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Rochester Americans

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Rochester Americans

Rochester Americans circa 1956

Rochester Americans
Rochester Americans
City: Rochester, New York
League: American Hockey League
Conference: Eastern Conference
Division: North Division
Founded: 1956
Home Arena: Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial
Colors: Red, blue, white


Owner(s): Terry Pegula
General Manager: Tim Murray
Head Coach: Dan Lambert
Media: Democrat and Chronicle
Time Warner Cable SportsNet
Affiliates: Buffalo Sabres (NHL)
Elmira Jackals (ECHL)
Franchise history
1956–present: Rochester Americans
Regular Season Titles: 6 (1964–65, 1967–68, 1973–74, 1982–83, 1990–91, 2004–05)
Division Championships: 14 (1964–65, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1973–74, 1977–78, 1982–83, 1986–87, 1989–90, 1990–91, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–00, 2000–01, 2004–05)
Conference Championships: 3 (1995–96, 1998–99, 1999–00)
Calder Cups: 6 (1964–65, 1965–66, 1967–68, 1982–83, 1986–87, 1995–96)

The Rochester Americans (colloquially the Amerks) are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League. The team plays its home games in Rochester, New York, at the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. The Americans are one of the oldest franchises in the AHL, celebrating their 50th consecutive season in the American Hockey League in 2005–06. Their years of unbroken league membership rank second to the Hershey Bears. Rochester was awarded a new franchise in 1956 when the Pittsburgh Hornets were forced to suspend operations after their arena was razed in an urban renewal project. The owner of the Hornets, John H. Harris, held the Pittsburgh franchise in limbo until a new arena could be built. The Hornets re-entered the American Hockey League in 1961-62. All of the records of the Pittsburgh Hornets stayed in Pittsburgh.[1]

The Amerks' team colors are red, white and blue. The logo is a patriotic badge with "Americans" written in script. The Americans have won six Calder Cups: in 1965, 1966, 1968, 1983, 1987 and 1996. They have lost in the Finals ten times: in 1957, 1960, 1967, 1977, 1984, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1999 and 2000.


Before the AmerksEdit

Hockey was popular in Rochester, a city known for its cold weather, as far back as the 1920s; the University of Rochester had a collegiate hockey team as early as 1906, and even at that time, East High School had already developed a successful program.[2] Professional hockey arrived in 1935 in the form of the Rochester Cardinals, a member of the International Hockey League. The Cardinals, who played at Edgerton Park Arena, lasted only one season, compiling a 15–29–3 record and a host of financial difficulties.[2]

In the early 1950s, with the Rochester Community War Memorial under construction, Montreal Canadiens manager Frank Selke promised an American Hockey League team to Rochester at some point in the future, with 1956 one target year that was mentioned.[2] Demonstrative of the support for hockey in Rochester, 7,092 fans turned out for a game between the AHL Buffalo Bisons and the NHL Montreal Canadiens on November 21, 1955; the game ended in a 5–5 tie and sold out five days beforehand.[2] When 60-year-old Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburgh was scheduled for demolition in 1956, it left the Pittsburgh Hornets without an arena and forced them to go idle, freeing up room in the AHL for a Rochester team.[2]

The AHL granted a group which included Rochesterians (and Amerks Hall of Fame members) Sam Toth and Ed House a conditional franchise for Rochester that June. The terms required that the group raise $150,000 of capital, two thirds of which was to be raised by the sale of stock in less than two weeks.[2] When their effort to secure the funds failed to reach its goal, a new group, backed by Selke of the Canadiens and Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was awarded the franchise. The Leafs and Canadiens would each own 27.5% of the team, with the balance sold to Rochester interests.[2][3] The team was named the "Americans".

Early years (1956–1967)Edit

Upon entering the league for the 1956-57 season the Amerks became a joint affiliate of both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League. Under Coach Billy Reay the team finished in third place in the AHL standings and played the defending champion Providence Reds in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs. With Bobby Perreault in goal, the Americans defeated Providence and goaltender Johnny Bower in five games. Rochester then was defeated in a five-game final by the Cleveland Barons, who won the Calder Cup.

