Early Dallas Hockey History
Many people do not realize that the roots of professional hockey in Dallas date back to the fall of 1941. It was a strange and unusual site, as the Fair Park Ice Arena welcomed the sport from the North to the citizens of Dallas for the first time. Advertised in the papers as "The most dangerous game in the world...murder on ice, it has been called...with playing speed, flashing blades and crashing bodies," the lights came up on a debut unlike any other.
In the spring of 1941, Clarence E. Linz announced his team, the Texans, would be starting play the next year, joining the American Hockey Association along with a candidate from Fort Worth. As President of Ice Sports, Inc, Linz would become instrumental in not only creating the Texans, but later, bringing in ice shows, including the famous Sonja Henie Ice Show, to the State Fair each fall.
Taking the helm of the Texans in their inaugural year would be player/coach Leroy "Goldie" Goldsworthy. A former National Hockey League player, he spent nine seasons in the big leagues, scoring 123 total points off of 66 goals and 57 assists while playing for the New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins and New York Americans. It was through his many years with the NHL that he hoped to be able to find players with experience who could help him in his new endeavor.
Of the original team, only Paul Runge and Pete Palangio had seen time in the NHL, with Paul playing from 1930 to 1938 with Boston, the Montreal Maroons and the Montreal Canadiens while Pete suited up for the Canadiens, Red Wings and Blackhawks from 1926 to 1938.
On November 6, 1941, hockey made its debut in Dallas with the first of 50 games, 25 at home. Fans could get in the game for the mere general admission price of 55 cents. Three thousand reserve seats were available from 80 cents up to $1.20, while boxes and rinkside seats would run you anywhere from $1.65 to $2.25.
Opening night was truly a spectacular gala. With World War II raging, Linz made the decision that 50% of the proceeds would be donated to the United China Relief Fund. Organized by Mrs. William M. Lingo, Jr. and the Dallas Club women, they hoped to raise $2,500 during the evening with Chinese candies and cakes sold by girls in Chinese costumes during the game. First time patrons to hockey, must surely have been somewhat confused by the multi-cultural surroundings of this strange sport.
Matching up against the St. Paul Saints in their inaugural game, the Texans played in front of a near capacity crowd of 4,273. Tony Licari scored the team's first goal, but the Saints, behind three power play goals, stole the home team's thunder by winning the game 4-1. George Higgins, President of the American Hockey Association, pronounced the game a success and was pleased with the condition of the arena and the number of spectators.
The season continued with Dallas fighting, many times literally, for a playoff spot. Going into the final night of the season, Dallas remained one point ahead of Tulsa for the final playoff spot. The Texans had been clinging to a three point lead, only to see it evaporate after a 4-2 loss to St. Paul in front of 2,500 fans on honorary newspaper boy night. Dallas would go home early in their inaugural year, losing out on the money to be made in the postseason. In the playoffs, the major share of the gate receipts went directly to the players.
It would be the last time many of these men would come to Dallas. The horrors of World War II and the continued involvement of the United States and Canada forced the cancellation of hockey in the south and meant the end of the American Hockey Association.
Dallas would not see hockey again for four years.
Hockey was back in "Big D" for the 1945-46 season, as Linz once again brought the Texans to life, this time joining the Kansas City Pla-mors, Omaha Knights, St. Paul Saints, Tulsa Oilers, Fort Worth Rangers and Minneapolis Millers in the United States Hockey League.
The fight to make the Texans had been tough as those who were cut would go to Eastern League teams where the salaries were nearly one-half of those in the USHL.
On October 10, 1945, Linz announced Leroy Goldsworthy would return as coach and introduced the team's first player, 20-year-old goaltender Al Picard. Goldsworthy rated the youngster so highly, he expected to sell him at the end of the season to an NHL club.
With Roy McBride the oldest man on the team at 24, many of the players ranged in age from 17 to 20. Only Lloyd Finkbeiner had seen action in the NHL, playing one game with the New York Americans in 1940-41 and going scoreless, while only Hugh Currie ever would in the future. During the 1950-51 season, he played in one game for Montreal, going scoreless.
