No hockey action to report on today, but we have Emile Francis making some news with his words at the Metropolitan New York Hockey Writers Association luncheon yesterday. We have a few other tidbits and the usual Quick Hits to keep you up to date on all things hockey today.
Francis Thinks Today’s Players ‘Too Chummy’
New York Rangers general manager-coach Emile Francis leaves no doubt how he feels about the new National Hockey League Players Association. Speaking at the Metropolitan New York Hockey Writers Association luncheon yesterday, he says the group has created an aura of complacency among players. And he said a lot more.
“The players feel ‘Oh well, what the hell, there are twice as many jobs around now with expansion.’ Our biggest problem is that the players are getting too damn content.
“These guys are getting too damn chummy. They’re talking too damn much with each other. In this game, there’s no way you can be friendly with guys on the the other teams and play your hard game.”
Francis feels the players’ union has taken the bite out of the game, that the players are no longer as intense as they were before they were organized.
“We can’t afford to have the players lose that competitive urge. Some players seem more intent on beating management than beating one another.”
Francis thinks the union has caused internal problems with some teams as well. Association reps have been known to needle players who haven’t become members.
Francis warned that if players become too complacent because of their association ties, he’ll send them to the minors.
“This mutual admiration society feeling is something they’d better get out of their system – and fast.”
Francis said that expansion has caused teams to widen their scouting areas in an effort to find NHL-quality players. He said that he has been trying to convince Czech star Vaclav Nedomansky to come to North America, and specifically, the Rangers.
“We tried to get him to defect. We even offered American money. But that doesn’t work because he has so many ties at home. It would only get the family in trouble.”
Francis had his right-hand man, Jackie Gordon, attend a tournament in Colorado Springs to attempt to entice Nedomansky to turn pro. But when Czech officials learned that Gordon was in town, Big Ned was kept away from anyone not associated with the team.
Some time later the team was playing in Kitchener, Ontario and Rangers scout Steve Brklacich, who lives in the area, was instructed to contact the player and try to get him to defect.
Gordon describes what happened:
“Brklacich knew this old friend of Nedomansky’s who had defected and was living in Guelph. We had this friend talk to Nedomansky, but it was no good.”
Francis says that the Rangers have approached players from several other European countries but the answer, at least for now, is always the same:
“The trouble is, their coaches want them for the Olympics. Once they play for us, they are no longer amateurs.”
Francis says the far-ranging search for hockey talent is necessary partly because the United States has almost completely failed to produce NHL-calibre players.
Martin Happy With Hawks
He’s under a lot of pressure in Chicago, but Pit Martin is happy to be a Black Hawk. The diminutive centre acquired by the Hawks in last spring’s major trade with Boston got off to a slow start in Chicago this year, but he’s rounding into form now.
Martin had trouble getting untracked due to a lengthy contract dispute that denied him a full training camp. He then missed 12 games with an ankle injury, which is still giving him a little trouble. Despite all the distractions, he still thinks Chicago is the place to be, as he told Red Burnett of the Toronto Star:
“I’m very happy, really like it in Chicago. They’re a great bunch to play hockey with. There’s none of that rah-rah stuff. They have a real professional attitude towards the game.
“I guess every centre dreams of having a star like Bobby Hull on his left wing. He’s not only a great goal-scorer, but an excellent playmaker. If you’re in a better position to shoot, he’ll pass you the puck without hesitation.
“He’s murder to defend against, especially along the boards and in the corners. Because of his tremendous strength, it takes two and three men to slow him down. That gives the centre a lot of freedom and if you’re alert enough to get in position, he’ll get a pass to you.
“Bobby is always in motion. He never stands around looking at the action. Get the puck to him anywhere in the other team’s zone and there’s a good chance it will wind up in the net.
“On the right side, I have Chico Maki, just about the best defensive winger in the game. He does most of our back-checking. A centre couldn’t ask for more.”
- David Molson, president of the Montreal Canadiens, shot down a story making the rounds this morning that the team had made a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The reports had the Habs sending defenceman J.C. Tremblay to Toronto for forward Bob Pulford. Molson completely discounted the rumours: “I don’t know where these things get started but there’s absolutely nothing to this one. If anyone should know I guess it would be me, and I know nothing of it. If someone mentions Mikita or Hull to me, then I might be interested, but it’s never players like that.”
- Reports out of Oakland suggest that the troubled Oakland Seals are not only looking at the city of Vancouver as a possible landing spot for the financially-strapped franchise. Owner Barry Van Gerbig is said to be also considering Seattle, Washington and San Diego, California. San Diego’s Western Hockey League team is out-drawing several NHL expansion teams this season.
- Bruins coach Harry Sinden’s line juggling helped end Boston’s losing streak Saturday night in Los Angeles. Sinden moved Tommy Williams up to left wing on the line with Phil Esposito and Ken Hodge, and inserted Eddie Westfall on the third line with Eddie Shack and rookie Derek Sanderson.
- With Ted Green’s quick return to health, the Bruins sent rookie defenceman Barry Gibbs back to their Oklahoma City farm team in the Central Professional Hockey League.
- Detroit Red Wings have called up centre Jimmy Peters Jr. from their Fort Worth farm team in the CPHL. He will take the place of centre Ted Hampson, who will be out of the lineup with a groin injury.
- Toronto Maple Leafs defence prospect Jim McKenny will be sidelined for about two months with a broken left ankle. McKenny has been playing for the American Hockey League Rochester Americans. The Amerks also will have to get along without centre Bronco Horvath, who has a broken left thumb.
- Pittsburgh Penguins have hired an assistant trainer to help out head man Ken Carson. He is Bob Lynch of Niagara Falls, Ontario.
- Penguins also announced that forward George Konik has been recalled from Baltimore Clippers of the AHL. Konik was brought back as soon as the mandatory 14 days for his assignment had elapsed.
- Los Angeles Kings penalty-killer Howie Hughes is finally getting his wish. Hughes has been clamouring for more ice time and coach Red Kelly has put him at left wing with centre Bryan Campbell and right winger Terry Gray.
- Toronto Marlboros Richie Bayes now has a five-point lead in the Ontario Hockey Association Junior A scoring race. Bayes has 23 goals and 29 assists for 52 points. Tom Webster of Niagara Falls is second, with 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points.
- Left-winger Rejean Houle of the Montreal Junior Canadiens will be lost to the team for about three weeks with a fractured jaw, suffered in Sunday’s game against the Hamilton Red Wings.
- Oshawa Generals of the OHA Junior A Series have lost two-thirds of their first line to injury. Right wing Fred O’Donnell will be out for about a month with a hip injury. Rookie centre Dale Tallon has a bruised shoulder and will likely miss about three weeks.
- Gary Dineen, the top centre on Canada’s national team, has a sprained wrist and will be sidelined for eight to 10 days.
- Long Island Ducks defenceman John Brophy continues to dump himself into hot water with the Eastern Hockey League brass. He has been suspended indefinitely and fined $100 by president Tom Lockhart after he assaulted referee Bill Pringle during last night’s game against New Haven. Brophy knocked Pringle to the ice with his stick after having been assessed a 10-minute misconduct.