The Rochester Americans (colloquially the Amerks) are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League; the team is an owned-and operated affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. The team plays its home games in Rochester, New York, at the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. The Americans are the fourth-oldest franchise in the AHL, and have the second-longest continuous tenure among AHL teams in their current locations after the Hershey Bears. They celebrated their 60th anniversary in the 2015–16 season.
|2018–19 AHL season|
|City||Rochester, New York|
|League||American Hockey League|
|Home arena||Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial|
KeyBank Center (select games)
|Colors||Red, white, blue|
|General manager||Randy Sexton|
|Head coach||Chris Taylor|
MSG Western New York
Democrat and Chronicle
|Affiliates||Buffalo Sabres (NHL)|
Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL)
|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)|
Rochester was awarded a new franchise in June 1956, when the Pittsburgh Hornets were forced to suspend operations after their arena, the Duquesne Gardens was razed in an urban renewal project. With the Hornets franchise in limbo until a new arena could be built, there was room in the league for a team in Rochester.
The Americans' team colors are red, white and blue. The logo is a patriotic badge with "Americans" written in cursive script. The Americans have played for the Calder Cup 16 times. They have won six 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. 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.
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. 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. 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.
Prior to the AHL franchise, the Arpeako Packers played before thousands at the new Rochester War Memorial. Center Sam Toth and Left Wing Ed House started the original group tasked to bring professional hockey to Rochester. The Central Hockey League was sold on Rochester as its next expansion city. The CHL told Toth and House the CHL was a league that promised more fans than the AHL due to the rougher, more violent product on the ice. Toth and House held out for the AHL and ended up losing out to the group backed by Canadians.
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. 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 each owned 27.5% of the team, with the balance sold to Rochester interests. The team was named the "Americans".
Early years (1956–1967)Edit
Upon entering the league for the 1956–57 season the Americans became a joint affiliate of both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, though the club was operated by the Canadiens. 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 Americans reached the playoffs in 1959, losing to the Buffalo Bisons in five games. The 1959 Americans were led by the "WHAM" 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 the summer of 1959, the Maple Leafs bought out the Canadiens ownership share of the club, giving them a 55% controlling interest, due to concerns that with Montreal operating the club they were giving their prospects priority over those of the Leafs. They purchased most of the remaining 45% in 1963, boosting their ownership share to 98% by November 1964.
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. 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 seven. 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 Americans 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 Americans defenseman Joe Crozier became the team's coach and general manager. Under Crozier, the Americans 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 Americans played their final 10 regular season and all playoff home games at neutral sites because the 1966 American Bowling Congress tournament occupied the War Memorial. The home games were at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, about 180 miles (290 km) 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 Americans tied up the series at two games apiece with a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Barons. Rochester went on to win the next two games and their second consecutive 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. Alex Faulkner, the first person from Newfoundland and Labrador to play in the NHL, also played on the Amerks.
The expansion era (1967–1970s)Edit
When the National Hockey League expanded from six to twelve teams for the 1967–68 NHL season the Americans lost several players. Arbour (St. Louis), and Boyer (Oakland), were drafted by the new NHL teams. Ehman was traded to Oakland and Horvath was loaned to Minnesota. Rupp and Walton were both promoted to the Maple Leafs while Smrke retired.
The Americans 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 Americans received Ted Taylor, Len Lunde, George "Duke" Harris, Murray Hall, Don Johns, Carl Wetzel and the rights to Horvath. The return of Horvath marked his fourth tour of duty with the Amerks since 1956–57. The Americans 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 four games to one in the playoff semi-finals and the Quebec Aces four games to two in the Calder Cup finals. The Amerks won the final game 4-2 before a crowd of 11,711 at the Colisée de Québec.
In July 1966, Maple Leaf Gardens Limited sold the team to a group which included their then general manager Punch Imlach for a reported $400,000. Two years later, the team was sold to the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) minor league for a reported $950,000. Imlach was a part owner of the Canucks at the time. With the majority of the Rochester players transferred to Vancouver, Canucks won the 1968–69 and 1969–70 WHL Lester Patrick Cup championships, while the Amerks finished in last place each year. When Vancouver became the expansion Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League, they utilized the Amerks as their farm team.
After Rochester finished at the bottom of the AHL standings 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 Americans were saved in the summer of 1972 when a group of eight Rochester businessmen, most notably Sam Toth, Richard Altier of Altier's Shoes, and Joe Fox, head of Rochester-based athletic-wear maker Champion Products, bought the Americans franchise from Vancouver and named Amerks defenseman Don Cherry as coach and general manager. Playing the next two seasons independent of any NHL affiliations, the Amerks qualified for the playoffs in 1972–73 losing to the Boston Braves in the first round. The next season, 1973–74, the Amerks went on to become regular season champions but lost in the first round to New Haven.