The Amerks reached the playoffs in 1959, losing to the Buffalo Bisons in five games. The 1959 Amerks were led by the "WHAM"[4] line of center Rudy Migay, left wing Gary Aldcorn and right wing Billy Hicke. Migay and Hicke were named co-MVP for the AHL that season and Hicke was chosen league Rookie of the Year.

In 1959–60 the Americans became the first team in American Hockey League history to win a playoff series after trailing three-games-to-none.[5] The Amerks' comeback against the Cleveland Barons included the efforts of the veteran Migay, right wing Pat Hannigan and league-leading goaltender Ed Chadwick. A crowd of 7,762 at the War Memorial witnessed a 4-1 triumph in Game 7. Rochester went on to lose the Calder Cup Finals in five games to Eddie Shore's Springfield Indians.

Following the 1960–61 season in which the Amerks failed to qualify for the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens transferred their working agreement to the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League and sent Rochester players Guy Rousseau and Claude Labrosse to Quebec. As the exclusive affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Americans made the playoffs the next two seasons but never contended for the Calder Cup championship.

Beginning in 1963–64 former Amerks' defenseman Joe Crozier became the team's Coach and General Manager. Under Crozier the Amerks won the Calder Cup in 1965, 1966 and 1968 and were finalists in 1967; they are the only team in AHL history to appear in the Calder Cup finals in four consecutive seasons.

In 1965–66 the Amerks played their final 10 regular season and all playoff home games at a neutral site because the 1966 American Bowling Congress tournament occupied the War Memorial. The home games were at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, about 180 miles from Rochester, except for of one playoff game at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium in the Calder Cup Finals. On May 8, 1966, before a crowd of 7,655 at the "Aud" the Amerks tied up the series at two games apiece with a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Barons and went on to win the next two games and the Calder Cup.

Notable players from this era included Bronco Horvath, Gerry Cheevers, Bobby Perreault, Al Arbour, Darryl Sly, Norm "Red" Armstrong, Duane Rupp, Wally Boyer, Dick Gamble, Stan Smrke, Jim Pappin, Don Cherry, Gerry Ehman, Larry Hillman, and Mike Walton.

The expansion era (1967–1970s)Edit

When the National Hockey League expanded from six to twelve teams for the 1967–68 NHL season the Amerks lost several players. Arbour (St. Louis), Ehman (Oakland), Boyer (Oakland), Horvath (Minnesota) and Rupp (Minnesota) were all drafted by the new NHL teams. Pappin and Walton were both promoted to the Maple Leafs while Smrke retired.

The Amerks struggled through the early part of the 1967–68 AHL season. Just before Christmas and with the team in last place with a record of 12-15-3 Crozier made a deal with the expansion Minnesota North Stars. In exchange for forwards J. P. Parise and Milan Marcetta the Amerks received Ted Taylor, Len Lunde, George "Duke" Harris, Murray Hall, Don Johns and the rights to Horvath. The return of Horvath marked his fourth tour of duty with the Amerks since 1956–57. The Amerks improved to go 26-10-6 for the balance of the season en route to finish with the best record in the league. The regular-season champion Amerks then defeated the Hershey Bears 4 games to 1 in the playoff semi-finals and the Quebec Aces 4 games to 2 in the Calder Cup finals. The Amerks won the final game 4-2 before a crowd of 11,711 at Le Colisee de Quebec.

In the summer of 1968 the team was sold to Vancouver who established the Amerks as the farm team of the expansion Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. With the majority of the Rochester players transferred to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League the minor league Canucks won the 1968–69 and 1969–70 WPHL Patrick Cup Championships while the Amerks finished in last place each year.

After Rochester finished with the worst record in the AHL for four straight years and with local fan support dwindling the Vancouver NHL team was prepared to either sell or fold the Rochester club. But the Amerks were saved in the summer of 1972 when a group of Rochester businessmen bought the Americans franchise from Vancouver and named Amerks defenseman Don Cherry as Coach/General Manager. Playing the next two seasons as an independent club the Amerks qualified for the playoffs in 1972–73 and were the regular season AHL champions in 1973–74.

