Saturday, November 24, 2012

1975 NHL Intra-League Draft

1975: the number of NHL and WHA teams combined was at an all-time high (32). Teams in both leagues were struggling to make ends meet. The WHA's Chicago Cougars and Baltimore Blades (née Michigan Stags) folded after the '74-'75 season. The Kansas City Scouts, only a year old, were already facing financial ruin. The Golden Seals had been owned and operated by the NHL for over a year. The Pittsburgh Penguins were bankrupt. The NHL obviously had much more pressing matters at the annual meetings in June to consider than the intra-league draft. As such it was very brief; reportedly it took less than 10 minutes.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFromPlayer Removed
From Protected List
Claim player
or cash
1Dale LewisNew York RangersLos Angeles KingsHartland Monahancash
2Hartland MonahanWashington CapitalsNew York RangersTom Williamscash

The rules were the same as before: protected lists of 18 skaters and a pair of goaltenders, $40,000 draft price. The Penguins weren't permitted to take part due to their bankruptcy; there was a very real possibility that the Penguins would fold.

The Penguins were rescued from bankruptcy by businessmen Al Savill and Otto Frenzel, and former Minnesota North Stars GM Wren Blair. The Penguins would live to see another day. The same could not be said of the intra-league draft. Mid-way through the '75-'76 season the end for the intra-league draft had come: there would be no draft in 1976. June 17, 1975 would go down as the day the last intra-league draft was held by the NHL. Hartland Monahan was the last player ever taken in an NHL intra-league draft.

1974 NHL Reverse Draft

The 1974 Reverse Draft was held June 13. The draft price was $15,000.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFrom
1Glen SeperichSyracuse Eagles (AHL)Detroit Red Wings
(Tidewater Wings [AHL])
2Bill ButtersDenver Spurs (WHL)Toronto Maple Leafs
(Oklahoma City Blazers [CHL])
3Rene DroletTidewater Wings (AHL)Philadelphia Flyers
4Graham ParsonsRichmond Robins (AHL)Minnesota North Stars
(New Haven Nighthawks [AHL])
5Alan HangslebenNova Scotia Voyageurs (AHL)Montreal Canadiens
(Nova Scotia Voyageurs [AHL])
6Harry ShawRochester Americans (AHL)Minnesota North Stars
(New Haven Nighthawks [AHL])

The previous day the NHL had announced that conditional franchises had been awarded to Vincent Abbey and Ivan Mullenix, the owners of the WHL's Seattle Totems and Denver Spurs respectively, to begin play in those cities in 1976. The WHL announced it was suspending operations for the '74-'75 season later that day. The Totems, Spurs and Salt Lake Golden Eagles moved to the Central Hockey League for the '74-'75 season. The WHL's indefinite suspension of operations became permanent.

I suspect the Spurs' selection of Bill Butters was either voided (having ostensibly been chosen by a team without a league at the time) or a cash deal was made to sell his rights back to the Maple Leafs; he was back in Oklahoma City by the beginning of the season in the fall.

In 1975 the Spurs and Totems' conditional NHL franchises were revoked. The financial situation of many of the league's teams were precarious (particularly the Penguins, Scouts and Golden Seals): more expansion was thought to be too risky at the time. The Totems folded while the Spurs decided to move to the WHA instead. The WHA Spurs didn't last long though; attendance at the then-new McNichols Sports Arena was atrocious and Mullenix was bleeding money. He conditionally sold the team to interests in Ottawa around New Year's Day, 1976, and the team played a few more games as the "Ottawa Civics" before folding for good in mid-January. Over-expansion was taking its toll...

