Thursday, April 23, 2015

Joe Szura of the Cape Codders

joe szura 1972-73 o-pee-chee wha los angeles sharks
Joe Szura played just 14 total games in the NAHL. His NHL career consisted of 97 games with the Oakland Seals. Doesn't seem worthy of an article, huh? But, this guy did have some noteworthy success in the American Hockey League and I believe Szura's is an interesting story.

Joe Szura – NAHL

Joe played ten regular season games for the Cape Codders during the 1974-75 NAHL season. It was his last year in pro hockey and he contributed with three goals and two assists. The Codders finished fifth in the eight team league, 12 points behind the fourth place Johnstown Jets.

In the playoffs, the Codders lost in the opening round to the Jets, three games to one. Szura played in all four games, adding an assist. Done. That is the extent of Joe Szura's career in the North American Hockey League.

Here's a tidbit for those not familiar with the Codders. They played out of the Cape Cod Coliseum in South Yarmouth, Massachusetts. The venue opened in 1972 and seated 7,200 for hockey. Just 12 years later, in 1984, the arena was closed and converted to warehouse space.

Joe Szura – Junior and Minor Pro

Szura played his junior hockey with the Fort Williams Canadiens from 1956-57 to 1958-59. He followed that up with nearly nine full seasons in the minors before playing his first game in the National Hockey League, playing for teams in the EPHL and AHL.

He was a Calder Cup champion in 1963-64 with the Cleveland Barons. The Fred Glover coached team was lacklustre during the regular season, finishing third in the four team Western Division. Joe had a great year offensively with 23 goals and 44 assists for 67 points over 72 games.

It was in the Calder Cup playoffs in 1963-64 where Szura exploded to lead the Barons to one of the greatest playoff runs in hockey history. Over nine games, he scored 13 goals and assisted on six more for 19 points – numbers not normally seen in the defensive minded AHL. The Barons did the impossible and went undefeated through their three rounds. In the first, they knocked off the Rochester Americans in two games. In the semi-finals, they swept the Hershey Bears in three. In the finals, the swept the Quebec Aces in four for the championship.

Two years later with the Barons, 1965-66, Joe had the best offensive season of his pro career. He scored 46 goals and assisted on 30 for 76 points. He finished third in the league in goal scoring, one behind co-leaders Alain Caron of the Buffalo Bisons and Dick Gamble of the Rochester Americans. He was named a First Team All-Star but couldn't produce in the playoffs. Over 12 games, he scored just one goal and totalled just five points. Cleveland reached the Calder Cup finals but fell to Rochester.

Szura returned to the AHL after his very short career in the NHL to play three more years from 1969-70 to 1971-72. In the first year, played with the Providence Reds, his 46 assists tied for seventh in the AHL.

In 1970-71, Joe led the Reds offensively in the regular season and playoffs. His 53 assists were good for second in the AHL and his 74 points tied him for fifth. Providence finished first in the Eastern Division and reached the Calder Cup finals before losing to the Springfield Kings.

In his final year in the American Hockey League, 1971-72, Joe played for the Baltimore Clippers. He finished fifth in goal scoring with 38 and ninth in the race for the John B. Sollenberger Trophy with 76 points. Joe helped the Clippers to the Calder Cup finals before losing out to the Nova Scotia Voyageurs.

Joe Szura – Major League Hockey

joe szura 1968-69 o-pee-chee rookie card oakland seals
The career minor leaguer was saved by NHL expansion. The Oakland Seals took him in the ninth round of the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft, 53rd overall. At the time, he was property of the Montreal Canadiens. In Oakland's first season, Joe played just 20 games.

In 1968-69, Szura played 70 regular season games for the Seals. Once again, he had Fred Glover guiding him as head coach. Oakland qualified for the post season for the first time and faced off against the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round. Szura played all seven games for the Seals with the team coming up short. Oakland held a 3-2 lead in the series at one point and outscored the Kings 25-23 over the seven games.

