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The Denver Mavericks

34 Days and Out

   The Denver Mavericks had some promise as a team.   Unfortunately, Denver hockey fans wouldn't get a chance to witness much of it.
   Eighteen players were invited to tryouts by coack Bob May on October 18, 1959.   Although the team was new and didn't even have a roster, International Hockey League (IHL) coaches picked the Mavericks to win the IHL Western Division title.
   On October 29 coach May selected his 13 (yes 13 starters. Nine forwards, three defensemen and 1 goalie.) starters.   Gordie Cowan, who previously played for Toledo in the IHL, was named captain.   Murray Massier, Bill Steenson and Don McLean were selected as alternate captains.   Many of the players chosen were from Colorado colleges.   Although skill was a concern, May made his choices based on who were the best conditioned to start the season.

From L-R  Bill Reichart, Murray Massier, and John Andrews

   The season commenced October 31, 1959 at the Denver Coliseum.   Initially coach Bob May worried that his team, made mostly of collegiate players having just graduated, was going to have a rough time.   Most coaches acknowledged that the Mavericks were incredibly fast but questions arose as to the toughness of the team.
   These fears would be laid to rest in the first game as the Mavericks brought the Coliseum crowd to its feet many times because of their fierce checking against the Omaha Knights.

"Checking all over the ice....brought roars
of approval from the stands with special plaudits
going to Cy Whiteside and Bob Currie, Denver defensemen
who 'froze' several Knights with leather-cracking jolts."
--Harley Key Rocky Mountain News

   Bill McKenzie scored the first goal in Mavericks history at 7:07 of the first period.   Later in the game Joe Poole tallied the second to tie the score 2-2.   The third period was rough though as the Knights scored two goals to win the game 4-2.   Joe Sellinger was in net for the Mavericks.
   The Mavericks would get their first win against these same Omaha Knights the next day 3-2   The Rocky Mountain News noted that the game was televised.

Box Score from Mavericks First Win
First Period- Denver, McLean (Ottenbreit, G. Cowan) :32; Omaha, Goodwin (unassisted) 3:28; Denver, Reichart (Massier) 15:51.Penalties- Omaha, Rawson (tripping)
Second Period- Omaha, Marczak (Connors) 17:41.Penalties- Omaha, Marczak (slashing), Denver, Whiteside (charging).
Third Period- Denver, Currie (Massier) 16:25.Penalties- Denver, Steenson (charging), Denver, Whiteside (elbowing), Denver, Currie (high sticking), Omaha, Busch (interference), Denver, Poole (elbowing), Omaha, Goodwin (holding).

Omaha goalie Carl Wetzel makes the save on Don McLean's (white jersey) shot.  RMN photo

   The financial problems started November 4.  A judge blocked the shareholders of Mile High Hockey Inc. (the owners of the Mavericks) from calling a meeting to oust its president Gene Clift.  This simple action would be the first indication that the team wouldn't last long in the Mile Hi city.
   Lopsided victories were soon the norm for the Mavericks.  The biggest victory recorded by the Mavericks was a 14-2 pasting of the Indianapolis Chiefs.  Captain Gordie Cowan and Bruce Lea recorded hat tricks in the trouncing on November 13.  That was the same night that Mavericks fans saw their first fight in the Denver Mavericks season.  Chief's Player-Coach Marcel Clements and Denver's Bill Steenson paired up and started swinging late in the game.  Although it was a fight, both only received roughing penalties.
   By November 21, financial concerns overshadowed the team's victories on the ice.  The Mavericks and coach May pleaded with majority shareholder, Gene Clift, to give up his stock in the organization.  A picture in the November 22 RMN shows Maverick Bob Currie handing a letter to Clift stating:

"We the players and coach...humbly request
that you relinquish your stock in the organization.
You have in the past expressed great interest in hockey
and if you will step down we are convinced that interest still remains."
--Source:  Rocky Mountain News

   Although going down the tubes fast, the Denver fans were going to do their part in helping the team's survival.
   The November 21 game against the St. Paul Saints was the first test of the fan's true commitment to the Mavericks.  As a condition of refinancing, the Mavericks were going to have to show an increase in ticket sales for the two game series against the Saints.   6200 fans showed for the first game, a 4-2 loss.
   The Mavericks were going to do their part as well to at least go down swinging.  The game was a bloodbath.  The Saints and the Mavericks were the two best teams in the league and the Saints were surly because the Mavericks had handed the first defeat of the early season to them in St. Paul.
   At the end of the second period, brawls broke out.  The main combatants were Denver's Cy Whiteside and St Paul's Danny Summers.  The police separated the two at about the time Denver's Harry Ottenbreit and St Paul's Wayne Larkin starting bashing one another with punches to the head.   Before the third period commenced, Whiteside and Summers, both sitting in the penalty box, resumed festivites in the penalty box.  Four policemen had to be called in to break them up and escort them to their dressing rooms at the referee's insistence.
   The next game against the Saints brought another Maverick loss.  Once again however, good news greeted the team.  The IHL yanked the team from Mile High Hockey Inc. and gave it to a Denver group headed by David M. Segal.  IHL President stated that the action was necessary because Mile High Hockey Inc. had not honored its commitments.  This new ownership assured the players that they would be given regular paychecks.

"The kids and me, were worried sick about the messy
situation in the front office," coach Bob May said in the RMN
"We didn't know if we were going to be in Denver tomorrow or in Timbuctoo."

Bill Lecaine moves past Mercury Ron Hemmerling

   The Denver Mavericks recorded another lopsided victory on November 26, 1959.  The victim was the Toledo Mercurys.  3493 fans saw the Mavericks score five goals in the third period to ice the game 8-1.  Perhaps the best goal of the night was scored by Bill Steenson.  Steenson cruised up the ice with the puck.  When he hit the Mercurys blue line he was nailed from both sides by Mercury defenders.  From there, he slid on his belly and at the last possible second flipped the puck past Mercury Les Binkley for a Maverick tally.
   The last Maverick goal the Denver fans would ever see came off the stick of Bill Reichart.
   New president, Dave Segal, said that the team needed $45,000 to insure the team's stay in Denver.  He noted that $30,000 had already been raised but an additional $15,000 was needed to save the team.  A meeting was held to solicit funds from another five people to save the team.  Nobody showed up and the amount of $3000 investors dwindled from 10 to five.
   The team took to the road where they lost 5-0 to Indianapolis.  The next game was another fist-swinging battle but it was also another loss, 10-4 against Louisville.
   The final Maverick game was a 4-3 victory against the Indianapolis Chiefs.  Don McLean scored the final goal for the Mavericks December 2nd.  On December 3rd, the Mavericks officially became the Minneapolis Millers.
   The team name would live on for one more day though in Denver.  On December 4, 1959, two "nice looking lads" walked into the used car lot at Metropolitan Pontiac and said they were looking for transportation to Minneapolis.  They told the salesman that they were members of the Mavericks and were looking to buy a car to join the team in Minneapolis.  They took the car out for a trial and never returned.  Needless to say, neither were members of the team, just hoodlums.
  That was the end of this very short-lived Denver professional hockey franchise.  The Mavericks ended up with 10 wins and eight losses.