The Multiple Histories of the Niagara Falls Flyers

The Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit and Sudbury Wolves were both, at one time, the Niagara Falls Flyers. A Junior ‘A’ team existed at two different times in Niagara Falls, Ontario between 1960 and 1982, both carrying the nickname ‘Flyers’. The Niagara Falls Thunder would come later and eventually move to Erie, Pennsylvania to become the Otters. The Niagara IceDogs play in the OHL now but play out of St. Catherines.

The name ‘Flyers’ came with the original team, that began play for the 1960-61 season, from the Barrie Flyers. The franchise played out of Barrie, Ontario from 1945. Barrie has since regained an OHL franchise in the form of the Colts.

During the 1960s, when National Hockey League teams sponsored Junior ‘A’ teams in Ontario, the Flyers wore the colors of the Boston Bruins. Many players were developed in Niagara Falls for the Bruins, including Bernie Parent, Don Marcotte, Derek Sanderson, and Ed Westfall.

Although the first version only existed for twelve seasons, they have crowned Memorial Cup champions on two occasions. The Niagara Falls Flyers won in 1965 then again in 1968. The team went to the 1963 Memorial Cup but lost to the Edmonton Oil Kings. The second version of the Flyers played for just six seasons and went to the OHL finals just once, losing to the Peterborough Petes in 1979.

Some of the players that went on to NHL careers from the second incarnation of the Flyers include Mike Gartner, Steve Larmer, Steve Ludzik and Lou Franceschetti. Gartner, along with Bernie Parent from the original Flyers, is the only two Niagara Falls Flyers players to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The first version of the Flyers simply moved to Sudbury to become the Wolves and have been there ever since. The second version became the North Bay Centennials upon leaving Niagara Falls. This set up a natural rivalry between the two Northern Ontario cities for twenty years. The Centennials have since moved on to Saginaw, Michigan where they are known as the Spirit.

The second version of the Flyers began as a franchise in 1943, down the road in St. Catherines and was known as the Falcons. The team changed names to the TeePees in 1947. Remaining in St. Catherines, the team changed names once again in 1962 to reflect their NHL sponsor. The St. Catherines Black Hawks existed until becoming the Niagara Falls Flyers.

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