Saturday, June 16, 2018

2004 Off-season

2004 Entry Draft

It had been years since the Los Angeles Wizards had a true franchise player, but the team believed they finally had just that when they selected Russian sensation Oleg Gusarov with the first overall pick. Gusarov led the Russian national junior team in scoring and even played a few pro games in the European Elite League. The hope was that Gusarov would play in the World Hockey Challenge and then turn pro right away with the Wizards. The Portland Cascades selected Patrick Diaz, a big winger from Winnipeg with the second overall pick, while Pittsburgh took another forward, Chad Hartley. The New Orleans Sound made some particularly big picks, taking Czech goaltender Petr Kaleek 11th, and Russian star Dimitri Kozkov 18th. Both players were late 1985 birthdays and had played pro in the European leagues in 2003-04. Kaleek even backstopped his team to a championship and has been named Czech Republic’s starter for the 2004 World Hockey Challenge.

1.      LA – Oleg Gusarov, F, RUS
2.      POR – Patrick Diaz, F, CAN
3.      PIT – Chad Hartley, F, CAN
4.      OAK – Justin Ramsey, D, USA
5.      CGY – Niklas Ohlin, D, SWE
6.      WSH – Josh Lyons, F, CAN
7.      DEN – Ryan Farmer, F, CAN
8.      STL – Dominik Dvorak, D, CZE
9.      CLE – Jamie Ward, D, CAN
10.   NYC – Sami Tuominen, G, CAN
11.   NOS – Peter Kaleek, G, CZE
12.   WPG – Tristen Weaver, F, CAN
13.   MIA – Kyle Hughes, G, USA
14.   ATL – Dion Hoyt, D, USA
15.   MTL - Nick Paszek, F, CAN
16.   DET – Kurt Ostrowski, F, CAN
17.   QUE – Jaroslav Kovac, D, SVK
18.   NOS (From MIL) – Dimitri Koskov, F, RUS
19.   MIN – Pascal Lafrois, F, CAN
20.   VAN – Ben Schmitt, D, CAN
21.   LI – Alexander Marinov, F, RUS
22.   DAL – Dan Wolanski, F, CAN
23.   KC – Jordan Cox, F, USA
24.   OAK (From BOS) – Sean Miller, F, USA
25.   CAR – Cameron Carr, G, USA
26.   NOS (From TOR) – Ulf Hagelin, F, SWE
27.   EDM – Bryan Taylor, D, USA
28.   PHI – Jay Foster, D, CAN
29.   CHI – Mike McMaster, D, CAN
30.   SEA – Nikolai Ozerov, F, RUS

Notable Retirements:

Viktor Skogg, F, LA, MTL, 1986-2004
One of the greatest European talents in PHL history, Viktor Skogg came over from Sweden as part of the legendary 1986 draft class as a member of the Los Angeles Wizards. Playing with legends Stuart Holly and Sheldon Hopkins, Skogg proved to be a natural goal-scorer, finishing third all-time in Wizards goals. When Holly retired, Skogg became the face of the Wizards and was one of the few bright spots during a difficult decade for the franchise in the 1990s. In 2002, Skogg left LA to join the Montreal Royale, where he finished his career. Sadly, Skogg may be the greatest player to never reach the Lewis Cup Finals.

Jonathan Adams, D, CGY, MTL, VAN, 1986-2004
Another product of that 1986 draft, Jonathan Adams earned a reputation as one of the fiercest competitors the PHL has ever seen as well as one of its most feared hitters. Adams was perhaps best remembered for his devastating hit that took out California’s Matt Pope and Ilya Severov at the same time in 1992 while he was a member of the Calgary Wranglers. Adams signed with Montreal in the summer of 1999, just missing out on a Lewis Cup championship that would unfortunately elude him his entire career. He finally reached the final with Vancouver in 2004, his final season, where the Bighorns lost a game seven heartbreaker to Philadelphia.

Elliot Andrews, D, MIL, DET, MIA, CGY, KC, DAL, CLE, VAN, CHI, EDM 1985-2004
Elliot Andrews was a valuable shut-down defenseman throughout his career. But the man nick-named “U-haul” was probably best remembered for the distinction of playing for more franchises than any player in league history. Andrews was drafted by the Milwaukee Choppers just days after the team moved from Dallas but only played a handful of games in Milwaukee before being dealt to Detroit for hall-of-famer Cliff Lyle. Ultimately, Andrews would play 19 seasons for ten teams, three of those teams within the 2000-01 season. Andrews managed to win one cup once, with Kansas City in 2000, the team he spent the most seasons with.

Notable Trades

New Orleans trades G Viktor Holmqvist to Boston in exchange for D Jarkko Nikula and a 1st round pick in ’05.
Holmqvist gives Boston a true star in net, while the Sound get some big pieces for their rebuild.

Pittsburgh trades G Ryan Shultz to Minnesota in exchange for 1st round pick in ’05.
Shultz will replace Christian Grayson in Minnesota as the number one goalie after Grayson left for Calgary.

