Most arenas have a
long players' bench for each team, but in Cherry Hill the players' section
consisted of three rows of five seats. The teams looked like choirs. There was
little room for a coach in Cherry Hill, so one night Winnipeg Coach Nick
Mickoski sat in the first row of the stands. But every time he stood up to make
a line change or give instructions to a player, the fans would complain so
loudly that he would have to shout his orders sitting down.
The ice at Cherry
Hill had a definite tilt to it, too, prompting Bobby Hull to say, "It's the
only arena I've ever been in where the visiting team had to skate uphill for
two periods of every game. There was also a huge dip in the ice." In fact,
one night Ted Scharf of the Knights was waiting for a pass when the puck shot
straight up and struck him between the eyes.
No arena was more
beautiful than the Coliseum, a magnificent structure in the rural township of
Richfield, Ohio, outside Cleveland. It was the new home of Nick Mileti's
Cleveland Crusaders, who played at the old Cleveland Arena from 1972 until
people live within an hour's drive of the Coliseum," Mileti said when his
He was right, too.
All five million lived an hour away—and not very many of them ever drove for an
hour to see the Crusaders play. "What a beautiful building it was,"
says Skip Krake, who played for the Crusaders and now owns and operates a
sporting goods store in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan. "But all those empty
seats! Why, 3,500 fans looked like 13. It made you want to cry a
As it turned out,
the Crusaders' best years were their two seasons at the old Arena on Euclid
Avenue in Cleveland. Grubby and worn, the Arena sat on the edge of a tough
neighborhood, across the street from a Catholic church and snug beside a rough
bar. Five Crusaders had their cars stolen out of the parking lot at the Arena,
Wayne Muloin and Tom Edur both losing new Thunderbirds on the same night. Steve
Thomas, the Crusaders' trainer, who often had to work at the Arena late at
night, was mugged three times one winter.
watch?" one mugger growled at Thomas.
"They got that
last week," the trainer said.
If the Arena had
one distinguishing feature, it was the chicken wire wrapped above the boards at
each end of the rink. Gary Jarrett could play the mesh better than anyone else
in the league; he knew exactly where the soft rebounds would spill as pucks
caromed off the chicken wire, and always parked himself accordingly near the
When the Crusaders
left Cleveland for Richfield, they left the mesh behind because the new
Coliseum had standard glass barriers. Suddenly, Jarrett couldn't catch up to
the rebounds, and his point production plummeted from 79 to 41 to 33—whereupon