Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1961 Washington Tapers

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Washington TapersAmerican Basketball League (1961)

Born: 1961 – ABL founding franchise
Moved: December 31, 1961 (New York Tapers)

Arena: Washington Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owner: Paul Cohen

ABL Championships: None

 

Doomed entry in Abe Saperstein’s short-lived American Basketball League of the early 1960’s. The Tapers were owned by Paul Cohen, owner of the Technical Tape Company of New Rochelle, New York. Cohen was a millionaire business owner, basketball fan and sufferer from muscular dystrophy. It was Cohen who recruited Jerry Lewis to the cause of muscular dystrophy and helped inspire the comedian’s famous Labor Day telethons in support of the MDA. Cohen previously backed the New York Tuck Tapers (1959-1961) in the amateur National Industrial Basketball League. The Washington Tapers marked Cohen’s first foray into full professionalism in the basketball arena.

The biggest name on the Tapers was Gene Conley, a two-sport star who previously played Major League Baseball for the Milwaukee Braves and pro basketball for the Boston Celtics. Dan Swartz, a holdover from the NIBL, was the Tapers’ top scorer at 24.8 points per game in 1961-62.

The team was a bust in the nation’s capital. After just two months of play, the Tapers announced a midseason move to Long Island’s Commack Arena on New Year’s Eve, 1961, where they would become known as the New York Tapers. Following the 1961-62 season, Cohen moved the team again, this time to Philadelphia. The ABL folded on December 31st, 1962 midway through its second season, taking the Washington/New York/Philadelphia Tapers down with it.

 

Links

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1985-1990 Flint Spirits

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1988 Flint Spirits ProgramInternational Hockey League (1985-1990)

Born: August 6, 1985 – IHL expansion franchise
Moved: July 11, 1990 (Fort Wayne Komets)

Arena: IMA Sports Arena

Team Colors:

Owners:

Turner Cup Championships: None

 

In July 1985, the city of Flint, Michigan lost its long-time International Hockey League club, the Flint Generals (1969-1985). After several years of six-figure losses, the Generals moved 40 miles north to Saginaw. A local couple, Laraine and Carl Lamb, scrambled to save hockey for the city. Less than four weeks after the Generals’ departure, the IHL awarded an expansion franchise to the Lambs on August 6th, 1985. The novice sports investors had less than two months to build and organization and get a team onto the ice for the 1985-86 IHL season.

The Lambs ran their Flint Spirits hockey team as the ultimate mom-and-pop operation. The couple was unable to attract additional investors. The Spirits era in Flint (1985-1990) coincided with the grim period of civic history depicted by filmmaker Michael Moore in his landmark 1989 documentary Roger & Me. The inexorable decline of auto manufacturing jobs got underway, as General Motors shuttered plants and moved jobs to Mexico. Re-development efforts, such as AutoWorld and the downtown Water Street Pavilion (which featured a recreational ice skating rink) sputtered and died. The Spirits fared little better at first. The club averaged fewer than 2,000 fans per contest at IMA Arena through the first half of the 1985-86 season, the worst mark in the 10-team IHL. The Lambs ran out of money in five months.

Bob Perani FlintBy January 1986, it looked like the Flint Spirits might fold midway through their first season. Enter former Flint Generals star Bob Perani. Perani, a popular goaltender for the Generals from 1969 to 1974, remained in Flint after retiring from the ice. He started several local businesses, the most successful of which was the sporting goods retailer Perani’s Hockey World. In short order, Perani organized a 19-person local ownership that took control of the Spirits in February 1986 and saved the team from certain doom. Flint finished the 1985-86 season with an abominable 16-60-6 record.

The Spirits’ fortunes improved with the hiring of another former Flint General, Rick Dudley, as head coach in the summer of 1986. The team posted a winning record in 1986-87 and qualified for the playoffs. The season was marred by tragedy though when Dudley’s player-assistant Frank Perkins was found dead in his home in February 1987. Perkins was just 27 year old. The Saginaw Generals, Flint’s former team, eliminated the Spirits in the first round of the 1987 Turner Cup playoffs.

Dudley returned at the helm for the 1987-88 season. Rookie center John Cullen took the IHL by storm. The former Boston University star led the league in scoring with 48 goals and 109 assists, earning both MVP and Rookie-of-the-Year honors (the latter shared with Saginaw goaltender Ed Belfour). The Generals charged through the playoffs to the 1988 Turner Cup finals where they lost to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles. Cullen leveraged his breakout season into a contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He became a two-time All-Star in the NHL.

Dudley departed in the summer of 1988. He would become the Buffalo Sabres head coach in the NHL in 1989. Without Cullen, the Spirits fell back to a last place finish in the 1988-89 IHL season. For the winter of 1989-90, Flint became the top farm club for the NHL’s New York Rangers. The Rangers affiliation meant that Flint fans got to enjoy top prospects like winger Rob Zamuner and former U.S. Olympic goaltender Mike Richter.