Key Free Agents


F Jake Wilson signs new 12-year deal with Quebec worth $9 Million/year.
D Corey Clark signs new 10-year deal with Chicago worth $8 Million/year.
F Jayson Clarke signs new 5-year deal with Atlanta worth $7 Million/year.
D Jyrki Rainimak signs new 4-year deal with Portland worth $6 Million/year.
G Jussi Sykko signs new 5-year deal with Toronto worth $5 Million/year.
G Martin Barker signs new 4-year deal with Denver worth $5 Million/year.
F Justin Pratt signs new 6-year deal with Denver worth $5 Million/year.
D Matt Potter signs new 5-year deal with Calgary worth $4 Million/year.


F Igor Zharkov (WSH) signs 5-year deal with New York worth $11 Million/year.
After 12 years in DC, Zharkov leaves for Broadway as the Civics attempt to rebuild a contender through free agency.

G Matt Darwin signs new 6-year deal with Milwaukee worth $9 Million/year.
The Choppers lock up their star goaltender for the remainder of the decade.

F Drake Klausen (SEA) signs 4-year deal with New York worth $8 Million/year.
The Grey Wolves lack cap space to resign the popular Klausen, who becomes the second big-name player of the summer to sign with New York.

G Christian Grayson signs 3-year deal with Calgary worth $3 Million/year.
After a backstopping a legendary Lumberjacks team through the 90s and early 00s, Grayson takes his two Lewis Cup rings to Calgary, where the Wranglers hope to return to the playoffs.

G Jake Borman (TOR) signs 1-year deal with Atlanta worth $1.5 Million/year.
Borman will likely finish his career in Atlanta, splitting playing time with Ben Kerrigan.

F Kim Brodie (KC) signs 2-year deal with Toronto worth $1 Million/year.
Brodie will finish his successful career with the team he grew up cheering for and with a chance at a championship.


During league meetings in June, 2004, several rule changes were discussed. Among them, the league considered adding a shootout to decide tied games during the regular season. Shootouts had been used in International hockey for years and the league no longer wanted paying fans to have to settle for a tied game. In the end, the shootout was tabled for the future but would be tested at the 2004 World Hockey Challenge in Stockholm.

One rule change that was adopted for 2004-05 was a change to the league standings system. Previously, the three division winners in each conference were awarded the top three seeds, regardless of point totals. Beginning in 2004-05, the division winners would only be guaranteed playoff positions. For example, in 2003-04, the South Division champion Carolina Raiders were given the third seed despite finishing with the fewest points of all Eastern Conference playoff teams. An identical scenario in ’04-’05 would see the Raiders finish eighth. “We want to make sure we’re rewarding the teams that win hockey games” said Darryl Byrd.

The Atlanta Copperheads suffered a blow in July. Their star forward Jason Ferland had been arrested and charged with assault causing bodily harm when a brawl broke out in a Miami bar late in the season. On July 6, Ferland accepted a plea deal that resulted in a six-month jail sentence, meaning he would not be in the Atlanta lineup until at least February, possibly longer if the league decided to suspend him for the season. Though Atlanta GM Paul Needham was faced with faced with the dilemma of replacing his top center, his biggest concern seemed to be for the young man in his organization. “I think Jason made a big mistake and now he’s willing to pay for it and learn from it” said Needham. “He’s a good kid, we will be behind him as he deals with this.”

The soap opera that was the New Orleans Sound finally seemed to be coming to an end in August. With the league unable to find a buyer committed to keeping the team in Louisiana, Houston billionaire Bernie Cratt finally bought the team for $150 Million. Cratt was honest when asked about his intentions with the franchise. “I will look to get the team moved to Houston hopefully within the next year or two” said Cratt. “All we can guarantee at this point is that the team will remain in New Orleans for 2004-05”.

Friday, June 1, 2018

PHL, Duke Sports Reveal New Uniform System

Beginning in the 2005-06 season, PHL uniforms will never be the same. On July 1, 2004, Duke Sports & Apparel finally revealed their much-anticipated new FitLite hockey uniform, which will see the ice for the first time at the 2005 PHL All-Star Game. The new jerseys will be nearly 50% lighter than what the teams currently wear and also feature a slimmer fit, as well as an elasticized mesh-like material on the sides of the jersey and the underside of the arms to promote a more comfortable and breathable fit. The socks are also made with a more breathable fabric.

As for the look of the uniforms, the Duke logo will appear just below the collar on the front of each jersey, while the PHL logo will now appear on the back. The league also announced that as of 2005-06 the home and away uniforms will be reversed league-wide, with the home team wearing their team colours and the road team wearing white. A few teams have stated that they will make major changes to their look, some will make more minor changes while most will simply adapt their current designs to the new template. Alternate jerseys will be suspended for one season but will return in 2006-07.

The PHL requested that teams refrain from making changes to their uniforms for the 2004-05 season with one exception. In a new league tradition, the teams participating in the 2004 Holiday Classic both unveiled retro uniforms for the event. The host Boston Bulldogs will wear the uniforms they wore during the 1960s and '70s, while the visiting Philadelphia Redshirts will wear their uniforms from the same era, which was seen as the peak of the rivalry between the two clubs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

2004 Lewis Cup Finals

The 2004 Lewis Cup Finals began on June 2 in Philadelphia as the Cinderella Bighorns, playing in their first-ever final, faced the heavily favoured Redshirts, playing in the finals for the second time in four years. Game one went to Philadelphia thanks to two goals from Alexei Ivanov. Game two was much closer, as the teams remained deadlocked at 2 until the third period, when Jared Baxter beat Philippe Gagnon with a hard slap shot. Philly took a 2-0 series lead with a 4-2 win.

