Sunday, January 27, 2008

Defunct, But Not Dead

The Colorado Rockies, their logo—a three-peaked mountain filled with blue and white bars, centered with a red C filled with gold—on their white jerseys, were my home team. The image of long-haired skaters, many of whom played without a helmet in the late 70s and early 80s, are forever etched in my mind: Randy Pierce making sure he was the last player to leave the ice after the warm-up; Ron “Chief” Delorme shooting an imaginary arrow from his imaginary bow after scoring a goal; Barry “Bubba” Beck pummeling an opponent. The Rockies’ run in Denver’s McNichols Arena was way too short, regardless of their losing record. Yet the bond I have to that team and that six-season stretch has not abated. The connection, bridging my adolescence and adulthood, has endured since the Rockies left Colorado for New Jersey twenty-five years ago. Sure, the Avalanche (who left Quebec for Colorado) might have filled the void for many Colorado hockey fans, but sadness—mixed with the aforementioned affection—linger.

These sentiments set me to thinking about fans in other cities whose hockey clubs, whether they were in the professional or amateur ranks, or in Canada or the United States. What do these fans remember about their home teams?

My thoughts drifted. Harford Whalers…Minnesota North Stars…St. John Flames…Denver Grizzles. I wondered how many teams had folded or re-located.

The preliminary research overwhelmed me. It seemed that for every Boston Bruins (in the National Hockey League since 1924) or the Hershey Bears (in the American Hockey League since 1938), there was an Atlanta Flames (NHL, 1972–80) or Albuquerque Six-Guns (Central Hockey League, 1973–74).

For too many teams, nothing more than a brief mention of their passing can be found.

In other cases, though, fans have maintained sites dedicated to preserving memories of their teams. For example, wistful Winnipeggers have several sites dedicated to their beloved Jets. Fans in Los Angeles might remember the Aeros and Sharks of the World Hockey Association by reading The Rebel League, a fascinating book by Ed Willes. Fans in the American south will learn about defunct teams in John C. Stott’s, Hockey Night in Dixie.

These discoveries whet my appetite because too many other teams I could find next to nothing, only a brief mention of their history or passing. Regardless, I still have more questions than answers. What do fans remember about players and coaches? What do players and coaches remember about fans? What about the music playing in the locker room or in the arena? How did fans, players, and coaches react when they learned they were about fold or move? And the on-ice officials—what are their recollections? What about mascots? If they could talk, what stories might they tell?

When was the last time players or coaches visited the city (or in some cases, cities; a surprising number of players were employed by more than one team that would cease operations) they had played in? What do these players do for work and/or fun now?

I endeavor to find answers—with your help—and suspect that although the teams are defunct, the memories are anything but dead.

Please tell me what you think of the site, what teams you’d like to see listed here or included in the book, and whom you’d like me to interview. And by all means, share your stories with me via e-mail (jimfdwyer AT gmail.com) or post a comment.

2 comments:

Jacques Strappe said...

Hey Jimmy, You forgot the Boston Braves, who toiled in the Boston Garden during the Bobby Orr Days...
terry O'Reilly was aBrave

Jim Dwyer said...

Bonjour, Jacques,

I've added your beloved Boston Braves to the links. Avez-vous any stories I can relay to the masses?