WELCOME to Saginaw Gears dot com!





From 1972 to 1983 the IHL was represented in the city of Saginaw Michigan by the Saginaw Gears hockey club. In that period of time, the team went from a local curiosity to a staple in the fabric of life in the Tri Cities. In fact, the Gears did much more for the community than simply play hockey- they added to the fabric of the lives of everyone who ever bought a ticket. They were a vehicle by which many new friendships and relationships were formed. Indeed, they did much more than just play hockey.

For those of you who were fans of the original Gears, this site will be a sort of cyber time machine to take you back to those days at the the Civic Center (now called the Dow Center) and the games that became social events as well as sporting events. Above all this site will serve to kindle memories and document events as they actually happened. Events such as the infamous "streaker" and what really happened will be published here for the very first time. We will look at the Gears and the games from an insider's perspective and discover some things that even the most faithful season ticket holder has never known. Additionally, fans will have the chance to give their input to the stories and accounts that are displayed on this site. From a walk through Zamboni alley to an away game in mid winter to ending the evening in the Blue Line Club, this site will take you back. Thus, if you miss "Those games" all you have to do is visit this site for your Gears fix.

For folks who know nothing about the Gears, or their games, this site will provide an interesting look into aspects of another time and a place where a minor league hockey franchise found its way into the heart and soul of an industrial Midwest community. It will be a look into how events beyond hockey influenced the team, its growth and its demise.

This is NOT a "stat.s" site! Persons seeking player and team statistics should look elsewhere. So far as records or statistics for the Saginaw Gears, we will show very little here.

There are a lot of stories to be told concerning the Gears. For that reason, this web site will be constantly growing and new cool stuff will be added. It has been the author's experience that once a site such as this is opened and the public views it, tons of interesting items come cascading in from people who were also involved with the team. So, it is fully expected that this site will sprout new and interesting pages as time goes on. Readers are thus advised to keep checking in.

So, if you are a Gears fan, a Gears former player or just someone looking for an interesting web site, welcome to Saginawgears.com! Let us start the time machine.

To get your Saginaw Gears commemorative stuff CLICK this link...

BTW- this is good quality stuff here. No "iorn-on" logos and no cheap-O shirts. I buy all of my logo'ed company items here for my other web sites. CafePress uses a special ink process on the shirts that is resistant to fading and since it soaks into the material it will not crack and is not stiff. I have shirts that I've worn and washed for several years and they hardly fade at all. Likewise the mugs are dishwasher safe and really hold up under use. Plus, if you have a flaw in what you get, simply contact CafePress and they replace the item- no questions asked. Most of these items are being sold at cost, so I can give you the best price.

Wes Oleszewski
Saginaw Gears Dot Com

I'M BACK!


That's right folks, I'M BACK! 

After 9 months with my head in the author zone, I'm finally able to take enough time and do some writing that actually doesn't pay me a dime.

My 24th book is finished and at the printer- looking toward an April release. The text is 75,000 words long and between the covers are more than 90 historic photos. Anyone who hasn't written a book under a deadline cannot tell you what it's like to be in that zone. As the final 7 months of creation begin to pile up, you really can focus on nothing more than the manuscript. Even my wife, who has bee with me for all of my books, gets to the point when she openly says, "I cannot wait until you're done with that damned book!" To which I reply, "Huh?... what, did you say something?" Frankly, ya' need to put the entire world aside and just write. It's just the process.

Yes- my publisher is Avery Color Studios and they ARE taking pre-orders by phone, 800-722-9925, price is $17.95 plus shipping.

Last Saturday, March 3, 2018, I was in Saginaw. Took my two little daughters to the Saginaw Spirit game... and wore my Gears No. 15 home jersey! I met a lot of former Gears fans and my kids had a great time seeing where their daddy grew up... Wendler Arena! It was their first hockey game and they had a BLAST! Thank you Saginaw Spirit!

Standing in Zamboni alley after the game, as the crew were out on the ice preparing to remove the game nets and put out the practice pipes, those days of the Gears came flooding back to me. I felt like I needed to grab a shovel and go help out. But, I don't do that anymore- now I do this. Yet it feels great to know that the arena is again alive with hockey fans- young and old.

Now- it's on to more remembering the Gears!

76-77 Gears inducted into Saginaw Sports Hall of Fame

The 76-77 team was inducted into the Saginaw Sports Hall of Fame in November of 2014. Here are some videos...

Induction speeches

The 76-77 team

SON OF A ZAMBONI DRIVER

HEY! LOOK WHAT I GOT!

I bought this on e-bay, bid $14 for it and won! No other Gears fan other than my brother can wear one of these... HA! Next time I go to a Saginaw Spirit game, I'm wearin' it. Any other SOZ's out there should look for one.


New stuff that's been added to this site!

4/25/2018 In the Pat Shetler interview- see the new photos of an amazing birthday present!
1/30/2015 In the 1976-77 season "The night they won the cup!"
1/16/2015- In the Walt the Zamboni driver area, Confessions of a True Rink Rat
11/3/2014- Okay folks, Boot number 17 is in the can! Now I can do some more Gears stuff... keep tunin' in.
9/27/2013
FEAR NOT! This site has not been abandon nor has it gone stagnant- I am simply focused on writing that pays me. I'll get back to SGDC ASAP FYI OK?
6/26/2013
In the 1976-77 season section: An interview with Gears bedrock forward Dave Westner.
5/10/2013
In the 1980-01 season section: An Interview with Gears championship goaltender, Ted Tucker, "The Puck Stopper!"
4/22/2013
In the 1975-76 season section A Gear and a Komet, an interview with Terry Ewasiuk
3/16/2013
In the 1979-80 season, The Extra Player, by Greg Winters
3/10/2013
In the 1973-74 season area: Jim Armstrong- Old Time Hockey- Oh Yeah! by Jon McQuinn. THIS IS A MUST-READ FOR ANY HOCKEY FAN AND ESPECIALLY FOR GEARS FANS!
3/4/2013
In the 1978-79 season area Behind The Scenes by Greg Winters "The Gun and skeet shootin'..."
2/23/2013
In the 1977-78 season area: Behind The Scenes by Greg Winters- "Nub-fest"
1/20/2013
In the 1978-79 Season area: Jon McQuinn, "I would not trade those years for anything."
1/7/2013
Welcome columnist and sports writer Jon McQuinn to the site!
1/6/2013
New photos in the "Rock-N-Roll Part II section and also in the "Folding- the end of the Gears" section.
1/3/2013
Wren Blair, founder of the Gears has passed away.
9/28/2012
OMG! It's been 40 YEARS!
9/5/2012 In the 1978-79 Season area: READY... SET...GO...
Yes- I starting some work on the 78-79 season and this is the first little piece.
7/3/2012 Gears fans, DON'T worry... I have not abandoned this site! I just have a ton of work that actually pays and I'll be posting more stuff in the months ahead. Gotta pay the bills before doing the free stuff- such as this site.
3/23/2012
THE SAGINAW GEARS HAVE WON THE TURNER CUP!!"
In the 1976-77 Season area: A photo series starting at the moment the horn blew to end Game 7 of the 1977 finals
3/20/2012
Get commemorative Gears STUFF. See the Gears logo below!
2/26/2012
In the 1973-74 season; Program insert from the 1973-74 final game
1/2/2012
FOR ANYONE who didn't already know- I was sort of put out of action on Oct. 28, 2011 by having surgery on my left shoulder for a torn rotator cuff and a torn bicep. I'm just now regaining enough use of the arm that I can sit and type for any length of time. I've been using Dragon software for other writing, but, aside from the Holmes interview this site was put on hold for a while. MORE stuff is, however, on the way Gears fans- but for another few weeks, I'm still benched.
11/2/11
in the 1977-78 season: NOW THIS IS HOCKEY! An interview with Gears centerman Warren Holmes.
10/8/11
In the 1980-81 season: An interview with Ron-Jay Scott- Gears radio announcer. IMO- VERY cool stuff!9/15/11
ARTIFACTS: Ron-Jay Scott was nice enough to share some of his collection with us. I've started posting them. Check the first season and the 80-81 season and the 82-83 season and others.
6/11/11
In the 1975-76 season "There's a 76 Olds in the parking ramp..."
6/3/11
In the 1975-76 season "What's that in the driveway?"
5/27/11
In the 1972-73 season "KILLER... an interview with Dennis Desrosiers"
5/2/11
In the 1976-77 season "There Came a Goaltender"
4/29/11
In the 1973-74 season "A popcorn box full of confetti, a stolen uniform and Wren Blair's secret fear"
4/14/11
In the 1975-76 season area: "We no fight tonight"
3/25/11
In the 1976-77 season section: I donno' where the f#&kin' cup is.
2/12/11
Message for Cal Hammond
2/5/11
WALLY SHAVER- Oh how I remember the Gears.
1/20/11
In the 1974-75 season section- An interview with Gears enforcer and later Toronto Maple Leafs player KURT WALKER!
12/27/10
In the 1975-76 section... a short Gears game home movie
11/16/2010
An interview with PAT SHETLER, Special Assignment Director and Gears play-by-play broadcaster in the 1972-73 season

