Showing posts with label lockhart cup. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lockhart cup. Show all posts

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gord Brooks of the Philadelphia Firebirds

gord brooks philadelphia firebirds nahl
Gord Brooks played two years in the North American Hockey League, 1975-76 and 1976-77, both with the Philadelphia Firebirds. As a junior, he was part of a historic London Knights event. He played parts of three years in the National Hockey League and was an award winner in the AHL.

Gord Brooks – NAHL

In 1975-76, Brooks scored 39 goals and assisted on 54 for 93 points over 66 regular season games with the Firebirds. His 93 points placed him just third on the high scoring Philadelphia squad. However, in the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Gord led the way with 15 goals and 32 points over 16 games as the Firebirds won the championship with a final series victory over the Beauce Jaros.

The following year, Brooks stepped up his offensive performance but the Firebirds were a bit of a dud as a team. With 65 goals and 59 assists for 124 points over 74 regular season games, Gord led the team in goals and points. In the NAHL, he was second in goals and fourth in points. However, Philadelphia lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Erie Blades. Following that, the NAHL ceased to exist and the Firebirds joined the American Hockey League. Brooks went along for the ride.

Gord Brooks – Junior

Gord played two years in the Ontario Hockey Association (what is now the OHL) in 1968-69 and 1969-70. His first year was spent with the Hamilton Red Wings (the current day Erie Otters).

During the 1969-70 season, Brooks was traded from Hamilton to the London Knights. He played 12 games for London in the playoffs with the Knights winning their first ever playoff series with an opening round victory over the Peterborough Petes. London then fell to the Toronto Marlboros in the following round.

Gord Brooks – Pro Hockey

The St. Louis Blues selected Brooks in the fourth round of the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft, 51st overall. He played a total of 70 regular season games in the National Hockey League, two with the Blues in 1971-72, 30 more with St. Louis in 1973-74 and 15 with the Washington Capitals in their inaugural season, 1974-75.

He played pro from 1970-71 to 1983-84, appearing in the CHL, NHL, WHL, AHL, NAHL, IHL and Austria. 1977-78 was a definite career highlight on a personal achievement level. With the Philadelphia Firebirds, in their first year in the AHL, Gord put up 42 goals and 56 assists for 98 points over 81 games. His point total tied him with Rick Adduono of the Rochester Americans for the league high and earned him a share of the John B. Sollenberger Trophy. Adduono saw time in the NAHL, as well, with two games as a member of the Binghamton Dusters in 1975-76.

He started the 1980-81 season in Austria but returned to finish off the year in the IHL with the Saginaw Gears. In his 39 regular season games for Saginaw, Brooks contributed a decent 42 points. In the Turner Cup playoffs, he totalled 17 points over 13 games. The Gears swept the Kalamazoo Wings in the final series to capture the championship.

In 1981-82, Brooks played a full year with Saginaw and turned up the offensive volume. Over 82 regular season games, he scored 49 goals and assisted on 64 for 113 points. His point total placed him third in the league. The Gears once again reached the Turner Cup finals but were ousted by the Toledo Goaldiggers in five games. It was, for the most part, the swan song of Gord’s career.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Beauce Jaros

beauce jaros north american hockey league nahl logo
The Beauce Jaros played just one full season in the North American Hockey League. In 1975-76, the Jaros set the NAHL on fire. In 1976-77, the team folded on December 22 after just 30 games. The team played their home games at the Palais des Sports in Saint-Georges, Quebec. The arena currently holds less than 2,500 spectators. Joe Hardy was the only head coach the franchise ever had. Hardy was also the team’s star player.


In their only full season, Beauce finished first overall in the ten team league and first in the East Division with 54 wins and 110 points over the 74 game schedule. The Jaros led the league in goals scored with 462, 89 more than the second place Philadelphia Firebirds. Beauce met the Firebirds in the Lockhart Cup finals and lost to Philadelphia in six games.

The offensive explosion was shared by four players with 60 or more goals. All four had more than 130 points. Alain Caron led the way with 78 goals, followed by Richard Grenier with 77, Luc Simard with 65 and Jocelyn ‘Joe’ Hardy with 60. Hardy led the NAHL with 148 assists and 208 points. Both will forever remain as NAHL single season records. The 208 points made Joe Hardy the first professional player to reach 200 points in a season.

