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The New Beginning

   The Denver Spurs were the third team to call Denver home.  Although the team was new to the area, there were a few familiar faces on the Spurs.  Head coach Rudy Pilous was at the helm and Lou Jankowski and Gord Redahl both had played here during the Invader days in the 1963/64 season.

The 1968/69 Spurs Roster

   Nevertheless, the Spurs were a new team.  Thus, they were going to have their share of hard luck and losses.
   The Spurs began their foray in the Western Hockey League at home in the Denver Coliseum against the San Diego Gulls on October 9, 1968.  Lady Luck showed early in the game what kind of season the Spurs were going to have.  
   At 8:43 of the first period, there was a flurry of action around the Gull net.  The puck got shot at Gull goalie Bob Champoux, who stopped it....with his chin.  Champoux was out of the game and the 1960 US Olympic hero Jack McCartan came in to the game and made 34 saves to steal it 4-2.  John Rodgers scored the first goal in the history of the Denver Spurs in the second period.
Box Score for the First Game
First Period-No ScoringPenalties- Gulls, Nicholson (hooking) 3:47; Gulls, Eagle (crosschecking) 7:32; Gulls, MacMillian (tripping) 13:18; Denver, Vejprava (holding) 11:56.
Second Period-Denver, Rodger (unassisted) 12:35; Gulls, Richardson (Threnuerth) 14:41; Denver, Shires (Johnson, Vejprava) 16:48.Penalties- Gulls, Hunt (hooking) 15:44; Denver, Mavety (holding) 17:54.
Gulls, Hynes (Huculak) :19; Gulls, Carmichael (unassisted) 10:11; Gulls, O'Ree (Faulkner, Sinclair) 10:55.Penalties- Gulls, Cardiff (hooking) 5:12; Gulls, Eagle (slashing) 7:37.

   The month of October was rough on the Spurs.  Following two home losses to open the season, the Spurs took to the road for an eight-game road trip.   The Spurs didn't get one point on the road trip.  In their first 10 games, they lost by a single goal eight times.  Their record for the month of October was 0 wins and nine losses.
   November didn't start out any better.  But the first win was inevitable and it came November 2, 1968.

John Rodgers Looks for the Puck

   Coach Rudy Pilous started the 21-year-old Rocky Farr in net in place of Jacques Caron.  Rocky started terribly.  With exactly 1 minute and 12 seconds gone in the game, Rocky let the first shot the Canucks put on net get past him.
   But that was it for the Canucks.  Gordy Vejprava and John Rodgers each scored a goal in the second period, which would be all the Spurs needed on that night.  With under a minute left in the game, the crowd of about 3000 fans were going wild.  The crowd counted down the last seconds of the game and continued their approving cheer when they hit zero.  The Spurs had gained their first victory by beating the Vancouver Canucks 2-1.
   Despite the victory, it was clear to Denver fans and head coach Rudy Pilous that the Spurs needed some help.  Wilf Martin, Ed Hoekstra and defenseman Pete Goegan were added to the Spurs.  Martin received rave reviews from Denver goalies.  In his first game, Martin scored two goals to help Denver gain a 4-4 tie with Vancouver.
   For a while, wins were tough to get for the Spurs.  The Rocky Mountain News noted in article after article how third period woes were hurting the team.  Three goals in the final 10 minutes, four third period goals, overcoming a three goal deficit (two goals in the third) were the reasons for losses to the Buckaroos twice and the Gulls.
   Close games would also usually fall in favor of the other team as well.  The Spurs' best efforts would usually reap no rewards.  Heroic goaltending by Jacques Caron and Rocky Farr would often be for naught.  A third of the way through the season, the Spurs were 2-17-3.
   On November 27, Denver fans were treated to the first ever fight in Denver Spur history. (Spurs and fighting would become inseparable just 5 years later.)  Tough guy John Schella got into a wild second period fight against Buckaroo Cliff Schmautz.
"They started swinging in a melee behind
the Denver net and Schella landed several
solid punches before Schmautz pulled the Spurs
defenseman's jersey over his head.  Then the
tid turned and Schmautz belted Schella a couple
good ones."--Fred Pietila, Rocky Mountain News

   The fight did nothing to help the Spurs and they lost the game 3-2.

