1996 Entry Draft
The 1996 PHL draft was projected to be a very strong one, not unlike the draft a decade earlier. Russian phenom Sergei Gulinov was projected to go first overall after a 112-point season playing pro in Russia. Sure enough, the Cleveland Cosmos took Gulinov with the first pick, hoping the playmaker would mesh nicely with fellow countryman Alexei Stepanov. “Watch out for the Cosmos” said one commentator. “They’re still a few years away but they’ll be a very fun team to watch someday.” With the second pick, the New Orleans Sound picked big center Kris Whittle from the US National team. At number three, the Dallas Desperadoes, needing a goalie, opted to trade down, giving Detroit the next pick. The Mustangs nabbed their new franchise player, Russian sensation Andrei Alexeev at number three, while the Desperadoes selected Alexei Rolonov as their future franchise goalie. Other interesting picks included Washington pick Geoff Collier, son of former Pioneers defenseman Kent Collier, and Minnesota’s Brendan Marlo, who, if he cracks the Lumberjacks’ lineup, will be the shortest player in PHL history at just 5’ 5”.
1. CLE – Sergei Gulinov, F, RUS
2. NOS – Kris Whittle, F, USA
3. DET (From DAL) – Andrei Alexeev, F, RUS
4. SEA – Maxime Chabot, F, CAN
5. CAR – Shane Dutton, F, CAN
6. LI – Riley Gardiner, D, GB
7. STL – Shawn Marchinski, F, CAN
8. DAL (from DET) – Alexei Rolonov, G, RUS
9. MIL – Alex Marin, F, USA
10. WPG – Sergei Bobkov, D, RUS
11. PHI – Jared Baxter, F, CAN
12. VAN – Jason Quint, D, CAN
13. MIA – Trey Bellows, D, USA
14. QUE – Marcel Gamache, D, CAN
15. DEN -- Cam Richardson, F, USA
16. BOS – Mikeal Larsson, F, SWE
17. EDM – Patrick Gill, D, CAN
18. PIT – Alexis Holzer, F, GER
19. WSH – Geoff Collier, F, CAN
20. CAL – Dominik Kovac, D, CZE
21. CGY – Tim Brown, F, USA
22. MIN – Brendan Marlo, F, CAN
23. KC – Timmo Virtanen, F, FIN
24. MTL – Todd Paterson, F, CAN
25. LA – Petr Slavik, F, SLV
26. NYC – Joel McDonald, F, CAN
27. TOR – Joe Murdock, F, CAN
28. CHI – Ben Kerrrigan, G, USA
Ron Buckner, G, PIT, BOS, DEN, 1983-1996
Drafted late by Pittsburgh in 1980, Ron Buckner never played a game for the Stingers, spending the first two seasons of his career with their minor-league team in Scranton, PA. In 1983 he finally got his big break when the Boston Bulldogs acquired him and gave him the starters’ job. Over the following 11 seasons with the ‘Dogs, Buckner never missed the post-season, eventually backstopping Boston to two division titles in 1991 and ’92. In 1992-93, Buckner played his final season as the Bulldogs’ starter, eventually giving up the number one job to Kevin Washer during the playoffs. Boston went on to win the Lewis Cup that year with Buckner playing the backup role and in 1993-94, he was traded to Denver, where he regained number one status. Buckner would play two more full seasons with the Bulls before retiring.
Theo Gill, F, PHI, 1979-1996
When Theo Gill was selected second-overall by the Winnipeg Pioneers in 1979, it was hoped that he would eventually become the franchise player the Pioneers had been hoping for. Though Gill’s play over the following decade was strong, the Pioneers struggled to add additional talent and during Gill’s ten seasons in Winnipeg, the Pioneers won only two playoff rounds. In 1989, Gill signed with Philadelphia, where he got as far as the Eastern Conference Finals in 1995.
Antero Parvainen, G, PHI, MIL, 1980-1996
In 1980, Antero Parvainen became the first goaltender in PHL history to be selected first overall. Projected to be Philadelphia’s first great goaltender since David Zimmer, Parvainen did not disappoint. In his first season, Parvainen backstopped the Redshirts into the playoffs after a three-year absence. In the strike-shortened 1984-85 season, he led Philly to first overall in the league and ultimately to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the team was eliminated in the infamous “Ghost Game”. In 1989, Parvainen and the Redshirts finally reached the Lewis Cup Finals, where they lost to the Milwaukee Choppers. Despite his strong play in the 1995 playoffs, Parvainen was not resigned by the Redshirts and spent his final PHL season in Milwaukee, sharing the goaltending duties with rookie Matt Darwin.
Glen Childs, F, EDM, 1976-1996
Childs was the first draft pick in the history of the Edmonton Northern Lights and retires as the last remaining original player from the team’s inaugural season. Though he never quite lived up to his high draft billing, Childs proved to be a steady, hard-working winger, eventually helping Edmonton to an appearance in the Lewis Cup finals in 1993, where they lost to the Boston Bulldogs.
Olivier Meloche, DAL/MIL, DAL, 1980-1996
The son of first-generation PHL star Didier Meloche, Olivier Meloche joined the Dallas Metros in 1980 and was an instant fan-favorite with his smooth skating and skilled hands. Meloche’s popularity followed him to Milwaukee when the team relocated in 1985, where he played a valuable role in the Choppers’ back-to-back championships in the late ‘80s. In 1994, Meloche returned to Dallas to finish his career, this time as a member of the expansion Dallas Desperadoes.
