Ice hockey playoffs at the Coliseum on March 22, 1935 between Tulsa and Kansas City. The final score: Tulsa 5, Kansas City 1. (Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society)
Tulsa has seen the likes of many big league professional players: Don Cherry, Gary Unger, Mike Blaisdell, Robbie Ftorek, Glen Hanlon, John Vanbiesbrouck, Al Smith, Claire Alexander to name some. Check out the article below for a pretty cool lesson of the rich history of hockey in Tulsa, OK.
Professional hockey has been in Oklahoma for 83 years. This might come as a surprise to many outside the state and even to some native Oklahomans, considering Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907. During the 1920’s Tulsa was thriving in the midst of their second oil boom with an expanding population of over 72,000 residents, many moving from the east coast. Great oil barons such as J. Paul Getty and Waite Phillips helped Tulsa become the “Oil Capital of the World” so it seems almost natural that their first organized hockey team would be named the Tulsa Oilers.
The original Tulsa Oilers was first organized in 1928 by Walter R. Whiteside, a transplanted Minnesota millionaire, and the team name has continued through several distinct organizations, with the exception of the years 1942-1945 during World War II, and 1951-1964. During the 1970s and 1980s the CHL Oilers were affiliated with an interesting mix of NHL and WHA teams:
- 1974-1975 – Vancouver Blazers (WHA)
- 1975-1978 – Vancouver Canucks (NHL)
- 1975-1979 – Atlanta Flames (NHL)
- 1979-1982 – Winnipeg Jets (NHL)
- 1982-1984 – New York Rangers (NHL)
During this time a number of well-known hockey players passed through the Tulsa Oilers organization: the Hockey Night in Canada commenter Don Cherry; the Hockey Hall of Famer Marcel Pronovost played and coached the Oilers; five players from the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team; and George McPhee, the General Manager of the Washington Capitals, among many others.
Oklahoma City soon followed in Tulsa’s footsteps, when the Oklahoma City Warriors team was organized in 1933, within the AHA. However, three short years later at the end of the 1935-1936 season, the Oklahoma City Warriors moved to Minneapolis. Hockey returned to Oklahoma City again in 1965 with the Oklahoma City Blazers, part of the Central Hockey League (CHL). The Blazers were originally the Minneapolis Bruins, the Boston Bruins farm club, and this affiliation continued through 1972 with the Blazers. The Blazers continued through 1977 as the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate; in 1977 their name changed to the OKC Stars when the team changed their affiliation to the Minnesota North Stars through 1982. Ten years later, hockey would return to Oklahoma City when the OKC Blazers reappeared on scene and continued through 2009
Tulsa Oilers Program 1928-1929 (Photo: Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society)
Walter R. Whiteside, a Minnesota millionaire, organized the first Tulsa Oilers franchise in 1928. Whiteside and his brother Robert, both hockey enthusiasts, began construction on the Tulsa Coliseum, located on Elgin between 5th and 6th streets, in 1928 and the Oilers held their inaugural game inside the Coliseum on New Year’s Day in 1929. It is interesting to note that Tulsa had the first man-made ice rink in the southern United States – south of the Mason-Dixon line.
The December 30th, 1928 edition of The Tulsa Tribune printed a multipage segment on the upcoming Tulsa Oilers and Coliseum grand opening, on January 1st, 1929.