1974 NHL Inter-League Draft

The 1974 Inter-League Draft was held June 12, immediately following the expansion draft. Only the expansion Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals took part.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFrom
1Jim HrycuikWashington CapitalsHershey Bears (AHL)
2Hugh HarveyKansas City ScoutsHershey Bears (AHL)

Hrycuik later scored the very first goal in Capitals franchise history, beating Eddie Giacomin at 5:06 of the first period in the Capitals' first regular season game against the Rangers on October 9, 1974. The Capitals lost the game 6-3, the first of 67 losses in the '74-'75 season. They went on to set a record in futility by winning only eight games that season, a low-mark that is still unsurpassed by an NHL team having played 70 or more games in a season.

1974 NHL Intra-League Draft

The 1974 NHL Intra-League Draft took place June 10 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. This year, because it was an expansion year, the rules were modified slightly such that the teams could lose only one player. As in the past first-year pros were exempt and the draft price was $40,000. Also exempt this year were goalies. Any player claimed in the proceedings had to be kept on the claiming team's 16-man protected list in the expansion draft, which took place later that week.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFromPlayer Removed
From Protected List
Claim player
or cash
1Jim NeilsonCalifornia Golden SealsNew York RangersWalt McKechnieclaim
2Dave FortierNew York IslandersPhiladelphia FlyersBrian Lefleycash
3Jim WileyVancouver CanucksPittsburgh PenguinsJim Maircash
4Brian OgilvieSt. Louis BluesChicago Black HawksButch Williamscash
5Ron BusniukDetroit Red WingsBuffalo SabresAl McLeodcash

The biggest news story surrounding this year's draft was fall-out from the first selection. Before the draft the Golden Seals, Rangers and Bruins had come to an agreement such that the Seals would take Jim Neilson with their first pick, drop Walt McKechnie from their protected list to make room for Neilson, the Rangers would claim McKechnie as compensation, and they would trade McKechnie to the Bruins at a later date for Derek Sanderson. All was going according to plan until the Sabres had their turn. Because McKechnie was claimed as compensation for losing Neilson McKechnie wasn't placed on the Rangers' protected list. Sabres GM Punch Imlach, being Punch Imlach, thought he could claim McKechnie from the Rangers (his rationale being "McKechnie was the best player available"), thus negating the pre-arranged deal the Rangers and Bruins had agreed to. NHL President Clarence Campbell immediately ruled that the selection was invalid, explained that this year a team could only lose one player and the Rangers had already lost Neilson to the Golden Seals, and the Sabres would have to make another selection or forfeit their pick. Imlach threatened to appeal to the Board of Governors but Campbell rebuffed him, telling him appeals on this matter would not be allowed.

Imlach waived his selection and the rest of the teams passed as well, ending the draft. Two days later McKechnie was traded to the Bruins for Sanderson.

1973 NHL Intra-League Draft

The 1973 NHL Intra-League Draft took place June 12 at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The draft price was $40,000, and each team protected 18 skaters and a pair of goalies. It was a short affair this year, lasting only about half an hour with only a half-dozen players taken in a single round of drafting. Montreal Gazette sports editor Ted Blackman's article about the draft was titled "NHL draft strictly dullsville". He went on to describe the atmosphere at these meetings as very quiet:

"With the amateur draft moved ahead three weeks to beat the WHA to the punch, the NHL meetings have lost all excitement. Most of the governors' meetings are hush-hush secret sessions on war strategy, the halls are quiet and not one decent rumor has been started."

The WHA had arrived, baby.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFromPlayer Removed
From Protected List
Claim player
or cash
1Bert MarshallNew York IslandersNew York RangersDave Pulkkinencash
2Ray McKayCalifornia Golden SealsBuffalo SabresDanny Helmcash
3Doug MohnsAtlanta FlamesMinnesota North StarsBill Plagerclaim
4Ron JonesPittsburgh PenguinsBoston BruinsJim Shirescash
5Lou AngottiSt. Louis BluesChicago Black HawksKevin O'Sheacash
6Joe NorisBuffalo SabresSt. Louis BluesMurray Kuntzcash

