Syracuse and Onondaga County’s sports history is rich and full of amazing moments. From the Syracuse Nationals 1954-1955 NBA Championship and Jim Tucker’s amazing triple-double in just 17 minutes to Wrestler Chris Campbell’s Bronze Medal performance in Spain during the 1992 Summer Olympics and Myer Prinstein’s four Olympic gold medals at the turn of the 20th century, the stories go on and on. Syracuse’s oft-forgotten hockey history is also something to be proud of, and 2017 marks two important anniversaries exactly 40 years apart, which the Syracuse Crunch can add to this season.
80 years ago, in 1937, the Syracuse Stars won the very first Calder Cup. What became known as the International-American Hockey League was established after the International League and Canadian-American Hockey League merged following the 1935-1936 season. The seven team league completed the 1936-1937 season and a new playoff format, and championship trophy, was developed: the Calder Cup. According to the AHL, “The trophy is named for Frank Calder, who served as the National Hockey League’s first President from 1917 to 1943. During the 1920’s, Mr. Calder was instrumental in guiding hockey into the mainstream of America’s major cities including Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago, while helping in the formation of the American League.”
The Syracuse Stars won the championship, the league’s first, in early 1937. However, per the AHL, “The Calder Cup trophy itself was actually first awarded in 1938 to the Providence Reds for winning the second International-American Hockey League championship. (In 1996, George Parsons of the Syracuse Stars was presented the Calder Cup in a ceremony at the Onondaga County War Memorial, as it is believed the Stars never received a trophy for their 1937 championship.)
40 years later, the Syracuse Blazers won the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Championship (the Lockhart Cup) in the team’s, and the league’s, last season before folding. The Blazers won two other championships; In 1972-1973, the final year of the Eastern Hockey league, the Blazers won the Walker Cup. The following year, during back to back 50 win seasons and the inaugural season of the NAHL, the Blazers won the first Lockhart cup. Members of the Blazers 1975-1976 squad were featured, and inspired characters, in the cult hockey movie, Slap Shot, which was partially filmed at the Onondaga County War Memorial in the spring of ’76. One particular character, Ogie Ogilthorpe was, for all intents and purposes, inspired by Syracuse Blazers’ forward Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe, one of the most colorful individuals and most feared enforcers in hockey during the rough-and-tumble 1970’s.
This season, the Syracuse Crunch are currently up 2-1 in a series against the Providence Bruins in the AHL’s Eastern Conference Finals. They are two wins away from the Calder Cup Finals and can make history once again, bringing Syracuse its fourth hockey championship, and returning the Calder Cup to the Salt City after 80 years if they’re able to beat either the San Jose Barracuda or Grand Rapids Griffins.