Shamrocks for the right to play for the Lewis Cup would be no easy task, and Chicago stifled Calgary immediately, shutting them out in the first two games. Calgary would finally find the back of the net in game three, finally arriving for the series with a 3-2 win, but the Shamrocks stormed back with a 4-2 victory in game four to take a commanding 3-1 lead. After making some adjustments in their lineup, the Wranglers staved off elimination with a big 3-1 road win. Calgary now had Chicago on their heels, as the Shamrocks now needed to close out the series on the road to avoid a decisive game seven. In game six, Sergei Krayev turned in one of the best performances of his career, scoring a hat-trick and assisting on a goal from Roni Laukkanen as the Wranglers forced game seven in Chicago. Game seven would be a classic. The Shamrocks led 3-1 through most of the game until Shannon Michaels finally brought the Wranglers within one with a goal early in the third period. In the dying seconds, Calgary pulled Ron Tatum in a desperate attempt to tie the game. Chicago cleared the puck with just five seconds left and it looked like the game was over until Jay Lydon picked up the puck, crossed the blueline and just whipped it at the net. The puck dipped and beat John Gage, crossing the goal line as the horn sounded. A video review confirmed that the puck did indeed cross the line just .3 seconds before the buzzer went off and the game went into overtime. After scoring the tying goal, Lydon nearly won it for Calgary just seconds into the extra frame but John Gage made a huge glove save to keep the Shamrocks alive. Just two minutes after the save, Martin Vannier was sprung on a breakaway. Vannier made no mistake, deking Tatum and sliding the puck under his pad to win the game and series for Chicago.

The Shamrocks would have an opportunity to defend their title against a familiar foe. The Montreal Royale never allowed the Philadelphia Redshirts into the Eastern Conference Finals, defeating them in five games, including an 8-0 blowout in game three. Vincent Ducharme turned in one of the best single-series performances in PHL history, scoring seven goals and eleven points in only five games. For the first time since 1962, the Lewis Cup Finals would be a rematch of the previous year.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

1994-95 Regular Season

The 1994-95 PHL season opened as the league welcomed back a city that had been absent from the pro ranks for nearly a decade, as well as a city that had been knocking on the league’s door for more than two decades. The Dallas Desperadoes began their existence at home against the Denver Bulls on October 9 and, much to the thrill of the home crowd, earned an unlikely 3-2 win with Grant Sibley scoring the first goal in franchise history in the first period. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Cosmos faced the Detroit Mustangs in their first game, but did not enjoy the same success as their expansion cousins in Dallas, dropping a 4-2 contest to the Mustangs. Former Ottawa captain Joe Fletcher scored the first goal in Cosmos history late in the second period. Both new franchises struggled mightily in their inaugural seasons. Cleveland managed only 20 wins while Dallas earned just 18. Neither team was alarmed though, growing pains had been expected. “This is going to take some time, we have to be patient” said Dallas GM Ross Becker. “Success will come, but we have to stick to our long-term plan.”

The defending champion Chicago Shamrocks entered the 1994-95 season determined to build on their success from the previous season. They received extra motivation as training camp ended when Russian star Alexander Orlov announced he would retire at season’s end. The 38-year-old turned in one of the best performances of his brief career, scoring 79 points to finish second in team scoring only to countryman Vladimir Gaganov, who had 94 points. Although their record was not quite as impressive as in 1993-94, the Shamrocks still managed to win the regular season league title for the second straight year with 106 points. “I honestly think we have what it takes to make another run” said Head Coach/GM Don Saleski. “I’d love to add another championship before I’m finished.” The remark led many to wonder if the 69-year-old Saleski, who had been coaching the club since 1969 and managing it since 1972, would also retire at the conclusion of the season. Saleski would not give a clear answer about his future plans.

To take first place, the Shamrocks spent the whole season fending off an LA Wizards team that was enjoying a breakout season. It all started with the return of Wizards’ legend Stuart Holly to the team when he was hired as team President and General Manager in October. Holly immediately got to work improving the team, sending goaltender and former teammate Ari Hannula to the Montreal Royale in exchange for rookie forward Aaron Pogue. In January, Holly secured the Wizards’ goaltending, bringing in Jim Cochran from the expansion Cleveland Cosmos in exchange for a first-round draft pick. Most of the success, however, was attributed to the play of Swedish stars Viktor Skogg and Gustav Mattsen, who combined for 181 points. The Wizards took second place in the Western Conference, just two points ahead of the Calgary Wranglers who had recovered from a slow start to the year. The Wranglers opened the season with just three wins in their first ten games. The team was beginning to recover when Grant Millen went down with a shoulder injury in early November. Millen returned to the lineup in January and played two more games before tweaking the shoulder again. On January 11, Millen announced his second and final retirement from the game, ending a career that spanned 22 years. “I’d love to keep playing, but I don’t think my body is up to it anymore” said Millen.

