In September 1973 the WHA granted franchise life to the Phoenix Roadrunners. The team’s first season of WHA play would occur in 1974-75. They toted a roster that included Robbie Ftorek and Dennis Sobchuk, who was on loan from the Cincinnati Stingers. They posted a winning record in their first year of play and made the playoffs. Another winning season would follow in 1975-76 and another first round playoff elimination ensued. The 1976-77 season proved disasterous financially for ownership as attendance sagged beneath league averages. After selling away some of the teams talent during the season for an inflow of cash, the team was left with a poor roster and thus finished last in the standings. Despite this, Ftorek was named league MVP, edging out Winnipeg sensation Anders Hedberg. Ownership looked for a way out and when no new buyers came to the rescue the team folded operations at the conclusion of the 1976-77 season after 3 years of existence.
This road blue dureen gamer by Rawlings was worn by John Gray during the 1975-76 WHA season. Gray, a pepperpot left winger, began his professional career with the Roadrunners in 1974-75. He played in all 3 seasons of the franchise’s existence and was one of the players traded away in the fateful season of 1976-77. He landed in Houston where he played for 2 years with a final year coming in front of the fans in Winnipeg before he retired from hockey. Gray was a 30+ goal scorer in each of his first 4 WHA seasons. Not one to shy away from conflict, John also amassed triple digit PIM totals in his first two years with Phoenix.
The Roadrunners wore a mesh jersey in their first season of play. Dureens were broken out for year two that featured a gorgeous multi colored hand stitched crest. This example was from that batch, worn during the Roadrunners 2nd season of play. Stunning blue and yellow colors highlight this well worn gamer. The game wear consists of stick marks, board burns, board paint transfer, washed out bloodstains, inner pilling and more than half a dozen team-sewn repairs. A custom fight strap has been added to aid Gray’s pugilistic tendancies. Our January 2007 auction featured a mass of Phoenix Roadrunners dureen nameplates. That helps tell the tale of how many of these gamers survived with an original nameplate in tow. This is one such example, all original in all respects with fine game use and worn by one of the team’s statistical leaders. A keeper to be sure!