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Blazers and Cowboys another WHA MVRP


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  Next on my list is the Blazer/Cowboy organization who played in the WHA from 1972 until 1977 in three cities.


When the WHA was first starting up the plan was to bring pro hockey to markets where it currently was not, rather than take on the NHL head to head they wanted to expand into uncharted water as much as possible, with big cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles being exceptions. Originally a franchise was rewarded to Miami and the Miami Screaming Eagles were born. Sadly after making a splash and signing Bernie Parent away from the Maple Leafs the financial backing crumbled and the club moved to Philadelphia instead. The owners Bernard Brown and James Cooper signed Derek Sanderson to a 2.6 million dolar deal over five years, one of the all time worst contracts ever given to a hockey player. Sanderson was a nice complimentary player, a P/K specialist who was sneaky offensively and could score 20 or so goals a year but the star quality of the Bruins rubbed off on him as he wore mod clothes and let his hair grow long. John 'Pie' Mckenzie came over from the Bruins as well.

  Very first ever home game, against the Ottawa Nationals, mayor in the stands, good crowd, the Zamboni crashed thru the ice then while trying to get it loosened it tore up chunks of ice. The mayor and the owner left discreetly, Sanderson went to center ice with a microphone and announced the game would have to be rescheduled and the crowd who had been given souvenir pucks to commemorate the game pelted and pummeled Sanderson as he ran like hell from the ice. 

  They got off to a horrible start, Sanderson got injured and pouted, he had been treated with a certain star quality in Boston but was treated as a scapegoat in Philly, after only 8 games a buyout was arranged and he returned to the NHL.

  They caught fire late in the season and made the playoffs, led by McKenzie, Danny Lawson and Andre Lacroix as well as the netminding of Parent. A dispute over money as the playoffs started made Parent walk away from the team and return to the NHL and the stunned Blazers were swept in the first round and out of Philadelphia for good. After the only season in Philadelphia they moved to Vancouver.

  Two very inept seasons in Vancouver followed, Danny Lawson performed as a fifty goal scorer, Brian Campbell was a solid forward,Ron Ward who seemed to play everywhere in the WHA came back to Vancouver, he had played for the Canucks in the NHL, the team was wretched as the goaltending of George Gardner was not up to speed of a pickup league. Two years in and the club moved to Calgary and renamed themselves the Calgary Cowboys.

  The absolutely most boring uniform in the history of pro hockey was worn by the Calgary club, white with a red poorly designed cowboy hat on the chest.

   The first year in Calgary the club made a surprising playoff appearance led by Ron Chipperfield and the underated Lawson, one of the best players in the history of the WHA. Goalies Don McLeod and Wayne Wood got the mess in net straightened out, and they finished 3rd with 86 points and upset the heavily favored Quebec Nordiques in the first round, a fight marred series that saw the worst hit in the WHA history as goon Rick Jodzio of the Cowboys ran Marc Tardif and blindsided him after the play knocking him out of the series and giving him a concussion that would haunt him the rest of his career. The Coyboys actually bullied and beat on the more finesse oriented Nords and defeated them 4-1 before falling in five tough games to eventual Avco cup winner Winnipeg.

  The next season, the last in Calgary the team fell back to earth, they went from 86 points to 69, Lawson slipped from 44goals to 24, getting dealt late in the year to Winnipeg, newcomers and fringe NHLers Lynn Powis, Warren Miller and Chris Evans played uninspired hockey and the team stumbled through the season. The WHA was negotiating a merger with the NHL after the 1977 season and Calgary was hoping to be part of the merger but Ballard of the Leafs and the Habs killed the deal and the owner of the Cowboys, with only 2,000 season tickets sold gave up and closed up shop. Three years later the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary proving that the NHL was capable of working there.

  Notables from the organization

DANNY LAWSON: The only player to play all five seasons with the organization, in 378 game scoring 212 goals and 409 points. Lawson had played as a 4th liner with the Wings and the Northstars in the NHl but really found his call in the WHA.

  RON CHIPPERFIELD Signed out of junior by Vancouver he was a natural goal scorer but had a reputation for lazy play. He was a 40 goal guy in the WHA, after the merger with the NHL he scored 22 in his only NHL season and his career was over at 26 years old.

ANDY BATHGATE finished his Hall of Fame career with Vancouver. PIE MCKENZIE scored 190 points in 175 games with the organization. BUTCH DEADMARSH, cousin of long time NHLer Adam was the teams leading penalty man, accumulating 401 over his time with the organization. ANDRE LACROIX changed teams every year in the WHA, put in a great year with the Blazers with 50 goals and 74 assists. Hall of famer HARRY HOWELL finished his career with the cowboys. BERNIE PARENT who only played the one year for the Blazers before crossing town to resume his Hall of Fame career with the Flyers still managed to wind up second in total wins by a goalie in the organization trailing only Don Mcleod.



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