1995 marked a return to the post-season for both the California Nuggets and the Denver Bulls, two teams who had been perennial contenders throughout the 1980s but had struggled in recent years. Nuggets captain Kevin Hoyle finished second in points for a defenseman and was a finalist for the league’s top defenseman award, ultimately losing out to Toronto’s Randy Fernandez. For Denver, a full year with Ron Buckner in net combined with Oleg Markov’s breakout 96 point season led to the Bulls’ first playoff appearance since 1986. While the Bulls and Nuggets returned to the post-season, 1995 marked the Milwaukee Choppers’ first season out of the playoffs since relocating from Dallas in 1985. With an aging roster, the Choppers were simply unable to match the speed of their younger rivals. It was an unfortunate end to the career of Bruce Gratton, the face of the franchise since the early days in Texas. “It’s hard to end it like this, but I’ve had a great career” said Gratton.

The Eastern Conference belonged to the Toronto Racers in ’94-95. With 46 wins and 100 points, the Racers won the regular season conference title for the first time since 1961. Randy Fernandez was without a doubt Toronto’s best player, winning top defenseman honors and leading all defensemen in scoring. Meanwhile, Alexei Yolkin enjoyed a career season with 52 goals. The Racers battled with Vincent Ducharme and the Montreal Royale all year for the top spot and entered their final two games of the year three points behind the Royale, who won their final game in Quebec. Toronto won their final home game against Ottawa, before winning a big game in Boston to secure first place.

In their sixth season, the Miami Stingrays finally reached the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Jeremy Sutton’s breakout year played a big role in Miami’s success, while Patrick Grevais was spectacular in the net as the Stingrays finished in seventh place. In Pittsburgh, the Stingers once again failed to reach the post-season, but were encouraged by an unexpected big year from 22-year-old Brendan Bittner, who became the first player in years not named Gaganov or Ducharme to win the scoring championship. “It was definitely a fun year, I think we’re on the right track as a team and hopefully we can get back to the playoffs in the next year or two” said Bittner.

The 1994-95 season was also a year for goodbyes, beginning with one of the league’s beloved franchises. The Nova Scotia Claymores were slated to move to New Orleans in the fall of 1995 after failing to secure a new arena and find a local owner. Determined to make their final season in Halifax memorable, the Claymores welcomed back popular players from their past like Randy Kane, Allan Fox, and Russell Buchanan. The Claymores also celebrated by wearing their original uniforms throughout the season, though the league would not allow an official logo change. The season was bittersweet for the club, as they made a strong push late in the year for a return to the playoffs. With just a week remaining in the season, the Claymores sat just three points out of playoff position. Unfortunately, a loss to Long Island on April 2 combined with a Washington win all but sealed their fate. Washington clinched the final playoff spot, meaning Nova Scotia would play their final game at home on April 8 to close out the season.

13,556 packed into Barrington Arena for the Claymores’ final game against the Quebec Nationale. The game went into overtime where budding star Mike Bidden won the game for the home side 3-2. The crowd gave their team a standing ovation as the players saluted their fans one last time. Finally, team captain Dave Mack, an impending free agent who had already stated he would not go with the team to New Orleans, addressed the crowd. “We just want to thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts” said Mack. “Since I was a kid, I dreamed of playing for this team, wearing this sweater...” Overcome with emotion, he was unable to finish. The 65-year-old building shook as the crowd continued to roar while the Claymores finally stepped off the ice, marking the end of an era for the City, the Province, and the PHL.

Appleby Says Goodbye

Just a day after the Claymores’ emotional farewell, the league said goodbye to arguably its greatest player of all time. David Appleby had announced during the summer that he would retire at season’s end. Appleby’s 21st and final season would turn out to be a magical one. In the Spirits’ third game of the year, Appleby finally reached the incredible 1,000 goal mark, becoming the first player in league history to do so. In February, Appleby scored one of the most spectacular goals in PHL history when he deked around all five California players on the ice before beating goaltender Bradley Pope over his glove. “That was the most unbelievable goal I have ever seen in 45 years covering the game” said legendary commentator Don Gillis. “It’s just a shame he had to do it while wearing that awful third jersey.” As the season wound down, the Spirits continued to push for a playoff berth, but it was not to be. By April, Denver had clinched the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and St. Louis would have to settle for 11th place.

