September 20 – A Plante Comeback?

Today we take a closer look at the new California Seals, including the possibility of a National Hockey League comeback by goaltending great Jacques Plante. In addition, we’ll look at this year’s officiating lineup for the NHL and report on a ton of other news items from around the training camps.

Plante Looks Good

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Jacques Plante in his Ranger days

As has been widely reported over the past few days, National Hockey League goaltending great Jacques Plante has signed on with the expansion California Seals as some sort of consultant / goalkeeper coach / assistant to general manager-coach Bert Olmstead. But a more interesting development has seen ol’ Jake the Snake strap on the gear and look like the best netminder in training camp.

While fans might be enthusiastic about a Plante return to the ice wars, there are obstacles. He is nearly 39 years old. That’s well past your prime unless your name is John Bower. He retired from hockey in 1965 – that’s a long time to be away from the world’s best hockey league. And the big stumbling block: the New York Rangers still hold his NHL rights.

It appears that Plante will be able to overcome the age and time away issues. He’s been more than competent in the scrimmages in which he has participated. While this level of competition isn’t near what he will face in an NHL game, these are still men fighting for a spot in the big league. And he’s holding them off quite well, thank you.

Rangers Will Want Assets

The real problem is that the Rangers hold Plante’s fate in their hands. Olmstead, when he found out Plante was interested in seeing what he could do, made an arrangement with New York general manager Emile Francis to allow him to work out with the team, allegedly under the guise of mentoring Seals’ goaltenders, especially Gary Smith. Smith has a lot of Plante in him – he’s flamboyant and likes to wander.

The deal always was, for the Rangers, if you want to use Plante as a regular player, you will have to make a trade for his services with us. Now, it looks like the Seals may just find it necessary to do that. And with the Montreal native looking as good as he has, Francis will ask for something significant in exchange. Young Smith backing up Ed Giacomin might be a good fit for the Rangers, but a stiff price to pay for the Seals.

California’s number one goalie draft pick, Charlie Hodge, refuses to budge on his contract demands. The Seals refuse to move on what they will pay him. And as Plante shows better and better in workouts, the urgency to sign little Charlie becomes less and less.

If Hodge comes around AND the Seals sign Plante, that would be quite a puckstopping duo, maybe the best among the expansion teams and right up there with some of the Eastern Division teams as well.

Selke Thinks Seals No Worse Than Second.

California Seals president Frank Selke Jr. has had a good look at his new NHL club and he likes what he sees. He feels the team was expertly drafted by general manager coach Bert Olmstead and Rudy Pilous (the departed former manager) and will challenge for first place in the Western Division.

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Frank Selke Jr. 

Selke thinks that if all players drafted can be signed, the team is in more than good shape. The team has signed more than 12 players, including top skater pick, defenceman Bobby Baun. While Baun’s salary has not been made public, Selke says it is the finest contract ever given an NHL rearguard.

He went on to assess the Seals chances of success in their first year:

“If we can get everybody we drafted, I’d be very disappointed if we’re worse than second at season’s end. I think we can make first but then so can Philadelphia. I think they’re the prime opposition.

“They drafted well and they’ve got six first-class players in Quebec, including Jimmy Morrison, as old as he is.

“From there it’s a toss-up. Any team that has Glenn Hall in goal (St. Louis) is one that can’t be ignored.

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Billy Harris

Selke says the team is very strong in two critical areas – down the middle and behind the bench. Former Maple Leaf and Red Wing Billy Harris should be the number one pivot, with another former Leaf, Wally Boyer right behind him. And a wild card is a familiar face to California hockey fans:

“We’ve always got good ol’ reliable Charlie Burns, although we may start him at left wing because we’re a bit weak there.”

Burns played for the Western Hockey League Seals from 1963-64 until last season when he served as the club’s playing coach. He was offered a minor-league coaching job by the Seals but turned that down for the opportunity to try to make the big team as a player. So far, it looks like he’s a shoe-in.

As for Olmstead, Selke doesn’t hide his admiration:

“Bert Olmstead is definitely the best coach of the six new teams and I can’t think of anybody I’d rather be starting with. He should have been coaching long before this.”

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Bert Olmstead has a word with Kent Douglas, left and Bobby Baun.

Selke doesn’t think the team will have trouble drawing fans if the product on the ice is satisfactory:

“We’ve got two or three years of tremendously hard work ahead of us but this is an extremely sports conscious area and if we can give them any kind of a team we’ll do fine.”

The Seals publicity director and vice-president is Tim Ryan. He left a secure sportscasting job in Toronto to take up with the Seals. He outlined some of the issues that make life difficult for the fledgling hockey franchise:

“You know about this feud between Oakland and ‘The City’? It’s ridiculous but it’s there. Nobody will come from San Francisco to watch anything in Oakland. Ridiculous, right?

“If we had to rely on ‘The City’ to provide us with fans, we’d die. So what we have to do is go maybe 75 miles in all directions – except into the ocean – to places like Sacramento, Berkley, San Jose, Stockton and dozens of others.

“We’ve got a beautiful rink – they call it the ‘Jewel Box’ because that’s what it looks like.”

Ryan is correct, the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum itself is very nice. It’s spacious, has no bad sightlines and is pleasing to the eye inside. It houses only 12,500 fans, and that’s the bare minimum for an NHL rink. If the Seals can fill those 12,500 seats, they will be just fine.

All NHL Officials Signed

The National Hockey league isn’t having any holdout problems with its on-ice officials. All 16 referees and nine full-time and four part-time linesmen have agreed to their contracts. Top salary is $17,000.

