IHL History: Utah Grizzlies

By Andrew Bourgeois

The Utah Grizzlies begin their 5th season in the IHL this up coming season and though the
franchise has been around 6 years (1 year was spent in Denver), there is alot of history
surounding the team. The Grizzlies first year of existence was in Denver, Colorado which is no
stranger to professional hockey. The International Hockey League granted Denver their first IHL
franchise in 1959-60 as the Denver Mavericks, but due to unseen circumstances the Mavericks
ended up moving to Minneapolis to complete the season as the Minneapolis Millers. The NHL moved
into Denver with the Colorado Rockies until moving to New Jersey.
The IHL moved back into Denver as the Colorado Rangers in 1987-88 in which the Rangers lasted
two seasons. In 1987-88 the Rangers finished 5th with a 44-35-3 record for 91 points in 82
games. Todd Elik lead the Rangers in scoring with 44 goals, 56 assists for 100 points and had 81
PIM in 81 games. Also Simon Wheeldon finished the season with 99 points on 45 goals, 54 assists
with 80 PIM in 69 games. Mike Ritcher lead the Rangers goalies posting a 3.14 GAA, with 1
shutout, 68 goals against and 1298 minutes played in 22 games. In the playoffs the Rangers
defeated Kalamazoo 4 games to 3 games, but were outsted by Salt Lake in the quarterfinals 4
games to 2 games. In 1988-89 the Rangers became known as the Denver Rangers instead of the
Colorado Rangers and posted a 33-42-7 record for 73 points in 82 games. In the Playoffs the
Rangers were swept by Salt Lake Golden Eagles 3 games to 0 games. Simon Wheeldon lead the
Rangers in scoring with 50 goals, 56 assists for 106 points and had 77 PIM in 74 games.
The IHL moved back into Denver in the 1994-95 season as the Denver Grizzlies and in their
first year put impressive numbers on the board winning 57 losing 18 with 6 shootout losses for
120 points in 81 games. The man responsible for the Grizzlies impressive first year was Butch
Goring. Goring had arranged an affiliation with the New York Islanders who sent Butch players
like Ziggy Palfy, Jason Simon, Tommy Salo to name a few. Butch Goring also did his homework when
he signed some key free agents and soon the league was all abuzz on the power house that goring
had built in Denver. The Grizzlies did not dissapoint winning their first game 4-1 over
Minnesota Moose. In their first 8 games Denver won 7 of 8. During the last 19 games of the
season the Grizzlies posted a 15-2-2 record and outscored their opponents 86-49. In the playoffs
the Grizzlies defeated Minnesota 3 games to 0 games, defeated Phoenix 4 games to 1 games,
defeated Milwaukee 4 games to 1 games and in the Turner Cup Finlas defeated the Kansas City
Blades 4 games to 0 games. Chris Marinucci a rookie and a Hobey Baker winner as America’s top
college player from Minnesota-Duluth in 1994 played 12 games with the Islanders but soon found
himself in Denver where he scored 69 points on 20 goals and 49 assists won the Ken MacKenzie
tropy as the IHL’s top American born rookie player of the year. Tommy Salo lead the Grizzlies
goalies with a 2.60 GAA, with 3 shutouts, 165 goals against, 3810 minutes played in 65 games.
After a very successful first year in Denver the Grizzlies moved to Utah as the Quebec
Nordiques moved into Denver as the Colorado Avalanche. The first year in Utah in 1995-96 proved
to be successfull as the Grizzlies went 49-24-9 for 102 points in 82 games. Again Tommy Salo
lead the Grizzlies in the goaltending department with a 2.65 GAA, with 4 shutouts, 119 goals
against, 2695 minutes played in 45 games. In the first round of the playoffs the grizzlies met
the Kansas City Blades in a rematch from last years Turner Cup finals. Utah defeated Kansas City
3 games to 2 games, defeated Peoria 4 games to 3 games, defeated Las Vegas 4 games to 2 games
and met the Orlando Solar Bears in the Turner Cup Finals and defeated Orlando 4 games to 0 games
in which 3 out of the 4 went into overtime.
The 1996-97 season proved to be succesfull also as Utah posted a 43-33-6 record for 92 points.
Though in the playoffs it was a different matter. The grizzlies got by Kansas City 3 games to 0
games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but in the Western Conference semifinals were
defeated by the Long Beach Ice Dogs
4 games to 0 games.

In 1997-98 Utah still finished the season at a respectable level going 47-27-8 for 102 points
in 82 games. Chris Taylor lead the Grizzlies in scoring with 28 goals, 56 assists for 84 points
in 79 games. Mark Lawrence lead the league with 21 PPG, and 8 GWG. Phillipe DeRouville had a
2.56 GAA, with 3 shutouts, 65 goals against, 1524 minutes played in 30 games. In the playoffs
Utah was defeated by Kansas City Blades 3 games to 1 game.
In the 1998-99 season Utah finished out of the playoffs for the first time in franchise
history. The Grizlies missed the playoffs by 4 points and supported a 39-34-9 record for 87
points in 82 games. Don Biggs lead the team in scoring with 22 goals, 53 assists for 75 points
and added 106 PIM. Steve Vezina led the goalie department with a 2.79 GAA, with 0 shutouts, with
1117 minutes played in 22 games.


The Utah Grizzlies are the first team in IHL history to win back to back Turner Cup Finals with
consecutive 4 games to 0 games sweeps in 1995 and 1996.
Utah becomes the third team in IHL history to win back to back Turner Cups after their first 2
seasons in the league. The other two teams are the Cincinnati Mohawks in 1953, 1954 and the St.
Paul Saints in 1960 and 1961.


Micah Aivazoff

Dave Archibald

Scott Arniel

Derek Armstrong

Bobby Beers

Todd Bertuzzi

Gord Dineen

Robert Dome

Todd Elik

Eric Fichaud

Brad Lauer

Kip Miller

Zigmund Palffy

John Purves

Mike Richter

Normand Rochefort

Tommy Salo

Jeff Sharples

Jason Simon

Mick Vukoya

Rob Zettler



On May 7, 1997 Jock Callander of the Cleveland Lumberjacks scored his 65th post season goal to
become the IHL leading goal scorer in the playoffs. Jock scored his 65th post season goal
against Indianapolis Ice.