1995 Entry Draft
After drafting sixth in their first draft, the Dallas Desperadoes were more than happy to win the lottery and pick number one in 1995. The Desperadoes made a surprising move, passing on the two top forwards in the draft to select defenseman Jean-Pierre Balanger. After taking center AJ Vernon in 1994, the Desperadoes now had a potential top-tier D-man. With the number two pick, Detroit took Swedish star Mikael Forsberg, who had been the youngest player in Swedish league history to score 50 goals in a season with 64. “Along with Igor (Kharitonov), we hope that someday Mikael can be one of the faces of our team” said GM Bob Gill. The Cleveland Cosmos also got another talented forward in Eric White at number three, while struggling Canadian franchises Winnipeg and Ottawa once again hoped their picks, Brendon Dawson for the Pioneers and Mike Hudson for the Beavers, would turn their fortunes around. Just before the ninth pick, a trade was announced. Ottawa had traded one of their younger stars, Todd Becker, to St. Louis in exchange for the ninth pick. The Beavers used the pick to select defenseman Olli Koistinen, who they hoped would become their franchise defenseman. Although the draft lacked a true generational talent, most of the remaining players in the first round were projected to at least be PHL regulars.
1. DAL – Jean-Pierre Balanger, D, CAN
2. DET – Mikael Forsberg, F, SWE
3. CLE – Eric White, F, CAN
4. WPG – Brendon Dawson, F, CAN
5. OTT – Mike Hudson, F, CAN
6. MIL – Matt Darwin, G, USA
7. PIT – Oleg Popov, D, RUS
8. LI – Ryan Shelton, F, USA
9. OTT (From STL) – Olli Koistinen, D, FIN
10. SEA – Scott Sherwood, F, CAN
11. VAN – Sergei Zolotov, F, RUS
12. NOS – Owen Fisher, D, USA
13. DEN – Alex Leblanc, F, CAN
14. EDM – Riley Whitt, D, CAN
15. CAL – Trevor Reuben, F, USA
16. WSH – Jordan O’Reilly, D, USA
17. MIA – Gordon Quincey, D, CAN
18. QUE – Marc Ledoux, F, CAN
19. KC – Nils Sundstrom, F, SWE
20. PHI – Andrew Cox, F, USA
21. BOS – Chris Woods, D, CAN
22. MIN – Jarkko Nurmi, G, FIN
23. CGY – Todd Clayton, F, CAN
24. MTL – Patrice Tessier, D, CAN
25. NYC – Ben Coffin, F, CAN
26. TOR – Trent Cameron, G, CAN
27. CLE (From LA) – Chris Ballard, F, USA
28. DAL (From CHI) – Glenn Holland, D, USA
David Appleby, F, STL, 1974-1995
Over a spectacular 21-year career, David Appleby established himself as likely the greatest player ever to play the game. He is the only player in PHL history to score over 1000 goals with 1035 and the only one to pass 2000 points with 2218. Appleby arrived in St. Louis just five years after the PHL/GHL merger when the team was still a perennial basement dweller on the verge of relocation. In only his second season, Appleby led St. Louis to their first-ever PHL playoff berth while scoring 55 goals. By the 1980s, the Spirits had become a powerhouse, eventually winning five Lewis Cup titles between 1982 and 1991 with Appleby leading the way. The Pro Hockey Hall of Fame announced it will waive the traditional three-year waiting period to induct Appleby right away.
Bruce Gratton, F, DAL/MIL, 1975-1995
After winning only twelve games in their inaugural season, the Dallas Metros selected Bruce Gratton with the first overall pick in 1975. For the following decade, the team struggled mightily in Dallas both on and off the ice before finally relocating to Milwaukee in 1985. It was in Milwaukee that Gratton and the rest of the team finally matured into a contender, eventually winning back-to-back Lewis Cups in 1988 and ’89 as well as a third finals appearance in 1992. Gratton retires as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
Jake Fairbanks, F, SEA, QUE, 1975-1995
Along with Pete Holloway, Jake Fairbanks was one of the faces of the Seattle Grey Wolves franchise throughout the late 1970s and the 1980s. The duo led Seattle to several Western Conference Finals appearances, but only one Lewis Cup Finals appearance, which they lost in 1985. In 1991, Fairbanks left Seattle and joined the Quebec Nationale. He would play four years in Quebec before retiring.
Paul Needham, D, STL, 1976-1995
Though he was not as celebrated as teammates David Appleby and Grant Millen, Paul Needham played a huge role in the Spirits’ dynasty, serving as the team’s defensive backbone. Needham had offensive ability as well and proved to be a valuable powerplay quarterback over the course of his 19-year career.
