The coveted Calder Cup has been a motivational force for American Hockey League teams throughout the League’s 68-year history. It is one of our sport’s greatest challenges and ultimate honors to hoist the Calder Cup in victory.
The trophy is named for Frank Calder, who served as the National Hockey League’s first President from 1917 to 1943. During the 1920’s, Mr. Calder was instrumental in guiding hockey into the mainstream of America’s major cities including Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago, while helping in the formation of the American League.
A total of 24 different cities have had their AHL member club win the Calder Cup, including the original Cleveland Barons, who played in the AHL from 1936 to 1972 and won a record nine championships. The Hershey Bears have the most championships of active franchises with eight, the first in 1947 and the most recent in 1997.
Eighteen members of the Hockey Hall of Fame have won the Calder Cup, including Terry Sawchuk, Emile Francis, Gerry Cheevers, Larry Robinson, Johnny Bower, Al Arbour and 2003 HHOF inductee Brian Kilrea.
Not only have great players won the Calder Cup, but outstanding coaches have also hoisted the AHL’s championship trophy. Hall of Famer Fred “Bun” Cook holds the distinction of being the only head coach to have won more than three Calder Cup championships, as he was able to hoist the Cup above his head on seven separate occasions. Barry Trotz, head coach of the Nashville Predators, served as an AHL coach for five years, capturing a Calder Cup Championship with the Portland Pirates. Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette guided the Providence Bruins to the Calder Cup crown in 1999. Atlanta’s Bob Hartley (Hershey, 1997) and Tampa Bay’s John Tortorella (Rochester, 1996) have also won a Calder Cup as an AHL head coach.
More than 100 players and coaches have won both the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup in their careers, including Andy Bathgate, Brian Engblom, Adam Graves, Doug Harvey, Martin Lapointe, Pete Mahovlich, Billy Smith and three-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Roy.
Calder Cup-winning teams have impacted significantly on the success of their NHL parent clubs. The Montreal Canadiens twice have won the Stanley Cup in the year following Calder Cup championships by their AHL affiliate. On three occasions an AHL club and their NHL affiliate won their respective championships in the same year. In 1976 and 1977, the Montreal Canadiens and their AHL affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, won their respective League titles. More recently the 1995 Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils also had their AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats, win the Calder Cup championship that same year.
Only one team has been able to win the Calder Cup in three consecutive years. The Springfield franchise, under the leadership of Hall of Famers Eddie Shore and Jack Butterfield, skated to Calder Cup championships in 1960, 1961 and 1962.
Last season, one of the most exciting Calder Cup Finals in history saw the Houston Aeros win their first AHL championship with a seven-game victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Aeros played a league-record 15 one-goal decisions in the postseason, including a quadruple-overtime loss to Hamilton in Game 2 of the Finals, the longest game in AHL history. The Aeros finally clinched the title on the road in front of 17,428 fans at Copps Coliseum, the largest crowd ever to see an AHL playoff game.
In the 2003-04 season, 28 teams will once again compete for the Calder Cup. Houston will be looking to become the first team since the 1990-91 Springfield Indians to successfully defend their title, while the Toronto Roadrunners will be out to do what just six teams have done in league history: win the championship in their inaugural season.