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Chicago Cougars (WHA) 1972-1975
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The he Chicago Cougars were a member of the World Hockey Association from 1972 to 1975. They played at the International Amphitheater in Chicago, folding after the 1975 season. Ownership and big crowds were both constant problems for the Cougar franchise. The reasoning behind a team in Chicago was its stability as a media market. Its major shortcoming was the lack of a real arena. Chicago Stadium was unavailable, as it already had the Blackhawks (NHL), the Bulls (NBA), and the Warriors (USHL) sharing it. The Kaisers owned land in Palatine for a proposed new rink, but that was to be built in the future. Unfortunately, the Ampitheater, with its shortened (180 by 85) rink, was the only viable alternative.
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In the 1972-73 Season, the Cougars struggled, finishing last in the Western Division at 26-50-2. They also scored a league low 245 goals, while allowing 295. They never were in real Playoff contention. Attendance was a dismal 4,589 Avg. For 1974, some improvement came in the form of Ralph Backstrom and Pat Stapleton, helping the Cougars to finish 38-35-5, qualifying for the playoffs. Even though the team played most of its games at the International Amphitheater (cap. 9000), during the 1974 playoffs, they played at Randhurst Ice Arena in Mount Prospect, which sat 4000. It was not much better than the Amphitheater's 9000. The team did give its few fans a wild time in the 1974 playoffs, knocking off New England and Toronto in the playoffs before losing in the AVCO cup finals to Houston 4-0.
Money problems caught up with the Cougars after a dismal1974-75 season, and the team folded soon after the season ended. Weak defense in 1974-75 prevented the Cougars from repeating 1973-74's success. The team finished at 30-47-1, missing the playoffs. Midway through the season, the Kaiser brothers, original franchise owners, sold the team to three players, Ralph Backstrom, Dave Dryden, and Pat Stapleton. Unfortunately, poor attendance prevented the players and team from surviving. In April 1975, after finishing the season, the club folded. Many players then found work with the expansion Denver Spurs franchise, which folded in early 1976, after moving to Ottawa midseason. Had the proposed new arena been built for the Cougars, the team might have had far greater success. The Palatine land was sold, and new land acquired in Rosemont for a Cougars arena. Various delays kept it, the Rosemont Horizon, unbuilt until 1980. Had it been built earlier, the Cougars might have had far greater success, including possibly surviving for several more years. It now houses the Chicago Wolves of the International Hockey League, the 90's answer to the WHA.
Information on this page is from The Complete Historical and Statistical Reference to the World Hockey Association 1972-1979; by Scott Adam Surgent as written by Andrew Stiffler
"I remember playing in the old Ampitheatre in Chicago for the Cougars in the early 70s and nobody came. The fans had to watch for dead mice on the floor," said Tom Morris, a WHA original, who played for Pat Stapleton in Chicago. Jacques Demers was the Cougars' director of player personnel.