Wilf Martin (20) Scores!!!!

   Eventually, the third period collapses began to disappear.  Goalie Jacques Caron recorded the first shutout in Spur history with a 5-0 blanking of the Phoenix Roadrunners on December 6, 1968 and the team began winning a few games on home ice.
   Although the team got tougher to beat at home, the road was still a sure mark in the loss column.
   The first road win didn't happen until December 18, 1968.  Once again it was Rocky Farr standing tall in goal who helped the Spurs finally reach this milestone.  The 6-3 victory came against the Portland Buckaroos, who were 20 points better than the Spurs.  This victory pushed the Spurs record to a dismal 7-22-3.
   The Spurs play would improve and the losses wouldn't be tallied against them as quickly.  Much of this can be attributed to goalie Rocky Farr.
   In late January, goalie Jacques Caron was called up for backup duty for the Los Angeles Kings.  Rocky was to be the lone goalie for much of the rest of the way.  If he went down, there was nobody there to take his place.  And he went down a few times.
   In a December 29 game against the Canucks, Farr was struck in the throat by a shot and Caron had to take his place.  He wouldn't be afforded this luxury once Caron had been called up.  On January 31, 1969, Phoenix Roadrunner Wayne Carleton wound up on a 10-foot slapshot and nailed Farr directly in the middle of the forehead.  Farr was unconscious on the ice for two minutes.  After five minutes, Rocky was ready to go to the final bell.  The shot might of knocked him out, but it obviously didn't faze him as he was called on late to make huge saves to protect the lead.  He succeeded and the Spurs won it 3-2.
   Farr would get his first shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Denver on February 15, 1969 in front of the largest home crowd of the year.  The game was spirited to say the least and featured a fight involving Vancouver player, and soon-to-be-hockey icon, Don Cherry.  Seconds after Spur Larry Mavety and Canuck Ted Taylor got match penalties for a stick swinging duel, Spur John Schella and Cherry got into a fight at center ice.  Cherry got the worst of it as Schella landed about six right hands.
   The Spurs were playing better.  Although they were hoping to reach the fourth position in the six-team league so they could make the playoffs, their first aim was to get out of the cellar, a place they had dwelled since game 1.
   A 4-0 Farr shutout against the Phoenix Roadrunners pulled the Spurs to within four points of the fifth place Phoenix team.  From there, they would defeat the Seattle Totems 7-4 and 9-3 to get a tie with the Roadrunners and finally escape the cellar on March 1, 1969.  Although they were 15 points out of the playoffs, the Spurs were on fire and still had a shot at the post-season.  For a while it seemed nothing would stop them on their quest to turn a miserable first half of the season into an unlikely playoff berth.

Either Randy Miller or Allan Johnson Scores (picture caption identifies Rodgers but it's the wrong number and Rodgers wears a helmet)

   In a game in Seattle, Rocky Farr once again stood on his head to keep the Spurs in the game.  The Seattle fans turned vicious as the body-checking in the game turned savage.  Fearing for the safety of his team after a rabid fan spit at Ed Hoekstra of the Spurs, Rudy Pilous had the Seattle police escort the team from the ice at the end of the second period.  Luckily it was the Totems alone who had to beat the Spurs and they failed.  The Spurs won it 3-2 to keep their playoff hopes alive and also claimed sole possession of fifth place in the Western Hockey League.
   But the playoff dreams would disappear at the hands of San Diego Gull, Willie O' Ree.  On March 14, O'Ree scored four goals in a 7-6 Gull victory.
   The Spurs were left to play out the string with the hopes of finishing out of the Western Hockey League's basement.  In the final home game, Rocky Farr was named "Most Popular Spurs Player" by Denver fans.  The Spurs were victorious in both, their final home game on March 26 and their final game of the season March 29.  They still ended up finishing in the cellar with a 23-44-7 record.
   But there is reason for happiness, the Spurs would stick around after the season, unlike the previous two professional hockey teams to call Denver home.

The 1968/69 Spurs

Coming Soon:  The 1969/70 Denver Spurs