The Sports Lounge presents… REMEMBER THEM: Shreveport Pirates
The Canadian Football League in the southern states of America? In Shreveport, LA? That just does not make any sense. But it is exactly what happened in 1994. The CFL decided to expand and form teams throughout the United States. And how did Shreveport end up with a franchise. Well, it all started in Ottawa.
The Glieberman family was the owner of the Ottawa Rough Riders. They were unhappy and talked of relocating to the US. The CFL rejected this idea but offered the Glieberman’s a new deal. They proposed to virtually split the franchise in two. New owners would keep the Rough Riders franchise in Ottawa and the Glieberman’s were granted an expansion franchise in Shreveport and Independence Stadium would be their new home.
After the move, the owners hired J.I. Albrecht as the GM. Afterwards, Albrecht hired John Huard as the first head coach in Pirates history. However, the owners did not like this decision and overruled him. They then hired Forrest Gregg as the head coach. This would be one of many unstable acts the Glieberman’s made that made them very unpopular in Shreveport.
In their first season, the Pirates finished dead last in the East Division finishing with a 3-15 record. They did not earn their first win until Week 15 with a 24-12 victory over the Sacramento Gold Miners. Their second season was not much better as they finished 5-13 in the South Division. The poor performance did not stop the fans from supporting the team however as the Pirates had some of the most die-hard fans in the CFL.
The fans were so loyal that when they heard that the owners wanted to relocate to Norfolk, VA, they did something that would make any true sports fans proud. The people of Shreveport decided to try and take the Glieberman’s Tucker for not paying the proper funds on the lease with Independence Stadium. For those who do not know, the Tucker is a very expensive, rare, collectible car. Only 58 of these cars were ever made. If that does not show their extreme loyalty to the team, I do not know what does. In the end, Norfolk was not interested in having the Pirates relocate there because of the Glieberman’s business practices and the team folded.
The Pirates were known as one of the worst CFL franchises on and off the field. But despite their poor ownership and lackluster performance, there are a couple players worth a mention. Martin Patton, RB from Miami, was the team’s top running back both seasons. Bjorn Nittmo, a K from Sweden, finished the 1995 season 6th in the league in scoring. Joe Montford and Elfrid Payton went on to both win the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award. But, in the football world, the best known name is Billy Joe Tolliver. Tolliver went on to play in the NFL for the Saints, Chargers, Falcons, Chiefs, Packers, and Oilers. He played between 1989 and 2000. That’s a long career in the NFL no matter how much or little he played.
Tolliver is the most well-known name in football circles. But if you are a wrestling fan, you may recognize the name of Jon Heidenreich. That’s right. The guy who was an honorary member of the Legion of Doom when he teamed with WWE Hall of Famer Animal. Heidenreich played both seasons in Shreveport as an offensive lineman. After his brief football career was done, he moved on to professional wrestling. And while he will never be remembered as a great wrestler, if you watched WWE in the mid-2000’s, you’ll remember his feuds with Booker T, MNM, and The Undertaker. Heidenreich and The Undertaker actually had a good, long feud that was honestly some of the better stories that WWE had going on at the time.
And that is it. That is your Shreveport Pirates. The only Canadian Football League team to ever play in Louisiana. And I can say with good confidence that it will probably be the only one to ever play down here. We like our football, but the Saints and LSU are what people are “aboot” down here. See you next time on Remember Them!