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The Denver Spurs

1969-1970 Season

Bob Cunningham (Foreground) and Brian Harper Against Buckaroos

   There was good news and bad news in the Spurs second year.  The good news was that it didn't take until November to get their first victory.  The bad news was that other than that, the season went about the same as their first.
   Jacques Caron was in net for the team's first game against the expansion Salt Lake City Golden Eagles.  The The Spurs got a 4-3 win on goals by Martin, Schella, McDonald and Harper in front of about 2500 Spurs fans at the Coliseum.  The News mentioned that the crowd was good considering the blizzard raging in the city.
   For the most part, the season was tame and much like the season before.  The Spurs started out strong but faded and spent a majority of the season in sixth place in the seven team division.
   The biggest rival the Spurs had were the Seattle Totems.
   Remember the 68/69 season?  A fan spit at Ed Hoekstra and the team needed a police escort to get in to the dressing room.  A repeat of that incident almost caused chaos.
   With the Totems ahead 6-2 late in the third period, the Spurs John Schella and the Totems' Ray Larose got into a scrap.  Fifteen seconds later the game ended.  As the Spurs went to their dressing room, some of the Seattle fans spit at our Spurs.  This time the Spurs wouldn't take it.  Three of them tried to climb the wire screen to get to the fans.  A row of seats were cleared by Seattle police so the players could get back to their dressing room, once again, under a police escort.
   On November 7, 1969 Denver would take on Seattle here at the Coliseum.  Between periods of the game Del Topell was recognized by Spurs management for playing in his 700th WHL game.  Up to that time, Topell had 598 points (207 goals, 391 assists).  Almost 5,000 fans showed up to see a fast-paced game.  The Spurs scored first.  Ed Hoekstra broke up a rush at his blue line and cruised up ice and ripped a 30-foot slapshot that got past Totem goalie Chris Worthy.  Unfortunately the Totems would score with 3:10 left in the game to take the lead 3-2.  They would add an empty netter with 46 seconds left to win it 4-2.
   The next day, Rocky Farr would star in net and the Spurs would finally get revenge.  Again it was a tame, but fast-paced game.  Rocky would turn aside 29 shots to post a shutout in the 2-0 Spur victory over the Totems.  The Spurs would finish up 2-9-1 in the season series with Seattle.

Larry Mavety and Willie O' Ree

   Besides giving the Seattle fans fits, they did their best at riling up the other team's goalie as well.
   Brian McDonald stole the puck while the team was short-handed and put it past Phoenix goalie Rick Charron.  As soon as the goal was called, Charron went nuts.  Charron left his crease and began smashing his stick against the goal judge's cage.  Charron seemed to be convinced that it wasn't a goal.  The Spurs would score two more goals in the next four minutes and go on to win the game 6-4.  Charron ended up making only 10 saves on 16 shots while Rocky Farr stopped 40 out of 44.

Brian Harper shoots against Phoenix

   Part of playing hockey in the Denver Coliseum was going on extended road trips during the Stock Show.  This road trip would put a nail in the coffin of the Spurs season.  The Spurs would go 1-5-1 on the Stock Show road trip.  About the only good thing during the trip was the arrival of Bill Dineen from Seattle.
   On January 30, the Spurs returned home to play the Portland Buckaroos.  Home ice was a welcome site to the road weary Spurs as they held on to beat the Buckaroos 4-3.

Brian Kilrea and Brian Smith look relieved after Kilrea puts the puck in the net.

   By this time, the Spurs were in fifth place.  Unfortunately the team ahead of them was the Totems.  Their futility against this team would hurt them and any chances they had at the playoffs.
   The Spurs would finally make some shakeups in the coaching area.  Nobody was questioning coach Rudy Pilous's ability, management just decided that he needed to focus on his GM job in order to build the Spurs into a winner.  Bill Dineen, later coach of the WHA champion Houston Aeros and the New England Whalers, would take over as player-coach.
   Dineen would make a few rookie coaching mistakes, including giving the wrong starting lineup to the referee in a game against the San Diego Gulls.  He was given two minutes for "violating in presenting the starting lineup".
   In the same game against the Gulls, Roger LaFreniere earned a season-long suspension for "deliberate attempt to injure".  LaFreniere was nailed in the back of the neck with the stick of Sandy Fitzpatrick.  The referee, Dave Newell missed the assault but noticed the melee in time to see LaFreniere swinging his stick back at Fitzpatrick.
   With their anger raised, the Spurs went on to begin overcoming a 4-0 deficit.  The Spurs had closed it to 4-3 when Brian McDonald received a two-minute tripping penalty.  Instead of taking the penalty, McDonald refused to leave.  So the referee tacked on another 10 minutes.  Still in disbelief of the original penalty, McDonald got another 10 minute match penalty added.  McDonald was irate by this time.  The San Diego crowd was letting him have it on his way off the ice (yes he finally left).  McDonald slammed the gate at the end of the rink causing the fans to get even wilder.  His actions earned him a $100 fine.  But this wasn't Seattle, and the Spurs were encouraged.  They scored two more goals, one with their goalie pulled, to salvage a 5-5 tie with the Gulls.
   The Spurs finished out the season with two home wins over the regular season champion Vancouver Canucks.  Coach Bill Dineen ended up 7-7-3 in his first tour of coaching duty.  The Spurs ended up 24-37-11 and in sixth place ahead of only the expansion Salt Lake City Golden Eagles.  Brian McDonald was named Favorite Spur by Denver fans.

Jacques Caron makes the save

The Denver Spurs 1969/70