Baltimore Skipjacks

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Baltimore Skipjacks
Baltimore skipjacks 200x200.png
City Baltimore, Maryland
League EHL (1979–81)
ACHL (1981–82)
AHL (1982–93)
Operated 1979–1993
Home arena Baltimore Civic Center
Colors Black, white, gold
               (1982–88)
Affiliates Minnesota North Stars (1979–81)
Boston Bruins (1982–83)
Pittsburgh Penguins (1982–87)
Washington Capitals (1988–93)
Franchise history
1979–1981 Baltimore Clippers
1981–1982 Baltimore Skipjacks (ACHL)
merged with Erie Blades in 1982
1982–1993 Baltimore Skipjacks
1993–2016 Portland Pirates
2016–present Springfield Thunderbirds
Championships
Regular season titles 1 (1983–84)
Division Championships 1 (1983–84)

The Baltimore Skipjacks were a minor league professional ice hockey team from Baltimore, Maryland. The Skipjacks played eleven seasons as members of the American Hockey League, from 1982 until 1993. The team originated in 1979 as the Baltimore Clippers in the Eastern Hockey League, and were renamed in 1981 for one season in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, before joining the AHL. During its existence, the Skipjacks reached the Calder Cup finals once, won a division title in 1984, and played at the Baltimore Civic Center for all fourteen of its seasons. The Skipjacks were one of three AHL teams to play in Baltimore, including the Baltimore Clippers, and the Baltimore Bandits.

Eastern Hockey League[edit]

Clippers logo, 1979–1981

The city of Baltimore had been without professional hockey since the Baltimore Clippers folded, along with the Southern Hockey League in January, 1977. In 1979, a group of 22 businessmen raised $100,000, and formed the Baltimore Hockey Advocates,[1] and were granted an expansion franchise in the revived Eastern Hockey League on September 12, 1979.[2] The new Baltimore Clippers played in the EHL for two seasons, and were affiliated with the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League from 1979 to 1981.[3] The Clippers name paid homage to local history in the Baltimore Clipper, and the Port of Baltimore.

Gene Ubriaco was the team's first head coach.[4] He had played left winger for the previous Clippers during the 1967–68 AHL season,[5] and even played four minutes as an emergency goaltender, stopping all three shots he faced.[6] Ubriaco led the Clippers to 41 wins, and second place finish in the 1979–80 season.[4] Centerman Warren Young led the league with 53 goals scored.[7] In the 1980 playoffs, Baltimore fans threw debris onto ice surface, and fought with Utica Mohawks players, after a 5-4 overtime win by the Clippers.[8]

In the 1980–81 season, Baltimore dropped to fourth place, winning 29 games.[4] Defenseman Gerry Ciarcia, tied for the league lead with 68 assists.[9] In the 1981 playoffs, Baltimore faced the first place Erie Blades, and were swept in four games.[10] The Eastern Hockey League folded shortly thereafter, in July, 1981.[2]

Atlantic Coast Hockey League[edit]

Skipjacks logo, 1981–82

With the demise of the EHL, team owners raised another $100,000, to help establish the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. The team was rebranded at the same time, to avoid paying trademark rights of $10,000.[1][11] The owners chose another martime name in the Baltimore Skipjacks, which were named after the skipjack boat, which became one of the state symbols of Maryland in 1985.[12] The team chose a green and white color scheme, dropping the gold from the North Stars.

Moose Lallo was named the new head coach, a veteran with twenty years of coaching in the International Hockey League.[13] The new Skipjacks finished third place in the 1981–82 ACHL season.[14] Goaltender Jim Stewart earned first team all-star honors.[15] In the 1982 playoffs, Baltimore faced the second place Mohawk Valley Stars. In a high-scoring series with 72 goals, the Stars prevailed in seven games.[16]

American Hockey League[edit]

Skipjacks logo (1982–83), in Boston and Pittsburgh colors.

