Cincinnati Stingers, World Hockey Association (WHA)
The Complete World Hockey Association
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Cincinnati Stingers 1975-76 to 1978-79

Owners


Bill DeWitt

Brian Heekin

Rinks


Riverfront Coliseum

Seasons & Leaders

1975-76

Record
35-44-1, 71 pts

Coach
Terry Slater

Goals
43, Rick Dudley
32, Dennis Sobchuk

Assists
50, Bryan Campbell
46, Jacques Locas

Points
81, Rick Dudley
73, Jacques Locas

Penalty Min.
204, John Hughes
187, Dale Smedsmo

Wins
19, Paul Hoganson

Goals Against
3.64, Paul Hoganson

Shutouts
2, Paul Hoganson

1976-77

Record
39-37-5, 83 pts

Coach
Terry Slater

Goals
52, Richie Leduc
52, Blaine Stoughton

Assists
58, Ron Plumb
55, Richie Leduc

Points
107, Richie Leduc
104, Blaine Stoughton

Penalty Min.
126, Pierre Roy
113, John Hughes

Wins
21, Norm Lapointe

Goals Against
2.83, Jacques Caron

Shutouts
3, Jacques Caron

1977-78

Record
35-42-3, 73 pts

Coach
Jacques Demers
Jerry Rafter (interim)

Goals
59, Robbie Ftorek
30, Rick Dudley

Assists
50, Robbie Ftorek
45, Pat Stapleton

Points
109, Robbie Ftorek
71, Rick Dudley

Penalty Min.
241, Paul Stewart
156, Rick Dudley

Wins
21, Michel Dion

Goals Against
3.57, Michel Dion

Shutouts
4, Michel Dion

1978-79

Record
33-41-6, 72 pts

Coach
Floyd Smith

Goals
43, Peter Marsh
39, Robbie Ftorek

Assists
77, Robbie Ftorek
51, Craig Norwich

Points
116, Robbie Ftorek
71, Reg Thomas

Penalty Min.
222, Barry Melrose
131, Barry Legge

Wins
23, Mike Liut

Goals Against
3.32, Michel Dion

Shutouts
3, Mike Liut

Complete Roster & Regular Season Scoring Totals

Player (G: Goaltender)
Games
Goals
Assists
Points
Penalty Min.
Dudley, Rick
270
131
146
277
516
Ftorek, Robbie
160
98
127
225
141
Sobchuk, Dennis
183
81
101
182
134
Marsh, Peter
230
91
76
167
270
Leduc, Richie
135
79
86
165
119
Hislop, Jamie
206
61
102
163
68
Plumb, Ron
213
34
128
162
128
Larose, Claude
211
69
90
159
33
Stoughton, Blaine
111
58
65
123
75
Locas, Jacques
142
45
61
106
103
Norwich, Craig
145
13
74
87
121
Abgrall, Dennis
135
36
50
86
35
Thomas, Reg
98
36
41
77
58
Carroll, Greg
103
21
52
73
89
Campbell, Bryan
77
22
50
72
24
Gilligan, Bill
128
27
40
67
113
Hughes, John
158
6
61
67
317
Legge, Barry
232
17
47
64
284
Guite, Pierre
79
30
32
62
112
Gartner, Mike
78
27
25
52
123
Stapleton, Pat
65
4
45
49
28
Inkpen, Dave
128
7
38
45
156
Debol, Dave
68
13
29
42
11
Sobchuk, Gene
78
23
19
42
37
Harris, Hugh
45
11
23
34
30
Pelyk, Mike
75
10
23
33
117
Steele, Billy
84
11
22
33
21
Melrose, Barry
178
5
27
32
343
Myers, Murray
56
14
15
29
12
MacNeil, Bernie
77
15
12
27
83
Smedsmo, Dale
89
8
19
27
230
Maggs, Darryl
38
6
19
25
29
Baltimore, Bryon
97
6
19
25
106
Luksa, Chuck
78
8
12
20
116
Coates, Brian
42
8
10
18
18
Ball, Terry
36
3
14
17
12
Shutt, Byron
65
10
7
17
115
Roy, Pierre
39
3
12
15
126
McKenzie, John
12
3
10
13
6
Deadmarsh, Butch
45
7
6
13
86
Donnelly, Pat
23
5
7
12
4
Parizeau, Michel
30
3
9
12
28
Messier, Mark
47
1
10
11
58
Forbes, Dave
73
6
5
11
83
Ouimet, Francois
16
1
8
9
10
St. Sauveur, Claude
16
4
5
9
4
O'Donoghue, Don
20
1
8
9
0
Maxwell, Bryan
34
1
8
9
29
Stewart, Paul
63
3
6
9
286
Marotte, Gilles
29
1
7
8
58
Hall, Del
25
4
3
7
4
Byers, Mike
20
3
3
6
0
Clark, Gordie
21
3
3
6
2
Gilbert, Ed
29
3
3
6
40
Veneruzzo, Gary
14
3
2
5
8
Andrascik, Steve
20
3
2
5
21
Beaton, Frank
29
2
3
5
61
Handrahan, Alf
14
1
3
4
42
Greig, Bruce
32
3
1
4
57
Lahache, Floyd
11
0
3
3
13
Trognitz, Willie
29
2
1
3
94
Liut, Mike (G)
81
0
3
3
9
Serafini, Ron
16
0
2
2
15
Watson, Bryan
21
0
2
2
56
Justin, Dan
23
0
2
2
6
Aubry, Serge (G)
12
0
1
1
4
Beaudoin, Serge
13
0
1
1
10
Abbey, Bruce
17
1
0
1
12
Davis, Kelly
18
0
1
1
20
Kiely, John (G)
22
0
1
1
6
Caron, Jacques (G)
24
0
1
1
0
Hoganson, Paul (G)
69
0
1
1
6
Lapointe, Norm (G)
77
0
1
1
6
Dornseif, Dave
1
0
0
0
0
Long, Ted
1
0
0
0
0
Allen, Jeff
2
0
0
0
0
Meehan, Gerry
2
0
0
0
0
Coutu, Rich (G)
3
0
0
0
0
Shanahan, Sean
4
0
0
0
7
Wakely, Ernie (G)
6
0
0
0
0
Dion, Michel (G)
75
0
0
0
28

