The 1979-80 team is one of the Eagles' best as they win both the regular season (49-24-7, 18 points ahead of Indianapolis) and playoffs. But the season is saddened on Feb. 28 by the deaths of Eagle half-owner O. Thayne Acord and his wife Lorraine, murdered in their Granger home on the day of a game. Art Teece and the Acord sons, Bill and Dean, have continued the operation. The Eagles go on to win the Adams Cup (May 8, 2-1 over Fort Worth on Red Laurence goal at 2:47 of first period) 4 games to 3 after taking the quarterfinals 4 games to 2 over Houston.1981
The Eagles finish second in regular 1980-81 season to Dallas, (56-17-7 to 46-29-5) but win their second straight Adams Cup on May 18 with a 5-2 Salt Palace win over brawling, bawling Wichita. Wind coach Ace Bailey waves a white towel to the referee and claims to have been threatened by a knife-wielding fan as Salt Lake takes the championship series 4 games to 3 after beating Fort Worth 3 games to 2 in quarterfinals and Tulsa 4 games to 1 in semifinals (including a 9-1 win in the last game).
Jack Evans' Eagles win the regular-season Emery Jones Cup (47-30-3) with their highest-scoring (368 goals) team ever. They win 12 straight and complete an 18-game unbeaten string, a CHL record, just prior to hosting the first CHL All-Star Game in the Salt Palace Feb. 2. It is that game that seems to start a two-month Eagle slump that nearly costs them the Jones Cup and does end their hopes of winning a third straight Adams Cup. They lose in six games to Dallas in semifinals. Despite the second-half downturn, the Eagles draw 326,940 (average 7,107) for the season. Richie Hansen sets a CHL regular-season record of 81 assists (tying Lyle Bradley's team record).
The dispirited, body-poor Eagles, who've had 39 men in uniform, finish fourth in regular season (at 41-38-1, they miss second by two points) and lose 4 games to 2 in the semifinals to eventual Adams Cup champion Indianapolis. They labor the last third of the season under rumors that Ralston Purina will sell them to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. That actually happens in April, but in May the NHL turns the sale down and, in June Ralston "tenders" the Blues to the NHL. On June 7, the NHL tells Ralston it must operate the team for two more years - two years' notice is required for an owner leaving the league - and that if it doesn't draft players June 9, nobody will. Nobody does. Purina sues the NHL, the NHL sues Purina, Canada investigates the NHL for anti-trust violations, and Purina threatens to sell the players and equipment. On June 13, the NHL ousts Purina and takes over player contracts.
Rookie center Scott MacLeod scores more points than anyone in the CHL's past 20 years, 118, to set a franchise record and take over second place in all-time league standings for a single season. Only Alain Caron's 125 points in 1963-64 are better. MacLeod plays 68 games and finishes the regular season on a 10-game scoring streak with 39 points in March, an Eagle record, to help the Eagles climb into a third-place finish after they'd been fourth much of the season. Under coach J.P. Parise, they finish 35-35-2, behind Colorado and Tulsa and ahead of Indianapolis and Montana. The homeless Oilers defeat them 4-1 in the semifinal Adams Cup series and go on to take the Adams Cup championship 4-0 over Indianapolis. Then the New York Rangers pull the Oilers out of the CHL, spelling its doom. After weeks of rumors, the Central Hockey League on May 21 announces its "suspension" from 1984-85 play, and that pulls the rug from under the Eagles. After six weeks of negotiating, the Eagles on July 10 are admitted to the International Hockey League on a one-year trial basis.
Tom Webster's Eagles finish the club's first year in the International League with a 35-39-8 record, third in the West Division. They are knocked out of the first round of playoffs, 4-3, by the Fort Wayne Komets. Webster leaves in April to take a job in the Ontario junior leagues, and on July 10 the Eagles hire Wayne Thomas, formerly an assistant with the New York Rangers. In September, co-owners Dean and Bill Accord, claiming they don't have enough time to devote to the team, sell their interest to Art Teece, who becomes sole owner of the club for the first time.
Wayne Thomas' first team finishes 44-38-0, fourth in the strong IHL West. Fort Wayne again defeats the Eagles in the first round of the Turner Cup playoffs, 4 games to 1, as leading goalscorer Brent Sapergia sits out with a shoulder injury. Scott MacLeod leads playoff scoring with 11 points, three goals, eight assists. Doug Morrison has seven goals, three assists. MacLeod's regular-season totals are 54 goals, 80 assists for 134 points, and he leads the IHL in the latter two areas. In three Eagle seasons, he's scored 410 points, third in franchise history. Sapergia's 58 goals are best in the league and his 123 points are second-best to MacLeod. Goalie Rick Heinz ups his club record for wins to 103 and games played to 183 with a 28-21 record and 6-1 shootout record. Steve Harrison sets club record for points in a season by a defenseman, 80, and assists by a blueliner, 53. In July, Salt Lake businessman Dick Hagman buys 46 percent of the club for about $200,000, again giving Art Teece a partner and providing financial stability.