Skipjacks team owners continued to lobby for an American Hockey League team in Baltimore. In 1982, the Pittsburgh Penguins relocated their farm team, and merged the Erie Blades into the ACHL's Skipjacks, with a three year affiliation commitment to Baltimore.[1][15][17] The Clippers also had a secondary affiliation with the Boston Bruins for the 1982–83 AHL season.[18][19] The Skipjacks had an uphill battle in the new league, as they shared the same arena with the Baltimore Blast of the Major Indoor Soccer League, and were consistently outdrawn by the soccer team, and given second choice for nights of play.[1][11] Coach Lou Angotti, and sixteen Erie players made the move to Baltimore.[20] Mike Gillis led the team in scoring with 113 points.[20] Mitch Lamoureux led the league with 57 goals,[21] and won the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL Rookie of the Year.[22] Defenseman Greg Tebbutt won the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL Defenseman of the Year.[23] Baltimore showed some offensive promise for the future, but ultimately finished the season in fifth place, and missed the playoffs.[24]

The Skipjacks went into the 1983–84 AHL season affiliated only with Pittsburgh.[18] Ubriaco was brought back as head coach, and led the team to its best record with 102 points, and 384 goals scored.[25] Baltimore won the John D. Chick Trophy as the regular season champions of the AHL's south division.[26][27] Baltimore's offense was evenly spread out, with 18 different players scoring at least 10 goals, and only one player with 80 points, team leader Paul Gardner with 81.[28] The Skipjacks were bolstered by the consicous decision of the Penguins to keep its prospects in the AHL, in an effort to finish last in the 1983–84 NHL season, and win the right to select Mario Lemieux first overall, in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft.[11][15][29] In the playoffs, Baltimore swept the fourth place Springfield Indians in four games, and the waited 15 days for the second round start as Rochester Americans and St. Catharines Saints series went the full seven games.[29][30] The layoff possibly affected Baltimore, as they lost to Rochester in six games in the secound round.[30] After the season, coach Ubriaco was given the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award, as the AHL's Coach of the Year.[31]

In the 1984–85 AHL season, the Skipjacks won a league record 16 consecutive games during February and March.[17][32][33] Baltimore featured seven different players with 20-goal seasons.[34] However, they were a more defensive oriented team than previous seasons, conceding only 252 goals, while scoring 326, and finishing second place in the south division with 98 points.[35] The defense was led by captain Steve Carlson,[11] and goaltender Jon Casey, on loan from the Minnesota North Stars.[15] Casey led the league with the lowest goals against average to win the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award,[36] and was voted the AHL's best goaltender, winning the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award for Best [37] In the playoffs, Baltimore defeated Rochester in the first round by four games to one, and then swept the first place Binghamton Whalers in the second round.[38] In the finals, Baltimore ran into the Sherbrooke Canadiens and their 19-year-old rookie goaltender Patrick Roy, losing in six games.[32][33]

The Skipjacks struggled in the 1985–86 AHL season, even though Ubriaco stayed when many players moved up to the NHL. Baltimore's offense was led by Tom Roulston with 38 goals, and 87 points.[39] The team finished seventh place in the southern division, missing the playoffs.[40] In the 1986–87 AHL season, Ubriaco improved the team to fifth place in the southern division, but still missed the playoffs.[41] Alain Lemieux led the team with 41 goals and 97 points.[42] The Penguins announced after the season, that they would not renew the affiliation agreement.[15][17]

Baltimore needed to find a new source of money, without the financial help from the Penguins. Businessman Tom Ebright purchased the team for $250,000, and operated it as an independent franchise, without an NHL affiliation for the 1987–88 AHL season.[11][15] The Skipjacks began the season with sixteen consecutive losses, and finished dead least in the AHL with 35 points, missing the playoffs.[15][17][43] The one bright spot, was centerman Doug Shedden, scoring 37 goals, and 88 points on the season.[44]

Skipjacks logo (1988–93), in Washington Capitals colors.

The Washington Capitals began a five year affiliation with the Skipjacks in the 1988–89 AHL season.[18] Terry Murray was appointed the new head coach, and improved the team record to 30 wins, but Baltimore missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.[45] Centerman Mike Richard led the team in scoring with 44 goals, and 107 points, Mike Millar scored 47 goals, and Scott McCrory added 37 goals.[46]

Baltimore began the 1989–90 AHL season with a 26–17–2 record, before head coach Terry Murray was promoted to the NHL, and replaced by Doug MacLean.[15][17] The Skipjacks finished the season with 43 wins, and a third place finish in the southern division.[47] Goaltender Jim Hrivnak won 24 games, and earned four shutouts, and Mike Richard led the team in scoring again with 41 goals, and 83 points.[48] In the playoffs, Baltimore defeated the second place Adirondack Red Wings in six games, in the first round, then lost to the first place Rochester Americans in six games in the second round.[49]

In the 1990–91 AHL season, Rob Laird became the team's new head coach.[25] Kenny Albert began his professional broadcasting career as the play-by-play announcer of the Skipjacks in 1990.[50] Baltimore was led offensively by Alfie Turcotte with 33 goals, and 85 points, and Jim Hrvniak won 20 games in goal.[51] The Skipjacks finished third place in the regular season,[52] received a bye in the first round, then faced the Binghamton Rangers in round two of the playoffs, losing in six games.[53]