When the World Hockey Association came along, Joe jumped at the chance to play in the big leagues again. In 1972-73, the WHA's inaugural season, he played for the Los Angeles Sharks. In 1973-74, he played alongside the Howe family with the Houston Aeros. In all, he appeared in 115 regular season WHA games, scoring 21 and assisting on 39. He played 12 playoff games for the Aeros but didn't register a point.

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
1960-61 Montreal-Hull/Ottawa EPHL 65 10 24 34 20
1961-62 North Bay Trappers EPHL 68 27 35 62 24
1962-63 Cleveland Barons AHL 72 15 29 44 20
1963-64 Cleveland Barons AHL 72 23 44 67 33
1964-65 Cleveland Barons AHL 67 32 30 62 26
1965-66 Cleveland Barons AHL 72 46 30 76 22
1966-67 Cleveland Barons AHL 68 27 42 69 32
1967-68 Buffalo Bisons AHL 43 13 22 35 16
1967-68 Oakland Seals NHL 20 1 3 4 10
1968-69 Oakland Seals NHL 70 9 12 21 20
1969-70 Providence Reds AHL 72 21 46 67 23
1970-71 Providence Reds AHL 70 21 53 74 39
1971-72 Baltimore Clippers AHL 72 38 38 76 20
1972-73 Los Angeles Sharks WHA 73 13 32 45 25
1973-74 Houston Aeros WHA 42 8 7 15 4
1974-75 Cape Codders NAHL 10 3 2 5 0

NHL Totals
90 10 15 25 30

WHA Totals
115 21 39 60 29

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Garry Peters: Head Coach 1974-75 Syracuse Blazers

garry peters new york rangers 1965-66 topps hockey cards
Garry Peters had the scoring touch in junior with the Regina Pats and had some minor league glory, as well, in the CPHL and AHL. When it came to his respectable 311 games in the National Hockey League, he was anything but an offensive threat.

Peters found his way into NAHL history, taking the head coaching job for the Syracuse Blazers in 1974-75, the year after his final year of pro hockey as a player. It would be his only year as a head coach in pro hockey.

Garry Peters – NAHL

As mentioned, Garry was head coach of the Syracuse Blazers in 1974-75. Peters came into the season with no coaching experience, having retired after playing the previous season in the WHA. The Blazers were first overall in the eight team league during the regular season, finishing 12 points ahead of the second place Philadelphia Firebirds.

Bob Jones led Syracuse offensively, his 76 assists and 114 points leading the entire NAHL. Gary Sittler from the Blazers led the league with 262 penalty minutes. In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Syracuse had a bye through the first round and came up against the Johnstown Jets in the semi-finals. The series was tight with the Jets coming out on top 4-3. Each team scored 26 goals over the seven games and the Blazers at one time held a 3-2 series lead.

Garry Peters – Junior / Minor Pro

Peters spent four years with the Regina Pats of the SJHL from 1959-60 to 1962-63. He was team captain for his final two campaigns. Over his junior career, Garry scored 127 and assisted on 160 for 287 points over 200 regular season games.

In his second year, 1960-61, the Pats swept the Estevan Bruins in four games to capture the SJHL championship. Regina then fell to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Abbott Cup semi-finals.

The following year, Peters led the SJHL with 69 assists and 114 points over 56 games. He was selected as the First Team All-Star Centre. The Pats reached the finals again but this time fell to the Moose Jaw Canucks in seven games.

His final year in Regina saw him selected as a First Team All-Star again. The Pats lost to the Estevan Bruins in the semi-finals. Peters then joined the Bruins for the Abbott Cup playoffs but Estevan fell in six to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the semi-finals. That year, he saw his first pro action, appearing in four regular season and one playoff game in the EPHL with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens.

Peters joined the Omaha Knights in 1963-64 for his first full year of pro hockey. He was named CPHL Rookie Of The Year, scoring 32 and assisting on 49 for 81 points over 72 games. Garry tied for fifth in goal scoring, tied for sixth in assists and placed fifth for points in the league. Alain Caron of the St. Louis Braves ripped apart the CPHL with 77 goals that year.

