Wednesday, July 29, 2009

EHL Franchise History

1954 is the first year that the old Eastern Amateur Hockey League (EAHL) formed in 1933 became known as simply the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), which is the major reason I use that as the starting year for (Whereas the EHL 1959-60 yearbook refers to that year as the 25th anniversary of the EHL.) The EAHL shut down for the 1953-54 season, and when it reformed as the EHL, such standard EAHL teams as the Boston Olympics and the Atlantic City Seagulls, and the MSG based New York Rovers were no longer in the league. 1954-55 was the first EHL season of the Clinton Comets and New Haven Blades. The following year, Worcester dropped out and the "modern day" EHL footprint really started with the re-admitance of the Johnstown Jets back from two years in the IHL, the addition of the Philadelphia Ramblers, and Baltimore moving to Charlotte after their arena burned down.

Within that 20 year period, the EHL was a relatively stable league as minor leagues go. Most of the franchise movement was in the first two years and the last two years. There were 17 total "new" franchises, of which two only lasted 1 year and both were experiments of sorts. The 1954-55 Worcester Warriors were allegedly the old Boston Olympics franchise. However, they were also an attempt to see how a team of local US amateurs would fare up against teams of mostly Canadians. Their main purpose was to fill a spot in the league, so that the other teams could fill out their schedules for that year. The 1964-65 NY Rovers were created as a test of having a development team at MSG for the Rangers. In the end, the development was deemed a success, but the cost of running the franchise was deemed not.

Below is a list of "new" franchises, and where they moved to. It's possible that all of these moves were not exact franchise shifts. In the case of the Jersey Larks moving to Knoxville, I've seen it written as the Jersey franchise being discontinued and at the same time Knoxville starting, and I've seen it written as a straight franchise shift. Since the GM, Ray Miron, and most of the players remained the same (even back from the Washington Presidents), I list that as all one franchise.

On the other hand, the Suncoast Suns appeared at the same time the Nashville Dixie Flyers disbanded. They were clearly a new franchise, though at least in their first exhibition game wore the old Nashville pants. They also received a lot of Nashville players, but this was after Greensboro had purchased all the Nashville players and then sold the players they didn't want from the combined Nashville/Greensboro rosters to Suncoast.

Simple name changes were the Charlotte Clippers becoming the Checkers, the Washington Lions becoming the Presidents, and the NY Rovers becoming the Long Island Ducks. If like me you saw the Charlotte Clippers being as silly as the Hartford Whalers - nautical names for land based cities - know that there was actually a minor league football Charlotte Clippers that played all through the 40s.

The Salem Rebels became Roanoke Valley when they started splitting their home games at the Roanoke Civic Center. Likewise, the Jacksonville Rockets became the Florida Rockets for several seasons, playing part of their home schedules in West Palm Beach and St. Petersburg. They later reverted back to just Jacksonville.

No team played a full schedule of games every season in the same city. Clinton played a partial season in 1954-55, while also playing in the Eastern Ontario League that year. Johnstown was in the IHL for the 1954-55 season. New Haven was forced out of town to Springfield, MA for the 1972-73 season, but the New England Blades folded by Thanksgiving. The Baltimore/Charlotte franchise played full schedules every year, but were not in the same location.

The most franchises in any year was 12, in both 1967-68 and 1972-73.

Baltimore Clippers (1954-55) -> Charlotte Clippers (1956-60)-> Charlotte Checkers (1960-73)
Clinton Comets (1954-73)
New Haven Blades (1954-1972) -> New England Blades (1972)
Washington Lions -> Washington Presidents (1957-60)-> Jersey Larks (1960-61)-> Knoxville Knights (1961-68)
Worcester Warriors (1954-55)

Johnstown Jets (1955-73)
Philadelphia Ramblers (1955-64) -> Jersey Devils (1964-73)

Greensboro Generals (1959-73)
New York Rovers/Long Island Ducks (1959-61/1961-73)

Nashville Dixie Flyers (1962-71)

New York Rovers (1964-65)
Jacksonville Rockets/Florida Rockets (1964-71)

Syracuse Blazers (1967-1973)
Salem Rebels/Roanoke Valley Rebels (1967-73)

Suncoast Suns (1971-73)

Rhode Island Eagles (1972-73)
Cape Cod Cubs (1972-73)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wally Sprange - Nashville Dixie Flyers

I was looking for a shot of the Nashville Dixie Flyers "pegasus" uniforms and came across this blog from Lowetide (an Edmonton Oilers based blog) on Wally Sprange. Jackpot on the photo, eh? As I recall, the one time I saw Sprange and the Dixie Flyers in the 1969-71 timeframe, they had "NASHVILLE" written across the front of their purple jerseys. I still haven't found a photo confirming that jersey.