Sunday, November 18, 2012

1978 NHL Dispersal Draft

If you were forced to sum up the business of hockey in the 1970s with only one word I think a very strong argument could be made for the word 'expansion'. In 1966 there were six 'major' professional hockey teams in North America. By 1974 there were 32; 18 in the NHL and 14 in the WHA. In retrospect this number of teams was far more than the market could support and the WHA, on relatively shaky financial ground, dwindled down from 14 teams in '74-'75 to only six in their last season of play, '78-'79. While the NHL was substantially stronger it was not immune to the effects of "over-expansion" and in 1978 the Cleveland Barons, the franchise formerly known as the California Golden Seals and one of the first NHL franchises to have moved its operations since the Ottawa Senators moved to St. Louis in 1934, were on the verge of insolvency.

The Barons had seemingly been on the cusp of folding ever since they had moved to Cleveland in 1976. They narrowly escaped death in February of 1977 when the owners couldn't make payroll. Majority owner Mel Swig, a San Francisco real estate developer and former owner of the Seals when they played in the WHL in the '60s, sold his share at the end of the '76-'77 season to minority owners George and Gordon Gund, venture capitalists from Cleveland who orchestrated the move from Oakland to the Coliseum at Richfield. The Gund brothers operated the Barons for another year, lost a reported $3,500,000 doing so, and were looking to fold the team outright.

The NHL faced other problems too, namely the New York Islanders and the Minnesota North Stars. The Islanders were in heavy debt, no doubt in part a result of the arduous expansion fees paid in 1972. They still owed millions to the league. Operating partner Roy Boe sold his stake in the Islanders that summer to minority partner John Pickett, who came to agreements to pay off the team's debts.

The North Stars weren't in immediate danger of folding, not like the Barons were, but the owners were fed up with losing money and looking to sell. The nine-man group composed of Walter Bush Jr., John Driscoll, Harry McNeely, Robert McNulty, John Ordway, F. T. Weyerhauser, Bob Ridder, Gordon Ritz and Wheelock Whitney Jr. found buyers in George and Gordon Gund. Rather than fold the Barons outright the Gunds negotiated with the North Stars ownership group and the league (in particular board chairman John Ziegler, who helped save the team in '77) to come to a compromise: the Barons and North Stars would merge.

This agreement was reached on June 14, the day before the Amateur Draft took place. The Gund brothers would assume ownership of the combined team, to remain in Minnesota and retain the North Stars name and colours, and take the Barons' place in the Adams Division. The 'new' North Stars would forfeit all of the Barons' amateur draft picks and allow the five other worst teams in the league to have their pick of North Stars and Barons players in a brief dispersal draft. The draft would only last one round, the only participants would be the Capitals, Blues, Canucks, Penguins and Rockies (in that order), and the teams would pay the North Stars $30,000 for each selection.

The Dispersal Draft was held immediately preceding the Amateur Draft at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The North Stars would be allowed to protect 10 skaters and a pair of goalies from the combined pool of North Stars and Barons players. After the Capitals and Blues had made their selections the North Stars would be able to add another player to their protected list, and again after the Canucks and Penguins had made their choices.

All of the Barons' amateur draft picks were cancelled (including the fourth round pick held by the Islanders) except for the second round pick held by the Capitals and, depending on the Capitals' course of action, the first round pick. The Capitals were given a choice between exercising the first pick in the dispersal draft or using the Barons' first round amateur draft pick (which would also be moved to last in the round, 18th overall, instead of the original 5th overall). The Islanders' fourth round pick, held by the Barons, was forfeited; the Islanders would not be able to use the Barons' pick or their own in the fourth round.

Barons GM Harry Howell and North Stars GM Lou Nanne worked together to pick the protected players. They protected an equal number of players from each team. From the North Stars they chose to retain Per-Olov Brasar, Brad Maxwell, Bryan Maxwell, Glen Sharpley, Tim Young and goalie Pete LoPresti. From the Barons they protected Mike Fidler, Rick Hampton, Al MacAdam, Dennis Maruk, Greg Smith and goalie Gilles Meloche.

