2009-2010 Marks Golden Anniversary
The 2009-2010 hockey season marks a special anniversary for Springfield hockey.
It was 50 years ago that the Springfield Indians began a momentous three year run, culminating with three consecutive Calder Cup championships. Never before and never since has there been such a successful run in the history of the American Hockey League.Based on the limited number of positions available for a professional player at the time, it is of note that those clubs were at the very least among the seven best hockey teams in the world. In all likelihood however, those teams rank even higher on that short list.
Statistcally, the club led the league in points all three seasons. Twelve players played on all three championship clubs. With the present focus of today's AHL as the primary development league for the NHL, it's next to impossible to have a roster where twelve players would play together for three consecutive seasons, let alone win championships in three consecutive seasons.
The 1959-60 squad marked the first time that the Indians posted the best regular season record in the league. During the two rounds of playoffs, the Tribe went a combined 8 wins and 2 losses. Both series ran five games, as first the Indians were victorious over the Providence Reds. The Tribe then clinched their first ever Calder Cup with a 4-1 series victory over the Rochester Americans.
The following season, 1960-61, the Indians continued their dominance of the AHL, as they captured the regular season championship by an unheard of 23 point margin over the second place Hershey Bears. The 23 point margin set a league record that stood for 32 years until the Binghamton Rangers bettered it in 1992-93, when they had a league high 124 points. The Rangers eclipsed the Atlantic Division champion St.John's Maple Leafs (95 points) by 29 points. The Rangers were eliminated in the second round of that year's playoffs. The locals continued their dominance of the league in the 1961 postseason as they won their second consecutive Calder Cup by going a perfect 8-0 in the two rounds of the playoffs. The dominance of the Indians was apparent in both series as they outscored the Cleveland Barons in the opening round by a combined 18-5 score in the four game sweep. Springfield followed that effort with a sweep of the Hershey Bears, outscoring them 17-8 and punctuating the deciding game by shutting out the Bears 3-0 at Hersheypark Arena.
The 1961-62 season saw the AHL expand, creating a two division format for the regular season. The two division alignment meant a different playoff scenario as well. Instead of what we’ve come to expect in current playoff seeding, the league set an opening round match up of the two division winners! The winner of that series would then get a bye directly to the Calder Cup finals. The Eastern division champion Indians collided with the West champion Cleveland Barons in that memorable opening round. Springfield outlasted their foes in a hotly contested six game series, earning a spot in the finals. The Buffalo Bisons emerged from the rest of the pack as the Tribe's opponent in the finals. The Indians went on to win their third consecutive championship with a 4-1 series victory over their western New York rivals.
In addition to the three consecutive championships recorded by those teams from 1959-62, the individual accomplishments and awards were just as impressive:
First team: Bill Sweeney
Second team: Floyd Smith, Parker Macdonald, Bob McCord, Marcel Paille
Top 10 Performers:
Scoring: Bill Sweeney 2nd with 96 pts., Floyd Smith 3rd with 82 pts, Bruce Cline 9th with 75 points.
Goaltending: Marcel Paille 5th 3.21 goals against average.
First team: Bruce Cline, Bob McCord, Marcel Paille
Second team: Bill Sweeney, Jimmy Anderson
Top 10 Performers:
Scoring: Bill Sweeney 1st, 108 pts; Bruce Cline 3rd, 92 pts; Brian Kilrea 4th, 87 pts; Bill McCreary 5th, 87 pts.
Goaltending: Marcel Paille 1st 2.81 goals against average
Bob McCord-Eddie Shore Award (outstanding defenseman)
Marcel Paille-Harry “Hap” Holmes Award (outstanding goaltender)
First team: Bill Sweeney, Kent Douglas, Marcel Paille
Second team: Floyd Smith, Bob McCord
Top 10 Performers:
Scoring: Bill Sweeney 1st, 101 pts
Goaltending: Marcel Paille 2.56 goals against average
These achievements for one group of players have stood the test of time. For any three year period before or after this Calder Cup hat trick, no team has been able to duplicate, let alone surpass this milestone. In the years following only a few clubs have even gone back to back in championship wins. No other team in the rich history of the AHL has ever been able to match the success of the Springfield Indians teams of that era.
Finally, it’s likely that in addition to this record not being duplicated at any other time in the history of the AHL, this is a record that perhaps will never be broken. Why is that? As mentioned earlier, since that golden era, the AHL has become the primary developmental league for the NHL. As such, there are few true veteran players in the league, let alone a club that could have 12 star players remain on the team forming a nucleus to build a championship caliber team around. It’s true that in the present day we still enjoy many star players and have seen some stellar performances. However, the fact remains that from 1959-1962, pro hockey and more specifically, the fans of the Springfield Indians were treated to an era that may never be duplicated.
The Springfield Hockey Heritage Society salutes the members of the 1959-1962 Springfield Indians on the Golden Anniversary of the start of their historic accomplishment!