WHA Teams: Minnesota Fighting Saints
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.)
Fighting Saints (1972-76)
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
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
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
Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by
Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association
by Scott Adam Surgent
Pro Hockey '75 - '76 by Dan Proudfoot
WHA Media Guides (each team published one each year)
These and many other WHA items can be found at
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