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  • Home: Denver, CO
  • Stadium: McNichols Sports Arena (16,800)
  • Team synopsis: One of the more doomed franchises from the beginning. Lasted 41 games between first home Denver and Ottawa's second attempt at a franchise.

  • With the folding of both the Chicago Cougars and the Sharks/Stags/Blades franchises the season before, the WHA decided to keep the league at 14 teams, granting expansion clubs for the '75-'76 season in Cincinnati and Denver. Although the Stingers only lasted 2 seasons, they were a resounding success compared to their exansion cousins in Denver. After six years in the WHL and one year in the CHL, Ike Mullenix, a St. Louis businessman, moved his Denver Spurs to the WHA in the spring of 1975 in what could only be termed an 11th hour move. The bulk of the squad was made up mostly of players claimed from Chicago after the demise of the Cougars during the off-season.

    The Spurs' record was abyssmal. Despite the expected leadership of veterans like Ralph Backstrom, the team seemed to lack direction and ability. They tried 5 different goalies, but Nick Sanza's 15.00 GAA pretty much summed up the team's performance. Losing their first 8 home games, attendance at the brand new McNichols Arena averaged less than 3,000.

    Shortly after Christmas, Mullenix sold the team to a group of Ontario businessmen who quietly moved the team to Ottawa, playing their first game a week later. Unfortunately though, proper financing never materialized, and the franchise folded two weeks later, with a combined record totalling only 29 points after 41 games. Coincidentally, the NHL's attempt at putting hockey in Colorado was also marred with early failure. After relocating the Kansas City Scouts to McNicholls Arena after the demise of the Spurs, the team was named the Rockies but became the New Jersey Devils. The state wouldn't have hockey again until the mid 90's - when coincidentally the Quebec Nordiques became the Avalanche.

    Before the first brick was set, the people who ended up deciding the fate of the Denver Spurs were readying their doom and gloom prophecies to write on the wall, spelling a quick end to the franchise. The failure of the team wasn't from a lack of trying. On the contrary, gimmicks and giveaways were used to stimulate any kind of excitement for the team but all failed. The story of the Spurs goes back to 1968 and the teams inclusion in the Western Hockey League (WHL). The name, Spurs, was chosen from thousands of entries in a "pick the name of the team" style contest. A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters chose the name and gave the person with the winning entry $500 and two season tickets. After six years in the WHL and one year in the CHL, the owner of the team, Ike Mullenix, opted to accept a franchise in the WHA in the spring of 1975 in what was termed by local papers as an "11th hour move". Season ticket holders for the Spurs who were banking on an NHL franchise were very disappointed. Certainly there were reasons for the people who wanted to see the NHL in Denver to be optimistic before Mullenix accepted the WHA franchise offer. McNichols Sports Arena was a "plush" and brand new facility and the WHL and CHL teams had a respectable minor league following. However, after hearing the WHA announcement, the hockey faithful became pessimistic and non-supportive to say the least. "I hate to see minor-league hockey back," a Denver lawyer said in a Denver Post article on the Spurs expansion. "They (the Spurs) advertised the NHL for three years and I bought season tickets. I was one of the victims," the article went on to state. Other comments such as, "... I think the deal stinks" and "I feel it was a waste of money to build the new arena," illustrated how unhappy people were with the acceptance of a WHA franchise by Mullenix. Nevertheless, the team moved forward. First thing Mullenix did was drop ticket prices from the $5-$9 range that was proposed when he was courting the NHL to $4-$8. Coach Jean Guy Talbot then went about assembling the team. Barry Legge, J.P. LeBlanc and Gary Bredin were added to the team from the defunct Baltimore Blades and Brian Gibbons was added in the intraleague draft from the Toronto Toros to round out the roster of 19. With a team dressed, the Spurs began their three-month fouray into the WHA with an exhibition game against the Houston Aeros at McNichols Arena in the fall of 1975. Before the opening faceoff, the problems for the franchise began to mount. No beer was served at the game because the team couldn't secure a liquor license, the National Anthem was performed but there was no flag to face during the song and the clocks weren't working at Big Mac that night, which was perfectly symbolic of the fact that time had already run out on the team's stay in Denver. Even with these inconveniences, the 5,003 sober fans in the 16,800 seat arena saw old-time hockey at its finest. There were five fighting majors and 85 PIM assessed in the 4-3 game won by the Aeros. Gary MacGregor scored the first goal on the first shot for the Denver Spurs as he snuck one by Aeros' goalie Ron Grahame. Fans also saw legend Gordie Howe, who described himself as "poetry in slow motion" in a pregame ceremony, get an assist on the game winning goal by his son Mark Howe for the Aeros. Spur goalie Bob Johnson took the loss. A dismal exhibition season led to the opening of a bad season. But there was hope that the Spurs would start out with a win. Their first regular season game was against the Indianapolis Racers, the worst team in the league for the 74/75 season. At 7:24 of the first period, Spur forward Frank Rochon scored the first regular season goal for the team on a pass from Mark Lomenda, which put the Spurs up 1-0. Like all home games for the Spurs, the crowd's roar after the goal was more on par with that of a ticked off cat then a mighty lion. The announced attendance was 5,016. The brief ray of hope quickly disappeared as the Racers answered with seven goals of their own to win the game 7-1.

    Denver Spurs - '75-'76
    John Arbour Ralph Backstrom Bryon Baltimore Bob Liddington Rick Morris Cam Newton Frank Rochon

    (Combined Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics record)
    SEASON W L T P GF GA PIM SEASON FINISH
    1975-1976 14 26 1 29 134 172 536 folded after 41 games

    TIMELINE
    Denver Spurs
    D
    Ottawa Civics
    Ottawa Civics
    '75-'76 '75-'76

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