• The Hornets were a minor league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings from 1936 to 1945.
• The Hornets were a minor league affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1945 to 1956.
• The team suspended operations from 1956 to 1961 while the Civic Arena was under construction.
• The Hornets advanced to the Calder Cup finals before losing to the Providence Reds in 1940.
• The team was in the Calder Cup Championship six times, winning three: 1952, 1955 & 1966.
• The AHL president, Maurice Podoloff, nor the Calder Cup Trophy, were not present when the Hornets earned the championship in 1952. They were later presented with the Cup while en route to Pittsburgh.
• On April 30, 1967 they finished the sweep of Rochester in the Calder Cup Finals after Billy Harris scored :26 seconds into overtime in what would be the last goal in Pittsburgh Hornets’ history.
The Hornets will be a tough act to follow. We’re replacing a championship winning team with a group of guys that might not be playing in the NHL if it weren’t for expansion.
JACK RILEY, general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1967, explaining the differences between the Hornets and Pens
How the Hornets were Formed
Pittsburgh lost its only professional team in 1929 when the Pittsburgh Pirates moved the franchise across the state to become the Philadelphia Quakers. The Yellow Jackets returned to Pittsburgh in 1930 after Roy Schooley re-acquired the team. They were later purchased by Pittsburgh theater chain owner, John Harris,in 1932.
On October 4, 1936, the Detroit Olympics were sold, moved to Pittsburgh, and were re-named the Pittsburgh Hornets. Some players from the Yellow Jackets joined the Olympics. The Hornets wore wool jerseys that were likely recycled from the the Olympics. The Hornets, a minor-league team for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, made their debut in the International-American Hockey League in 1936-37. (The league transformed into the American Hockey League in 1940.)
The Hornets: Chapter One
Led by former Olympics coach Donnie Hughes, the Hornets won their first game, 4-2, against the Cleveland Falcons on November 7, 1936. The next night at the Duquesne Gardens, they beat the Falcons again, 5-2.
Originally, The Hornets were the minor-league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings who won the Stanley Cup in 1936 with Don Aurie on that team. The Hornets lost their first playoff game, 4-1, against the Syracuse Stars on March 24, 1937. Aurie was a player/coach and led them to their first appearance in the Calder Cup Finals in 1940 where they were swept in three games by the Providence Reds on April 4, 1937.
1937-38 – The Hornets surrendered 104 goals in their second season – it was the fewest goals allowed in the 26 year history of the team. Pittsburgh’s eight shutouts – all at home – was an IAHL record.
For the second straight season the Hornets were eliminated from the playoffs after losing to the Syracuse Stars, 5-2, on March 31, 1938.
1938-39 - Larry Aurie becomes the second coach in team history. Aurie also plays for the team in 39 games.
Don Deacon not only topped the Hornets in scoring, he led the IAHL in assists and points. (41 & 65).
1939-40 – Harvey Teno is the first Hornets’ goaltender to play every minute of the season, leading the league in games played (56) and number of wins (25).
After starting their first three seasons with 22 wins, the Hornets won 25 and made the playoffs and advance to the Calder Cup finals before losing to the Providence Reds.
1940-41 – The International-American Hockey League (IAHL) becomes the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Hornets finished with their lowest win total – 21.
1941-42 – Bob Heron sets an AHL record by scoring two hatricks – or six goals – in one game. The Hornets finished the season with a league-low 51 points.
1942-43 – The AHL is not divided into two divisions this season. The Hornets finished fourth out of eight teams with 58 points.
Norm Mann becomes the first Hornets player to score 30-goals in one season.
1943-44 - The Hornets did not win one game away from the Duqesne Gardens. The winless record on the road was the first occurence of such a feat in the history of the AHL. Coach Larry Aurie ended his stint as coach finishing with a record of 129-162-39 in 330 games. Aurie led teams have a .450 winning percentage.
1944-45 – Max Kaminsky became the third coach of the Hornets. Bob Gracie & Bobby Walton were the AHL’s top scorers – each recorded 95 points in the season.
Two AHL records were set on March 17, 1945: Pittsburgh & Cleveland set the mark for most goals scored in one period by netting a combined 12 goals in the third period (Pittsburgh 7, Cleveland 5). The total goals scored in the game – 22 – is also a one-game record.
1945-46 – The Hornets became a minor-league club for the Toronto Maple Leafs ending their affiliation with the Detroit Red Wings.
1946-47 - Baz Bastien’s 2.60 GAA is the AHL’s best. Bastien also sets a record for four shutouts on the road and a total of seven on the season.
The Hornets return to the AHL Finals for the second time in team history, losing Game 7 to the mid-state Hersey Bears. The Maple Leafs success – four Stanley Cup championships between 1947 and 1951 – solidified the minor league Hornets.Â The Hornets played the Maple Leafs’ style of hockey – hard, close checking that produced low scoring games.
Max Kaminsky ends coaching career with the Hornets with a.562 winning percentage. Kaminsky won 91 games, lost 68 and tied 27 in his 186 games behind the bench.
1947-48 – The Hornets only lost 18 games for the second time in team history (1937-38).
Baz Bastien’s 2.50 GAA was the AHL’s best for the second consecutive season and won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Trophy for being the best goalie in the AHL.
1948-49 – Sid Smith became the first – and only – Hornets’ player to score 50 goals in one season, finishing with 55 goals and 57 assists, the highest in the AHL, earning the John B. Sollenberger Trophy for leading scorer. His 112-point total was also the highest in the league and the highest in Hornets’ history.
