Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nick Polano in the NAHL: End of a Player. Start of a Coach

nick polano philadelphia blazers world hockey association
Nick Polano played just a small amount of games in the North American Hockey League but was a head coach for two full seasons. The man that would become head coach of the Detroit Red Wings for three years in the 1980’s finished his playing career and started his coaching career in the NAHL.

Nick Polano – NAHL

Polano played 19 regular season games for the Cape Cod Cubs during the inaugural 1973-74 NAHL season. The defenseman scored one goal and assisted on five. He also acted as head coach, replacing Bronco Horvath midseason.

In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Cape Cod was bounced in six by the Long Island Cougars in the semi-finals. Nick played eight playoff games with just an assist to show for his efforts.

After a year away from the league, Polano returned as head coach of the Erie Blades for the 1975-76 NAHL season. The Blades placed third in the five team West Division during the regular season. In the playoffs, Erie fell in the opening round to the Philadelphia Firebirds. The series went the full five games with the Firebirds winning three games to two. At one point, the Blades had a 2-1 series lead.

Polano returned to Erie for 1976-77, the final season of the NAHL. The Blades finished fifth in the eight team league. Erie then advanced to the semi-finals before losing to the Syracuse Blazers, four games to one.

Nick Polano – Pro Hockey

After two years of junior hockey, 1958-59 and 1959-60, with the Hamilton Tiger Cubs of the Ontario Hockey Association (Currently the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League), Polano moved on to a lengthy career in pro hockey. He never played in the National Hockey League but Nick was found everywhere else, including the IHL, EPHL, WHL, AHL, CPHL, WHA and NAHL.

His pro career started in 1959-60 when he split his final year of junior between the Tiger Cubs and the Louisville Rebels of the IHL. It ended with the Cape Cod Cubs in 1973-74.

Never a champion, he came close to Calder Cup victories in the American Hockey League twice. In 1966-67 with the Baltimore Clippers, Polano reached the AHL semi-finals before being ousted by the Rochester Americans. In 1970-71, as a member of the Providence Reds, Nick got a taste of the finals when the Reds faced off against the Springfield Kings for the Calder Cup. Springfield easily handled Providence with a four game sweep.

His only major league action came in 1972-73. As a member of the star-studded and underachieving Philadelphia Blazers of the World Hockey Association, Polano played 17 games on the point, contributing three assists.

Nick Polano – Coach

Polano carried on with the Erie Blades after the NAHL ceased to exist. He coached the Blades in the NEHL and EHL from 1978-79 to 1980-81.

In 1981-82, his NHL career was finally under way. He took an assistant coach job with the Buffalo Sabres under head coach Scotty Bowman. In his only year with the Sabres, Buffalo lost in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, 3-1 to the Boston Bruins.

The following year, he took the head coaching job with the Detroit Red Wings. He remained behind the bench in Detroit for three years from 1982-83 to 1984-85. In the first year, the Wings did not qualify for the post season. In 1983-84, Steve Yzerman’s rookie year with the club, Detroit made the post season but lost in the opening round to the St. Louis Blues, three games to one.

In his final year as a head coach in the National Hockey League, Polano once again led his team into the post season, despite a not so special regular season record. The 1984-85 Red Wings met the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round and were soundly thrashed. In the three game sweep, the Blackhawks outscored the Red Wings 23-8 on victories of 9-5, 6-1 and 8-2.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gerry Pinder: A Short But Productive Stay With The Maine Nordiques

gerry pinder 1972-73 cleveland crusaders hockey card
He spent little time in the North American Hockey League during the league’s final season, just like many filtered through the NAHL in its four years. Gerry Pinder played a total of 21 games in 1976-77 with the Maine Nordiques but certainly made an impact with the club.

Gerry Pinder – NAHL

After starting the 1976-77 season in the World Hockey Association with the San Diego Mariners, playing 44 games, Pinder joined the Nordiques and played in eleven regular season games. Gerry fit right in with six goals and three assists for nine points.

In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Maine came as close to a championship as they would get, reaching the finals. Unfortunately, they were no match for Syracuse Blazers. Pinder played ten playoff games, scoring eight goals and assisting on two for ten points.

Gerry Pinder – Junior

Pinder played two years of junior hockey with the Saskatoon Blades, 1965-66 and 1966-67. In the first year, the Blades played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). In the second, Saskatoon played in the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League (SMJHL), the direct predecessor to the current WHL.

In 1966-67, Gerry broke loose offensively. In 55 regular season games, he scored an amazing 78 goals and assisted on 62 for 140 points. He led the league in goals and points and placed fourth for assists while being named the league’s player of the year. As for the Blades, they didn’t fare so well. The team placed fifth in the seven team league over the 56 game schedule and were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs by the Estevan Bruins.

Gerry Pinder – Team Canada

Before going pro, Pinder spent a few years with Canada’s national team. He competed in the 1968 Winter Olympic Games and the 1969 IIHF World Hockey Championships.

The 1968 Winter Olympics were held in Grenoble, France. Over seven games, Gerry scored one goal. The goal came in a 3-0 win over Sweden. Canada came out of the Olympics with a bronze medal. Joining Pinder on the Canadian team were future major league pros Fran Huck, Brian Glennie and Bill MacMillan.