The series shifted to Vancouver for game three, the first Lewis Cup Finals game ever in the city. The statue of George Vancouver in front of City Hall was dressed in a large Bighorns jersey and an overflow crowd of 18,900 packed into Northwest Air Center. The Bighorns knew they needed a win to stay in the series. The game would go to overtime, where the Redshirts nearly took a 3-0 series lead when Jared Baxter rung a shot off the post. Moments later, Vancouver took a penalty when Tory Partridge was called for roughing. Philadelphia had another chance on the powerplay. But Gagnon stood tall, stopping 12 shots during the powerplay. As Partridge exited the box, defenseman Trevor Kerwick hit him with a pass and sprung him on a breakaway. Partridge beat Pierre Noel to win the game. In game four, Blair Horton was the overtime hero for Vancouver as the Bighorns tied the series.

The pressure was now on the Redshirts heading into game five back in Philly. Captain Jared Baxter, held scoreless in Vancouver, knew he needed to step up if the team was going to close out the series. The Bighorns took a 2-0 lead early, leading coach Clint Allen to pull Noel in favour of backup Steve Christie. Noel, unhappy with being pulled, smashed his stick over the boards and had a few words with Allen before storming off to the dressing room. Meanwhile on the ice, Redshirts pest Alex Leblanc drew a penalty when he yanked Blair Horton’s stick right out of his hands after a whistle. Horton threw a punch at Leblanc and was called for roughing. Leblanc then scored on the powerplay and nodded his head toward Horton as he left the penalty box. An irate Horton once again went after Leblanc while Corey Powell and Tory Partridge squared off as well. Clint Allen even jumped up on the boards a started yelling at the Vancouver bench, calling them “a bunch of thugs”. After handing out several penalties, the officials finally got the game under control. That’s when the Philadelphia captain finally stepped it up. Jared Baxter beat Jonathan Adams to a puck in the crease and jammed it past Gagnon to tie the game. Then, with three minutes remaining in regulation, Baxter scored again as Philly took the lead. The Redshirts held on to take the game and a 3-2 series lead.

With the cup in the building in game six, the big story concerned the Philadelphia net. Pierre Noel had struggled, while Steve Christie had played well. Christie was given the start. Noel made his disappointment with his coach known. “I think I could come back and win this for us but I guess he disagrees” said Noel. “We’ll see what happens I guess.” What happened was a 4-0 rout for a desperate Vancouver team to force game seven. The first time since 1987 and 1988 that the finals would go to seven games in back-to-back years.

Prior to game seven, Clint Allen met with his number one goalie in an attempt to patch things up and to inform him that he would be starting game seven. Allen faced 38 shots as the game went to the third period with no score. Early in the third period, Sean Nowakowski finally broke the tie and gave Philadelphia the lead. The Bighorns scrambled to tie the game but Noel stood tall. Vancouver pulled Gagnon in a last-minute effort to tie the game, but Baxter took the puck the length of the ice and sealed the win with an empty-net goal. The Philly crowd counted down the final seconds as the players poured off the bench. The Redshirts had waited 62 years for their first Lewis Cup, the wait for their second was only three. Jared Baxter was named playoff MVP after an inspired performance.

In Vancouver, the fans handled the loss with grace and class, despite their disappointment. They quietly left the Northwest Air Center, where they had watched on the big screen. Some fans even helped clean up garbage on their way out, while others were seen washing the windows of a police car. “Nobody would’ve blamed those fans if they rioted after the loss” said CBC commentator Graham Helm. “But they showed incredible sportsmanship.”

Sunday, May 27, 2018

2004 Playoffs

Round One

Eastern Conference

Philadelphia (1) vs Montreal (8)
After stumbling into the playoffs, the aging Royale proved to be no match for the powerful Redshirts. Pierre Noel allowed only six goals in five games as Philly advanced. But the win would come at a cost for the Redshirts, as Jared Baxter suffered a broken hand in game four.

Toronto (2) vs Detroit (7)
Both teams split the first four games of the series 2-2 with Joe Murdock scoring in each game for Toronto. Murdock found the net again in game five, while goaltender Jussi Sykko stopped 33 shots for the shutout as the Racers took a 3-2 lead. Detroit opened the scoring in game six, but could not stop the Toronto offense as Murdock, Darren Reid, and Ty McInnis each scored in a 3-1 win to take the series.

Carolina (3) vs Quebec (6)
Appearing in their first post-season since reaching the finals in 1996, the Quebec Nationale never really got into their first round series with Carolina. After dropping game one in Charlotte 3-2 in overtime, the Nats scored only one goal in the next two games as the Raiders jumped to a 3-0 series lead. Game four in Quebec went to OT as well, where Brandon Sweetwater proved to be the hero for Carolina as the Raiders completed the sweep.

