With no hockey to report on from last night, today’s column will feature a few short items.
Seals Looking at Vancouver?
Several media outlets are reporting that Oakland Seals owner Barry Van Gerbig spent the weekend in Vancouver scouting the city as a possible landing spot for his troubled National Hockey League franchise.
About the only things that has become crystal-clear about the Seals situation is that they will almost certainly finish the season in the Bay area. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.
NHL president Clarence Campbell says the team will finish out the season in Oakland. However, he was uncommitted about anything past this year.
Van Gerbig was joined by general manager-coach Bert Olmstead in Vancouver. Olmstead was the coach of the Canucks of the Western Hockey League for two seasons before joining the Seals this year. Van Gerbig admitted things aren’t looking good for the Seals in Oakland:
“Because of the lack of fan support in Oakland, we have to consider alternatives and those could mean transferring the team. We certainly have not decided on such a course of action yet and are hopeful that the crowds in Oakland will increase once the football season is over.”
It’s no secret that the Seals are extremely disappointed that attendance hasn’t picked up over the past couple of weeks. A game against the Western Division leading Philadelphia Flyers drew less than 2,500 fans.
Van Gerbig and Olmstead toured the new Pacific Coliseum, slated to open early next year. They also met with a group of Vancouver businessmen.
Tim Ryan, Seals publicity director denied that Van Gerbig had gone to Vancouver to look at a new home for the Seals. He said the Seals’ owner travelled to the British Columbia city at the invitation of a friend to look at the new arena. He said the team is not considering a move:
“It is absolutely ridiculous to say that on the basis of 13 home games the Seals are planning to move.”
Vancouver was bitterly disappointed when the NHL awarded the six expansion franchises. The city has sought an NHL team for many years and felt like they were cheated out of a team this time. Many in Vancouver feel that Oakland’s difficulties are proof that the NHL made an ill-advised decision, based on cronyism and politics.
Canucks owner Coley Hall was in Oakland last month and was quotes as saying that his city’s entry into the NHL “might come sooner than you think.”
The Seals’ issues have been well-documented. Right from the outset, the team has had trouble establishing an identity. They went from a San Francisco team to being known as a California team until their recent name change to the Oakland Seals.
Management tried to woo fans from across the bay in San Francisco and may have completely misplaced their emphasis in their marketing plans. ‘Frisco fans have stayed away in droves.
Even their management team took on the look of a soap opera in the early days. It was generally thought that the team would continue with the management group that ran the Western Hockey League verson of the team. To that end, Rudy Pilous was signed to a four-year deal as general manager-coach.
When the time for stocking the new clubs with players finally arrived, Van Gerbig brought in Olmstead. Pilous and Olmstead are about as different as night and day, and that culminated in a power struggle that resulted in Pilous’ dismissal.
Now Pilous is suing the Seals for breach of contract and most observers believe he has a very strong case.
This story is a long way from being over, and undoubtedly more reporting will be done in the coming days.
Bowman – A New Generation Coach
Thirty-four year old Scotty Bowman has raised a few eyebrows in his brief tenure as the head coach of the St. Louis Blues. One of Bowman’s ideas that makes him different from his NHL coaching brethren is his plans for housing his players on road trips:
“Players are adults and have to be treated as such. On our next trip west, we’re moving to downtown Oakland and downtown Minneapolis. I like those bright lights. Players like to take in a show, have the odd beer and window shop. You can’t do that away out in the sticks.”
Hard to imagine Punch Imlach, Toe Blake or Bill Reay enabling such behaviour. It remains to be seen if Bowman can achieve the longevity or records which those gentleman have compiled.
- New York Rangers general manager-coach Emile Francis thinks the high-flying Boston Bruins will come back to earth: “Boston has improved tremendously but until its home-road record evens out, it still has something to prove.”
- Bruins general manager Milt Schmidt counters Francis’ comment: “The reasons we’re in first place now are a combination of ability, spirit, morale and will to win. I think this team will just pull up its bootstraps and work hard to take up the slack.” Schmidt is referring to the recent injuries to sensational young superstar Bobby Orr and fellow rearguard Ted Green. Green is expected back in the Bruins lineup this Friday.
- Montreal Canadiens say that centre Jean Beliveau has been pronounced 100 per cent fit and will play in Wednesday’s game against the Boston Bruins. Wingers Yvan Cournoyer and Claude Larose will both be out with injuries.
- An Eastern Hockey League coach and three players have been disciplined by league president Tom Lockhart. Coach Pat Egan (Knoxville), and players John Brophy (Long Island), Jim Mair (Johnstown) and Ian Anderson (Clinton) have been each fined $50 for assaulting referees in separate incidents in recent games. Brophy was also assessed a further $45 for a misconduct he earned in a December 1 game against Johnstown.
- Bobby Hull continues to lead the NHL scoring race with 24 goals, 12 assists for 36 points. Boston’s Johnny Bucyk is second with 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points.
- Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending duo of Johnny Bower and Bruce Gamble have taken over as the NHL’s goals-against average leaders. Doug Favell and Bernie Parent of the Philadelphia Flyers are close behind.
- North Stars general manager Wren Blair dismissed rumours that he is considering stepping down as coach and handing bench duties to John Muckler, coach of the Stars Central Professional Hockey League team at Memphis: “We need John at Memphis. And if we keep playing well there won’t be much reason for me to do as much scouting and looking for talent as I would if we were losing.”
- Two Toronto Marlboros have risen to the top of the Ontario Hockey Association Junior A Series scoring race. Richie Bayes leads with 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points. Terry Caffery is second with 18-25-43. Niagara Falls Flyers team mates Tom Webster and Steve Atkinson hold down third and fourth places respectively.