All materials on this site, copyright Wes Oleszewski.

Tribute to Gary Sittler


Gary Sittler

It is with deep regret that we here at Saginaw Gears Dot Com must inform you of the passing of Gears defensman Gary Sittler. Reports are that Gary suffered a heart attack and passed away in the last week of February, 2015.

After playing junior hockey with the London Knights of the OHA from 1969 to 1973 Sit moved on to the EHL and the Suncoast Suns for one season. From there he moved to the NAHL and the Syracuse Blazers until coming to Saginaw and the Gears for the 1975-76 season. At 5' 9" and 185 he added a lot of grit to the Gears. A down-to-earth and quiet guy when not around his teammates, Sit was absolutely fearless on the ice and set a good example for us amateurs out there who were also playing the game and were five foot and less than a dozen tall. He often took on and fought guys well over his weight and girth and made them pay a price. Yet, he could thread a needle with a puck and sent passes through crowds hitting his forwards on the tape almost every time. In his three seasons with the Gears plus the 1977 Turner cup playoff run he totaled 125 assists. Again, another lesson for those of us who watched the Gears and then played for fun; an assist is just as good as a goal, and sometimes better. Sit also had a slap shot that was remarkable. Once in a game at Wendler Arena he fired a shot that took a lift and zinged up into the stands, glanced off the armrest of an empty seat and impacted way up on the upper wall of, what was then, Section 3, just to the lower end of the digit "3." It made a mark that remained there as long as the Gears played in that building.

Sit was loaned back to the Blazers for the balance of the 1976-77 regular season, but returned to the Gears for the 77 Turner Cup playoffs. When he came back, we all knew that this was it- we were gonna win. In November of 2014 he returned to Saginaw from his home in Fort Nelson BC and took part in the ceremony of the induction of the Gears into the Saginaw Sports Hall of fame. he also got to reunite with many of his former teammates.

To me, Gary Sittler was one of the players who represented what hockey was all about; grit, speed, precision, team work and modesty.

In the weeks ahead I'll be posting a story called, "1,2,3, yer' out!" in the 1975-76 section and it involves Gary Sittler. Check back and you'll see when it is up.

Also see: http://www.lfpress.com/2015/03/12/former-london-knights-defenceman-gary-sittler-remembered-for-never-giving-an-inch-on-the-ice

Early team decisions




Some of the early decisions that Wren Blair and company made concerning the early development of the Saginaw Gears would turn out to be way beyond "good." One of the first was the selection of the team's head coach and general manager. For that position, Don Perry was picked. Perry had been involved in professional hockey for over two decades most of which had been spent as a defenseman playing among the killers in the old Eastern Hockey League. Under Perry's leadership, the Saginaw Gears would make a remarkable impression on the IHL and rapidly become a driving force in the league.

There also needed to be a public relations crew that were handy at the art of selling hockey to a local population who, up to that point, thought of Canadians as those strange, quiet people who live on the other side of the lake. The crew that could do that job for the Gears were Pat Shetler (seen here on the left in the photo) and Al Blade (seen here on the right in the photo). These two gentlemen came to town with more tricks of promoting hockey up their sleeves than most teams have pucks. They knew that for the Gears to flourish the keys would be exposure and the building of fan loyalty. This was the same ideal that was held by Wren Blair, and it worked.

The Roots of the GEARS




THE ROOTS OF THE GEARS

The beginnings of the Saginaw Gears and professional hockey in the Tri Cities took place not in the Saginaw area itself, but in the great white north of Duluth, Minnesota in the autumn of 1970. While conducting a pre-season NHL game at the Duluth arena, Minnesota North Stars General Manager, Wren Blair had a brief, but very important conversation with building Manager, Bill Fifer. Essentially, the conversation consisted of little more than a "See ya' next year" from Blair followed by Fifer telling him that he, in fact, would not be in Duluth next year because he had taken the job of building manager at the Saginaw Civic Center. Fifer also mentioned that if Blair knew of anyone who wanted to place a minor league hockey team in Saginaw, Blair should contact him. Although finding new tenants was a part of Fifer's job description at the Saginaw Civic Center, what he did not know was that he had just planted the seed that would later become the Saginaw Gears.
A little bit about Mr. Fifer here from my own memory. My mom was hired as one of the employees who opened the Civic Center in the winter of 1971-72. At the time I was a 14 year old who stood 5 foot 5 and weighed in at about 80 pounds. I met Fifer on an early visit to the arena. He was a mountain of a man, with a deep voice that resembled thunder and there was no doubt that he was fully in command. To borrow a phrase from country and western comedian Jerry Clower, "I was about as afraid of him as I would be a bear." When Mr. Fifer spoke, I jumped... even when he wasn't speaking to me. He was THE right person to be the first manager of the new facility, because lots and lots of self-important blow-hards in the city of Saginaw had notions of exerting influence over the Civic Center, and all regretted the day they crossed wires with Fifer. My first job was as a vendor selling soda pop and popcorn in the arena and thus Mr. Fifer was my first boss. He stood up for his people... but he always scared the crap otta me.

RIGHT CITY, RIGHT MOMENT IN TIME

Following that chance conversation Blair, who knew little about Saginaw other than it was someplace near Flint, turned his hockey eye toward the area. It is likely that no one knew the business of hockey the way that Wren Blair knew it, and what he saw in the Saginaw area really turned on his goal light. The city of Saginaw itself was a densely blue-collar place with no less than three huge factories that ran 24 hours a day and clothed and fed the core of the city's population. A thriving industrial support economy surrounded those factories. The new I-675 interchange expressway now also put the nearby communities of Bay City and Midland, each with its own industrial heart, within 20 to 25 minutes drive from the Civic Center. The demographics were perfect for a minor league hockey team to take root. To frost the cake, the IHL towns and franchises of Flint and Port Huron were each within easy driving distance from Saginaw. In this the era before most of the area residents had cable television and before the era of VCRs, DVDs, video games and the Internet, there was not a lot to do in places such as Saginaw during the long dark months of winter. The time and place were ripe for a minor league franchise to catch on.

The Roots of the Gears Part 2




...SO, THE STORY GOES...

