Charlotte Checkers (1956–77)

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Charlotte Checkers
City Charlotte, North Carolina
League Eastern Hockey League (1956-73)
Southern Hockey League (1973-77)
Operated 1956–1977
Home arena Charlotte Coliseum
Franchise history
1954–1956 Baltimore Clippers
1956–1960 Charlotte Clippers
1960–1977 Charlotte Checkers

The Charlotte Checkers were an American ice hockey team in Charlotte, North Carolina, playing in the Eastern Hockey League and Southern Hockey League.

Franchise history[edit]


The first effort to bring professional hockey to Charlotte began with the formation of the Charlotte Hockey Club, a group of local businessmen represented by Bill Shields who lobbied for a franchise in the Eastern Hockey League. On Jan. 23, 1956, a mechanical fire caused the total destruction of the Carlin's Iceland rink in Baltimore, leaving the EHL's Baltimore Clippers without a home rink for the remainder of their schedule. Clippers owner Charlie Rock was approached by Shields with an offer to play some of the games newly dedicated Charlotte Coliseum, with the ultimate aim of securing the franchise in Charlotte for the following season as well. Rock agreed to play five of the Clippers' remaining twelve home games in Charlotte.

At the time, there was little precedent for hockey in the American South. Aside from an abortive attempt to form a league in Florida during the 1930s, no professional team had ever played south of Louisville, Kentucky or east of Houston, Texas. The EHL approved the move, and only a week later the temporarily renamed "Rebels" played their first game in Charlotte. The result was a smashing success at the gate—an over-capacity crowd of 10,363 turned out for the debut, with an estimated 3,000 turned away. In all, the first five games in Charlotte drew a crowd of nearly 40,000, prompting Rock to keep the franchise in Charlotte for good.

Early success[edit]

Buoyed by immediate financial success, the Clippers quickly became a powerhouse team. The forward corps included the EHL's top three point scorers: Al "Bibber" O'Hearn (117), Doug Adam (114) and Chuck Stuart (108). The defense was led by future NHL coaches John Muckler and John Brophy. In goal was future Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Les Binkley. The Clippers cruised to the best record in EHL history, losing only 13 of their 64 games, and won the 1957 playoff championship over Philadelphia. Attendance was around 4,000 per game, best in the EHL.

In 1958, the team slipped slightly but still won the regular-season title by a single point. Forward Stan Warecki took over coaching duties for Andy Brown, but Warecki quit mid-season and Brown stepped back into the role. The Clippers lacked the overwhelming scoring punch of the previous season, and narrowly lost a 7-game Finals series to Washington.

Fall and rise during the 1960s[edit]

Beginning in 1958-59, the team tumbled out of contention. Last-place finishes in three out of four seasons were interrupted only in 1960, when the team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. An ownership change in 1960 also brought a name change, to the "Checkers", which has since been the only name used by Charlotte's professional hockey teams.

The Checkers continued to struggle until the mid-1960s, when former player Fred Creighton took over coaching duties from NHL legend Turk Broda. Creighton, who would later coach the NHL's Atlanta Flames and Boston Bruins, led the team out of the doldrums with seven consecutive winning seasons including a run to the league finals in 1968 and consecutive regular season and playoff championships in 1971 and 1972. Star players during this period included Maurice "Moe" Savard, Barry Simpson, and future NHL players John Gould and Rick Foley.

By minor league standards of the time, the Checkers were a model of stability, and were very well-supported for most of their existence.

SHL years[edit]

Along with most of the EHL's Southern Division, the Checkers joined the Southern Hockey League in 1973, along with the Macon Whoopees, Greensboro Generals, Roanoke Valley Rebels, Suncoast Suns and Winston-Salem Polar Twins. The Checkers would win the SHL regular-season and tournament titles in 1974–75 and 1975–76 before that league's demise in the middle of the 1976–77 season in the face of severe financial difficulty.

Despite the Checkers' popularity, professional hockey would not return to Charlotte until 1993.

Season-by-season record[edit]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against

Season League GP W L OTL Pts GF GA Finish Playoffs
1956-57 EHL 64 50 13 1 101 364 239 1st Won championship
1957-58 EHL 64 38 25 1 77 275 243 1st Lost in finals
1958-59 EHL 64 24 38 2 50 209 283 6th Did not qualify
1959-60 EHL 64 31 29 4 66 243 244 2nd, Southern Lost in first round
1960-61 EHL 64 25 34 5 55 221 265 4th, Southern Did not qualify
1961-62 EHL 68 26 40 2 54 226 270 4th, Southern Did not qualify
1962-63 EHL 68 35 31 2 72 242 264 3rd, Southern Lost in second round
1963-64 EHL 72 30 41 1 61 276 304 4th, Southern Lost in first round
1964-65 EHL 72 35 35 2 72 262 286 3rd, Southern Lost in first round
1965-66 EHL 72 42 30 0 84 300 251 2nd, Southern Lost in second round
1966-67 EHL 72 36 33 3 75 259 235 2nd, Southern Lost in second round
1967-68 EHL 72 42 21 9 93 333 243 2nd, Southern Lost in finals
1968-69 EHL 72 37 29 6 80 274 381 3rd, Southern Lost in first round
1969-70 EHL 74 34 31 9 77 284 266 3rd, Southern Lost in second round
1970-71 EHL 74 55 12 7 117 383 153 1st, Southern Won championship
1971-72 EHL 73 47 18 8 102 330 180 1st, Southern Won championship
1972-73 EHL 76 26 40 10 62 241 313 4th, Southern Did not qualify
1973-74 SHL 72 44 27 1 86 309 227 2nd Lost in first round
1974-75 SHL 72 50 21 1 101 370 256 1st Won championship
1975-76 SHL 72 42 20 10 94 302 206 1st Won championship
1976-77 SHL 50 22 25 3 47 180 186 3rd League folded mid-season

External links[edit]