Utah’s Hockey History: The Salt Lake Golden Eagles

Apr 16, 2024, 1:58 PM | Updated: Apr 17, 2024, 9:19 am

outside view of the salt palace in salt lake city...

New signs placed on the Salt Palace, Utah Stars and Golden Eagles Hocking Club, May, 1971. Howard Moore -Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY – It seems like a lifelong dream for hockey fans in Utah is finally coming to fruition with Salt Lake City likely getting an NHL team. We thought it would be a perfect time to take a look back at the history of hockey in the state – starting with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles.

We will dive into everything from the different pro teams that have been here, the important rinks and facilities for the Olympics, youth hockey and the professional hockey players that have come out of Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake Golden Eagles

We will start this story by looking back at the Salt Lake Golden Eagles.

The Salt Lake Golden Eagles’ first season was in the Salt Palace in 1969. At that time, they were in the Western Hockey League and were the farm club for the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens.

They were also the only professional sports team in Utah at the time.

The Golden Eagles’ first two seasons were rough. In 144 games over the first two seasons, they only managed to win 33.

In 1972, the team became the farm club for the California Golden Seals of the NHL. With that new affiliation came the kelly green and yellow uniforms, legendary copperall pants, and white skates. The white skates were the idea of Seals owner Charles Oscar Finley, who also owned the Oakland Athletics.

Finley required his baseball players to wear green and gold uniforms with white shoes, which didn’t look bad in baseball, but the white skates were just too much for most hockey fans who often thought the hockey players were in figure skates.

“My dad took us to a game in January of 1972,” Mark Woodmansee told KSL Sports. “The Eagles played the Seattle Totems, and we were hooked. We bought season tickets the next year. Section 15, row D seats 1-4.”

Woodmansee would later become the team’s assistant trainer.

“The crowds were always full and full of energy. Eagles, Eagles, fight, fight, fight.” Woodmansee reminisced, “The rally point was in front of the Salt Palace after each game was always a fun time.”

Former Golden Eagles Equipment Manager Guy Holm told KSL Sports his memories of being a fan and then working for the team.

“My first memory of the Golden Eagles is my oldest brother and his girlfriend took me and her little brother to a game in 1969. I had two coupons for Dee’s Hamburgers souvenir sticks. The lady giving us the sticks said, ‘Do you want to give one to your little brother?’ I said no, I’ll keep both. I guess that started me on the road whether I was going to shoot left or right.”

Golden Eagles At The Salt Palace

The Golden Eagles’ impact on people’s lives went far beyond the Salt Palace. The fandom became a family tradition, leading to career and hobby choices.

Dave Soutter reflects on the Eagles and the impact the team had on his life,”Me and my family were huge Golden Eagles fans my dad took my older brother and me to the very first Golden Eagles home game in October of 1969. I was 11 andI was hooked on hockey from then on. The Golden Eagles encouraged me to begin playing organized hockey which also led to coaching hockey and serving on various hockey boards of directors and local amateur hockey associations my wife and I met at the Salt Palace at a hockey game we both had part time jobs as ushers. We later became Golden Eagles season ticket holders I worked for the Golden Eagles from the mid-80s and also videotaped games for the teams and kept stats for several seasons until the final Eagles home game in 1994.”

Several big names emerged from the Golden Eagles franchise – Joey Mullen, Ziggy Palfy, Derek Armstrong, Kevin Cheveldayoff, Theo Fleury, and Stu Grimson.

There were also fan favorites like Doug Palazzari, Lyle Bradley, Len Frig, Charlie Simmer, and the list goes on and on.

Former Golden Eagle, St. Louis Blue and Boston College standout Paul Skidmore appeared on the Utah Puck Report last year and talked about his memories of playing for the Eagles, “My most vivid memories of playing with the Eagles were when I was in the groove and I was playing well, and gosh everything felt so good, the fans were into it, the players were into it. There was one time I had a streak of 18 games unbeaten … Still, the best times were when we played against the real top teams, having the close games that we did back then. We won by maybe not much, but the fans got a good game to see, and they appreciated it.”

“We were selling out the Salt Palace, and it was phenomenal. I remember the crowds were into the game. I mean, they were there early, and they celebrated early. The Jazz had just barely gotten there. Nobody really knew who the players were or what the NBA was about, and then we had the playoffs, and they’d have to bring in bleacher seats and get permission from the fire department to add 2000 more fans in the corners,” Skidmore shared.

RELATED: Ryan Smith, Mark Harlan Tease NHL Stadium Series Game At Utah

The Utah Jazz started playing in Utah in 1979, sharing the Salt Palace with the Golden Eagles.

“There was a really cool part about sharing the arena with the Utah Jazz. Frank Layden and Mark Eaton were hockey fans. I remember them sitting up in the stands watching our games watching our practices I mean they were there quite a bit,” Skidmore said.

The Eagles won back-to-back CHL Championships (Adams Cup) in 1979 and 1980 and back-to-back IHL championships (Turner Cup) in 1987 and 1988.

Over its history, the team also served as the farm club for the Minnesota North Stars, Buffalo Sabres, Cleveland Barons, New York Islanders, and Calgary Flames.

Larry H. Miller sold The Golden Eagles franchise to Detroit in 1994. In their final game, they sold out the Delta Center.

Puck ReportΒ is a podcast all about Utah hockey, from interviews with NHL stars to which Grizzlies players are about to take the next step, Utah Puck Report has everything for a Utah hockey fan. Find it wherever you find podcasts or onΒ KSLSports.com. The show is hosted by KSL Sports’ hockey insider, Jay Stevens. You can also follow us onΒ FacebookΒ andΒ Instagram.Β 

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Utah’s Hockey History: The Salt Lake Golden Eagles