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Team and League History

August 4, 1981
Central Hockey League president Bud Poile says they would like to have Birmingham back in their league, probably as early as the 1982-83 season.

      Central Hockey League logo
"I'd say it looks pretty good for next year, but there's a bad taste in lots of mouths around the league. The way Birmingham left the league wasn't handled very well. We had egg all over our faces. But, time heals all wounds. Everything being right, all cleaned up from the other franchise, I'd say we'll be back in Birmingham. I think the people running the operation made some serious mistakes, but I believe they were honest mistakes. Apparently, they misjudged the market badly. They figured to do $1.5 million the first year and actually did $700,000. I could see they were in trouble the second year and tried to head it off. However, they assured me they would make it. It made the league look bad when they folded they way they did. But that's history now, and by this time next year maybe Birmingham will be back in business. I know there's a group interested in putting the franchise back. Mike McClure attended our league meeting and made a good presentation. If the group is as well-backed financially as it claims, then I think we'll be able to work something out," Poile said.

The group Poile spoke of doesn't include anyone that had a financial interest in the Birmingham Bulls. Other than Dr. Tommy Tucker, two former Bulls players are involved, Brent Hughes and Phil Roberto.

April 15, 1982
      Minnesota North Stars logo 
Birmingham may take over the working agreement the Central Hockey League has with the Minnesota North Stars. Currently, that franchise is playing in Nashville as the South Stars.

South Stars owner Larry Schmittou has made it very clear that he is unhappy with the part the North Stars have played in his CHL franchise and has indicated some changes must be made if Nashville has a team next season. Among the issues he has are needed improvements at the Municipal Auditorium where the South Stars play, a new working agreement, and the ability of the CHL to stabilize itself in regard to finances and travel. Schmittou wants to change to a working agreement with the Calgary Flames, which would then free Minnesota to move their working agreement to Birmingham.

Mike McClure, a spokesman for the investment group trying to bring a team to Birmingham, said, "We've been working since Birmingham lost its (Central Hockey League) team. We're very encouraged. We feel good about it and although there are still a lot of things to be worked out, we're much closer than we have been. We talked with the people in the CHL and assured them we won't talk to a team in the league now, and I talked to Schmittou and told him we will not talk to Minnesota. That's not to say we wouldn't talk to them if the franchise becomes available, but as of now it belongs to Nashville. This is an above-board operation all the way. We're working through Bud Poile and his office, and making them aware of everything we're doing. I would hope things would be resolved very soon There's a lot to be done, and we need time to sell season tickets and everything else."

According to McClure, one portion of the financing is still undecided. The investment group will propose a plan to the City Council where they would take over the concessions at Boutwell Auditorium. If approved, any profits made would go directly into the team.

May 5, 1982
      New York Rangers logo
Craig Patrick, vice president and general manager of the National Hockey League's New York Rangers, is given a tour of Birmingham by McClure and the potential ownership group. The Rangers are looking to relocate their Springfield, Massachusetts farm club that currently plays in the American Hockey League.

"Craig said we made the best presentation of anybody he has talked to. We toured the Civic Center and, of course, the facility sells itself. Nobody can compete with us there. The Rangers are not looking to go back to Springfield. They want a long-term situation where the players not only develop on the ice, but get involved in the community. He said the Rangers will promote their farm team during the (cable) telecasts and perhaps do a special for between periods. The Chamber of Commerce can't purchase that kind of promotion. It's not for sale. We don't know anything for sure yet, but we're encouraged," McClure said.

May 20, 1982
Southern Hockey officially petitions the Birmingham City Council to turn over the concessions rights at Boutwell Auditorium.

"The Rangers are very interested in us having some concessions, because there's not a successful minor league sports team that doesn't have some concessions during the short years," said Mike Kendrick, an attorney for the group.

