Top 10 CNY Sports Stories EVER! – The Clinton Comets
Rather than going out to clubs or staying home, everyone used to go to the Clinton Arena for hockey on Saturday nights, well at least for 2300+ people! Were you one of em? Although it’s great to see some good ball, or in this case ‘puck’, the team to root for was the Clinton Comets, and it wasn’t just because they were the home team. It was because they were good, CRAZY good!
The Clinton Hockey Club as they used to be known was founded in 1927 by Ed Stanley (no, not the Ed Stanley of the Stanley Cup) who built the team from scratch with his own money and quickly turned a bunch of former high school players into a winning amateur team. Ed’s credentials were recognized to the point that he was even on the Olympic Hockey Committee gearing up for the 1940 Winter Games to be held in Japan that year (for which a few CHC players even tried out) but it wasn’t meant to be due to the onset of World War II. Non deterred, the team played at Sage Rink in Hamilton until they moved to the then newly built Clinton Arena in 1949. Of course a new rink inspired them to snag a new name too, so they ran a contest and the name that rose above the rest is the one we all remember now.
Just a handful of years later the Comets would join the Eastern Hockey League and would begin their reign dominating team after team to win the the playoffs five times, three of which were in a row and one season in particular (1967-68) stands out forever as they posted a win-tie-loss single-season record (including the post-season) of 57–5–10, a record still unmatched by any hockey team, amateur or pro to this date . Here’s a photo of that legendary squad:
They didn’t do this on their own however, but rather under the expert coaching of player/coach Pat Kelly (yes he played and coached the team simultaneously) who later went on to coach the now defunct NHL Colorado Rockies team (which is ironically now the New Jersey Devils whom the Utica Devils once fed) and kept leading teams to victories no matter what logo was on their jerseys. Even after all of his success he would later say this:
“In my 59 years in hockey, the Comets ’67-’68 team was the best I have been associated with.”
You can read more about Coach Kelly here in an interview with the Observer Dispatch. Kelly would lead the all the way up until 1973, when they were were sold and moved to the Utica Aud as the Mohawk Valley Comets where they would remain for 4 years before a string of teams took over at the Aud starting with the Utica Mohawks, including the Utica Devils and ending with the now incumbent Utica College Pioneers.
Earlier this summer, the Utica Professional Hockey Alumni Association held a dinner locally in honor of this legendary team in which the founder of our very own WIBX’s Sports Watch, Lee Hamilton emcee’d. Why? Because he used to be the ‘Voice of the Comets’, announcing the team’s games in their final years which aired on our sister station. Coach Pat Kelly as well as the 9 surviving players of that ’67-68 record-setting team were in attendance and finally received their championship rings 44 years after the fact. Check out more about that moving event here.
It’s crazy to think that these men on this team did all that they did back before helmets were mandatory in the sport (not even goalies had them!) Maybe they all have dentures (just kidding!) Well, at any rate once again greatness was bred and cultivated in our area and history will never let anyone forget it.