Rex Hull, F, TOR, 1978-1996
Despite his lack of skill, Rex Hull’s toughness made him one of the most popular players ever to don the double blue. Hull led the Racers in penalty minutes every year from 1978 until he finally surrendered the title to Tory Partridge in 1994. Hull was selected by the Cleveland Cosmos in the 1994 expansion draft, but was immediately re-acquired by the Racers so he could finish his career where he was supposed to, in Toronto.
Toronto trades F Tory Partridge to Vancouver in exchange for F Joe Tyler and F Brad Kyle.
As promised, the Racers begin to shake up their lineup in an attempt to pursue a title. Tyler leaves Vancouver after 17 seasons while the Bighorns land a top-tier power forward in Partridge.
New Orleans trades G Brent MacDonald to Los Angeles in exchange for F Aaron Pogue.
The Wizards solidify their goaltending with the addition of MacDonald, while New Orleans adds a solid prospect in Pogue.
Dallas, Detroit swap 1st round picks, Desperadoes acquire D Luke Ferguson.
Dallas moves down in the draft to select goaltender Alexei Rolonov, Detroit gives up Ferguson to move up to third pick.
Key Free Agents
Vincent Ducharme signs new 10-year deal with Montreal worth $10 Million/year.
With the new contract, Ducharme becomes the highest-paid player in PHL history. The deal all but ensures he will retire with the Royale.
Jason Crowley signs new 9-year deal with Minnesota worth $8 Million/year.
Crowley becomes the second-richest player in league history with a deal that will see him earn over $10 Million if the Lumberjacks return to the Lewis Cup Finals.
The Racers win the Stuart Burns sweepstakes as the 35-year-old Mississauga native returns home to try to win a championship after 17 seasons on Long Island.
Grant Sibley (DAL) signs five-year deal with New York worth $5 Million/year.
After two productive years in Dallas, Sibley earns a big contract and a chance to win a championship with the Civics.
Kim Brodie (DET) signs four-year deal with Long Island worth $4 Million/year.
The Concordes sign ten-year veteran Brodie to replace Stuart Burns.
Trevor Ramsey (MTL) signs three-year deal with Carolina worth $4 Million/year.
Ramsey leaves Montreal to serve as a veteran presence in Charlotte.
At the start of the 1995-96 season, the Professional Hockey Players Association and the PHL began negotiations for a new collective agreement. Talks did not progress much during the regular season and in May, both sides agreed to exercise one year of their option for a two year extension. The deadline was set at September 1, 1997 for both sides to come to an agreement to avoid a work stoppage. “We agreed to extend the agreement for another year in order to focus on negotiations.” Said commissioner Darryl Byrd. With player salaries skyrocketing, Byrd and the owners want to institute a salary cap to control spending and level the playing field. Meanwhile, the players wanted a lower minimum age for unrestricted free agency, increases in benefits and pension, and most of all, a financial structure that would not include a salary cap. After a hard round of negotiations in July, things looked ominous. “We’re not there yet, this could be a long road” said PHPA president Brian Hunt.
Between negotiations, Darryl Byrd began conversations with potential franchise owners. Though he had yet to make a formal announcement regarding expansion, Byrd had indicated that he would like to expand to thirty teams around the year 2000. “We’ve had some good talks, but no decisions will be made until we get the new contract in place” said Byrd. Houston, Atlanta, Portland, and Memphis are rumoured to be the main cities seeking a franchise.
One city looking for a team thought they had one at one point in 1996. Byrd, believing Olivia Poulette would be forced to sell the financially struggling Quebec Nationale, had told Atlanta that they might have an opportunity to acquire the Nationale and move them to Georgia. At the time, the Nats were in the process of a Cinderella run that brought the city together and convinced the local government to assist Poulette in financing a new arena. The new building would likely not be completed until the 2000-01 season, but Byrd insisted a new arena would need to be completed by the end of 1998, a nearly impossible deadline. In August, Byrd made a deal with the city of Atlanta that would give them the franchise if a new arena could not be secured by the deadline. Poulette responded with a lawsuit against Byrd and the PHL for interfering with her business when there was in fact a building on the way. Finally, a settlement was reached. Byrd extended his deadline to 2000, meaning the Nationale would at least survive into the new Millennium.
In other news the Ottawa Beavers officially relocated to Charlotte, NC in May after an owner’s vote to ratify the move. The Beavers will now be known as the Carolina Raiders with a logo expected to be unveiled just prior to the start of the season. The Raiders will play in the new Cube Center in downtown Charlotte, which was built in 1994. The Raiders also cleaned out their front office, hiring all new staff. Former USA National Team coach and head scout Bill Powell was hired as the team’s General Manager, while Kurt Hopkins was hired as the new Head Coach a year after being fired from Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Pioneers also overhauled their front office, firing Head Coach Bruce Winter and GM Bob Garnett and replacing them with Craig Neilson and Jacques Fortune respectively. Neilson served as an executive with the Canadian Hockey Association for 13 years from 1983 to 1996, while Fortune coached the Denver Bulls form 1982-1992.