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Good to hear that there are longtime Caps fans around.  I used to live in the Boston area and watched my first game in 1982 vs the Tripple crown line of the LA Kings.  Well onto my question, I was always a fan of the North Stars for some reason and looking back something odd happened in 1978-they merged with the Cleveland Barons.  Not something that has happened since.  I was wondering what you know about the circumstances (who was picked to go to Minnesota and who to the unemployment line).
    Second, what is this about a team in Jacksonville,FL in the AHL in the late 70s? Did the AHL's Cleveland Barons move there?  Was this the first pro hockey team in Florida?  What became of the team?
    Oh and one last thing if the Whalers had Liut in the 90 playoffs or the Caps had played him instead of Bumb-prey either team would have beaten the B's
    Thanks for yor help.

Dan

Answer
Hi Dan!!  Thanks a bunch for your question, and yes it's good to hear from a fellow fan of old-time hockey.


Whew!  You sure asked a lot fo one session!  But I'll try to tackle them all.

First the question about the AHL Cleveland Barons.  I always wondered how a team with such a rich hockey history wound up folding.  Remember--Johnny Bower toiled there for years as the world's seventh best goalie.  Now I know why they crumbled.  The old WHA decided to put a team in Cleveland called the Crusaders (I believe Gerry Cheevers played for them for a while).  It split up the fan base and the Barons couldn't compete.  So halfway through the '72 season, the owner decided to pack them up and move them to Jacksonville. Unfortunately I can't say for sure whether or not this was the first pro hockey team in Florida, but it wouldn't surprise me.  The Jacksonville version of the Barons only lasted two seasons and folded right after the 1974 season.

Now about the NHL Cleveland Barons.  This was the second thought your question gave me--how was the NHL able to ice a team when the AHL had one there with the same name?  Because that team didn't exist at that time, that's why.  Of course the Barons used to be the Oakland/California (Golden) Seals, so that pretty much sealed their fate in my opinion.  I don't know the exact circumsatnces you are asking about, but it's a safe bet that the restocked North Stars kept the "cream" of the crop from the defunct Barons.  In this case, that was goalie Gilles Meloche and center Denis Maruk.  If I remember right J P Parise was there too and went on to play for the North Stars.  I imagine the lesser lights probably ended up either retiring, playing for whatever WHA team would sign them, or in the minors.

So why a merger?  Well, the owner of the Barons, Mel Swig was losing money and had to sell off part of the team.  George Gund III eventually became majority owner.  But after their last season he was losing too much money.  So Gund arranged for a better deal with the Minnesota arena owners, thus enabling the merge.  Read more about it at:

http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nhl/cleveland/barons.html

Want your head to spin?  Thirteen years later in 1991, the Gund family wanted to move the North Stars to the Bay area--that's right--the very same area where the Barons came from!
Instead, they were given an expansion team in San Jose and that's how the Sharks were born.  Want another mind boggler?
Ten years after that, the AHL version of the Barons was resurrected--as the farm team of the Sharks!!!  They still play in Cleveland, as you probably know.

Well, that all your questions, but I'm not done--if I remember right Liut didn't exactly have a great start to the 1990 playoff.  I'm pretty sure he ended up getting spelled by "Bumb-prey."  In fact, it was Don Beaupre's brilliance that helped get them past the Rangers that year.
But I don't think the Caps--or the Whalers for that matter--had a chance of beating the Bruins that year.  That was the magic John Druce year, but his stick was dead by the conference finals.  Another thing that didn't help was that Dino Ciccarelli, who was on a hot streak, got hurt against the Rangers. (Damn you, Kris King!!)  And Beaupre seemed to run out of gas, though I believe "Lootie" wouldn't have helped things.   Just my $ .02...

One more thing--I mentioned Dennis Maruk earlier.  He ended up on the Caps in the late 70's.  What a gamebreaker he was!!  I can still hear my Dad yell, "MARUUUUUUK!!!!!" after he scored a goal.  He still holds the Caps single-season record for goals, assists, and points.  If you're a Caps fan, here's hoping Alex Ovechkin can do the same for Caps in the future.


Okay, Dan...well I don't know if I gave you everything you were looking for, but I hope you at least got your money's worth.  I gotta say I had a lot of fun answering your questions, so here's hoping that you don't be a stranger next time you have anything knocking around in your head, hockeywise.  I can't thank you enough for your question--take care and I hope to hear from you soon!


Gil

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Gil Hannebohn

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I can answer any question about NHL history, especially around the time the league became the "original six." Any questions about general knowledge of the game are also greatly appreciated. I`ve been watching the game for over 20 years. I`ve also read dozens of books by those who have had extensive involvement in the sport such as Dick Irvin and Stan Fischler. To me, this is the greatest sport in the world, and I will be more than happy to answer your questions. I also happen to be a middle school teacher who believes that there is no such thing as a stupid question...so ask away!

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I first saw a game when I was very young. It was an Atlanta Flames game, and my most vivid memory was seeing Willi Plett score a goal on a slap shot from the blue line. The crowd leaped as one and gave a frenzied roar and I was instantly hooked! The Flames are now in Calgary, (where I hope they stay--permanently, more on this later) but my love for this game has never left me. Several years later, my family moved to Maryland and I have been a Washington Capitals fan ever since. Of course, my dream was to play in the NHL, but a knee injury and the realities of the economy squelched that hope. But I still contribute where I can, especially while working with children. I spent several summers putting together impromptu street and floor hockey tournaments for kids aged 6-16 years. And of course, I watch every NHL game I can to see how the game evolves. Naturally, I catch every Caps game as well.

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