The story goes that Blair let Fifer stew until early 1972. The two had apparently stayed in touch on and off after Fifer left Duluth, as one of the very early events at the Civic Center was the winter game between the 1972 U.S. Olympic hockey team and the Minnesota North Stars, and that had to be arranged between Fifer, the building manager, and Blair, the North Stars general manager. Finally Blair contacted Fifer concerning a hockey franchise in Saginaw and arranged a visit to Saginaw and a lunch meeting with Fifer. Taunting Fifer, Blair told him on the drive from Tri City (MBS International) Airport that he knew of someone who could put a professional hockey team in Saginaw. Of course Wren Blair eventually let on that the person in question was himself. Later that day Blair and Fifer met with the Civic Center Board of Directors and the proposal to create the Saginaw Gears was made. Wren Blair had even gone as far as to have some early team logos made up and presented them to the board. Later the concept was approved and the team became a reality.

Still, there were some who were not sure about the name. In a special edition of the Saginaw News that covered the dedication of the Civic Center, reporter Jim Buckley thumb-nailed some doubt as to if the name "Gears" would actually work. Odds are that a decade after that writing and with the Gears having had their moniker scribed on two Turner Cups... the doubts were gone.

The Roots of the GEARS Part 3


A NAME THAT FITS

Exactly who came up with the name "Saginaw Gears" is somewhat of a confused subject that depends largely on the memory of the individual person who is relating the story. The story that rings with the most likelihood of accuracy thus far, credits Wren Blair with having designed the logo prior to making the proposal of bringing the franchise to Saginaw. It is said the he needed a catchy logo to present to the people in Saginaw with the power to approve or disapprove the team, and he came up with the stylized logo. Yet another story says that the team's special assignment director, Pat Shetler gave birth to the logo. This version of the story says that Blair, needing a logo and already having contact with Shetler concerning the team asked him to come up with a design. Shetler found that the Flint Generals were named in honor of that city's major employer, General Motors. This was done in order to tie the team closely to the community by way of the city's industry. Shetler used the same logic and developed a name and logo that would tie Saginaw's team the city's major employer, Saginaw Steering Gear. Another version of this story has the team's public relations director, Al Blade coming up with the name and Shetler coming up with the team's logo. Still another version of the story has a wife of one of the team's staff coming up with the name. If anyone out there has another story, please contact the author of this web site- I'll be happy to publish it. The one thing that everyone agrees upon is that the namesake of the team was the Saginaw Steering Gear plant.

Where the team colors came from is another, and more easily answered, question. The official Saginaw Gears colors are tangerine and turquoise. Those two colors are the same colors used in the original seating of the team's home, Wendler Arena, and made the uniforms of the Saginaw Gears the most colorful in all of hockey. No doubt, that to this day, the gears uniforms stand the test of time and are more colorful than any others. A disagreement with that conclusion, however, can be found in Wren Blair's 2002 autobiography "The Bird." There in, the writers claim that the Gears colors were adapted by Blair from the Miami Dolphins football team, thus implying that the seats in the Saginaw Civic Center took their colors from the Gears. Of course, like many of the facts about the Gears that are covered in that book- such as dates of events that are consistently off by a year, this statement ignores one fact. The seats of the Civic Center were installed a full six months before Blair ever proposed the team- thus the designers would have had to decide on and order the seats in those colors nearly two years before the building was completed in late 1971. So, there is no way that the seat colors could have been taken from Blair. I would advise buying and reading "The Bird" (hell, I have an autographed copy) but take what it says about the history of the Gears with a grain of salt. Mr. Blair's ghost writer should have taken a bit more time and better connected the facts where the Saginaw Gears are concerned.

The one problem with the tangerine and turquoise colors is that they are truly blinding to try and display on a computer and the colors sometimes do really funky stuff when published on the Internet. Here you will see my best try at it.

OMG! It's been 40 YEARS!!!

THAT'S RIGHT FOLKS! It has been more than 40 years since the Gears came to Saginaw!

The first official game for the Saginaw Gears was played on October 13, 1972. Nixon was running for his second term, Apollo 17 was preparing for humanity's final lunar landing mission, POWs were still wilting away in the Hanoi Hilton, a postage stamp cost 8 cents and a gallon of gas cost 35 cents. Telephone signals were gotten by wire and TV signals were transmitted through the air. Personally, I'm simply amazed that I'm still walkin' the earth, there were plenty of times when I thought I wouldn't be. 















The First games




THE FIRST SEASON

1972-73
Port Huron, Michigan was the site of the very first official Saginaw Gears hockey game. After a string of pre-season victories, the team faced off against the Port Huron Wings on the October evening of Friday the 13th. The first goal ever scored by a Saginaw Gear in an official IHL game was popped in by Mike Hornby at 16:13 of the first period. By late in the third period, the Gears were ahead by a score of four to three, when two minor penalties, one to Raynald Tessier for interference followed by another to Russ Friesen for delay of game gave the Wings a five on three advantage. Two Port Huron goals followed and the Gears lost by a score of five to four. It was a pattern that would repeat itself through the entire first season of Saginaw Gears hockey.

Just two days later, on Sunday, October 15, 1972 the Saginaw Gears played their first home game at the Wendler Arena. The Des Moines Capitals faced off against the gears in this home opener and for the first time the folks of the Tri Cities saw their brand new hockey team! By the way... the Gears lost. In fact, the Gears did not have a home victory until October 20th.


The early hockey games in Saginaw were a bit awkward. Most of the folks in the area were strangers to hockey as well as to all of these forigeners who were coming here from Canada to play the sport. Of course you had your true sports fans whe were happy to any professional sport come to town. Yet with the failure of a pro-football team to take hold, many were skeptical abot the Gears and if they would survive. Among those true sports fans were some heart and soul hockey fans. They were delighted to see the Gears come to town.

Hockey?... in Saginaw?... oooooookay.


For people who were already hockey savvy, that first season of Gears hockey was a real grinder. As with any new franchise, the wins were few and the mistakes were plentiful. For the majority of folks in the Tri Cities area, however, the Gears were something of a new novelty. Saginaw, in 1972 was a place of very heavy industry and it was a time when anyone who wanted a job could get a job- or two. The factories or "shops" as they were called, ran 24/7. As a kid I recall getting up in the middle of the night and walking out into my back yard on the East Side of town. Standing there I could hear the constant "thrum" of the industry while the horizon to the north glowed an unending orangeish red from the foundries exhausts. The only thing breaking the "thrum" was an occasional train's horn echoing in the distance. Everyone was working- working all the time, first shift, second shift, third shift, time-and-a-half, double time some days and triple time on holidays- working at jobs that had always been there during my lifetime and I was sure would always be there forever. Like many of my generation, I thought that this was what it was like- everywhere.

When the Gears moved into town, many local folks just did not know how to properly participate in hockey and I was among them. Being an asthmatic from birth I rarely participated in organized sports of any sort. Most sports involved a lot of running as a part of training and that simple activity always landed me back home wheezing and near death. I could skate because every winter dad would turn our back yard into an ice rink, but for the most part I was consumed by my passion for aviation and spaceflight. I couldn't tell you the difference between a football linebacker and a tailback, but I could tell you, in detail, how a Saturn V moon rocket worked. My sports world, however, was forever widened considerably on October 20, 1972. That was the evening when my dad took us all to the Civic Center where he and mom were working the hockey game. Dad and I had been going around for weeks leaving game posters at assorted retail establishments around the city as a pay-as-ya-go task that he'd picked up from the Gears. In place of some payment, he'd gotten us kids some "comp." tickets to the game. That evening the Gears were playing the Flint Generals and I went- figuring I'd be bored... hell, I'd rather have been home with my rockets.

