The Rochester Americans (colloquially the Amerks) are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League, and a top affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. The team plays its home games in Rochester, New York, at the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. The Americans are one of the oldest franchises in the AHL, celebrating their 50th consecutive season in the American Hockey League in 2005–06.
Rochester was awarded a new franchise in June 1956 when the Pittsburgh Hornets were forced to suspend operations after their arena, the Duquesne Gardens was razed in an urban renewal project. The owner of the Hornets, John H. Harris, held the Pittsburgh franchise in limbo until a new arena could be built. The Hornets re-entered the American Hockey League in 1961-62. All of the records of the Pittsburgh Hornets stayed in Pittsburgh.
The Amerks' team colors are red, white and blue. The logo is a patriotic badge with "Americans" written in cursive script. The Americans have won six Calder Cups: in 1965, 1966, 1968, 1983, 1987 and 1996. They have lost in the Finals ten times: in 1957, 1960, 1967, 1977, 1984, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1999 and 2000.
Rochester Americans AHL Hockey - 2011-2012 Schedule
Sat 10/8/11 7:00 PM @ Hamilton
Thu 10/13/11 7:05 PM W-B/Scranton
Fri 10/14/11 7:30 PM @ Lake Erie
Sun 10/16/11 6:05 PM Grand Rapids
Tue 10/18/11 7:05 PM Syracuse
Fri 10/21/11 7:35 PM Hamilton
Sat 10/22/11 3:00 PM @ Toronto
Sun 10/23/11 6:05 PM Adirondack
Wed 10/26/11 7:30 PM @ Hamilton
Sat 10/29/11 7:05 PM @ Binghamton
Fri 11/4/11 7:05 PM @ Binghamton
Sat 11/5/11 7:30 PM @ Syracuse
Sun 11/6/11 6:05 PM Syracuse
Fri 11/11/11 7:35 PM Binghamton
Sat 11/12/11 7:35 PM Grand Rapids
Wed 11/16/11 7:05 PM Syracuse
Fri 11/18/11 7:35 PM Toronto
Sat 11/19/11 3:00 PM @ Toronto
Fri 11/25/11 7:35 PM Albany
Sat 11/26/11 7:35 PM Hamilton
Fri 12/2/11 7:35 PM Houston
Sat 12/3/11 7:00 PM @ Hamilton
Sun 12/4/11 4:00 PM @ Albany
Fri 12/9/11 7:35 PM Albany
Sat 12/10/11 7:00 PM @ Adirondack
Sun 12/11/11 3:00 PM @ Hamilton
Fri 12/16/11 7:00 PM @ San Antonio
Sat 12/17/11 7:00 PM @ Texas
Sun 12/18/11 5:05 PM @ Houston
Wed 12/21/11 7:05 PM Lake Erie
Tue 12/27/11 7:00 PM @ Oklahoma City
Wed 12/28/11 7:00 PM @ Oklahoma City
Fri 12/30/11 7:35 PM Hamilton
Fri 1/6/12 7:05 PM @ W-B/Scranton
Sat 1/7/12 7:05 PM @ Binghamton
Sun 1/8/12 5:00 PM @ Hershey
Fri 1/13/12 7:35 PM Toronto
Sat 1/14/12 7:35 PM Hamilton
Thu 1/19/12 7:05 PM Oklahoma City
Fri 1/20/12 7:35 PM Oklahoma City
Sat 1/21/12 7:00 PM @ Grand Rapids
Wed 1/25/12 7:00 PM @ Grand Rapids
Fri 1/27/12 7:30 PM @ Syracuse
Sat 1/28/12 3:00 PM @ Toronto
Thu 2/2/12 7:05 PM Abbotsford
Fri 2/3/12 7:35 PM Abbotsford
Sat 2/4/12 7:30 PM @ Syracuse
Wed 2/8/12 11:00 AM @ Toronto
Fri 2/10/12 7:35 PM Texas
Sat 2/11/12 7:35 PM San Antonio
Fri 2/17/12 7:35 PM Lake Erie
Sat 2/18/12 7:30 PM @ Lake Erie
Sun 2/19/12 5:05 PM Hamilton
Wed 2/22/12 7:05 PM Hershey
Fri 2/24/12 7:35 PM Adirondack
Sat 2/25/12 7:35 PM Lake Erie
Fri 3/2/12 7:00 PM @ Grand Rapids
Sat 3/3/12 5:00 PM @ Toronto
Sun 3/4/12 5:05 PM Toronto
Fri 3/9/12 7:35 PM Binghamton
Sat 3/10/12 7:35 PM Binghamton
Fri 3/16/12 7:30 PM @ Syracuse
Sat 3/17/12 7:05 PM @ Binghamton
Wed 3/21/12 7:05 PM Syracuse
Fri 3/23/12 7:35 PM Binghamton
Sat 3/24/12 7:30 PM @ Syracuse
Wed 3/28/12 11:30 AM @ Albany
Fri 3/30/12 7:35 PM Toronto
Sat 3/31/12 7:35 PM Toronto
Tue 4/3/12 7:00 PM @ Abbotsford
Wed 4/4/12 7:00 PM @ Abbotsford
Sat 4/7/12 7:00 PM @ Hamilton
Sun 4/8/12 5:00 PM @ Adirondack
Tue 4/10/12 7:05 PM Grand Rapids
Fri 4/13/12 7:35 PM Syracuse
Sat 4/14/12 7:30 PM @ Lake Erie
Before the Amerks