The Hornets set the team all-time best record for goals scored in one season with 301 goals. A 126-goal differential (301 goals – 175 goals against) was the best in team history.
Baz Bastien’s 2.57 GAA was the AHL’s best for the third consecutive season, helping him win his second consecutive Holmes Award.
1949-50 – Hornets goaltender Baz Bastien lost his right eye after being hit by a puck in preseason and later became coach and general manager.
1950-51 – Gil Mayer’s 4,350 minutes played was the highest in the AHL and his 2.40 GAA was the lowest. Mayer became the second Hornets’ goaltender to win the Harry “Hap” Homes Award.
Despite losing Game 7 Finals game to the Cleveland Barons, Bob Solinger (LEFT) named MVP of playoffs with ten goals and six assists.
Sweet 16: Calder Cup Champions
1951-52 – The Hornets wore black and gold jerseys for the first time.
For the first time in team history, Pittsburgh finished first overall in the AHL, finishing with 46 wins and 95 points (both are all-time best in club’s history).
On April 20, 1952, the Hornets won their first AHL Championship by beating the Providence Reds in six games on a Ray Hannigan goal at the 6:08 mark of he second overtime. Hanningan fired a 15-foot wrist shot past Harvey Bennett in front of 6,154 fans inside the Providence Auditorium giving the Hornets their first championship in their 16-year existence.
The AHL president, Maurice Podoloff, nor the Calder Cup Trophy, were not present when the Hornets earned the championship. They were later presented with the Cup while en route to Pittsburgh.
1952-53 – For the fourth season in a row, Gil Mayer’s goals against average (2.33) was the AHL’s best, earning his second Harry “Hap” Holmes Award.
Mayer posted the longest playoff shutout streak in AHL history going 173:28 without surrendering a goal.
The Hornets lost Game 7 of Calder Cup finals to the Cleveland Barons, 1-0, in overtime when Bob Crystal’s dump-in clear hit a rut in the ice, changed direction and trickled into the Pittsburgh net.
1953-54 – Baz Bastien took over as coach for the second time in his career.
Larry Cahan’s 179 penalty minutes led the AHL.
1954-55 – The Hornets finish first overall in the regular season, the second time in team history, with 70 points.
Willie Marshall won the MVP in the playoffs with AHL-best 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists)
Pittsburgh defeated the Buffalo Bisons in six games to capture the club’s second Calder Cup Championship.
Hornets Lose Sting as Gardens Get Tilled Over
The Hornets’ first chapter ended after the 1955-56 season. On March 31, 1956, The Hornets played their final game at the Duquesne Gardens; a 6-4 win over the Barons. The franchise was suspended for five years because Pittsburgh’s urban renewal project – Renaissance I – brought the wrecking ball to The Gardens.
Contrary to popular belief, the Hornets did not become the Rochester Americans. The Americans played their first season in 1956-57 and were a jointly owned farm club of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Gord Hannigan was the only player from the Hornets 1955-56 roster to join the Amerks. Seven Hornets players joined the Hersey Bears, six players advanced to the NHL and six players joined other AHL teams and one player retired.
Demolition started on August 13, 1956 to make way for the Park Plaza apartments and a local fixture, Stouffer’s Restaurant.
Stouffer’s gave way to Duranti’s Restaurant, in 1979. The restaurant featured the only remaining evidence of the Gardens – two, 11-feet wide sections of exposed red brick wall.
The Gardens would be replaced as the home rink of the city’s pro hockey team as construction of the Civic Arena began in 1958, three miles to the west of the Gardens.
The Hornets: Chapter Two
1961-62 - In the franchise’s second stint as a minor league team for the Detroit Red Wings, the Hornets emerged from five years of inactivity and played their first game at the Civic Arena, a 2-1 loss to the Buffalo Bisons, on October 14, 1961 in front of 9,317 fans.
The Hornets set many AHL records in that season: Most times shut out in a season (9); most games lost in a season (58) and most games lost at home (27).
The Hornets finished in last place in AHL, finishing with the fewest number of wins in team history (10) and their lowest point total in team history (22).
1962-63 – The Hornets doubled their total of wins in their second season back from returning to the AHL.
The Hornets lost to the Springfield Indians, 4-2, on February 3, 1963. The loss would begin the AHL’s record for the longest winless streak. The team went 0-22-1 before beating the Hershey Bears on March 26.
1963-64 – Goaltender Roger Crozier won the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award for being the AHL’s Rookie of the Year. Crozier won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award for being the best goalkeeper in the AHL. It was the eighth time in the 23-year history of the team that a Hornets’ goalie won the award.
1964-65 – (add summary)
1965-66 – (add summary)
Hornets Exterminated as NHL Expands
Pittsburgh was granted an NHL franchise on February 9, 1966. Less than three months later, the Hornets played their last game in the arena.
On April 30, 1967 they finished the sweep of Rochester in the Calder Cup Finals after Billy Harris scored :26 seconds into overtime in what would be the last goal in Pittsburgh Hornets’ history.
Hornets Remembered; Banner Finally Raised
On February 3, 2001 the Pittsburgh Penguins minor-league affilaiate, The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, played a tribute game at the Mellon Arena against the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks. The Baby Pens wore Hornets jerseys and a banner was raised at the arena that celebrated the three Hornets’ Calder Cup Championships.