Friday, May 1, 2009

36 Years Ago Today - The EHL Dissolves into the NAHL and SHL

On April 12, 1973 the Syracuse Blazers won the EHL championship. As Ray Adduono skated around the rink with the Walker Trophy, it broke into three pieces. This was symbolic of what was about to happen to the EHL, splitting into three pieces (the NAHL, the SHL and the others) on May 1, 1973 at the last ever league meeting. Here's the AP Wire version of the story...
NEW YORK (AP) - The Eastern Hockey League, at its annual meeting in New York Tuesday, announced the formal dissolution of the EHL and the creation of two seperate leagues, one based in the north and the other operating out of the south, to fill the void.
The northern league, titled the North American Hockey League, plans to begin play this fall with a minimum of six teams. Charter members include the Cape Cod Cubs, Mohawk Valley Comets, Johnstown, Pa. Jets and the Binghamton, N.Y. Dusters. At least two additional NAHL entries are expected to be named shortly, with franchises from Rhode Island and Lewiston, Me. having the inside track. A Long Island entry is also a possibility. Cape Cod, Mohawk Valley and Johnstown were members of the now disbanded EHL. The NAHL, which is scheduled to begin a 74-game regular season Oct. 12, chose Jack Newkirk of Cape Cod as temporary chairman and Ed Stanley of Mohawk Valley as treasurer.
Earlier Tuesday, the Southern Hockey League was formed, with franchises granted to Charlotte, N.C., Greensboro, N.C., Winston-Salem, N.C., Roanoke Valley, Va. and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Binghamton and Lewiston had previously applied for EHL membership, and both were expected to be in the league for 1973-74.

It's interesting that Ed Stanley, who was the Clinton Arena manager who got Clinton into the league in 1954 became treasurer of the new NAHL. In 1973, Clinton had just been sold to a group of locals in a "Save the Comets" kind of deal. The new ownership, splitting the team between Clinton and Utica, renamed the team the Mohawk Valley Comets. Stanley was not one of the owners.

Of the teams not mentioned...
Syracuse Blazers owner Bill Charles had been angling all season to get into the AHL. They ended up back in the NAHL.
The Jersey Devils are a blog in themselves of things going wrong for them at that time. They were hoping for a northern division in the SHL or a southern division in the NAHL, neither of which happened. They were given two weeks to make a decision which league to join. In spite of the Philadelphia Blazers moving to Vancouver within that timeframe, the Devils never made it to the next season.
The Long Island Ducks, also affected by a local WHA franchise, had tried to fold at the end of the 1973 regular season - and even told the Devils to take their spot in the playoffs, before the league intervened and made the Ducks play. On May 24, 1973, the Long Island Cougars, under different ownership and as a farm team of the WHA Chicago Cougars, were accepted into the NAHL.
Rhode Island never made it to the gate.

In the south, Baltimore, Alabama were listed as possibilities for other first year franchises, but neither developed. The Macon Whoopees were added as the sixth SHL franchise that summer.

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