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WHA Teams: Minnesota Fighting Saints

By Wikipedia

The Minnesota Fighting Saints were a professional ice hockey team in the short-lived World Hockey Association (WHA) that played the first four seasons before disbanding in 1976. (A later team of the same name was actually a different franchise that moved from Cleveland in late 1976.)

At a glance...
Franchise Facts
Established 1972
Disbanded February 27th 1976
Located St. Paul, Minnesota
Minnesota Fighting Saints (1972-76)
St. Paul Auditorium (8,500) 1972
St. Paul Civic Center (16,180) 1973-77

The  were a professional ice hockey team that played in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Fighting Saints were one of the original twelve franchises of the World Hockey Association. They played four seasons in the WHA, starting in the inaugural 1972-73 season but folding in the middle of the 1975-76 season. (The Saints actually had a winning record, 30-25-4, when they went out of business on February 28, 1976.) They played part of their first season at the St. Paul Auditorium before the new St. Paul Civic Center, best remembered for its unique clear Plexiglas boards, opened in January 1973. The team colors were royal blue, white and new gold. The name was taken from the St. Paul Saints of the Central Hockey League, who had used the nickname "The Fighting Saints" in promotional material.

After the NHL's California Golden Seals moved to Cleveland to become the Cleveland Barons, the WHA moved the Cleveland Crusaders to Saint Paul for the 1976-77 WHA season.

Among the Saints' notable players in their brief history were Wayne Connelly (the team's career scoring leader), Mike Walton, Mike Antonovich (the team's career games leader), Ted Hampson, Dave Keon, John McKenzie, resident tough guys Jack Carlson and Gord Gallant, and goalies Mike "Lefty" Curran and John Garrett. In the 1974 WHA semifinals against Houston, controversial forward Bill "Goldie" Goldthorpe played three games for the Fighting Saints, compiling no points and 25 penalty minutes. (The 1977 movie Slap Shot featured a wild player named Ogie Oglethorpe, based on Goldthorpe.)

Among the players the Saints selected in the inaugural WHA draft in 1972 was a goalie who had played for Team USA at the 1956 Winter Olympics, Wendell Anderson (in the 70th - and mercifully last - round). Anderson chose not to join the Saints and instead stuck to his day job -- as Governor of Minnesota. Governor Anderson told reporters, "I'm very flattered, of course, but I must say I'm not surprised. The Fighting Saints draft demonstrates clearly that this new club is determined to sign the best talent available"

Glen Sonmor was the Saints general manager throughout their history. Sonmor coached the Saints for the first part of their inaugural season. When Sonmor gave up his coaching duties, assistant coach Harry Neale took over as head coach. Sonmor coached the Saints again during their final season, 1976-77. Neale had become head coach of the New England Whalers after the original Saints folded in 1976.

Games of the original Fighting Saints were heard on WLOL Radio (1330 AM) from 1972 to 1976, with Frank Buetel as play-by-play announcer. Buetel was the original TV voice of the NHL's Minnesota North Stars from 1967 to 1970 on WTCN-TV (now KARE-TV). Buetel's color commentators included Roger Buxton and Bob Halvorson, the Saints' first-season public relations director (1972-73), and Bill Allard (1973-76). No local radio station carried games of the New Fighting Saints (1976-77). Fighting Saints games were televised sporadically on WTCN-TV, with Buetel simulcasting a game in 1974, and Buxton doing subsequent games. In January 1973, CBS aired its first WHA game between the Fighting Saints and Winnipeg Jets live from the new St. Paul Civic Center with Ron Oakes, Gerry Cheevers and Dick Stockton announcing. In the 1973-74 season, one Saints home game was carried on KTCA-TV (PBS).

WHA Bibliography
The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by Ed Willes
The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association by Scott Adam Surgent
WHA Pro Hockey '75 - '76 by Dan Proudfoot
WHA Media Guides (each team published one each year)

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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