Happy Independence Day!
These former Indianapolis players were born on American Independence Day.
Joe Fisher: Right wing who played 138 games for the Capitals over four seasons from 1939-43. Each of those years was split between Indianapolis and the Detroit Red Wings. As a Capital, Fisher was known as a strong checker, but he developed into a prolific scorer, leading the 1942 Calder Cup champs with 21 goals in 41 games. The next year, with the game opened up due to the introduction of the offside pass rule that allowed players to pass the puck out of their own zones for the first time, Fisher had his best season, tallying 24 goals and 37 assists. Fisher played in the Calder Cup Finals in 1942 and 1943. He had four goals and four assists in the 1942 playoffs, and added two goals and five assists in 1943, when the Caps lost to the Buffalo Bisons in the championship series. That year, he also played two games in Detroit -- one in the regular season and one in the postseason -- the latter qualifying him to be on the Stanley Cup when the Red Wings won it. All told, Fisher played 66 NHL games with the Red Wings. Like many hockey players, he left for the service after the 1943 season, and played five years of senior hockey after World War II ended. A native of Medicine Hat, Alberta, he was born in 1916. He passed away in 2002.
Pat Stapleton: "Whitey" is one of the most popular players to pull on a uniform in Indianapolis. A steady defenseman, he played two years with the Racers, but they were in the team's heyday. He helped lead the Racers to a division championship in 1976 and a first-round playoff victory in 1977. He had 13 goals and 85 assists in 161 games as a player for the Racers. He also had two goals and eight assists in 16 postseason games. After a year with the arch-rival Cincinnati Stingers, Stapleton returned to Indianapolis in 1978 to coach the Racers. With a vastly-depleted roster, the team went 5-18-2. In that season, he was the first professional coach for two future Hall of Famers -- Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, both of whom began their hockey careers as Racers. Stapleton broke into the NHL with the Boston Bruins in 1961 and played two years there. He then spent three years in the minors before getting called up by Chicago in 1965. During that stint, he was named the then-minor pro WHL's top defenseman in 1965. He played 15 seasons in the NHL and WHA, eight with the Chicago Blackhawks and two more with the WHA's Chicago Cougars -- the last as the team's player-coach in 1974-75. He also represented Canada in the groundbreaking 1972 Summit Series, and owns the puck with which Paul Henderson scored the series-winning goal. He also played in the 1974 series between WHA players and the Soviet Union. He played 1,007 major league games, with 70 goals and 506 assists. Pat was named the WHA's top defenseman in 1973-74. He also was an NHL Second Team All-Star in 1966, 1971 and 1972, and played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1971 and 1973 with the Blackhawks, who lost to Montreal both times. He was part-owner of the Cougars at the end of the 1973-74 season. A year later, the team folded and he joined the Racers. Pat's son Mike Stapleton also played in Indianapolis, suiting up for the 1990 Turner Cup champion Ice, and playing 15 years in the NHL. A native of Sarnia, Ontario, he is 71 and today lives in Strathroy, Ontario.
Michal Sykora: Defenseman who played six games for the Ice in 1997-98. He was scoreless in those games and had four PIMs. That was in the middle of an NHL career that began with San Jose in 1994, led him to Chicago, Tampa Bay, back to his native Czech Republic for two years and back to the U.S. with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2000-01. Sykora played 267 NHL games over seven seasons, with 15 goals and 54 assists. After his NHL career, he continued to play in the Czech Republic before retiring in 2005. He won the gold medal at the 1996 World Championships. He also represented the Czech Republic at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Born in Pardubice, Czechoslovakia, he is 38.