EPISODE #81: Roller Hockey International – With Richard Neil Graham

Richard Neil Graham (Wheelers, Dealers, Pucks & Bucks: A Rocking History of Roller Hockey International) joins the big show to delve into the 1990s summertime indoor league started by inveterate sports entrepreneur (and defunct sports patron saint) Dennis Murphy – designed to profit from major arena owners’ desire for summer events, minor league players looking for extra work, and a budding national craze for inline skating.

Despite deep pockets from several team and arena owners from the NBA and NHL – including Los Angeles’ Buss family (previous Murphy partners in World Team Tennis two decades earlier), and Howard Baldwin (an original franchise owner in the Murphy-founded World Hockey Association in 1972) – the bulk of RHI franchises were decidedly less capitalized or marketing-savvy.  

That didn’t stop the league from aggressive expansion, however, from an inaugural 1993 roster of 12 teams to a mind-boggling 24 franchises the following season (and diligent listeners to this podcast know how ambitious moves like those often turn out).  Predictably, by RHI’s sixth and final campaign in 1999 (after taking 1998 off to reorganize), the league was down to eight clubs and barely made it to season’s end.

National TV coverage on a fledgling ESPN2, solid fan enthusiasm in places like Anaheim (the Bullfrogs regularly drew 10,000+ fans a game to the new Arrowhead Pond), innovative rules adjustments (five-a-side teams and no blue lines, to open up space and scoring), and even a novel proprietary puck designed to generate long-term sustainable licensing revenues, were not enough to sustain RHI into the new millennium.

Thank you to our awesome sponsors for this week’s episode: MyBookie, OldSchoolShirts.com, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, and Audible!

Wheelers, Dealers, Pucks & Bucks: A Rocking History of Roller Hockey International - buy here

                        

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EPISODE #79: The NHL’s New York/Brooklyn Americans – With Dale Morrisey

On September 21, 2013, a crowd of 14,689 Brooklyn hockey fans cheered when the NHL’s New York Islanders played a pre-season exhibition against the New Jersey Devils in the sleekly modern Barclays Center – the first-ever contest of its kind in New York’s most populous borough, and one that set into motion the eventual relocation of the team from Long Island to Kings County.

What few in the stands realized, however, was that the borough, technically, was the home to a professional hockey team many decades earlier.  Originally funded from a Depression-era bootlegger’s fortune, the New York (later renamed Brooklyn) Americans pre-dated the NHL’s long-running and legendary New York Rangers by a year, and were the star attraction of the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden during its debut in 1925. 

Featuring brightly colored, red-white-and-blue, star-spangled uniforms, and a roster of largely Canadian players from the recently league-expelled Hamilton (ON) Tigers, the “Amerks” were the immediate toast of the Gotham sports scene upon their arrival.  So much so that MSG majority owner Tex Rickard soon connived with the NHL board of governors to secure his own franchise (originally dubbed “Tex’s Rangers”) the following season – quickly dooming the Americans to second-class status as the league’s loveable losers for the rest of their mostly lamentable run through 1942.

Documentary filmmaker Dale Morrisey (Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans) joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss New York’s (and Brooklyn’s) original and oft-forgotten National Hockey League franchise, and the unique part hockey history it occupies.

Huge thanks to our sponsors Audible, OldSchoolShirts.com, MyBookie, and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for their support of this week’s episode!

Only the Dead Know the Brooklyn Americans - buy or rent video here

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New York Americans Logo T-Shirt from OldSchoolShirts.com - buy here

New York Americans Logo T-Shirt from CCM/Adidas - buy here

EPISODE #77: Before the NHL’s “Original Six” – With Andrew Ross

When quizzed on the historical origins of the National Hockey League, most fans reflexively default to the hagiographic construct known as the “Original Six” – the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings – as the seminal franchise lineup from which the modern-day NHL was ultimately built.

In fact, the league traces its official roots to a much friskier start dating back to 1917 – when, out of the ownership discord of the predecessor National Hockey Association (1909-17), and a rising challenge to Stanley Cup supremacy from other fledgling pro circuits like the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League – a then-four team (and all-Canadian) NHL made its debut with franchises in Toronto (Arenas), Ottawa (Senators), and Montreal (Canadiens and Wanderers).

