The Brief History Of The Philadelphia Blazers In The WHA

The Brief History Of The Philadelphia Blazers In The WHA

Like many World Hockey Association teams, the Philadelphia Blazers were a one-year flash in the pan. The Blazers played in the inaugural WHA season, 1972-73. The franchise was born as the Miami Screaming Eagles, but the team was moved to Philadelphia before a single game was played in Florida.

The Blazers did not share the Spectrum with the NHL Flyers. The WHA team played out of the Philadelphia Civic Centre, a 9,000 seat arena built in 1931. The Civic Centre was closed in 1996 and demolished in 2005.

Although 1972-73 started disastrous for the Blazers, the team picked it up and finished with a 38-40-0 record. Philadelphia finished third in the Eastern Division behind the New England Whalers and Cleveland Crusaders. The Crusaders swept the Blazers in the opening round of the playoffs.

Despite the high-priced signings of National Hockey League stars, Gerry Cheevers and Derek Sanderson, it was Andre Lacroix and Danny Lawson that were the bright lights for the team. Lacroix lead the league in total points with 124, earning him the Bill Hunter Trophy. Andre would win the award again in 1974-75 with the San Diego Mariners. Lawson finished third in points and led the league with 61 goals.

Cheevers played the bulk of the Blazers games in net. Gerry played 63 games, while Marcel Paille, an American Hockey League Hall of Famer in the twilight of his pro hockey career, played 15. Cheevers played one game in the playoffs before walking away from the team. He rejoined the Boston Bruins the following season.

Derek Sanderson was signed to a massive contract and was to be the centrepiece of the team, if not the league. He played a total of eight games and contributed six points. In those eight games, Sanderson excelled at goonery with 69 penalty minutes. Derek was back in Boston before most Bruins fans even knew he was gone.

Another Boston Bruins veteran jumped ship to the Blazers and acted as player/coach. Johnny ‘Pie’ McKenzie played in 60 games and tallied a very respectable 78 points.

Ontario Hockey League fans would be interested to know that current Kingston Frontenacs General Manager Larry Mavety played a total of four games with the Blazers. Mavety started the season with the Los Angeles Sharks, playing two games. He ended up with the Chicago Cougars and played 67 games to end the season. Larry played for six different teams over his WHA career.

The Blazers were moved to Vancouver for the 1973-74 season where they retained the nickname. Two years competing directly with the NHL Canucks proved too much and the team shifted to Calgary for the 1975-76 season. As the Calgary Cowboys, the franchise lasted until the end of the 1976-77 season before folding.