The following year, Pinder was with Canada when they competed at the World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. In ten games, Gerry scored three and assisted on one. Canada placed fourth in the tournament.

Gerry Pinder – NHL

Pinder played 223 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1969-70 and 1971-72. His first two years were spent with the Chicago Black Hawks and his final year in the NHL was with the California Golden Seals. Over that time, his numbers were quite respectable with 55 goals and 69 assists for 124 points. He also played 17 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs, all with Chicago.

With the California Golden Seals, Pinder was the offensive leader on the rag-tag team. His 23 goals and 54 points led the team while playing 74 of the team’s 78 games.

Gerry Pinder – WHA

Gerry jumped to the World Hockey Association for the league’s inaugural season in 1972-73. Between 1972-73 and 1977-78, Pinder played 353 regular season games, scoring 93 goals and assisting on 141 for 234 points. He played an additional 18 games in the Avco World Trophy playoffs, adding 15 points.

Over his WHA career, Gerry played for the Cleveland Crusaders, San Diego Mariners and Edmonton Oilers. His time with the Oilers was limited to just four games during the 1977-78 season. His best year was his first, scoring 30 goals for the Crusaders in 1972-73.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Bob Leduc: Maine Nordiques

bob leduc rookie card 1972-73 o-pee-chee ottawa nationals
Bob Leduc closed out his professional hockey career in the North American Hockey League. When the Maine Nordiques and the NAHL ceased to exist after the 1976-77 season, so did Leduc’s career. Never did he play in the National Hockey League but Leduc played 158 regular season games in the WHA in the rebel league’s first three seasons.

Bob Leduc – NAHL

Leduc played for the Maine Nordiques in 1975-76 and 1976-77. In his first year, he took on the dual role of player / head coach. Over 67 regular season games, he put in decent numbers with 23 goals and 43 assists for 66 points. The Nordiques finished last overall but because the Cape Codders folded mid-season, Maine qualified for the post season. They were an early exit, losing 3-1 to the Beauce Jaros in the opening round.

In 1976-77, Jean-Charles Gravel took over the head coaching duties with the Nordiques and Bob played just 25 regular season games. He contributed four goals and totalled 14 points. Maine was much improved and placed second in the eight team league. In what would be his final year in professional hockey, Leduc added nine points over 12 playoff games. The Nordiques reached the Lockhart Cup finals before being swept in four games by the Syracuse Blazers.

Bob Leduc – Pro Hockey

Between 1964-65 and 1976-77, Bob played in the AHL, EHL, WHA and NAHL. Most of his career was spent in the American Hockey League with the Providence Reds. With Providence, he played 496 regular season games, scoring 129 goals and assisting on 185 for 314 points.

Despite finishing with a below .500 record, in three years Leduc was with the Reds, the team did quite well in the post season. In 1967-68, Providence placed seventh in the eight team league. Yet, they reached the semi-finals before falling to the Quebec Aces, 3-1.

The following year, their regular season status improved to fifth out of eight and the Reds once again advanced to the Calder Cup semi-finals against Quebec. This time, Providence pushed the best of five series to the limit before succumbing to the Aces.

In 1970-71, the AHL was split into two four team divisions. Providence placed first in the Eastern Division, despite having just 69 points over 72 games. The Reds were fourth overall in the league. Once again, they did well in the playoffs, this time advancing all the way to the Calder Cup finals before being swept by the Springfield Kings in four games.

For the World Hockey Association’s inaugural season in 1972-73, Leduc was a member of the Ottawa Nationals. Playing all 78 games, he put in one of best years in pro hockey with 55 points. Bob moved with the Nationals to Toronto for the following season as the franchise became known as the Toros.  Leduc totalled 51 points in just 61 games and the Toros found some success in the playoffs. Toronto reached the semi-finals against the Chicago Cougars and pushed the series to the seven game limit before falling. At one point, Toronto led the series 3-2.

In 1974-75, Leduc took on the dual role of player/head coach with the Toros, although he played in just 19 games during the regular season and none in the playoffs. Toronto placed second in the five team Canadian Division and fifth overall in the 14 team league with 88 points in 78 games. However, the Toros fell in the opening round to the San Diego Mariners in six games.

Bob Leduc – Hockey Card

Bob got his mug on mainstream cardboard just once. The Bob Leduc rookie card appears as number 322 in the 1972-73 O-Pee-Chee set. The last series of that set featured players in their brand new WHA uniforms. Leduc was shown as a member of the Ottawa Nationals.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jim Corsi of the Maine Nordiques

jim corsi quebec nordiques
Since 1998-99, he has been the goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League. Jim Corsi got his start in professional hockey with the Maine Nordiques of the NAHL in the league’s final season, 1976-77.

Jim Corsi – NAHL

In his first year pro, Corsi played in net for 54 of the Nordiques 74 regular season games. He posted a 3.57 goals against average and had one shutout. Backing him up and playing in 28 games was Mario Viens. Viens played pro for just the 1975-76 and 1976-77 season after four years in the QMJHL with the Cornwall Royals. In 1975-76, he split his season between the Toronto Toros in the WHA and the Buffalo Norsemen in the NAHL.

