Friday, October 15, 2010

In 1956, Charlotte Discovered Hockey

On the day of the the Charlotte Checkers first game in the AHL, the Charlotte Observer remembered back to the first game ever in Charlotte, back in 1956. Link to Charlotte Observer article.

On January 23, 1956, Carlin's Iceland Arena, home to the EHL Baltimore Clippers, burned to the ground. The Clippers quickly rescheduled five of their remaining "home" games for the new Charlotte Coliseum. Charlotte had applied for membership in the EHL for 1956-57, but were by no means accepted. This gave the league a chance to test-market hockey in the south. The first game was January 30, 1956, with the Baltimore Clippers taking on the New Haven Blades. Needless to say, it was quite the success.

Here are the AP and UP national stories from the first game in Charlotte January 30, 1956...

Pro Ice Hockey Goes Over Big In Charlotte CHARLOTTE -- (AP) --Professional ice hockey came to Charlotte for the first time last night, and it may be-here to stay. Owner Charlie Rock of the Baltimore Clippers surveyed the 10,363 persons jammed into the coliseum here and announced that if interest keeps up he'll urge the Eastern Hockey League transfer his franchise to Charlotte.
The Clippers' lost a 6-2 game to the New Haven Blades. An estimated 3,000 persons were turned away because all available standing and sitting space was taken. Those that did get in saw a jarring, bruising game, complete with fist fights. The big crowd loved it. They shouted their approval, and gave the Clippers the home town treatment throughout the contest. The Baltimore team lost its arena in a fire. It will play at least four more games here this season.

Ice Hockey Lures 10,363 to Coliseum CHARLOTTE -- (UP) -- Residents of Charlotte apparently have taken the northern sport of ice hockey to their hearts. The largest indoor sports crowd in the Queen City's' history, 10,363 fans turned out last night to watch the New Haven Blades down the "homeless" Baltimore Clippers, 6-2, in an Eastern Hockey League game. And officials said another 3,000 persons, were turned away from the city's new multi-million dollar coliseum.

The Charlotte fans may not have picked up the fine points of the game as explained over the public address system, but they quickly learned like hockey fans everywhere that the fights are more interesting than the game. There were two
battles during the contest, a small number considering the highly publicized "Feud" between the two teams.

New Haven, currently leading the six-team Eastern loop, had little trouble with the fifth-place Clippers.
The Blades' top line of John Sherban, Claude Boileau and Yvan Chasle turned in four goals, Sherban providing two. Ron Rohmer and Alf Lewsey also contributed to the scoring. Defensemen Mike Desilets and Ralph De Leo scored for Baltimore both in the final period after New Haven had a comfortable lead. The. game was the first of six to be played here by the Clippers whose home arena in Baltimore was destroyed-by fire last week.
The list of Clippers-in-Charlotte (they were still the Baltimore Clippers until the following season) firsts is a nice Hockey Who's Who.
First Save: Les Binkley.
First Penalty: John Brophy.
First Opposition Penalty: Don Perry.
First Goal: Mike Desilets (okay, maybe not all are household names, but assisted by John Muckler).
Second Clippers Goal: John Muckler.
First Opposition Goal: Johnny Sherban. (Four goals in total by the famed CBS line of Chasle, Boileau and Sherban for New Haven.)

Here's your boxscore...


  1. I recall that the New Haven Blades had a black player,Ray Leacock, who they couldn't dress for games in Charlotte.

  2. At least in the national press, racism was forgotten for this game. Alf Lewsey scored in the third period for the Blades. None of the articles I've read (I don't have the local Charlotte papers) mentions that Lewsey was black.