Although Canadian kids grow up with hockey, what I witnessed that Friday night at Wendler Arena was something I'd never seen before. The speed and precision of the game completely captured me... of course seeing a Flint player get clobbered with a Sherwood was pretty cool too. About all I really knew about the sport of hockey that evening was that our guys were in white and the other guys were in blue and the object of the game was to put the puck into the net. Later, all three of us kids chattered about hockey all the way home then through the weekend and then all week at school. It was the most exciting thing we'd experienced since one of my rockets set the field behind our house on fire the previous summer. On the evening of my first Gears game, the crowd was slim with most of the arena's seats being empty, but by the end of December, hockey had hooked the residents of Saginaw just as it had our family and attendance at Wendler Arena was breaking records with more than 5,000 people attending a game.

Hockey did not simply "catch on" in the Tri Cities, hockey spread like a wildfire. Oddly, it did not matter one bit that the Gears had a dismal losing season in 1972-73. No matter how the TV sportscasters criticized the team, the fan base continued to grow exponentially. In our house we'd turned into hockey nuts to the point where just two months after our first game, my dad had to dish out a punishment for a combined misbehaviour of us three kids and rather than grounding us for the month of January, he simply said "No Gears games for a month!" We really felt that one too. For Christmas 1972, my list departed from the normal "Rockets, books about rockets, models of rockets" and instead included hockey skates, hockey gloves and hockey sticks." I'd finally found a sport that scrawny asthmatic like me could play. In our neighborhood we played street hockey in deep-freeze weather and skated and shot pucks on any patch of frozen water that we could find. Overnight we'd become hockey people- and we liked it.

Any shred of first season playoff fantasies that the Gears or their fans may have had evaporated on Sunday, February 11th when they suffered a 1 to 0 loss at home to the Toledo Hornets and were thus mathematically eliminated from post season play. Although the sports reporters were still critical of the team, the Gears lost that game in front of nearly 4,000 fans while established teams, such as Columbus, were playing front of less than 800 paying fans. The final home game of the first season was played on March 13 in front of a near sell-out crowd of 5,503 fans. With the Flint Generals in town the game turned into a goaltender's nightmare and a goal scorer's dream. By the end of the game the Generals had more than enough goals to have won with a total of 7. Unfortunately for Flint, the Gears had a lot more with a total of 12 goals and easily won the game. There were penalties a plenty in the game because the two teams had mixed it up a month earlier in Flint and now they were both looking to even some scores. The biggest burr was between Dennis Desrosiers and Flint's Rod Cox. Cox had spent most of the previous game taunting Rosie into fighting and tried to do the same in this game, but Dennis was not taking the bait. Finally, at the urging of the crowd Don Perry sent his bruiser Mike Legge out to polish off Cox- which he easily accomplished. While Cox was in the box, Rosie skated by and tossed a rubber chicken in with him. That drew Dennis a game misconduct, but for a guy who had scored 60 goals that season- it was worth the laughs. The star of the show was the same guy who had scored the Gears very first goal- Mike Hornby. He nearly scored a double hat trick lighting up the red light 6 times. Hornby's 6th goal, however, was disallowed, but it's likely he really was not disappointed. Oddly, he was the second Gear to score 5 goals in one game- Dennis Romanesky had accomplished the same feat back on November 10th. Hornby did get a reward for his effort- from a local fan who offered to give any Gear who duplicated Romanesky's 5 goals in one game accomplishment a new car. Keep in mind that this was 1973 when a new car cost just over $3,000. The rumor was that Hornby, Dennis Desrosiers and Stu Irving conspired that if any one of them won the car, he would sell it and then the three of them would split the profits three ways. I never heard if that actually happened or if Hornby just got in the car and split town. You see he was immediately headed to Florida to join the Jacksonville Barons who were finishing their season. One would hope he kept the deal with the guys- because Hornby would be back with the Gears next season. Rosie, on the other hand, had just been signed to a North Stars contract and was reported by the Saginaw News to have "...earned a one-way ticket out of Saginaw and the IHL..." and into the AHL for the next season.

No sooner had the players started to clear out their apartments and head back home than plans were being made for the 1973-74 season. Blair and Perry were content with the first season but far from satisfied. Changes would be made, but still the hockey madness had taken good root in the Tri Cities. The crowds were growing and with a slightly better record in the next season, it was thought that the franchise could go far. In the 72-73 season the Saginaw Gears franchise set an IHL record for highest average attendance in a first season- averaging just over 4,200 fans per game. It also had the best "wins" record in 9 years for an inaugural IHL season with more than 30 victories. Of course, Blair knew from experience that although the Gears had to get better, he did not want them to get too much better. The one kiss of death for a new franchise is to win a championship in the first or second season- because from there the only place to go is down. No doubt, Blair could not have imagined how close to that kiss of death he would come.

An interview with PAT SHETLER



November 16, 2010


In researching the Internet for content to add to this site I checked on Pat Shetler who, along with Al Blade was the inaugural season's radio announcer for all of the Gears games. For those of you who may be wondering- Pat is doing very well these days and has been the color commentator for the Norfolk Admirals since 1989 where he's know as "The Red Whistle" mainly because of his hair color. Pat was nice enough to do a phone interview with me today, most of the content of which follows...

Saginaw Gears Dot Com (SGDC): I understand that you had a career as an NHL linesman that lasted for 600 games, what inspired you to leave the striped sweater behind and pick up the radio microphone?

PAT: I was doing back-up officiating for a Stanly Cup playoff game in Montreal and I started talking with with the Montreal announcer Danny Galvin. I told him I was thinking of doing some broadcasting. Danny gave me a tape (recorder) and told me to go over into a room and call the game... do the play-by-play for the last two periods. So I did. I played him just a bit of the tape and he told me I should take that exact tape and play it for the people in Philadelphia who were looking for a TV play-by-play broadcaster. I got the job in Philly thanks to Danny. He said I had what it took to be a pro. broadcaster. Philadelphia was a tough place in those days- it was pretty rough hockey.


SGDC: How did you come to be involved with the Saginaw Gears?

PAT: In the summer of 1972 Wren Blair approached me and said that he was getting together a group that was starting a team in Saginaw, Michigan and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. I said "Sure." Of course I didn't even know where Saginaw, Michigan was so I had to go and get out my map and look it up. I'd worked with Wren as director of his summer hockey camp for a few years and I knew that he had started Bobby Orr's career, so I thought this would be good. When I got to Saginaw Wren made me Special Assignments Director for the new team.

SGDC: What was your impression of the Wendler Arena when you first arrived?

PAT: Loved it. It was the perfect size for hockey. It seated, I think, about 5,700 and it was brand new. It was just right. The people of Saginaw really supported the team. The people there were great to get along with.

SGDC: Saginaw was a very industrial, blue collar town in 1972, a far cry from the big cities of the NHL, it must have been quite a change from your previous haunts.

PAT: Not really, you see I'm from Sydney Nova Scotia, and it's a lot like the Saginaw area was. We had a steel mill and some industry and the people are very similar- hard working, very close and very warm, real friendly, real good people. So I felt real at home in Saginaw- I loved it, the close atmosphere. The big cities of the NHL have no personality.

SGDC: I'm always amazed at what a small world hockey really is, especially among the professionals such as yourself. Do you still cross paths with former members of the Gears hockey club?