Boston (4) vs Long Island (5)
After a decade-long hiatus, one of the PHL’s all-time greatest rivalries was back in full swing as Boston met Long Island for the second year in a row. The Bulldogs immediately took a 3-0 series lead and tempers erupted in game three. After Boston agitator Isaac Hart scored the fourth goal in a 4-0 Boston win, he taunted Long Island goaltender Chris McNally. McNally responded with a blocker to Hart’s head which quickly drew a crowd. Long Island head coach Cam Norton called Hart’s taunt “classless” to which Hart responded by calling Norton, a veteran coach of 22 years, a “crazy old clown”. It seemed as though Hart’s antics sparked the Concordes, as they won the next two games to force the series to game six, then forced game six into overtime, where Boston finally clinched the series. Further rubbing salt in the Concordes’ wound, Isaac Hart scored the winner for Boston.

Western Conference

Seattle (1) vs Milwaukee (8)
Brad McNair, playing in only his second playoff, continued his dominant play in round one against the heavily favoured Grey Wolves. The 23-year-old scored three of Milwaukee’s four goals in games one and two before his performance culminated in a hat-trick in game four. Milwaukee upset the Wolves in five games to win their first playoff series since 1992.

Chicago (2) vs Minnesota (7)
Minnesota entered the 2004 playoffs with a lot of pressure on them. With an aging roster, there would not be many more opportunities to win a championship. Their first round series with Chicago did not go as planned, as the Shamrocks took a 3-2 series lead after five games. Game six in Minneapolis was tied 2-2 after two periods, when veteran Stanislav Zykov beat Chicago goaltender Kari Nurminen to send the series to game seven. Game seven would be tight, tied 1-1 with four minutes to go in regulation. When Nurminen went to play the puck in the corner, he bobbled it and Simon Brassard picked it up and scored. The goal held up as the winner as Minnesota took the series.

Edmonton (3) vs Vancouver (6)
In the most physical series of the playoffs, the Northern Lights had a tough time finding space against a big, tough Vancouver team. To make matters worse for Edmonton, Bighorns goaltender Todd Waddell was injured in game two, and rookie backup Philippe Gagnon, who had played most of the year in the Can/Am league, was seemingly unbeatable through the rest of the series, as Vancouver completed the upset to advance in six games.

Kansas City (4) vs Dallas (5)
One of two series that would go to a deciding game in the first round, this one would prove to be one of the most intense in league history, with six out of seven games reaching overtime. Brett Delaney and Shannon Michaels were the heroes in games one and two, as Kansas City took a 2-0 series lead. Dallas would then even things up as Alexei Rolonov had a shutout in game three, then AJ Vernon scored the OT winner in game four. In game five, the Twisters came back from a pair of two-goal deficits before veteran Kim Brodie scored the OT winner to give KC a 3-2 lead. But Rolonov would post another shutout in game six as Shawn Marchinski scored to send the series to game seven, where Dallas nearly won the series on a Lamar Jackson shot that went off the post. Minutes later, Delaney was the hero again for the Twisters, beating Rolonov to send KC to the second round.

Round Two

Philadelphia vs Boston
After a tough series with Long Island, the Bulldogs entered the second round facing another arch-rival. Despite winning game one, the Baxter-less Redshirts dropped games two and three thanks in part to a big performance from Brendan Marlo. The Redshirts bounced back in game four as Alex Leblanc scored in overtime. However, two goals from Isaac Hart helped Boston to a 3-0 win in game five and a 3-2 series lead. With the Redshirts facing elimination, Jared Baxter returned to the lineup in game six but played only ten minutes. The Redshirts still managed to force a game seven with a 4-2 win. In game seven, Baxter stepped up big, scoring the go-ahead goal late in the second period. The goal held up as Philly cruised to a 5-2 win to move on the Eastern Conference Finals.

Kansas City vs Milwaukee
After their big upset over Seattle, the Choppers never really got into their second-round series with Kansas City. Jimmy Otterburn had a shutout in a 4-0 game one victory and that set the tone for the rest of the series. After a 3-1 win for the Twisters in game two, Kansas City won two straight games in overtime to sweep the Choppers and advance the West final.

Toronto vs Carolina
After the home team won each of the first four games, game five went into overtime, where Shane Dutton beat Jussi Sykko to give Carolina a 3-2 series lead. Toronto now had to win game six. Murdock and Fernandez each scored as the Racers took a 2-0 lead. In the third period however, the wheels fell off for Toronto as Dutton, Brandon Sweetwater, and Nick Spears each scored to give the Raiders a 3-2 win and send them to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since they played in Ottawa.

Vancouver vs Minnesota
The Lumberjacks entered their second round series trying to hide their excitement about facing Vancouver, but the Bighorns dampened the mood right away in game one with a 2-0 win. In game two, the Lumberjacks won a tight game 4-3 thanks to big late-third period goal from Jason Crowley. Heading home with a 1-1 tie, the ‘Jacks were brimming with confidence, but Vancouver dominated both games, winning game three 3-1, and game four 2-1 to take a 3-1 series lead. In game five, Andrei Yegorov nearly ended it for Vancouver, but goaltender Jarkko Nurmi made a spectacular save. Just moments later, Scott Rose ended it, forcing the series to game six. But that was as close as Minnesota would get as Vancouver skated to a 4-2 victory in game six to take the series.

