They had missed the playoffs in each of their first three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, beginning with their debut campaign of 1972-1973.
And fans and supporters of the Greyhounds — who were used to the winning ways from the team’s days in the Northern Ontario Hockey Association — were becoming restless and impatient.
Ergo, with attendance declining and mumbles turning into grumbles, Greyhounds president Jim McAuley and general manager Angelo Bumbacco (who we would both lose to Heaven in 2020) went on a mission to western Canada and returned with a flamboyant, fast-talking showman as their new coach for the 1975-1976 season.
The Hounds and the OHL would never be quite the same.
Oh my goodness, Murray “Muzz” MacPherson arrived in style prior to the start of the 1975-1976 campaign.
Neatly dressed, with a handshake for all and a mouth that wouldn’t shut, MacPherson quickly won over the local media in his introductory press conference in what was a small banquet room upstairs in the old New Marconi Restaurant on Albert St. in the west end of Sault Ste. Marie.
Boastful, but in a friendly sort of way, MacPherson declared that the losing was over for the Greyhounds and that he personally would lead them to the playoffs for the first time in their OHL history.
MacPherson easily took to Sault Ste. Marie — and Greyhound fans took to the fedora wearing wild man from Winnipeg.
Before 5,000 fans in his Memorial Gardens, regular-season debut of 1975-1976, MacPherson didn’t make it to the end of the game. Disputing a call by referee Doug Robb, MacPherson threw his hat onto the ice in the direction of the official and was ejected from the contest.
The Hounds would blow a 4-2 lead and settle for a 4-4 tie with the visiting Hamilton Fincups — but the legend of Muzz was born.
MacPherson crafted a top line of centre Mike Kaszycki, left winger John Tavella and right winger Doug Patey and relied heavily on overage goalie David Legree.
And there were good secondary forwards such as Tony Cuomo, Randy Borbely and Romano Carlucci and a solid defense led by veteran Mike Hordy and youngsters David Mancuso and Craig Hartsburg.
(Hartsburg, a blond-haired, skinny 16-year old kid at the time, would eventually develop into a franchise defenseman for the Hounds, become team captain — and return to coach the team years later after an outstanding National Hockey League career as both player and coach.)
But while Kaszycki would lead the OHL in scoring with 170 points and while Tavella would score 67 goals and win league rookie-of-the-year honours as a 19-year old and while Patey would pot 45 goals of his own and while Legree would be a standout workhorse between the pipes, it was the Hounds notorious goon squad that kept the other 11 teams in check.
Featuring forwards Tim Coulis and Billy Roach and defensemen Mike Rusin, Tony Horvath and Tim Rose, the Greyhounds struck fear and terror into the hearts of all opponents except the Bert Templeton-coached Fincups of Hamilton, who could handle themselves rather well.
The Hounds of 1975-1976 started fast and furious and were challenging the Sudbury Wolves for first place in the six-team Leyden Division before multiple suspensions left the Soo shorthanded and reeling.
A late-season tailspin toppled the Hounds into fifth place in the Leyden Division and they finished the regular campaign with 67 points points from a record of 27-26-13.
The first round of the playoffs was a best-of-five back then and the Hounds were up against the fourth-place Oshawa Generals, who would hold home-ice advantage.
Recovering from their late-season swoon, the Hounds took the Generals to the fifth-and-deciding game and won it on the road in Oshawa in dramatic fashion.
With a mouth that roared, MacPherson quickly took to the CKCY Radio airwaves in the aftermath of the series win over Oshawa and shouted via play-by-play man Harry Wolfe to all who were listening: “You tell (Wolves owner) Bud Burke and (general manager) Joe Drago in Sudbury that the Hounds are coming!”
That’s right, the next round of the playoffs would be between the northern Ontario rivals, the upstart Hounds and the powerful Sudbury Wolves, who had finished in first place during the regular season, some 35 points ahead of the Soo.
Undaunted, the Hounds battled the powerful Wolves — who were led by 134-point scorer and future NHL star Ron Duguay — through seven games before finally losing out.
But while the Hounds may have lost, MacPherson’s marauders won over the fans of the Soo in a sort of mass hysteria.
MacPherson would last another season-and-a-half in the Soo as his novelty eventually wore off and Greyhound ownership and management began to tire of his womanizing ways.
Still, it was MacPherson who finally put the Hounds on the OHL map and paved the way for future successes that the franchise has gone on to enjoy.
And while the Hounds have since won OHL and Memorial Cup championships under coaches Terry Crisp and Ted Nolan, MacPherson remains an iconic figure in the minds and hearts of a number of long-time supporters of the Red and White.
It will be 45 years ago this March that the Hounds first made the OHL playoffs.
And I remember highlights of that 1975-1976 season in splendid detail from what was my first year as a member of the media with erstwhile CKCY Radio.