Pittsburgh Hornets
City: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
League: International-American Hockey League (1936–1937)
American Hockey League (1937–1956), (1961–1967)
Operated: 1936 to 1956
1961 to 1967
Home Arena: Duquesne Gardens
Pittsburgh Civic Arena
Colors: Red and white (1936–1950), (1961–67)
Black and gold (1951–1953)
Blue and yellow (1961)
Affiliates: Detroit Red Wings
(1927–45) and (1961–67)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Franchise history
1927 to 1936: Detroit Olympics
1936 to 1956: Pittsburgh Hornets
1956 to Present: Rochester Americans
1961 to 1967: Pittsburgh Hornets
Regular Season Titles: (1951–52,
1954–55, 1966–67)
Division Championships: (1951–52, 1954–55, 1963–64, 1966–67)
Calder Cups: 1951–52,

The Pittsburgh Hornets were a minor-league professional team based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh Hornets did not evolve from the International Hockey League's Pittsburgh Shamrocks. The franchise started play in 1927, playing their first nine seasons as the Detroit Olympics. Then on October 4, 1936, after winning the IHL championship, the Olympics moved to Pittsburgh to become the Hornets. Bill Anderson and Bill Hudson were the only two players from the Shamrocks to be on the Hornets roster at the start of the 1936–37 season. The Hornets wore wool jerseys that were likely recycled from the Olympics. The Hornets, which were still a minor-league farm team for the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, made their debut in the International-American Hockey League in 1936–37. The league transformed into the American Hockey League in 1940. Later on, the Hornets became a farm team for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Hornets disbanded after the 1955–56 season. The franchise was suspended because the archaic Duquesne Gardens was torn down. The Hornets reappeared in the new Civic Arena in 1961 and, after a poor start, they became AHL contenders again, again as a farm club for the Detroit Red Wings. They won a division title in 1964, won the Calder Cup in 1967, then vanished for good. The second Hornets ceased operations, when the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins played their first season in the National Hockey League. The Hornets were three-time winners of the American Hockey League's Calder Cup.


The team started as the Detroit Olympics in 1927 playing home games at the Detroit Olympia. The Olympics played nine seasons in the Canadian Professional Hockey Leaguewhich later became the International-American Hockey League.

In 1936 John Harris, a Pittsburgh theatre chain owner, purchased the Olympics in October 1936 and renamed the team the Pittsburgh Hornets. The Hornets were in originally in the Canadian Professional Hockey League, which was renamed the International American Hockey League in 1929.


1939–1940 Pittsburgh Hornets postcard

The Hornets were led by former Olympics coach Don Hughes. the Hornets won their first two franchise games against the Cleveland Falcons on November 7, 1936, at the Duquesne Gardens. During the 1938–39 season, Larry Aurie replaced Don Hughes as the second coach in team history. That year Don Deacon led the IAHL with 41 assists and 65 points. In 1940, the Hornets won 25 and made the playoffs and advance to the Calder Cup finals. The Hornets were originally the minor-league affiliate of the Red Wings who won the Stanley Cup in 1936. Don Aurie, a member of that team, was a player-coach and led them to their first appearance in the Calder Cup Finals in 1940 where they were swept in three games by the Providence Reds.

At the start of the 1940–41 season, the International-American Hockey League (IAHL) became the American Hockey League (AHL). During the early 1940s the Hornets has mediocre finishes. However during this time frame, the team still continued to set league records. In 1942, Red Heron set an AHL record by scoring six goals in one game or two hat tricks. Also in 1944, Bob Gracie and Bob Walton were the AHL's top scorers with each recording 95 points in the season. Two AHL records were set on March 17, 1945: Pittsburgh the Cleveland Barons set the mark for most goals scored in one period by netting a combined 12 goals in the third period (Pittsburgh 7, Cleveland 5). The total goals scored in the game - 22 - is also a one-game record. However not all records set by the Hornets were positive. During the 1943–44 season the Hornets did not win one game away from the Duqesne Gardens. The winless record on the road was the first occurrence of such a feat in the history of the AHL. Following the season Larry Aurie ended his stint as coach to finish with a record of 129-162-39 in 330 games, a .450 winning percentage.

