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Before and after
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These photos of the Lions' captain Rick McCann BEFORE (to the left in the uniform of the Memphis Wings, mid-60s) and AFTER (to the right in the uniform of the New Haven Nighthawks, mid-70s) may illustrate how a core of Londoners played several seasons together, both before and after London Lions (main source The Internet Hockey Database).

Rick McCann entered the Red Wings-organization in 1966, playing a year with the Memphis Wings in the CHL before moving with the team to Fort Worth for the 1967-68 season. A couple of years later, the future London Lions began to gather in Fort Worth Wings and Tidewater (Red) Wings, Detroit's newly formed AHL-affiliate playing out of Hampton Road in Norfolk, Virginia (renamed Virginia (Red) Wings for the 1972-73 season). With Doug Barkley as coach, a total of six future Lions - McCann, McCutcheon, Watts, Shaw, Newell and Simpson - played in various combinations in 1971-72 and 1972-73 for winged teams in Fort Worth (CHL), Norfolk (AHL) and Port Huron (IHL).

When the London Lions was formed in 1973, Detroit sold their team in Fort Worth to the New York Islanders (who kept the Wings-monicker until 1974-75 when the team was re-named Fort Worth Texans). The Lions were recruited from several corners of the Detroit-organization, but the connection with the Virginia Wings was kept. Six of the London Lions - Newell, McKenzie, Mellor, Jakubo, Korney and Richardson - played in Virginia as well in 1973-74. The Norfolk-team also used a fourth Swede, Thommie Bergman, who never played with the Lions but made it both to the NHL (Detroit) and the WHA (Winnipeg Jets) during his career. When the London Lions folded after the 1973-74 season, as many as 15 of the players reunited the following season in the Virginia Wings. Dennis "Polo" Polonich commented in an email I received in January 2005:

"...to come back to North America the next year and play in Norfolk was great again. Made it much easier when we knew each other from the previous year. You really do become one big family and when you are young you look for the older guys to show you the way. We did have some grey beards there!"

Tom Mellor says: "I think we were one big family....it seems to me that when we all gathered in Port Huron, Mich for training camp, it was one big group...some went to VA, some to Europe, but everyone knew each other fairly well."

Mellor also remembers a Virginia Wings-practice back in 1974-75; "We were finishing practice with sprints back and forth across the ice....well, every time Polo goes across the ice, instead of stopping, he leaps up and just crunches an imaginary player into the glass....this goes on and on and I am peeing my pants cause I'm laughing so hard...the boards are now starting to bend back more and more as Polo is crashing back and forth across the ice...I laugh now as I remember it!!..."

Three ex-lions (now playing for Virginia) were found among the Top Ten in 1974-75 AHL statistics. With 31 goals, Mike Jakubo was the 10th best scorer in the AHL while Rick McCann (with 48 assists) came in 6th in the assist statistics and Dennis Polonich finished 9th in the penalty statistics with 194 minutes in the bin. However, Virginia Wings folded after the 1974-75 season and instead of forming a new AHL-team, Detroit decided to share the existing New Haven Nighthawks with Minnesota North Stars. Eleven of the 1974-75 Virginians - including ex-Lions McCann, McCutcheon, Korney, Watts and Richardson - played for the Nighthawks in 1975-76. Next stop for the ex-Lions was Kansas City Blues (which Detroit shared with St Louis Blues in 1976-77) and Kansas City Red Wings (1977-78) in the CHL. Seven of the 1975-76 Nighthawks - including ex-Lions Korney, McCutcheon, McKenzie and Richardson - played in KC during these seasons. Six of the 1978-79 Kansas City Red Wings - no ex-Lion - joined Detroit's new AHL-affiliate Adirodack Red Wings in 1979-80. During its first two seasons, both Dennis Polonich and Thommie Bergman played in Adirondack. For some time the team also included Bill Hogaboam, another old Virginia Wing, and Dave Hanson from the legendary movie Slapshot. Other ex-londoners played in the IHL and in 1976-77, Tom Mellor (playing for the Toledo Goaldiggers) was voted best defender in the league while Terry Richardson (playing for the Kalamazoo Wings) was the second choice as goaltender.