June 7, 1982
Southern Hockey announces they will focus their attentions on securing an affiliation with the Minnesota North Stars. "Right now we're proceeding with Minnesota. The Rangers have at least five cities bidding for them, which we don't expect to get into. But time is short. We're down to days. June 15th (the CHL summer meeting in Lake Tahoe) will be here before you know it," said McClure.

Lou Nanne, Minnesota North Stars general manager, said the North Stars would conduct "serious talks with the Birmingham group when we get to the CHL meetings. That's when everything will be finalized. Birmingham isn't the only city we're looking at, but because it has been in the CHL before, and because the city has such a great facility, we hope something can be worked out. There are also close ties between Coach Sonmor and Birmingham, which doesn't hurt things. Glen is already sold on the city." Sonmor was the head coach of the World Hockey Association's Birmingham Bulls in 1977-78.

June 10, 1982
The Birmingham City Council approves a plan to subsidize the Southern Hockey group by buying $40,000 of advertising at the team's games instead of allowing them concessions at Boutwell Auditorium.

June 16, 1982
McClure announces that a tentative agreement with the North Stars had been reached. The five year franchise agreement has the North Stars supplying the coach, fifteen skaters, and two goaltenders. The North Stars are also responsible for the salaries of the coaches and players. "Everything is go for hockey in Birmingham. All that remains is to get it in writing, but an agreement has been reached. One of the conditions in the agreement, which Minnesota finally consented to, was that they negotiate and sign (former Birmingham Bulls players) Frank Beaton and Dave Hanson. Everything looks good to make this franchise something the community can be proud of."

"Barring any major differences, which we don't foresee, the North Stars will be in Birmingham next year. There are still some things that have to be put in writing, but that shouldn't be anything more than a formality. We're in agreement on most points. What we're doing, basically, is moving our Nashville farm club operation to Birmingham," Nanne said.

The South Stars played only one year in Nashville after moving from Oklahoma City.

"We haven't got a name just yet. We're probably going to let the public help us select a name," McClure said.

July 6, 1982
The Nashville franchise announces they are leaving the CHL and will join the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. Schmittou said the high cost of travel and the CHL's instability were the main reasons for the change. Nashville is the fifth franchise to leave the CHL since the end of the 1981 season.

July 14, 1982
McClure says the team name wouldn't be the Bulls. "Because of legal implications, we won't be using the old name or logo. I can't say what the name will be as of yet."

However, Nashville head coach Gene Ubriaco said the team would more than likely be named the South Stars. "That's not official, but it is a nice name, really."

July 20, 1982
It is announced by McClure that the team name will be the Birmingham South Stars. "The logical choice, because of our affiliation with the Minnesota North Stars, was South Stars."

  Head coach Gene Ubriaco
Also, it was announced that the South Stars would be retaining Gene Ubriaco as head coach. "This will be my sixth team in a new city. Every city always wants a winner, so Birmingham will be no different. From what I've seen, I think Birmingham will be the best franchise I've ever been involved with," Ubriaco said.

After playing for eight years in the American  Hockey League, Ubriaco was called up to the NHL and played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Oakland Seals, and the Chicago Black Hawks. Upon his retirement from the NHL in 1970, Ubriaco's coaching career began as a college assistant. His first professional coaching duties came with the Chicago Warriors of the United States Hockey League. In 1977, he moved to the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League. Ubriaco has also been the head coach of the American Hockey League's Baltimore Skipjacks and the Eastern Hockey League's Baltimore Clippers.

The most impressive statistic about Ubriaco's coaching career is that none of his teams have ever failed to make the playoffs.

September 23, 1982
Phil Roberto, vice president of player relations for the South Stars, comments on the new team's progress by saying, "It has been difficult for us because it's all new. There's so much work to do and so little time to do it. The corporate people have been very responsive to hockey. They've gotten behind us. They think hockey will work in Birmingham, and so do the Minnesota North Stars. On the other hand, I didn't expect as much animosity toward the previous organization from the fans. We're going to make it up to them. We have a lot of good promotions, and I guarantee you we won't fold with twenty games left in the season."