Teamed with future NHLers Barclay Plager, Claude Larose, Noel Picard and Ernie Wakely, Peters and the Knights finished first overall and won the playoff championship over the St. Paul Rangers. St. Paul managed one win but were outscored by Omaha 28-8 on the series.

In 1966-67, Garry returned to the CPHL with the Houston Apollos, a farm team of the Montreal Canadiens. In 50 games, he contributed 52 points. The team was heavy in future NHLers and even a few future members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Regular teammates included Andre Boudrias, Danny Grant, Jacques Lemaire, Serge Savard and Rogie Vachon. Pat Quinn, Carol Vadnais and Mickey Redmond played sparingly with the team.

His one last go in the minors was 1971-72 with the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League. Over 58 games, Peters scored 39 and assisted on 34 for 73 points. He was named a First Team All-Star and was honoured with the Les Cunningham Award as MVP. Garry's 39 goals placed him fourth in the AHL. On that farm team of the Boston Bruins were up and comers Terry O'Reilly and Dan Bouchard.

Garry Peters – Major League

Peters played 311 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1964-65 and 1971-72 with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. He played sparingly with the Habs and was traded in June, 1965, along with Cesare Maniago, to the New York Rangers for Gord Labossiere, Noel Price, Earl Ingarfield and Dave McComb. He would end up back in Montreal a year later.

At the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers took Garry in the tenth round, 57th overall. It was with the Flyers that he saw the bulk of his NHL action. In 1972, Peters again took part in an NHL Expansion Draft, this time going eleventh overall to the New York Islanders. He would never play for New York.

Garry's time with the Boston Bruins was limited. He played just two regular season games for the club in 1971-72. He also dressed for one playoff game for the Bruins. Boston won the Stanley Cup championship that season, beating out the New York Rangers in the finals.

In the World Hockey Association, Peters appeared in 57 regular season games over the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons. In the first year, he played 23 games for the New York Raiders. The following year, he appeared in 34 games for the New York Golden Blades.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Henry Taylor: NAHL Rookie of the Year in 1975-76

henry taylor johnstown jets nahl
After scoring just 12 goals in 102 regular season games over two years as a junior with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Henry Taylor became a pro sniper with the Johnstown Jets in his rookie NAHL season. The U.S. born player from Oakland, California was a deep draft pick by the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA and was undrafted to the NHL. His pro career was successful but fleeting, not lasting a full decade.

Henry Taylor – NAHL

Taylor played two years in the North American Hockey League, 1975-76 and 1976-77. Both years were spent with the Johnstown Jets. His rookie year was exceptional. His numbers dropped in his sophomore season but it was still a respectable year on a depleted Johnstown team.

Over 69 regular season games in 1975-76, Henry scored 50 and assisted on 43 for 93 points. He led the Jets in goals and points and was named NAHL Rookie of the Year. Overall in the league, he tied for sixth in goal scoring with Robbie Neale. Neale split his season between the Cape Codders and Erie Blades.

The Jets places first in the five team West Division and second overall in the ten team league. Johnstown reached the Lockhart Cup semi-finals before falling to the Philadelphia Firebirds in five games. Game five was an offensive affair with the Firebirds winning 14-10.

In his second season with the Jets, Taylor scored 42 and assisted on 25 for 67 points over 73 regular season games. He led the team in goal scoring and tied for sixth for the league in that department with Mike Zuke of the Mohawk Valley Comets. Johnstown finished seventh of eighth in the NAHL, ahead of just the Beauce Jaros. Beauce played just 30 games before folding midseason. The Jets reached the post season but were swept in the opening round by the Maine Nordiques.

Henry Taylor – Hockey Career

Taylor played two years in the WCHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings in 1972-73 and 1973-74. Over those two years, he played 102 regular season games and scored just 12 goals. The Minnesota Fighting Saints drafted Henry in the 14th round of the 1975 WHA Amateur Draft, 173rd overall after a year of junior in the state of Minnesota.

After his two years in the NAHL, Henry continued on in the world of minor pro until the 1982-83 season, appearing in the IHL, CHL, EHL and Switzerland’s National League B.

