Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers

The Cincinnati Stingers were a World Hockey Association (WHA) team that was relatively successful in that they were a stable WHA franchise, lasting four years without any rumors of moving or folding. Much of that stability likely had to do with the fact that they had a new arena to play in, the Riverfront Coliseum (now US Bank Arena).  Unfortunately for the hockey fans in Cincy, they ended up getting the short straw when the WHA merged with the NHL.

The Stingers had been a WHA expansion franchise in 1975-76, joining the league along with the Denver Spurs… The Spurs are an interesting-enough story that I’ve started researching them as the next “Forgotten Franchise”.

1976-77 OPC WHA Rick Dudley

The Stingers’ best season was 1976-77 when they went 39-37-5 and finished 2nd in the east to the Quebec Nordiques, but got swept in 4 games by the Indianapolis Racers in the first round of the playoffs.

Although some of the NHL/WHA merger proposals included the Stingers, it became apparent that the NHL wasn’t all that interested in absorbing the Stingers, as their attendance was below NHL standards. When the merger was completed, the Stingers and Birmingham Bulls were paid to disband.

The Stingers remain the only major league hockey team that Cincinnati has had.

The Stingers had a fair number of notable players, including two HOFers:  Mike Gartner and Mark Messier were teenagers during their brief time as Stingers.

Other players of note include Dennis Sobczuk, Robbie Ftorek (who lead the WHA in Assists in 78/79), Rick Dudley, Blaine Stoughton, Gilles Marrotte, Barry Melrose and Mike Liut:
2007-08 ITG Between The Pipes Mike Liut

Ron Plumb was another notable Stinger, and the only Stinger to win a league award, getting the Dennis A. Murphy Trophy (awarded to the WHA’s top defenseman) in 1976/77.
1977-78 OPC WHA Ron Plumb

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, I picked the Stingers as my favorite WHA team… despite the fact that I’d never seen a WHA game, not even on TV. I was just intrigued as could be about a rival hockey league, I was at an age where I *had* to have a favorite team in any league in any sport, and I loved the Stingers’ logo and colors. Because of that early “fandom”, I have a minor goal of collecting all of the Stingers cards from their 4 years of existence, plus any additional cards that might pop up, like the above 2007-08 In The Game card of Mike Liut.  I’d tell you about  my progress towards that goal, but I honestly have no idea of where I stand.

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13 thoughts on “Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers

  1. There is still a faded painting of “The Beehive” outside the arena (below the main level, I believe it is in the area where the employees would enter). I walk past it every time I go to a Reds game. I love the old Stingers logo, and plan to get a Stingers shirt eventually, even though I don’t like hockey at all.

  2. Love these posts. I always had the Whalers for my WHA fix. They had some of the games broadcast on some odd Fuzzy unf channel

  3. An awesome post, I love the Forgotten Franchises series. I’m embarrassed to say I had no idea Mike Gartner played for the Stingers.

  4. As a teenager here in Cincy I became a huge fan. They had programs with the local schools for grades and attendance and I was able to get some tickets that way and I was hooked. Rick Dudley had played here in the early 70’s with the Cincinnati Swords, Buffalo’s AHL affiliate so there was some continuity for the fan base. Ftorek was a rising star and fan favorite while Messier and Gartner were teenagers and came up during their last season. As a fifteen year old I got to see seventeen year old Wayne Gretzky play for the Indy Racers before they disbanded. His immense talents were obvious even at that age. Unfortunately the ownership group took they buyout and we were left without a team. I truly feel for fans of teams that leave (see St Louis Rams). It took me many years to accept that they weren’t coming back. Especially while watching Messier’s success and see Gartner ascend to the top of the all time scoring leaders.

    One other player of note was Barry Melrose of ESPN. Pretty good player that wasn’t afraid to mix it up.

  5. Thanks for sharing your own experiences with the Stingers, and thanks for everybody’s feedback! I really enjoy doing these posts, and it’s good to know that others enjoy them as well… Going strictly by the number of “visitors” and “views”, these posts don’t appear to be tremendously popular, so it’s good to know that this series has something of a cult following. :-)

  6. Pingback: Forgotten Franchises: The WHA’s Denver Spurs/Ottawa Civics | The Shlabotnik Report

  7. Even though I live here in Florida, the Stingers radio broadcasts (with Andy McWilliams) were on that 50,000-watt blowtorch, WLW, so they boomed out to more than 30 states & parts of Canada, so as a result, racked up lots of highlights (and lowlights) audio clips . Some of those old WHA arenas had their own ambience when it came to their home teams scoring goals (Le Colisee in Quebec City, only in French).

  8. Home of the first game of the “Ottawa Civics”. The Denver Spurs to Ottawa moved midway through the ’75-’76 season, their initial contest was held in Cincinnati. The transaction happened so quickly that the Civics players didn’t know of the move, were confused to why “Oh, Canada” was played before the game. The Civics never adopted a logo or team colors, playing in the red and black uniforms of the Spurs (with all logos removed). After 7 games as Ottawa, the team folded.

  9. If you haven’t already seen it, there is an old Sports Illustrated article on Willie Trognitz that makes for a pretty good read. Willie was an enforcer for several years in the 70s in the IHL. He got suspended for life from The I and was signed days later by the Stingers.

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