Scott Daffney, G, DAL/MIL, 1980-1995
Scott Daffney proved to be the difference maker when he arrived in Dallas in 1980. Soon after he entered the league, the Metros finally began making the playoffs consistently. After a relocation to Milwaukee in 1985, the team became a contender as Daffney backstopped them to two consecutive championships in 1988 and 1989.
Hannes Rehnquist, MTL, 1977-1995
Rehnquist surprised everyone when he cracked the lineup of a stacked Montreal team in 1977. However it didn’t take long for the native of Malmo, Sweden to prove he belonged. Rehnquist easily won fans over with his smooth skating and passing. After some tough seasons in Montreal in the 1980s, Rehnquist became an important veteran presence on the blueline as the team once again became a powerhouse in the 1990s. Rehnquist finally hoisted the Lewis Cup in 1992, then again in 1995 before retiring.
Boston trades F Kyle Boone to Chicago in exchange for D Steve Mathis.
In the blockbuster trade of the year, two young stars and recent Lewis Cup champions are swapped for one another. Boston addresses their need on the blueline by adding top-tier defenseman Mathis, while the Shamrocks add another superstar weapon up front in Boone.
Dallas trades D Reijo Rantala to Chicago in exchange for 1st round pick.
Chicago completes their load-up by adding a veteran defenseman to replace Mathis, while Dallas adds a second pick in the first round to continue building. The Shamrocks now enter 1995-96 with one of the greatest teams on paper ever assembled in the PHL.
Ottawa trades F Todd Becker to St. Louis in exchange for 1st round pick and G Anti Paavola
Unable to afford Becker’s contract extension, the Beavers are forced to trade their budding star to the Spirits, where he is expected to take Appleby’s place. In return, Ottawa gets a solid backup goalie who will push Kevin Stroud for the number one job, and second top-ten pick.
Key Free Agents
The biggest free agent signing of the summer. Mack’s presence immediately turns the Twisters into a top-tier contender as he becomes the league’s highest-paid player.
Jeff Brackley (MIN) signs four-year deal with Pittsburgh worth $1 Million/year.
With Christian Grayson taking over as the ‘Jack’s number one goaltender, Brackley will now try to take the starter’s job from respected veteran Jacob Martensson in Pittsburgh.
Antero Parvainen (PHI) signs one-year deal with Milwaukee worth $1 Million/year.
With 1995-96 likely his final PHL season, Parvainen leaves Philly (and the threat of backup Pierre Noel) after 15 seasons in the hopes of starting for the Choppers.
Filip Holmgren (OTT) signs one-year deal with Denver worth $900,000/year.
Wanting to finish his career with a chance to win a championship, Holmgren leaves the dormant Beavers after 18 years in Ottawa.
Kevin Trainor (CHI) signs three-year with New Orleans worth $1.5 Million/year.
With Mack gone, Trainor comes in to provide veteran leadership to a team facing big changes in a new location.
Only a month after the PHL said goodbye to the Nova Scotia Claymores, it appeared that their 1959 expansion cousins, the Ottawa Beavers, would meet a similar fate. In May, the Ottawa municipal government voted against funding a new arena for the team. As much as the government fully recognized the importance of the Beavers in the community, the concern was not only the arena cost but the rapidly rising cost of player salaries. There simply was not enough money. David Marriott, who had expressed interest in buying the franchise, ultimately decided against it. “It simply wouldn’t make sense at this time” said Marriott. “If there’s no arena or money for one, I can’t see this team surviving much longer in this market.” League commissioner Darryl Byrd stated that he wanted the team’s arena situation figured out by the following summer.
In other arena news, The Vancouver Bighorns hoped to move into their new home by the fall of 1996. Construction had begun in early 1995. “We’re excited to enter a new era in our history” said owner Donald Smythe. “My son will soon take over the team, we’ll have a new arena next year, we’ll have a new logo next year, and hopefully we’ll be able to win a championship very soon.”
Vancouver wasn’t the only team about to move to a new arena. In June, the Chicago Shamrocks broke ground for their new arena, which they hoped would be open in time for the start of the 1997-98 season. The Shamrocks have been playing in the Lincoln Sports Arena in downtown Chicago since their inception in 1930.
There were a few coaching changes around the league in 1995. Philadelphia fired head coach Kurt Hopkins after seven seasons, replacing him with former Lumberjacks defenseman Clint Allen, while Toronto made a big move after yet another playoff disappointment, firing longtime head coach Dave Mills and replacing him with widely respected junior coach Bob Lacey.