The Boston Bruins hired Cherry as their coach in 1974–75 and became the Americans' parent team the same year. During the five seasons with the Bruins the Amerks made the playoffs the first four years losing in the Calder Cup finals in 1977 to Nova Scotia.
Prior to the 1979–80 season the Americans were purchased by the Knox family, owners of the Buffalo Sabres (NHL) and became the Sabres' AHL affiliate. After the Knox brothers died in the 1990s, the Americans and Sabres were split up, with the Sabres going to John Rigas and the Americans being sold to Steve Donner. Despite the sale, the original Buffalo-Rochester partnership became the longest such NHL-AHL affiliation, lasting until the 2007–08 season, and revived for 2011–12. The proximity of the cities of Buffalo and Rochester is a significant advantage in that the Sabres are able to call up and send down players between the two teams with ease, as the two cities are only an hour's drive away from each other; Buffalo is the closest NHL city to Rochester, while Rochester is the closest AHL city to Buffalo. (The Hamilton Bulldogs, which existed as an AHL franchise from 1996 to 2015, were closer geographically to Buffalo than Rochester is, but played on the other side of the U.S.-Canada border)
During the original Sabres affiliation, the Americans won three Calder Cup championships and finished as runners-up another six times. They finished out of the playoffs only five times in 28 years.
The Americans 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 Van Boxmeer-coached team won the division championship on the last game of the season against the Binghamton Whalers. The Americans were one point behind the Whalers and playing in Binghamton. After goalie Darcy Wakaluk 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, Van Boxmeer made one of the most memorable coaching moves in Americans 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 Americans play the rival Hershey Bears, however the first two games were moved to the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium due to the Rochester War Memorial 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 tough-guy Andy Ristau received a concussion. The Americans won the game in overtime on a goal by defenseman Jim Hofford, who was a late addition to the lineup as a result of the brawl. The Americans went on to win the series, 4-1.
The Americans took on the Sherbrooke Canadiens in the finals and after five games found themselves down three games to two. 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 Americans 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, and most recent, Calder Cup.
In the 2003–04 season, Rochester was beaten four games to one by the eventual Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals in the Western Conference finals.
The Americans began a dual-affiliation in 2005 after signing an agreement with the Florida Panthers. Under this agreement the Panthers and Sabres both supplied the Americans with players while the Sabres still employed the coaching staff.
In 2007, the Sabres announced that season would be their last season of affiliation with the Americans. 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 when Buffalo chose the Portland Pirates to be their new AHL affiliate. This separation lasted 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 Americans to Canadian businessman Curt Styres and his investment group, Arrow Express Sports. 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 Americans GM, Jody Gage would not return next season as the team's general manager. Gage now holds the position of director of player personnel.
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, who had recently purchased 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, was split off and retained by Styres as Pegula owned the rival Buffalo Bandits. After these arrangements were made, the agreement was reached June 24, 2011, with the official announcement following the same day. Pegula purchased the Americans for US$5,000,000.
For the 2013–14 season, the Americans participated in that year's edition of the AHL Outdoor Classic played at Frontier Field against the Lake Erie Monsters immediately before leaving to take part in the 2013 Spengler Cup, the first time in 17 years that an AHL team participated (the Americans were also the participants in the 1996 Spengler Cup).
On July 28, 2015, Randy Cunneyworth was re-hired as the Americans' head coach, returning after being the head coach for the Americans from 2000 to 2008. Cunneyworth was relieved of his duties the following season on May 16, 2016 and reassigned to a position in the Sabres' department of player development. Dan Lambert was named the new head coach. Lambert was fired at the end of the 2016–17 season after a clearing out of the coaching staff and management in Buffalo.
For the 2017 season, it was decided by new Sabres general manager Jason Botterill, that the Americans would have their own general manager and be modeled after how Botterill's previous team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, operated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In June 2017, the Sabres' new assistant general manager Randy Sexton was also made the Americans' general manager and former Americans' player Chris Taylor was named head coach.
The Rochester Americans have retired only two sweater numbers in their history.
- Number six retired in honor of Norm "Red" Armstrong following his death from a fall in a construction accident in 1974 at age 35.
- Number nine was later retired in honor of Dick Gamble and Jody Gage. Gage, known as "Mr. Amerk", broke Gamble's team scoring records with the Americans during his long tenure with the team. Gage then served as the Americans' general manager for 12 years, until May 2009.
