The Philadelphia Firebirds played in the North American Hockey League for three years, from 1974-75 to 1976-77. After the NAHL met its demise after the 1976-77 season, the Firebirds continued on in the American Hockey League for two years before moving to Syracuse for one final season before folding. Gregg Pilling coached the Firebirds in each of the team’s three NAHL seasons. The team played out of the Philadelphia Civic Center, the same venue that housed the WHA’s Philadelphia Blazers during their only season in the league.
The Firebirds finished their first season in the NAHL (the league’s second season) second overall to the Syracuse Blazers. In the first round of the Lockhart Cup playoffs, the Firebirds fell to the Long Island Cougars 3-1. The Cougars finished the regular season seventh out of eight teams with 20 points less than Philadelphia.
Bob Collyard led the team in goals (42), assists (61) and points (103). He finished fourth in the NAHL for goals, second in assists and tied for third in points. Collyard was a team leader throughout the team’s NAHL history.
The most significant name on the Firebirds roster was goaltender Rejean Lemelin. For Lemelin, it was his first year of a lengthy pro career. Rejean played in the NHL from 1978-79 to 1992-93 with the Atlanta Flames / Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins. Lemelin played between the pipes for each of Philadelphia’s NAHL seasons.
Bob Collyard led the Firebirds in goals, assists and points again with 45 goals, 84 assists and 129 points. Collyard finished 8th in the NAHL for goals, second in assists and fifth in points.
The Firebirds finished second in the newly formed West Division with 90 points. The team finished third overall in the league to the Beauce Jaros, who finished with 110 points.
Philadelphia captured the Lockhart Cup championship with a 4-2 victory over the Jaros in the final series. In the first round, the Firebirds beat the Mohawk Valley Comets 3-1. In the semi-finals, Philadelphia took out rival Johnstown 4-1. An interesting note in that series is that the final game was won by the Firebirds 14-10.
In Philadelphia’s final year in the North American Hockey League, Gord Brooks led the team with 65 goals and 124 points. Bob Collyard led the club with 85 assists. Brooks finished second in the NAHL for goals and Collyard took second place is assists. Both finished in the top ten for points with Brooks finishing fourth and Bob finishing seventh.
The Firebirds finished fourth overall in the eight team league. In the playoffs, Philadelphia was knocked off 3-1 by the Erie Blades.
Notably on the roster for the full season with the Firebirds was Don Hay. Hay was in his final season of pro hockey and has since become a junior hockey coaching legend in Canada. He is the current head coach of the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Don has coached three teams to Memorial Cup championships, two with the Kamloops Blazers and one with Vancouver. He was the first head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes when they were moved from Winnipeg for the 1996-97 season. Hay also spent time as head coach of the Calgary Flames during the 2000-01 NHL season.