Friday, October 26, 2018

New Czar for the NHL

One of my most battered possessions is a copy of the 1977/78 Hockey News Yearbook. Its tattered cover bears all the signs of having used it to press down on while scribbling imaginary road maps, stamp catalogues, and sports leagues as a little kid (I was a little weird, but let my imagination run wild. Heck, I still draw imaginary maps as a stress reliever). I also read the magazine a lot, fascinated by hockey teams and leagues that vanished just before I started following the sport (Atlanta Flames! Cleveland Barons! Cincinnati Stingers! Houston Aeros!).

Upon hearing the death of former NHL president John Ziegler, I remembered this magazine had a two-page spread about his hiring, which came as the NHL/WHA war neared its end. A few things to note from this article:

* NHL franchise issues. The Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary in 1980. Ralston Purina hung on to the St. Louis Blues until 1983, when it nearly sold the franchise to a group prepared to move the team to Saskatoon. The league felt that market was too small, another buyer was found, and the team has remained in St. Louis. The Cleveland Barons (previously the California Golden Seals) merged with the Minnesota North Stars following the 1977/78 season.

* That $15 top seat price fans complained about? If that was charged at Canadian arenas it would be worth, according to the Bank of Canada's inflation calculator, $58.64. The most expensive available full price ticket at the next Maple Leafs game is, with taxes, $706.80. The cheapest ticket available is $160.75 (I imagine prices are inflated for a Saturday night game, but even next week, the cheapest tix are $90. This explains why I have attended only one NHL game in my life, and that ticket was won in a random office draw).

* Beware glowing praise from Harold Ballard. 

* The Detroit Red Wings were about to enjoy a brief break from the "Dead Things" era which lasted from the late 1960s until Mike Ilitch bought the team from Bruce Norris in the early 1980s. Under new coach Bobby Kromm, the 1977/78 Red Wings finished second in the Norris Division and made the playoffs for the first time since 1970. After their trip to the quarterfinals, losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion the Montreal Canadiens, they wouldn't reach the playoffs again until 1984.

* I don't remember where I saw the quote, but I recall an Original Six era owner or executive referring to how lucky the league was that they had a president as malleable as Clarence Campbell. The statement was along the lines of how often can an organization have a Rhodes Scholar figurehead who's so easy to control. 

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