Detroit Vipers
Overview
 
The Detroit Vipers was an International Hockey League team. The team was founded in 1994, and played at The Palace of Auburn Hills
The Palace of Auburn Hills
The Palace of Auburn Hills, often referred to simply as The Palace, is a sports and entertainment venue in Auburn Hills, Michigan, a suburb on the northern outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, United States. Opened in 1988, it is the home of the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association...

.
The Vipers were originally the Salt Lake Golden Eagles
Salt Lake Golden Eagles
The Salt Lake Golden Eagles were a minor professional hockey team based in Salt Lake City, Utah from 1969 to 1994.They played in the Western Hockey League from 1969 to 1974, the Central Hockey League from 1974 to 1984 and the International Hockey League from 1984 to 1994...

. In 1994, the franchise was purchased by Palace Sports and Entertainment (owners of the Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are a franchise of the National Basketball Association based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The team's home arena is The Palace of Auburn Hills. It was originally founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne Pistons as a member of the National Basketball League in 1941, where...

 and The Palace of Auburn Hills) and relocated for the 1994–95 season. A sponsorship deal with the Chrysler Corporation led to the naming of the team after their Dodge Viper
Dodge Viper
The first prototype was tested in January 1989. It debuted in 1991 with two pre-production models as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 when Dodge was forced to substitute it in place of the Japanese-built Stealth because of complaints from the United Auto Workers, and went on sale in January...

.
Encyclopedia
The Detroit Vipers was an International Hockey League team. The team was founded in 1994, and played at The Palace of Auburn Hills
The Palace of Auburn Hills
The Palace of Auburn Hills, often referred to simply as The Palace, is a sports and entertainment venue in Auburn Hills, Michigan, a suburb on the northern outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, United States. Opened in 1988, it is the home of the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association...

.

Beginning

The Vipers were originally the Salt Lake Golden Eagles
Salt Lake Golden Eagles
The Salt Lake Golden Eagles were a minor professional hockey team based in Salt Lake City, Utah from 1969 to 1994.They played in the Western Hockey League from 1969 to 1974, the Central Hockey League from 1974 to 1984 and the International Hockey League from 1984 to 1994...

. In 1994, the franchise was purchased by Palace Sports and Entertainment (owners of the Detroit Pistons
Detroit Pistons
The Detroit Pistons are a franchise of the National Basketball Association based in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The team's home arena is The Palace of Auburn Hills. It was originally founded in Fort Wayne, Indiana as the Fort Wayne Pistons as a member of the National Basketball League in 1941, where...

 and The Palace of Auburn Hills) and relocated for the 1994–95 season. A sponsorship deal with the Chrysler Corporation led to the naming of the team after their Dodge Viper
Dodge Viper
The first prototype was tested in January 1989. It debuted in 1991 with two pre-production models as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 when Dodge was forced to substitute it in place of the Japanese-built Stealth because of complaints from the United Auto Workers, and went on sale in January...

. A similar deal was in place with another Palace Sports-owned team, the Detroit Neon of the Continental Indoor Soccer League
Continental Indoor Soccer League
The Continental Indoor Soccer League was an indoor soccer league that played from 1993 to 1997.-History:When the Major Soccer League folded in the summer of 1992, two of its former teams joined a group of hockey and basketball arena owners led by Ron Weinstein who wanted to create a league to...

, which would switch its sponsorship to GMC in its final year and rename the team the Detroit Safari
Detroit Safari
The Detroit Safari was a member of the Continental Indoor Soccer League that played at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Their owners, the Palace Sports Group were awarded a franchise on November 4, 1993. Their star player and unofficial coach was experienced indoor player Andy Chapman...

 after yet another vehicle, the Safari.

The team hired former Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are a professional ice hockey team based in Buffalo, New York. They are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League .-Founding and early success: 1970-71—1980-81:...

 coach
Head coach
A head coach, senior coach or manager is a professional at training and developing athletes. They typically hold a more public profile and are paid more than other coaches...

 Rick Dudley
Rick Dudley
Richard Clarence Dudley is a Canadian professional ice hockey executive and former player. Dudley was previously the general manager of several hockey teams. Dudley played in the World Hockey Association and in the National Hockey League. Dudley has also served as a head coach in the National...

 as head coach. Their first season was during the NHL lockout, and this, combined with a liberal amount of free ticket vouchers distributed at local stores, helped the Vipers break IHL attendance records that season with nearly 17,000 per game on average. Led by 44 goals from Daniel Shank
Daniel Shank
Daniel Shank is a retired National Hockey League right wing.After playing four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Shank made his professional debut with the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League in the 1988–89 season...

 (never equaled through the franchise's existence), the Vipers won their division that season, and gained some press by defeating a team of locked out NHL All-Stars
National Hockey League All-Star Game
The National Hockey League All-Star Game is an exhibition ice hockey game that is traditionally held at the midway point of the regular season of the National Hockey League , with many of the league's star players playing against each other...

 in an exhibition game
Exhibition game
An exhibition game is a sporting event in which there is no competitive value of any significant kind to any competitor regardless of the outcome of the competition...

