The IHL was created December 5, 1945 in a three-hour meeting a the Norton Palmer Hotel in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Present at the meeting were: Jack Adams, General Manager and Coach of the Detroit Red Wings; Fred Huber Jr., the Red Wings public relations director; Frank Gallagher, who eventually would own the Flint Generals and also serve two terms as league commissioner; Lloyd Pollock, a member of the executive staff of the Ontario Hockey Association; Gerald McHugh, a well-known Windsor lawyer; and Len Hebert, Len Loree and Bill Beckman, all dedicated hockey men.
The IHL was to provide opportunities for Detroit-Windsor hockey players returning home from World War II. Four teams were formed to absorb these fledging athletes: Detroit Auto Club and Detroit Bright’s Goodyears would play at Olympia Stadium in Detroit, while the Windsor Spitfires and the Windsor Gotfredsons would play their home games in the Windsor Arena.
Gerald McHugh was named league president, and the four teams completed a 15-game schedule during the winter of 1945-46. The Detroit Auto Club defeated the Detroit Bright’s Goodyears 2-1 in the final series to win the first Turner Cup, symbolic of the IHL championship.
The league’s first expansion outside the Detroit-Windsor area came in 1947 when businessman Virgil Gladieux paid $1,000 to place a franchise in Toledo, Ohio. The Toledo Mercurys drew sellout crowds, and won the league championship their first season. Gerald McHugh retired the following season, and was succeeded by Fred Huber, Jr., who had the title of league managing director.
The four original franchises were gone from the IHL by 1952, but the league had grown to nine teams. One of the expansion franchises for the 1952-53 season was the Fort Wayne Komets.
The 1952-53 season would be the first of five consecutive league championships for the Cincinnati Mohawks. The team’s success was largely the result of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens, who supplied the Mohawks with many young prospects. The Mohawks set a league record in 1956-57 by losing only nine games during the entire regular season.
The IHL went through changes on and off the ice during the 1960’s. Six different clubs won the championship, including back-to-back crowns by the Saint Paul Saints. All of the league’s franchises were located in the U.S. after the discontinuation of the Chatham Maroons and the Windsor Bulldogs in 1964. League membership varied from six to eight teams, and Toledo hockey executive Andy Mulligan succeeded Frank Gallagher as commissioner. There was one certainty, however, throughout the decade: Komets forward Len Thornson, who won seven Most Valuable Player awards over a 10-year period.
The 1970’s were a period of stabilization for the league. Bill Beagan was named commissioner and held the position throughout the decade. The franchise in Milwaukee joined the IHL, as well as franchises in Dayton and Toledo, who won titles early in the decade and Kalamazoo ended it by winning consecutive championships in 1978 and 1979. One of the top memories of that period came in 1975 when the Toledo Goaldiggers won the Turner Cup, despite finishing their regular season with a losing record. That decade began the leadership of the IHL’s longest ownership group as Ted and Martha Parfet founded their Kalamazoo-based franchise in 1974-75.
The growth of the IHL can be traced to the expansion of the earl y 1980’s. Peoria was admitted in 1982 and Indianapolis rejoined the league two years later. Upon the strong encouragement of Commissioner N.R. ‘Bud’ Poile, who was appointed in 1983, the league added a franchise in Salt Lake City for the 1984-85 season, beginning the transition from a regional league which traveled by bus, to one with markets throughout the country. Another breakthrough came in 1985 with the adoption of the shoot-out, a unique tie-breaker format to decide its games, an innovation that is still used today and one reason the IHL was distinguished from other professional hockey leagues.
Stability and growth continued with N. Thomas Berry, who was appointed commissioner in 1989. Under Berry’s leadership, the league added seven new cities.
President/CEO Doug Moss was appointed in July of 1998. The Orlando Solar Bears captured the Turner Cup championship in 2001 before the IHL folded that summer.
The new IHL began its first season of play in the fall of 2007 and consisted of six teams: the Bloomington PrairieThunder, the Flint Generals, the Fort Wayne Komets, the Kalamazoo Wings, the Muskegon Fury, and the Port Huron Icehawks. One of the key focuses of the IHL Board of Governors and the League Office was to make on- and off-ice changes for the 2007-08 season that will create a better experience for the fans. At the top of the list was and will continue to be an emphasis on strong ownership so that the fans can count on our member clubs being a long-term part of the IHL and on making the on-ice product much more physical and exciting.
The league recreated the Turner Cup as a tribute to the old IHL, awarding the cup to the league champion. Also revived with a new look was the Huber Trophy, awarded to the team with the best regular-season record.
The Fort Wayne Komets captured the 2008 league championship in dramatic fashion. The Komets won game seven 3-2 in triple overtime against the Port Huron Icehawks, coming back from being down 3-1 in the series, to hoist the Turner Cup in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,462 fans.
The 2009 Turner Cup Finals finished with the Fort Wayne Komets defeated the Muskegon Lumberjacks 4-1 Friday, May 8th to capture their sixth Turner Cup Championship as a member of the International Hockey League. The Komets won the series 4-1 to earn their first back-to-back championships in their 57-year franchise history.