It was the spring of 1966 and my hockey team, the Oklahoma City Blazers, had won the championship of the Central Hockey League, the Adams Cup. No, the Blazers were not the Stanly Cup winners and the Central Professional Hockey League was not the National Hockey League. But don’t forget, the NHL had six teams at the time, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Chicago, New York and Boston were the major league hockey teams playing in 1966.. Only six, not the 30 something the League has today. The top 120 players in the world played on those six teams. The players of those Blazers teams would have played at the major league level if the era of the sixties had that number of teams. I was witness to “big time” world class hockey at the time in Oklahoma City.
Lord Stanley’s Cup was fought over by those one hundred twenty men, and the winning players on the team that won the Cup, as is still today, were members of the best hockey team on earth. But unlike today, most of the great players that were young, say 18, or 20, or 21, played in the CPHL, not the NHL.
Oklahoma City’s new hockey team of the 1965-66 season was franchised to our city by the Boston Bruins organization through the oversite of the NHL. Boston’s Baby Bears were to be named Blazers, not Bruins when they relocated their team of future NHL stars from Minneapolis. The Blazers woulld wear the same uiforms as the Boston Bruins, with the large B on the hockey jersey standing for both Blazers and Bruins. At the time of 1965 this new reorganized of the Central Professional Hockey League, 2nd season would have teams in St. Louis, Tulsa, St. Paul, Memphis, Houston, and Oklahoma City. The CPHL had rules that kept the best young professional players that didn’t make the NHL on the rosters of one of the six teams in the CPHL. Older veteran hockey players at the highest minor league level were assigned to the American Hockey League, which also had six teams. Because the new CPHL (which was owned by the NHL and started one year earlier for the 1964-65 season) had the cream of the youngest players in professional hockey, the league allowed a sprinkling of a few older experienced players on each team. All most all of these older players had NHL or AHL experience. The CPHL became the best minor league in the world along with the youngest talent in pro hockey not playing in the NHL. The league would be known as the fastest hockey on earth. The skill and play of the teams in the CPHL was outstanding.
With expansion and the coming of the World Hockey League a few years later, hockey became watered down at every level, including the CPHL. We didn’t know it in 1965 but Oklahoma City in truth had a real taste of ice hockey at the highest level with future greats of the NHL adorning the rosters of the six teams. The many of the young guns of the original Blazers moved up a few years later to the parent club and as the Boston Bruins claimed Lord Stanley’s Cup in the 1970 and 1972 seasons. Even the Blazers Head Coach Harry Sinden, moved up with his talented players and coached both NHL title teams for Beantown. The only regrets is that the greatest Bruin ever, Bobby Orr, didn’t get to play on one of the OKC Blazer teams. We all know why Mr. Orr didn’t come to OKC but without the Blazers who reached Boston through OKC , he wouldn’t have his name on the Cup. Those Blazers of 1965-66 were the backbone of the Boston Bruins great teams of the 1970’s.
The memories of those teams will never be forgotten. Like when Glenn Sather skated along the boards and without warning punched a opposing team fan in the face for mouthing him with obscenities during the game. Mr. Sather busted the fan and blood spilled in the stands. Or when Blazer goalie Gerry Cheevers went after a Tulsa winger with his stick and tremendous fight followeded, where in Mr. Cheavers beat the crap out of the Oiler hockey player.
Even though some of the players were just eighteen, twenty , or twenty-one, they were the future of the NHL. They cut their professional teeth in the new league, and the fans who attended Blazer games watched great hockey.
My Blazers that won the Stanley Cup with Boston included: John Arbour, Garnet Bailey, Nick Beverly, Wayne Cashman, Gerry Cheevers, Gary Doak, Jim Harrison, Bill Lesuk, Jim Lorentz, Don Marcotte, Derrick Sanderson, Dallas Smith, Rick Smith, Frank Spring, Tom Webster, Barry Wilkins, and Bob Stewart. Harry Sinden was the player coach for the Blazers during the 65-66 season. This list doesn’t include other Blazers who made their mark with other NHL or WHL teams of the time.