Opening night brought a crowd of 4,300. Fans were able to purchase their rinkside seats for a mere $2.00 while others ranged from $1.00 to $1.50 with general admission at 70 cents. It was an exciting and hard fought contest as the home favorites beat Tulsa 5-3, having been led by Lou Smrke who tallied a hat trick with three goals.
The heroics and joy of opening night were short-lived. The 1945-46 season proved to be a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs. At the end of February, the Texans set a new league record of two consecutive losses by the largest margin, having been defeated by Kansas City 13-1 and then Tulsa 12-1. In their next two games, the club set a new league record for two consecutive wins by the largest margin, beating both Kansas City and Minneapolis 10-2. Such was the '45-46 season.
The rivalry with Fort Worth continued as former Texan Paul Runge now coached the Rangers. The two teams met for the last time on March 13 in front of 4,204 people in Fort Worth and played to a 3-3 tie. New goalie Nick Pidsodny stopped 50 shots on the night, including 11 in the 10 minute overtime.
The season ended on March 19, 1946. The Dallas Morning News announced this as "the biggest hockey season this city has ever had." In the final game, the Texans faced league leader Kansas City in front of a near capacity crowd of 5,000. It was rumored that the Pla-mors wanted to run up the score to show their dominance heading into the postseason. The home town team caught wind of this plan and set out to foil it. Playing what the paper called, "the fastest and most rugged athletic competition ever unreeled on a local battlefield," the Texans gave Kansas City a 5-1 lashing.
The 1946-47 team brought in new players as well as a new coach while the league accepted a new team - the Houston Huskies. George Boothman was signed on to take the helm for Dallas as well as play center for the club after captaining the Buffalo Bisons to the AHL Championship in 1946.
The Texans proved to be one of the strongest in the USHL that year. After winning their opener on October 24, 8-4, over Tulsa, behind John MacKenzie's two goals in 20 seconds, they came back and defeated Omaha, 2-1, in front of 4,100 fans to jump into first place.
First place is where they remained throughout the season. Despite the replacement of Murray Armstrong for George Boothman as player/coach, the team finished on top of the Southern Division with a 27-18-15 record and 69 points.
In the post-season, Dallas entered as the top team in the Southern Division, but due to the scheduling format, was forced to play the best team in the league, the Omaha Knights, who had a 29-16-15 record. The Texans dropped the series to Omaha in six contests.
With the start of 1947-48 season, a few changes were in store for the league and in particular the Texans. Jim Hendy took over as the new President of the USHL while on the local scene, Lex Cook took over coaching duties for the Dallas club.
Another difference for the Texans was their agreement to be for the first time a farm team for the powerful Montreal Canadiens of the NHL. Despite this seemingly quality improvement though, the Texans were in for a rough year.
Points would come hard for the Texans as they finished with the worst record in the league that season at 21-39-6 for only 48 points. Leading scorer for the club was Gord Petrie with 62 points off of 13 goals and 49 assists while Nick Pidsodny was the top netminder on the team with a 4.18 GAA, 10th in the league. For the season-ending All Star squad, Jake Milford, a player/assistant coach for the Texans, was the only member named, earning a spot on the First Team.
The Texans inter-state rival from Houston took home the Paul W. Loudon Trophy as league champions, defeating Minneapolis three games to two.
Things could only get better for the local team when the 1948-49 campaign opened. Lex Cook was returning as coach of the Texans with the Montreal Canadiens still providing some exciting skaters to stock the club.
A bright, new addition to the team was Joe Bell, who was sent down from Montreal after playing parts of two years with the New York Rangers in the NHL. In his 62 games in the big-time, he had totaled 17 points (8-9-17). Also, coming to Dallas was the fiery goaltender Paul Bibeault. In his seven seasons in the NHL from 1940 to 1947, he recorded 3.65 goals against average while playing in a combined 297 games for Montreal, Toronto, Boston and Chicago.
