New England Soccer Today

Remembering the Hartford Hellions

Photo credit: nasljerseys.com

Photo credit: nasljerseys.com

On Sunday, the Nutmeg State was supposed to witness the return of pro indoor soccer after a 34-year hiatus in the form of Hartford City FC, an expansion MASL side whose fate was sealed in controversial fashion weeks before it was set to debut.

With no indoor soccer to speak of this weekend (or, alas, this winter), we look back at the last Connecticut outfit to kick the ball around the boards – the Hartford Hellions, who played in the now-defunct Major Indoor Soccer League from 1979 to 1981.

The Hellions were originally scheduled to set up shop at the Hartford Civic Center (now XL Center) to start their debut 1979 season. There was just one problem: heavy snowfall in the area caused the roof to collapse the months before the start of the club’s inaugural campaign, forcing the squad to call New Haven Coliseum and Springfield Civic Center for two years. Yes, it took two years to fix the roof in Hartford.

Civic1

Anywho, to say the Hellions were a plucky side would be a stretch, to say the least. They finished dead last in the Atlantic Division with a 6-26 record while allowing a league-high 240 goals during the 1979-80 season. As history would have it, defender Paul Toomey was the club’s sole representative at the 1979-80 MISL All-Star Game. On the other side of the arena, Eduardo Marasco’s 29 goals were good enough to win the Hellions’ golden boot award.

Improvement came in season two, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get them out of the basement. A 13-27 record looked a lot more respectable than their year one mark, but they weren’t nearly as competitive as their fans – who finally got the chance to watch their side play in Hartford proper in Feb. 1980 – probably would’ve wished.

Photo credit: nasljerseys.com

Photo credit: nasljerseys.com

Prior to season three, embattled owner William Chipman sold the Hellions to an ownership group – ironically, a devout Christian organization – and moved to Memphis, where they were re-named the Americans. Chipman, who canceled his players’ health insurance during his tenure as owner, later served time in federal prison for fraud.

Some would say that the Hellions came and went like a shooting star, which considering the current state of affairs surrounding Hartford City, could probably be considered a compliment. Either way, the club gave local fans a unique opportunity to enjoy the fast-paced atmosphere of the indoor game, which at the time, was approaching the peak of its popularity.

Among the notables who suited up for the Hellions during their two year run: former Rhode Island Oceaneers defender Telmo Pires, goalkeeper Roy Messing (Shep’s brother), and former Boston Astro scorer Jose Neto.

Here’s a taste of what the Hellions fed their fans during some heady times in American soccer.

Roy Messing talks about what indoor soccer’s role is in the development of the American game, circa 1979. Perspectives may have changed…

The Hellions home jersey in all of its glory (via NASLjerseys.com):

Hellions1

Last, but certainly not least, the Hellions were the subject of the Feb. 2014 episode of Brian D. Bunk’s excellent Soccer History USA podcast.

(*Editor’s note: Much of the information used for this article was drawn from Andy Crossley’s remarkable site on defunct pro teams – funwhileitlasted.net. His entry on the Hellions can be found here. )

2 Comments

  1. rick sewall

    November 9, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Having coached with them at the Vogelsinger camp, I knew Paul Toomey and Roy Messing pretty well. I remember that, soon after they signed with the Hellions, they showed up with two identical (except for color) snazzy little sport cars, their idea of wisely investing their signing bonuses.

  2. Bill Morrison

    October 4, 2017 at 5:32 am

    Great memories, attended many of the Hellions home games. Particularly remember a chartered bus trip to NY to see the Hellions play the NY Arrows.

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