 Conference Finals

Philadelphia vs Carolina
Playing in their first conference finals since moving from Ottawa, the Carolina Raiders ran into a wall against Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Finals. Jared Baxter continued his big performance despite his injured hand with three points in the first two games as Philly took a 2-0 series lead. In game three, Carolina narrowly avoided a 3-0 deficit with a hard-fought 2-1 win. In game four, the Raiders made a valiant attempt to tie the series, but lost a heartbreaker in OT when Sean Nowakowski beat Kevin Stroud to give the Redshirts a 3-1 series lead. In game five, the Redshirts returned to the Lewis Cup Finals with a 7-1 win.

Kansas City vs Vancouver
After two big upsets, the Vancouver Bighorns found themselves just four wins away from their first appearance in the final in franchise history. Standing in their way was the Kansas City Twisters, a team that had eliminated Vancouver three times since 1999. The 2004 Western final started off in a familiar way as the Twisters took a 2-0 series lead. When the series shifted to Vancouver, the Bighorns set the tone right away when Tory Partridge leveled Brett Delaney with a big hit. Delaney struggled off the ice and Vancouver went on to tie the series as the Twisters could not handle the Bighorns physicality. KC dressed enforcer Ben McGinn in game five and his presence gave the Twisters the space they needed to win game five 2-0 and take a 3-2 series lead, but their road woes would continue in game six as Blair Horton scored in overtime for Vancouver to force game seven. In the deciding game, the Twisters were unable to solve Philippe Gagnon until it was too late. Vancouver won 3-1 to finally defeat Kansas City and advance to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2003-04 Regular Season

When the Boston Bulldogs opened their training camp in September, 2003, captain Scott Rose was conspicuously missing. By the time the season opened on October 10, Rose was still without a new deal. Without him, the Bulldogs did manage to go 5-3-0 in their first eight games when on October 27, a blockbuster trade was announced that rocked the hockey world. Rose was dealt to the Minnesota Lumberjacks in exchange for Brendan Marlo. Marlo had proven to be a budding superstar with the ‘Jacks but was growing unhappy with his role on a deep team. Rose, on the other hand, was looking for a new contract in the $10-12 Million range and Boston was unwilling to part with it. With Marlo’s contract gone, the Lumberjacks had the cap room to sign Rose to a six-year deal at $9 Million/year. Rose agreed to a discount when faced with the very real possibility of winning a Lewis Cup in Minnesota.

It would be Boston, however, who would come out as the big winners in the deal. One of the oddest things about the deal was that both players wore number 2. In Boston, Marlo essentially just wore Rose’s jersey as it retained the “C” as well. ‘Dogs coach Max St. Beaudoin had seen Marlo play plenty of times in the Maritime Junior league and was impressed with his leadership. Marlo led the team in scoring as the Bulldogs led the division for most of the year, until a late-season surge by their arch-rivals, the Philadelphia Redshirts, pushed them into fourth place. The Redshirts were enjoying another strong season as Jared Baxter and Alexei Ivanov formed one of the deadliest duos in the league, combining for 192 points.

Quebec returned to the playoffs, while Montreal, plagued by injuries nearly missed for the first time since 1989. For the second consecutive year, a dramatic playoff race formed in the South Division with three teams chasing the division title and final playoff spot. Throughout the year, Atlanta, Carolina, Miami, and New Orleans all took turns holding down the top spot. The Sound, despite a historically embarrassing off-season, came together to make a strong push for the division lead. 29-year old Kevin Jones, with a lot of help from newly acquired veteran Lamar Jackson, proved to be a surprising success behind the bench, despite no professional coaching experience. However, it would all come crashing down in March of 2004, it was revealed that Sam Bendt, who had been in a rehab facility since September, was broke. The league was forced to take over ownership of the Sound and there was no guarantee the franchise would even survive the remainder of the year without folding. The mandate to GM Bill Draper from the league was to shed salary to keep the team afloat. Since coming over from New York in the summer, Lamar Jackson had handled the entire situation with the Sound with tremendous grace. To thank him, Draper ensured that Jackson went to a contender, sending him to Dallas just days before the trade deadline. The final nail went into the coffin of the Sound’s 2003-04 season on deadline day, March 7, when superstar Brad McNair and his $12 Million salary was dealt to Milwaukee in a blockbuster, three-team deal that saw the Choppers send Peter Lundholm to Atlanta while the Sound received a first-round pick directly from Milwaukee and prospect Alex Andreyev from the Copperheads. In all, New Orleans unloaded $17 Million in payroll, and also knocked themselves out of the playoff race.

The disaster in New Orleans opened up the South Division playoff race considerably. Atlanta, now boosted by the addition of Lundholm, Miami, and Carolina were left gunning for the final spot. It would come down to the Copperheads and Raiders in the final days of the season, when it was Atlanta, when disaster struck, this time in Atlanta. With two games to go in the season, Copperheads’ forward Jason Ferland was arrested on assault charges after an incident at a Miami nightclub. The league suspended Ferland, who was not released from custody until the season ended anyway. The Carolina Raiders won their final two games and clinched a playoff spot for the first time in four years. “In the end, the team with the least amount of drama won out” said writer Bill Wentworth.