Hockey was popular in Rochester, a city known for its cold weather, as far back as the 1920s; in fact, the University of Rochester had a collegiate hockey team as early as 1906, and even at that time, East High School had already developed a successful program. Professional hockey arrived in 1935 in the form of the Rochester Cardinals, a member of the International Hockey League. The Cardinals, who played at Edgerton Park Arena, lasted only one season, compiling a 15–29–3 record and a host of financial difficulties.
In the early 1950s, with the Rochester Community War Memorial under construction, Montreal Canadiens manager Frank Selke promised an American Hockey League team to Rochester at some point in the future, with 1956 one target year that was mentioned. Demonstrative of the support for hockey in Rochester, 7,092 fans turned out for a game between the AHL Buffalo Bisons and the NHL Montreal Canadiens on November 21, 1955; the game ended in a 5–5 tie and sold out five days beforehand. Sure enough, when 60-year-old Duquesne Gardens in Pittsburgh was scheduled for demolition in 1956, it left the Pittsburgh Hornets without an arena and forced them to go idle, freeing up room in the AHL for a Rochester team.
Rochesterians (and Amerks Hall of Famers) Sam Toth and Ed House worked to make it happen, but the terms of their conditional franchise granted by the AHL required them to raise $100,000 by sale of stock in less than two weeks. When their effort failed to reach its goal, a new group, backed by Selke of the Canadiens and Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was awarded the franchise. Selke and Smythe would own 55% of the team, with the balance being sold to Rochester interests. The team was named the "Americans".
Early years (1956–1967)
Upon entering the league for the 1956–57 season the Amerks became a joint affiliate of both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League. Under Coach Billy Reay the team finished in third place in the AHL standings and played the defending champion Providence Reds in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs. With Bobby Perreault in goal, the Americans defeated Providence and goaltender Johnny Bower in five games. Rochester then was defeated in a five-game final by the Cleveland Barons, who won the Calder Cup.
The Amerks reached the playoffs in 1959, losing to the Buffalo Bisons in five games. The 1959 Amerks were led by the "WHAM" line of center Rudy Migay, left wing Gary Aldcorn and right wing Billy Hicke. Migay and Hicke were named co-MVP for the AHL that season and Hicke was chosen league Rookie of the Year.
In 1959–60 the Americans became the first team in American Hockey League history to win a playoff series after trailing three-games-to-none. The Amerks' comeback against the Cleveland Barons included the efforts of the veteran Migay, right wing Pat Hannigan and league-leading goaltender Ed Chadwick. A crowd of 7,762 at the War Memorial witnessed a 4-1 triumph in Game 7. Rochester went on to lose the Calder Cup Finals in five games to Eddie Shore's Springfield Indians.
Following the 1960–61 season in which the Amerks failed to qualify for the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens transferred their working agreement to the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League and sent Rochester players Guy Rousseau and Claude Labrosse to Quebec. As the exclusive affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Americans made the playoffs the next two seasons but never contended for the Calder Cup championship.
Beginning in 1963–64 former Amerks' defenseman Joe Crozier became the team's Coach and General Manager. Under Crozier the Amerks won the Calder Cup in 1965, 1966 and 1968 and were finalists in 1967; they are the only team in AHL history to appear in the Calder Cup finals in four consecutive seasons.