Player ChosenBy
forfeitedWashington Capitals
Mike CrombeenSt. Louis Blues
Ron ZanussiMinnesota North Stars (fill-in)
Randy HoltVancouver Canucks
passedPittsburgh Penguins
Bob StewartMinnesota North Stars (fill-in)
passedColorado Rockies

The Capitals chose to forfeit the first pick in the dispersal draft in exchange for the last pick in the first round of the amateur draft (they chose Tim Coulis). The Penguins and Rockies didn't bother picking players and waived their picks altogether (I suspect they didn't want to pay the $30,000 asking price).

This brief affair, carried out the morning of June 15, was the final footnote in the tumultuous existence of the Barons/Seals franchise.

Trivia for you: the Gunds didn't make much money in Minnesota either. By 1989 they wanted to move the team to the San Francisco Bay Area, where there were rumours of a new arena to be built in the early '90s. The NHL, wanting to keep a team in The State of Hockey, wouldn't approve the move. The Gunds threatened to move the team anyway and take the NHL to court if they tried to stop them, as Al Davis did when he moved the NFL's Raiders to Los Angeles. As a compromise the league allowed the Gunds to sell the team to Howard Baldwin and Morris Belzberg, who would ostensibly keep the North Stars in Minnesota, while the Gunds would get an expansion franchise to play in the Bay Area beginning in 1991, a year before the NHL had intended on expanding. The Gunds' new team would get to take some of the North Stars' players with them and the North Stars would participate in the 1991 Expansion Draft alongside the new team. That team became the San Jose Sharks, of course. Isn't it a strange coincidence that the men who moved pro hockey out of the Bay Area in 1976 and merged that failed enterprise into the North Stars in 1978 would split the North Stars apart in 1991 to put pro hockey back in the Bay Area?

1966 NHL Intra-League Draft

The 1966 NHL Intra-League Draft was held June 15 in the ballroom of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. The draft price was $30,000 (US). The four teams that qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs at the end of the 1965-66 season—Black Hawks, Red Wings, Canadiens and Maple Leafs—were permitted to protect 18 skaters and three goaltenders. The fifth place team, the Bruins, were permitted to protect 19 skaters and three goalies, while the last place Rangers were allowed to protect 20 skaters and three goalies. The number of goaltenders allowed to be protected was increased to three from two because of the foreboding expansion in 1967; the NHL had already decided that the number of protected goalies per team in the '67 Expansion Draft would be only one. If they were only allowed to protect two goalies in this intra-league draft then hypothetically a team could lose two of its top three goalies in the span of about a year, which was felt to be too much of a burden.

OverallPlayer ChosenByFromPlayer Removed
From Protected List
Claim player?
Round 1
1Orland KurtenbachNew York RangersToronto Maple LeafsJohn Brennemanclaim
passBoston Bruins
2Al LebrunDetroit Red WingsNew York RangersMax Mestinsekclaim
3Don BlackburnToronto Maple LeafsMontreal CanadiensWally Boyerclaim
4Wally BoyerChicago Black HawksMontreal CanadiensAl MacNeilclaim
passMontreal Canadiens
Round 2
5Al MacNeilNew York RangersMontreal CanadiensMike McMahonclaim
6Ted TaylorDetroit Red WingsMontreal CanadiensPat Quinnclaim
Round 3
7Ray CullenDetroit Red WingsNew York RangersBryan Campbellclaim

1966 was the first year that a player dropped from a team's protected list to make room for another could be immediately claimed by the team who had lost a player, without forfeiting their own turn. The teams who exercised this option had to pay the other team the full draft price. As it turned out every team exercised this option and in effect this resulted in no actual cash changing hands in this entire draft; it all evened out in the end. This was changed after expansion to allow the teams who had lost a player to claim the player dropped by the other team for a reduced price (see my post about the 1972 Intra-League Draft).


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