Monday, April 6, 2015

The AHL's History in Syracuse, New York

syracuse crunch american hockey league
The Syracuse Crunch have been a steady member of the American Hockey League for nearly two decades. However, they weren’t the first to represent the New York city in the AHL. Syracuse and the AHL have a checkered past.

Syracuse Stars

The Stars brought hockey to Syracuse for the 1930-31 IHL season. This was the original IHL, a league that would evolve into the AHL over the following decade. The Stars franchise moved to Syracuse from Hamilton, Ontario, where they were known as the Hamilton Tigers. After the 1939-40 season, the franchise was moved back out of Syracuse to become the second coming of the Buffalo Bisons.

The Syracuse Stars were the first team to win the Calder Cup. In 1936-37, the inaugural year of the Calder, the Stars met the Philadelphia Ramblers in the finals and came out victorious three games to one. During the regular season, Syracuse finished first in the West Division and second overall in the eight team league. The team was led in scoring by Jack Markle and placed five players among the top ten for points.

Syracuse Warriors

The American Hockey League returned to Syracuse for the 1951-52 season. The city acted as a temporary home for the Springfield Indians for three seasons from 1951-52 to 1953-54. During that time, the team was named the Syracuse Warriors. The Warriors played just one playoff series, losing to the Cleveland Barons in the opening round of the 1952-53 Calder Cup playoffs.

Syracuse Eagles

During the 1973-74 AHL season, the Cleveland Barons, one of the league’s oldest franchises, relocated to Jacksonville midway through the year. The following year, the Jacksonville Barons became the Syracuse Eagles. 1974-75 was the only season for the Eagles, folding at the end of the year. With exception of the Baltimore Clippers, a team that folded after playing just 46 games, the Eagles had the worst record in the ten team league.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Syracuse Blazers of the North American Hockey League were enjoying great success. Even though the NAHL was a lower quality league, the city wasn’t big enough to support two pro hockey teams and the fans rallied behind the team that was winning.

Syracuse Firebirds

The Blazers died along with the NAHL after the 1976-77 season. Ironically, the AHL was revived in Syracuse for the 1979-80 season when a former NAHL team relocated to town. The Philadelphia Firebirds came into existence for 1974-75, the second of four years that the NAHL existed. They won the Lockhart Cup as NAHL post season champions in 1975-76. The franchise switched to the AHL after the 1976-77 season.

Moving to Syracuse was a last ditch effort for the franchise. After just one year, the Firebirds folded. The team did reach the post season but lost in the opening round to the Hershey Bears.

Syracuse Crunch

The city would go without AHL hockey for close to fifteen years before the Crunch came to town. Ironically, just like the Syracuse Stars, the Crunch are a relocated franchise from Hamilton, Ontario. It all started out as the Hamilton Canucks in 1992-93. Their time in Canada was short lived and the Crunch were born. The Crunch are an affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. They have yet to capture their first Calder Cup championship.

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