After the Jets, Taylor spent two years with the Grand Rapids Owls in the IHL. In his first season, he led the Owls with 36 goals. In 1978-79, the numbers were outstanding with 47 goals and 36 assists for 83 points over 80 games. He led the team in goals and finished tied for fourth in the IHL with Tom Ross of the Kalamazoo Wings. Not ever high on the helpers, Henry placed third in the IHL for assists. He was second in points behind just Terry McDougall of the Fort Wayne Komets.

The Owls placed first overall in the nine team IHL. Grand Rapids then reached the Turner Cup finals where they fell to the Kalamazoo Wings in seven games.

In 1979-80, Henry had a somewhat slow start with the Oklahoma City Stars of the CHL with eight points in 12 games. He then switched to the Baltimore Clippers of the EHL and the numbers took off. Over 64 regular season games, he scored 49 and assisted on 34 for 83 points. He finished third in the league for goals and seventh for points.

In 1980-81, the numbers dropped considerably. For the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, Taylor moved to Europe to play for Olten in Switzerland’s NLB before retiring from the game.
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
1972-73 Edmonton Oil Kings WCHL 35 8 11 19 17
1973-74 Edmonton Oil Kings WCHL 67 4 5 9 56
1974-75 St. Paul Vulcans MidJHL 56 50 57 107 118
1975-76 Johnstown Jets NAHL 69 50 43 93 33
1976-77 Johnstown Jets NAHL 73 42 25 67 15
1977-78 Dayton/Grand Rapids Owls IHL 79 36 34 70 47
1978-79 Grand Rapids Owls IHL 80 47 36 83 47
1979-80 Oklahoma City Stars CHL 12 2 6 8 0
1979-80 Baltimore Clippers EHL 64 49 34 83 105
1980-81 Oklahoma City Stars CHL 57 10 12 22 11
1980-81 Baltimore Clippers EHL 11 7 3 10 17

Monday, December 15, 2014

The 4 PIM Champs In NAHL History

gilles bilodeau beauce jaros nahl
The NAHL existed for just four years from 1973-74 to 1976-77. The league was the inspiration for the movie ‘Slapshot’, starring Paul Newman. It seems fitting that we look at the penalty minute champs over those four years. Each year brought a different PIM leader. Surprisingly, these four guys contributed with offense, as well.

Nick Fotiu – Cape Cod Cubs

Nick Fotiu led the NAHL in PIM in the league’s inaugural season. Over 72 regular season games with the Cape Cod Cubs, the future NHLer totalled 371 minutes in the sin bin. Suspensions were not readily handed out in the olden days, allowing Nick to play in nearly all of his team’s 74 games.

His PIM total was 55 more than second place Dave Ferguson of the Syracuse Blazers. Nick added 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points. In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Fotiu continued his sinful ways with 80 penalty minutes over 13 games. However, he was also nearly a point per game with eleven on four goals and seven assists.

Fotiu moved on to a fairly lengthy National Hockey League career. Nick played 646 regular season games in the NHL between 1976-77 and 1988-89 with the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. Over that time, he contributed 137 points and sat 1,362 penalty minutes. Over 38 Stanley Cup playoff game, Fotiu added four assists and 67 PIM.

Nick also played in the World Hockey Association. He appeared with the New England Whalers during the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons.

Gary Sittler – Syracuse Blazers

With 109 minutes less than Nick Fotiu the year before, Gary Sittler led the NAHL in 1974-75 with 262 penalty minutes over 71 games with the Syracuse Blazers. His lead was just 12 minutes over second place Jeff Carlson of the Johnstown Jets. Gary added nine goals and 37 assists for a respectable 46 points. In the playoffs, he added four more assists over seven games while sitting 14 minutes.

The brother of Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, Gary also played his junior hockey with the London Knights. Sittler played for Syracuse in three of the four NAHL seasons, excluding 1975-76. His major league action was limited to five games with the WHA’s Michigan Stags in 1974-75.

Gilles Bilodeau – Beauce Jaros

In 1975-76, Gilles Bilodeau set the eternal league record with 451 PIM over just 58 games with the Beauce Jaros. His margin of victory was a remarkable 140 minutes more than second place Dave Hanson of the Johnstown Jets. No superstar, Gilles did help out offensively with 25 points on eight goals and 17 assists. In his five playoff games, he assisted on one and sat 46 minutes.

