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Cleveland Barons - Post Expansion Era


yave1964
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Cleveland Seals: Post Expansion Era MVRP  

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  1. 1. Select up to 3 players

    • LEFT WING BOB MURDOCH
    • CENTER DENNIS MARUK
    • RIGHT WING AL MACADAM
    • DEFENSE GREG SMITH
    • DEFENSE RICK HAMPTON
    • GOALIE GILLES MELOCHE


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The Cleveland Barons simply were the greatest organization in AHL history, shining from 1937 til 1973, They appeared in 14 Calder cup finals, winning a league record 9 of them, a record that to this day still hasnt been broken.

Sadly, this is not their story.

This is the story of a team from California that tried for nine years to prove hockey could draw even with a bad team in Northern California, tried with worse and worse teams before new owner Melvin Swig finally gave up and moved the team to his hometown of Cleveland, returning in glory. Sort of.

Actually he didnt quite make it to cleveland, the Barons played at the state of the art Richfield Coliseum, an arena built for the WHA Crusaders and NBA Cavaliers. Problem was, the stadium, rather than being downtown (where the people are) it was built 30 miles out of town (where the people are not). The plan was to draw from not only cleveland but the Akron canton area as well, and it worked, people from all three cities stayed away in equal numbers.

The biggest problem with the location was 30 minutes, 30 miles seemed like a reasonable plan, but rush hour in Cleveland is hell, and everyone trying to commute out of town at the same bumper to bumper time discouraged fans. So did poor play, but if they had been downtown, who knows, they might still be there. Instead, they earned the nickname the Cleveland Barrens.

They stayed in town for two seasons, the 1976-77 season and 1977-78. Playing in a beautiful arena, the largest capacity in the NHL at over 18,000 they only broke the ten thousand fan barrier ten times in the first season. Swig found himself in deep financial trouble, started missing payrolls, was bailed out by the league with a loan to finish the season then sold the team to George and Gordon Gund. The first season they finished with 63 points and the new owners promised that would change.

They were right, they next year they only had 57 points.

Actually, that is not entirely fair. The Gunds tried, traded for every veteran they could get their hands on, playing 33 players in all, They tried, but traded for Jean Potvin, not Denis. At one point they had the tail end of J.P. Parises career, instead of picking up his son zach (to be fair Zach was not born for another six years).They had one of the coolest nicknames in hockey history, 'the robber Baron" in Gil Meloche but after a combined 35-51-14 record over two years he needed to go into the witness protection program.

Anyway, the Gunds tried, the team got worse, they tried to purchase the coliseum to get out a horrible lease and when that failed, the league allowed the Barons and North stars to merge in Minnesota, ending NHL hockey in Cleveland (Or Richfield, you get the point). The Barons are the last pro sport team to completely cease operations, other cities have lost their teams to other cities, the Barons just no longer were. I think they got lost in the barrens.

Anyway, the best all time players for the Cleveland Barons...

LEFT WING BOB MURDOCH

Part of the 3M line, averaged 19 goals and 42 points in two seasons. Went on to play only one more season, with the Blues and was out of the game at the age of 25.

CENTER DENNIS MARUK

156 games, 149 points on a bad team. Of course, Maruk could always score and always seemed to be on bad teams, missing the playoffs his first seven seasons before becoming a 2nd line center for the North stars. Overall, this scrappy little guy played 888 games with 878 points with his best individual season with washington in 1981-82, with 60 goals, 136 points and 128 penalty minutes.

RIGHT WING AL MACADAM

Only Baron to play all 160 games, deserving of a medal or a free shrink appointment. The 3rd 'M' solid player, 111 points 110 PIMs in two years in the wilderness. Overall, 864 NHL games with 240 career goals, very solid player.

DEFENSE GREG SMITH

Solid defensive style, could rush the puck, in his two years there he had 16 goals and 157 penalty minutes. I remember watching him with the Wings in the early eighties, he had some flaws in his game but he could run a second unit power play and was not afraid to hit someone, any time any place. Kind of a poor mans Carol Vadnais.