The Boston Bruins hired Cherry as their coach in 1974–75 and became the Amerks' parent team the same year.

Prior to the 1979–80 season the Amerks were purchased by the Knox family, owners of the Buffalo Sabres (NHL) and became the Sabres AHL affiliate. While the team was sold to local businessman Steve Donner in the 90's, the Buffalo/Rochester partnership would become the longest such NHL/AHL affiliaton, lasting until the 2007–08 season.

During the Sabres affiliation, the Amerks would win 3 Calder Cup championships and finish as runners-up another six times. They finished out of the playoffs only 5 times in 28 years.


The Amerks won the first of their "Sabres era" Calder Cups in 1983 under young coach Mike Keenan, sweeping Maine, 4-0.

In the 1986–87 season the John VanBoxmeer-coached team won the division championship on the last game of the season against the Binghamton Whalers. The Amerks were one point behind the Whalers and playing in Binghamton. After goalie Darcy Walkaluk paced the team to a tie in regulation and overtime, the game proceeded to the new "shoot-out" format used that season. As the shoot-out began, VanBoxmeer made one of the most memorable coaching moves in Amerks history and pulled Wakaluk from the game, inserting usual starting goalie Darren Puppa who had sat out the game due to injury. Puppa stopped every shot and low-scoring defenseman Jack Brownschidle scored the winning goal. While the teams both finished with identical records (47-26-7), Rochester won the division based on having a better record in head-to-head competition.

The first round of playoffs saw the Amerks play the rival Hershey Bears, however the first two games were moved to the Buffalo Aud arena due to the Amerks home arena being previously booked for the Shrine Circus.

The second event of that memorable season occurred during pregame warmups of the second game. With no officials on the ice (a common occurrence at that time which was changed as a result of this game) a brawl broke out. Players from both teams received suspensions and Amerk tough-guy Andy Ristau received a concussion. The Amerks won the game in overtime on a goal by defenseman Jim Hofford. Ironcially, Hofford was a late addition to the lineup as a result of the brawl. The Amerks went on to win the series, 4-1.

The Amerks took on the Sherbrooke Canadiens in the finals and after five games found themselves down 3 games to 2. Behind the leadership of NHL veteran Don Lever, the Amerks came from behind to win game six, 7-4, and won the championship in Sherbrooke.

After losing many players from that team to the NHL the following season the Amerks struggled but returned to the finals in '90 and '91, losing both times to the Springfield Indians. They again lost in the finals to Cape Breton in '93.

After a very slow start in the 1995–96 season, the Amerks came together midway through the season behind the dramatically improved goaltending of Steve Shields. The team breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs before finally winning a hard-fought battle against the Portland Pirates to win their sixth Calder Cup.


In 2000, with the promotion of then-coach Brian McCutcheon to assistant coach with the Sabres, former Amerks player Randy Cunneyworth was named coach of the Amerks.

In November 2003, the Sabres and the New Jersey Devils played in the first-ever NHL regular-season game in Rochester.

In the 2003–04 season, Rochester was beaten 4 games to 1 by the eventual Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals in the Western Conference Finals.

The Amerks began a dual-affiliation in 2005 after signing an agreement with the Florida Panthers. Under this agreement the Panthers and Sabres would both supply the Amerks with players while the Sabres would still employ the coaching staff.

In 2007, the Sabres announced that this would be their last season of affiliation with the Amerks. Reasons cited include the financial insecurity of the AHL team, issues between ownership, the City of Rochester, and Blue Cross Arena management, along with the awkwardness of the dual affiliation with the Panthers. In 2008, the 29-year affiliation officially ended as Buffalo chose the Portland Pirates to be their new AHL affiliate.This separation would last until 2011 when Terrence Pegula bought the Sabres and then later the Amerks, reuniting them shortly after the 2010-11 season concluded.

On May 6, 2008, the American Hockey League approved the sale of the Amerks to Canadian businessman Curt Styres and his investment group, Arrow Express Sports.[6] The sale also included the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.

