The Splog. Sports Blogging From a New Perspective.

Memory Lane: The Halifax Citadels (1988-93)

Posted by GoldAndOrSmith on April 17, 2007

The now-defunct Halifax Citadels didn’t need much time to cement their place in minor hockey lore. In just five years, the former American Hockey League club and Quebec Nordiques affiliate provided many reasons to be remembered. It’s hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of their first face-off is coming up next year. In honour of this momentous occasion, let’s travel back to the days of Wang Chung and Tiananmen Square for a glimpse at a franchise we hardly knew.

In the spring of 1988, the Fredericton Express finished the best season in their history by advancing to the AHL’s championship final, the Calder Cup. Despite their success on the ice, the same could not be said for their bottom line. It was time for a change, and that summer, they were moved to the growing port city of Halifax. Making their home in the Metro Centre at the base of Citadel Hill (the site of a landmark military base), the team was appropriately renamed the Citadels.

The real irony of the franchise was that they actually drew on the history of the city far more than any other Haligonian hockey club, but could never truly forge a bond with the community’s hockey fans. The name, logo and trademark chant were emblematic of the town’s proud military history and the crowd’s cry of “No one takes the fort…HEY!” was an admirable attempt at town pride, but ultimately didn’t help as the team struggled year after year. Surprisingly, the club’s first two seasons were their most successful campaigns, but would end in consecutive first-round exists and just two playoff victories.

It’s not easy to assemble an All-Time Citadels Team (the original idea for this post) with just five seasons to work with, but there are some interesting names on the list. Remember, these are the players who performed best for the franchise, not the best players to wear the uniform. The challenge in putting this together with a minor league team is that the most talented players were usually called up to play with the big club. Check the bottom of this post for some notable alumni. Anyway, here’s our list:

GOALTENDERS: Ron Tugnutt, Stephane Fiset. Okay, I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Halifax’s crease had more turnover than a McDonald’s during its short tenure, with 14 (that’s right, 14) netminders suiting up for the Citadels in their brief existence. While Tugnutt, Fiset and John Tanner went on to carve out serviceable careers in the NHL in the years to come, the remaining 11 are hardly worthy of Billy Ocean’s consideration. Some highlights (read: lowlights) include Scott Gordon allowing ten goals in just two games in ’88-’89 for a goals against average of 5.17, Francois Gravel doing exactly the same thing the following year and Patrick Labrecque’s astounding 4.99 over a span of 20 games in ’92-’93.

DEFENSEMEN: Claude Julien, Kevin Kaminski, Greg Smyth, Jean-Marc Richard. Recognize the first name? They certainly do in the Meadowlands, where he was recently fired from his position as bench boss of the New Jersey Devils. Julien played two seasons in Halifax, amassing 60 points in the inaugural year (a Citadels season record for defensemen). Kaminski and Smyth provided the grit to compliment Julien’s offensive prowess. Smyth totaled 920 penalty minutes in parts of four seasons, while Kaminski spent 846 minutes in the sin bin during his four-season tenure. Richard makes the squad because he was consistently among the points leaders despite being on the blueline. The St. Raymond, Quebec native tallied 106 points in 167 games over three years and actually played until 2004-05 with clubs in Germany, Italy and his native province.

FORWARDS: Ladislav Tresl, Mark Vermette, Ken McRae, Denis Chasse, Miroslav Ihnacak, Ken Quinney. A truly inspiring group, I know. But, what they lacked in name recognition, they made up for in, well, games played. Vermette is the club’s all-time scoring leader with almost a point per game (231 in 256 contests) and also holds the team’s single-season goals record with the 42 siren-starters he netted in ‘92-‘93. Ihnacak (unfortunate English pronunciation aside) had a nice career as a Citadel, which of course meant he was never quite good enough to crack the Nordiques. The Czech-born winger recorded a team record 95 points in ’90-’91.

NOTABLE ALUMNI: Adam Foote, Owen Nolan, Martin Rucinsky, Anton Stastny, Chris Simon, Bill Lindsay, Curtis Leschyshyn.

So there you have it. They may not have been talented, but they were at the very least memorable. The franchise may have moved on, but here’s hoping the memories never die.


4 Responses to “Memory Lane: The Halifax Citadels (1988-93)”

  1. MicimAbs6 said

    Thats a nice write-up! I’m so pleased you decided to share it.

  2. Thom Mason said

    I rememeber seeing Serge Roberge fighting John Kordic when he was a member of the Cape Breton Oilers. Quite the scrap. To bad Kordic kicked his ass.

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