The year started with the Eagles in last place in the entire IHL and losing five of their first six games in January - but what a finish! From Jan. 5 on, Coach Wayne Thomas' team used great consistency on the road and climbed to second in the West Division and fifth overall during the regular season, then won 12 of 17 playoff games to take the franchise's first-ever Turner Cup championship on May 20 with a 7-3 win at Muskegon in the sixth game of the best-of-seven series.
The stretch drive was engineered mainly by lame-duck goaltender Rick Heinz, who announced he'd retire at the end of the season and went out winning 30 of his last 39 games and spinning a 30-6-3 record from Feb. 6 until May 20. Heinz, who turned 32 on May 10, was named the playoff Most Valuable Player.
The other factor that brought the Turner Cup to the Eagles was rookie Mike Rucinski, who arrived in mid-February and scored 41 points in 28 games while centering what became the league's hottest line with two defensive-style wingers, Todd Hooey and Chris Brant, who suddenly became goalscorers. Rucinski led playoff scoring with 27 points, and Hooey was second with 22 and Brant fourth with 21. Bob Francis, now assistant Eagle coach, finished as the IHL's No. 6 scorer in the regular season with 98 points, and Hooey was seventh with 95.
On June 8, however, it was out with the old green and gold and on to the new as the Eagles signed on as the No. 1 minor-league affiliate of the Calgary Flames and changed the team colors to red, white and gold. On June 30, the Flames named Paul Baxter, a former Calgary defenseman and assistant coach, as the coach of their new farm team, and he chose Bob Francis as his assistant.
In the Eagles' first year of affiliation with Calgary, and in his rookie season, Coach Paul Baxter's boys add a second straight Turner Cup to the franchise trophy case, beating Flint 4 games to 2 in the championship series. Playoff MVP Peter Lappin, a rookie who came to the Eagles from the NCAA tournament in April, scores the Eagles' first four goals and six points in the championship game, won 9-5 in Flint. The addition of Lappin, Theoren Fleury (for 10 games), Jim Johannson (from the U.S. Olympic team) and Rick Hayward (from Flint) give the Eagles the final chemistry to squeak into the playoffs as the last team to make it. They defeat Peoria and Colorado in the early rounds.
In the incident with the biggest impact on the future, Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller purchases the team from Art Teece on Sept. 28, 1989. The most startling on-ice incident of the year is the severe head injury in December to Colorado's Mark Janssens, whose helmet flew off just before his head hit the ice in a fight with Eagle Martin Simard. Janssens made a complete recovery and is still with the New York Rangers. Rookies Theoren Fleury, Peter Lappin and Paul Ranheim have great impact on the '88-89 club, which balances a multi-line scoring attack with Steve Guenette's 3.02 goals-against average. Veteran Rich Chernomaz tops all scorers with 101 points, but Ranheim finishes second on the club with 97 and sets the franchise record for goals scored with 68, breaking Joe Mullen's mark of 59 that has stood since 1981. Lappin totals 90 points, and Fleury has 74 in 40 games, called up to Calgary for good on New Year's Eve. The Eagles make the IHL championship round for the third straight season, winning the West Division and defeating the Denver Rangers 4-0 and Milwaukee Admirals 4-1 before falling to a veteran Muskegon Lumberjack outfit 4-1, which takes the Turner Cup with a 6-5 win in the Salt Palace. Over the 1989 summer, the Calgary Flames call Coach Paul Baxter back to the big leagues as an assistant, and Bob Francis, at age 30, takes over.
Forward/defenseman Rick Hayward leads the world, according to "The Hockey News," in penalty minutes for the season with a franchise record of 419, well below the league record of more than 600 but still an accomplishment. Sweeney finishes as team scoring leader with 97 points in 81 games, sixth in the IHL; Bureau has 91 in 67 games for second on the team, and Chernomaz 74 in 65 for third. Guenette is third in the league at 3.45 GAA. Wayne Cowley's strong performance in goal in the final month of the season helps the much-injured club gear up for the playoffs, finishing second in the West to eventual champion Indianapolis. The Eagles beat Milwaukee 4-2 in the quarterfinals but fall 4-1 to the Ice, which loses a total of two of 14 playoff games in its march to the Turner Cup.