The History of the Cincinnati Swords

January 23, 2020 2 Comments

The History of the Cincinnati Swords

The Cincinnati Swords first took the ice in 1971 as the newest members of the American Hockey League (AHL). The city previously hosted the Mohawks, who started in the AHL in 1949 before switching to the International Hockey League (IHL) in 1952. They folded in 1958. The Indianapolis Capitols of the Central Professional Hockey League relocated to the Queen City after their arena blew up nine games into the 1963/64 season. Renamed the Wings, they moved to Memphis the following summer, leaving Cincinnati again without a pro hockey team.

In 1971, Buffalo was granted an expansion franchise in the National Hockey League (NHL). Nicknamed the Sabres, the league’s newest member needed a farm team that would play in the AHL. The AHL also needed to replace the Buffalo Bison what with the Sabres taking the ice. At first, the Sabres settled on Miami as the location for their farm team, but the AHL wasn’t keen citing the travel costs that would be incurred. Cincinnati was the next choice and was approved by the league. 

The Sabres suffered the typical first-year struggles that beset most expansion teams, while the Swords had the opposite experience. Playing their home games at the Cincinnati Gardens, the Swords finished 30-28-18 that first season, good for third place in the Western Conference and a spot in the playoffs. There they swept the Hershey Bears in the first round before falling to the Baltimore Clippers 4 games to 2.

The following season, the Swords not only finished first in the Western Conference but went on to win the Calder Cup, the AHL’s championship. They clinched the title at home on May 15, 1973, at the Cincinnati Gardens, downing the Nova Scotia Voyageurs 5 to 1 to win the series 4 games to 1. 

The 1973/74 season ended with the Swords capturing third place in the Western Conference. The eventual champions, the Hershey Bears, dispatched Cincinnati 4 games to 1. The Swords’ last home game was Game 2 of that series, a 6 to 2 win at the Gardens. 

In 1974, the World Hockey Association (WHA), a major league established in 1972 to compete with the NHL, awarded an expansion franchise to Cincinnati to begin play in 1975. That announcement was good enough for the Sabres, who folded the Swords that summer, not wanting to keep with the new team. 

Playing in the brand new, state-of-the-art Riverfront Coliseum, the Stingers drew an average of 7,741 fans a game. The Swords in their three seasons averaged just over 3,800 fans a game. The Stingers, left out of the 1979 WHA/NHL merger, moved to the Central Hockey League for one season before disbanding in 1980.

The AHL returned to Cincinnati in 1997 when the Baltimore Bandits were purchased by Cincinnati Gardens owner Jerry Robinson. Renamed the Mighty Ducks, after inking a deal with NHL Anaheim Mighty Ducks to be that clubs farm team, the new squad replaced the Cyclones of the International Hockey League as the Gardens’ main tenant. The Cyclones were still in town, though, having moved downtown to the former Riverfront Coliseum, giving Cincinnati two minor league hockey teams for the next several seasons.

2 Responses


April 26, 2020

I love all the hockey shirts you have! People forget about the Mohawks, swords, and stingers! I know this is a tough time for everyone, but I was wondering if you have ever thought of doing a cincinnati tigers shirt? They were a western hockey league team (only 1 season) that played at riverfront. I have never seen any local company make a shirt for them. It would be pretty cool. I appreciate all the hard work you all are doing! Thanks!

Bob Piotrowicz
Bob Piotrowicz

March 10, 2020

Is that an original SWORDS score board sign on the wall under the shelf? Looking for vintage original AHL Swords items for my collection. Any leads would be appreciated.
Bob in Buffalo

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