The most memorable part of that game was Nashville scoring a goal in the second period against Jersey goalie Gilles Banville. The goal was insignificant in the big scheme of things, until they announced the shots for the period: Jersey 10, Nashville 1. I hope to track down the boxscore on that next time I'm back in Jersey.

I did see Nashville's purple pants one more time, on October 7, 1972, when the Suncoast Suns played their first game ever, a 7-1 exhibition victory over the Jersey Devils at Cherry Hill Arena. The game was a fundraser for the South Jersey Minor Hockey Association, which I played in that year - possibly the worst player in the league. Apparently, the Suns pants hadn't arrived, yet. So, they used the old purple Nashville pants. Imagine the green Suncoast jerseys with orange and yellow trim with green, orange and yellow stockings (see and purple pants. It was one of my favorite hockey uniforms of all time.

Sprange won the John Carlin Trophy as EHL leading scorer in 1970-71 with 45 goals and 89 assists for 134 points. Nashville folded at the end of that season, and the players were bought by Greensboro. The Generals kept the players they wanted, including Sprange, from their team and the ex-Dixie Flyers and sold the rest to the new Suncoast franchise. Sprange was a second team All-Star with Greensboro in the EHL's last season of 1972-73 season, with 40 goals and 92 assists for 132 points.

Wally Sprange Links:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Edgar "Chirp" Brenchley, coached Philadelphia Ramblers and New Haven Blades

Here's a link to something called buyroadwarrior, which cranks out seemingly totally random blogs for no particular stated reason: . This blog is on Edgar "Chirp" Brenchley. Here's an excerpt:

Coaching career

In 1955, Brenchley became the head coach of the Philadelphia Ramblers in the EHL. He stayed with the Ramblers for three seasons — also having iced for them once in the 1955–56 season. He became the head coach for the Sudbury Wolves for the 1962–63 season. The following season, 1963–64, he joined the Port Huron Flags as head coach before joining the St. Catharines Black Hawks for the 1964–65 season. Brenchley retired from coaching after the 1965–66 season which he had spent with the Toledo Blades

Retirement and after

Between 1967 and 1974 Brenchley served as a professional scout for both the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Brenchley was posthumously inducted into Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame in 1990 and the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.

Awards and honours

  • Olympic gold medalist in 1936.
  • World Championship silver medalist in 1937.
  • European Championship gold medalist in 1937.
  • Inducted to the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame in 1990.
  • Inducted to the British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
Not only was Brenchley a gold medalist with Great Britain in 1936, but he also scored the game winning gold medal goal.

Brenchley played for the Hershey B'ars, Atlantic City Seagulls, Washington Lions, New York Rovers, Baltimore Blades, Johnstown Jets and Philadelphia Falcons of the old EAHL (which preceded the EHL). According to, he also suited up for one game while coaching the Philadelphia Ramblers in the EHL.

Brenchley probably received the most EHL publicity being fired as coach (reassigned to scouting) of the New Haven Blades early in his first year of coaching them in 1959. The Blades were 7-16-3 and in last place at the time.

From the December 18-27, 1959 Bridgeport Post, the Blades players went on strike for their coach over the manner of his firing. Brenchley learned of the firing from some players via radio report. Owner and new GM Nathan Podoloff, who did the firing, was in Washington hiring new coach Wally Kullman away from the Washington Presidents. (This appears to be a standard practice during the whole length of the EHL. You could sign a player away from another team, if you made him your coach.) Even the six shareholders of Elm City Hockey, the group that owned the Blades, did not know that Podoloff had fired Brenchley. After several meetings, the players ended up playing all of the scheduled games.

In 1966 Brenchley was signed as a scout for southern Canada by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and later became their head scout.

From the 03-14-75 Winnipeg Free Press:
Edgar (Chirp) Brenchley, a scout for Washington Capitals of the NHL, died Thursday morning at the age of 63 ... He had been with the Capitals for a little over one year.
Brenchley moved to Niagara Falls from England when he was 12, and as an adult actually ran a tourist boat at the falls. So, if you're old enough to have been at the Niagra Falls back in the 50s and had a guide with a British accent, maybe it was Chirp Brenchley.

Chirp Brenchly Links:
Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame:
British Ice Hockey Hall of Fame: