Phoenix Roadrunners, World Hockey Association (WHA)
The Complete World Hockey Association
www.surgent.net/wha

Phoenix Roadrunners 1974-75 to 1976-77

Owners


William McFarland

Karl Eller

Brian O'Neill

Rinks


Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Seasons & Leaders

1974-75

Record
39-31-8, 86 pts

Coach
Sandy Hucul

Goals
36, Michel Cormier
35, John Gray
35, Murray Keogan

Assists
45, Dennis Sobchuk
44, Jim Boyd

Points
77, Dennis Sobchuk
70, Jim Boyd

Penalty Min.
201, John Hughes
168, Cam Connor

Wins
25, Gary Kurt

Goals Against
3.27, Jack Norris

Shutouts
2, Gary Kurt

1975-76

Record
39-35-6, 84 pts

Coach
Sandy Hucul

Goals
47, Del Hall
41, Robbie Ftorek

Assists
72, Robbie Ftorek
45, John Gray

Points
113, Robbie Ftorek
91, Del Hall

Penalty Min.
295, Cam Connor
136, John Gray

Wins
21, Jack Norris

Goals Against
3.18, Jack Norris

Shutouts
1, Gary Kurt
1, Jack Norris

1976-77

Record
28-48-4, 60 pts

Coach
Al Rollins

Goals
46, Robbie Ftorek
38, Del Hall

Assists
71, Robbie Ftorek
41, Del Hall

Points
117, Robbie Ftorek
79, Del Hall

Penalty Min.
169, Jerry Rollins
136, Serge Beaudoin

Wins
17, Clay Hebenton

Goals Against
4.22, Clay Hebenton

Shutouts
none

Complete Roster & Regular Season Scoring Totals

Player (G: Goaltender)
Games
Goals
Assists
Points
Penalty Min.
Ftorek, Robbie
213
118
180
298
224
Hall, Del
160
85
85
170
40
Gray, John
182
80
90
170
302
Cormier, Michel
182
70
69
139
52
Boyd, Jim
156
49
78
127
62
Huston, Ron
159
42
83
125
14
Mononen, Lauri
144
36
50
86
29
Rautakallio, Pekka
151
15
70
85
16
Sobchuk, Dennis
78
32
45
77
36
Connor, Cam
130
27
40
67
463
Keogan, Murray
86
35
31
66
72
Niekamp, Jim
229
7
55
62
234
Repo, Seppo
80
29
31
60
10
Borgeson, Don
74
29
28
57
38
Lariviere, Garry
134
14
41
55
176
Hughes, Frank
48
24
29
53
20
Beaudoin, Serge
153
6
45
51
238
Liddington, Bob
80
20
24
44
28
McLeod, Al
186
6
38
44
215
Veneruzzo, Gary
61
19
24
43
27
Odrowski, Gerry
77
5
38
43
77
Tamminen, Juhani
65
10
29
39
72
Gorman, Dave
85
14
25
39
38
Migneault, John
115
14
25
39
30
Hobin, Mike
77
18
19
37
16
Dean, Barry
71
9
25
34
110
McNamee, Pete
69
10
21
31
109
Hughes, John
72
4
25
29
201
Barlow, Bob
51
6
20
26
8
Harris, Hugh
22
10
10
20
15
Mowat, Bob
53
9
10
19
34
Young, Howie
56
4
15
19
67
Bennett, Wendell
67
4
15
19
92
Stevens, Mike
70
2
16
18
69
Rollins, Jerry
63
4
10
14
169
Clarke, Jim
59
1
9
10
57
Hinse, Andre
16
2
7
9
14
Kurt, Gary (G)
130
0
9
9
14
Erickson, Grant
33
4
4
8
6
Bray, Duane
46
2
6
8
62
Sleep, Mike
22
4
2
6
6
Popiel, Jan
28
3
2
5
8
Newell, Rick
25
0
4
4
39
Norris, Jack (G)
74
0
3
3
8
Sobchuk, Gene
3
1
0
1
0
Davidson, Blair
2
0
0
0
2
Hebenton, Clay (G)
58
0
0
0
2

Complete Playoff Scoring Totals

Player (G: Goaltender)
Games
Goals
Assists
Points
Penalty Min.
Ftorek, Robbie
10
3
8
11
4
Gray, John
10
3
4
7
19
Boyd, Jim
10
4
5
7
4
McLeod, Al
10
0
6
6
8
Hall, Del
5
2
3
5
0
Sobchuk, Dennis
5
4
1
5
2
Mononen, Lauri
5
1
3
4
2
Bennett, Wendell
5
1
2
3
6
Huston, Ron
5
1
1
2
0
Rautakallio, Pekka
5
0
2
2
0
Veneruzzo, Gary
5
2
0
2
7
Odrowski, Gerry
5
0
2
2
0
Gorman, Dave
5
0
2
2
24
Erickson, Grant
5
0
2
2
0
Lariviere, Garry
6
0
2
2
2
Cormier, Michel
5
1
0
1
2
Keogan, Murray
5
0
1
1
0
Niekamp, Jim
5
0
1
1
0
Borgeson, Don
5
0
1
1
2
Beaudoin, Serge
5
1
0
1
10
McNamee, Pete
5
1
0
1
2
Stevens, Mike
5
0
1
1
0
Newell, Rick
5
0
1
1
2
Connor, Cam
10
1
0
1
23
Mowat, Bob
3
0
0
0
0
Migneault, John
4
0
0
0
0
Kurt, Gary (G)
4
0
0
0
0
Sobchuk, Gene
5
0
0
0
0
Norris, Jack (G)
7
0
0
0
0