PAT: Here's a good one- when I first came to Norfolk to start the team, there really was no league. So to keep into hockey I started to referee in Hampton. I got a game to do in Johnstown, where the Johnstown Chiefs were playing. I got there and went out on the ice to start the game and while I was skating around I looked up at their broadcast booth. That's a small building and so the booth is pretty close to the ice. Anyhow, I looked up and who's doing the Johnstown broadcast, but Al Blade! He saw me first as I was coming onto the ice and so he was waving and smiling. I waved right back. Later he came down between periods and we laughed and talked- it was great.

SGDC: The Gears played road games in some real barns in those days, the worst of which was Columbus. I recall your broadcast from one game there, I remember that Leon Stickle, the NHL linesman was working as an IHL ref. that night and a fight turned into a riot with fans invading the ice. I'm sure you knew Leon, and we could hear it in your voice that you were pretty disgusted with how the fans were acting. What is it like to broadcast a situation like that?

PAT: Yes I knew Leon we worked a lot together.

SGDC: Columbus was the last rink in the IHL to have chicken wire instead of glass. That's how the fans got into it.

PAT: Yes, that right, I remember that was awful. You can't have fans on the ice. I'd be more critical of the coaches for letting it get that far. No one should be on the ice except the players and officials. In Detroit, for example, the only fan that was ever allowed on the ice was the octopus. We (linesmen) were not to fond of the octopus, because we had to clean the damned thing up. I'd usually kick it over to the guy with the shovel and let him take it away.

SGDC: What about Don Perry?

PAT: Don and I did not always see eye-to-eye perhaps because I was a ref. and he was from a player's background. We had some hot conversations on things I'd see one way and he'd see another way. He was old-school and took that into coaching. He was the kind of guy to yell and scream in the room- kick wastebaskets and get real mean. That's how they did it back then. These days a coach almost needs a counselor with him to talk to a player. You can't set them straight like the old coaches did. Also Perry did not like to lose. Wren Blair had warned me that "Whatever you do, don't talk to Perry right after a loss."

SGDC: The fan base in Saginaw seemed to grow like wildfire. In your opinion why did that take place?

PAT: It was good, the fans really took the team to heart. They were just the right people for hockey and the winters in Saginaw were just right for for the hockey season.

SGDC: There have been a lot of interesting and colorful "characters" who have come and gone in hockey. Can you tell us about any who stand out in your mind?

PAT: I knew Bobby Orr very well and he really changed hockey. When I played on the blueline the defensmen just got the puck out of your zone as fast as you could, abused anyone in front of the net and stayed back on the point. Orr changed all of that.
I got to know a lot of guys in the NHL, like Howe and some of the other greats. Those guys were something else. One night I was working (as a linesman) in Detroit and I got hit real hard at the Red Wings bench. So hard that I got knocked over the rail and ended up on the floor. So here's these guys like Howe, Delvecchio, Mahovlich holding me down on the floor and laughing. And the game just keeps going! After a while the referee looked around and said "Hey, I've only got one linesman!" So he blew the whistle and then they let me up.

SGDC: I'd heard a long time ago that Pat Shetler was the guy who designed the Gears logo. I know you have an extensive art background so I figured that is true... is it?

PAT: It was more of a team effort with some other people putting in ideas including Wren Blair, so I'd say it was actually a team effort.

SGDC: What about the name "Gears?"

PAT: Same thing, it was mostly a team effort. Considering the factory nearby with the same name, I figured it was a good match. But I did do most of the design work in the magazine (the Gears game program). It had about 90 ads in it and I did most of the graphics work. We had a lot of sponsors, especially from Frankenmuth- I can't recall the name of that restaurant...

SGDC: The Bavarian Inn.

PAT: Yeah! That's the one. My wife and I loved Frankenmuth.

SGDC: I assume you used your officiating background in the team's start-up process as well.

PAT: Yes, I got the minor officials together. The statisticians, the goal judges, guys like Gordie Mefford.

SGDC: Oh yeah! I remember Gordie- a terrific guy.

PAT: Don McLoskey, Fred East, Charlie Archibald, Bill Carter, Gene Ayotte...

SGDC: Gene was a referee in the high school league and suspended me for three games when I gave him a raspberry over a call.

PAT: Ha! Anyhow, that was a big part of getting the team going- the minor officials.

SGDC: I hear you have a story about the organ in the loft.

PAT: I wanted an organ for music, I'd seen how well it worked in the NHL, so I got a hold of the Davis Music Company and we got the organ. One night, when I was working in the NHL we came onto the ice and as we did the organist started playing dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah, from "Three Blind Mice." Bill Friday (the referee) heard that and he says "Okay you guys- back into the room." and we left the ice and went back into the (official's) locker room. After a while this guy from the team comes in and asks what's the matter- and Friday says "were not gonna go out there and be called three blind mice by your organist." The guy from the team quickly agreed that from then on the organist would only play real nice music for us. So I tried to make sure that in Saginaw we always had real nice organ music.

SGDC: You departed from the Gears organization at after the 1973-73 season. Can you share with us what motivated that move?

PAT: I was contacted by a group that wanted to start a team in Winston-Salem, North Carolina- the Polar Twins was the team. They'd never had hockey in that entire area before so I saw it as a great challenge. Again I had no idea where Winston-Salem was, so again I had to get out my map and look it up. Still I'd say it was the challenge that drew me away.

SGDC: Pat, I consider you to be a real hockey icon, and I have honestly been thrilled to talk to you today. Thank you so much for sharing your time with Saginaw Gears Dot Com.

Pat: It was great talkin' to ya'.


Pat and I talked for nearly an hour- and the time really raced by. A book could be written about his hockey experiences as he played both in Canada and overseas. He was very egar to hear about what happened to the gears after he left Saginaw- of course he was talkin' to the right guy. I spent the first part of the phone conversation just filling him in of the history of the team that he was instrumental in starting. He kept saying "No, keep talkin' I'm lovin' this stuff." Once Pat started talking, however, I was the one lovin' the stories he was telling me, much of which I could not transcribe fast enough to capture in whole. The guy is a real treasure, and he played a big role in changing the Saginaw and the Tri City area as a whole. He also helped add a whole new dimension to my life- and it is hockey!
Pat's wife and kids got him the BEST birthday present ever in 2018. Happy birthday Pat!
The Red Whistle #20 NHL




It didn't take long to change my colors


By Jon McQuinn
For Saginaw Gears.com
                I would love to tell you about how the Saginaw Gears marked my introduction to hockey, a sport which I continue to love to this day. Being a Saginaw native – and someone who turned 10 years old a few weeks after the team’s first game – it would make for a nice story.

                It would also be a lie.

               The truth is, my introduction to hockey came a few months before the Gears were born. Sometime early in the 1971-72 International Hockey League season I was sitting at home with my parents in Shields on a Saturday night. I was flipping through the TV channels – all three of them – and there, on WJRT TV-12, was this group of hockey players getting ready to start a game on the smoothest, brightest sheet of ice I had ever seen. It turns out that TV-12 carried the occasional Flint Generals road game back then, and this was their first telecast of the season. Long-time Generals PR guy Carl Robertson did the play by play; I think the opponent was the Fort Wayne Komets. The puck moved so fast, the players skated so fast, and the crowd seemed so excited.

                I watched that game from start to finish. I honestly could not get over what I had just seen. Robertson gave the date of the next telecast, and I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote down the date. TV-12 aired three Generals games that season, and I watched every second of every game.

                Please try to understand my situation. There was very little NHL hockey telecast in the area back then. CBS carried a few games on Saturday afternoons, but for whatever reason, I never saw any of them. NBC would not begin its next foray into the NHL until 1972-73. And out where I lived, well, Thomas Township wouldn’t be wired for cable television until the summer of 1980. This meant no Red Wings’ games on Channel 50 out of Detroit, no Hockey Night in Canada coming from CBC Channel 9 in Windsor. I didn’t care that this was the Flint Generals of the IHL. In fact, I thought it was kind of neat that there was this hockey team so close to home that played games on live TV.

