The Island's defunct professional sports teams
Last week, LongIsland.com highlighted our local professional sports teams that are a part of our fanatic ways. But how about those clubs that were on the map, only to fade away and never to be seen again? Well, we have prepared a list of the teams from yesteryear that gave us so much excitement and then either folded or moved from Long Island.
New York Nets, ABA (1967-1977)- Founding members of the American Basketball Association in 1967, the Nets started out as the New Jersey Americans and played their home games in the Teaneck Armory. The following season, they moved across the river and became the New York Nets. Playing in places such as the Long Island Arena and the Island Garden, the early days of the Nets were filled with memories of Rick Barry and his famous underhand foul shot. The team moved into the Nassau Veterans memorial Coliseum in 1971 and acquired Julius Erving in a trade with the Virginia Squires in 1973. Dr. J merely won the ABA MVP Award and brought a championship to his home town that season. Two years later, he repeated the same feats and was one of the major reasons why four ABA teams merged with the NBA following the 1975-76 season. Unfortunately for the Nets they had to pay dearly for the honor of joining the NBA and financially they were not able to hold onto Erving. He was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers before the first tip off and the team suffered as a result. They played only one season on Long Island in the NBA before they came full circle and moved back to the Garden State. As for the Long Island Arena, it became a Target in a large shopping center. The Island Garden was moved and reborn as a youth league gym.
Long Island Ducks, EHL (1959-1973)- Some local fans may think this is misprint. It is not. That lovable bunch on the baseball diamond is only one of the clubs that have used that moniker. Starting out in the Eastern Hockey League as the New York Rovers in 1959, the team moved to that same Long Island Arena in Commack and became the Ducks. A rough and tumble hockey club that was led by John Muckler and John Brophy, they won the EHL championship in 1965. Brophy is believed to be the inspiration for the Paul Newman character in the hit movie "Slap Shot." Starting out as a player and eventually becoming a coach/general manager/part owner, Muckler went on to a long and luxurious coaching career in the NHL. The Ducks were an immensely popular team and fans that attended hockey games in the hut-shaped building will remember them forever. Not exactly a state-of-the-art facility, the Long Island Arena was down right freezing, and I'm not referring to the ice rink. On one occasion, fans in the stands started a bonfire to keep warm. Maybe they should have tried to sit under the new lights installed for the Nets. They actually melted part of the ice. You cannot make this stuff up. The Ducks quacked no more once the NHL expanded to Long Island. The legacy they left in 1973 will never be replaced by the Islanders.
Long Island Ducks, EBA (1977) - Another misprint? Sorry, but there were three teams that used this popular name. The Eastern Basketball Association (now known as the Continental Basketball Association) had a Long Island entry for one season. The Ducks finished in second place with a 15-15 record and qualified for the playoffs, where they were swept in two games by the Lancaster Red Roses. The Ducks led the league in team defense but had the second worse offense.
Long Island Sounds, EBA (1975) - Another one year wonder, the team finished 8-15 and did not make the post season.
Long Island Knights, USBL (1985, 1987-88) - The United States Basketball League is played in the spring and summer and known as "The League of Opportunity. That rang true when the Knights suited up local legend female round baller Nancy Lieberman in 1987.
Long Island Surf, USBL (1991- 2001) - The area's second USBL team hung around a while longer than the first. Their most successful seasons came in 1997 and 1998 when they made it to the USBL championship game and were defeated on both occasions by the Atlantic City Seagulls. Some of the more popular players they had were Anthony Mason, Lloyd "Sweet Pea" Daniels and Mike James.
New York Saints, MILL/NLL (1989-2003) - The organization moved from New Jersey into the Nassau Coliseum and competed in a professional men's indoor lacrosse league. Their best season was in 1989 when they played for the league championship and were defeated by the Philadelphia Wings in the final. The league name changed from the Major Indoor Lacrosse League to the National Lacrosse League in 1997.
New York Arrows, MISL/MSL (1978-1984) - Indoor soccer came to the Nassau Coliseum with the Arrows. A very different type of game with boards, glass and power plays. The original name of the league was the Major Indoor Soccer League, which was changed to the Major Soccer League in 1990. The Arrows were the fledging league's premier club in the early years, winning the first four championships. Prominent players on the team were Salvisa "Steve" Zungu and Shep Messing.
New York Power, WUSA (2001-2003) - A league of their own. The Women's United Soccer Association was born following the winning of the gold medal by the Women's USA Soccer team, when popularity for the sport was at its highest. The Power played their home games at the Mitchell Athletic Complex. The league suspended operations following the 2003 season, but a possible rebirth is still in the works.
If I happened to miss a team that you are aware of, please feel free to write me an e-mail and I will mention the team(s) in a future column.