In 1965–66 the Amerks played their final 10 regular season and all playoff home games at neutral sites because the 1966 American Bowling Congress tournament occupied the War Memorial. The home games were at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, about 180 miles (290 km) from Rochester, except for of one playoff game at Buffalo's Memorial Auditorium in the Calder Cup Finals. On May 8, 1966, before a crowd of 7,655 at the "Aud" the Amerks tied up the series at two games apiece with a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Barons. Rochester went on to win the next two games and their second consecutive Calder Cup.
Notable players from this era included Bronco Horvath, Gerry Cheevers, Bobby Perreault, Al Arbour, Darryl Sly, Norm "Red" Armstrong, Duane Rupp, Wally Boyer, Dick Gamble, Stan Smrke, Jim Pappin, Don Cherry, Gerry Ehman, Larry Hillman, and Mike Walton.
The expansion era (1967–1970s)
When the National Hockey League expanded from six to twelve teams for the 1967–68 NHL season the Amerks lost several players. Arbour (St. Louis), Ehman (Oakland), Boyer (Oakland), Horvath (Minnesota) and Rupp (Minnesota) were all drafted by the new NHL teams. Pappin and Walton were both promoted to the Maple Leafs. Smrke retired.
The Amerks struggled through the early part of the 1967–68 AHL season. Just before Christmas and with the team in last place with a record of 12-15-3 Crozier made a deal with the expansion Minnesota North Stars. In exchange for forwards J. P. Parise and Milan Marcetta the Amerks received Ted Taylor, Len Lunde, George "Duke" Harris, Murray Hall, Don Johns and the rights to Horvath. The return of Horvath marked his fourth tour of duty with the Amerks since 1956–57. The Amerks improved to go 26-10-6 for the balance of the season en route to finish with the best record in the league. The regular-season champion Amerks then defeated the Hershey Bears 4 games to 1 in the playoff semi-finals and the Quebec Aces 4 games to 2 in the Calder Cup finals. The Amerks won the final game 4-2 before a crowd of 11,711 at Le Colisee de Quebec.
In the summer of 1968 the team was sold to Vancouver who established the Amerks as the farm team of the expansion Vancouver Canucks of the National Hockey League. With the majority of the Rochester players transferred to Vancouver of the Western Hockey League the minor league Canucks won the 1968–69 and 1969–70 WPHL Patrick Cup Championships while the Amerks finished in last place each year.
After Rochester finished with the worst record in the AHL for four straight years and with local fan support dwindling the Vancouver NHL team was prepared to either sell or fold the Rochester club. But the Amerks were saved in the summer of 1972 when a group of Rochester businessmen bought the Americans franchise from Vancouver and named Amerks defenseman Don Cherry as Coach/General Manager. Playing the next two seasons as an independent club the Amerks qualified for the playoffs in 1972–73 and were the regular season AHL champions in 1973–74.
The Boston Bruins hired Cherry as their coach in 1974–75 and became the Amerks' parent team the same year.
Prior to the 1979–80 season the Amerks were purchased by the Knox family, owners of the Buffalo Sabres (NHL) and became the Sabres AHL affiliate. After the Knox brothers died in the 1990s, the Americans and Sabres were split up, with the Sabres going to John Rigas and the Amerks being sold to Steve Donner. Despite the sale, the Buffalo/Rochester partnership would become the longest such NHL/AHL affiliaton, lasting until the 2007–08 season, and being revived for the 2011-12 season. The proximity of the cities of Buffalo and Rochester is a significant advantage in that the Sabres are able to call up and send down players between the two teams with ease, as the two cities are only an hour's drive away from each other; Buffalo is the closest NHL city to Rochester, while Rochester was, at the time, the closest AHL city to Buffalo. (The Hamilton Bulldogs, established in 1996, are closer geographically to Buffalo than Rochester is, but play on the other side of the U.S.-Canadian border.)
During the Sabres affiliation, the Amerks would win 3 Calder Cup championships and finish as runners-up another six times. They finished out of the playoffs only 5 times in 28 years.
The Amerks won the first of their "Sabres era" Calder Cups in 1983 under young coach Mike Keenan, sweeping Maine, 4-0.
In the 1986–87 season the John VanBoxmeer-coached team won the division championship on the last game of the season against the Binghamton Whalers. The Amerks were one point behind the Whalers and playing in Binghamton. After goalie Darcy Walkaluk paced the team to a tie in regulation and overtime, the game proceeded to the new "shoot-out" format used that season. As the shoot-out began, VanBoxmeer made one of the most memorable coaching moves in Amerks history and pulled Wakaluk from the game, inserting usual starting goalie Darren Puppa who had sat out the game due to injury. Puppa stopped every shot and low-scoring defenseman Jack Brownschidle scored the winning goal. While the teams both finished with identical records (47-26-7), Rochester won the division based on having a better record in head-to-head competition.
