At the conclusion of the 1985-86 season, Stuart Holly stood just 32 points away from catching former teammate Gilbert Giroux for third in the all-time PHL scoring race. Holly’s production had declined dramatically in recent years, especially since former linemate Ray Fowler suddenly announced his retirement. However, as the 1986-87 season began, Holly seemed to find his game again. The 36-year-old wasted no time passing Giroux, scoring the game-winner at home against Seattle to reach 1602 career points, good enough for third all-time. Later in the year, Holly also dethroned Giroux as the PHL’s assist king with his 1006th career helper on the final day of the regular season. Holly’s milestone-filled year, along with a big rookie season from Viktor Skogg, and a breakout year from goaltender Ari Hannula propelled LA to an unexpected playoff appearance as they finished second in the Pacific Division. In Montreal, Vincent Ducharme’s incredible debut was enough to push the Royale back into the playoffs. Ducharme set a new mark for goals by a rookie with 78, finishing the year with 159 points. Montreal also benefited from a full year of coaching from a healthy Don Shelburne, who guided the team from the league basement to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference in less than four months.
In the Central, Minnesota enjoyed a fantastic season from their own super rookie, Jason Crowley. Crowley, a St. Paul native, scored 41 goals in his first year. However, it was his fight with New York’s Dennis Aguilar on January 5 that made him an instant fan-favorite. Thanks to Crowley’s efforts, the Lumberjacks returned to the post-season for the first time since 1983.
In St. Louis, David Appleby enjoyed his most dominating regular season yet, becoming the first player in PHL history to score 100 goals in a single season. On March 26, 1987 in Milwaukee, Appleby joined the exclusive 700-goal club and moved up to third on the all-time goal-scoring list as he led the Spirits back to first overall in the league. Pittsburgh also returned to first place in their Division, just barely edging out rival Philadelphia by three points. Stingers head coach Bob King announced just prior to the playoffs that he would retire at the conclusion of the post-season. With an aging roster as well, there was an overwhelming feeling that Pittsburgh’s window of opportunity to win another championship was closing.