               Early in 1972, word came that Saginaw was going to put a team on the ice for the 1972-73 IHL season. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to do when I first heard the news. I mean, how could I possibly root against “my” Generals?

               Trust me, it didn’t take long to change my colors.

               I’d also like to tell you that I was one of those in attendance for Saginaw’s first-ever hockey game in the Saginaw Civic Center, an exhibition game between the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team (a team that included future Gear Stu Irving) and a cobbled-together group put together by Gears owner/general manager Wren Blair called the Saginaw Stars (whose roster included Dennis Desrosiers). But this, too, would be a lie. I was inside Wendler Arena soon after it opened, but for the Shrine Circus.

               The new season began, and I started listening to Gears games on WSAM. Wins were rare, but I began to connect with the names – Desrosiers and Irving, Cal Hammond and Mike Legge, Mike Hornby and Steve Lyon. Finally, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, November 22, 1972, I came home from school and found out I was going to that night’s game against Fort Wayne. My brother, my parents and I climbed into our 1969 Buick Electra 225, parked in the ramp, took the overhead walkway over Johnson Street to the Civic Center, and walked into Wendler Arena. Then came the walk up the short stairway, at which point I could see the arena for the first time.

               I think this is always a magical time for a kid who loves sports, that time when you catch your first glimpse of the playing surface you’ve only seen before on television, or perhaps only in your mind while listening on radio. Whether it was that first glimpse of bright green grass at Tiger Stadium, or a place as antiseptic as the Pontiac Silverdome, seeing a sports venue for the first time is always something that has left an impression on me – still does. And so it was with Wendler Arena in 1972. The place only seated 5,463 – sometimes a few more – but it may as well have been Madison Square Garden, for I had never been in an indoor sports arena that large in my life up to that point – and had never seen a hockey arena, period. And there it was, all those blue seats and orange seats, and the ice, even smoother and brighter than what I saw on that Flint Generals telecast a year earlier. There was the big ‘G’ at center ice, outlined with gear teeth for obvious reasons, and that huge, imposing scoreboard overhead, with the big “Second National Bank” advertising signage atop. There was that fresh popcorn smell, and organ music, and players down below going through the ritual of the pregame skate.

               The game? The Gears lost, 6-5. Until I find my ticket stub, I’ll tell you that our seats were either in Section 15 or 17, upper level. It was Student Night (EVERY Wednesday game was Student Night), so my brother and I got in for $2 each, if memory serves me correct. I believe backup goalie Ray Gibbs started that game and I certainly remember that the crowd was large, and noisy. One other thing I will mention from that game was a practice that continued through that entire first season; after every offside and icing call, public address announcer Jerry Werle would inform his audience with the news – “Offside, Saginaw.” It seems comical now, but was a good idea. Every single home game there was more and more people walking into that arena to watch hockey for the first time. What was wrong with helping these folks learn a little about the sport?

               I attended two more games that season, a mid-season game against the Port Huron Wings (also puck night) and another late in the season against the Des Moines Capitals (stick night). The Gears won both. As for the season, the team was competitive, but lost a lot of close games and missed the playoffs. No matter. Hockey had become a huge success in Saginaw, and the future seemed bright.

               As for me, that season helped to cement my status as a hockey lifer.

               With maybe a little help from the Flint Generals.

There's no cheerleaders in hockey!

It did not take a season for the Gears to gain a rabid fan base, it took about a month and a half. The Gears booster club formed shortly after the first season began and by December there were some 500 booster club members. Such a rapid explosion in popularity for the team led to some little anomalies. One such oddity was the Saginaw Gears cheerleaders.

Pro hockey, and all levels, had a very standard formula for how a game event should take place. 1) The players arrive, 2) the fans trickle into the arena, 3) the teams come out and skate a warm-up while the organist plays some delightful music to skate by... of course, never "Lady of Spain." 4) the Zamboni resurfaces the ice. 5) officials come out. 6) both teams come out. 7) National Anthem. 8) first period- skating, shooting, checking, fans booing, fans cheering, perhaps a penalty or two. 9) between periods- fans mill around, Zamboni resurfaces. 11) second period- skating, shooting, checking, fans booing, fans cheering, perhaps some blood and some stitches- either in the crowd or on the ice- both being equally likely. 12) between periods- fans mill around, Zamboni resurfaces. 13) third period- skating, shooting, checking, fans booing, fans cheering, several fights. 14) the end- someone wins and someone loses, fans go home awaiting the next game... PERIOD. That has always been the way it was done- pure hockey. There were no cheerleaders in hockey- there never had been any cheerleaders in hockey. Just like there's no crying in baseball, there's no cheerleaders in hockey... but someone forgot to tell the Gears booster club that.

Cheerleaders first appeared in the second week of December 1972. Dressed in bluejeans and orange sweaters they took up a position at ice level below section 10. In a line the young girls- all of whom were high school age- stood and did some clapping, jumping and cheering. At first, most fans and players simply gave a "what's up with that?" sort of notice. At the next game, however, the girls appeared dressed in classic cheerleader outfits and wearing Gears colors. This time they were moving around and cheering at assorted locations- mostly at ice level. It appeared now that the Gears had some sort of official cheer leading squad. Of course it was not the case- these young ladies were simply enthusiastic members of the booster club who thought this was a fun idea. Most long-time hockey fans and especially the Canadian hockey purists, thought otherwise.

Season ticket holders immediately began to complain loudly about the cheerleaders, players were getting crap from the opposing players about the cheerleaders and to the Gears front office, and most importantly, to Wren Blair, having cheerleaders at a hockey game was like scratching a blackboard. It had almost nothing to do with the girls or their cheers- it was the concept. After all, there's no cheerleaders in hockey.

As complaints from season ticket holders increased, Blair had quickly heard enough. He pulled the plug on the cheerleaders and the booster club was politely, but firmly told that this was a bad idea and it needed to stop. Just a few games after they had first appeared, through no fault of their own the cheerleaders were gone. The season ticket holders and the hockey purists could now go back to the traditional formula for having a hockey game in Saginaw... that is, until a half dozen years later when someone dreamed up the Gear-rilla skating mascot.

Oh yeah... like we can't figure out who this is from...



We got this message on December 9, 2010... interestingly, the web site's server has it listed as having been posted by "Anonymous." Of course the server also posts my comments as having been done by "Anonymous." Still, it took just a single read before I figured out who this was... even though he had a tendency to wear a mask.

HELLO, THERE. I HAVE A LOT OF FOND MEMORIES FROM MY YEAR IN SAGINAW. THE PLACES THAT WE LIVED AT AND THE PEOPLE WE MET AND THE FUN WE HAD. I REMEMBER GETTING A PHONE CALL FROM JOHN POZNELL SR. IN 1992. I WAS RAKING LEAVES AT MY COTTAGE IN FLIN FLON, MB - MY HOME TOWN - AND THE GUY AT THE OTHER END SAID "WHERE WERE YOU 20 YEARS AGO TONIGHT?" AND I SAID "WELL, PROBABLY SAGINAW, MI." AND HE SAID "NO, YOU WERE OPENING THE SEASON IN PORT HURON." WE HAD A NICE CHAT. I KNOW HE HAS PASSED ON BUT I ALWAYS WANTED TO COME BACK AND SEE THE ARENA AND HAVE A GAME OF GOLF WITH DENNIS DESROSIERS - MAYBE I WILL THIS SUMMER - AS LONG AS ROSY PAYS FOR MY GREEN FEES, I'LL BE THERE! SIGNED, NUMBER #1 (72-73)

December 9, 2010 6:58 PM
Hi Cal!!!
Shoot me an e-mail by way of saginawgears (the "at" symbol) ymail.com. I want to do an interview with you! Wes
2/12/11: Cal! I spoke to Rosie and gave him your golf message... e-mail me for his reply to you!

