Ottawa Civics

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Ottawa Civics
City Ottawa, Ontario
League World Hockey Association
Operated 1976
Home arena Ottawa Civic Centre
Franchise history
1968–1976 Denver Spurs
1976 Ottawa Civics

The Ottawa Civics was a professional ice hockey team based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, that played a portion of one season in the World Hockey Association in a mid-season relocation of the Denver Spurs.

Move to Ottawa[edit]

The Denver Spurs began play in the Western Hockey League in 1968, and had been modestly successful in the minors before moving to the WHA in 1975. However, fans in Denver had been expecting an NHL team after Spurs owner Ivan Mullenix won a conditional NHL expansion franchise to begin play in 1976-77, only to see those plans fizzle out. They did not consider the WHA to be a major league.

The Spurs were plagued by financial difficulties and poor attendance (less than 3,000 per game).[1] However, they were also dogged by rumors that the NHL was planning to move either the Kansas City Scouts or California Golden Seals to Denver. Mullenix knew that he could not possibly compete with an NHL team. Barely a month into the season, he began talks with the "Founders Club", a group seeking to bring big-league hockey back to Ottawa. Negotiations stalled, but on New Year's Eve 1975 Mullenix contacted the Founders Club again to see if they were still interested. They agreed to resume talks if Mullenix moved the team to Ottawa immediately.

On January 2, 1976, without so much as a press release, the Spurs were quietly moved to Ottawa and renamed the Civics. Allegedly, the players only learned of the move at their next road game that night in Cincinnati, when they stood on the ice in their Denver jerseys and suddenly heard O Canada being played. They lost that night and again the following night in Houston, then knocked off the Minnesota Fighting Saints (another squad headed for oblivion before the season was over) in Minnesota, 5-2, on January 4. It would be only victory in the Civics' short life. In the meantime, the league moved the Civics to the Canadian Division from the Western Division.

On January 7, 1976, WHA hockey returned to Ottawa after a two-and-a-half year absence. A crowd of 8,500 was in attendance at the Ottawa Civic Centre as the Civics fell to New England, 3–2. After two more road losses the Civics returned to the Canadian capital January 15 to face Gordie Howe's Houston Aeros. A sellout crowd of 9,355 saw the game go to overtime with the Aeros scoring the game winner.

Before the final game was played, the Founders Club announced that negotiations had been terminated. While the official reason was a $500,000 difference in the agreed selling price, Mullenix was looking to bail out as quickly as possible and had in the meantime been liquidating assets, including selling player contracts to other WHA teams. On January 17, the league issued a brief statement that "...the Ottawa Civics have formally ceased to operate". The remaining players who had not been sold were declared free agents and a dispersal draft was held; leading scorer Ralph Backstrom had been acquired by the New England Whalers and continued to play well, but most of the other Civics drifted out of hockey for good.

Because of the rushed nature of the move, the Civics did not adopt a logo or colours, and continued to wear the Spurs' uniforms, with the front crest removed. Major league hockey would not return to Ottawa until the reborn Senators joined the NHL in the 1992-93 season.

The Spurs/Civics' 41-game existence made them easily the shortest-lived team in the WHA's seven-year history.

Season-by-season record[edit]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1975–76 41 14 26 1 29 134 172 536 6th, Canadian Folded mid-season

See also[edit]