Another league leader on the Jaros was Gilles Bilodeau. ‘Bad News’ Bilodeau led the league with 451 penalty minutes.


Beauce had won just six games and tied two in their first 30 games of the season when the franchise folded. Joe Hardy was again the player / head coach and was on pace for another great year with 43 points in 22 games. Hardy finished off his NAHL season with the Binghamton Dusters. He would play one more year with the Dusters in the American Hockey League before calling it quits.

The team was led offensively by Norm Dube. Dube had 52 points in 29 games for the Jaros. He also played with the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association that year. Over his pro career, Norm played 148 regular season games in the WHA, all with Quebec, and 57 regular season games in the National Hockey League, all with the Kansas City Scouts.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Dick Roberge: The Gretzky of the EHL

dick roberge johnstown jets
Dick Roberge is a legend in minor pro hockey and a legend in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The long time member of the Johnstown Jets of the Eastern Hockey League, Roberge made his mark in the NAHL in 1974-75 as head coach of the Jets.

The Coach

Dick retired as a player after the 1971-72 season. The Jets continued on after the demise of the EHL and became a charter member of the North American Hockey League in 1973-74. Although he was player / head coach of the Jets for three years near the end of his EHL career, Roberge was head coach of the NAHL Jets for just the 1974-75 season.

Although Johnstown finished fourth overall of eight teams during the 1974-75 regular season, the Jets pumped it up in the playoffs. Johnstown took out the Cape Codders three games to one in the opening round. In the semi-finals, the Jets were giant killers, beating the favoured Syracuse Blazers four games to three. The series was very even with each team scoring 26 goals over the seven games. The Lockhart Cup finals were a bit anti-climatic with Johnstown sweeping the Binghamton Dusters in four games while outscoring their opponents 20-8.

The Jets were the most penalized team in the NAHL in 1974-75 and were building the model for the 1977 movie ‘Slapshot’. Gary Sittler of the Syracuse Blazers led the NAHL in penalty minutes but the second, third and fourth spots belonged to the ‘Hanson Brothers’. Jeff Carlson (250 PIM), Dave Hanson (249) and Jack Carlson (246) would become the Hanson Brothers of hockey legend. The third Carlson brother, Steve, led the team in scoring with a modest 30 goals and 58 assists for 88 points over 70 regular season games.

The Player

Dick Roberge played for the Johnstown Jets from 1954-55 to 1971-72. In the first year, the team was in the IHL. Ten times over his EHL career, Roberge totalled 100 points or more. Twice he topped 60 goals and he was a 50 or more goal scorer on six occasions. Three times, he was the John Carlin Trophy winner as the player with the most regular season points. In 1960-61, he tied teammate Ken Laufman for the lead.

In his first year in the EHL, 1955-56, Dick led the league in goals with 64 and points with 118. In 1960-61, he would do the same with 56 goals and 116 points. In 1964-65, he led the league in points with 139 but his impressive 63 goals were six behind EHL leader, Gary Sharp of the Greensboro Generals. His personal offensive bests were 64 goals in 1955-56, 76 assists in 1964-65 and 139 points in 1964-65.

Roberge’s career totals in the EHL are nothing short of extraordinary. In 1,097 regular season games, he scored 720 goals and assisted on 938 for 1,658 points. Including a few short stints in the IHL and AHL, Dick’s 752 goals still stand as a career record for most goals in a minor league career.

Dick played a major part of a Johnstown Jets three-peat in the early 1960’s. In 1959-60, the Jets beat the New Haven Blades in the Walker Cup finals for the championship. It was the Blades again in 1960-61, falling to the Jets in six games. In 1961-62, Johnstown met the Greensboro Generals in the finals and took home their third and last championship in five games. These would be the only championships Roberge would win as a player.

Retired Number

The Jets met their demise after the 1976-77 season when the NAHL ceased to exist. In 1988-89, with the creation of the East Coast Hockey League, minor pro hockey was resurrected in Johnstown, Pennsylvania with the Johnstown Chiefs. The ECHL team existed until the end of the 2009-10 season before moving to become the current Greenville Road Warriors.