The first round of playoffs saw the Amerks play the rival Hershey Bears, however the first two games were moved to the Buffalo Aud arena due to the Amerks home arena being previously booked for the Shrine Circus.
The second event of that memorable season occurred during pregame warmups of the second game. With no officials on the ice (a common occurrence at that time which was changed as a result of this game) a brawl broke out. Players from both teams received suspensions and Amerk tough-guy Andy Ristau received a concussion. The Amerks won the game in overtime on a goal by defenseman Jim Hofford. Ironically, Hofford was a late addition to the lineup as a result of the brawl. The Amerks went on to win the series, 4-1.
The Amerks took on the Sherbrooke Canadiens in the finals and after five games found themselves down 3 games to 2. Behind the leadership of NHL veteran Don Lever, the Amerks came from behind to win game six, 7-4, and won the championship in Sherbrooke.
After losing many players from that team to the NHL the following season the Amerks struggled but returned to the finals in '90 and '91, losing both times to the Springfield Indians. They again lost in the finals to Cape Breton in '93.
After a very slow start in the 1995–96 season, the Amerks came together midway through the season behind the dramatically improved goaltending of Steve Shields. The team breezed through the first three rounds of the playoffs before finally winning a hard-fought battle against the Portland Pirates to win their sixth Calder Cup.
In 2000, with the promotion of then-coach Brian McCutcheon to assistant coach with the Sabres, former Amerks player Randy Cunneyworth was named coach of the Amerks.
In November 2003, the Sabres and the New Jersey Devils played in the first-ever NHL regular-season game in Rochester.
In the 2003–04 season, Rochester was beaten 4 games to 1 by the eventual Calder Cup champion Milwaukee Admirals in the Western Conference Finals.
The Amerks began a dual-affiliation in 2005 after signing an agreement with the Florida Panthers. Under this agreement the Panthers and Sabres would both supply the Amerks with players while the Sabres would still employ the coaching staff.
In 2007, the Sabres announced that season would be their last season of affiliation with the Amerks. Reasons cited include the financial insecurity of the AHL team, issues between ownership, the City of Rochester, and Blue Cross Arena management, along with the awkwardness of the dual affiliation with the Panthers. In 2008, the 29-year affiliation officially ended as Buffalo chose the Portland Pirates to be their new AHL affiliate. However, they rejoined shortly after the 2010-11 season concluded.
On May 6, 2008, the American Hockey League approved the sale of the Amerks to Canadian businessman Curt Styres and his investment group, Arrow Express Sports. The sale also included the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.
On May 13, 2009, Lewis Staats, President of the Rochester Americans, formally announced that after 12 years as Amerks GM, Jody Gage will not return next season as the team’s general manager. Gage now holds the position of director of player personnel.
The Americans notched their 2000th win on February 21, 2010, in a shootout against then Sabres affiliate the Portland Pirates. Derek Whitmore, from the Rochester suburb of Greece was the last shooter for Portland but goaltender Alexander Salak made the save.
Head coach Benoit Groulx left the organization on May 31 after a reported conflict with Vice-President of Hockey Operations, Ted Nolan. Groulx will return to coach the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the 2010-2011 season.
On May 17, 2011, it was revealed that Terrence Pegula had signed a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase the Americans. Pegula, the owner of the Buffalo Sabres desired to re affiliate the two clubs. The potential purchase had to clear several financial and legal obstacles; first, Pegula had to seek the permission of the Sabres' then current farm team, the Portland Pirates, since the Pirates had an agreement with the Sabres that lasted through 2014 and had no out clause. Second, the Americans' corporate sister club, the Rochester Knighthawks lacrosse team, had to be split off, since Pegula also owns the Knighthawks' chief rival, the Buffalo Bandits. After these arrangements were made, the agreement was reached June 24, 2011, with the official announcement following the same day.  Pegula purchased the Americans for US$5,000,000.
The Rochester Americans have retired only two sweater numbers in their history.
- Number 6 retired in honor of Norm "Red" Armstrong following his death from a fall in a construction accident in 1974 at age 35.
- Number 9 was later retired in honor of Dick Gamble and Jody Gage. Gage, known as "Mr. Amerk", broke Gamble's team scoring records with the Amerks during his long tenure with the team. Gage then served as the Amerks' General Manager for 12 years, until May 2009.