Long Island Cougars
The Long Island Cougars played in the North American Hockey League for the first two seasons of the league’s existence, 1973-74 and 1974-75. The team was affiliated with the Chicago Cougars of the World Hockey Association.
The Long Island hockey franchise originated as the Long Island Ducks in the Eastern Hockey League in 1959-60. With the demise of the EHL after 1972-73, the Ducks carried on in the NAHL. The team played out of the Long Island Arena in Commack, New York. The arena sat 4,000 and was only home the Ducks / Cougars franchise ever knew. Long Island Arena was closed in 1996.
The Cougars were coached in their first year by EHL legend and future NHL coach John Brophy. Long Island placed third in the seven team NAHL during the regular season with 73 points over 74 games. The Cougars finished 39 points behind the first place Syracuse Blazers.
In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Long Island went 4-3 in the opening round, which was played in a round robin format. This set up a semi-final matchup with the Cape Cod Cubs. The Cougars beat the Cubs four games to two to earn a berth in the final series against Syracuse. The Blazers easily handled Brophy’s troops in a four game sweep. Syracuse outscored Long Island 27-5 in the series.
During the regular season, the Cougars were led offensively by Lorne Rombough. Lorne played 68 games, scoring 50 goals and assisting on 42 for 92 points. He was one of just four players with 50 or more goals in the NAHL that season. His 92 points placed him tenth in the league’s scoring race.
The Cougars weakened in their second year in the NAHL. Long Island finished seventh in the eight team league with 63 points in 74 games. John Brophy was gone as head coach and in his place was Ron Racette. Racette was an outstanding junior coach in the QMJHL during the 1970’s, taking both the Cornwall Royals and Quebec Remparts to the President’s Cup finals.
Despite their low ranking going into the post-season, Long Island came up big in the quarter-finals with a three to one upset of the Philadelphia Firebirds. In the semi-finals, the Cougars came close to another upset when their series with the Binghamton Dusters went the full seven games. Binghamton came out on top, winning four games. However, the Dusters outscored Long Island by a close margin, 24-22. Two of the games needed overtime to decide a winner.
Offensively, the Cougars were led by Dave Walter. Playing in just 62 games, Walter scored 38 goals and assisted on 42 for 80 points. NAHL superstar Joe Hardy played four games with the club while spending most of his season in the WHA with the Chicago Cougars, Indianapolis Racers and San Diego Mariners. The following year, with the Beauce Jaros, Hardy would set NAHL records with 148 assists and 208 points. He became the first professional hockey player to surpass 200 points in a season.