1972/73: The Calgary Broncos were set to be one of the showcase franchises in the new World Hockey Association. However, the league could not reach a deal with the owners of the Calgary Corral and the team was relocated to Cleveland, becoming the Crusaders before ever playing a game. The Crusaders scored an earl coup with the signing of Gerry Cheevers, one of the premiere goalies in the NHL who had just helped the Boston Bruins win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. Coached by Bill Needham, the Crusaders hosted the Quebec Nordiques at the Cleveland Arena in their first game on October 11th, as Cheevers earned a shutout blanking the Nordiques 2-0. The Crusaders would win their first five games as they were one of the best teams early in the season for the new league. The Crusaders would battle the New England Whalers all season for first place in the Eastern Division, ultimately finishing in second place with a record of 43-32-3. The Crusaders leading scorer was Ron Buchanan who had 81 points, while Gary Jarrett led the team in goals with 40. In the playoffs the Crusaders would face the Philadelphia Blazers, earning a hard fought 3-2 win in overtime in the series opener. The Crusaders would be catapulted by the dramatic win and would cruise the rest of the way, sweeping the series in four games. In the WHA semifinals the Crusaders again battled the Whalers. Once again the Whalers would be just a little better, winning the first three games of the series by one goal. The Crusaders would post a 5-2 win in Game 4, but it was not enough as the eventual AVCO Champion Whalers won the series in five games.
1973/74: In their second season, the Crusaders were one of the better drawing teams in the league, averaging 6,000 fans per game. However, they had trouble equaling their first year success, allowing 25 more goals and scoring 21 less. Still they were good enough to be a playoff team, posting a record of 37-32-9 as they finished third in the Eastern Division. In the playoffs, the Crusaders would struggle dropping their first three games against the Toronto Toros. The Crusaders would win Game 4 in overtime 3-2, as the Toros went on to take the series in five games.
1974/75: After two seasons at the Cleveland Arena, the Crusaders moved into a brand new arena in suburban Richfield, under new Coach John Hanna. The Richfield Coliseum was one of the biggest and best arenas in the WHA. Despite the new arena, attendance did not grow as much as expected, as they lost their first game at their new arena 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers on November 2nd. Despite three 30 goal scores in Rich Leduc, Al McDonough and Ron Ward the Crusaders posted a disappointing record of 35-40-3, as Jack Vivian took over as coach in the middle of the season. Despite the struggles, the Crusaders still managed to earn a playoff spot, losing to the eventual AVCO Cup Champion Houston Aeros in five games.
1975/76: The Crusaders found themselves in turmoil as their fourth season began with new ownership. The team’s new owner, Jay Moore, who purchased the team from Nick Mileti was made unhappy right as the league placed an expansion team in Cincinnati. The Crusaders would also lose to the expansion Cincinnati Stingers 1-0 at Richfield Coliseum in the first game of the season. Jay Moore also clashed the Crusaders’ most marketable player Gerry Cheevers, who left the team in the middle of the season to return to the NHL with the Boston Bruins. Despite the loss of Cheevers, the Crusaders, now coached by Johnny Wilson still slid into the playoffs, as they finished in second place with a record of 35-40-5. However, their playoff stay would be short as they were swept in a best-of-5 by the New England Whalers three games to none. Following the season, the team was sold back to Nick Mileti. However, their season ending playoff loss to the Whalers on April 11tt would be the final game the Cleveland Crusaders ever played, as the NHL announced plans to move the California Golden Seals to Cleveland. With the Cleveland Barons using the Richfield Coliseum, the Crusaders had no choice but to move, picking up the name of the Minnesota Fighting Saints, another WHA team that had initial success but were forced to fold in the middle of the season.
©MMXIII Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the World Hockey Association. This site is not affiliated with the Cleveland Crusaders or the WHA. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on July 31, 2013. Last updated on July 31, 2013 at 11:30 pm ET.