There was not quite as much drama in the Western Conference, where the Holiday Classic was played out west for the first time ever as Minnesota took on St. Louis Christmas Day. The game went to overtime where the Lumberjacks won 3-2, but it was the Spirits who created a stir, choosing to wear their classic white uniforms from the dynasty years. The league announced after the game that special retro jerseys would be worn at each Holiday Classic from that point on.

Seattle, generally regarded as the PHL’s deepest team, dominated the league. Former Washington Generals captain Rob Wentzel had taken a huge pay cut to come to Seattle in the hopes of winning a ring, but Wentzel was no passenger, finishing second in Wolves’ scoring. Chicago clinched the Central Division, making it 35 consecutive seasons in the post-season, while Edmonton finally broke out and won the North Division as Kris Nazarenko became the first player in PHL history to begin his career with two straight 50-goal seasons.

The Kansas City Twisters and Dallas Desperados both had all but lost the battle for the Central Division to Chicago when the trade deadline arrived on March 7, but both teams were busy as they continued to battle each other for home ice advantage in what appeared to be an inevitable first-round meeting. Dallas rescued Lamar Jackson from the sinking New Orleans Sound, while Kansas City acquired veteran Shannon Michaels from Calgary. Michaels had served as the Wranglers captain since the early 90s and would be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. The Twisters would ultimately edge out the Desperados for fourth place and home-ice advantage in what promised to be a very entertaining series.

In Milwaukee, the Choppers struggled throughout the year, hovering around .500, until pulling off a huge three-way deal in March where for the price of Peter Lunholm and a first-round pick, the Choppers received Brad McNair from New Orleans. With the horrible situation in Louisiana behind him, McNair exploded for 12 points in the final ten games as the Choppers won nine out of ten to pull away from Winnipeg and secure the final playoff spot. It spelled the end of a very promising season for Dan Crow, Jamie Moore, and a Winnipeg team that had finally shown signs of life for the first time since reaching the Lewis Cup Final in 1999. “It’s disappointing, but I think we’re on the right track” said Crow.

There was also some improvement in Denver and St. Louis, as both teams remained in playoff contention fairly late in the season. Sad news hit St. Louis in February, as long time team owner Frank Wells passed away at 82. Wells was beloved by the Spirits’ players and the fans in St. Louis as he built one of hockey’s all-time greatest dynasties. The Spirits wore a special patch with Wells’ initials on it for the remainder of one of the most eventful seasons in PHL history.  

Friday, May 4, 2018

2003 Off-Season

2003 Entry Draft

Though not as deep as the 2002 draft, there were still a few gems in 2003. Big defenseman Noah Brewer went first overall to Cleveland. As a 19-year-old, Brewer had been eligible in 2002 but was passed over. Brewer enrolled at Minnesota State, where he helped the Screaming Eagles to a Frozen Four appearance and the whole league took notice. “I’ve never seen a kid mature so much both physically and mentally” said Cosmos GM Bill Kelly. “He did a lot of growing up this year.” In general, the draft was rich with defensemen, with ten D-men going in the first round. Goaltender Jussi Miettinen went second overall to St. Louis, while another defenseman, Evan Long, went third to Quebec. Pittsburgh took an important step in their rebuild. After selecting Swedish defenseman Tomas Sandberg, the Stingers then dealt veteran defenseman Jared Hawkins to Edmonton in exchange for the 16th pick, which they used to take Cam Reed.

1.      CLE – Noah Brewer, D, USA
2.      STL – Jussi Miettinen, G, FIN
3.      QUE – Evan Long, D, CAN
4.      WSH – Ryan Quackenbush, F, CAN
5.      PIT – Tomas Sandberg, D, SWE
6.      POR – Kris Lukowich, F, CAN
7.      CAR – Kyle Weatherby, D, CAN
8.      WPG – Jakub Marek, F, CZE
9.      CGY – Jordan Goode, F, CAN
10.   DEN – Shawn Brooks, F, USA
11.   OAK – Ilya Zhinovjev, F, RUS
12.   LA – Kris Griffin, F, CAN
13.   NOS – Peter Ossler, F, SWE
14.   NYC – Adam Stawski, D, CAN
15.   MIA – Ryan Dove, F, CAN
16.   PIT (From EDM) – Cam Reed, F, CAN
17.   KC – Garret Lowendawsky, F, CAN
18.   DET – Eric Cooper, F, CAN
19.   MTL – Devan Meyer, F, USA
20.   LI – Christian Cloutier, F, CAN
21.   BOS – Denis Lapointe, G, CAN
22.   VAN – Colton Brady, D, CAN
23.   MIL – Jonathan Keller, D, USA
24.   CHI – Matt Irvin, D, USA
25.   ATL - Alex Andreyev, F, RUS
26.   SEA - Dominik Kovar, F, CZE
27.   MIN – Marc-Andre Lavoie, D, CAN
28.   TOR – Alex Thibodeau, F, CAN
29.   PHI – Brad Kruek, D, CAN
30.   DAL – Roger Whitfield, F, USA