Over the next 25 years, the league fitfully expanded and contracted across cities like St. Louis, Quebec, Hamilton, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit – and even a 16-season, dual-franchise odyssey in New York.  But, when the NHL Board of Governors terminated the financially troubled Brooklyn Americans after a World War II-ravaged 1941-42 season, the league settled back to just six reasonably solid clubs – a group that would remain stably intact until 1967, when the ambitious “Great Expansion” doubled its membership to 12, and set the stage for even more meteoric growth in the decades to follow.

Author Andrew Ross (Joining the Clubs: The Business of the National Hockey League to 1945) joins host Tim Hanlon to talk about the league’s surprisingly rough-and-tumble first quarter-century of existence – including the winding economic journey that eventually defined hockey’s place in the North American professional sports firmament.

Thank you to Audible, OldSchoolShirts.com, MyBookie, and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com for their support of this week’s show!

Joining the Clubs: The Business of the National Hockey League to 1945 - buy book here

                

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EPISODE #75: The World Hockey Association Hall of Fame with Tim Gassen

Buckle up for our sophomore excursion into the legendary World Hockey Association, as we chat with the passionate founder and meticulous curator of the short-lived but influential league’s official Hall of Fame, Tim Gassen. 

Physically ensconced inside the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, MN, as well as an expansive online digital presence, the WHA Hall of Fame is the undisputed historical authority on the brief seven-season life and wild times of the iconic 1970s-era challenger league that kicked the staid National Hockey League in the butt and reinvigorated the pro game in the process.

Gassen joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss the:

  • Origins of his WHA fanaticism (sparked by childhood memories of Indianapolis Racers games);
  • Wayward (and illustrative) journeys of teams like the Jersey Knights (née New York Raiders/Golden Blades, then San Diego Mariners) and the Calgary Cowboys (birthed as the Miami Screaming Eagles, converted into the Blazers of Philadelphia, then of Vancouver, before saddling up for one last rodeo in the Stampede City);
  • Unmatched dominance of the Winnipeg Jets; and
  • Ongoing hunt for the Hall of Fame’s holy grail of artifacts – the makeshift WHA championship trophy hoisted by the league’s New England Whalers in 1973, in lieu of the yet-to-be-completed AVCO World Trophy.

Our appreciation to this week’s sponsors: Audible, OldSchoolShirts.com, Podfly, and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com!

                

The World Hockey Association Hall of Fame: A Photographic History of the Rebel League - buy book here

WHA Gameday: 1972-1979 Game Program Stories - buy book here

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Best of the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame - buy Blu-ray DVD here

Positive Waves: A History of Indianapolis Racers Hockey 1974-1979 - buy book here

WHA Logo T-Shirts from OldSchoolShirts.com - click individual shirt photos or buy here

EPISODE #69: The “Rebel” World Hockey Association with Ed Willes

Fresh off of kicking pro basketball’s establishment in the teeth with the launch of the upstart American Basketball Association in 1967, inveterate sports entrepreneurs Dennis Murphy (see also: World Team Tennis, Roller Hockey International) and Gary Davidson (World Football League) turned their attention to an even riper target of opportunity in 1971 – the monopolistic and monochromatic 12-team National Hockey League.

Their broadside against the NHL was the audaciously aspirational World Hockey Association – a seven-season 1970s-era wonder that brought a rollicking brand of ice hockey to no fewer than 27 markets across North America (not including four announced teams that relocated before even playing a game) – leaving in its wake a bevy of bounced checks, fractious lawsuits, and defunct franchises from San Diego to Cherry Hill, New Jersey.   

Amidst the league’s traveling circus of the weird (the Chicago Cougars’ 1974 playoff run ended by Peter Pan), and wonderful (the Houston Aeros’ Gordie, Mark and Marty Howe teaming for the first-ever father-son[-son!] combination in pro hockey), the WHA undeniably became the vanguard that dragged the sport kicking and screaming into the modern age by: ending the NHL’s monopoly grip on the pro game; freeing players from its reserve clause; allowing 18-year-old players to be drafted; introducing top-tier hockey to the US Sun Belt and the interior Canadian provinces; and opening up rosters to an exciting array of European talent in numbers previously unimagined. 

And, by the end of its run in 1979, ushering four new clubs – the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, and Hartford Whalers – into a merger-expanded NHL.

Sportswriter Ed Willes (The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association) returns to the podcast to discuss the brief but impactful legacy of hockey’s “rebel league” that gave up-and-coming stars their big-league debuts, others their swan songs – and provided high-octane fuel for some of the most spectacularly memorable moments in the history of professional hockey.