Appleby’s final game took place in St. Louis against the Kansas City Twisters. Prior to the game, Darryl Byrd announced that the Professional Hockey Hall of Fame would waive the customary three-year waiting period and that Appleby would be inducted immediately. The game itself was close. The playoff-bound Twisters did not rest their stars as they all wanted to be a part of the historic game. Halfway through the second period, Appleby took a pass from Ilya Sakharov, who was born during Appleby’s rookie year, and fired a shot past Jason Lind for the 1,035th and final goal of his legendary career. As the clock ran down at the end of the third period, the crowd rose to their feet. The ovation lasted nearly an hour as Appleby skated several laps around the ice, waving to the fans. The Kansas City players lined up to congratulate Appleby on his legendary career. He then skated one final lap around the Harry Truman Arena before finally stepping off the ice for the final time. “I feel like the luckiest person on earth right now” said Appleby in his final press conference. “This game has given me so much and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

1994 Off-Season

1994 Entry Draft

Entering the 1994 PHL draft, young power forward Randy McAllen was highly touted as the top prospect. Both expansion clubs Dallas and Cleveland hoped to get the first overall pick and a chance to select the 50-goal scorer first overall. Unfortunately for both teams, the Seattle Grey Wolves won the draft lottery and happily took the big center with the first pick, anchoring their offence for years to come. After the Stingers took Chris Cassidy second, Cleveland made Russian sensation Alexei Stepanov their first-ever draft pick. At number six, the Dallas Desperadoes selected rugged forward AJ Vernon as the first draft pick in their franchise history. Other interesting picks included Washington’s Jakob Olsen, the first Danish player in PHL history, and Edmonton’s Jeff Reed, the son of former PHL forward Ed Reed.

1.      SEA – Randy McAllen, F, CAN
2.      PIT – Chris Cassidy, F, CAN
3.      CLE – Alexei Stepanov, F, RUS
4.      WPG – Taylor White, D, USA
5.      NS – Petr Horak, F, CZE
6.      DAL – AJ Vernon, F, CAN
7.      CAL – Ryan Lockhart, D, USA
8.      STL – Mats Haglund, F, SWE
9.      OTT – Eric Gilliard, F, CAN
10.   BOS (From DEN) – Scott Rose, F, USA
11.   DET – Andrei Levkin, D, RUS
12.   MIA – Jason Murphy, F, CAN
13.   MIL – Thomas Suchy, D, CZE
14.   KC – Blair Horton, F, CAN
15.   LA – Eric Hunt, D, USA
16.   LI – Jyrki Raisanen, D, FIN
17.   WSH – Jakob Olsen, D, DEN
18.   VAN – AJ Devries, F, CAN
19.   PHI – Dustin Cole, F, USA
20.   QUE – Patrice Gamache, F, CAN
21.   EDM – Jeff Reed, D, CAN
22.   MIN – Simon Brassard, D, CAN
23.   MTL – Aaron Pogue, F, CAN
24.   BOS – Jarkko Nikula, F, FIN
25.   CGY – Trevor Simms, D, CAN
26.   NS (From TOR) – Viktor Holmqvist, G, SWE
27.   NYC – Bryan Briggs, D, USA
28.   CHI – Vincent Lavoix, F, CAN

Notable Retirements:

Emmett Blake, D, CHI, 1974-1994
Although Emmett Blake was never a very flashy player, that didn’t stop him from being a fan favorite in the Windy City for 20 years. His sound defensive play and work ethic endeared him to the Chicago fans and made him one of the most difficult players in the league to play against. Blake won two Lewis Cups with the Shamrocks, in 1983 and in his final season in 1994.

Dennis Aguilar, F, NY, PIT, DET, 1974-1994
One of the toughest players ever to don a Civics’ sweater, Dennis Aguilar put fear in opposing defenders for 20 years, 14 of which were spent in New York, where Aguilar was one of the most players ever to play for the Civics. Aguilar also spent three years in Pittsburgh and three more in Detroit before returning to the Big Apple for one last season in ’93-94.

Pascal Renaud, G, WPG, LI, QUE, 1975-1994
Pascal Renaud may be one of the most underrated goaltenders of all time. Playing much of his career with a struggling team in Winnipeg, Renaud avoided the spotlight yet was probably the only reason the Pioneers ever reached the playoffs. Renaud caught his big break in 1987, when he was signed by the Long Island Concordes. Renaud won his first and only Lewis Cup with Long Island in 1990. He eventually signed with his hometown team, the Quebec Nationale, where he played the remainder of his career.

