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.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Richard Brodeur: Goalie for the Maine Nordiques

richard brodeur quebec nordiques 1977-78 wha o-pee-chee hockey card


Richard Brodeur was probably one of the most talented goaltenders to play in the North American Hockey League. Because of that talent, he spent played just 15 games in the NAHL before moving on to bigger, better things.

Brodeur played his 15 games for the Maine Nordiques during 1973-74, the inaugural season for the NAHL. He had played with the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association during that league’s inaugural season in 1972-73. He would also return to Quebec in 1973-74 to play 30 games.

The Maine Nordiques finished second in the seven team NAHL and were in total isolation. Maine finished 19 points behind the first place Syracuse Blazers and 20 points ahead of the third place Long Island Cougars. Without Brodeur in the playoffs, the Nordiques won just one of eight games in the opening round round-robin and did not advance.


Richard Brodeur was nothing short of a superstar in his junior career in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He played two years in the league, 1970-71 and 1971-72, with the Cornwall Royals and filled a spot vacated by Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Billy Smith.

In one of the great turnarounds in hockey, the Royals went from dead last in the ten team QMJHL in 1970-71 to first overall in 1971-72. In his rookie season, Richard played 35 of Cornwall’s 62 regular season games with obviously no post season action. In 1971-72, he played in all but four of the team’s regular season games and appeared in each of Cornwall’s playoff games.

Cornwall finished first overall, ten points ahead of the second place Drummondville Rangers, earning the team the Jean Rougeau Trophy. The Royals reached the QMJHL finals and came out victorious with a 4-2 victory over the Quebec Remparts.

At the Memorial Cup, held in Ottawa, Ontario, the Royals met the Peterborough Petes in the final game and won the holy grail of Canadian Major Junior hockey with a 2-1 win. The Edmonton Oil Kings also competed in the tournament and represented the WHL.

The accolades were plenty for Brodeur in 1971-72. He was named the First Team All-Star goalie. He won the Jacques Plante Trophy as the goalie in the QMHL with the lowest goals against average (2.93). He was named the recipient of the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the Memorial Cup tournament’s most valuable player.

Pro Hockey

After his performance with the Cornwall Royals in 1971-72, Brodeur was taken by the expansion New York Islanders in the seventh round of the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft, 97th overall. Richard chose to go to the upstart WHA instead and play his first pro hockey with Quebec. He would return to the Islanders after the WHA ceased to exist but appeared in just two games with the club in 1979-80.

Brodeur played in the WHA from 1972-73 to 1978-79, the entire lifetime of the league. He played exclusively with the Nordiques. In 1976-77, he played 53 games for the team during the regular season and all 17 of Quebec’s playoff games. The team finished first in the Eastern Division and second overall behind just the Houston Aeros.

Quebec met the Winnipeg Jets in the Avco Cup finals in 1976-77 and it was an odd series. The overview makes the series look close with Quebec winning in seven games, while outscoring their opponents by just three goals, 31-28. However, five of the games were decided by a differential of five or more goals. Game six was a blowout with Winnipeg winning 12-3. Game seven was an 8-2 victory for Quebec.

In 1979-80, while playing just two games with the powerhouse Islanders in the NHL, Brodeur spent the rest of the year in the Central Hockey League with the Indianapolis Checkers. Richard played the majority of games for the club and shared the Terry Sawchuk Trophy with teammate Jim Park as the goaltending duo with the lowest goals against average in the league.

While playing in the National Hockey League between 1979-80 and 1987-88, Richard saw most of his action with the Vancouver Canucks. Along with his two games on Long Island, he also played six with the Hartford Whalers at the end of his NHL career.

In 1981-82, Brodeur played the bulk of the regular season games for the Vancouver Canucks. Despite a losing record during the regular season, the Canucks managed to make it through to the Stanley Cup finals with Richard playing all the team’s post season games. The Canucks came up against the New York Islanders and lost the series in a four game sweep.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Les Binkley: Pittsburgh's Original Starting Goalie

les binkley hockey card pittsburgh penguins


At 41 years old, Les Binkley played his final season of professional hockey in the North American Hockey League with the Buffalo Norsemen. Binkley appeared in 24 games for Buffalo in the team’s only year in the NAHL. That season, Les also played seven games in the WHA with the Toronto Toros, posting a less than stellar 5.73 goals against average.

Buffalo had Guy Trottier as player / head coach, also in his last year of pro hockey. The Norsemen finished fourth in the West Division and fell to the Johnstown Jets in the opening round of the playoffs.

Pro Hockey

Binkley played three years of junior hockey in the OHA from 1951-52 to 1953-54, all with the Galt Black Hawks. He played pro hockey from 1955-56 to 1975-76 in seven different leagues (IHL, EHL, AHL, WHL, NHL, WHA, NAHL).

At 33 in 1967-68, expansion finally gave Binkley a shot at the National Hockey League. Les was the first player signed by the Pittsburgh Penguins and he played between the pipes for the club from 1967-68 to 1971-72.

