Friday, April 30, 2010

New Book & Booksigning - Hockey Night in Utica by Jim Mancuso
Clinton, NY hockey recognized and remembered - Rome Observer 04/29/10 CLINTON — A celebration to recognize the important role that Clinton has played in the development and popularity of professional hockey throughout the United States is planned for Monday, May 3 at 7 p.m. at the Clinton Historical Society with the first public release and book signing of “Hockey Night in Utica,” the latest book in a series by internationally recognized hockey historian, James Mancuso. Featuring the history and relationship of the Clinton Comets, the Mohawks and the Stars, Mancuso’s new book is a history about professional hockey in Utica, New York, during the North American Hockey League (NAHL), North Eastern Hockey League/Eastern Hockey League (NEHL/EHL) and Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL) years from the 1973-74 to the 1986-87 seasons. There will be several members of the professional Comets team present plus the author will be available to autograph copies. Mancuso has dedicated the book to Bill Horton, who tragically lost his life while awaiting a heart transplant in May of 1988 and has pledged to donate profits from the book to the American Heart Association. Refreshments will be available. The Society is located at No. 1 Fountain Street across from the Village Parking Lot.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mount St. Charles Arena - The Other Remaining EHL Arena

Back in February, I got to visit my second Eastern Hockey League arena ever. (The first was Cherry Hill Arena where I watched the Jersey Devils from 1969-73.) Can you guess where I was?

Here are some clues...
* It was completed in 1963.
* It's up on a hill.
* It was originally named after a brother of the Sacred Heart.
* It still has chain link fencing instead of glass.
* A national hockey dynasty still plays there.
* It is probably the least remembered of the remaining active Eastern Hockey League arenas.
* The game below played was played there. The home team in white shows Bob Buchy #16, Nick Haramis (facing) and Dave Patterson #10 on the attack against Jersey Devils goalie Jim Park.
* It's in the city of Woonsocket.
* ...(that's in Rhode Island).

Give up? The 1972-73 EHL Rhode Island Eagles played at the Mount St. Charles Arena, also known as Brother Adelard Arena. Brother Adelard was coach of the now famous Mount Saint Charles Academy in the 1930s and 1940s, creating a Rhode Island state champion team by bringing in ringers from Canada. Here's an article on Brother Adelard from Sports Illustrated from 1985, when Adelard was 100. (He lived to be 106).

Interestingly, the EHL directory in a Syracuse Blazers program I have says that the Eagles home arena was the Rhode Island Auditorium, which was the home of the AHL Providence Reds for years, until they moved to the new Providence Civic Center in 1972-73. I'm interested to find out if this was ever the plan, and if so, what changed.

I wish I had some more shots, like the cinder block corridor painted red underneath the stands, where the bathrooms were. Unfortunately, as I was taking some of the rink shots, the guy who was running practice on the ice suddenly shouted "Hey!" and came racing over to me, face aglare. As he approached, his face lightened up and almost winking he said confidentially something like "I don't really care, but the coach would have your head." It was then that I realized that this must be the famed Mount St. Charles Academy team practicing on the ice, and that "coach" was Mount St. Charles coach Bill Belisle. The assistant must have been able to tell from the expression of terror and bewilderment on my face that I wasn't actually spying on the team. I quickly put my camera away and moved out to the lobby. It turns out that "The Mount" had a playoff game that night. At 9 PM. Who plays hockey at 9 PM? Well, actually, in the early years of the Eastern Hockey League, 8:30 and 9 PM were standard times for games. In the late 1950s, teams did experiments with 7PM games to see if people would show up.

You don't know about the famed Mount St. Charles Academy hockey team? Do Garth Snow, Brian Berard, Keith Carney, Mathieu Schneider and Brian Lawton ring a bell?

The seats are lovely, eh? It's hard to tell what the max capacity of the arena was. Currently it is 800. Part of that is that one side apppears to be completely roped off and unused. There are only 4 or 5 rows of seats, depending on where you are, on each side. There is standing room at the back with tables you can stand and eat at. On my visit, I also stopped at the Woonsocket Public Library to get about the first six weeks of the 1972-73 season in the Woonsocket newspapers. I think that 1200 was about the largest crowd listed, and they seemed disappointed in the attendance. A Johnstown Jets program from that year shows Mount St. Charles Arena as holding 2000. Attendance must have improved as the season went on, as they were initially in the discussion for continuing on in the NAHL, when the EHL split at the end of that season.

On the way out, I felt a need to get an EHL arena cheeseburger. The girl behind the counter pulled a burger out of the freezer, and put it in an electric frying pan. (There was no game. I was between a mite practice and the high school team practice, so I was glad there was any food at all.) I had about ten minutes to wander the lobby while I waited. The burger was just about what you'd expect. Probably about the same as Cherry Hill Arena. My food memory of Cherry Hill Arena is of the pizza, which was the way I still like pizza: thin crust with oregano. That memory also includes finding my program after the game on the floor with a pizza stain on it.

The lobby is filled with Mt. Saint Charles awards and memorabilia. I could find no indication that the Rhode Island Eagles or the Eastern Hockey League had ever been there. Except for the pictured plaque over the arena entrance, there was no indication that Brother Adelard was there either.

The one thing I came away with was the feel of the arena, the sense that even with the whole run down nature of it, that this would be a great place to see a game. It gave me inspiration to make sure and make the trips to go see games in the other EHL arenas. I realized that even if an EHL level team isn't playing in the old arenas, a high school game or a junior game would be great to watch there.

