Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bill Horton of the NAHL's Mohawk Valley Comets


bill horton mohawk valley comets nahl
Bill Horton, the cousin of Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Tim Horton, played two years in the North American Hockey League, 1975-76 and 1976-77. Both his years were with the Mohawk Valley Comets. Horton played just ten games in 1975-76 before appearing in a nearly full season of 66 games in 1976-77, the final year of the NAHL.

In 1976-77, Bill Horton was not only the Comets star defenseman. He was also the head coach of the team. Mohawk Valley finished sixth out of eight teams during the regular season. It wasn’t hard to reach the post season that year. The Beauce Jaros dropped out of the league after 30 games and the rest of the seven teams made the playoffs. The Comets lost in the opening round to the Binghamton Dusters, three games to two.

Playing Career

After one year of junior hockey in the OHA with the London Nationals (now the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League) in 1966-67, Horton played for the Dayton Gems in the IHL for the 1967-68 season. It would be the closest he’d come to a championship as a player. The Gems reached the IHL finals before losing to the Muskegon Mohawks in five games.

Bill played pro hockey from 1967-68 to 1981-82 in the IHL, EHL, WHA, SHL, NAHL, PHL and ACHL. He never played in the NHL but played 193 games of major league hockey between 1972-73 and 1974-75 in the World Hockey Association. In the WHA, Horton played for the Cleveland Crusaders, Los Angeles Sharks and Indianapolis Racers.

Horton played his final three years as a player / head coach, with an emphasis on the coaching. In 1980-81 with the Syracuse Hornets of the 2nd generation EHL, Bill played three games and sat 28 minutes in the penalty box. As a coach, he lasted ten games with just a tie to show for it. The following year, he played three games with the Mohawk Valley Stars of the ACHL, along with his coaching duties. Once again, he appeared in three games, this time sitting 43 minutes in the penalty box while assisting on one goal. Despite this ‘goonery’, for most of career, Bill kept his game clean.

Coaching Career

Horton coached in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League from 1981-82 to 1986-87. In his first year, as head coach of the Mohawk Valley Stars, he achieved the championship he could never find as a player. The Stars finished second overall in the six team ACHL. They met the Salem Raiders in the finals and won the series in six games for the title.

The following year, Mohawk Valley once again made it to the final series. Their opponent this time was the Carolina Thunderbirds. Carolina finished the regular season in first place. The Stars finished in third, 47 points behind the Thunderbirds. Carolina swept the final series in four games. The Thunderbirds went 8-0 in the 1982-83 ACHL playoffs.

In order to exact revenge on Carolina, Horton had to switch teams. In 1983-84, he was head coach of the Erie Golden Blades. The team finished second overall in the six team league, one point behind the first place Thunderbirds. The two met in the finals with Erie coming up victorious, winning the series four games to one.

Horton returned to Mohawk Valley to coach in 1985-86. The team was now known as the Comets again. Bill did not find much fortune with the team and was replaced early in the 1986-87 season.




  1. I played in Syracuse on that 1980-81 team that only lasted 10 games and remember what a great guy Bill Horton was. Bill could throw the old fashion hip checks as well as any I remember. He gave me an opportunity to play and I'll never forget that...R.I.P. Bill...........Geoff Day

    1. Looks like you make have had a few scraps in your stay with Syracuse, Geoff - any of them with the great Gilles Bilodeau?

    2. Not that I recall, a few others for sure!