Friday, February 19, 2010

Baltimore Hockey History: The First Team

While the city of Baltimore is rich in hockey history when it came to the end of the 19th century, there was a long gap between the next team that would bust onto the scene after the Johns Hopkins University team came around, a team that disbanded after the 1897-98 season due to transportation issues, arguments with rink management, and lack of support from the student body.

And while there was a lot of amateur and club action, there wasn't much going on for the longest time. However, the first known team in the Baltimore area was the team in the Tri-State Hockey League under the name of the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, the name of the team has been connected to the city forever, with the actual oriole bird having the "Baltimore" mantra because its wings resembled Lord Baltimore's coat-of-arms.

That history lesson aside, the Orioles started as an amateur team in the four-team TSHL for the 1932-33 season and broke out big. In the 18 league games, the Orioles finished second to the power-house Atlantic City Sea Gulls (who had 100 goals for in 18 games) with a 12-5-1 record in the four-team league. They were led by the top-scorer of Eddie Mahoney with his nine goals and 12 points in those 18 games. The amateur game was good for that one season, but they decided to move the name onto something bigger and better.

When the 1933-34 season came along, the Orioles name got transferred to the newly established Eastern Hockey League. The Orioles were one of the chartered members and they got off to another fantastic start in league play, finishing second again to the dreaded Sea Gulls. The Orioles were led by league leading goal and point scorer Vince Papike (35 goals, 45 points) and had assist king Vern Buckles (21 assist) after their 24 games in league play. It started to go downhill after that in the 1934-35 season with a 4-13-4 record, as the other teams were able to stop Papike-- only getting 13 points in 20 games.

It was another rebuilding year with coach Billy Boyd being replaced by Gord Fraser for the 1935-36 season, however Papike left to go to Atlantic City, but it allowed Bobby Lee to step up and put up 19 goals and 39 points for the last place Orioles who went 9-29-2; even though they let up 174 goals in those games. Lee's tenure was short-lived, as he went over to England to play, which allowed Buckles to step up for the O's in the 1936-37 season. However, the Orioles were still in last place, but better with a 16-24-8 record with Buckles having 44 points in 43 games.

The tide turned for the team in the 1937-38 season with the pick-up of Clarence Steele and Ab DeMarco, who were both top-10 in goals, assists, and points in the EHL for that year. Even though they finished 21-29-8, they weren't in last and showed signs of getting to the brink. It finally happened with a breakthrough, this time under coach Bill Hines in the 1938-39 season, with help of the offensive prowess of Norm Calladine, who was second in goals and points, but first in assists in the EHL (33g, 41a, 74 points) and helped the Orioles get to second in the EHL going 26-22-5.

The 1939-40 season was the big year for the Orioles as they ran roughshod over the EHL, ending up in first with the one-two punch of Calladine (53g, 41a, 94pts) and Fred Hunt (31g, 37a, 68pts) rounding up with a 38-21-2 record, taking home the EHL title for the year. While the 1940-41 season brought another good season, the Washington Rovers were too good for the Orioles, outdueling the O's and putting them in second place with a 36-23-6 record, which was the last year for Coach Hines behind the bench. It was also the first year that there were no Orioles in the top-10 in points as John Webster only had 61 points in 65 games.

Elmer Piper took over the 1941-42 edition of the Orioles to mixed results, as the team fell from second to fifth, as an influx of new teams came in and had the luck of better players heading to them. Even though the Orioles has three in the top-10 in points (Andy Chakowski, 89; Ab McDougall, 77; Ducky Skinner, 76) and four in the top-10 of assists (Chakowski, 45; Bud Foley 45; Skinner, 43; McDougall, 43) it still wasn't enough to power the O's through the EHL.

Sadly, it was the last year for Orioles as they disbanded after the 1941-42 season. They finished with a combined record of 194-195-41 in their 430 games. While someone like Calladine went onto play in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, his start was rooted in Baltimore with the Orioles. And while the Orioles went onto become a baseball team, many forget of the past history and how the name was used in other facets of sports.

No comments: