I have blogged about soccer before, so this isn’t a first. The one and only time that an outdoor professional sports franchise was ever tried in the Halifax market were the Nova Scotia Clippers in 1991. The Clippers were members of the old Canadian Soccer League. They lasted one season, playing out of Beazley Field in Dartmouth. The team was able to average 1500 fans a game, but many were there on freebies. There is very little informaion on the internet about this team, so I’ve tried to piece together as much as I could.
The Clippers finished the season with a record of 7-14-7, good for 28 points. They scored 29 goals, and gave up 53. Their sixth place finish was good enough to grab the sixth and final playoff spot. They lost both playoff games to the North York Rockets by scores of 4-0 and 5-1. The Clippers would fold during the off season and the league itself would fold after the 1992 season.
The team itself was destined to fail. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, soccer wasn’t as popular by any stretch of the imagination in the early 1990’s. The sport received a major boost in North American with the 1994 World Cup in the USA and the introduction of Major League Soccer in 1996. Such a team today would at least survive a few seasons. Depending on results and management of the club, a soccer team in Halifax may very well thrive during the dead months (for sports) during the summer. Secondly, the venue was horrible. Beazley Field is adequate for local sports but not for something that is supposed to be a professional league. The location is also far from most of the population in HRM, which made the team inaccessible to some. Parking and traffic issues also made the decision to place the team there a bad one. One would assume that Huskies Stadium at Saint Mary’s wasn’t chosen due the AstroTurf field. Thirdly, the team debuted the same year the World Basketball League’s Halifax Windjammers. The Windjammers would hugely popular for the first couple of seasons before their popularity started to wane in 1993 and 1994 (as member’s of the National Basketball League). Other teams suffered similar fates when competing against WBL, CFL or baseball teams.
The Clippers CSL opponents that season were the Hamilton Steelers, Kitchener Kickers, Montreal Supra, North York Rockets, Toronto Blizzard, Vancouver 86ers and Winnipeg Fury. The Clippers had no players selected to the 1991 Canadian Soccer League all-star team; or who finished in the top 12 goal scorers for the season. The team’s best player seems to have been goaltender Shel Brodsgaard, who finished with 164 saves, 51 goals against, 5 shutouts and a GAA of 1.91. The team’s head coach and general manager was former Manchester United player Gordon Hill, whom also played forward for the Clippers. Former Everton captain Mickey Lyons was added as an assistant coach at mid-season. The team also featured a handful of players who played for Team Canada at various points of their soccer careers.
After the season, the Clippers (plus the Steelers and Kickers) folded. The CSL would play one more season in 1992 before folding for good.