"KILLER"... an interview with Dennis Derosiers



As a fan, when I attended my first Gears game my dad pointed out one individual player. "Ya' see that big guy there?" he said. I looked at the player and saw this guy who, from my scrawny perspective, looked as if he'd been raised by wolves in the deep woods of northern Ontario, fed raw bear meat and chopped his way through the wilderness to civilization with a hockey stick. My dad told me, "They say the players call him Killer." I swallowed my mouthful of popcorn and mumbled "I can see that."

That Gears player was Dennis Derosiers, and although the "Killer" moniker circled through the fans for most of that first season it was easily blotted out by his actual hockey nick-name. The name that both his team-mates and his fans affectionately call him by to this day... "Rosie."

Kirkland Lake, Ontario is a small mining town located about 200 miles northeast of Sault Saint Marie. Most geography teachers will tell you that the town is famous for its gold mines, but in fact there is something that anyone who knows hockey will tell you that Kirkland Lake is far more well known for producing... hockey players. Looking through the record books you will find tons of Canada's finest and toughest hockey players have been released onto civilization from Kirkland Lake. It was from that town that Dennis Derosiers was delivered onto the sport of professional hockey. On March 23, 2011 Rosie was kind enough to grant Saginaw Gears Dot Com an interview. Frankly doing the interview was a remarkable and fun experience. I could bring up the most obscure event that I had witnessed and he would immediately remember the event, in great detail, and add an entire back-story that went far beyond my own recall. We talked a lot about his days playing on the team and Rosie gave me so many stories, and so much information that a lot of it will go into individual stories that will appear later on this web site. Thus, this interview will be more of a Cliff Notes version of what Rosie and I talked about. Frankly, he had me laughing so damned hard that I could hardly take notes. It is important to point out, however, that in his professional hockey career no one actually tagged Dennis with the nick-name "Killer." The details of that will come to light during the interview....

SGDC: Rosie, you were in the EHL playing for the Clinton Comets in the 1970-71 and 1971-72 season. At the same time that Don Perry was coaching for the EHL's New Haven Blades. Did that have anything to do with your being asked to come and play for the Gears?

Rosie: Oh that had everything to do with it. Don knew me, he knew my style of play and that was what he wanted on the new team.

SGDC: So, Perry was your connection into Saginaw?

Rosie: Well, Wren Blair was also the General Manager of the Clinton Comets and that helped too.

SGDC: Did you know that when you first started playin' in Saginaw, the word circulated around the fans and among the boosters that the other players called you "Killer?"

Rosie: Whoa! You knocked me off my seat with that one! Is that for real?

SGDC: Yep. That was one of the first things I was told when I went to the early Gears games.

Rosie: Man, you really caught me off guard with that one. I'll tell ya' why, no one on the team ever called me killer. In fact no one in my professional career ever called me that. But, that name goes all the way back to when I played in the Midgets! That's what they called me then. Boy- that takes me back! I'm amazed you came up with that one.

SGDC: Don't be too amazed- it was actually just coincidence rather than research.

(Laughter)

Rosie: Well then it's an amazing coincidence.

SGDC: Speaking of Midgets and Juniors and those sort of leagues I've always been amazed at the difference in attitude between the vast majority of US kids playing in those leagues and the Canadian kids. The Canadian kids always have this look of fire and desperation in their eyes about the game while US kids, like I was, are just sort of out there for the sport. I've never been hit as hard as I was hit by a Canadian.

Rosie: Ya' know, that reminds me of a story. I was playin' in the juniors and we were up against some American college team. They had this one guy who was sort of dumpy and not a very good skater. So I picked up the puck and went to run it up the ice and there's this guy. I could've just run it around him, but I said to myself "I'll just go right through him and make him look bad." That's the kind of attitude I had in those days. So, I lined this guy up and I hit him square on. It felt like I hit a brick wall! He didn't budge an inch and I just splatted up against him and melted like a cartoon character. It was like the guy had rocks in his pads and pockets. I learned a lesson that night; don't underestimate anyone.

SGDC: So then you came to Saginaw. What did you think of the place?

Rosie: Oh Saginaw was a great place to come and play. The fans really warmed up to us quickly. We were treated like rock stars. You'd go the store or someplace and you find yourself signing autographs. They (the Gears management) had us going to car dealerships and sitting to sign autographs for kids- it was great, especially for a guy from Kirkland Lake. The fans were mostly blue collar working class folks and they were real loyal. There were lots of great places to go and hang out in Saginaw too. I remember Larry's bar was one that we all went to a lot.

SGDC: You got to play in three Turner Cup finals three times in the 70s, what was that like?

Rosie: That was great. The first time against Des Moines we were just lucky to be there, so it wasn't that bad to lose. The next year against Toledo it was different. We had a great team and we were sure we'd go all the way...

SGDC (interrupting): As I recall in the 1975 playoffs you guys went down 3 games to 0 to Muskegon and then came back, won 4 straight and advanced.

Rosie: Yep. We had the right attitude, the right frame of mind and just took it one game at a time. Anyhow, the Toledo series, in the finals, went 7 games and we lost in game 7 in Saginaw.

SGDC: Yeah- I was an usher in the orange coat and stationed at the press box door at the time.

Rosie: We actually lost it on a penalty. It was a bad call I thought. Gordie (Malinoski) stuck his butt out and hit a guy and Sam Sisco called it a trip. Every now and then I see Sam and I remind him of it.

SGDC:That was a heartbreaker, but you guys made up for it in the 1976-77 season.

Rosie: That year we knew all along that we had the team that could do it. Toledo thought that they were gonna repeat the 75 series, but we knew better. They kept winning in their building, but we kept beating them here.

SGDC: That building of theirs was a real barn. I was there for 2 of those 3 games in that series- it was a real barn.

Rosie: I liked it there. It was a smaller ice surface, it was easier to get into a good scoring position- I liked it. When you went there you knew that you were either gonna be fighting or hit hard... and I'm not talkin' about the game, I'm talkin' about walkin' from the ice to the room.

SGDC:(major laughter)

Rosie: In those days just to play in that league you had to be tough.

SGDC: In the 1981-82 season you left the Gears, how did that come about?

Rosie: The Gears left ME, I didn't leave them. They weren't playin' me, they just weren't playin' me. Starting back in the 79-80 season they just weren't using me. I had a bar back then so I figured I'll just run my bar, so what. Then Ted Garvin called from Flint and asked if I'd like to go there and play and I said "sure." That was pretty much it.

SGDC: What was the name of your bar?

Rosie: The Sports Page Lounge. It was a pain in the ass too. It's a lot easier to be on the other side of the bar.

SGDC: And after one half season and one full season with the Generals, Flint was where your coaching career began.

Rosie: Yeah. I was really enjoying myself in Flint. First I played that half of a season and then a full second season, but I was out for 7 or 8 weeks with a broken cheek bone. After the end of the season I started considering hangin' 'em up. They asked me if I had any interest in coaching, which I did. But my only experience had been a season coaching Bridgeport High School. They (Flint management) asked me to come and have dinner with Frank Gallagher. He really raked me over the coals for about 5 hours or so and in the process they told me that Ted Garven wasn't coming back as their coach. That night I drove home, got in around 2:30 in the morning and my phone rang- they said I got the job.

SGDC: You actually ended up with 13 seasons as a professional player and 19 seasons as a professional coach.

