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So when the WHA formed, I decided to be a New York Raiders fan. Here are my strongest memories of that 1972-73 season:
Got my Dad to take my brother and I to two home games during the year, one against Alberta and one against Houston. (I think The Raiders split the two games -- they beat Alberta, but they lost to Houston).
My favorite player was a lumbering animal of a defesneman named Hal Willis. This guy put the "oo" in "goon" -- he made Dave Schmidt seem like a finesse player. My two favorite Hal Willis memories:
1) one of the local papers, the NY Daily News, I think, published a photo of Willis chasing an opposing player who had skated around him. The photo showed the player crumbling to the ice, as Willis, coming from behind, brought his stick down squarely on the top of the guy's head with a firm, two-handed grasp; 2) at one of the games I attended, I remember opponents at least 3 times skating down the ice and going around Willis like he was standing still, to go one-on-one with the goalie. I think both of the first two times, the opponent scored. The third time, Willis, clearly peeved, grabbed the guy from behind, threw him down to the ice, then stepped on him. Needless to say, Willis led the team in penalty minutes. (Willis was a former member of the minor league hockey team the Long Island Ducks, whose motto was "If you can't get the puck, get the man!")
I also remember:
Bobby Sheehan -- he was a poor puck handler, but he could accelerate like crazy, so on those occasions when he DID retain control of the puck, he often had a breakaway;
Ron Ward -- the guy was practically invisible during the games. You just wouldn't notice him, but somehow, he was in the middle of every scoring play.
Lastly, I remember that The Raiders were broadcast on WMCA AM radio, and their announcer was John Sterling, who would larter go on the announce first for The Islanders, and finally for The Yankees (for whom he is still the radio announcer).
Sterling's color man for much of the first season, until spring training came, was Yankee pitcher Fritz Peterson, right before Peterson was embroiled in a big scandal on the sports pages of the day for engaging in wife-swapping with Yankee teammate Mike Kekich.
Sterling's trademark was screaming after each goal by The Raiders "Raider goal! Raider goal! Raider goal!". He later transplanted this trademark to his Islander broadcasts, although "Islander goal!" was a bit more of a mouthful. He still uses the same tone and volume at the last out of every winning Yankee game, when he screams "The Yankees win! The Yankees win!"
I hoped to continue rooting for The Raiders in their second season, but first the new owner changed their name, and then about 13 games into the season, they were moved into Jersey, too far away to convince my father to take me. The next season, of course, they moved to San Diego. At that point, I became (somewhat reluctantly at first) an Islanders fan, which I still am to this day.
Thanks for creating a forum for me to share these memories! Rich Hughes