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  • Home: Chicago, IL
  • Stadium: International Amphitheatre (9,000)
  • Team synopsis: League officials banked on the Cougars from Day 1. Team fell into hard times early when the players took over the team's operations in the middle of the '74 - '75 season. Their strongest showing was in the '73 - '74 season, surprising many by reaching the Avco World Trophy finals, where they were swept by Houston in four games straight. Name players included Pat Stapleton, Ralph Backstrom and Dave Dryden.

By all accounts, the Chicago Cougars should have lived up to the WHA's expectations of being one of the league's cornerstones. One of the charter franchises, they experienced problems however before ever stepping on the ice. Amid ownership shuffles, R & L Kaiser, local restaurant magnates, eventually secured the team and began practicing an aggressive campaign of trying to sign players from the NHL's Black Hawks, even going after Bobby Hull, who'd sign instead with The Winnipeg Jets. Their preliminary draft picks included other Hawks as well, Jerry Korab and goaltender Gary Smith, and Reg Fleming, who they did manage to sign. Goaletending duties were shared by Jim McLeod and Andre Gill. But the 295 GAA was near the bottom of the league. Calling the Cougars' inaugural season a disaster is an understatement. Led by captain Larry Cahan, a veteran NHL'er known for his chippy play, the result the first season was a lack of offense, scoring only 245 goals but finished well ahead of anyone else in the penalty minutes department. These facts led to them finishing dead last in the league, winning only 26 of the 78 game schedule.

The Cougars spent the off-season continuing their policy of trying to raid their cross-town NHL rivals, securing the rights to Ralph Backstrom from the Sharks and Pat Stapleton, who'd go on to win the award for best defenceman that season and also served as co-coach. They also landed Rosaire Paiment, a young winger who the Vancouver Canucks had picked up from the Philadelphia system and banked on the year before. To fix their goaltending woes, McLeod was part of the Bacstrom deal and Cam Newton and Rich Coutu were the new duo, but only managed a nominal improvement. Because of the Blazers' off-season move from Philadelphia to Vancouver, the Cougars' were moved from the West to the East. The team finished the '73-'74 a season with 81 points, edging out Quebec for fourth in the division and the final playoff spot. Though long shots to win the cup, the Cougars put a real scare into people during the playoffs when they upset the defending champion Whalers as well as the Toros, each in 7 games during the first two rounds. Their Cinderella story contained a broken glass slipper however, when they succumbed to the mighty Houston Aeros in the finals, going down without a wimper in 4 straight.

The Cougars' pastures looked greener that summer however, when they apparently fixed their defensive woes by signing one of the premier goaltenders in ex-Sabre Dave Dryden and Bruce MacGregor, two more players who'd spent time in Chicago in the NHL. Hoping to build on their late-season/playoff run the year before and the league's apparent bright future, things looked good for the Cougars. Unfortunately though attention seemed more focused on the team's ownership woes. Unable to secure a permanent tv deal, and not achieving the goal of making die-hard Wings' fans turn from from red and white to green and gold, the owners were growing weary of the sports business. The Kaiser Brothers were losing money big-time and wanted to serve up lunches, not be served losses. Sandwiched between a poor fan base and a losing team, they sold the club to an ownership group headed by Stapleton, Backstrom and Dryden in the middle of the season. The player/new owners were counting on truly being 'Detroit's new team' , an image they were never really able to establish. Playing out of the old International Amphitheatre with a crowd capacity of 9,000, the Cougars' best showing gate-wise was their first year, when they averaged barely half that. Their third season saw an average of little better than 3,000 show up for the games. All the off-ice woes were plaguing the team's performance. The team finished third in the eastern division but under the revised format, failed to make the playoffs, clawing their way to only 30 wins and 61 points, 20 less than the year before. Unable to sustain the club, the new player/owners folded up the tent after the '74-'75 season.