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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS
DUBUQUE FIGHTING SAINTS.
The 1980-1981 Saints, in their first year of existence, won the Anderson Trophy for the National Championship of the United States Hockey League. The Saints also won the Hawkeye Cup as the Southern Division Champions, the Clark Trophy awarded to the U.S. Hockey League Playoff Champions, and the AHAUS Junior A Trophy that is awarded to the National Champions. The Saints record for 1980-81 was 52-11-2, a league record.
In 1982-83, the Saints won their second national championship in three years. In the five years Jack Barzee coached the Saints, the team had a 156-80-4 record, won two National championships and two regular-reason crowns. They also won three playoff championships (1981, 1983, and 1985). (1)
The Saints produced several future National Hockey League (NHL) players including Peter and Chris Ferraro, Mark Mowers, Landon Wilson and Andy Wozniewski. Mike Carlson, Brian Collins, and Dean Thomas formed the famous "Bull Dog Line", which was the best in the history of the United States Hockey League to that time. Collins made fifty-five goals and fifty-three assists, while Thomas was credited with thirty-three goals and forty-one assists. This was the first time in League history that two players on the same line scored more than fifty goals during one season. Troy Ward, who coached two seasons in Dubuque, later worked an an assistant in the NHL. By 1985 the Saints had won an additional national title, come close to a third, and taken two league championships.
The same year, the owners announced they would end the franchise on April 30. On April 11, 1985, a "Save Our Saints" campaign was begun with Bill Blum, president of the non-profit group called the Dubuque Fighting Saints Association. Another important member of the organization was Theodore J. SCHERR. Within five days $13,000 was raised to pay the $8,000 franchise price and pay a $5,000 cash bond required by the hockey league.
After a steep decline in the late 1980s, the Saints returned to glory in the early 1990s. They won their third national title in franchise history in 1993.
In the late 1990s, the Saints had another downturn. Brian Gallagher headed an East Coast group of investors that purchased the team in 1996. Low attendance (703 fans per game in their final season) and the United State's Hockey League move to a more expensive Tier I status led Gallagher's group to look at relocating the team. In 2001-2002 the Saints moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and became the Tulsa Crude. Financial troubles continued, and the team folded after one season.
In Dubuque, the Saints were replaced by the DUBUQUE THUNDERBIRDS. On January 24, 2010 the TELEGRAPH HERALD reported that the team would be renamed the Fighting Saints recognizing the history of the team and sport in Dubuque. Instrumental in the history of hockey at this point was Northern Lights Hockey, LLC, the owner and operator of the Saints. The company's principal owner was Philip Falcone, chief investment officer of Harbinger Capital Partners. He was also part owner of the NHL's Minnesota Wild. Northern Lights Hockey also included local partners Mark FALB and Dr. David S. Field. (2)
Under the coaching of James Montgomery, the Saints resumed league leadership. On May 21, 2011 the Saints, in their first season back in the USHL after ten years, defeated the Green Bay Gamblers, 6-1, in Game 4 of the Clark Cup finals at the MYSTIQUE COMMUNITY ICE CENTER. The victory returned the Clark Cup, the USHL championship trophy, to Dubuque which had not claimed it since 1985. In 2012 the Saints again won the Anderson Cup. They won the Prairie Farms Cowbell Cup as the top USHL team in eastern Iowa for the second season in a row and the second season of the award. Since 2010, the Saints' record was 118-45-21.
In 2013 the Fighting Saints achieved a three game sweep of the Clark Cup Finals and won the USHLs playoff championship for the second time in three years and fifth overall. In that game Mike Szmatula scored seven goals and added five assists for which he was awarded the Clark Cup MVP.
In March during the Dubuque Youth Hockey Association Night event, the team and others raised over $13,000 through auctions to benefit hockey initiatives for kids in the city. The Dubuque Youth Hockey Association was first organized in 1979 as a non-profit program to teach kids through the game of hockey the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, discipline, and respect. (3)
In 2018 the equity stake in the Fighting Saints organization owned by outgoing owner Philip Falcone was purchased by Saints4Life Acquisition, LLC. In addition to several investment professionals with an interest in the sport, well-known personalities involved in the organization were Johnny Gaudreau and Zemgus Girgensons, National Hockey League all-stars who believed their involvement in the Dubuque team improved their careers; Peter Luukko, Florida Panthers executive chairman; and former Stanley Cup winning coach Dan Bylsma. (4)
The announcement was made in May, 2020 that the Saint would return as many as ten players from the 2019 team that went 33-23-2 and finished second overall in the USHL. Overseeing the 2020 draft for the fifth year was Kalle Larsson who joined the Saints as director of player personnel in August, 2015 and became general manager two years later. Favoring a program of staying with the players drafted, Larsson acquired only one player from another USHL team in an in-season move from 2016-2019. In 2020 he estimated that he scouted more than 400 games in the previous season in preparation for the draft. (5)
1. "Fighting Saints Back in Dubuque," Julien's Journal, November 2010, p. 54
2. Mystique Arena Taking Shape on Schmitt Island," Julien's Journal, January 2010, p. 41
3. Descorbeth, Shirley. "Dubuque Fighting Saints Raise More than $13,000 for Youth Hockey Program," KWWL.com March 18, 2017, Online http://www.kwwl.com/story/34946498/2017/3/18/dubuque-fighting-saints-raise-more-than-13000-for-youth-hockey-program
4. Leitner, Jim. "All-Star Ownership," Telegraph Herald, June 22, 2018, p. 1B
5. Leitner, Jim, "Draft Key to Saints' development Philosophy," Telegraph Herald, May 4, 2020, p 1B
Leitner, Jim. "Get to Know the Anderson Cup," Telegraph Herald, Apr. 1, 2013, p. 1B
Leitner, Jim. "USHL Champs," Telegraph Herald, Apr. 6, 2013, p. 1B
Leitner, Jim. "Denver Lands Itself a Winner," Telegraph Herald, Apr. 15, 2013
Leitner, Jim. "Champs Again," Telegraph Herald, May 18, 2013