Rosie: That sounds about right I had two seasons with Flint and then the team moved to Saginaw and I had two seasons there with the Generals and one with the Hawks.

SGDC: After that season with the Hawks you sort of dropped off the map for a season- what happened?

Rosie: I was the General Manager for the Fort Wayne Komets for a season.

SGDC: When was that?

Rosie: 89-90.

SGDC: How'd that come about?

Rosie: The Komets owner had a rookie coach, Al Sims, and they wanted someone there who already knew about coaching. So they hired me as G.M. and I also acted as assistant coach. So sometimes I was Sims' boss and sometimes he was my boss.

SGDC: And from there you went to Cincinnati.

Rosie: Actually I was hired to coach in Nashville. I was really lookin' forward to it- had my cowboy boots all shined up and my hat- I had my heart all set on coachin' in Nashville. The guy who owned the Nashville team (the Knights) also owned the Cincinnati team. They were having some discussions with the building management there and they asked me to come out and get into it. I knew they were gonna ask me to coach there and I didn't want any part of it. Well, I got there and sure enough Doug Kirchhofer, who owned both the Nashville team and the Cincinnati teams, asked me to coach there. I said "no way" because I really wanted to go to Nashville. But Kirchhofer told me that Cincinnati would be a much better place for me- and he was right. I spent 5 of the best years of my life there. I still have friends in Cincinnati. Most people think of that city as just a place you drive through on your way to Florida, but it's really one of the best kept secrets in the Midwest. We were filling that building every night for hockey- great hockey town, great hockey fans- probably the best I've seen since we started the Gears in Saginaw.

SGDC: You came back to Saginaw to and joined the Wheels for the 1995-96 season.

Rosie: Yep, Tom Barrett was the coach and I was sort of the half-assed assistant coach. It was a real bad situation, the team wasn't run well, half the time we didn't have sticks, it was bad. Anyhow about half way through the season the team got a new owner and first thing he did was fire Barrett and then he asks me to coach. He said he wouldn't give me a contract because he "didn't trust anyone in hockey."

SGDC: Did ya' punch him or just stuff him into his waste basket?

Rosie: Ya' know that's what I thought right away, but in that micro second I came to another conclusion. I told him that having no contract was fine, but he should remember that the door swings both ways. As the season went on things got worse under this new owner. Then Kirchhofer called me up and asked how I'd like to go to Birmingham and coach there? I told him "Kirch, your timing is impeccable."

SGDC: So, you left the Wheels and coached the last 22 games for the Birmingham Bulls that season, and then coached there another 4 seasons- why'd ya' leave?

Rosie: Same old story, ownership change, their way of doing thins wasn't mine, so it was time to go.

SGDC: anyone who know hockey knows that story. So then it was two seasons with the Kazoo Wings and finally the Saginaw Spirit.

Rosie: Right. I knew Dick Garber pretty well and he and Wren had been talking about bringing a Junior team into Saginaw. We just connected. But I found out that coaching a Junior team just wasn't for me.

SGDC: I can understand that. Still the Spirit are a great team- I had season tickets for their first season.

Rosie: Oh yeah, the Spirit are a great team, they put on a great show and have developed a great fan-base.

SGDC: And that does it for your coaching days eh?

Rosie: Lookin' back at coachin' over those years I really don't know how I did it. When you're a winning coach you don't sleep a lot, when you're a losing coach you don't sleep at all. There's a lot of pressure and I couldn't take that these days especially with that aneurysm thing I had that nearly did me in.

SGDC: Yeah, back in 2007- we were all pullin' for you there. How are doin' these days?

Rosie: Oh I'm just fine. I have a lot of trouble with my short term memory, but that's about it. Now I just carry a little notebook and I write things down so I don't forget them- works just fine. Considering what it could have been, I'll take that.

SGDC: So now you're doing color on the radio broadcasts for the Saginaw Spirit on 100.5 FM. I tune in and listen to the games on my computer.

Rosie: Yeah, it's great for me. I get to travel with the team, throw in my 2 cents worth on the radio and I don't have any of the pressure. When the game's done I just go to my room and get some sleep.

SGDC: Well Rosie, we've come full circle here. You have given me so much information and so many stories that I'm afraid the web site could turn into the Dennis Desrosiers site if I'm not careful.

Rosie: Oh please, DON'T do that!

(Laughter)

SGDC: It's been great talking to you Rosie and thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Saginaw Gears Dot Com.

Rosie: Anytime. I just love talkin' about those days with the Gears.

"Smash"


Raynauld Tessier appeared early in the Gears first season appearing in every game for most of the first few months. Standing 5 foot 8 and with his baby face, muttonchop sideburns and prince Valiant hair he was an instant favorite, especially with the female fans. Add to that the fact that Montreal native spoke French and very little English and you had a package that made the bubble gum school girls and the grown up adult girls squeal alike.

Following every home game, the girls would line up outside the Gears locker room door waiting to get a Tessier autograph on their program. About midway through the season the team leaked the information out that the other players had nick-named him "Smash" and the girls squealed even more.

When he came to the Gears from the Verdun Maple Leafs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Tessier was one of the lowest paid players on the team. In fact one player stated that he had such a small paycheck that he could not afford to to eat and pay his rent too. A couple of the players eventually went to Gears management and pleaded on his behalf- Tessier got a raise

Although a hit with the fans, Tessier was not so popular with those who made hockey their business. Being a defensman, he had a habit of trying to play offense and very often left his zone. The Gears were a team badly in need of solid defense- they had plenty of score mechanics up front already, and the last thing they needed was a blueliner looking to do a Bobby Ore. One Canadian born hockey veteran associated with the Gears snarled his opinion over a drink when Tessier was mentioned. "That yellow little bastard, he only hits guys when their back is turned." Tessier may have had his fans, but he also had his detractors.

In spite of his detractors inside hockey, Tessier was easily voted the Gears "Most Popular" player for the 1972-73 season. Programs with a Tessier poster in the centerfold always sold out and by the end of that first season there were a lot of little girls and quite a few grown-up ladies with his poster hung up someplace. Inside the IHL, however, Tessier was monikered as the Gears "least improved" player.

Tessier returned to the Gears roster for the 1973-74 season, but did not stay. Early in the season he was traded to the Fort Wayne Komets. The following season he was traded to Columbus and during that season was traded again to Kalamazoo. The following season he was sent down to the USHL where he played for two seasons. Following that he moved overseas to Germany and played in the European Lower Leagues until 1991. Today, somewhere out there in the Tri Cities area, it is a sure bet some lady or some ladies still have one of those "Smash" posters.

Replica Gears jersey


I've gotten some questions on where can folks find Gears Jerseys. The answer is; you can't. And even if you do find one up for auction they can go for a lot of cash. I saw one sold to a collector in Japan for $3,700. So, there follows where can you get a replica? Well, I just bought one and here is how you can get one. Go on e-bay and search "Saginaw Gears Jersey" and the photo seen here will come up. The cost is about $80, they are custom-made after you order and so it takes a couple of MONTHS before you get your jersey. Mine took several months because the fellow who sells these wanted it to be exactly right. Still, I got my #15 home jersey and it is just SUPER. I love it! The logo and numbering are done in layered thick material just like the original 1972 version of the Gears sweater and the colors are dead-on correct.

Now- full disclosure: Neither I, nor Saginaw Gears Dot Com makes a single cent from the sales of these jerseys. The purpose of this post it simply to inform you Gears fans that I got one of these, I love mine, it is high-quality and e-bay is the place where you can get yours. REMEMBER- I get $0 for the sales of these jerseys, in fact I paid full price for mine.