Showing posts with label gary sittler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gary sittler. Show all posts

Monday, December 15, 2014

The 4 PIM Champs In NAHL History

gilles bilodeau beauce jaros nahl
The NAHL existed for just four years from 1973-74 to 1976-77. The league was the inspiration for the movie ‘Slapshot’, starring Paul Newman. It seems fitting that we look at the penalty minute champs over those four years. Each year brought a different PIM leader. Surprisingly, these four guys contributed with offense, as well.

Nick Fotiu – Cape Cod Cubs

Nick Fotiu led the NAHL in PIM in the league’s inaugural season. Over 72 regular season games with the Cape Cod Cubs, the future NHLer totalled 371 minutes in the sin bin. Suspensions were not readily handed out in the olden days, allowing Nick to play in nearly all of his team’s 74 games.

His PIM total was 55 more than second place Dave Ferguson of the Syracuse Blazers. Nick added 12 goals and 24 assists for 36 points. In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, Fotiu continued his sinful ways with 80 penalty minutes over 13 games. However, he was also nearly a point per game with eleven on four goals and seven assists.

Fotiu moved on to a fairly lengthy National Hockey League career. Nick played 646 regular season games in the NHL between 1976-77 and 1988-89 with the New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. Over that time, he contributed 137 points and sat 1,362 penalty minutes. Over 38 Stanley Cup playoff game, Fotiu added four assists and 67 PIM.

Nick also played in the World Hockey Association. He appeared with the New England Whalers during the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons.

Gary Sittler – Syracuse Blazers

With 109 minutes less than Nick Fotiu the year before, Gary Sittler led the NAHL in 1974-75 with 262 penalty minutes over 71 games with the Syracuse Blazers. His lead was just 12 minutes over second place Jeff Carlson of the Johnstown Jets. Gary added nine goals and 37 assists for a respectable 46 points. In the playoffs, he added four more assists over seven games while sitting 14 minutes.

The brother of Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler, Gary also played his junior hockey with the London Knights. Sittler played for Syracuse in three of the four NAHL seasons, excluding 1975-76. His major league action was limited to five games with the WHA’s Michigan Stags in 1974-75.

Gilles Bilodeau – Beauce Jaros

In 1975-76, Gilles Bilodeau set the eternal league record with 451 PIM over just 58 games with the Beauce Jaros. His margin of victory was a remarkable 140 minutes more than second place Dave Hanson of the Johnstown Jets. No superstar, Gilles did help out offensively with 25 points on eight goals and 17 assists. In his five playoff games, he assisted on one and sat 46 minutes.

Bilodeau’s lack of regular season games was due to the fact he played 14 games in the World Hockey Association with the Toronto Toros. 1975-76 was his first year of pro hockey and his only year in the NAHL. Gilles was a product of the Sorel Eperviers, a QMJHL team he played for in 1974-75.

Gilles played 143 games in the WHA with the Toros, Birmingham Bulls and Quebec Nordiques. He even got a cup of coffee in the NHL, appearing in nine games with the Nordiques during the 1979-80 season.

Rick Dorman – Erie Blades/Johnstown Jets

Rick Dorman was the final PIM leader in NAHL history and also the leader with the lowest total. Over 61 games, Dorman sat just 238 penalty minutes, just six more that second place Paul Stewart of the Binghamton Dusters.

In his first year of pro hockey after a junior career in the WCHL where he played for the Flin Flon Bombers and Winnipeg Clubs, Rick put up great offensive numbers, as well, with 17 goals and 15 assists for 32 points. In the Lockhart Cup playoffs, he added four assists and 48 PIM over nine games. Dorman went on to play minor pro until the 1984-85 season in the IHL and AHL.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Syracuse Blazers: 2 Time NAHL Champions

syracuse blazers north american hockey league logo
The Syracuse Blazers were a relative comet crossing the hockey sky. The franchise entered the Eastern Hockey League in 1967-68 and lasted out the final six years of the EHL’s existence. The club then joined the newly formed North American Hockey League in 1973-74 and when the NAHL ceased operations after the 1976-77 season, so did the Syracuse Blazers. However, in that short ten year period, the Blazers achieved greatness.

The first two years in the EHL were rocky, to say the least. Syracuse won just 21 of 144 regular games over the 1967-68 and 1968-69 seasons combined. In 1971-72, the Blazers reached the Walker Cup finals before losing to the Charlotte Checkers.

In 1972-73, the final year of the EHL, the team was nothing short of legendary. Syracuse won 63 of 76 regular season games, losing nine and tying four for a whopping 130 points. The team charged to the finals and took the final Walker Cup with a victory over the Roanoke Valley Rebels.

Blazers in the NAHL

Syracuse played in all four NAHL seasons between 1973-74 and 1976-77. The team won the Lockhart Cup championship in the first and last years.


Syracuse finished first overall in the inaugural NAHL season with 54 wins and 112 points, 19 more than the second place Maine Nordiques in the seven team league. The Blazers met the Long Island Cougars in the finals and captured the championship with a four game sweep.

Mike Morton was the team’s offensive leader, finishing the regular season with a modest 95 points. The Blazers were intimidators, to say the least. Syracuse players finished 2-3-4 in the NAHL for penalty minutes. Dave Ferguson sat 371, Gary Sittler (brother of Hockey Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler) accumulated 316 while the infamous Bill Goldthorpe sat 285 in just 55 games.

The Blazers were coached by Ron Ingram, his only year as head coach of the team. Ingram played pro hockey from 1955-56 to 1969-70, mostly in the American Hockey League. Ingram did find his way into 114 career NHL games with the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers.


The Blazers once again finished first overall in 1974-75 but the numbers were not quite as spectacular. Syracuse won 46 games and finished with 95 points, 12 ahead of the second place Philadelphia Firebirds in the eight team league. The team played an incredibly even semi-final series with the Johnstown Jets. Each team scored 26 goals and the series went to the seventh game with the Jets edging out the Blazers 5-4.

Bob Jones was the team’s offensive leader in 1974-75 with 114 points. Garry Peters was behind the bench for his only year as the team’s head coach. In fact, it was his only year of coaching in pro hockey. Peters played pro from 1963-64 to 1973-74. He appeared in 311 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. He also played 57 World Hockey Association games with the New York Raiders franchise (and its many reincarnations).


The NAHL expanded to ten teams and split into the East and West Divisions. Syracuse finished second in the East, 31 points behind the Beauce Jaros. The Blazers and Jaros met in the semi-finals and Beauce swept the series.

Doug Brindley led the team offensively with 101 points. Dan Belisle stepped behind the bench for his first of two years as the head coach. Belisle played pro from 1957-58 to 1970-71 and appeared in four NHL games with the New York Rangers during the 1960-61 season. Dan went on to become the head coach of the Washington Capitals for the 1978-79 season and 16 games into the 1979-80 season.


The Blazers went out the way they came in, as champions. The league was down to one group of eight teams and Syracuse finished first overall with 48 wins and 99 points. Like 1973-74, it was the Maine Nordiques finishing second, this time 14 points behind the Blazers. The two teams met in the finals with the Blazers sweeping in four games.

Bernie Johnston set the team’s NAHL high with 124 points. There were three players that reached the 50 goal plateau. Johnston scored 53, Tom Milani led the team with 56 and Jim Cowell scored exactly 50. Belisle once again coached the team.