Bilodeau’s lack of regular season games was due to the fact he played 14 games in the World Hockey Association with the Toronto Toros. 1975-76 was his first year of pro hockey and his only year in the NAHL. Gilles was a product of the Sorel Eperviers, a QMJHL team he played for in 1974-75.

Gilles played 143 games in the WHA with the Toros, Birmingham Bulls and Quebec Nordiques. He even got a cup of coffee in the NHL, appearing in nine games with the Nordiques during the 1979-80 season.

Rick Dorman – Erie Blades/Johnstown Jets

Rick Dorman was the final PIM leader in NAHL history and also the leader with the lowest total. Over 61 games, Dorman sat just 238 penalty minutes, just six more that second place Paul Stewart of the Binghamton Dusters.

In his first year of pro hockey after a junior career in the WCHL where he played for the Flin Flon Bombers and Winnipeg Clubs, Rick put up great offensive numbers, as well, with 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points. In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, he added four assists and 48 PIM over nine games. Dorman went on to play minor pro until the 1984-85 season in the IHL and AHL.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bob Jones: NAHL Scoring Leader 1974-75

bob jones syracuse blazers
Bob Jones was a fringe player in the world of professional hockey that found great success over his two years spent in the NAHL. Jones played 1974-75 with the Syracuse Blazers and 1975-76 with the Mohawk Valley Comets. In both seasons, he surpassed the 100 point plateau, leading the league in assists and points while a member of the Blazers.

Bob Jones – NAHL

In 1974-75, Jones played 67 regular season games for the powerhouse Syracuse Blazers. He scored 38 goals and assisted on 76 for 114 points. Bob tied for sixth in goal scoring while leading the NAHL in assists and points. Syracuse finished first overall in the eight team league with a 12 point cushion between themselves and second place. Yet, the Blazers fell in the semi-finals to the fourth seed Johnstown Jets.

The following year with the Mohawk Valley Comets, Jones scored 39 and assisted on 70 for 109 points over 69 regular season games. The league was much more offensive and he placed just sixth for assists and ninth for points. The Comets placed third in the five team East Division and lost in the first round to the Syracuse Blazers.

Bob Jones – Junior

Jones spent four years in the OHA Junior A from 1962-63 to 1965-66. All four years were spent with the same organization but the Guelph Royals became the Kitchener Rangers after the first year. In 1964-65, his 39 goals placed him tenth in the league. Over his OHA career, he totalled 171 points over 209 regular season games.

In 1965-66, Kitchener finished seventh in the nine team league with just 41 points over 48 regular season games. Yet, after knocking off the Niagara Falls Flyers in the opening round and the Toronto Marlboros in the semi-finals, the Rangers earned a berth in the Robertson Cup finals against Bobby Orr and the Oshawa Generals. Oshawa came out ahead, four games to one. Over 19 playoff games, Jones scored 11 and assisted on 14 for 25 points.

Bob Jones – Minor Pro

From 1966-67 to 1971-72, Bob spent most of his time in the minors, either in the CPHL, WHL and AHL. In 1969-70, he was part of the magical Buffalo Bisons AHL club that exited the league on a high. With the Sabres entering the National Hockey League for the 1970-71 season, it was known that 1969-70 was the last year for the Bisons.

The Fred Shero coached Bisons reached the Calder Cup finals and swept the Springfield Kings in four for the championship. Bob led the team with ten assists and 15 points over 14 playoff games. During the regular season, he scored 25 and assisted on 37 for 62 points over 71 games.

Bob Jones – Major League

His NHL experience was limited to just two games, played with the New York Rangers in 1968-69. However, Jones played 161 games in the World Hockey Association between 1972-73 and 1975-76. Bob wore a number of jerseys in the WHA, starting with the Los Angeles Sharks and moving on to the New York Raiders / New York Golden Blades / Jersey Knights mess. He also appeared with the Michigan Stags and Indianapolis Racers.