- Goals: Paul Gardner, 61 (1985–86)
- Assists: Geordie Robertson, 73 (1982–83)
- Points: Geordie Robertson, 119 (1982–83)
- Penalty minutes: Rob Ray, 446 (1988–89)
- GAA: Martin Biron, 2.07 (1998–99)
- SV%: Martin Biron, .930 (1998–99)
Asterisk denotes number of Calder Cups won
- Billy Reay, 1956–57
- Roly McLenahan, 1957–58
- Bucko MacDonald, 1958
- Sam Pollock, 1959
- Steve Kraftcheck, 1958–61
- Jack Riley, 1961
- Johnny Crawford, 1961–62
- Rudy Migay, 1962–63
- Joe Crozier, 1963–68***
- Dick Gamble, 1968–71
- Peanuts O'Flaherty, 1971
- Doug Adam, 1972
- Don Cherry, 1972–74
- Dick Mattiussi, 1974–76
- Duane Rupp, 1976–78
- Gary Darling, 1978
- Ron Garwasiuk, 1978
- Pat Kelly, 1978–79
- Billy Inglis, 1979–80
- Mike Keenan, 1980–83*
- Joe Crozier, 1983–84
- Jim Schoenfeld, 1984
- John Van Boxmeer, 1984–90*
- Don Lever, 1990–92
- John Van Boxmeer, 1992–95
- John Tortorella, 1995–97*
- Brian McCutcheon, 1997–2000
- Randy Cunneyworth, 2000–08
- Benoit Groulx, 2008–10
- Chuck Weber, 2010–11
- Ron Rolston, 2011–13
- Chadd Cassidy, 2013–2015
- Randy Cunneyworth, 2015–2016
- Dan Lambert, 2016–2017
- Chris Taylor, 2017–present
- Marcotte, Bob (March 7, 2011). "Eager fans embraced arrival of the Rochester Amerks". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. Gannett Company. pp. 1B, 4B. Archived from the original on March 11, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2011.
- "Rochester makes it – Gains AHL franchise". Toronto Daily Star. 1956-07-03.
- MacCarl, Neil (1966-07-07). "Sale of Rochester hockey team pads Maple Leaf coffers". Toronto Daily Star.
- "Maple Leafs Seek Farm Club in AHL". The Globe and Mail. 1959-03-18.
- "Leafs Purchase Control Of AHL Squad From Habs". The Globe and Mail. 1959-06-15. p. 22.
- WHAM is an extension of the first letters of the line's players: Hicke, Aldcorn and Migay; the acronym was an allusion to Rochester's clear-channel AM radio station, WHAM 1180.
- "Rumors Have Pilous Going to Rochester". The Globe and Mail. 1963-06-05. p. 15.
- Rimstead, Paul (1966-07-07). "19 players go: AHL franchise at Rochester sold by Leafs". The Globe and Mail.
- "Nothing Exceeds Like Success". The Globe and Mail. 1964-11-13. Missing or empty
- "Same Place Half a Life Ago". Sit Down & Shut Up.
- Cox, Damien; Stellick, Gord (2009). '67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire. John Wiley & Sons. p. 31.
- Beddoes, Dick (1966-07-09). "Saturday sale on shorts". The Globe and Mail.
- "CORPORATE REPORTS: Maple Leaf Gardens notes drop in profit". The Globe and Mail. 1966-11-07. p. 25.
- Beddoes, Dick (1968-07-15). "By Dick Beddoes". The Globe and Mail.
- Dunnell, Milt (1968-07-05). "Coley confounds the confusiont". Toronto Daily Star.
- "Sabres, Amerks to separate after this season". Sabres Insider. Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- "Amerks' sale approved today". Rochester Democrat And Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- Wawrow, John (2011-05-17). AP Source: Sabres interested in AHL Rochester[permanent dead link]. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
- "AHL BOG approves sale of Amerks to Buffalo". theahl.com. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
- "Buffalo reunited with Rochester as AHL affiliate". The Sports Network. Archived from the original on 2012-10-20. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
- Vogl, John (2011-06-26). Pegula is making big impact on Sabres. The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- "Randy Cunneyworth returning to coach Amerks". Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. 2015-07-28. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
- "Dan Lambert named new coach in Rochester, Randy Cunneyworth reassigned". Die by the Blade. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
- "Sexton to join Sabres as assistant GM". The Sports Network. June 24, 2017.
- "Amerks bring Chris Taylor back to Rochester as head coach". The Buffalo News. June 30, 2017.
- "amerks.com – Team". Retrieved December 16, 2015.
- "TheAHL.com – Rochester Americans Roster". Retrieved December 16, 2015.