The referees for this season are Vern Buffey, John Ashley, Art Skov, Bill Friday, Bruce Hood, Lloyd Gilmour, Bob Sloan, Wally Harris, Ron Wicks, Tom Smith, Johnny D’Amico, Yves Tessier, Bill Beagan, Dave Newell and two top prospects, Bryan Lewis and  John McCauley.

The full-time linesmen will be Neil Armstrong, Matt Pavlich, Brent Cassleman, Red Shetler, Claude Bechard, Willard Norris, top prospect Ron Ego and two others yet to be named. Part-timers will be Walt Atanas and Bob Frampton, plus another two unnamed candidates.

Quick Hits

  • The NHL’s most important holdout right now is goalie Denis DeJordy of the Chicago Black Hawks. DeJordy and the team are about $12,000 apart in their negotiations and neither side will budge. If DeJordy doesn’t sign, the Hawks will go with Dave Dryden in goal. He was with the Chicago farm team in St. Louis of the Central Professional Hockey League last season.
  • The three men vying for the departed Bob Baun’s spot on the Maple Leafs defence are Darryl Sly, Duane Rupp and Jim McKenny. Right now, all three are given an equal shot at the job.
  • In his first day at training camp, Tim Horton received a parking ticket to go along with the fines Punch Imlach says he will impose on the holdout defenceman.
  • Leafs veteran farmhand Bronco Horvath hasn’t lost his scoring touch. He scored five goals in Rochester’s afternoon scrimmage yesterday.

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    Al Osborne: now a Ranger
  • The Maple Leafs have finally made the final payment on the February 1964 trade with the New York Rangers. That deal saw Andy Bathgate and Don McKenney come to Toronto for Bob Nevin, Dick Duff, Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown and Bill Collins. There were several other side pieces of the deal, with the final one being the Leafs sending Toronto Marlboro forward Al Osborne to the Rangers this fall.
  • Los Angeles Kings downed the Minnesota North Stars 6-2 last night in Guelph. Eddie Joyal was the scoring star for the Kings with three goals. Roger Cote had a pair of markers with Real Lemieux scoring the other. North Stars goal-getters were Pete Goegan and Murray Hall.
  • Boston Bruins got even for their 7-0 loss the other night to the New York Rangers by blasting the Blueshirts 9-3 in London, Ontario. Rookie Ross Lonsberry, centre Fred Stanfield and right wing John McKenzie scored two goals each for the Bruins. Derek Sanderson, Tom Williams and Ted Green had the others. Green by the way, signed his 1967-68 contract with Boston yesterday. For the Rangers it was Jean Ratelle, Reg Fleming and Bill Fairbairn.
  • Philadelphia Flyers still can’t beat their Quebec Aces American Hockey League farm team. The team may feel it took a big step in last night’s 2-2 tie with the Aces, but the fact remains, they blew a 2-0 lead to their farm club. Andre Lacroix and Forbes Kennedy gave the Flyers the lead before Rene Drolet and Keke Mortson brought the Aces even in the final period.

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    Bernie Parent
  • After agreeing to a contract late in the summer, Flyers goalie Bernie Parent has changed his mind after talking to Toronto lawyer Alan Eagleson. The 22-year-old netminder now is angling for more money. Flyers’ general manager Bud Poile was so upset he suspended Parent for not signing the deal he had verbally agreed to.
  • New York Rangers have signed goalkeeper Gilles Villemure and centre Red Berenson. They also lost left wing Don Marshall to injury. Marshall was taken to hospital with a ruptured blood vessel in his thigh.
  •  Bruins sent 10 players to their CPHL Oklahoma City farm team: Wayne Cashman, Jean Pronovost, Bob Heaney, Brian Bradley, Dave Woodley, Rosaire Paiement, Garnet Bailey, Jim Lorentz. Bob Toothill and goalie Dennis Gibson. Gibson is a former Oshawa junior making a comeback after a two-year retirement.
  • The NHL may take steps to prevent Bruins Eddie Shack from appearing in a television commercial for Carling Breweries.

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    Val Fonteyne
  • Pittsburgh Penguins have signed veteran defensive forward Val Fonteyne.
  • Detroit Red Wings defenceman Bob McCord missed workouts yesterday while he was at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital taking treatment for a bad back.
  • The Red Wings sent left wing Nick Libett to San Diego of the Western Hockey League. Libett had been expected to make the big club this fall.
  • The Ottawa-based section of the Canadian national hockey team says forward Butch Goring, who has two seasons of junior eligibility left, has made the team. He spent the past two years with the Winnipeg Rangers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.
  • Veteran winger Bryan Watson and rookie defenceman Serge Savard wrestled to a draw in a spirited scuffle at Montreal Canadiens training camp. The set-to broke out when the much larger Savard took Watson heavily into the boards.
  • Three Peterborough Petes OHA Junior A grads, Mickey Redmond, Garry Monahan and Danny Grant, continue to impress Canadiens coach Toe Blake.
  • Bobby Orr had a light on-ice workout yesterday and pronounced his injured knee as just fine. General manager Milt Schmidt says he is pleasantly surprised at Orr’s rapid progress in his recuperation from that knee injury suffered in an off-season exhibition game.
  • Defenceman Al Arbour, who has been insisting that he is retiring from hockey, has had a change of heart. He has been talked into reporting to the St. Louis Blues by general manager Lynn Patrick and assistant Scotty Bowman.

 

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