Please check out our great sponsors Audible, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com and Podfly!

The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association - buy book here

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World Hockey Association jerseys from K-1 Sportswear - buy here

                

EPISODE #66: Sports Broadcaster JP Dellacamera

Fox Sports soccer play-by-play broadcaster extraordinaire JP Dellacamera joins the podcast this week to discuss a pioneering career in sports announcing spanning over 30 years – including calling this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia – his ninth consecutive men’s quadrennial assignment since Mexico ’86.

Widely acknowledged as the original voice of US Soccer, Dellacamera’s calls have become synonymous with some of modern-day American soccer’s most indelible moments – including his accounts of the US Women’s National Team’s dramatic penalty kick shootout victory over China in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and Paul Caligiuri’s historic “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” against Trinidad & Tobago in the final game of 1989 CONCACAF qualifying that punched the US Men’s National Team’s ticket for Italy ’90 – ending a 40-year World Cup finals drought, and reorienting the sport’s trajectory in the ‘States for decades to come.

The road to broadcasting global soccer’s marquee events has by no means been a straight and narrow one, however, and we (of course) chat with Dellacamera about some of the more memorable “forgotten” stops made along the way, including:

  • Talking his way into his professional debut calling local TV games for the 1978 NASL expansion Detroit Express;
  • Handling radio play-by-play for the American Soccer League’s ALPO dog food-sponsored Pennsylvania Stoners;
  • Parlaying years of minor league hockey broadcast experience into lead announcing duties for indoor soccer’s Pittsburgh Spirit of the fledgling MISL;
  • Cementing his stature as the voice of US women’s soccer as the play-by-play lead for the 2001 launch of the WUSA; and   
  • Returning to his first love of pro hockey – finally at the NHL level – with the short-lived Atlanta Thrashers.  

Our sponsors for this week include: Audible, Podfly and SportsHistoryCollectibles.com.

EPISODE #62: The Whaler Guys

It’s been 21 years since the National Hockey League’s Hartford Whalers abruptly bolted for the (supposedly) greener pastures of North Carolina and a rechristened life as the Carolina Hurricanes, but don’t tell that to superfans Peter Hindle and Jerry Erwin – the self-professed “Whaler Guys” – who have made it their personal mission since 2011 to keep the memory of the franchise they love alive,  and, with any luck, bring top-tier pro NHL hockey back to the Nutmeg State.

As the hosts of their eponymous weekly Hartford Public Access TV show, Hindle and Erwin are not only passionate about remembering what the Whalers used to be, but also relentlessly focused on virtually every aspect of local civic development that might help someday return the city of Hartford to the ranks of “major league” status once again.

We get into all things Whalers past (the legendary “Brass Bonanza” theme song, the iconic logo); present (XL Center renovation updates, the Guys’ Whaler-themed Connecticut state license plate initiative); and future (what current NHL markets are prime candidates for relocation, where Hartford stands against other potential franchise cities like Quebec, Houston, Kansas City, or Seattle) – as well as the Guys’ thoughts on the Hurricanes’ sudden rediscovery/re-embrace of the team’s heritage in its previous incarnation.

PLUS: why the Coyotes, Panthers and even (ironically) Hurricanes would all do better in Hartford; why Whaler jerseys remain so popular; the vision of original (WHA New England) team owner Howard Baldwin; and the two most unsung heroes in Whaler history – Peter Good and Jacques Ysaye (aka Jack Say).

Our appreciation to Audible, SportsHistoryCollectibles.com and Podfly for their sponsorship of this week’s show!

Hartford Whalers apparel and other fun stuff via Amazon - buy here

                    

EPISODE #53: NHL Hockey’s Minnesota North Stars with Author Adam Raider

In this week’s episode, we skate back to the National Hockey League’s 1967 “Great Expansion,” when the league ambitiously doubled in size from its “Original Six” to incorporate a half-dozen new franchises – including the seemingly most obvious and overdue market of all: the hockey-mad state of Minnesota and its cultural epicenter, Minneapolis-St.Paul. 

With a skilled management team led by amateur hockey pioneer Walter Bush, the Minnesota North Stars fielded a team-minded and quickly respectable squad of NHL journeymen, castoffs and amateurs that immediately won the hearts of the hometown Met Center faithful. 

