Tuesday, September 20, 2016

1982-83 Regular Season

The 1982-83 season was characterized mainly by large gaps between the top teams and the bottom teams. The balance of power continued to shift as 70s powerhouses like LA, Minnesota, and New York continued to decline, while newer clubs like Seattle and Long Island finally began having success. The regular season, however, would belong to the Chicago Shamrocks, who had not finished first in their division or in the League since 1948. Chicago finished with an all-time high 58 wins and 125 points while Vladimir Gaganov led the league in scoring with 117 points. Tim Massey enjoyed one of his most spectacular seasons in net, setting a new PHL record with 12 shutouts. The defending champion St. Louis Spirits mounted a serious challenge for the Shamrocks, finishing with 118 points to settle for second in the Central as David Appleby continued his strong play with 103 points. In February, the two teams met in Chicago in an epic showdown between the league’s two top players. David Appleby enjoyed his first five-goal game of his career as the Spirits led Chicago 5-2 after two periods. Gaganov had one of Chicago’s goals. In the third, Gaganov exploded for four more goals to complete a five-goal game of his own as the Shamrocks completed the comeback. It was the first time in PHL history that two players each scored five goals in one game.

The Dallas Metros took a step back in ‘82-83, finishing with only 21 wins thanks mostly to an injury to Bruce Gratton in January that caused him to miss the remainder of the season. In the Pacific, California won the Division once again, but all eyes were on the Seattle Grey Wolves. The Wolves toiled in last place until Christmas before Pete Holloway and Jake Fairbanks caught fire. The duo led Seattle to 18 straight victories and a miraculous second place finish in the Pacific Division. LA’s decline continued as the Holly/Fowler duo was hampered by injuries, while Calgary just barely made the playoffs despite winning less than 30 games for the first time in five years. Vancouver and Edmonton once again missed the playoffs with Edmonton finishing at the bottom of the league standings.

In the Eastern Conference, Danny Stevenson and the Pittsburgh Stingers once again emerged as the team to beat, winning 50 games. The Nova Scotia Claymores, after years of rebuilding, were the surprise team of the year, winning the Northeast Division with 48 wins as rookie goaltender Brent MacDonald was just barely edged out by Tim Massey for the Whyte Trophy for top goaltender. Ottawa and Washington once again enjoyed strong, 100 point seasons, while Long Island returned to the post-season as Stuart Burns finally enjoyed a breakout season.

The Boston/Philadelphia rivalry was revived in a big way in the winter of 1983 as both teams battled neck and neck for the final playoff spot in the East. Both teams seemed destined to make it early on until a late surge by Quebec made it a three-team race for two spots. It appeared Philadelphia had the upper hand on Boston until a particularly bloody home-and-home series with the Bulldogs. Boston edged the Redshirts 4-3 in a fight-filled game in Philly on March 5 before blowing Philly out 11-1 in Boston the following night. Philadelphia, angry that they had let such an important game get so far out of reach, sent out a line of their toughest players including Roy Jones, Kurt “The Hurt” Hopkins, and Gary Nichols. The Bulldogs responded with three tough customers of their own in Ralph Dixon, Casey Oaks, and Colin Fleming. Several line brawls later the rivalry was reborn. The Redshirts playoff hopes, however, were dead. Boston secured the final spot in the Atlantic, while Quebec took the final spot in the Northeast and in the Eastern Conference.

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