On May 13, 2009, Lewis Staats, president of the Rochester Americans, formally announced that after 12 years as Amerks GM, Jody Gage did not return next season as the team’s general manager. Gage now holds the position of director of player personnel.[7]


Amerks 60th anniversary logo

Rochester Americans 60th anniversary logo

The Americans notched their 2000th win on February 21, 2010, in a shootout against then Sabres affiliate the Portland Pirates. Derek Whitmore, from the Rochester suburb of Greece was the last shooter for Portland but goaltender Alexander Salak made the save.

Head coach Benoit Groulx left the organization on May 31 after a reported conflict with vice-president of hockey operations, Ted Nolan.

On May 17, 2011, it was revealed that Terry Pegula had signed a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase the Americans. Pegula, the owner of the Buffalo Sabres desired to re-affiliate the two clubs. The potential purchase had to clear several financial and legal obstacles; first, Pegula had to seek the permission of the Sabres' then current farm team, the Portland Pirates, since the Pirates had an agreement with the Sabres that lasted through 2014 and had no out clause. Second, the Americans' corporate sister club, the Rochester Knighthawks lacrosse team, had to be split off, since Pegula also owns the Knighthawks' chief rival, the Buffalo Bandits.[8] After these arrangements were made, the agreement was reached June 24, 2011, with the official announcement following the same day.[9][10] Pegula purchased the Americans for US$5,000,000.[11]

For the 2013-14 season, the Americans are set to participate in that year's edition of the AHL Outdoor Classic immediately before leaving to take part in the 2013 Spengler Cup, the first time in 17 years that an AHL team has participated (the Americans were also the participants in the 1996 Spengler Cup).

Retired numbersEdit

The Rochester Americans have retired only two sweater numbers in their history.

  • Number 6 retired in honor of Norm "Red" Armstrong following his death from a fall in a construction accident in 1974 at age 35.
  • Number 9 was later retired in honor of Dick Gamble and Jody Gage. Gage, known as "Mr. Amerk", broke Gamble's team scoring records with the Amerks during his long tenure with the team. Gage then served as the Amerks' General Manager for 12 years, until May 2009.

Season-by-season resultsEdit

Head coachesEdit

Asterisk denotes number of Calder Cups won

Team recordsEdit

Single seasonEdit

Goals: 61 Flag of Canada Paul Gardner (1985–86)
Assists: 73 Flag of Canada Geordie Robertson (1982–83)
Points: 119 Flag of Canada Geordie Robertson (1982–83)
Penalty minutes: 446 Flag of Canada Rob Ray (1988–89)
GAA: 2.07 Flag of Canada Martin Biron (1998–99)
SV%: .930 Flag of Canada Martin Biron (1998–99)


Career goals: 351 Flag of Canada Jody Gage
Career assists: 377 Flag of Canada Jody Gage
Career points: 728 Flag of Canada Jody Gage
Career penalty minutes: 1424 Flag of Canada Scott Metcalfe
Career goaltending wins: 108 Flag of Canada Bob Perreault
Career shutouts: 16 Flag of Canada Bob Perreault
Career games: 653 Flag of Canada Jody Gage


  1. "Hornets Lose Sting as Gardens Get Tilled Over". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Marcotte, Bob. "Eager fans embraced arrival of the Rochester Amerks", March 7, 2011, pp. 1B,4B. Retrieved on March 11, 2011. Archived from the original on March 11, 2011. 
  3. "Maple Leafs Seek Farm Club in AHL", 1959-03-18. 
  4. WHAM is an extension of the first letters of the line's players: Hicke, Aldcorn and Migay
  5. "Same Place Half a Life Ago", Sit Down & Shut Up. 
  6. "Amerks' sale approved today", Rochester Democrat And Chronicle. Retrieved on 2008-05-06. 
  8. Wawrow, John (2011-05-17). AP Source: Sabres interested in AHL Rochester. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  9. AHL BOG approves sale of Amerks to Buffalo. Retrieved on 25 June 2011.
  10. Buffalo reunited with Rochester as AHL affiliate. The Sports Network. Retrieved on 25 June 2011.
  11. Vogl, John (2011-06-26). Pegula is making big impact on Sabres. The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-06-26.

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