By the mid-1970s, however, the North Stars had fallen on hard times, with perennially poor records and few playoff berths – until 1978, when, in an unprecedented arrangement, Cleveland Barons (née California Golden Seals) franchise owner-brothers Gordon and George Gund acquired the team and merged them.  Bolstered by an immediate influx of quality Barons like goaltender Gilles Meloche and forwards Al MacAdam and Mike Fidler – plus savvy acquisitions and draft picks like eventual Calder Cup-winning forward Bobby Smith, 1980 US Olympian (and Minnesota native) Neal Broten, and future Hall of Famer Dino Ciccarelli – the North Stars reeled off five straight winning seasons and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1980-81.

Author Adam Raider (Frozen in Time: A Minnesota North Stars History) joins the show to recount the club’s rise to championship contention, and subsequent relapse in the later 1980s/early 1990s – that ultimately saw: the Gunds trade for rights to a San Jose expansion franchise; Calgary Flames owner Norman Green opportunistically swap his interests for the North Stars; and, despite the addition of Mike Modano and a 1991 Stanley Cup Finals run, Green achieve villainy status (“Norm Sucks!”) by moving the team to Dallas in 1993.

If you are a fan of today’s NHL Minnesota Wild, Dallas Stars or even San Jose Sharks, the story of the North Stars is an important part of your hockey education!

Please support the show by frequenting our friends at SportsHistoryCollectibles.com, Audible and Podfly!

Frozen in Time: A Minnesota North Stars History - buy book here

EPISODE #37: The NHL’s California Golden Seals with Author Steve Currier

Ice hockey makes its long-awaited return to the podcast, as host Tim Hanlon revisits the legendarily forlorn California Golden Seals franchise of the late 1960s/early 1970s National Hockey League, with author Steve Currier (The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL’s Most Outlandish Teams).   Part of the NHL’s “Great Expansion” of 1967, the Seals never posted a winning record in any of its 11 years of existence (including its last two seasons as the Cleveland Barons), and consistently finished dead last in league attendance despite playing in a then-state-of-the-art  Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena. 

Currier recounts: a revolving door of promising players (though not future Hall of Fame legend Guy Lafleur, who might have become a Seal, if not for a previously traded first-round draft pick); hapless owners (from millionaire socialite Barry Van Gerbig, to flamboyant baseball disruptor Charlie Finley, to hotel magnate Mel Swig, to [eventually] the NHL itself); and outlandish marketing decisions (including mid-season name changes, garish green/gold uniforms and scuff-prone white skates, live seals on ice, and currying favor with a supposedly influential Bay Area barber community) – all of which made the Seals franchise one of the most idiosyncratic footnotes in modern-day hockey and pro sports history.

Thanks Podfly and Audible supporting this episode!

The California Golden Seals: A Tale of White Skates, Red Ink, and One of the NHL's Most Outlandish Teams - buy book here

EPISODE #07: “Krazy” George Henderson & The Art of Pro Sports Cheerleading

America’s most famous professional sports cheerleader “Krazy” George Henderson (Still Krazy After All These Cheers) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss some of the wackiest adventures from his 40+ years of live performances – and how a self-described shy, mediocre schoolteacher ultimately followed his passion to a unique and storied career converting passive game-day attendees into cheering fanatics.  Henderson (along with his signature drum!) recounts how a school field trip to an Oakland Seals NHL hockey game led to his first sustaining professional gig; describes how he and the NASL’s San Jose Earthquakes changed the face of professional soccer in the mid-1970s; recalls how his success with the NFL’s Houston Oilers almost led to banishment from performing at pro football games; and breaks down the chronology of the formative elements of his most famous in-stadium creation – The Wave.

Krazy George: Still Krazy After All These Cheers - buy book here

EPISODE #01: Documentarian Mark Greczmiel & the NHL’s California Golden Seals

TV producer Mark Greczmiel (E! True Hollywood Story) joins Tim Hanlon to discuss his labor-of-love documentary The California Golden Seals Story, and the colorful late 60s/early 70s National Hockey League franchise that inspired it.  Greczmiel recounts the Seals’ largely hapless record on the ice, tortuous ownership history (including a turn by tightfisted Oakland A’s baseball impresario Charles O. Finley), unique approaches to gaining promotional “exposure,” and why current fans of both the NHL’s San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars owe a debt of gratitude to a team remembered more for garish uniforms and white ice skates than their competitive hockey-playing prowess. 

The California Golden Seals Story - buy or rent movie on iTunes here