Ron Borden, F, CGY, MTL, 1975-1994
Borden played a key role in the Wranglers ascent from struggling through the 70s to claiming the Lewis Cup in 1981. In 1987, Borden signed with Montreal, where he won his second championship in 1992, proving to be a valuable mentor to young superstars Vincent Ducharme, and Sergei Vetrov.

Jani Kaaleppi, F, DEN, 1975-1994
One of the first big Finnish stars in the league, Kaaleppi brought the fans in Denver out of their seats with his speed and skill. At 37 years old, he will now return to Finland to finish his career.

Notable Trades

Calgary trades D Elliot Andrews to Kansas City in exchange for F Roni Laukkanen.
In perhaps the biggest trade of the summer, the Wranglers significantly upgrade their now-stacked offense. Andrews joins his fifth franchise in a ten-year career to add depth the Twisters’ blueline.

California trades F Ilya Severov to Long Island in exchange for D Doug Lyons.
The Nuggets part with one of their young star forwards to add veteran depth on defense. Long Island, no longer true contenders, get younger up front.

Cleveland trades F Rex Hull to Toronto in exchange for F Brett Wilson
Cleveland gets a younger player in Wilson who can help them in the future while Toronto fan-favorite Hull has an opportunity to play out his entire career with the Racers.

Key Free Agents

Karl Magnusson (VAN) signs 5-year deal with New York worth $3 Million/year.
The Civics now boast one of the strongest bluelines in the league with the addition of 30-year-old Magnusson.

Tim Craft (NS) signs 3-year deal with Quebec worth $1.5 Million/year.
The exodus from Halifax continues as tough winger Craft leaves for the Nationale.

Brett Flores (MIA) signs 2-year deal with Philadelphia worth $1 Million/year.

Flores, looking to finally win a championship as he enters his 17th season, will add important depth up front for the Redshirts.


The news Nova Scotian PHL fans had been dreading finally came on July 20th, 1994. The Claymores would officially relocate to New Orleans at the beginning of the 1995-96 season. Delays in the construction of the team’s new arena forced them to stay put for one more season. Potential hockey fans in Louisiana would have to wait one more year while fans in Nova Scotia would have one last season to say goodbye. “This is probably about the toughest day of my life” said team captain and Nova Scotia native Dave Mack. “I just can’t believe it’s come to this”. League commissioner Darryl Byrd once again angered many Canadian fans when he gave a press conference welcoming New Orleans into the league, but never once thanked Nova Scotia or Halifax for the decades of support, never even mentioned the city. Jim McDonald, the Claymore’s founder had some choice words for the Commissioner; “That man has zero respect for the game and its history. Our team won a championship for crying out loud! But no, he’s just going to pretend we never existed. Somebody needs to stop him before he kills the sport.” Former Commissioner Alan Garcia did release a statement thanking the province and the city of Halifax for their support of the league and the team over the years.

For the Claymores, 1994-95 would be a celebration. The team surprised fans when they announced they would return to the original logo and uniforms from 1959 for the final season. The team would also open the year by honouring all their star players from throughout their history. In New Orleans, the city prepared to welcome their new team. Owner Sam Bendt announced that the team would be named the New Orleans Sound, a nod to the city’s musical heritage, and would wear the classic New Orleans colors of Purple, Green, and Gold.

Meanwhile, another Canadian franchise appeared to be in trouble. In June, the Ottawa Beavers stated they have been losing money for nearly a decade. Terry Goren has been trying to sell the team to a local buyer since 1991, with little to no success. Multimillionaire David Marriott has expressed interest, but won’t commit until a new arena for the team is secured. “The city will have to at least help make this happen, I just don’t have $150 Million lying around” said Marriott. The Capital Arena in the Byward Market area was built in 1941 and has been the team’s home since their inception in 1959.

While the Beavers struggled to find a new home, the Boston Bulldogs prepared to move into theirs. The team would begin the year at the hallowed Boston Arena before moving into the new Global Bank Arena on December 1st. The new building will seat 20,500 and will feature 90 private boxes.

The new season took on a whole new meaning in early September when Spirits’ legend David Appleby announced that the 1994-95 season would be his last in the PHL. Appleby enters his 21st year just two goals shy of the unprecedented 1,000 goal mark, and will retire as the league’s all-time leading scorer. “I don’t really know how to explain it other than its just the right time” said Appleby. “This will be a great year, I can’t wait to see what we can do this year.”