Complete Regular Season Goaltending

Goaltender
Games
Minutes
Goals
Shutouts
Record
Average
Dion, Michel
75
4037
233
4
31-31-3
3.46
Liut, Mike
81
4396
270
3
31-39-4
3.69
Lapointe, Norm
77
4105
280
2
30-37-3
4.09
Hoganson, Paul
69
3541
233
3
25-32-2
3.95
Caron, Jacques
24
1292
61
3
13-6-2
2.83
Aubry, Serge
12
549
38
1
6-4-0
4.15
Kiely, John
22
1087
78
0
6-8-1
4.31
Coutu, Rich
3
149
17
0
0-2-0
6.85
Wakely, Ernie
6
311
26
0
0-5-0
5.02

History

Cincinnati was the WHA's first expansion team, granted to a group led by Bill DeWitt Jr and Brian Heekin, on May 6, 1973. It was to be one of three teams to enter the league in 1974-75. The team's nickname, the Stingers, was selected not long after the team was founded.

Prospects looked good for the Cincinnati operation. The owners had money and came from families with a history of sports-franchise ownership. Bill DeWitt Sr had owned the St. Louis Browns on Major League Baseball, and DeWitt Jr would later, in 1995, assume ownership of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The team would play in the Riverfront Coliseum, still under construction when the team was announced. Delays would force the Cincinnati skaters to wait until 1975 to take to the ice. In the meantime, Cincinnati participated in the 1973 and 1974 Amateur Drafts and signed other unattached players.

The biggest prize was Dennis Sobchuk, a potential superstar, signed in 1974 and loaned to Phoenix for the 1974-75 season. Rugged defenseman John Hughes was signed and also loaned to Phoenix. An old fan favorite, Rick Dudley, returned to Cincinnati after two seasons playing for Buffalo in the NHL. Terry Slater, old bench boss for the Los Angeles Sharks, assumed the coaching role for the Stingers.

Finally, over two years since its founding, the Cincinnati Stingers took to the ice, and played surprisingly well, sporting a 9-4-0 record after a month behind a strong offense led by Sobchuk and Dudley. An eight-game losing streak brought the team back to reality, but the Stingers were in the hunt for a playoff berth well into March before fading in the season's final weeks.

The first-year Stingers finished with a 35-44-1 record, last in the four-team Eastern Division, but with the same number of wins as division leader Indianapolis, just 5 points behind in overall points. Rick Dudley led with 43 goals, Dennis Sobchuk had 32, and two more rookies, Claude Larose and Jacques Locas, added 28 and 27 goals, respectively. A porous defense — 340 goals against — was the team's weakest point.

In their second season, the Stingers picked up Richie Leduc from Cleveland and Blaine Stoughton from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Each scored 52 goals, Sobhcuk scored 44 and Dudley 41, as the Stingers scored an impressive 354 goals for, the fifth-highest total by any team in WHA history. The defense improved, insofar as it collectively gave up 37 fewer goals than the year before, but it was still a porous defense that still allowed over 300 goals against. Overall, the Stingers finished 39-37-5 and in second-place in the Eastern Division.

In just two short seasons, the Stingers had developed a strong rivalry with the Indianapolis Racers. They met in the Quarterfinal round of the 1976 playoffs, with the first game going into three overtimes before the Racers won it. It was a crushing loss for Cincinnati. They had one-goal leads in each period, only to allow a game-tying goal late in each period to allow the Racers to stay close and pull out the win. The Stingers would not win a game in the series, a bitter finish to what had been a strong season for the two-year old club.

