League: World Hockey Association
Operated: 19721977
Franchise history
1972: Miami Screaming Eagles
1972–73: Philadelphia Blazers
19731975: Vancouver Blazers
19751977: Calgary Cowboys

The Blazers/Cowboys were a franchise in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 19721977. Originally in 1972, the franchise was to be based out of Miami, Florida, called the Miami Screaming Eagles. But due to money problems and a lack of a suitable arena, they never played a game in Miami. Instead, they moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and debuted as the Philadelphia Blazers the same year. After only one season in Philadelphia, the team relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia and became the Vancouver Blazers in 1973–74, then two years later relocated to Calgary, Alberta as the Calgary Cowboys in 1975–76. Two years later, the franchise folded.

History[edit | edit source]

Miami Screaming Eagles[edit | edit source]

Miami Screaming Eagles
City: Miami, Florida

The Miami Screaming Eagles were a charter franchise in the World Hockey Association, and the team was a major part of the WHA's master plan to place teams in areas without a National Hockey League (NHL) team. Herb Martin, the owner of the Eagles, knew that he needed to boost interest in the newly formed WHA and in the Miami area if his team was to successfully compete against the NHL. He believed he could do this by luring major stars away from the NHL with huge contract offers. The Eagles thus became the first WHA team to sign a notable NHL player when they inked Toronto Maple Leaf goaltender Bernie Parent. The Screaming Eagles also pursued Derek Sanderson of the Boston Bruins, but before they were able to sign him, the team – citing money difficulties and a lack of a suitable arena – withdrew from the league on April 28, 1972.

The Screaming Eagles are arguably the most famous major professional sports team never to actually play, and its projected jerseys sell in replica format along with those of actual WHA teams. Some have speculated that their relative notoriety stems from being the first WHA club to sign a major NHL star – Parent – others on the audacity of attempting to establish a major league hockey team so far south, when at the time the NHL had no teams further south than Los Angeles, and no teams, nor any plans to form teams, in the southeastern U.S.

Philadelphia Blazers[edit | edit source]

Philadelphia Blazers
Philadelphia blazers 1973.png
City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Home Arena: Philadelphia Civic Center
Colors: Yellow and burnt orange
Main article: Philadelphia Blazers

In June 1972, [Bernard Brown and James Cooper were granted the rights to the Miami Screaming Eagles along with the players (namely Parent) that were under contract with the team, from Herb Martin. Brown and Cooper then relocated to Philadelphia and renamed the team the Philadelphia Blazers. Shortly after the relocation to Philadelphia, they came to contract terms with Derek Sanderson, signing him for $2.6 million over 5 years, at the time the highest salary ever paid to a professional sports player. The signing caused a great deal of publicity, but controversy as well, as many hockey pundits asserted that Sanderson was nowhere near enough of a preeminent star to warrant such a payout.

The Blazers had high hopes going into the inaugural WHA season with such stars as Parent, Sanderson, and fellow ex-Bruin John McKenzie, who was named the team's player-coach. But their hopes were soon dashed as McKenzie suffered an injury in a pre-season game and Parent and Sanderson also suffered from injuries. The team's first home game was also a disaster. The Zamboni malfunctioned and took a chunk of ice out of the playing surface, forcing the game to be rescheduled. The team started out with a 1-6 record (after which McKenzie was replaced as coach by Phil Watson). Philadelphia went on to drop a scarcely better 10 of their next 13 games, by which time Parent and McKenzie returned. By that point Sanderson was long gone. After only eight games (scoring three goals and three assists) in Philadelphia and considerable controversy, the owners paid Sanderson one million dollars to void his contract; he promptly returned to the Bruins to finish out the season.

Despite a rough early season, things actually improved for the Blazers towards the end. Ex-Philadelphia Flyer Andre Lacroix led the league in scoring, and ex-Buffalo Sabre Danny Lawson scored 61 goals; they would prove over the years to be two of the WHA's brightest stars, and Lacroix eventually was the league's all-time leading career scorer. Coupled with Bernie Parent's goaltending, the team made the playoffs with a record of 38 wins and 40 losses. However, a discontented Parent left the team during the playoffs and the Blazers were swept in four by the Cleveland Crusaders.