As I drove down the hill from the arena, I came to a T where my car was so sharply downhill, that I was surprised my bumper wasn't touching the road in front of me. And you thought there were no hills in Rhode Island. They don't call it "The Mount" for nothing.

Click on any of the photos for a more detailed view.

More about Mount Saint Charles Academy and Mount Saint Charles Arena
Ice Kings, the Movie:
Pride on The Mount by John Gillooly:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Clinton Comets' Pat Kelly named to Greater Utica Hall of Fame

6 named to Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame
Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 04:11 PM

Six former area athletes were named Friday to the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame.

The inductees are: Byron Abraham, Ernest Jones, Pat Kelly, J. Michael Barr, Alonzo Patterson and Rick Siriano.

The induction ceremony will take place Sunday, June 6, at the Radisson Hotel-Utica Centre. The event will begin at 4 p.m. with a cocktail hour followed by dinner and program.

Tickets are $25, and can be purchased by emailing

Greater Utica Sports HOF selects '10 class
- WKTV Newschannel 2 Sports

The Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame released its 2010 Class of Inductees Friday. This year’s selections are:

...Former National Hockey League coach Patrick J. Kelly. The 2008 ECHL Hall of Fame Inductee coached in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, American Hockey League, Eastern Hockey League, International Hockey League, Quebec Hockey League, Southern Hockey League, and World Hockey League in addition to the National Hockey League. He led the famed Clinton Comets to 5 first place finishes, the Charlotte Checkers (SHL) to 2 first place finishes, and the Salem Raiders (ACHL) to a first place finish. In 1984-85, his Peoria Rivermen finished first overall in the IHL. His teams won 3 Walker Cups, 2 James Crockett Trophies, and one Turner Cup. He was SHL Coach of the Year in 1974-75 and IHL Co-Coach of the Year in 1984-85. His combined coaching record is 936-798-170.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Wheeling to Play 10 Regular Season Home Games at Johnstown Next Year

Breaking news: Nailers to play 11 games in Johnstown next year

JOHNSTOWN — The AA affiliate of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and SMG Management have announced that they have teamed up to keep exciting ECHL professional hockey alive in Johnstown by playing 10 regular season games at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena throughout the 2010-2011 season.

The idea was generated upon the heels of the Johnstown Chiefs’ announcement just a few months ago that they were leaving for Greenville, S.C., for the 2010-2011 season.

Rob and Jim Brooks, owners of the Wheeling Nailers, grew up less than an hour from Johnstown. Knowing the strong history of hockey there, the two felt heartbroken to learn hockey would not longer be part of the community’s landscape.

"Hockey at the War Memorial has played a huge part in my life," Jim Brooks recalled. "As a youth and through high school I played many games in the Historic War Memorial and also attended several Chiefs games. It's a great honor to be able to keep their strong ECHL hockey tradition alive."... read more

UPDATE::ECHL Hockey in Johnstown Next Year Confirmed

Arena confirms: Wheeling Nailers to play some games in Johnstown next year JOHNSTOWN — ECHL hockey will be played in Johnstown for at least part of the league’s 23rd season.

Cambria County War Memorial Arena General Manager Tim Landis of SMG confirmed that an official announcement will be made today detailing plans to have the Wheeling Nailers play some of their home games in Johnstown.

“ECHL hockey will be in Johnstown next season,” Landis said Friday night. “It’s a done deal. We’re excited for the opportunity to provide the community of Johnstown with ECHL hockey. On behalf of the Cambria County Commissioners, we worked with the (Wheeling Nailers owners) Brooks brothers to create a win-win situation and keep the ECHL present in Johns-town.”

The Johnstown Chiefs will play their final ECHL game tonight at the War Memorial. The date against Elmira is sold out as the Chiefs conclude their 22-season run in the league.

Speculation that Wheeling, operated by James and Robert Brooks, was negotiating to play an unspecified number of games here had surfaced in the weeks after the Chiefs’ Feb. 14 announcement that the team would move to Greenville, S.C., next season because of declining attendance and financial difficulties.

Other leagues such as the fledgling Federal Hockey League and the International Hockey League made inquires about Johnstown, but the Wheeling situation gained momentum over the past week.

“We see this as an opportunity for us to prove to the ECHL that we can support ECHL hockey,” Landis said.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wheeling Nailers Eyeing Agreement to Play Some Games in Johnstown Next Season

From this morning's Johnstown Tribune-Democrat:

"JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Chiefs are heading south, but ECHL hockey still might be played here on a scaled back version next season.

For more than a month, speculation has surfaced that the Wheeling Nailers might play some of their home games at Cambria County War Memorial Arena in 2010-11.

Multiple sources have confirmed that talks between the War Memorial and Nailers owners James and Robert Brooks have been ongoing and negotiations might be finalized today. The number of games that might be played in Johnstown and how the travel would affect Wheeling season-ticket holders hadn’t been made public on Thursday."...

The multiple-city concept was used in the EHL, though it's hard to say it was much of a success. Of course, none of the teams listed below were all that great to start with. The Florida Rockets played home games in Jacksonville, but also St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach. After becoming "Jacksonville" again, they played some home games in Macon, Georgia.

The Philadelphia Ramblers and Jersey Devils played home games in each other's rinks. (The Ramblers became the Devils in 1964.) Their rinks were within a half hour away, so home fans could get to the other rink.

The 1964-65 version of the New York Rovers was based in Madison Square Garden but played some home games in Norwalk, CT, Syracuse, NY (as did the Devils that year), and Philadelphia.

The Washington Lions of 1954-55 played four home games in Atlantic City, NJ.

There were plenty of other occurrences of home games in road arenas throughout EHL history.