Portland Thunder (WFL)

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Portland Storm (1974)
Portland Thunder (1975)
Team helmet
Team logo
Established October 1973
Folded October 1975
Based in Portland, Oregon
Home field Civic Stadium
Head coach Dick Coury
General manager Ron Mix
Owner(s) Robert Harris and Bruce Gelker
League World Football League
Division Western
Colours Storm: lime green and blue
         
Thunder: green and navy
         
Uniform
Portland Thunder jerseys 1975.png

The Portland Thunder (originally Portland Storm) was an American football team in the World Football League based out of Portland, Oregon. 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 2-7-1. 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]

Schedule and results[edit]

Key: Win Loss Bye

1974 regular season [5][edit]

Week Day Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 Wednesday July 10, 1974 at Philadelphia Bell L 8–33 55,534
2 Thursday July 18, 1974 at Memphis Southmen L 8–16 31,088
3 Wednesday July 24, 1974 Chicago Fire L 22–29 19,358
4 Wednesday July 31, 1974 Philadelphia Bell L 7–25 13,757
5 Wednesday August 7, 1974 Houston Texans T 15–15 15,636
6 Wednesday August 14, 1974 at New York Stars L 16–38 16,222
7 Wednesday August 21, 1974 at Florida Blazers L 7–11 15,541
8 Wednesday August 28, 1974 at Southern California Sun L 15–45 27,814
9 Monday September 2, 1974 at Detroit Wheels (at London, Ontario) W 18–7 5,101
10 Friday September 6, 1974 Hawaiians W 15–6 15,551
11 Wednesday September 11, 1974 New York Stars L 15–34 13,339
12 Wednesday September 18, 1974 at Jacksonville Sharks W 19–17 16,041
13 Wednesday September 25, 1974 Birmingham Americans W 26–21 14,273
14 Wednesday October 2, 1974 Southern California Sun L 22–26 N/A
15 Wednesday October 9, 1974 at Birmingham Americans L 8–30 25,621
16 Wednesday October 16, 1974 Hawaiians W 3–0 N/A
17 Thursday October 24, 1974 Memphis Southmen W 26–25 13,228
18 Thursday October 31, 1974 at Shreveport Steamer W 14–0 20,402
19 Thursday November 7, 1974 at Florida Blazers L 0–23 11,676
20 Wednesday November 13, 1974 at Hawaiians L 0–23 14,245

1975 regular season [6][edit]

Week Day Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 Monday August 3, 1975 at Southern California Sun L 15–21 14,362
2 Sunday August 9, 1975 Hawaiians L 24–25 7,709
3 Sunday August 16, 1975 at Chicago Winds L 18–25 3,501
4 Sunday August 23, 1975 Shreveport Steamer W 33–24 6,576
5 Sunday August 30, 1975 at San Antonio Wings L 0–22 12,197
6 Saturday September 6, 1975 Birmingham Vulcans L 8–26 6,342
7 Saturday September 13, 1975 at Philadelphia Bell W 25–10 4,710
8 Sunday September 21, 1975 Memphis Southmen L 3–16 14,818
9 Saturday October 4, 1975 at Jacksonville Express L 29–32 8,119
10 Sunday October 12, 1975 San Antonio Wings W 28–25 3,818
11 Sunday October 19, 1975 Jacksonville Express W 30–13 8,713

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. 
  5. ^ "1974 World Football League Game Results". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 
  6. ^ "1975 World Football League Results". Retrieved 2015-11-11. 

External links[edit]