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Denver Spurs
Denver Spurs.png
City Denver, Colorado
League WHL 1968–74
CHL 1974–75
WHA 1975–76
Operated 1968–76
Home arena McNichols Sports Arena
Franchise history
1968–76 Denver Spurs
1976 Ottawa Civics
Championships
Regular season titles 1971–72

The Denver Spurs were a professional ice hockey team based out of Denver, Colorado. The Spurs began play in the Western Hockey League in 1968, and played at the Denver Coliseum. The Spurs became the first professional sports team in Colorado to win a championship in 1971–72. After the WHL folded in 1974, the team transferred to the Central Hockey League for the 1974–75 season.

Spurs in the WHA

Ivan Mullenix, owner of the CHL Spurs, had been awarded a "conditional" NHL franchise for the 1976-77 season. With the McNichols Sports Arena already complete by 1975, he looked to enter the NHL a year early, and the league attempted to broker an arrangement by which Mullenix would acquire the California Golden Seals franchise and move them to Denver in lieu of an expansion team. At the same time, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be sold to a Seattle group who held the other conditional franchise that had been awarded.

The proposed arrangement fell through, and with the continuing franchise difficulties, the NHL called off the 1976-77 expansion. Mullenix then opted to move the Spurs to the WHA for the 1975-76 season.

The WHA Spurs are sometimes considered as a continuation of the Chicago Cougars, who had folded following the 1974-75 season, as most of the team's players were claimed from the Cougars in a dispersal draft, combined with some players from the CHL Spurs.

A Sports Illustrated preview on the upcoming WHA season noted that it was stalwart Gordie Howe's 29th year in major league hockey, and the Spurs' first. The magazine picked the expansion team to finish last in the WHA's Western Division, and ominously predicted that Denver's time in the big leagues "may turn out to be 28 years less than Gordie's."

Veteran Ralph Backstrom was one of the Spurs' few experienced players, but at 38 his career was in decline, still, he wound up leading the team with 50 points in 41 games. The rest of the roster was filled with cast-offs and career minor-leaguers, such as Don Borgeson, who had played for the WHL Spurs from 1971-73; he finished second to Backstrom in points scored with 41.

By December 30, they were in the Western Division cellar with a 13–20–1 mark, despite an overtime win over the Indianapolis Racers that night in Denver. It would turn out to be the last game the Spurs would play in Colorado.

Fans had been banking on an NHL team, and did not consider the WHA to be a major league. As a result, the team drew poorly, with an average attendance of less than 3,000 per game in their 16,800-seat arena.

Amid continuing rumors that an NHL team (either the Seals or the Kansas City Scouts) was still planning to relocate to Denver, Mullenix began the process of selling the team to a group of Canadian businessmen on New Year's Eve. Without any announcement, the team was quietly moved to Ottawa on January 2, 1976, where it was renamed Ottawa Civics. Negotiations for the sale were called off on January 15, and the league's announcement that the team had folded for good came two days later.

The players, who were on the road reportedly only learned of the move to Ottawa when they stood on the ice for their next road game (in their Denver colors) and suddenly heard O Canada being played.

Ultimately, NHL hockey did come to Denver the following season with the relocation of the Kansas City Scouts as the Colorado Rockies.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes

Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Standing
1968–69 74 23 44 7 53 254 308 683 6th, WHL
1969–70 72 24 37 11 59 250 316 736 6th, WHL
1970–71 72 25 31 16 66 242 253 804 4th, WHL
1971–72 72 44 20 8 96 293 209 993 1st, WHL
1972–73 72 27 32 13 67 264 275 1022 4th, WHL
1973–74 78 28 50 0 56 249 335  ? 6th, WHL
1974–75 78 36 29 13 85 285 263 1406 2nd, Northern
1975–76 41 14 26 1 29 134 172 536 6th, Canadian

External links

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