Two Vintage Iowa Hockey Teams You Might’ve Never Known Existed
One rabbit-hole I often find myself venturing down is that of defunct sports teams/leagues, primarily football, basketball, and hockey. Whether it's learning how the NFL Europe came and went, or imagining if the Hampton Roads Rhinos would've ever hoisted the Stanley Cup, it's fun to look back at franchises that either tasted but could never sustain success, or ones that simply never got off the ground.
Last week, my friend introduced me to a new website: Vintage Ice Hockey, a site dedicated to selling gear from defunct hockey teams. I spent a good part of my afternoon contemplating buying a Chicago Bluesmen shirt and reading about the Madison Monsters, a UHL team in the mid nineties.
And then I thought it'd be fun to look at the two Des Moines hockey teams that no longer exist, if for no other reason than some sports nostalgia. Here's some information I've gathered about the Des Moines Capitols and the Des Moines Oak Leafs.
Des Moines Oak Leafs:
Des Moines was once home to the Des Moines Oak Leafs, who began play in 1961 in the United States Hockey League (USHL). Calling the Des Moines Ice Arena (now the Buccaneer Arena) home, the Oak Leafs spent two years in the USHL before moving up to the International Hockey League (IHL). Sporting green, gold, and white as their colors, they would last until 1972 in the IHL's Southern Division.
According to the Vintage Ice Hockey website, the Oak Leafs entered the IHL with a bang, making the finals in 1965 after posting a 39-31 record. John Annable would go on to be the club's leading scorer with an impressive 403 points in 338 games. Alas, the Oak Leafs would fall to Fort Wayne in the 1965 finals.
The Oak Leafs would make it back to the finals one last time in 1971, where they again lost to Port Huron. Before rebranding as the Des Moines Capitols after the 1971-72 season, the Oak Leafs can be considered a successful franchise, having made the playoffs six of the 10 seasons between their tenure in the USHL and IHL.
Des Moines Capitols:
The Oak Leafs would become the Des Moines Capitols in time for the 1972-73 season, although they wouldn't last nearly as long as their counterparts. The Capitols kept Des Moines Ice Arena as their home, but did something the Oak Leafs never did: win a title.
In 1973-74 (their second season), they posted a 45-25-6 record, good enough for 96 points on the season. They went on to win the Fred A. Huber Trophy as regular season champions, a feat made even more impressive due to the fact that they had the most intensive traveling schedule of any team in the IHL that year.
The Capitols defeated the Saginaw Gears in six games to win the Turner Cup. Forward Peter Mara was awarded the Leo P. Lamoureux Memorial Trophy as the league's leading scorer. Right wing Frank Demarco won rookie of the year as well.
The Capitols would go on to have a losing record in the 1974-75 season (31-38-7) before getting bounced in the first round. They'd disband the following season. Reasons why are unclear, but I'd bet they were due to financial hardships.
Oak Leafs and Capitols memorabilia:
While the Oak Leafs and Capitols are long gone, the memory of the two clubs live on in the form of hoodies, shirts, and other gear available on Vintage Ice Hockey's website. I believe the neat aspect about clothing like this is that since it's uncommon, it often prompts a story if you're wearing it out in public.
If local hockey fans want to have even more pride in the community, rocking a Capitols shirt at the next Fighting Saints game might be the move!