. The 1995–96 season would see the notable signing of Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals are a professional ice hockey team based in Washington, D.C. They are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League . Since their founding in 1974, "The Caps" have won one conference championship to reach the 1998 Stanley Cup...

 star Peter Bondra
Peter Bondra
Peter Bondra is a former Slovak professional ice hockey player. He was the general manager of the Slovak national team from 2007 to 2011...

 for a brief time, while he was locked in a holdout with Washington management, as well as the departure of Rick Dudley
Rick Dudley
Richard Clarence Dudley is a Canadian professional ice hockey executive and former player. Dudley was previously the general manager of several hockey teams. Dudley played in the World Hockey Association and in the National Hockey League. Dudley has also served as a head coach in the National...

 to take the general manager's position with the Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators are a professional ice hockey team based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. They are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League...

, replaced by assistant coach Steve Ludzik
Steve Ludzik
Stephen Paul Ludzik is a retired former professional ice hockey player and coach who currently works as a television analyst for The Score....

 for the final 32 games. The Vipers would finish the season in second place in the Central Division and led the league in attendance again.

The Turner Cup Finals

1996–97 saw the arrival of Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n phenom Sergei Samsonov
Sergei Samsonov
Sergei Viktorovich Samsonov is a Russian professional ice hockey forward who is currently an unrestricted free agent.- Playing career :Samsonov was drafted by the Boston Bruins eighth overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Boston drafted Joe Thornton first overall in the same draft...

 and IHL All-Star Stan Drulia
Stan Drulia
Stanley W. Drulia is the coach of the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and a former professional right winger. He was drafted in the eleventh round, 214th overall, by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft. He played 126 games in the National Hockey League, all with the Tampa Bay Lightning...

 to the Vipers. Drulia led the team in scoring and Samsonov would win Rookie of the Year honors as the Vipers won another division title. Detroit would advance to their first Turner Cup
Turner Cup
The Turner Cup is the championship trophy of the International Hockey League. The Cup is named for Joe Turner, a goaltender from Windsor, Ontario. Turner became professional with the Detroit Red Wings organization, and played one season with the Indianapolis Capitals in the American Hockey League...

 Final, against the Long Beach Ice Dogs. Led by Samsonov and Peter Ciavaglia
Peter Ciavaglia
Peter Anthony Ciavaglia is a retired American professional ice hockey center. After graduating from Nichols High School in Buffalo, NY in 1987, Peter was selected in that year's NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames...

, the Vipers won the series four games to two for their first Turner Cup. Samsonov would be a high first round draft pick of the Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are a professional ice hockey team based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. They are members of the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League . The team has been in existence since 1924, and is the league's third-oldest team and its oldest in the...

, but the slack was picked up in 1997–98 by 40 goals from Dan Kesa
Dan Kesa
Dragan "Dan" Kesa is a Serbian-Canadian former professional ice hockey player who played in the National Hockey League for the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Tampa Bay Lightning...

 as the Vipers won their third division title in four years. They would advance to the Turner Cup Finals against the Chicago Wolves
Chicago Wolves
The Chicago Wolves are a professional hockey team playing in the American Hockey League. They are the top affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL. The Wolves play home games at the Allstate Arena in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois...

, but after going up three games to two, would only be able to score one goal in the final two games and lost four games to three. 1997–98 also saw a one shift comeback from Gordie Howe
Gordie Howe
Gordon "Gordie" Howe, OC is a Canadian retired professional ice hockey player who played for the Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers of the National Hockey League , and the Houston Aeros and New England Whalers in the World Hockey Association . Howe is often referred to as Mr...

, making him the only person to play hockey in six different decades as a professional.

Demise

The 1998–99 season saw another division title for the Vipers and they became the first team in professional hockey to have 100 points in the standings in each of their first five years. However, they were defeated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Orlando Solar Bears in seven games, after a questionable call by referee Jerry Paytmon. In 1999, Palace Sports and Entertainment bought the Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a professional ice hockey team based in Tampa, Florida. They are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League . They have one Stanley Cup championship in their history, in 2003–04. They are often referred to as the...

, and made the Detroit Vipers their farm club. Their first move was to move Steve Ludzik
Steve Ludzik
Stephen Paul Ludzik is a retired former professional ice hockey player and coach who currently works as a television analyst for The Score....

's coaching position from Detroit
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...

 to Tampa
Tampa, Florida
Tampa is a city in the U.S. state of Florida. It serves as the county seat for Hillsborough County. Tampa is located on the west coast of Florida. The population of Tampa in 2010 was 335,709....

, replacing him with Paulin Bordeleau
Paulin Bordeleau
Paulin Joseph Bordeleau is a retired Canadian ice hockey forward. He played for France at the 1988 Winter Olympics....

. As the Lightning struggled, the transfer of talent from the farm club to the parent club throughout the season sapped the team of the strength and stability that it had experienced through the first five years of its existence, and the team finished in last place in their division. The Vipers' woes were nothing, however, compared to the worsening health of the IHL, which had overexpanded itself throughout the decade and was paying the price in red ink. The 2000–01 season saw the Vipers in last place in the league in standings and attendance, and the impending demise of the IHL combined with the plummeting attendance led Palace Sports to find a new affiliate for the Lightning. On June 4, 2001, both the International Hockey League and the Detroit Vipers ceased operations.

External links

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