Philadelphia Flyers president William Putnam sat down with Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Bill Hochman in order to try to dispel the many rumours floating around about the fledgling National Hockey League expansion franchise. Among the subjects covered were the stories floating around that the franchise would move to Vancouver, that the new arena would be substandard and that the team is already experiencing money problems.
Spectrum to be First-Class
Putnam told Hochman that the stories that are out there are very disturbing to him. He first addressed the notion that they were skimping on features for the Flyers’ new home, The Spectrum:
“They’re not building a monument to somebody. They’re not building a palace. It’s a functional building designed for the sports fan.
“It will seat 15,000, have upholstered seats, a great sight line. Sure, you could put in frills like terrazzo floors and gold leaf outside, but what good is that?
“The ice plant is excellent. The scoreboard will cost $250,000 and have a message unit that can hold 10,000 facts. If Wilt makes a field goal the guy can push a button and tell you his shooting percentage right to that moment. The sound system is excellent. The important things are there.
“I’ve been in 30 arenas and this is the best one I’ve ever been in from a spectator standpoint. It will be better than the new Madison Square Garden.”
Heady words coming from the former banker who made his name in financial circles right in New York City. He addressed the stories about the Flyers shaky financial standing:
“I got out of the banking business to get into hockey. And I’ve spent most of my time in banks all summer. First we had to raise the $2 million (expansion fee). Then we had to arrange the purchase of the Quebec Aces (American Hockey League farm team). Then we worked on the reorganization (Ed Snider as the principal stockholder).
“If we were buying an existing team we would have found it easier to borrow from the regular sources. Starting a new team, we had to put up a certain amount of front money.
“A week before the fee was due we were deciding which way we would go. We had several possibilities. We have a cash reserve. We approached this on the same basis as any prudent businessman. We’ve got to provide for any storm. You can’t be walking a tight-rope.”
Expansion Fee Payment Nearly Missed
Of course, a lot of the speculation about the Flyers financial situation comes from the narrow miss on June 5 at the National Hockey League meetings. On that day, the expansion fee came due and each of the teams dutifully walked into a room where president Clarence Campbell was holed up and presented him their cheque. The Flyers cheque, however was very late. Apparently a power failure in Philadelphia prevented the Flyers; bank from making the wire transfer of the funds. After an agonizing wait of an hour or so, the funds finally became available and the Flyers were officially members of the NHL.
Putnam wasn’t shy about sharing numbers with Hochman. He outlined the money spent thus far on things the average hockey fan might not consider. That includes $400,000 on things such as arena equipment, scouting fees, salaries and league meetings. Player equipment cost the team another $75,000.
Putnam says that Campbell had told him right from the beginning that it would cost $3,500,000 to get into the hockey business and, looking back, that figure was pretty accurate. It will take another $1,000,000 to get the team through the first season.
Seven Years to Recoup Investment
The Flyers’ president figures it will take the team about seven years to recoup the initial investment. That would put the team into the 1974-75 season to start really making money.
All this is, of course contingent on the Flyers drawing sufficient numbers of fans. Putnam doesn’t see a problem there:
“A lot of experts told us if we sold 250 season tickets it would be a miracle. Here we are at about the 2,000 mark. (Which is about in the middle of sales for the new teams).
“A study was made for the Spectrum on what kind of attendance could be expected. It projected an average of 13,000 for hockey.
“The National Hockey League played to 98 per cent of capacity last year. I don’t feel Philadelphia is any different from Boston, Detroit or Chicago. I think we’ll be up in those figures.”
Stories abound that suggest the Flyers will not be long for the City of Brotherly Love. Putnam attempted to set the record straight on that count as well”
“The press in Vancouver has been devastating. They keep saying we’re going to fail they’re going to get the team. And Baltimore feels we cheated them out of the chance to get a team. I was introduced at a basketball game there last winter and I never heard such booing.”
Long Expects 70 at 67s Camp
Bill Long, the very first coach of the new Ontario Hockey Association Junior A Ottawa 67s, is eagerly awaiting the team’s initial training camp. He told the Ottawa Journal that he expects about 70 players to try out for the squad. Forty of those are from the immediate Ottawa area. Camp opens September 14 at the Hull Arena.
The team’s first league game is scheduled for Niagara Falls on October 6. Long has a good idea about some of the players who have a good chance of being in the lineup for that first game.
Some players who have already played at the Junior A level in other cities are returning to their home town to suit up for the 67s. They include Ray Renaud (Thetford Mines) and Jim Blain (Toronto Marlboros).
Long expects that Detroit, Michigan native Peter Donnelly has the inside track on the main goalkeeping job. Donnelly toiled for Quebec in the Provincial Junior League last year, compiling a commendable 2.92 goals-against average for a fifth-place club. His main competition will be Gary Doyle, coming in from Smith’s Falls.
A couple of youngsters from the Montreal Metro League who are highly regarded are forwards Michel St. Jacques and Bill Clement. A couple of brothers from Pembroke, Terry and Bill Murray, are expected to be main cogs on the blue line.
- NHL referee Vern Buffey has 95 students registered for his referee school to be held in Haliburton, Ontario from September 11 – 16. He will be assisted by Art Skov and Matt Pavlich.
- Jack Kent Cooke has appointed Tim Reilly, Jr. to the post of director of public relations and advertising for his various sporting endeavours.