DEFENSE RICK HAMPTON

I wish someone could explain this guys career to me. A d-man in name only, played forward a fair amount of time but was a master at running the power play, in two seasons with the wretched barons he scored 16 then 18 goals, with a total of 76 points. At 22, the world seemed to be his.

He played parts of two more seasons with the Kings, then bounced around the minors, even going to Switzerland. He played his last NHL game before his 24th birthday. I wish someone could tell me why.

GOALIE GILLES MELOCHE

The robber baron. five foot eight, solid goalie for a long time with bad teams, hence his career record of 270-351-131. Had really cool mustache in an era when facial hair was the in thing.

OTHER NOTABLES

WALT MCKECHNIE, who played nine playoff games his rookie year, then made the playoffs once in his next seventeen seasons on some really bad teams. Probably saw more bad hockey from ice level than anyone ever.

RICK JODZIO Played part of the final season in Cleveland. While with the Calgary Cowboys threw one of the most famous sucker punches in hockey history against Quebecs Marc Tardif. Story has nothing to do with Barons but just wanted it remembered because of my love for the WHA.

Thanks for reading, thanks for letting me do this.

Edited by yave1964
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I went with two players Maruk and Macadam. Meloche had his best years with the North Stars although he was the Barons only goalie. ;)

I wonder what the other part of the story is on Hamilton that isn't in print. Seems he left his career on the ice for something else.

And why didn't Bettman pay attention to what happened in Cleveland before placing the Coyotes in Phoenix in a rink to far from the attending population?

Nice blog Yave, enjoyed the humor.

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A lot of people have forgotten, Denis Maruk had a 50 goals season in 1980 and followed it up with a 60 goal effort the next year for the Capitals. Kinda tainted because you had guys like Blaine Stoughton and Al Secord popping in 50 goals in that era (the league was pretty watered down at the point IMHO).

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A lot of people have forgotten, Denis Maruk had a 50 goals season in 1980 and followed it up with a 60 goal effort the next year for the Capitals. Kinda tainted because you had guys like Blaine Stoughton and Al Secord popping in 50 goals in that era (the league was pretty watered down at the point IMHO).

A lot of people have forgotten, Denis Maruk had a 50 goals season in 1980 and followed it up with a 60 goal effort the next year for the Capitals. Kinda tainted because you had guys like Blaine Stoughton and Al Secord popping in 50 goals in that era (the league was pretty watered down at the point IMHO).

Hey dont go rippin on old Blaine Stoughton, he was one of my early heroes with the Stingers, lol
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  • 9 years later...

CLEVELAND BARONS
HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
INDUCTEES


01. 1952 - Bill Cook (AHL)
02. 1966 - Babe Pratt (AHL)
03. 1968 - Jim Hendy (AHL)
04. 1969 - Bryan Hextall (AHL)
05. 1976 - Johnny Bower (AHL)
06. 1978 - Andy Bathgate (AHL)
07. 1979 - Harry Howell (NHL)
08. 1982 - Emile Francis (AHL)
09. 1995 - Bun Cook (AHL)
10. 2000 - Walter Bush (NHL)

CLEVELAND BARONS
U.S. HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
INDUCTEES


01. 1974 - Virgil Johnson (AHL)
02. 1977 - Earl Bartholome (AHL)
03. 1977 - Eddie Olson (AHL)
04. 1978 - Peter Bessone (AHL)
05. 1980 - Walter Bush (NHL)
06. 1985 - Robert Blake (AHL)
07. 1986 - Ken Yackel (AHL)
08. 1989 - Robert Paradise (AHL)
09. 1998 - Lou Nanne (AHL)
10. 2003 - John Cunniff (AHL)
11. 2005 - Maurice Roberts (AHL)
12. 2006 - Gary Gambucci (AHL)

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