We begin our coverage of the 1967-68 hockey season with perhaps the most momentous event in National Hockey League history – the league’s first Expansion Draft.
The day begins in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel Grand Ballroom in Montreal. All 12 teams have arrived as of 8:45 a.m. and the delegations have settled at their tables.
Each club is allowed to have seven members at their respective tables and most teams have that many people on hand. One notable exception is the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings, led by owner Jack Kent Cooke, have neither a general manager nor a coach. Cooke will be handling all the drafting, aided by just one person, former NHL player Larry Regan. Regan has a rather nebulous title, and will be advising Cooke on whom the Kings should draft.
It’s an interesting setup here in the QE Ballroom. The Toronto Globe & Mail provided this diagram of the floor plan:
AHL and WHL to Play
A bit of hockey news from early this morning: the American Hockey League and Western Hockey League have announced that they will play a partial interlocking schedule in the 1967-68 Season. The teams had discussed a full merger but have opted instead for a series of home-and-home games against each other.
Baltimore of the AHL and the WHL’s Vancouver franchise, both shunned in NHL expansion, had pushed for a full amalgamation of the two top minor leagues. They wanted to form a rival major hockey league to compete head-on with the NHL. There was very little support for such a move among the team owners. Most are happy to continue running top-flight minor operations.
Protected Lists Revealed
Here are the protected lists as submitted by the six established NHL teams. The lists were finalized at five p.m. last evening, but the new clubs have not seen them until nine a.m. today.
Not many surprises at first glance. The Boston Bruins chose to protect Gerry Cheevers as their goaltender over Eddie Johnston and Bernie Parent.
Toronto froze 42-year-old Johnny Bower, as expected, making Stanley Cup hero Terry Sawchuk available. Sawchuk has said he will only play in Detroit next season and will retire if drafted in expansion.
Chicago has protected Denis DeJordy as their goalkeeper. That means the great Glenn Hall will be available and could quite likely be the first player chosen. That’s if teams will put up with his yearly autumn ritual of painting that barn on his farm in Alberta.
Even the Stanley Cup Gets in the Act
At 9:45 a.m. NHL president Clarence Campbell closes his eyes and begins to draw the expansion draft order from the Stanley Cup.
Teams will be assigned a letter A-B-C-D-E-F and that will be the order of the first round of the goaltender portion of the draft. The order will reverse for the second round, so the team drafting last in the first round picks first in the second round.
In the skater section of the draft, which will be 18 rounds, the order of selection will change each round. This, according to Campbell, is to ensure that each team gets a first-overall pick.
Here is the order of selection for the first round of the two-round goaltender draft, which will be held before the skaters are chosen:
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. St. Louis Blues
4. Minnesota North Stars
5. Pittsburgh Penguins
6. California Seals.
Jack Kent Cooke of the Kings is beaming that effervescent smile of his. He looks like the cat that swallowed the canary.
In the minutes before the first pick, we see Minnesota North Stars Gm Wren Blair huddling with Sammy Pollock of the Montreal Canadiens. They are definitely in discussions about something significant. Now that drafting positions have been established, it’s likely some movement due to trades might occur.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that Pollock is the architect of the Expansion Draft process. Some say he set up the draft system to specifically benefit his Montreal Canadiens. We shall see if this is true as the draft unfolds.
In our next post, we will go through the goalkeeper phase of the draft process.