The league realigned into three divisions for the 1991–92 AHL season, with Baltimore remaining in the southern division. Washington also allocated the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League, as a farm team for the Skipjacks.[18] The offense was led by Simon Wheeldon with 38 goals and 91 points, in addition to John Purves, and Reggie Savage, having 40-plus goal seasons.[54] Despite the goal scoring, Baltimore struggled in the new division placing fifth, and out of the playoffs.[55]

In the 1992–93 AHL season, Barry Trotz became the new head coach.[25] Baltimore was led on offense by John Byce with 35 goals, and 79 points, and goaltender Byron Dafoe played 48 of 80 games.[56] The Skipjacks finished the season fourth place in the southern division,[57] and faced first place Binghamton in the playoffs. Baltimore extended the series to seven games against the top team in the league, but lost 5–3 in the deciding game.[58] After the season, owner Tom Ebright relocated the team to Portland, Maine, after losing an estimated $2.5 million after six seasons in Baltimore.[11][15]

Coaches[edit]

The Skipjacks and Clippers had seven different head coaches in fourteen seasons of play.List of team head coaches.[4][14][25] Gene Ubriaco coached seven seasons in Baltimore, and won the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award as American Hockey League Coach of the Year in the 1983–84 season.[31] Five of the seven Baltimore coaches, were also head coaches of NHL teams, including. Ubriaco, Angotti, Murray, MacLean, and Trotz.

Season Head coach
1979–81 Gene Ubriaco (2)
1981–82 Moose Lallo
1982–83 Lou Angotti
1983–88 Gene Ubriaco (5)
1988–89 Terry Murray
1989–90 Terry Murray & Doug MacLean
1990–92 Rob Laird (2)
1992–93 Barry Trotz

Players[edit]

The Baltimore Skipjacks alumni include over 140 players, who also had NHL careers.[59] Jim Stewart was the only player from the ACHL Skipjacks to play in the NHL.[60] Thirteen players from the EHL Clippers went onto NHL careers.[61] Mitch Lamoureux is the Baltimore Skipjacks career leader in goals (119), assists (133), and points (252).[59] He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in the class of 2011.[62] Three Skipjacks also won season awards:

Annual AHL award winners
Season Player Award description AHL award
1982–83 Mitch Lamoureux Rookie of the year Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award [22]
Greg Tebbutt Defenceman of the year Eddie Shore Award [23]
1984–85 Jon Casey Best Goaltender Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award [37]
Lowest goals against average Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award [36]

Results[edit]

Season-by-season results in the regular season, and playoffs.[4][14][25]

Season Team League Regular season Playoffs
G W L T OTL Points GF GA Standing 1st round 2nd round Finals
1979–80 Clippers EHL 70 41 25 4 86 308 225 2nd, EHL unknown, Utica
1980–81 Clippers EHL 72 29 36 7 65 278 286 4th, EHL L, 0–4, Erie
1981–82 Skipjacks ACHL 48 22 23 3 47 204 189 3rd, ACHL L, 3-4, Mohawk Valley
1982–83 Skipjacks AHL 80 35 36 9 79 362 366 5th, South Out of playoffs
1983–84 Skipjacks AHL 80 46 24 10 102 384 304 1st, South W, 4-0, Springfield L, 2-4, Rochester
1984–85 Skipjacks AHL 80 45 27 8 98 326 252 2nd, South W, 4-1, Rochester W, 4-0, Binghamton L, 2-4, Sherbrooke
1985–86 Skipjacks AHL 80 28 44 8 64 271 304 7th, South Out of playoffs
1986–87 Skipjacks AHL 80 35 37 8 78 277 295 5th, South Out of playoffs
1987–88 Skipjacks AHL 80 13 58 9 0 35 268 434 7th, South Out of playoffs
1988–89 Skipjacks AHL 80 30 46 4 64 317 347 6th, South Out of playoffs
1989–90 Skipjacks AHL 80 43 30 7 93 302 265 3rd, South W, 4-2, Adirondack L, 2-4, Rochester
1990–91 Skipjacks AHL 80 39 34 7 85 325 289 3rd, South L, 2-4, Binghamton
1991–92 Skipjacks AHL 80 28 42 10 66 287 320 5th, South Out of playoffs.
1992–93 Skipjacks AHL 80 28 40 12 68 318 353 4th, South L, 3-4, Binghamton

References[edit]

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