The Pittsburgh Hornets existed in the American Hockey League from 1936-37 to 1955-56 and were revived for a stint between 1961-62 and 1966-67. In the first existence of the team, the Hornets won the Calder Cup as AHL playoff champion on two occasions. As the re-incarnated Hornets, the franchise would win one more Calder Cup championship before being chased out of town by the National Hockey League and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Hornets won their first Calder Cup in 1951-52. The team finished first overall in the nine team league and first in the five team West Division. Pittsburgh knocked out the Hershey Bears, 4-1 in the opening round of the playoffs. After receiving a bye through the second round, Pittsburgh met the Providence Reds in the finals and prevailed in six games.
The 1951-52 Hornets were coached by Toronto Maple Leafs legend, King Clancy. A future Toronto star defenseman played on the blue line for Pittsburgh. Tim Horton played in all eleven playoff games. The following year, Horton became a regular with the Maple Leafs and would continue on in the National Hockey League until his death during the 1973-74 season. He would make his return to Pittsburgh, playing for the Penguins late in his career. Tim also appeared for the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres.
Two years later, in 1954-55, the Hornets were crowned Calder Cup champions again. The AHL was reduced to a six team, single division league and Pittsburgh finished first overall. Coached by another big name former Toronto player, Howie Meeker, the Hornets beat the Springfield Indians three games to one in the first round before taking out the Buffalo Bisons 4-2 in the finals.
Leading the way for Pittsburgh in 1954-55 was Willie Marshall. Willie went on to become the AHL all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points, records that stand today. Since 2003-04, the AHL has honoured the player that finishes the regular season with the most goals with the Willie Marshall Award.
The reincarnated version of the Hornets knew going in that 1966-67 would be their final season in Pittsburgh. The Penguins had been granted an NHL franchise and were slated to start, along with five other new teams, in 1967-68. There simply wasn’t room for two pro teams in town. Since re-entering the league in 1961-62, the new-style Hornets had been affiliated with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings. The 1966-67 team was filled with young talent like Peter Mahovlich, Gary Jarrett and Billy Harris, along with long-time veterans Andy Bathgate and Doug Harvey.
The Hornets finished first overall in the nine team AHL, as well as finishing first in the four team West Division. After beating the Hershey Bears four games to one in the opening round, Pittsburgh received a bye through to the finals. They met Rochester in the Calder Cup finals and swept the Americans in four games.