Portland Storm

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Portland Storm
Portland Thunder
Founded October 1973
Folded October 1975
Based in Portland, Oregon
Home field Civic Stadium
League World Football League
Division Western
Colors Storm: Lime Green & Blue
         
Thunder: Green & Navy
         
Head coach Dick Coury
General manager Ron Mix
Owner(s) Robert Harris and Bruce Gelker

The Portland Storm was an American football team based out of Portland, Oregon, playing in the World Football League. When the World Football League was created in October 1973, the Storm was the original New York franchise. When the Boston Bulls merged with New York to become the New York Stars, the original New York entry's draft picks were eventually relegated to Portland. They were the first major league football team based in Portland. They played at Civic Stadium (now known as Providence Park).

Portland's original owner, Houston accountant John Rooney, soon dropped out of the picture. By March 1974, Bruce Gelker, a former football player and owner of several Saddleback Inns, was named the new owner of the fledgling team. Gelker originally sought a team in Mexico City, which proved to be unfeasible. After approaching officials in Salt Lake City, he settled on Portland. The Storm hired Ron Mix,[1] a Pro Football Hall of Famer, as general manager and Dick Coury, an NFL assistant with the Denver Broncos, as head coach. Before the season, Canadian businessman Robert Harris bought controlling interest, but Gelker stayed on as team president.

The Storm was the last WFL team to be organized, and as a result had mostly rookies on their roster. Among the standouts was running back Rufus "Roadrunner" Ferguson, ex-CFL and Detroit Lion quarterback Greg Barton, and linebackers coach Marty Schottenheimer[2] (later a successful head coach in the NFL) and Bruce Bergey, brother of Cincinnati Bengals-Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey.

In the first half of the season Portland played poorly, going 1-8-1. The Storm won their first game when they beat Detroit in the ninth week. Originally a Wheels home game, the contest was moved to London, Ontario. The team improved during the second half of the season, thanks in part to several NFL players cut during training camp that September. Among the new signings were Ben Davidson of the Oakland Raiders, and Pete Beathard, who had been cut by the Kansas City Chiefs. With the stock of veterans, the Storm won six of their final 10 games. One of those wins was a 26-21 upset of the powerful Birmingham Americans.

The team was in trouble off the field as well. They only drew 14,000 fans per game. Additionally, an onerous lease with Civic Stadium rapidly drained the team of cash. By the middle of the season, Harris was so short on cash that he persuaded the Detroit Wheels to move their game to his hometown of London, Ontario. The players went the last few games without being paid, and reportedly they had to depend on sympathetic fans for food. They were forced to move their final home game, against the Florida Blazers, to the road due to the poor attendance, and only played after Harris guaranteed them $50,000. The money never arrived.

The team finished the season with an overall record of 7-12-1, tied with Houston-Shreveport for 8th place in the 12-team league and seemingly qualifying them for the playoffs. However, league officials decided to reduce the playoff field to six teams—without telling anyone with the Storm. Soon after, the IRS slapped a $168,000 lien on the franchise. The Portland Thunder took the Storm's place in 1975 and lasted until the entire WFL folded halfway through their second season. The Thunder's office in downtown closed in October 1975.[3]

In 2013, the Arena Football League expanded into Portland, as the Portland Thunder, making many recall the Storm/Thunder.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Ron Mix Interview, Portland Storm GM". www.wflnation.com. WFL Nation. July 19, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  2. ^ John Canzano (January 28, 2012). "Canzano: If Portland could catch a break, it could support the NFL". www.oregonlive.com. Oregon Live LLC. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Thunder office closed". The Oregonian. November 1, 1975. p. C5. 
  4. ^ Dwight Jaynes (November 12, 2013). "The Portland Thunder? Been there and done that... in 1975". www.csnnw.com. Comcast Sports Management Services, LLC. Retrieved November 13, 2013. 

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