Complete Regular Season Goaltending

Goaltender
Games
Minutes
Goals
Shutouts
Record
Average
Kurt, Gary
120
6962
465
3
54-55-7
4.01
Norris, Jack
74
4374
235
2
35-29-8
3.22
Hebenton, Clay
58
3209
229
0
17-30-3
4.28

Complete Playoff Goaltending

Goaltender
Games
Minutes
Goals
Shutouts
Record
Average
Norris, Jack
7
398
27
0
2-5
4.07
Kurt, Gary
4
207
12
0
1-2
3.48

History

Phoenix had developed a solid reputation for supporting hockey after the Roadrunners arrived in 1967, relocating from Victoria, British Columbia, members of the Western Hockey League. With its large winter-time population of "snowbirds" who migrate to Arizona from the colder climes, there was no shortage of hockey fans to adopt the 'runners as their team. The Roadrunners played seven seasons in the Western Hockey League, and won the 1972-73 and 1973-74 Patrick Cup as league champions.

In September 1973, the WHA awarded an expansion franchises to Phoenix, a group headed by William MacFarland and Karl Eller. The new WHA Roadrunners would begin play in 1974-75. There was a lot of continuity between the 1973-74 Western League club and the 1974-75 WHA edition. Sandy Hucul, who coached the Western League team, remained as coach, while nearly a dozen players on the 1974-75 WHA club had played for Phoenix in the Western League. This gave the expansion team a headstart, which would benefit them immediately.

The Roadrunners featured strong players at every position: Gary Kurt (from New Jersey) and Jack Norris (from Edmonton via Indianapolis) in goal, Bob Barlow (WHL Roadrunners) and all-star Gerry Odrowski (from Los Angeles) on defense, and forwards Michel Cormier, Murray Keogan (both of the WHL Roadrunners), Jim Boyd, John Gray (both of the CHL Oklahoma City Blazers), Dennis Sobchuk (on loan for the year from the Cincinnati Stingers) and Robbie Ftorek (late of NHL Detroit).

Coach Hucul demanded his teams play a tight-checking game but also gave his scorers room to create plays. As a result, the Roadrunners were an expansion team in name only, finishing with 39 wins, 300 goals scored, and a trip to the 1975 playoffs. Five players scored at least 30 goals, while Boyd and Don Borgeson contributed 26 and 29 goals. Fourteen rookies played at least 50 games, the defense was third stingiest in the league with 265 goals against, and Hucul was named Coach of the Year by the league. Unfortunately, the Roadrunners lasted just a single round in the playoffs, bowing to Quebec in five games.

The next season was a near-repeat of the first season: the Roadrunners won 39 games again and another trip to the playoffs. Robbie Ftorek became one of the league's elite players, scoring 41 goals, assisting on 72 for a total of 113 points. There was turnover as Gerry Odrowski moved on to Minnesota, Dennis Sobchuk went back to the Stingers, and Don Borgeson signed with Denver. In their places were Del Hall, Ron Huston and Gary Veneruzzo. Hall led the team with 47 goals, while the defense now included Pekka Rautakallio, Serge Beaudoin and Garry Lariviere, joining Jim Niekamp as the main returnee from the 1974-75 team. As in the previous year, the Roadrunners could not advance in the playoffs, losing to San Diego in the first round.

Despite two 39-win seasons, the Roadrunners were struggling financially, attendance at the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum not enough to support the team. When the 1976-77 season started, a new principal owner, Brian O'Neill, was in place, Sandy Hucul had stepped down, replaced as coach by General manager Al Rollins, and a sense that this could be a long season if the finances didn't improve quickly.

At first, the Roadrunners played well, sporting a 12-9-2 record into late November. The financial strain forced the team to unload players for cash, and the team began to lose regularly. On the ice, the Roadrunners were led by Robbie Ftorek and Del Hall, plus an all-Finn line of Juhani Tamminen, Seppo Repo and Lauri Mononen. Goaltender Jack Norris was gone, the goaltending now up to Gary Kurt and rookie Clay Hebenton. The defense did not hold up, the opposition scoring 383 goals, and the Roadrunners finished 28-48-4. The sell-off of players could not keep the team solvent. Even Ftorek, who would win the league's Most Valuable Player award, was not safe: he had been sold to Cincinnati late in the season, under the agreement that he finish the year with Phoenix. In March, the owners announced that the team would fold. Immediately after its last game, April 6, 1977, the Roadrunners shut down operations.

Despite the end of its tenure in the WHA, hockey in Phoenix persisted off and on for many years. In October 1977, the Roadrunners joined the Central League, but folded 27 games into the 1977-78 season, intending now to join the low-rent Pacific League, which would start play on Christmas Day, 1977. The Roadrunners played both seasons that the PHL existed, even being named the 1979 league champions by virtue of having the league's best record. Many players on those 1977-1979 teams were former WHA players, including some who had played for the Roadrunners in the WHA. There was no professional hockey in Phoenix until 1987, when the International League placed a team there, reusing the Roadrunners nickname. This team was the top minor-league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings for many years. Wayne Gretzky, by now a King, played a pre-season exhibition game as a member of the Roadrunners on one occasion. Major league hockey returned to Phoenix in 1996, when the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Arizona. For one season, the new Coyotes of the NHL and the Roadrunners of the IHL called Phoenix home. However, the IHL squad ceased operations in 1997.

 

_______________________________________

HomeBookCredits & Legal Stuff

 

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

 


WHA Fact Book, 2nd ed

Book Details


Complete WHA, 11th ed

Book Details

 

(c) Scott Surgent