In 1995 the Rochester Americans home opener was October 13. They went on to win the 1996 Calder Cup. In 2011 the Amerks home opener is October 13th. A championship isn’t won off of one date but given hockey superstitions can’t hurt to point it out. The Amerks defeated the Portland Pirates in seven games to win the Calder Cup on home ice on June 13, 1996, a day that is still clear as day for many fans.
What would happen during that season though was unclear. Steve Donner had purchased the Rochester Americans from the Buffalo Sabres and rebuilt the team into what they thought would be a winner and it turned out to be just that.
“The seeds of the Calder Cup were planted in the ruins of the previous year,” is said early on in the video.
“They tried to see if a talented development team would work here and I think the answer has been a resounding no,” Steve Donner said. “They’ve recognized that and given us a chance to change the equation to help their needs and help us for the future.”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? A development team with expected talent rarely wins championships. The mix of talented players developing and veteran leadership and scoring is what carries teams on.
Three players signed to that team who had a big impact were Craig Charron, Scott Metcalfe and Dan Frawley. They signed Scott Metcalfe representing toughness, Dan Frawley represented character even though he did not play any hockey the previous two seasons. Craig Charron was a 28yr old hockey nomad who played for 3 different teams in 3 different leagues the previous year.
John Tortorella was hired to replace John van Boxmeer. Tortorella coached two seasons in Rochester before making the jump to the NHL.
In the video before the season started Tortorella stated, “Rochester, it’s just one of the greatest organizations in the American Hockey League. The tradition and what the people demand out here I think is going to put pressure on the players along with my demands on the players and myself to make this work.”
Something that still holds true today. It’s still a great organization and the fans demand a winning team, something fans of any sports team should do.
On the ice for the final puck drop and when the clock ticked down to zero was Craig Charron, Doug Houda, Dance Jackson, Scott Metcalfe, Terry Hollinger and Steve Sheilds in goal.
Jody Gage had started the season on the ice for the Amerks but a knee injury caused him to retire and join the Amerks front office, a place he has been ever since.
There’s a lot more in this video so sit back and enjoy. All of game 7 will be online by the end of the weekend!
“They went through holy hell at times but they believed,” Tortorella says in the video. “They regained their composure and played with confidence.”
If you want to watch all of game 7 you can do that here.
Enjoy and share! Also, thanks to @TheSchlag for letting me borrow these videos to get them online!