The new documentary explores the city's early forays into the minor leagues.

The Columbus Golden Seals, a minor league hockey team from 1971–73, was a record-setter for all the wrong reasons. During its first season, the club suffered the most losses ever by a team in the International Hockey League. During its second, it “bested” its own record.

A new documentary, “International Incidents,” recounts the travails of the Seals and two other IHL hockey teams that attempted to find a fan base and grow the sport in Columbus. The film, which also covers the brief lifespans of the Checkers (1966–70) and the Owls (1974–77), will be shown Jan. 18–19 at the Grandview Theater and in March at the Ohio History Center.

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Cincinnati filmmaker Eric Weltner, who followed the Owls while growing up in Gahanna, initiated the project eight years ago when he was curious to learn more about the teams but came up with scant information.

“These guys were really pretty substantial at one point in this city’s history, and their history is evaporating into the cosmos,” says Weltner, who interviewed around 30 people for the film, including former players and coaches.

The Checkers—mostly players from Canada—were happy to introduce hockey to many Central Ohioans in 1966. Yet they were frustrated by the undesirable venue they had in common with subsequent teams: the Ohio State Fairgrounds Coliseum, which gave first priority to established acts, like rodeos and circuses. When Owls owner Al Savill failed to secure a favorable lease, the team moved to Dayton in 1977.

None of the teams brought championships to Columbus, though notable players who passed through town included “Battleship” Bob Kelly and John Flesch. In fact, several players made the city their permanent home—and have been pleasantly surprised that the sport finally took off with the Blue Jackets. “They’re all Canadian, so they just love hockey,” Weltner says.


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