Claremore Daily Progress

June 22, 2013

COLUMN: Bruins stir OKC hockey memories

CNHI News Services

ENID — Seeing the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup finals brings back some childhood memories going back to the days of the original Oklahoma City Blazers, who were a Bruins farm club from 1965-72.

The Blazers came to Oklahoma City through the relocation of the Minneapolis Bruins.

The Blazers were formed when the NHL only had six teams. When the NHL expanded to 12 teams, many Central Hockey League players moved up to the majors.

We were watching what would be the foundation of future Boston championship teams and some who would go on to stardom elsewhere.

It was doing University of Oklahoma football and basketball announcer John Brooks originally gained fame, but Brooks made his mark as the first voice of the Blazers handling hockey as if he had done it his whole life. I remember how excited I was to get an AM/FM radio for Christmas because I could now hear the Blazers games.

He was known for “Let’s play hockey,’’ before “Jiminy Christmas.’’

Take a look at some of the names who played on that first Blazers team:

All three goaltenders — Gerry Cheevers, Doug Favell and Bernie Parent would go on to stardom in the NHL.

And how about these future NHL players:

Skip Krake, 24 goals and 37 assists for 61 points; Jean-Paul Parise with 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points; Ted Irvine, 26 goals and 20 assists for 46 points; Terry Crisp, 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points; Joe Watson, 8 goals and 24 assists for 32 points; Dallas Smith, five goals and 23 assists for 28 points.

Not to mention two players who would take teams to Stanley Cup championships as coaches — Glen Sather, 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points and Harry Sinden, three goals and 10 assists for 13 points.

Sinden was a player-coach, which was common in the CHL. He would be moved up to the Bruins.

Another notable was future NHL bad boy Derek Sanderson, who played two games for Oklahoma City that year.

The next year, future Bruins star Wayne Cashman would score 20 goals and have 36 assists for 56 points to rank behind Crisp (31 goals and 42 assists for 73 points) and Ron Buchanan (34 goals and 35 assists for 69 points).

Don Cherry, who gained fame as a coach and broadcaster on Hockey Night in Canada, scored eight goals and had 25 assists in the first of five seasons with the team.

Jean Pronovost, another future NHL star, had 21 goals and 24 assists.

The home games were played at the State Fair Arena before it had the moniker of the Big House.

The fans could virtually touch the players which always created problems when Oklahoma City played the archrival Tulsa Ice Oilers.

Can’t ever remember a season when there wasn’t a fight after some Blazer fans would throw beer on the Tulsa players.

The players were fan friendly. I remember getting Cheevers and Irvine’s autographs at a function at my church.

Fans came for the fights, but this was top-flight hockey, especially in the early days.

The Blazers were winners, which is why even hockey ignorant me would be listening to the games.

I miss those days. With the NBA in Oklahoma City, minor league hockey will never get the attention it once did here.