October 1982
 Central Hockey League  
  Birmingham South Stars   
  Colorado Flames
  Indianapolis Checkers
  Salt Lake City Golden Eagles   
  Tulsa Oilers
  Wichita Wind
  xxx   xxx   xxx   xxx  
Birmingham South Stars logo    Colorado Flames logo    Indianapolis Checkers logo    Salt Lake City Golden Eagles logo   Tulsa Oilers logo
Birmingham South Stars   Colorado Flames   Indianapolis Checkers
  Salt Lake City Golden Eagles   Tulsa Oilers
Wichita Wind logo                
Wichita Wind                
February 15, 1983
The State of Alabama announces that it is suing the South Stars franchise for non-payment of $3,853.52 in back-taxes. The owners have until the 20th to pay the taxes due or be shut down. According to McClure, the money has been used for operational expenses. "We'll take care of the tax matters by Sunday. We're looking at refinancing. I'm talking to some people right now. Hopefully, things will be worked out by the first of next week."

February 16, 1983
It is reported that officials from the South Stars held talks with representatives of California millionaire Warner Hodgdon about refinancing the team's debts. Hodgdon sponsors Neil Bonnett's car on the NASCAR circuit. Bonnett, who has attended the talks, said the talks have not left the discussion stage and that no one has spoken with Hodgdon yet. Bonnett is a friend of current South Stars captain Frank Beaton. "I know for a fact that there's nothing concrete. I probably won't even discuss it with Warner until after the race (the 1983 Daytona 500)," Bonnett said.

McClure is hoping the team can receive an extension on the deadline from the State of Alabama. "Basically, what we're looking at is getting an extension for a couple of weeks. I don't see any problems with it."

According to McClure, refinancing could keep the team in Birmingham for at least three more years.

The total amount to refinance is around $400,000 with the team projecting losses of around $70,000 this year. "We know what the numbers are. I'd like to be a part of the thing in Birmingham," Bonnett said.

February 20, 1983
A state tax official, B.W. Boehnke, arrived at the BJCC with local police an hour and a half before the South Stars were scheduled to take on the Indianapolis Checkers.

Boehnke informed officials with the South Stars that unless they paid their outstanding taxes they would not be allowed to play that night.

McClure was able to secure the money due and the South Stars went on to defeat the Checkers 4-3.

April 6, 1983
      Photograph xxx Photograph xxx Photograph
  Co-owner Brent Hughes   Co-owner Phil Roberto   Co-owner Dr. Tommy Tucker
It is reported that fan support during the playoffs is critical if the team is to survive in Birmingham. "I'm optimistic, but we have to get things worked out here. Our priorities are simple. We have to shore up our franchises with problems. I think it can be done. I hope it starts with these playoffs. I've seen franchises made by the playoffs so many times. Clubs just struggling along get in the playoffs and suddenly catch fire. I'm hoping something like that will happen here," Poile said.

"This is a good hockey team, and I'm proud of it. I hope the fans support us during the playoffs. The players deserve some support," Ubriaco said.

April 20, 1983
South Stars players staged a walk-out early today, threatening the cancellation of the Adams Cup finals. Their main issue is having to travel by bus instead of airplane during the finals.

South Stars captain and player representative Frank Beaton read a prepared statement that said, "At this time we, the Birmingham South Stars, have unanimously voted not to travel to Indianapolis tomorrow to start the final round of the playoffs. We intend to maintain this position until we feel better arrangements are made with the league and other responsible parties."

Their demands were finally met after an evening conference telephone call that included CHL commissioner Bud Poile. "It's a problem between the players, the Birmingham owners, and the Minnesota North Stars. It has nothing to do with the league. There is no quarrel with the league. The quarrel is with the owners and Minnesota. The games have been scheduled, and the players know when they're supposed to be played. If they don't show up, the season's over I guess. It's as simple as that. I appreciate the problems they've had there this year. I was under tremendous pressure from everybody else in the league not to schedule another playoff game in Birmingham. But I stuck my neck out and scheduled four in there if the series goes the distance," Poile said.