Following Aurie's departure, Max Kaminsky became the third coach of the Hornets in 1944. A year later, the Hornets became a minor-league club for the Toronto Maple Leafs ending their affiliation with the Red Wings. For the 1946–47 season the Hornets returned to the AHL Finals for the second time in team history, losing Game 7 to the Hershey Bears. The Maple Leafs success with four Stanley Cup championships between 1947 and 1951 helped solidify the minor league Hornets. The Hornets played the Maple Leafs' style of hockey that involved hard, close checking that produced low scoring games. In 1948, the Hornets lost only 18 games, for their best record since 1938. Max Kaminsky would end his coaching career in 1947 with the Hornets. He had a .562 winning percentage. Kaminsky won 91 games, lost 68 and tied 27 in his 186 games behind the bench.


1949-50 program.

In 1948 the Hornets set the team all-time best record for goals scored in one season with 301 goals. Sid Smith became the first and only Hornets' player to score 50 goals in one season, finishing with 55 goals and 57 assists, the highest in the AHL, to earn the John B. Sollenberger Trophy for leading scorer. His 112-point total was also the highest in the league and the highest in Hornets' history.

However in 1949 tragedy struck the team when Hornets star goaltender Baz Bastien lost his right eye after being hit by a puck in preseason. He would later become the coach and general manager. The next year Bastien's replacement, Gil Mayer went on to win the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award. The Hornets made it again to the Calder Cup Finals in 1951 but lost in Game 7 to the Cleveland Barons. Despite the loss, forward Bob Solinger was named MVP of playoffs with ten goals and six assists.

Calder Cup ChampionsEdit

During the 1951–52 season, Pittsburgh finished first overall in the AHL, finishing with 46 wins and 95 points. The Hornets then finally won their first Calder Cup on April 20, 1952, by beating the Providence Reds in six games on a goal by Ray Hannigan during the game's second overtime at the Rhode Island Auditorium. Neither the AHL president, Maurice Podoloff, nor the Calder Cup Trophy, were not present when the Hornets earned the championship. They were later presented with the Cup while traveling en route to Pittsburgh. It was also during the 1951–52 season that the Hornets wore black and gold jerseys for the first time.

Hornets 55

The Pittsburgh Hornets: 1954–55 Calder Cup Champions

The Hornets would return to the Calder Cup finals the next year only to lose again in Game 7 to the Cleveland Barons. However during the 1954–55 season Pittsburgh defeated the Buffalo Bisons in six games to capture the club's second Calder Cup Championship. The Hornets finish first overall in the regular season, the second time in team history, with 70 points. Willie Marshall won the MVP in the playoffs with an AHL-best 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists).

A five year hiatusEdit

The first Hornets’ team ended after the 1955–56 season. On March 31, 1956, the Hornets played their final game at the Duquesne Gardens; a 6-4 win over the Barons. The Hornets franchise was suspended for five years because Pittsburgh’s urban renewal project, Renaissance I, called for The Gardens to be torn down. Demolition started on August 13, 1956, to make way for the Park Plaza apartments and a local fixture, Stouffer's Restaurant. Today Duranti's Restaurant features the only remaining evidence of the Gardens, with 2, 11-feet wide sections of exposed redbrick wall. The wall would have been the front wall of the Gardens' visiting team's dressing room.

The Gardens would be replaced as the home rink of the city's pro hockey team as construction of the Pittsburgh Civic Arena began in 1958, three miles to the west of the Gardens. At that time due to the disrepair of the arena, the team moved to Rochester, New York becoming the Rochester Americans.

The Hornets IIEdit

In 1961 the franchise returned as a minor league team for the Red Wings, the Hornets emerged from five years of inactivity and played their first game at the Civic Arena, on October 14, 1961, in front of 9,317 fans. The Hornets were back but the records during the next two years gave little to cheer for.

The Hornets set many AHL records during the 1961–62 season: Most times shut out in a season (9); most games lost in a season (58) and most games lost at home (27). The team also finished in last place in the AHL, finishing with the fewest number of wins in team history (10) and their lowest point total in team history (22). The next season the Hornets doubled their total of wins in their second season back from returning to the AHL. However the team established the AHL's record for the longest winless streak. The team went 0-22-1 before beating the Hershey Bears on March 26.