Notable Retirements:

Jason Radford, F, SEA, 1982-2003
Selected second overall by Seattle in the 1982 entry draft, Jason Radford toiled under the shadow of the Jake Fairbanks/Pete Holloway duo for the first decade of his career. Shortly after Fairbanks and Holloway left, superstars Drake Klausen and Randy McAllen were drafted. The theme of Radford’s career seemed to be that the Grey Wolves would never be his team despite being named captain in 1993. However, McAllen and Klausen struggled to meet their full potential and by the time the team made their big run for the Lewis Cup in 2002, the 39-year-old Radford had put the team on his back and led them to their first-ever title. Radford would play one more season before retiring in 2003.

Jeremy Kitchen, F, NYC, KC, 1985-2003
The son of Toronto Racers legend Bobby Kitchen, Jeremy Kitchen enjoyed a successful career of his own. Kitchen spent most of his 18-year career in New York, playing alongside Aaron Duplacy, where he helped the Civics to the Lewis Cup in 1997. A year later, Kitchen left New York and signed with the Kansas City Twisters, where he won his second and final championship in 2000.

Teppo Sikkanen, D, DEN, CHI, 1986-2003
Sikkanen was one of the most underappreciated players in league history perhaps because he was overshadowed by all the other talent from the historic 1986 draft. It didn’t help that he also spent most of his career on a very weak Denver team, though he did claim the Tom Cooper Award in 1992 as the league’s top defenseman. In 2001, Sikkanen signed with Chicago, where he finally reached the Lewis Cup Finals in his final year, unfortunately coming just one win short.

Jeff Winslow, D, MIN, 1985-2003
While home-grown hero Jason Crowley received much of the credit for Minnesota’s success in the late 1990s, Crowley himself stated in an interview following Jeff Winslow’s retirement announcement that the ‘Jacks two championships in ’96 and ’98 would not have been possible without the steady defenseman’s presence and his ability to kick-start the offence. “Jeff just had that amazing ability to turn the momentum of a game by himself” said Crowley. “He was the reason we won a lot of those big games.”

Dwayne Gibbons, D, WPG, 1983-2003
Another underrated player from a weak team, Dwayne Gibbons had opportunity to leave Winnipeg, but chose to stay through some very lean years. He would ultimately be rewarded with an unexpected Cinderella run to the finals in 1999, but came up short against Vincent Ducharme and the Montreal Royale. Gibbons will remain in Winnipeg as an assistant coach, where he continues to hope to bring a championship to the city.

Notable Trades

New Orleans trades F Darren Reid to Toronto in exchange for F Theo Galvin and a 1st round pick.
The blockbuster trade of the summer caps off a tough summer for the Sound, who are forced to trade budding superstar Reid to the Racers to get under the cap.

Washington trades F Rob Wentzel to Seattle in exchange for F Nick Spears.
The rebuilding Generals trade their longtime captain to Seattle hoping he can win a championship.

Pittsburgh trades D Jared Hawkins to Edmonton in exchange for 1st round pick.
Stingers use the pick on winger Cam Reed, Northern Lights get a veteran defenseman to provide leadership to a young team.

Key Free Agents



D Henrik Soderstrum signs new 6-year deal with Cleveland worth $9 Million/year.
D Ricky Wolfe (NOS) signs 6-year deal with Pittsburgh worth $8 Million/year.
Pittsburgh signs Wolfe to an offer sheet and New Orleans lacks the cap space to match it. The Sound will receive Pittsburgh’s first-round draft choice in 2004 as compensation.
F Alexei Suvorov signs new 7-year deal with Denver worth $9 Million/year.
F Brett Reed signs new 5-year deal with Edmonton worth $4 Million/year.
F Jordan Rifkin signs new 4-year deal with Oakland worth $5 Million/year.
D Travis Tearney signs new 4-year deal with Boston worth $4 Million/year.


F Brett Delaney signs new 7-year deal with Kansas City worth $9 Million/year.
The Twisters’ top forward all but ensures he will retire in KC.

D Lamar Jackson (NYC) signs 5-year deal with New Orleans worth $5 Million/year.
After 15 seasons as the heart and soul of the Civics’ blueline, the New York native makes the difficult decision to leave as the Civics embark on a rebuild. Jackson hopes to help the Sound back into the playoffs and into contention.

D Randy Fernandez signs new 2-year deal with Toronto worth $4 Million/year.
After speculation that the 36-year old would sign elsewhere, Fernandez takes a big hometown discount for an opportunity to win more titles with the Racers.

D Kevin Drake (CAR) signs 3-year deal with Minnesota worth $3.5 Million/year.
The aging Lumberjacks add to their blueline depth in an attempt at one last run.

F Kim Brodie (PHI) signs 1-year deal with Kansas City worth $2 Million/year.
Nearing the end of a fairly successful career, Brodie moves to KC with the hopes of winning a championship.

D Elliot Andrews(VAN) signs 1-year deal with Chicago worth $1 Million/year.
Elliot “U-haul” Andrews is on the move again, signing with his 9th PHL team for what could be his final season.