Beaton later explained the player's demands by saying, "We wanted three things guaranteed us, and they were: First, we wanted it guaranteed we will get equal playoffs games in Birmingham. They had talked about pulling them out of here if we didn't draw well for the first two. If it goes the distance, we'll have four. Next, we wanted it guaranteed our meal money will be ready when we leave for Indianapolis. And we wanted it guaranteed we will fly to Indy next Saturday and not be put on a bus right after the Friday night game. Right now, everybody is fairly happy. We wanted to get better treatment now that we're in the finals. We just want what is due us. We want to bring a championship to Birmingham."

Dr. Tommy Tucker, chairman of the board, said, "They think they deserve better travel arrangements, and we agree. But under the financial situation, we just can't do it. We don't have the money."

"Very simply, we only have money to bus and the players want to fly. We don't have air fare by any stretch of the imagination," McClure said.

May 4, 1983
It took all seven games, but the Birmingham South Stars were defeated in the Adams Cup Championship series four games to three.

June 6, 1983
The CHL has suspended the South Stars at the request of the North Stars. Today was the original deadline the league gave the team to find a refinancing deal.

"The problem is getting one person with some status and stature to say, 'It's good for  the city. Let's go for it.' I think it's good for the city, but I don't have the financial status and backing to make that happen," McClure said.

Team officials had recently been in discussions with Marvin Warner, owner of the United States Football League's Birmingham Stallions, but Warner turned them down. The South Stars have until June 22nd to obtain new financing if they want to remain in the CHL.

The South Stars aren't the only CHL team facing an uncertain future. The Salt Lake City Golden Eagles' parent club, the NHL's St. Louis Blues, are in the midst of an ownership dispute due to finances. Depending on the outcome, that dispute could have an impact on the Golden Eagles. With two of the six teams having such difficulty, the CHL had considered folding the league and allowing the teams to go to other leagues. League officials subsequently decided to stay in business and even allow the South Stars to remain in the league.

"We're not dead yet. The league is concerned enough that they don't want to make any rash decisions, so we've got some time to reevaluate things," said McClure.

July 7, 1983
Poile says that the Central Hockey League will be going to a five team format next season and Birmingham is not one of the teams.

The South Stars played, but lost, in the CHL's championship series. However, during the playoffs the team only drew 11,419 paying customers to their five home games. Poile said that small turnout turned the league against Birmingham.

Thomas W. Tucker II, chairman of the South Stars, said the team lost $200,000 last season. A major reason was the expense of traveling across the country to play other league members. "Right now, the Atlantic Coast League makes so much more sense. Instead of spending $200,000 for travel, we could cut it to $50,000 because we could bus everywhere. Also, Nashville is in that league and Nashville is just right up the road."

Tucker said that team president Mike McClure would be attending the Atlantic Coast League meetings next week, "and we will decide our course at that time."

July 13, 1983
      Atlantic Coast Hockey League logo
Team officials announce they will be playing in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League next season.

McClure said to financially break even in the CHL, the team had to draw 3,600 fans a game. As members of the ACHL, they would only have to draw 2,250 fans a game.

Since the team has lost their affiliation with the NHL's Minnesota North Stars, they will operate as an independent in the ACHL.

July 29, 1983
Despite being $70,000 in debt, McClure says the Birmingham South Stars are now members of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League.

Team owners recently posted the $5,000 franchise fee at a meeting in Pittsburgh.

McClure is hopeful the team's Central Hockey League debt will be erased soon.

At this point the franchise ceases to exist as the Birmingham South Stars.

However, they would eventually rename themselves the Birmingham Bulls and play in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League.

The Central Hockey League would go on to play one more season before folding. Two teams, Salt Lake City and Indianapolis, joined the International Hockey League and the remaining clubs ceased operations.
Birmingham Bulls logo
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Last update: June 11, 2019