Hoosier sports fans might seem like they care about
basketball and football and nothing else—but Indianapolis hockey has a surprisingly deep tradition. There have been many an Indianapolis hockey team since 1939, and several of the professional outfits have won titles. Dozens of Indianapolis icemen went on to win the Stanley Cup. And it was at Indy’s Market Square Arena that the legendary Wayne Gretzky began his professional career, skating for eight games with the Indianapolis Racers in 1978.
Here are some rare and wonderful images of the Circle City’s rich hockey history.
The 1939 Indianapolis Capitals, the first pro team to emerge in Indianapolis, pose in the Fairgrounds Coliseum before a game. Team members, from left to right, are: (front row) Bill Thomson, Connie Brown, Jimmy Franks, Archie Wilder, and Joe Carveth; (back row) unidentified staff, Ron Hudson, Joe Fisher, Buck Jones, Eddie Bush, Bob Whitelaw, Alex Motter, Byron McDonald, player/coach Herb Lewis, and general manager Dick Miller. Image sourced from Indianapolis Hockey, courtesy of the Blaise Lamphier collection.
This Capitals schedule is the first ever pocket schedule produced for a local hockey team. Note the spelling of the home rink— “New Colosseum.” Image sourced from Indianapolis Hockey.
The Coliseum as it looked in 2004. It has undergone minor face lifts, but the exterior and interior remain very similar to 1939, when the building opened. In 2002, the rink became the oldest active building in the country to host professional hockey. Image sourced from Indianapolis Hockey .
After more than a decade without hockey, Indianapolis fans welcomed the Racers during the 1974–75 season. Kim Clackson, pictured here, became a folk hero for his ability to use his fists. During the “frontier days” of hockey in the late 1970s, Clackson was the Racers’ policeman. He totaled 519 penalty minutes in a two-season stint with the club. Image sourced from Indianapolis Hockey .
The most decorated Racer—and hockey player—of all time, Wayne Gretzky began his storied career with the Racers when he signed a personal services contract with team owner Nelson Skalbania in 1978. Just 17 years old, Gretzky produced a stir in Indianapolis. (Department store L.S. Ayres had a “Great Gretzky Fan Club.”) But the buzz wasn’t yet quite enough. After eight games as a Racer, Skalbania dealt Gretzky to the Oilers, along with Peter Driscoll and Ed Mio, for money and draft picks. Image sourced from Indianapolis Hockey .
Indianapolis has hosted a number of teams, from the Capitals and the Racers to the Checkers and the Ice. Here, at the Coliseum in 2004, the Ice play the Colorado Eagles. Image sourced from Indianapolis Hockey .