December 9

There was only one game in the National Hockey League last night, but it was a big one, featuring the top two teams in the Western Division. We also have some news coming out of the NHL Board of Governors meeting about the Oakland Seals, plus the usual Quick Hits.

Flyers Blank Kings

The Philadelphia Flyers regained first place in the NHL’s Western Division last night. They knocked the host Los Angeles Kings out of the top spot with a 3-0 win before only 4,624 fans at the Long Beach Sports Arena.

Rookie goalie Doug Favell earned his second shutout of the season for the Flyers, making 24 saves. Favell wasn’t even supposed to be with the Flyers this season. In training camp it was thought that he would spend the season learning his craft in the American Hockey League, but he played his way onto the roster and, teamed with the Flyers’ other netminder Bernie Parent, gives the Flyers the best defensive record in the league.

Favell was brilliant in perhaps his best game of the season. The Kings outshot the visitors 24-19 and many of those 24 shots were point-blank scoring opportunities. Favell stopped four clear-cut breakaways.

The 22-year-old rookie refused to take credit for the win:

The boys were really checking out there. They havent checked like that in a long time. The defencemen were getting the rebound and clearing it out of there.

Flyers scored once in the first period and followed up with a pair in the middle frame.laforgeClaudePHI

Claude Laforge opened the scoring for the Flyers at the 11-minute mark of the first. He was set up by centre Ed Hoekstra and buried a 12-footer past Kings goalie Wayne Rutledge, who had no chance on the play.

Pat Hannigan  put Philly up 3-0 at 6:06 of the middle frame. He shovelled home a goal-mouth pass from Garry Peters on a two-on-one break just over Rutledge’s shoulder.

Gary Dornhoefer completed the scoring 89 seconds later. He fired a bullet from the right side that found the net after Rutledge partially stopped it.

The game featured rough checking and fast skating, along with great goalkeeping from both sides. It was a shame that the crowd was so small, but understandable. Yesterday was an historic event in Long Beach as the luxury ocean liner the Queen Mary docked there for the first time. The gigantic British vessel attracted huge crowds to the ocean front, likely detracting from the hockey audience expected for last night.

Seals Okay (?!)

It’s tough to figure out whether a statement that the Oakland Seals are going to be able to finish their first NHL season is an emphatic positive statement or a question. The NHL board of governors yesterday assured the Seals that they would provide funds or whatever other assistance the first-year expansion team might need to finish the season. Moving the franchise does not seem to be an option at this point.

NHL president Clarence Campbell, in his best lawyerly fashion, attempted to put a positive spin on the Seals situation:

“They’ve got all kinds of resources. I dont consider them to be in a bad financial way and neither do the league governors. I am pleased with the progress the Oakland club is making and there is no thought about the Oakland team moving to another city. The league will give them and the other five new teams whatever support is necessary, financial or otherwise.

Campbell went on to say that the Seals ownership structure is part of the cause of their problems:

Internally, the nature of their organization makes it difficult to raise funds quickly.

According to Campbell, the Seals have sufficient financial backing, but for some reason the funds necessary to carry on the business of a National Hockey League team haven’t been made available to management.

Seals president Frank Selke, who was not at the meeting, said from California that he is not experiencing any lack of operating funds:

Frank Selke Jr. 

All I know is that weve got enough money to pay the bills and keep up our payroll. Sure, the fans arent breaking down the doors to get into the place, but we idnt expet that they woud. Things certainly arent going as well as we thought they would, but were not ready to push the panic button after 12 league games. Its far too early.

Selke said that the club has had numerous offers from prospective buyers, including one from “Eastern Canada that would really surprise you. It would have made a healthy profit.”

Donald V. Ruck, the NHL’s director of public relations, said that the Seals couldn’t move the franchise without permission from the Board of Governors.

When Campbell mentioned support other than financial would be made available to the new teams, he was asked if that meant additional player help. He said that possibility was never mentioned during the meeting.

Campbell distributed a press release that states the average attendance for the six new teams rose from 6,000 on October 31 to 6,600 on November 30. He remains optimistic that figures will continue to be on the rise:

The attendance thus far in December continues upward. We remain confident all clubs will do well at the box office and we expect a substantial upturn at the conclusion of the football season.

Campbell took issue when pressed about the poor attendance in Oakland. Their game Wednesday night against Philadelphia drew just over 2,400 fans. Campbell even took time to ridicule the National Basketball Association attendance figures:

I dont know why the NHL has to apologize. The NBA goes with crowds such as 1,200, 1,300 and 875. We dont expect 95 per cent capacity crowds in our new division cities.

Campbell denied reports that the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia franchises were also experiencing financial difficulties.

Quick Hits

  • Detroit Red Wings superstar Gordie Howe was taken to a Detroit hospital last night suffering from stomach cramps and severe back pain. Doctors said Howe was responding to treatment and feeling much better this morning but declined to comment on his ailment pending the results of further tests.

    Ron Murphy
  • The Boston Bruins have sent left winger Ron Murphy to their Oklahoma City farm team in the Central Professional Hockey League. Murphy has been out of the lineup since the second game of the season with a torn biceps tendon. He’s being sent to the farm team to play himself back into shape. Bruins coach Harry Sinden said Murphy’s stay at Oklahoma City would be for six games.
  • Montreal Canadiens fine young right winger Yvan Cournoyer will miss both of the Habs’ weekend games. Cournoyer suffered a pulled groin during yesterday’s Montreal practice.
  • Right wing Eric Nesterenko will return to the Chicago Black Hawks lineup tonight. The big forward had missed the past couple of games with a leg injury.
  • Bernie Geoffrion and Ed Giacomin of the New York Rangers appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on Wednesday evening. Carson donned Giacomin’s goalie equipment while Geoffrion demonstrated the art of his patented slap shot.

    Bob Ash
  • Rangers have returned defenceman Bob Ash to the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League. Ash had been with the Rangers the past two games as an emergency replacement, but did not play.
  • Jean-Marie Cossette scored three goals to lead the Baltimore Clippers to a 5-3 win over the Hershey Bears in an AHL game at Baltimore.
  • Springfield Kings edged the Cleveland Barons 2-1 at Springfield. Dennis Rathwell and Gerry Foley scored for the Kings while Bob Ellett replied for Cleveland.
  • In an Ontario Hockey Association Junior A game at Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toronto Marlboros drubbed the St. Catharines Black Hawks 7-2. Tom Martin led the way for the Marlies with three goals. Other Toronto scorers were John Wright, Gord Davies, Doug Acomb and Steve King. Skeeter Teal and Al McDonough found the range for the Hawks.

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