Dayton Gems

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This article is about the ice hockey team who played in International Hockey League (1945-2001). For the team that played in the International Hockey League (2007–2010) and the Central Hockey League, see Dayton Gems (2009–2012).
For other uses, see Dayton Gems (disambiguation).
Original Dayton Gems team logo from 1968

The Dayton Gems were a minor league ice hockey team based in Dayton, Ohio, and members of the International Hockey League from 1964 to 1977, and 1979–1980.

In the fall of 1964 the lobby of their new arena, Hara Arena, had a natural gas explosion.[1] The damage was minor and the expansion team was assembled from various cast-offs and young players looking for their first break in minor league hockey.

The International Hockey League was a low level bus league at the time consisting of six to ten midwestern teams, with intense rivalries between the Toledo and Columbus, Ohio teams. In those days the players had off-season jobs such as insurance salesmen and construction workers to supplement their small incomes from playing hockey. The IHL was not considered to be a professional league at the time.

Dayton was the host for several IHL all star games due to the large attendance in their 5,600 seat arena. The Gems played exhibition games against the US Olympic team as well as the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League. The team had a few games a season televised locally as well as all games broadcast on the premier AM radio station in town.

Other teams in the league copied the uniform styling of the Gems. The Dayton Gems were the first adult team in North America to make helmets mandatory, long before the NHL adopted them.

Team history[edit]

Local businessman Lefty McFadden provided the financial base for the team and acquired the team franchise for the International Hockey League.[2] The Gems, taken from the nickname for Dayton, Ohio, the Gem City, were affiliated with the Boston Bruins for several years. The Bruins provided some of the players and the trainer for the team. In the 1970s, the Gems became an affiliate for the Washington Capitals.

After winning the Turner Cup two years in a row in 1968–69 and 1969–70, General Manager Edgar "Lefty" McFadden was selected as the minor league executive of the year. He then moved to Washington to assist the Capitals. The Gems struggled on and off the ice for the next few years as attendance decreased from 5,000 to 1,000 a game. The 1970s downturn in the economy, especially the auto industry, reduced disposable income for the fans, along with the increase in hockey violence, hurt the attendance.

The Gems recovered to win their final Turner Cup in 1976. Their red, white and blue uniforms with the crest of a hockey player superimposed over a diamond, are on exhibit at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. The Gems went into dormancy after the 1976–77 season, and were resurrected for the 1979–80 season. The revived Gems lasted only one season before ceasing operations for good.

Coaching strengths[edit]

McFadden took players such as Warren Back, Larry Wilson, Jim Anderson, and Tom McVie and turned them into league all stars. Don Westbrooke, the regular season league scoring champion in 1969–70, was a converted defenseman obtained in a trade in 1967. The Gems won three Turner Cups and lost in the finals twice during their fourteen-year tenure.

Gems players in the NHL[edit]

A few players were able to make the sizeable jump to National Hockey League (NHL) teams.

Return of the Gems[edit]

In May 2009 the Dayton Daily News reported that a group of investors had contacted Hara Arena management about bringing an IHL team, to be named the Dayton Gems, to Hara for the 2008-2009 season.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Harold and Ralph Wampler". Gems Greats. Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  2. ^ "Dayton Gems Hockey Team Records". Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University. Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  3. ^ "Legens of Hockey: Pat Rupp". Legends of Hockey. Retrieved September 28, 2006. 
  4. ^ Dayton Gems back on the ice?