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A Mecca of Glaze & Haze: The Cape Cod Coliseum

Cape Codders flyer, 1975

That league was the inspiration behind “Slap Shot.” The 1977 cult-like movie, starring Paul Newman, captured perfectly the violent, grungy, ramshackle aesthetic of the low-level minor leagues. In fact, the Codders became a minor-league affiliate of the New England Whalers and Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association (WHA). Nevertheless, with insufficient fans and insufferable fate, the team effectively folded on February 13, 1976. A Friday.

In all, 36 out of 121 players who wore the Cubs/Codders uniform would go on to play professionally in the WHA or National Hockey League. Pro hockey returned—like snowbirds in reverse—in late 1978 with the Cape Cod Freedoms of the Northeastern Hockey League. They were gone by spring 1979.

Billboard reported in the summer of 1974 that the Coliseum was the fifth largest facility of its kind in all of New England (after the Boston Garden, Providence Civic Center, New Haven Coliseum and Springfield Civic Center). But even by 1970s standards, it was expensive to maintain. Perennially on the brink of bankruptcy, management needed additional forms of entertainment to finance its operations beyond hockey. What resulted was a remarkably eclectic mash up.

Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops, Helen Reddy, Benny Goodman, Earth Wind & Fire, and a 1960s British Rock Invasion revival were the first musical acts to perform in 1973. Count Basie, Chuck Berry and The Beach Boys also paid visits. But it became apparent, rather quickly, that a spartan ice rink in summertime heat was not a suitable venue for soothing musical acoustics or comfortable climate control. (Such inconveniences were conveniently trivial when the playbill attracted more contemporary rock acts.)

Nonetheless, further experimental excursions included boxing, Roller Derby, Sesame Street Live On-Ice, the Harlem Globetrotters, the Boston Lobsters (professional tennis; owned by a young Robert Kraft) and, of course, wrestling.

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