Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Purple Crusade

You had to be pretty impressed when Indiana Jones passed the three tests to finally make it to the room with the Holy Grail. I know I was impressed, but I was something like ten years-old when it happened. Heck, Indiana Jones could have stumbled into that room upon a thousand ninjas and I would have been stoked. But the Grail Knight featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade wore the mark of a crusader, something that wasn't immediately brought out in that movie. That's significant from a hockey standpoint when you consider that one city in North America had a whole pack of crusaders arrive on the scene when the WHA decided to award a franchise to Cleveland.

In 1972-73, the WHA started up with twelve franchises in cities they identified as key grounds for establishing a new, and arguably better, professional hockey league. One of those cities was Cleveland, Ohio. October 11, 1972 saw the season open, and the Crusaders were one of four teams to play on opening night. They played the Quebec Nordiques in Quebec City, and Gerry Cheevers earned the first shutout in WHA history with a 2-0 blanking of the Nordiques.

Why am I yapping about the Crusaders tonight? Well, Uni Watch reader Tim Nash found another beauty video, much like the Oakland/California Golden Seals video posted yesterday, on YouTube! Again, with a lot of old, historical hockey footage not being found online, finds like the one Tim made are incredible. This fifteen-minute clip is really more of a "Crusaders Hockey 101" piece, but it's pretty incredible to see footage like this if you're a historian. Take a peek.
The sad part of this video, shot in 1974, is that the Crusaders would move out of Cleveland in 1976 after the NHL announced its intentions to move the Golden Seals to Cleveland. The Cleveland Arena, home to the Crusaders, was considered too small for the NHL team, though, and they moved an hour away to the suburban Richfield Coliseum. In all honesty, the Crusaders probably could have won the battle on the Lake Erie shore had they simply stood firm in their arena.

Gary Jarrett stands as the leading scorer in Crusaders history with 104 goals and 223 points. In four seasons with the club, Jarrett is the only player to have scored more than 100 goals as a Crusader. Gary Pinder, seen a number of times in the above video, logged the most games in Crusader purple with 304 notches on his belt. Paul Shmyr holds the franchise record for penalty minutes with 538. And despite the WHA's allowance for European players to play for teams, the Crusaders only have one European player on their all-time roster: Finland's Juhani Tamminen. Tamminen played 65 games for the Crusaders, amassing seven goals and 21 points as the top-scoring European-born Crusader.

I wasn't aware of this until she asked me what I was writing about, but my better half's uncle actually played for the Crusaders as well! I'm not going to point out who he was, but I am quite impressed by this one degree of separation she has with a professional hockey player. She doesn't seem as impressed as I am, though, so maybe I'm making more out of this than what appears.

While the video is overproduced and a little underwhelming, I just find it very comforting to see video highlights of any old WHA games. Hockey history is awesome, and I'm glad that Tim Nash brought that to the attention of Uni Watch readers like myself!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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