With no Wild hockey during the recently concluded lockout, local fans turned their attention to Minnesota’s Texas based farm team, the Houston Aeros, which made an appearance at Xcel Energy Center in November. That appearance gave fans in the State of Hockey a chance to see the future Wild talent in action. Older fans will recall the World Hockey Association’s Houston entry, also called the Aeros, on their trips into Saint Paul to take on our own Minnesota Fighting Saints. Those Aeros are best remembered for the Howe’s, icon Gordie continuing his pro career with sons Mark and Marty.
But who remembers the Houston Huskies? Doesn’t ring a bell? Let’s introduce you to this earlier minor-pro hockey team and its ties to the State of Hockey. The Huskies had a three year run, 1946-49, in the United States Hockey League (which ran from 1945-51) and were league champions in 1947-48, when coached by Montreal Canadiens legend and Hall of Famer “Toe” Blake. In the Huskies’ first year they failed to make the playoffs and repeated that performance in their last campaign, so it was worst to first and back again for this first Houston entry into pro hockey.
But where does the State of Hockey play into this? The answer is through the careers of three players: Hibbing’s Bob Blake, Eveleth’s Frank Ceryance, and Virginia’s Arley Carlson.
Bob Blake, while born in Ashland, Wisconsin, grew up and developed as a player in Hibbing. He played high school hockey for the Blue Jackets and then moved on to the minor pro hometown Miners. By the time he hung up the skates after the 1950-51 season he had played 788 games (12 with the Boston Bruins) and logged 334 points (122-212=334) with various minor league teams. One of the latter were the 1947-48 champion Houston Huskies where his 32 points (12-20=32) helped the team to the Paul Loudon Trophy with a playoff victory over the Minneapolis Millers (one of his former teams). Starting out at left wing, he later shifted to defense, and was subsequently elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.
Backstopping the Huskies to the league championship was Frank Ceryance, better known as “Futz” to the locals at Eveleth’s various Grant Avenue watering holes. “Yeah, Futz was better than Frank Brimsek and the rest of them,” was the cry often argued about the 6-foot, 185-pound netminder—the rest of them referring mainly to U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers Mike Karakas and Sam Lo Presti (Brimsek is in both the Toronto and Eveleth halls). On a particular night in 1947 he may have been. On February 2, Ceyrance stopped 67 shots as the Huskies rallied to tie the Omaha Knights, 3-3. That was one of the highlights of Futz’s 16-year pro career (two with Houston), as he retired after the championship season having played 500 games with multiple teams.
“Mr. Hockey” in Rochester, Minnesota is Arley Carlson, who played his later years with that city’s renowned senior team, the Mustangs. Before his seven-year run with his adopted hometown team, Carlson played seven seasons with various minor-pro and amateur teams across the nation. His best year was 1944-45 with Baltimore, of the Eastern Amateur Hockey League, when the 5-foot-5, 145-pound left wing garnered 34 goals and 21 assists. As a teammate of Blake and Futz on the 1946-47 Huskies, Carlson had a 26-point (15g, 11a) season. The Virginia native operated an insurance agency in Rochester and is now an energetic 88 years old. The Wild honored Carlson a few seasons back by having him lead the crowd in the “Let’s Play Hockey” shout.
So when you think of Houston hockey, don’t forget the Huskies and their ties to the State of Hockey.