Corsi played in all 12 playoff games for Maine in 1976-77. After finishing second overall in the eight team league, the Nordiques then swept the Johnstown Jets in the opening round and downed the Binghamton Dusters in the semi-finals. In the Lockhart Cup finals, Maine came up against the Syracuse Blazers in the finals and were swept out of NAHL history.

Jim Corsi – Pro Hockey

Out of Concordia University in the CIAU, Corsi played professional hockey from 1976-77 to 1979-80 in North America and from 1980-81 to 1991-92 in Italy. In North America, Jim played in the NAHL, WHA, AHL, NHL and CHL. Over two years in the World Hockey Association, 1977-78 and 1978-79, he played in 63 games for the Quebec Nordiques. In the second year, he split duties with another former NAHL goalie, Richard Brodeur. Behind the bench of that Nordiques team was Jacques Demers.

In 1979-80, Corsi played 26 games with the Edmonton Oilers in their first year in the National Hockey League after the WHA merged. It ended up being Jim’s only NHL action and he shared duties with five other goalies that year. Eddie Mio played the most games with 34. Other notable goaltenders playing for Edmonton that year included Ron Low and Dave Dryden.

During his days in Italy, Jim played for club teams while also appearing with the country’s national team. Corsi appeared at eight IIHF World Championship tournaments for Italy. He was on the roster for the Italian squad at the 1984 Winter Olympic games.

Jim Corsi – Coach

Corsi has been goaltending coach with the Buffalo Sabres since 1998-99. Since, the team has not had a problem keeping pucks out of the net, rather putting them in. His star pupils have been Ryan Miller and Marty Biron.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Maine Nordiques

maine nordiques lewiston nahl franchise
The Maine Nordiques existed for the entire duration of the North American Hockey League, 1973-74 to 1976-77. The team was affiliated with the Quebec Nordiques of the World Hockey Association. Home games were played at the Central Maine Youth Center, now the Androscoggin Bank Colisee, in Lewiston, Maine. The venue seats 3,677 for hockey and was opened in 1958.


The best regular season performance by the Maine Nordiques was countered by a terrible post season. Maine placed second out of seven teams in the NAHL, 19 points behind the first place Syracuse Blazers and 20 points ahead of the Long Island Cougars. However, in the Lockhart Cup playoffs, the Nordiques won just one of eight games in the opening round, round robin style format.

During the regular season, four players totalled 100 or more points: Rejean Giroux, Paul Larose, Michel Rouleau and Michel Archambault. All four were in the top six for points in the league. Giroux placed second in the NAHL with 64 goals while Larose was third with 53. The two were also 2-3 in the points department with Giroux finishing with 122 and Larose ending up with 119. Michel Rouleau finished sixth in the league for penalty minutes with 173.

Future NHL goalie Richard Brodeur played his only 15 games in the NAHL during the regular season. Brodeur was back with the Quebec Nordiques by playoff time. Michel Harvey took on the dual role of player / head coach.


The Nordiques started 1974-75 with ten consecutive losses and Michel Harvey was relieved of his coaching duties. Jean-Charles Gravel took over as head coach and the team improved somewhat but did not qualify for the post season. Maine finished eighth in the eight team league with just 55 points over 74 games.

Paul Larose led the team with 54 goals and 49 assists for 103 points. He placed second in the league for goals and third for points. The team used six different goaltenders but their number one was Bernie Wolfe. Wolfe would later play four years in the National Hockey League with the Washington Capitals.


Bob Leduc took over the role of player / head coach and the Nordiques were downright dreadful. Leduc had spent the past three years in the WHA in the Ottawa Nationals / Toronto Toros organization. Maine finished the year with just 18 wins and a tie, along with 55 losses. The Cape Codders played just 52 games before folding and still finished 14 points ahead of the Nordiques. Maine was fifth in the five team East Division and last overall in the ten team league.

Because the Codders folded, Maine actually made it into the playoffs. The Beauce Jaros took out the Nordiques in the opening round but Maine did manage to win one game.

Once again, Paul Larose was the team leader offensively, putting up great numbers on a terrible team. Larose scored 41 and assisted on 73 for 114 points over 71 games. He placed tenth in the NAHL for goals, fifth for assists and eighth for points.


The Nordiques turned it around for their final year in the doomed league with Jean-Charles Gravel returning as head coach. Maine finished second in the eight team league and won their first ever playoff series in the league by sweeping the Johnstown Jets in the opening round. In round 2, the Nordiques took out the Binghamton Dusters in five games. In the Lockhart Cup finals, Maine was swept by the Syracuse Blazers.

Paul Larose Gary Coulter led the team with 31 goals each. John Cunniff was the team leader with 65 assists and 94 points. Jim Corsi was the number one goalie for the Nordiques. Corsi played 26 games in the NHL for the Edmonton Oilers during the 1979-80 season. John has been goaltending coach for the Buffalo Sabres since 2001-02.