The CLEVELAND BARONS, charter members of the American Hockey League in 1936, won 9 regular season titles and 8 Calder Cup playoff championships. The team that eventually evolved into the Cleveland Barons was organized by retired Canadian goalie Harry Holmes in 1929 as the Cleveland Indians of the Intl. League. Playing its games at the ELYSIUM BUILDING, the team drew well during the 1929-30 season as it won the league championship, but the Indians were in serious financial trouble by 1933. In 1934 the team was purchased by sports promoter ALBERT C. (AL) SUTPHIN of the Braden-Sutphin Ink Co., who immediately changed the team name from the Indians (1929-34) to the Cleveland Falcons (1934-37). In 1936 the team became a charter member of the new American Hockey League, formed by the merger of the Intl. and Canadian-American minor leagues. In 1937 Sutphin built the 10,000-seat CLEVELAND ARENA and held a public contest, which chose the Cleveland Barons as the new name of his team.
The years between 1936 and the late 1950s were golden years for the franchise, as the Barons were perennial winners, and crowds of over 10,000 were not unusual. Cleveland was the largest metropolitan region in minor-league hockey, and the Barons were billed as the seventh-best team in pro hockey, trailing only the "Original Six" of the National Hockey League. In 1949 Sutphin sold the Barons to a group of Detroit businessmen. Although the Barons were set to join the National Hockey League (NHL) during the spring of 1952, the deal fell through. When average attendance fell in the late 1950s, Paul Bright bought the franchise, appointing Jackie Gordon general manager and Freddie Glover playing coach. Glover led the team to 1 more Calder Cup championship during the 1963-64 season. Nick Mileti bought the faltering franchise and the Arena for $2 million in 1968. But when he failed to persuade the NHL to accept the Barons, he bought a World Hockey Assn. franchise in 1972 and organized the Cleveland Crusaders. Mileti then moved the Barons to Jacksonville, FL, in Jan. 1973.
The Barons name was revived in 1976 for an NHL team, the former California Golden Seals, which relocated to Cleveland thanks to minority owner George Gund Jr. Owner Mel Swig bought the rights to the name Mileti for the cost of a dinner.
The NHL Barons moved hurriedly, which didn't allow the development of a season ticket base, and played their home games in the Richfield Coliseum, which greatly diminished walk-up attendance. The team struggled to make payroll in early 1977, and Swig sold out to the Gunds. The Barons fared no better in 1977-78, at one point embarking on a fifteen game winless streak, and following that season, they were merged with the Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars).
Professional hockey disappeared from the Cleveland metropolitan area until 1993 when the CLEVELAND LUMBERJACKS began play.
The Barons were reborn in 2001 as the Cleveland affiliate of the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks. Michael Lehr was named team president and Roy Sommer its head coach. The new Cleveland Barons finished their inaugural year with 29 wins, 44 losses and seven ties. The team relocated to Worcester, Massachusetts, for the 2006-07 season and changed its name to the Worcester Sharks. San Jose claimed that the team was moved because of a lack of interest and mounting financial losses. During their final season in Cleveland they finished last in the North Division of the Western Conference with 27 wins and 48 losses.
Updated by Vincent Guerrieri
Kiczek, Gene. Forgotten Glory: The Story of Cleveland Barons Hockey (1994).