Michigan Stags

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Michigan Stags
Michigan Stags Logo.svg
City Detroit, Michigan
League World Hockey Association
Operated 1974–75
Home arena Cobo Arena
Colors Red, Black & Gold
Franchise history
1972–1974 Los Angeles Sharks
1974–1975 Michigan Stags
1975 Baltimore Blades

The Michigan Stags were a professional ice hockey team based in Detroit, Michigan that played a portion of the 1974–75 season in the World Hockey Association. On January 18, 1975, the franchise was moved to Baltimore where it was known as the Baltimore Blades. The Stags originated as the Los Angeles Sharks, one of the WHA's original twelve teams. The Stags played at Cobo Arena, and the Blades at the Baltimore Civic Center.

Michigan Stags[edit]

Having made their fortunes in industrial chemicals, Detroiters Charles Nolton and Peter Shagena bought the Los Angeles Sharks from Dennis Murphy and relocated the club to Detroit as the Michigan Stags. Coached by former Red Wing player and coach Johnny Wilson, the Stags began play in the 1974–75 season. The owners believed the Stags could be an alternative to the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, who had not been a factor in the NHL for most of the decade.

Unfortunately, the Stags were even more of a disaster than the Red Wings. The team was composed of journeymen at best, with the exceptions of star left winger Marc Tardif, veteran Western leaguer Gary Veneruzzo and beleaguered ex-NHL goaltender Gerry Desjardins (who found his way back to the NHL in mid-season and helped lead the Buffalo Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals.) The Stags also had problems off the ice as well: despite playing over .500 at home, they only averaged around 3,000 fans a game, not nearly enough to break even. Additionally, the Stags were unable to secure a television deal (except for a one-off broadcast; see below), rendering them practically invisible. Bleeding money, Michigan was eventually forced to trade Tardif to Quebec for Pierre Guite, Michel Rouleau and famed minor league sniper Alain Caron.

The Stags hoped they could at least draw fans for the highly anticipated return of Gordie Howe to Detroit, but Howe's Houston Aeros weren't scheduled to play at Cobo until February. (The Aeros did play an exhibition game across the river in Windsor on October 8, but Howe and his sons were in Czechoslovakia at the time with Team Canada; only 701 fans attended the 5-1 Stags win.)[1] As it turned out, Howe and company would never meet the Stags in Detroit, as the franchise folded on January 18, 1975.

Baltimore Blades[edit]

Baltimore Blades
Baltimore Blades Logo.svg
City Baltimore, Maryland
League World Hockey Association
Operated 1975
Home arena Baltimore Civic Center
Colors Orange, Black & White
Franchise history
1972–1974 Los Angeles Sharks
1974–1975 Michigan Stags
1975 Baltimore Blades

The Baltimore Blades were created a week after the demise of the Stags and were operated by the league. The Blades played out of the Baltimore Civic Center, but attendance did not improve, and was not helped by the team finishing out the season with a 3-13-1 record. At season's end, the league contemplated moving the franchise to Seattle (which would mark the franchise's fourth home in less than a year), but the move never materialized and the club was terminated. Players from the Michigan/Baltimore team, along with those of the defunct Chicago Cougars, were put into a dispersal draft to be claimed by other WHA teams.

The team's final record was 21-53-4, the second worst in the league that season and far out of a playoff spot. Veneruzzo was the leading scorer for the team with a 33-27-60 mark, nearly twice as much as anyone else save for Jean-Paul LeBlanc. The last active Stags/Blades player in major professional hockey was Ed Johnstone, who last played in the 1986-87 NHL season.

Media coverage[edit]

The Stags' radio station was WWJ 950. Gary Morrel was play-by-play announcer while Norm Plummer handled color commentary. (At least one broadcast had only two sponsors mentioned: Nolwood Chemical, a company owned by the Stags' owners, and the Stags themselves.)

Michigan played just one game on local television: the season opener against the Indianapolis Racers, broadcast live from Indianapolis on WXON Channel 20. Detroit radio icon Vince Doyle called play-by-play and former Red Wing Marty Pavelich was the color commentator. The Stags won the game, 4-2, but few saw it; the Stags were up against game five of the 1974 World Series. Eight other games were scheduled to be televised but money became a problem by mid-November, especially after Michigan lost 11 of their next 12 following their season-opening win.

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
1974–75 78 21 53 4 46 205 341 1104 5th, Western Did not qualify

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "No-Howe can Aeros win", The Windsor Star, October 9, 1974, p. 38