Introduced to members of the media by officials of the Ice Cycles of 1948, an exhibit at the Texas State Fair, the team also featured newcomers George Bougie, Jimmy Moore and a young kid name Howie Morenz, Jr. - the son of the Hall of Famer who played with Montreal, Chicago and New York from 1923 to 1937.
With the season starting, the Texans were one of the youngest clubs on the circuit, featuring no less than six players making their professional debuts. Because of this, coach Cook pleaded with the Canadiens to send down some help for the home opener. Montreal responded with Roger Leger, Todd Campeau, Jacques Richard and Jimmy Galbraith. Leger, who played with Montreal the previous season when they went to the Stanley Cup Finals, volunteered to go to Dallas so he could take off some of the weight he had acquired over the off-season.
By the time the Texans rolled into town for their home-opener, they were already in last place with a 1-3-1 record. Squee Allen was now suffering from a broken leg and was out. And netminder Bibeault, who was called "belligerent" by the local media, was leading the league, in of all things, penalty minutes and, prior to their home game with St. Paul, was stricken with Pleurisy and wasn't able to suit up.
But Lex Cook's prophesies that "once this young team gets their feet wet, they'll be something," began to come true. By season's end, the Texans had surged into second place in the Southern Division, finishing with a 24-27-15 record with 63 points. Gordie Petrie once again led the team in points, finishing fifth in the league with 24-57-81. Joe Bell (37-38-75) and Dennis Filion (22-38-60) also ended among league leaders, while Bibeault recorded a 3.78 goals-against average with two shutouts. He would end up winning both the Herman W. Peterson Cup for Most Valuable Player and the Charles Gardiner Memorial Trophy as the USHL's best goaltender.
Named to the season-end All Star Team were Bibeault, as the First Team goalie, and Tom Rockey, the USHL's leading defenseman scorer, and Joe Bell as Second Team All-Stars.
In the playoffs, the Texans faced off on March 22, 1949 against their rivals from Fort Worth in their best two out of three quarterfinal series. The Rangers had won six of their last seven going into the post-season while Dallas had lost five of their last seven.
Roles would be reversed, however. Behind Joe Bell's hat trick and the outstanding play of Bibeault in net, Dallas handed Fort Worth an 8-0 loss in the opening game in front of 4,000 fans. The shutout was the first in USHL playoff history, proving to doubters that the feisty netminder deserved his regular season awards.
After winning the second game 5-3, Dallas moved on to Tulsa in the semi-finals who were the Southern Division champs during the regular season. The Oilers quickly disposed of the upstart Texans, knocking them off 4-1 in both games to move into the finals. It was the St. Paul Saints, winners of the Northern Division with 82 points, who took home the title though, defeating Tulsa four games to one.
The end of the 1948-49 season brought the end of professional hockey to the Dallas area. Due to increased travel costs, Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston all dropped out of the USHL. The league would thrive for two more seasons, adding teams from Louisville, Milwaukee and Denver, before finally bowing out all together after the 1950-51 campaign.
Upon their withdrawal from the USHL, the three Texas teams made plans to form an new league, along with Wichita, called the Texas Hockey Association. Chrys Kelly of Dallas was to serve as President with the league expanding into places like San Antonio, Shreveport and New Orleans by 1950. The new organization, though, failed to materialize, leaving Dallas without professional hockey for the next 18 years.
Before the Stars arrived in Dallas for the 1993-94 season, the Central Hockey League operated a team in Dallas from 1967-1982 called the Dallas Blackhawks, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks (1967-68 to 1977-78) and the Vancouver Canucks (1978-79 to 1981-82). The Blackhawks made the League finals in ten of their fifteen years in Dallas, winning four championships (1969, 1972, 1974, 1979). The CHL returned for two seasons in 1992-93 and 1993-94 with the Dallas Freeze before that club ceased operations