In parts of 12 seasons in the American Hockey League, Bill Sweeney was one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the sport, primarily as the offensive catalyst of the three-time Calder Cup champion Springfield Indians.
A native of Guelph, Ont., Sweeney burst onto the professional scene with the Providence Reds in 1957-58, scoring 31 goals and adding 46 assists in 70 games and earning the Dudley “Red” Garrett Award as the AHL’s outstanding rookie. He followed that campaign up with another 31-goal season with the Buffalo Bisons in 1958-59, but it wasn’t until he arrived in Springfield that he truly became one of the league’s all-time elite scorers.
In 1959-60, Sweeney finished second in the league in scoring with 96 points and was named a First Team AHL All-Star as the Indians captured the city’s first Calder Cup. A year later, led by Sweeney’s 40 goals and league-best 108 points, Springfield dominated the rest of the AHL and rolled to another title. And in 1961-62, Sweeney scored 40 goals and paced the league with 101 points en route to a third consecutive Calder Cup, a feat still unmatched in AHL history.
Although the Indians narrowly missed the playoffs in 1963, Sweeney continued to shine offensively and became the first – and still only – AHL player to win three consecutive scoring titles, as well as the only one to reach the 100-point mark on three straight occasions. His 155 goals and 408 points from 1959-63, combined with the troikas of scoring crowns and Calder Cups, two First Team All-Star berths and a Second Team nod, represent the most productive four-year span by any player in AHL history.
Sweeney remained a productive member of the Indians through the 1966-67 season when he recorded 66 points in 65 games, marking the seventh time in 10 years that he led his team in scoring. Sweeney began the following season with the Springfield Kings after the new NHL expansion club in Los Angeles purchased the AHL franchise, and saw his final AHL action with a 10-game stint for the Rochester Americans in 1968-69.
Four decades after playing his last AHL game, Sweeney remains one of only 10 players in league history with as many as 800 career points, retiring with 294 goals and 510 assists in just 695 games. Sweeney was just 54 when he passed away in 1991; he was posthumously inducted into the Springfield Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.
|Career AHL Statistics – Bill Sweeney