Over their existence in the ECHL, the Chiefs retired four jersey numbers, all belonging to players from the EHL Jets. In 1990, Johnstown retired number 11 in honour of Dick Roberge.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Syracuse Blazers: 2 Time NAHL Champions

syracuse blazers north american hockey league logo
The Syracuse Blazers were a relative comet crossing the hockey sky. The franchise entered the Eastern Hockey League in 1967-68 and lasted out the final six years of the EHL’s existence. The club then joined the newly formed North American Hockey League in 1973-74 and when the NAHL ceased operations after the 1976-77 season, so did the Syracuse Blazers. However, in that short ten year period, the Blazers achieved greatness.

The first two years in the EHL were rocky, to say the least. Syracuse won just 21 of 144 regular games over the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons combined. In 1971-72, the Blazers reached the Walker Cup finals before losing to the Charlotte Checkers.

In 1972-73, the final year of the EHL, the team was nothing short of legendary. Syracuse won 63 of 76 regular season games, losing nine and tying four for a whopping 130 points. The team charged to the finals and took the final Walker Cup with a victory over the Roanoke Valley Rebels.

Blazers in the NAHL

Syracuse played in all four NAHL seasons between 1973-74 and 1976-77. The team won the Lockhart Cup championship in the first and last years.


Syracuse finished first overall in the inaugural NAHL season with 54 wins and 112 points, 19 more than the second place Maine Nordiques in the seven team league. The Blazers met the Long Island Cougars in the finals and captured the championship with a four game sweep.

Mike Morton was the team’s offensive leader, finishing the regular season with a modest 95 points. The Blazers were intimidators, to say the least. Syracuse players finished 2-3-4 in the NAHL for penalty minutes. Dave Ferguson sat 371, Gary Sittler (brother of Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler) accumulated 316 while the infamous Bill Goldthorpe sat 285 in just 55 games.

The Blazers were coached by Ron Ingram, his only year as head coach of the team. Ingram played pro hockey from 1955-56 to 1969-70, mostly in the American Hockey League. Ingram did find his way into 114 career NHL games with the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers.


The Blazers once again finished first overall in 1974-75 but the numbers were not quite as spectacular. Syracuse won 46 games and finished with 95 points, 12 ahead of the second place Philadelphia Firebirds in the eight team league. The team played an incredibly even semi-final series with the Johnstown Jets. Each team scored 26 goals and the series went to the seventh game with the Jets edging out the Blazers 5-4.

Bob Jones was the team’s offensive leader in 1974-75 with 114 points. Garry Peters was behind the bench for his only year as the team’s head coach. In fact, it was his only year of coaching in pro hockey. Peters played pro from 1963-64 to 1973-74. He appeared in 311 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. He also played 57 World Hockey Association games with the New York Raiders franchise (and its many reincarnations).


The NAHL expanded to ten teams and split into the East and West Divisions. Syracuse finished second in the East, 31 points behind the Beauce Jaros. The Blazers and Jaros met in the semi-finals and Beauce swept the series.

Doug Brindley led the team offensively with 101 points. Dan Belisle stepped behind the bench for his first of two years as the head coach. Belisle played pro from 1957-58 to 1970-71 and appeared in four NHL games with the New York Rangers during the 1960-61 season. Dan went on to become the head coach of the Washington Capitals for the 1978-79 season and 16 games into the 1979-80 season.


The Blazers went out the way they came in, as champions. The league was down to one group of eight teams and Syracuse finished first overall with 48 wins and 99 points. Like 1973-74, it was the Maine Nordiques finishing second, this time 14 points behind the Blazers. The two teams met in the finals with the Blazers sweeping in four games.

Bernie Johnston set the team’s NAHL high with 124 points. There were three players that reached the 50 goal plateau. Johnston scored 53, Tom Milani led the team with 56 and Jim Cowell scored exactly 50. Belisle once again coached the team.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Philadelphia Firebirds

philadelphia firebirds north american hockey league nahl
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.