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Claimed: The Longest VHL/VHLM Title Droughts [1/2]


CowboyinAmerica
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The VHL and VHLM's Top 5 Longest Title Droughts

 

It may have been lost in the grand scheme of things, but the Oslo VHLM franchise broke one of the longest curses in VHL history last year. The Storm won the Founder’s Cup for the first time in 25 long seasons—a stretch that had seen the VHLM contract from 10 to 8 to 5 teams, multiple franchise name changes and relocations, and every other franchise in the league winning at least one since their last.

 

Especially as a former member of that S32 Oslo team, it got me thinking: What are the longest championship droughts in VHL and VHLM history? If there’s a team that got contracted before they could win another championship—like the number one team on this list—I will include only seasons where the team was operational. And current streaks will also be tabulated through the end of Season 57.

 

Originally, I planned to do one big list with both VHL and VHLM teams, but one thing stuck out to me that I wasn’t expecting: VHLM streaks tended to be a lot longer. As a result, I broke this out into the five longest streaks for each team, with a short explanation about each one in the middle.

 

VHL

 

:oldnya: New York Americans: 17 seasons (S15-S31)

 

Much like the Vasteras Iron Eagles are looked upon today as one of the weak franchises in VHL history, the New York Americans could have been seen the same way for a long time. The team won just one championship before VHL expansion, with that coming way back in Season 14. Perhaps, though, the more apt comparison is with fellow New York state professional sports franchise the Buffalo Bills - despite making four straight finals between S25 and S28, the Americans lost every single time, to an astounding four different franchises in their case. Going 1-6 in their first seven finals appearances, they were snakebitten.

 

That all changed in Season 32, with a team that frankly not many expected to win the championship. The team was an interesting mix of young and old, with rookie goalie Skylar Rift mixing with longtime veterans such as Alexander Chershenko and Radislav Mjers on the downsides of their careers. This championship, though, would break the perception of New York as a snakebitten franchise, and they would win another five titles in the next 21 seasons.

 

:dav: HC Davos Dynamo: 18 seasons (S39-Current)

 

Did you know that one of the longest title droughts in VHL history is still ongoing? It’s been perhaps a bit quiet, especially because the Dynamo have achieved at least moderate success with playoff appearances in 10 of these 18 years. That said, though, the Dynamo have not been more than a middling team since selling the farm after its S36-S39 finals fourpeat. Even the franchise’s two finals appearances, in S50 and S56, appear to be apparitions in which they ran into juggernauts in Toronto and Quebec, respectively.

 

It’s unlikely that this streak will change any time soon, either. Davos is in the middle of a rebuild, and while the team could hypothetically push for it all in the next season or two, odds are that this streak will surge past 20 seasons here shortly. Especially for such a renowned team – Davos’s 16 finals are the most of any franchise, and its 9 championships are tied for the top – having the longest non-Vasteras championship drought is certainly not a mantle they wanted to take up.

 

:que: Quebec City Meute: 20 seasons (S36-S55)

 

Similar to Davos, it’s a bit surprising to me that the Meute haven’t won more often than they actually have. Since becoming a franchise in Season 31, the Meute won in Season 35 after a loud acquisition of the aforementioned Skylar Rift, then again in Season 56 in the middle of four straight finals appearances, and… well, that’s it. Similar to New York in the ‘20s, the Meute have always had strong teams, particularly in the early ‘40s with Aksel Thomassen and Bruno Wolf, but there always seemed to be one team or another in their way. For that particular team it was Calgary, and just a few seasons ago, it was Helsinki.

 

Finally, it all came together in Season 56 – but not without a scare, where a relatively young and undermanned Davos team took Quebec to seven games. I would have figured that the Meute would win more than one title over this past four season stretch, but they’ll certainly take the one. Now entering yet another rebuild, it will be a while before they win another. For now, Quebec fans should be happy that the one title saved them from stronger consideration of being a part of this past season’s contraction.

 

:vas:Vasteras Iron Eagles: 24 seasons (S2-S25)

 

This is probably the most famous streak in the entire list. Vasteras won the VHL’s first ever championship, led by all-world forward Scotty Campbell. They also made the second VHL finals, where they fell to the Calgary Wranglers. But then Campbell and others left in the offseason, and… oh man, did Vasteras’s fortunes turn. Between Season 3 and Season 25, the Iron Eagles made the finals just once, where despite perhaps being favored, they fell to Calgary once again. During this long streak, Vasteras became a punchline for bad teams in the VHL.

 

But for one glorious season, it all decided to come together. Goalie and Shaw winner Andreas Bjorkman decided to have the random season of his life, center Phil Gerrard had a monster playoffs en route to a Kanou trophy, and the Iron Eagles pulled home both the Victory Cup for best record and the Continental Cup for a title win in one of the most awaited championships in VHL history. It brought pride to the Vasteras fans in a way that they hadn’t experienced for years.

 

It would also be the last title the franchise would ever win.

