WHA Teams: Chicago Cougars
The Chicago Cougars were an original franchise in the World
Hockey Association from 1972 to 1975. The Cougars played their home
games in the dilapidated International Amphitheatre. Even there they were
treated as second class citizens.
Eastern Division Champions
Edmonton Oilers (1973-present)
Amphitheater, (9,000) 1972-75
Jordan and Walter Kaiswer purchased the "Chicago" franchise
from league co-founder Gary Davidson for $25,000 and managed to sell it to
a syndicate led by Pat Stapleton, Ralph Backstrom, and Dave Dryden for $2M
During the 1974 Avco Cup Finals against Gordie Howe and the Houston
Aeros, the team's two home games were played at the Randhurst Twin Ice
Arena in suburban Mount Prospect. This was because a presentation of Peter
Pan starring gynmast Cathy Rigby was booked into the Amphitheatre and thus
made the arena unavailable for the playoffs (see Peter
Pan Incident, below).
Just prior to the their third season, the team was sold to Cougars
players Ralph Backstrom, Dave Dryden, and player-coach Pat Stapleton after
the original owners, Walter and Jordon Kaizer, were unable to secure funds
to build a new arena. The land for the arena, originally named the O'Hare
Sports Arena, was sold to the village of Rosemont and became the Rosemont
Horizon (now the Allstate Arena). This building is the now the home of the
Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.
They were placed in the Western Division for their first season (1972-73)
and transferred to the Eastern Division for their final two seasons (1973-74
The Cougars finished last in the WHA's Western Division during the
season with 54 points. Team defense finished 8th overall with 295 goals
against and dead last in team offense with 245 goals. The one bright spot
for Chicago was Bob Sicinski finishing 5th in the league with 63 assists.
The Cougars finished fourth in the Eastern Division with 81 points.
They were seventh overall in goals for with 271 and sixth overall in goals
against with 273. Pat Stapleton finished ninth in the league with 52
assists and Ralph Backstrom followed in tenth with 50. Larry Mavety
finished tenth in the league with 157 penalty minutes. The Cougars would
make their only postseason appearance that year. In the Eastern Division
semifinals, they upset the defending league champion New England Whalers,
four games to three. In the divisional final, they defeated the Toronto
Toros, four games to three, with the Cougars winning the decisive seventh
game on Toronto ice, 5-2. Chicago would be hopelessly outmatched in the
AVCO World Trophy Final against the Houston Aeros, though, who featured
hockey legend Gordie Howe and his sons, Mark and Marty. The Aeros would
sweep the series in four games, outscoring the Cougars 22-9.
||Chicago Cougars 1974-75 yearbook.
The Cougars finished third in the Eastern Division and twelfth overall
with 61 points. They were tenth overall in goals for with 261 and twelfth
overall in goals against with 261. Larry Mavety finished tenth in the
league again with 150 penalty minutes but was traded to Toronto after
playing 57 games with Chicago.
Peter Pan Incident
The Cougars made the playoffs for their only time in 1974. The initial
series versus New England passed without incident, but the next series
would be difficult in more ways than one: the International Amphitheatre
had booked a production of Peter Pan, featuring former Olympic gymnast
Cathy Rigby in the title role, and the Amphitheatre would not be available
for the playoffs. Though the team did negotiate for use of Chicago
Stadium, the home of the rival Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL, no dates
were available due to the Black Hawks being involved in the Stanley Cup
Playoffs. The team briefly considered playing the matches at the Cleveland
Arena before deciding to go to a suburban shopping center, Randhurst,
where there was a public skating rink called the Randhurst Twin Ice Arena.
Though the arena could only hold 2000 spectators, the team played its
three home matches of the series in Randhurst.
When the Cougars won their series versus Toronto, the Peter Pan show
had moved on, and the Amphitheatre should have been available. However,
for reasons still unclear, the staff had melted the ice surface. Worse,
the Amphitheatre had a portable ice surface, and the copper pipes used to
chill the ice were being uncovered and dismantled for the offseason. There
was no choice but to return to Randhurst. The Cougars never quite
recovered from the public relations disaster; one sports reporter had
quipped, "The Cougars were beaten by the greatest lightweight of them
all - Peter Pan."
Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association by
Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association
by Scott Adam Surgent
Pro Hockey '75 - '76 by Dan Proudfoot
WHA Media Guides (each team published one each year)
These and many other WHA items can be found at
eBay - check our links on the far right of this page!