With the World Hockey Association starting business for the 1972-73 season, Binkley jumped ship to play for the Ottawa Nationals. He followed the club as they moved to Toronto to become the Toros and, as mentioned above, played his final seven games with the club in 1975-76.

His one and only championship came back in 1956-67 with the Charlotte Clippers of the Eastern Hockey League. Binkley played all of the team’s 64 regular season games and helped them to the final series where they downed the Philadelphia Ramblers in seven games.

The following season, he once again played all 64 games for the Clippers and once again led them to the EHL finals. This time, the Clippers fell to the Washington Presidents in seven games

In 1961-62, Les played his first season in the American Hockey League, appearing in 60 of 70 games for the Cleveland Barons. Binkley was honoured with the Dudley ‘Red’ Garrett Memorial Award as the league’s top first year player. The Barons finished first in the four team West Division. Cleveland lost to the Springfield Indians in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs. In an odd playoff format, the Indians were the top team in the East Division meaning the top two teams in the AHL were pitted against each other in the first round of the playoffs.

In 1965-66, again with the Cleveland Barons, Binkley was the recipient of the Harry ‘Hap’ Holmes Memorial Award as the goaltender with the lowest goals against average in the AHL. He played 66 of Cleveland’s 72 regular season games and all of their 12 playoff games. The Barons finished second in the West Division and reached the Calder Cup finals before bowing out to the Rochester Americans in six games.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mike Zuke: 1976-77 Mohawk Valley Comets Goal Scoring Leader

mike zuke st. louis blues o-pee-chee hockey card


Mike Zuke played just 48 games in the North American Hockey League in 1976-77, the NAHL’s final season. Yet, Zuke led the Mohawk Valley Comets with 42 goals while appearing in 65% of the team’s 74 regular season games. The goal total placed him tied for eighth in the NAHL with Henry Taylor of the Johnstown Jets.

1976-77 was Zuke’s first year of pro hockey after four years with Michigan Tech. Mike remains Michigan Tech’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points. He finished the 1976-77 season with 42 goals and 29 assists for 71 points. He also appeared in fifteen games in the World Hockey Association with the Indianapolis Racers.

The 1976-77 Comets went through a pair of player / coach’s in Bob Woytowich and Bill Horton. The team reached the post season but fell in the first round to the Binghamton Dusters. Zuke didn’t play in the playoffs. The Indianapolis Racers lost in the second round of the WHA playoffs but Mike didn’t appear in any of those games, either.

Pro Hockey

Mike was drafted into the two major hockey leagues in 1974. At the NHL Amateur Draft, the St. Louis Blues took him in the fifth round, 79th overall. In the WHA Amateur Draft, it was the Indianapolis Racers selecting him in the fourth round, 47th overall. He would go on to play for both teams.

In the WHA, Zuke appeared in 86 regular season games. There was his fifteen games with the Racers in his rookie season while the rest of WHA games were played the following year with the Edmonton Oilers.

Mike moved to the National Hockey League for the 1978-79 season, escaping the WHA a year before the rebel league’s demise. He played 455 regular season games in the NHL between 1978-79 and 1985-86 with the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers.

After several years behind the bench as assistant coach of his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League in the 1990’s, Zuke has settled in St. Louis, Missouri. He currently owns Mike Zuke Enterprises, a company that specializes in sports apparel.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bob Woytowich: A Pro Hockey Career Wrapped Up in the NAHL

bob woytowich winnipeg jets hockey card 1972-73 o-pee-chee wha


Bob Woytowich played part of one season in the North American Hockey League at the tail end of his pro hockey career. Woytowich was a player / head coach of the Mohawk Valley Comets for the first 37 games of the 1976-77 NAHL season, the last year for the league.

In 37 games, the defenseman assisted on ten goals and sat two minor penalties. He was replaced by another player / head coach in Bill Horton. The Comets finished sixth in the eight team league and were ousted in the opening round of the Lockhart Cup playoffs by the Binghamton Dusters. 1976-77 was Woytowich’s final year playing pro hockey.

Pro Hockey Career

Bob played pro from 1960-61 to 1976-77. He appeared in 503 games in the National Hockey League between 1964-65 and 1971-72 with the Boston Bruins, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.

In 1967-68 with the expansion Minnesota North Stars, Bob helped the team reach the Stanley Cup semi-finals against the St. Louis Blues. The North Stars lost the series in seven games but outscored the Blues 22-18. Four of the seven games went into overtime with the seventh game being decided in double overtime.

In 1969-70, Woytowich found himself in another semi-final series against the Blues, this time as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blues won the series in six games. Bob played in the NHL All-Star game in 1970, the only time in his career.

Woytowich also played 242 regular season games in the World Hockey Association between 1972-73 and 1975-76. He played for the Winnipeg Jets and Indianapolis Racers but had his most success in Manitoba with the Jets reaching the finals in 1972-73, the inaugural season of the WHA, before bowing out to the New England Whalers in five games.

Bob Woytowich died in 1988 at the young age of 46.