A 1966–1967 Hornets Program

Things began to turn around during the 1963–64 seaon when goaltender Roger Crozier won the Dudley "Red" Garrett Memorial Award for being the AHL's Rookie of the Year. Crozier also won the Harry "Hap" Holmes Memorial Award for being the best goalkeeper in the AHL. It was the eighth time in the 23-year history of the team that a Hornets' goalie won the award.


On February 8, 1966, Pittsburgh was granted an NHL franchise, which would become the Pittsburgh Penguins. To make room for the NHL, Pittsburgh's AHL franchise had to go. However the Hornets went out with bang. On April 30, 1967, they finished the sweep of Rochester Americans in the Calder Cup Finals after Billy Harris scored :26 seconds into overtime in what would be the last goal in Pittsburgh Hornets’ history. 31 years after the Hornets first game, Coach Baz Bastien was presented with the Calder Cup. The Hornets were Calder Cup Champions one last time.

Season-by-season resultsEdit

Regular seasonEdit

Season Games WonLostTiedPointsWinning
Pct (%)
1936–37482223 3 470.4901221242nd, West
1937–38482218 8 520.5421001042nd, West
1938–39542228 4 480.4441761664th, West
1939–40562522 9 590.5271521333rd, West
1940–41562129 6 480.4291561703rd, West
1941–42562328 5 510.4552102235th, West
1942–43562624 6 580.5181832033rd, West
1943–44521231 9 330.3171401813rd, West
1944–456026 727 590.6582672473rd, West
1945–4662302210 700.5652622262nd, West
1946–4764351910 800.6252601883rd, West
1947–4868381812 880.6472381702nd, West
1948–4968391910 880.6473011754th, West
1949–5070292615 730.5212151854th, West
1950–51713133 7 690.4862121773rd, West
1951–52684619 3 950.6992671791st, West
1952–53643721 6 800.6252231492nd, AHL
1953–54703431 5 730.5212502224th, AHL
1954–55643125 8 700.5471871801st, AHL
1955–56644317 4 900.7032711862nd, AHL
Season Games WonLostTiedPointsWinning
Pct (%)
1961–62701058 2 220.1571773674th, West
1962–63722048 4 440.3062003174th, West
1963–64724029 3 830.5762421961st, West
1964–65722936 7 650.4512282563rd, West
1965–66723833 1 770.5352362183rd, West
1966–6772412110 920.6392822091st, West


Season1st round2nd roundFinals
1936–37 Data unavailable.
1937–38 Data unavailable.
1938–39 Data unavailable.
1939–40 ????L, 0-3, Providence
1940–41 W, 2-1, Springfield L, 1-2, Hershey
1941–42 Out of playoffs.
1942–43 L, 0-2, Indianapolis
1943–44 Out of playoffs.
1944–45 Out of playoffs.
1945–46 W, 2-1, Hershey L, 1-2, Cleveland
1946–47 W, 2-1, New Haven W, 2-0, Buffalo L, 3-4, Hershey
1947–48 L, 0-2, New Haven
1948–49 Out of playoffs.
1949–50 Out of playoffs.
1950–51 W, 3-0, Springfield W, 3-0, Hershey L, 3-4, Cleveland
1951–52 W, 4-1, Hershey byeW, 4-2, Providence
1952–53 W, 3-0, Hershey L, 3-4, Cleveland
1953–54 L, 2-3, Hershey
1954–55 W, 3-1, Springfield W, 4-2, Buffalo
1955–56 L, 1-3, Cleveland
Season1st round2nd roundFinals
1961–62 Out of playoffs
1962–63 Out of playoffs
1963–64 L, 1-4, Quebec
1964–65 L, 1-3, Buffalo
1965–66 L, 0-3, Cleveland
1966–67 W, 4-1, Hershey byeW, 4-0, Rochester

Franchise leadersEdit

Goals: 130 (John "Peanuts" O'Flaherty, 1940–50 and Bob Solinger, 1949–56)

Assists: 253 (Frank Mathers, 1948–56)

Points: 319 (John "Peanuts" O'Flaherty, 1940–50)

PIM: 442 (Pete Backor, 1945–54)

Hall of FamersEdit




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