Perhaps no franchise in PHL history completely seemed to come unglued like the New Orleans Sound in the summer of 2003. With rumours of Sam Bendt’s financial struggles and a possible move to either Houston or Ottawa already swirling, disaster struck on July 1. The team was really hoping that emerging star defenseman Ricky Wolfe would accept a hometown discount to save the team cap space, when the Pittsburgh Stingers swooped in, signing Wolfe to an $8 Million offer sheet that the Sound could never hope to match. Infuriated over losing a star player, the increasingly irrational Bendt blamed GM Grant Dunlop, firing him and taking over the position himself. Incredibly, Bendt had Darryl Byrd’s full support in stepping into the role, while others were left scratching their heads. Just 12 hours into his new career as a hockey GM, Bendt excitedly announced the signing of future hall-of-famer Lamar Jackson to a $5 Million deal. The deal was a decent one, the Sound needed to replace Wolfe on their blueline and Jackson like the opportunity to help a young team, But Bendt misunderstood the cap system.

Somewhere he had heard a rumour that the cap would increase to $57 Million per team, an absurd notion, given that it had only been $45 Million in ’02-03. In fact, the cap had increased to $48 Million. But Bendt had fired his GM and would not listen to his advisors. Desperate to get under the cap, the Sound were forced to trade budding superstar Darren Reid, dealing him to Toronto for Theo Galvin and a first rounder. After the trade, head coach Garth Collins abruptly quit his job, calling the Sound “the most disorganized, incompetent, bush league organization I’ve ever seen.” Scrambling to find a new coach, Bendt hired head trainer Kevin Jones, who would be the youngest coach in PHL history at age 29. That was when the league stepped in. Deputy commissioner Neil McCormick ordered Bendt to surrender the GM position to somebody with experience and 70-year-old former NCAA coach Bill Draper was hired. Draper had been a golfing buddy of Bendt’s and was the only hockey person he knew outside the Sound organization. After the fiasco cleared up, it was reported that Bendt had been checked into a rehab facility in Florida. “Unbelievable” said commentator Brian McLeod. “I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything like this in my 30 years covering the sport.”

After Bendt checked into rehab, Houston billionaire emailed Darryl Byrd. “I’ve still got that 18,000-seat arena if you need a place for the Sound” read the email. Questions were even raised concerning Byrd’s qualifications for his job as he had allowed the fiasco to happen, and it took his assistant to stop it. The owners were already starting to gear up for another labour battle in 2007 and were uncertain if Byrd was the man for the job.

“That Summer” as it would forever be known in hockey circles, proved to be a positive for Grant Dunlop, who returned to coaching as the New York Civics’ new bench boss, as Bruce Irvine focused on the GM duties. “I can’t wait to go back to coaching” said Dunlop. “As crazy as Sam Bendt was, I really do owe him for this.”

The bad news only continued into the 2003 pre-season, this time in Boston, where captain Scott Rose refused to report to training camp after being low-balled in contract negotiations. Rose was seen as the ‘Dogs future franchise player but the team had offered him the same salary he had been receiving so they would have the cap space to sign Chris Haines and goaltender Chad Cohen the following summer. “Scotty just wants to be paid what he’s worth, I think he’s earned that” said Rose’s agent. When training camp ended and Rose still had not signed, Boston fans became nervous. “At this point we have to consider what’s best for this team” said GM Bruce McKinnon.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Wizards Unveil New Logo, League Announces New Uniform Deal

Just prior to the 2003 PHL entry draft, the Los Angeles Wizards unveiled a full new identity, featuring all-new logos, colors, and uniforms. The logo features the bearded face of a wizard in a design inspired by the team's original logo used from 1968 to 1995. The uniforms have also been inspired by the original look, featuring Purple, Orange, and Silver trim. Black has been removed entirely from the team's identity. The nod to the team's old look was no coincidence. Team president and GM Stuart Holly was the driving force behind the rebrand. Holly is regarded as the greatest player in Wizards history and spent nearly his entire career wearing the original Purple and Orange uniforms. "We feel that we're entering an exciting new era and we wanted to come up with a look that both brings us into the future and also reminds our fans of the success this franchise had in the past." said Holly. "Purple and Orange were always Wizards colors, we're excited to get back to that."

Elsewhere in the league, the Kansas City Twisters unveiled their second alternate uniform in franchise history, a blue jersey in a vintage style with color laces and Black, White, and Silver trim. In Dallas and Cleveland, the Desperados and Cosmos both unveiled new logos commemorating the tenth anniversary of their entry into the league. both teams will feature the logos on the corner of their jerseys.

Finally, the league agreed to a ten-year deal that will make Duke Sports the exclusive provider of PHL game uniforms. Duke has promised to "reinvent the hockey uniform" with the development of new tighter-fitting, lightweight jerseys. All 30 teams in the PHL will have new uniforms in the fall of 2005 and a few will take the opportunity to make changes to the designs and introduce new logos. The league has requested that teams who plan to make changes wait until the summer of 2005 to do so, meaning that there will be no changes to any team uniforms for the 2004-05 season. The new uniform system will be seen for the first time at the 2005 all-star game.