Then the merger discussions took center stage for most of the first half of 1977. The plan was for the NHL to admit six of the WHA teams, among them Cincinnati. The vote on August 9th, 1977, was close but not sufficient. The Stingers had stocked up on former Racers players (and a new coach, Jacques Demers, also late of Indianapolis) as part of their bid to look more attractive to the NHL. There was no merger, and the WHA was going to go forth with its sixth season.

The failed merger, coupled with the Stingers' disappointing loss in the 1977 playoffs, and the usual loss of being an expansion-team novelty, seemed to turn off the fans from the team. Attendance was never robust, but there was a following, unfortunately not enough to keep the team in healthy financial shape. While the ownership had the means to weather a few lean years as is common to any new team, the urgency was compounded by the WHA's all-or-nothing plan to merge or be absorbed into the NHL. Suddenly, Cincinnati was on the outside looking in.

It should be mentioned that there was turmoil in both leagues at this time, particularly in and around Ohio. The Cleveland Crusaders, one of the WHA's strongest teams early on, and a natural rival for the Stingers, had become insolvent playing at the luxurious and remote Richfield Coliseum. They had vacated Cleveland in 1976, then the NHL moved the old California Golden Seals to the Richfield Coliseum as the new Cleveland Barons, who did not fare well at all, nearly folding during the 1976-77 season. Thus, despite a solid ownership and management, a city with a strong sporting history and a new modern arena, the Cincinnati Stingers were in a bind: if the leagues merge, the Stingers won't be admitted and will fold, or if the leagues do not merge, the Stingers might not survive much longer anyway and fold out of insolvency.

There was hope that the 1977-78 team could rebound. The young Demers was already developing a reputation as a keen coach, leading the Racers to a brief run of glory of their own between 1975-77. Key players came over from Indianapolis, most notably, defenseman Pat Stapleton (who had to be talked out of retirement to do so). In goal was a big rookie, Mike Liut, and backing him was Michel Dion, who had starred for Indianapolis the past two seasons. The biggest catch, though, was Robbie Ftorek, the wizard of Phoenix who had just won the league's Most Valuable Player award and had come off of two 100-point seasons. There was every reason to believe the Stingers had a strong team and could match well with the league's very best.

But, nothing worked. Ftorek scored 109 points, and Liut showed he was potentially a top-line goaltender, but there was tremendous turn-over as previous year's stars Richie Leduc, Dennis Sobchuk, Blaine Stoughton, defenseman Ron Plumb and forward Claude Larose all left the team in midseason trades. The team was not drawing well and was losing money, and with the WHA throwing all its resources toward a merger, it was evident Cincinnati's only viable path was to stay alive long enough to be bought out to fold when a merger was agreed upon. The team finished 7th out of 8 teams in 1977-78, out of a playoff spot.

Merger discussions went nowhere in 1978. The Houston Aeros tried to gain admittance into the NHL on its own, failed, and was disbanded in July 1978. The NHL had given up on its Cleveland Barons and merged that team with the Minnesota North Stars. There was hope that merger would happen in 1979, but as of Summer 1978, it was still not a foregone conclusion. The Stingers convened for the 1978-79 season, now coached by Floyd Smith, with Demers having accepted the coaching position in Quebec.

Robbie Ftorek was untouchable, scoring 116 points. Up-and-coming forwards Jamie Hislop and Peter Marsh scored 30 and 43 goals, respectively. Mike Liut and Michel Dion formed an effective one-two tandem in goal. A rookie, Mike Gartner, scored 27. He would play in the NHL through 1999 and score over 700 goals and earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. Another rookie, Mark Messier, age 17 when he joined the team in early December, scored just a single goal — on a mid-ice dump-in that found the back of the net. He would play through 2004, win six Stanley Cups and establish himself as one of the sport's greatest players and also earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. Despite losing a point from last year's record, the Stingers made the playoffs. They were beaten in three games by the Whalers.

But by this time, the Stingers knew their fate. In March 1979, the NHL finally relented and agreed to absorb four WHA teams, Cincinnati not among them, to no one's surprise. They would fold at the close of the season. Their players would be released and be (hopefully) picked up by another team. The owners would recoup their costs by the buy-out. On April 24, 1979, the Stingers were defeated by New England. Jamie Hislop scored the team's last goal ever, and at the final horn, the Stingers ceased to be, the end of a four-year run in the WHA.

 

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Reviews, Podcasts and Media

Article: Color of Hockey: Alton White (The Hockey News), by William Douglas — March 8, 2020
Review: US Sports History, by Rick Macales — Feb 6, 2021
Podcast: Good Seats Still Available, by Tim Hanlon — Feb 28, 2021
Podcast: Digital to Dice (Youtube), by Dave Gardner — July 3, 2022

 


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