A couple of the ex-Lions returned to Europe later in their careers. Tom Mellor played in Sweden (in Frölunda 1975-76) and so did Brian Watts (in Björklöven 1976-77) while Brian McCutcheon and Nelson Pyatt went to Austria (McCutcheon in EC Graz 1979-80, Pyatt in Wiener EV, 1982-83). Pyatt also played two seasons in Germany (for ERB Selb 1980-82).


Before and after

1970-71
Sweden National Team
Lundström (18 games)
Sterner (13 games)
Holmqvist (9 games)
Cornell Big Red
(ECHL)

McCutcheon (14 games)
Simpson (? games)
University of North Dakota
(WCHA)

Anderson (32 games)
Johnson (? games)
Wing (? games)
1971-72
Forth Worth Wings
(CHL)

Watts (71 games)
McCutcheon (13 games)
Shaw (15 games)
Sweden National Team
Holmqvist (29 games)
Lundström (25 games)
Port Huron Wings
(IHL)

Shaw (39 games)
McCutcheon (14 games)
Tidewater Wings
(AHL)

McCann (69 games)
McCutcheon (18 games)
Shaw (10 games)

1972-73

Virginia Wings
(AHL)

Simpson (72 games)
Watts (72 games)
McCutcheon (68 games)
Newell (68 games)
McCann (66 games)
Sweden National Team
Sterner (24 games)
Lundström (21 games)

1973-74
Detroit Red Wings
(NHL)

Mellor (25 games)
McKenzie (13 games)
Lundström (11 games)
Richardson (9 games)
Newell (4 games)
Korney (2 games)
Wing (1 game)
LONDON LIONS
Virginia Wings
(AHL)

Newell (50 games)
McKenzie (29 games)
Mellor (23 games)
Jakubo (21 games)
Korney (19 games)
Richardson (14 games)

1974-75
Detroit Red Wings
(NHL)

Korney (50 games)
Anderson (45 games)
McCutcheon (17 games)
McCann (13 games)
McKenzie (13 games)
Polonich (4 games)
Richardson (4 games)
Mellor (1 game)
Virginia Wings
(AHL)

Mellor (73 games)
Watts (70 games)
Simpson (69 games)
McCann (65 games)
Polonich (60 games)
Jakubo (52 games)
Shaw (41 games)
Johnson (34 games)
McCutcheon (30 games)
Richardson (30 games)
Pyatt (14 games)
McKenzie (13 games)
Clancy (9 games)
Anderson (4 games)
Korney (2 games)
Kalamazoo Wings
(IHL)

McCarthy (2 games)
Bibeau (2 games)

Sweden National Team
Lundström (26 games)
Holmqvist (25 games)

1975-76
Detroit Red Wings
(NHL)

Polonich (57 games)
Korney (27 games)
McCutcheon (8 games)
Watts (4 games)
Richardson (1 game)
Greensboro Generals
(SHL)

Johnson (43 games)
Jakubo (31 games)
Bibeau (6 games)
New Haven Nighthawks
(AHL)

McCann (73 games)
McCutcheon (58 games)
Watts (57 games)
Korney (21 games)
Richardson (4 games)

1976-77
Detroit Red Wings
(NHL)

Polonich (79 games)
McCutcheon (12 games)
Richardson (5 games)
Colorado Rockies
(NHL)

Pyatt (77 games)
McKenzie (5 games)
Toledo Goaldiggers
(IHL)

Shaw (77 games)
Mellor (75 games)
Kansas City Blues
(CHL)

Korney (74 games)
McCutcheon (12 games)
McKenzie (10 games)

1977-78
Colorado Rockies
(NHL)

Pyatt (71 games)
McKenzie (12 games)
Kansas City Red Wings
(CHL)

Richardson (63 games)
McCutcheon (60 games)

1978-79

Tulsa Oilers
(CHL)

McKenzie (35 games)
Korney (11 games)

1979-80
Colorado Rockies
(NHL)

McKenzie (26 games)
Pyatt (15 games)
Fort Worth Texans
(CHL)

Pyatt (45 games)
McKenzie (9 games)