The Rangers partnership was short-lived. In the summer of 1990, Fort Wayne, Indiana lost its IHL club after 38 seasons. The Komets moved to Albany, New York. Similar to the Flint situation upon the Generals departure in 1985, local hockey supporters immediately began looking for a new team. Fort Wayne businessman Steve Franke bought the Spirits in July 1990 and moved the club to Indiana where they became a new version of the Fort Wayne Komets for the 1990-91 IHL season.

After a one-year absence, pro hockey would return to Flint in the winter of 1990-91 with the formation of the Flint Bulldogs of the Colonial Hockey League.

 

In Memoriam

Spirits player-assistant coach Frank Perkins died of natural causes at his home on February 24, 1987. Perkins was 27.

Former Spirits owner Bob Perani passed away during a flight from Detroit to Tokyo on April 15, 2012. He was 69.

 

Links

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 16th, 2017 at 3:03 pm

1990-2001 Kansas City Blades

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1996-97 Kansas City Blades YearbookInternational Hockey League (1990-2001)

Born: February 26, 1990 – The Toledo Goaldiggers relocate to Kansas City
Folded: June 4, 2001

Arena: Kemper Arena (15,771)

Team Colors: Red, Black & Silver

Owners: 

Turner Cup Champions: 1992

 

Text coming soon…

 

Kansas City Blades Memorabilia

 

Kansas City Blades Video

The Blades vs. the Denver Grizzlies. Game 4 of the 1995 Turner Cup finals at Kemper Arena.

 

Links

International Hockey League Media Guides

International Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 8th, 2017 at 4:39 pm

1981-82 Cape Cod Buccaneers

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1981-82 Cape Cod Buccaneers ProgramAtlantic Coast Hockey League (1981-1982)

Born: 1981 – ACHL founding franchise
Folded: February 1, 1982

Arena: Cape Cod Coliseum (4,946)

Team Colors:

Owner: Vince McMahon

ACHL Championships: None

 

The Cape Cod Buccaneers were the first team sports venture for World Wrestling Entertainment impresario Vince McMahon back in the winter of 1981-82. McMahon held the lease on the Cape Cod Coliseum at the time, where he staged a number of wrestling promotions. He formed the Bucs in the summer of 1981 and entered the team in the newly formed Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL). Three previous Cape pro hockey ventures – the Cubs, Codders and Freedoms – failed at the Coliseum during the previous decade.

In early 1982, the legendary Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Dave Schultz published a memoir, Hammer: Confessions of a Hockey Enforcer with Stan Fischler. Schultz held the NHL records for most penalty minutes in a season (1974-75) and in a career. Schultz’s book and the accompanying media campaign repudiated violence in hockey. In an effort to hype the book, Schultz struck a deal to suit up for the Cape Cod Buccaneers for a February 6th, 1982 ACHL contest against the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds at the Cape Cod Coliseum.

The Schultz appearance on the Cape never came to pass. ACHL franchises were dropping like flies. In late January 1982, the league put forward a plan to cancel the remained of the regular season and move directly to a hastily organized playoff tournament. The Buccaneers’ record stood at 17-21-1. Vince McMahon objected to the plan and folded the team on February 1st, 1982.

Pro hockey never returned to Cape Cod. The Coliseum closed its doors in 1984 and was converted to a warehouse.

 

Links

Streaker Sports has sells a retro Cape Cod Buccaneers t-shirt on their website here

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Written by Drew Crossley

January 4th, 2017 at 2:50 am

2011-2012 Milwaukee Mustangs

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Arena Football League (2011-2012)

Born: January 27, 2011 – Re-branded from Milwaukee Iron
Folded: October 11, 2012

Arena: The Bradley Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Chris Rebholz, Todd Hansen & Dave Bahl

Arena Football League Championships: None

 

The Milwaukee Mustangs of 2011-2012 were a failed brand revival of Milwaukee’s popular Arena Football League franchise of the 1990’s.  The original Mustangs often drew capacity crowds to the Bradley Center in the mid-1990’s before building lease problems doomed the team in 2001.

The “new” Mustangs started play in 2009 as the Milwaukee Iron in AF2, a lower-budget version of Arena Football played primarily in minor league markets. That same year, the original major-market AFL filed for bankruptcy and went out of business. A new investment group led by the poorer AF2 owners purchased the AFL intellectual property rights from the bankruptcy court and re-organized the Arena Football League in 2010. AF2 went out of business in the process. The Iron joined the new AFL as a founding member in 2010. The franchise re-claimed the old “Mustangs” name prior to the AFL’s second season in 2010.

The re-branding failed miserably. The Mustangs announced 2011 attendance average of 3,953 for 9 dates at the Bradley Center was the worst figure in the 18-team Arena Football League. After a grim 5-13 season in 2012, the club effectively went out of business that October. The league tried to save face by spinning the Mustangs’ departure as an indefinite leave of absence. But in reality indoor football was dead in Milwaukee.

The Mustangs’ league membership was transferred to Oregon trucking magnate Terry Emmert in the fall of 2013. The former Mustangs franchise became the Portland Thunder for the 2014 season.

 

Milwaukee Mustangs Memorabilia

 

Links

Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 28th, 2016 at 11:52 pm