Lots of hockey news today as National Hockey League training camps continue with all teams now fully engaged in workouts. While there are no major stories on which to report, we have many interesting pieces of information to discuss today.
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager-coach Punch Imlach has followed through with his threat to fine star defenceman Tim Horton $500 plus $25 for every subsequent day of training camp that he misses.
Imlach was asked how he intends to collect on the penalty, given that NHL president Clarence Campbell has decreed that no such sanctions can be levied against players until one month before the team’s first game. That would be tomorrow in Toronto’s case.
Imlach says he will get his money from Horton “one way or another.” He elaborated by saying that the last contract offer made to Horton has been reduced by $500. For every day that Horton stays away from camp, the offer will be reduced by $25. That, of course, depends on Imlach during negotiations not moving off his original offer to Horton, which the player has already rejected.
This “take it or leave it” attitude on the part of management is one of the major things the new players’ association is fighting against. Players have always had very little leverage in negotiations with management and under the guidance of Toronto lawyer Alan Eagleson, that customary state of affairs may be about to change. Horton is not a member of the association, at least as of yet.
Horton did say last night that he had talked to assistant general manager King Clancy. He declined to say who initiated the conversation, nor did he mention how the talks progressed.
Stafford Smythe, Maple Leaf Gardens president, says Clancy offered Horton a three-year deal with a hefty raise. He predited the reluctant rearguard will accept the offer and appear in camp by Thursday.
Imlach wasn’t so sure that would happen. Clearly bothered by Horton’s absence, the kindly old manager-coach says that the next step will be to suspend the veteran rearguard. But that won’t happen immediately
“I’ll give him a week, or maybe 10 days before I suspend him.”
Imlach is already lining up a replacement should Horton decide to forego hockey and live off the riches he derives from his two Hamilton doughnut shops. Darryl Sly, a minor league veteran who was with Toronto’s Rochester farm club last season, was singled out by Imlach as a likely substitute.
Imlach is anticipating even more contract trouble from his unsigned players, whom he declined to name:
“The next thing I’ll be told is that they won’t play in exhibition games. They’ve tested me once already and I wouldn’t be surprised to run into this but I’ll have to wait until shortly before our games this weekend.”
Leafs – Kings Feud?
There definitely are strained relations between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings. It all began last June at the NHL Expansion Draft when the Maple Leafs recalled Red Kelly to their protected list, preventing him from becoming the coach of the Kings for a couple of days. Kelly eventually was traded to the Kings for what basically amounted to a bag of pucks, but not before Toronto management had thoroughly embarrassed Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke.
The latest disagreement between the two clubs stemms from an exhibition game that the Maple Leafs believed was to take place between their Rochester Americans farm team and the Kings. The game was slated to take place Friday night at the Kings’ training facility in Guelph, Ontario, according to Rochester general manager-coach Joe Crozier.
Apparently, Cooke has vetoed any exhibition games between the Kings and American Hockey League teams. Los Angeles general manager Larry Regan says he has scheduled an intra-squad game for that time slot.
Crozier says he has an agreement in place to play a game and his team will show up in Guelph ready for a match. Regan was unimpressed by Crozier’s statement:
“If Rochester shows up, they can stay and watch our game.”
Crozier says he has been in contact with Clarence Campbell and there is a possibility court action will be taken against the Kings:
“I don’t know how the Kings can go back on a commitment which they made and is over the signature of their general manager.”
North Stars Adopt Soviet Training Methods
Minnesota North Stars general manager Wren Blair thinks he has found a way for his fledgling expansion team to get a leg up on the competition. Blair believes he can have his team in superior condition by adopting training methods used by the Soviet Union to train their national hockey team. Whether his players will buy in to the idea is another matter, but early reactions are encouraging.
Blair explained his rationale to Red Burnett of the Toronto Star:
“I think that, basically, every team in our expansion section of the National Hockey League is on a par, as far as player strength is concerned.
“Our goal is to outdistance them in conditioning and so gain an advantage on the ice. I have always admired the way the Russians have brought their hockey teams to world tournaments in peak condition with seemingly unlimited stamina.
“I had the privilege of coaching the Whitby Dunlops to victory over them (1958 World Championships) but at the time was impressed with the great strides they had made in hockey. Since then I have watched their progress with amazement. Their improvement has been fantastic and I feel it has been because of training and conditioning techniques which are superior to ours.
“In the conditioning end of the business they are at least 70 per cent ahead of us. And that holds true in all sports except swimming. That’s why they are cleaning up in the Olympics and other world tournaments. I have always felt that hockey, on this continent, has dragged its skate blades in the matter of progress.
“Look at our swimmers. They keep tearing up the record books. It’s done by dedication, plus advanced training and conditioning techniques.
“If we apply the same methods to hockey, we should be able to improve skating, shooting, stickhandling and other phases of our game. The Russians would have surpassed us by now if it were not for the lack of competition.
“When the day comes – and it will – that they play our National Hockey League teams, then look out.”
Several of Blair’s NHL veterans have applauded the stepped-up conditioning program as implemented by fitness expert Lloyd Percival. Big Elmer (Moose) Vasko is one player who endorses the program. Also on board are Jean-Guy Talbot and Dave Balon, who came to the North Stars from Montreal. In fact, Talbot is taking an instructor’s course.
Blair says charts will be kept on every player to monitor strength, stamina and endurance.
- A sharp-eyed photographer caught Bruins young superstar Bobby Orr as he arrived at the Parry Sound, Ontario hospital for physiotherapy. Orr was on crutches but the cast has been removed from his injured knee.
- The great Gordie Howe has signed a two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings. His salary is believed to be in the $50,000/yr range. It will be Gordie’s 22nd NHL season.
- Red Wings have also signed defenceman Howie Young. Young was not protected in the Expansion Draft, but was the first player recalled by the Red Wings.
- Jean Beliveau has signed his 1967-68 contract with Montreal Canadiens. No terms were disclosed. This is Big Jean’s 15th NHL season.
- Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bud Poile has been instructed by NHL president Clarence Campbell to refrain from fining players who have not reported to training camp. Flyers two top draft picks, Ed Van Impe and Joe Watson, are still absent from camp.
- Flyers have adopted a Halloweenish-looking orange and black colour scheme for their first NHL uniforms. Some observers have termed them as “garish.”
- Flyers have obtained 37-year-old veteran goalie Al Millar from Phoenix of the Western Hockey League. He’s expected to be the Flyers’ backup goalie. Millar played for the Boston Bruins 10 years ago.
- Philadelphia hockey writer Ed Conrad says that based on early workouts, it would not be a surprise if amateur goalie Claude Cyr emerged as the Flyers’ number one netminder.
- Four regular members of the New York Rangers, Rod Gilbert, Vic Hadfield, Orland Kurtenbach and Arnie Brown have not reported to training camp at Kitchener, Ontario. Hadfield is the only one of the four who has permission to be late.
- Pittsburgh Penguins open training camp today in Brantford, Ontario with only one player under contract. He’s Jeannot (Gil) Gilbert, who was with AHL Hershey last season.
- Boston Bruins have signed forwards Johnny McKenzie and Tommy Williams. As per usual, no terms were disclosed.