Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today in history: July 14

1986: The Checkers announce an “On the Road to the NHL” campaign, as they push for an NHL expansion franchise. The team sets a goal for an average attendance of 6,000 fans per game in the 1986-87 season. The printed schedules showed Market Square Arena on wheels driving down a hockey stick-shaped road with the "On the Road to the NHL text" superimposed over it. The Checkers also scheduled an exhibition game between the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues, which would be Wayne Gretzky's first game in Indianapolis since the Racers folded in 1978. Unfortunately, the team would not be able to reach those marks and would suspend operations following the 1986-87 season. The franchise would be revived a year later and recast the Ice, bringing an era of what will be 24 consecutive seasons of hockey under the Ice name. 

Bill Hudson: A center who played a partial season for the Capitals in 1943-44, splitting the year between Indianapolis and the Hershey Bears. He was trying to revive a minor-league career that began in 1930 and lasted through 1937 with teams in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He also served as a player-coach for AHA Kansas City in 1940. He scored 20 goals that season, and then he tallied 12 more with the Providence Reds the following year. As players began to return after World War II, Hudson retired after the 1944-45 season. A native of Calgary, he was born in 1911. 

Don Morrison: A center who played parts of three seasons with the Capitals from 1947-50. He played 132 games in a Caps uniform, totaling 53 goals and 83 assists. He had back-to-back 20-goal seasons from 1948-50. He also had three goals and four assists in the 1950 Calder Cup playoffs, as the Caps swept all eight games they played to win the championship. Morrison also played 112 NHL games with the Red Wings and the Blackhawks -- playing for Detroit in 1947-49 and for Chicago in 1950-51. He played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1948. His younger brother Rod was his teammate with the Caps throughout his tenure in Indianapolis. They were inducted into the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame together this February -- they played in Omaha before coming to the Caps, and later settled in the city. They bought the fledgling Omaha Knights franchise in 1960 and shepherded it into a successful career in both the IHL and later the CHL. He is also a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, with whom he served in WWII. A native of Saskatoon, Morrison was born in 1924. He passed away in 2001. 

Dennis Kassian: Member of the Capitols team in 1963, playing in all eight games and scoring a goal. He would finish that year with 12 goals and 18 assists in 45 games, in what was his third pro season. Kassian would blossom in 1967 with the AHL Buffalo Bisons, beginning five straight 20-goal seasons. He got the big-league call in 1972-73 with the original WHA Edmonton Oilers, playing 50 games and scoring six goals. A native of Vegreville, Alberta, he is 70. 

Fred Creighton: Successful Checkers coach from 1982-84, and again at the end of the 1984-85 season. He led the Checkers to the Adams Cup title in 1982 and 1983 and a surprise trip to the league finals in 1984 -- all three of his seasons. His teams posted a 127-97-9 regular-season record. He was also the general manager for those teams, replacing hockey legend Jim Devellano in that post. He remained in his GM post when the Checkers moved to the IHL in 1984-85, and moved to the bench twice during that season as interim coach -- once during the regular season and then for the last six games of the playoffs, which they split in a seven-game defeat to the favored Peoria Rivermen. Prior to his time with the Checkers, Creighton coached the NHL's Atlanta Flames for four seasons and the Boston Bruins for one from 1975-80. He was also successful in the NHL, with a 196-156-9 record. After his tenure with the Checkers, he coached the AHL Springfield Indians -- like the Checkers in their CHL days, the Islanders' top affiliate -- in 1985-86, and then parts of the next two seasons. Creighton was the CHL's Coach of the Year in 1973, 1982 and 1983, winning the Adams Cup each year (the 1973 title was with Omaha). Creighton also led the Charlotte Checkers to league titles in 1970 and 1971 in the Eastern Hockey League, and for that eight-year stint (plus four years of playing in Charlotte), he is a member of the Charlotte Hockey Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. He had 713 career wins in 1311 games coached. A native of Hamiota, Manitoba, he is 78.

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