 

:sto: Vasteras Iron Eagles/Stockholm Vikings: 31 seasons (S27-S57)

 

While the first Vasteras drought is probably the one that gets all the recognition, the Iron Eagles/Vikings franchise’s inability to win a championship since that S26 title is perhaps more mesmerizing. Sure, the VHL did expand from eight to ten teams in S31, making winning a title that much tougher. But through much of the franchise’s life, they haven’t even been that close. Corco and Boubabi made desperate attempts to win quickly, but in total, the team made the finals just twice in those 31 seasons – in Season 47 (lost to New York) and Season 53 (also lost to New York). Despite a location change before Season 41, the team’s fortunes never seemed to change.

 

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that when the VHL decided to contract two teams before the S58 season, the Vikings were an obvious candidate. That means that after the first two VHL seasons, the Vikings made the finals just four times (7 percent of the time) and won just once (2 percent of the time). Assuming that with random chance they should have made the finals 22 percent of the time and won the finals around 11 percent, that’s not great.

 

VHLM

 

:ber: Bern Royals: 21 seasons (S21-S42)

 

By all accounts, the Bern Royals – known as the Las Vegas Aces since Season 54 – franchise is one of the most decorated in VHLM history. One of just four teams to have existed consistently since the VHLM’s inception in Season 2, the Royals are tied for the most playoff appearances with 36 and are third in total titles with 7. In recent seasons since moving to Vegas, the franchise has won 2 titles and made the final three times, with additional titles coming in S43 and S49 within the past decade and a half.

 

But before that, it was bleak times in Bern. The team reached the championship series just twice in these 21 seasons, losing to Yukon in both S34 and S37 during the Rush’s dominant stretch of four finals in five seasons. The Royals were always decent during that time – they made the playoffs seven straight seasons between S34 and S40 – but could never quite get over the hump until dispatching Saskatoon in S43.

 

:ssk: Saskatoon Wild: 22 seasons (S2-S23)

 

In speaking of Saskatoon, the Wild were the one franchise that everyone pointed and laughed at in the early VHLM days. The Wild even reached the playoffs only three times in the VHLM’s first nine seasons, and it did perhaps even worse during the next decade, not reaching the finals once between S11 and S20. In total, the Wild went 0-3 in its first three finals appearances, and it was the last VHLM team to win a championship.

 

When that title did occur, though, it opened the floodgates. Saskatoon would go on to make four of the next five VHLM championship series, winning three of those. In total, the Wild have made 12 titles series, tied for fourth all-time, and won six of those, tied for fifth all-time.

 

:min:Minot Gladiators: 22 seasons (S20-S42)

 

If there’s a Vasteras-like team in VHLM history, it’s the Minot Gladiators. The franchise reached the final just six times in the VHLM’s first 41 seasons, winning just three of those titles. The last of those occurred in Season 19, though at the time, Minot looked like it might have been a budding dynasty after going to the finals three times in five seasons.

 

In the end, though, it was not meant to be. Minot would never win another championship after 19, and it would go to the finals just once more – in Season 30, where it would lose to Kolari (more on that coming). In Season 42, the VHLM decided to contract to eight teams, and Minot was a clear choice with its lack of history and relatively poor location (and I say that as someone living within driving distance of the city). They did go out with a bang, though, with future Hall of Fame goaltender Hans Wingate leading the team to the semifinals in its final season.

 

:osl: Oslo Storm: 24 seasons (S33-S56)

 

A lot of people might not remember this, but in Season 32, Oslo wasn’t supposed to win at all. The Ottawa Ice Dogs held the first three picks in that season’s draft and 7 of the first 11, and it stormed through the regular season with one of the best records of all-time. But in the playoffs, Ottawa fell in a semifinals upset to Brampton, then Brampton fell to Oslo, and the Storm backed into a championship. They must have sold their souls for that one, though, as it was their last championship for another 25 seasons.

 

This streak may be the most interesting to me, because it came during a time of contraction. Starting in Season 33, the VHLM had ten teams. Then it decreased to eight in S42, then seven in S52, before finally settling on five in S55. Past that, it still took the franchise another three seasons to beat the other four teams. Oslo obviously just broke this streak last season, but I still wouldn’t call it easy. Once again, similar to S32, the Ottawa franchise was with Oslo step-by-step, before the Storm dispatched them in a finals sweep.

 

:tur: Gothenberg Eagles/Kolari Panthers: 26 seasons (S4-S29)

 

None of that, though, is the longest finals drought in VHLM history. The Gothenberg Eagles, as they were known at the time, won the second ever VHLM championship by dispatching the Saskatoon Wild. But similar to Saskatoon, it would be a long time before they experienced finals success ever again. It was a tale of two different kinds of heartbreak for the franchise – it would not get to another finals before Season 13, but starting with that year, would lose an incredible six finals between S13 and S25.

 

Finally, the longest VHLM drought, and the longest total at the time, would come to an end in Season 30, over a Minot team in the middle of its own long title drought. That Kolari team would feature some future stars of its own, most notably future Hall of Famers Tuomas Tukio and Ethan Osborne, two members still around and active to this day. The Panthers’ GM that year, Chris Miller, would also go on to an illustrious VHL GMing career of his own.

 

Edited by CowboyinAmerica
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  • DollarAndADream changed the title to Claimed: The Longest VHL/VHLM Title Droughts [1/2]

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