After the season ended, owners Brown and Cooper sold the team to Jim Pattison and he promptly moved the team north of the border to Vancouver, British Columbia. The team was renamed the Vancouver Blazers.

Vancouver Blazers[edit | edit source]

Vancouver Blazers
Vancouver Blazers.png
City: Vancouver, British Columbia
Home Arena: Pacific Coliseum
Colours: Yellow and burnt orange
Main article: Vancouver Blazers

Pattison knew that in order to compete with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL, who happened to share the same arena, he needed to attract a major super-star to the team as Lacroix, who had lead the league in scoring the previous year, left for the New York Golden Blades of the WHA. Pattison tried, to no avail, to sign NHL star Phil Esposito offering him $2.5 million over 5 years. Esposito decided to stay with the Bruins for less money.

The team performed horribly in their first year with a dismal record of 27-50-1. The next season, 1974–75, brought back some respectability to the team as they finished only two games below .500. But that wasn't enough to keep the team in Vancouver. After only two seasons in Vancouver, the team once again packed up their bags and moved to Calgary, Alberta, and were renamed the Calgary Cowboys. The Cowboys would be the second WHA team to attempt Calgary as the Calgary Broncos were slated to start playing there for the inaugural WHA season. The Broncos, though, never actually played a game before folding.

Calgary Cowboys[edit | edit source]

Calgary Cowboys
CalgaryCowboys 100.png
City: Calgary, Alberta
Home Arena: Stampede Corral
Colours: Red and white
Main article: Calgary Cowboys

The first season in Calgary netted them a 41-35-4 record. During a match in the playoffs, between the Cowboys and the Quebec Nordiques, Cowboy forward Rick Jodzio attacked Nordiques superstar Marc Tardif. This attack provoked a bench clearing brawl and proved one of the more infamous attacks in professional hockey history; Tardif suffered major head injuries and missed the remainder of the playoffs. In one of the first cases of its kind in hockey history, Jodzio later pled guilty to the attack in a court of law, and was fined and suspended. Without Tardif to lead Quebec, Calgary was able to beat the Nordiques in five games, but were themselves stopped in the second round by the Winnipeg Jets.

Attendance was poor in the second season, leading to rumors of a move to Ottawa, but because of past problems with WHA teams in Ottawa, the Cowboys decided to stay in Calgary. This second season in Calgary would be the last season and it was a tumultuous one as well. In one infamous game, as a protest against a disputed call, Calgary's coach, Joe Crozier, dumped the team's spare hockey sticks onto the ice. The team also missed the playoffs with a dismal 31-43-7 record. Because a satisfactory number of season tickets weren't sold by May 31, 1977, management elected to abandon the franchise.

It wouldn't take long for Calgary to be granted its next professional hockey team. For the 1980–81 NHL season, the Atlanta Flames of the NHL moved to Calgary and became the Calgary Flames. It was the only time in NHL history that an American team has moved north of the border.

Season-by-season record[edit | edit source]

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Season Team Name GP W L T PTS GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1972–73 Philadelphia Blazers 78 38 40 0 76 288 305 1260 3rd, Eastern Lost Quarterfinals (Cleveland)
1973–74 Vancouver Blazers 78 27 50 1 55 278 345 1047 5th, Western Did not qualify
1974–75 Vancouver Blazers 78 37 39 2 76 256 270 1075 4th, Canadian Did not qualify
1975–76 Calgary Cowboys 80 41 35 4 86 307 282 1064 3rd, Canadian Won Quarterfinals (Quebec)
Lost Semifinals (Winnipeg)
1976–77 Calgary Cowboys 81 31 43 7 69 252 296 832 5th, Western Did not qualify
Franchise totals 395 174 207 14 362 1381 1498 5278

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