A Brief History of the Philadelphia Ramblers

RamblersVsKnoxville1963Frizelle4OConnor6The Philadelphia Ramblers that joined the Eastern Hockey League in 1955 were actually the second minor league hockey team by that name. The first had played in the American Hockey League in the 1930s as a farm club for the New York Rangers, but folded in 1941. One of the Ramblers players during their first go-round was a gentleman named Bryan Hextall. You’ve probably heard of his grandson.

After hockey sputtered in the city over the ensuing 14 years, the Ramblers made a return in 1955, coached by an English native named Chirp Benchley. The team was owned by a rather well-to-do fellow by the name of George L. Davis, who married Grace Kelly’s sister Margaret and who owned The Arena at 4530 Market, which is where the Ramblers played. They were later owned by Bud Dudley, who founded the Liberty Bowl.

The team was entertaining but not particularly good. Their best known players were Ted Harris (who would play for the Flyers second Stanley Cup team many years later) and John Brophy, who would later coach the Maple Leafs.

Perhaps the highlight of their existence was a thrilling 3-3 tie with the Soviet National Team in 1959, a game in which the Ramblers scored twice in the final four minutes before a sellout crowd of over 5,611 at the Arena. The Soviets had steamrolled their previous opponents but were stopped by Rambler goalie Ivan Walmsley.

In 1964, the team packed up and headed across the river, where they became the Jersey Devils, and played at Cherry Hill Arena. Players on the Devils included Bobby Taylor, who later backed up Bernie on the Flyers, and Vic Stasiuk, who would coach the Flyers for two seasons. That team would fold with the rest of the EHL in 1973.

One of the great things about the Ramblers was their game programs. The artwork on them was really, really cool. Here are a few game programs below. At the request of Ray Didinger, who used to attend Ramblers games as a kid, Shibe Sports has created a Ramblers shirt, which they decided to create in the style of one of the game programs. You can also check out some great old photos of the team posted online by the daughter of former player Rocky Rukavina.


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4 Comments on “A Brief History of the Philadelphia Ramblers”

  1. frank pfeiffer says:

    I still have my Ramblers rooter club pin.No Plexiglas just chain link fencing around the backstops. Great moment in the Russian game is when one of the soviets was so incensed he charged down the ice at Ted harris, hit with everything he had.Harris never budged and soviet knocked himself out

  2. Joe Balbona says:

    We used to have club meetings at the Brown Jug just across the street from the Arena.

  3. While I was going to UNIVERSITY OFR PENNSYLVANIA I worked as stickboy for the Ramblers. Thanks to Chirp Benchley I got to regularly work out with the team

    For two years (1954-56) I worked on starting the U. of Penn Hockey team which has survived to this day. I asked Rocky Rukavina to be our coach and he graciously accepted.

  4. Diane says:

    So excited to find this article online. My parents took me to Ramblers games as a toddler. I remember the players signing my program during warm-ups. My mom took me to a practice once where a player (Art Hart, I think) gave me his stick. I was only 5 when the team disbanded, but I loved hockey then, and that hasn’t changed!

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