50 Years Ago in Hockey: Busy Agenda for NHL Execs

The National Hockey League’s annual summer meetings take place this week in Montreal.  Executives from all six teams have a busy schedule ahead, with much work to be done on a variety of issues.  Topping the list will be discussions concerning the league’s planned  expansion to twelve teams.

Twelve cities have expressed interest

NHL president Clarence Campbell said yesterday that 12 teams have contacted the league with interest in acquiring an expansion franchise.  Even though there seems to be more than enough communities getting in line to submit applications, Campbell warned fans to not expect quick action by the league.

“But the expansion can’t happen this year and I’m extremely doubtful it will occur within another year or two.  These cities have merely responded to our original plan.  They wanted information and they were acknowledged.  Some of them don’t even have suitable buildings.”

NHL president Clarence Campbell.
NHL president Clarence Campbell.

Campbell declined to name any of the twelve cities, saying, “It would be unwise for me to do that.  At this stage, it might hurt their operation.”

Four cities that have made no secret about their ambition to secure an NHL franchise are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, Vancouver and Quebec City.

NHL still in search of U.S. Tv deal

The league continues to pursue a nation-wide U.S. television contract, and that will be discussed at length by the governors.  It’s thought that with the impending expansion of the league to include franchises from coast to coast, one of the American networks will be willing to add the NHL to their programming content.

Stafford Smythe
Stafford Smythe

One of the major obstacles to televising hockey in the United States is the timing of the games.  NHL games are generally played in the evening during prime television viewing times.  American networks will be reluctant to shelve regular programming in favour of hockey.  Club executives such as Stafford Smythe of Toronto have gone on record as saying they will move Saturday evening games to the afternoon if it facilitates an American network television deal.

Two main drafts

Other issues needing the attention of the league’s governors include the buying and selling of players, rule amendments and the several drafts to be held.

The Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, who missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past season, have been granted special concessions for this year’s draft.  Teams are normally allowed to protect 18 skaters and two goaltenders.  For this year, the Rangers will be allowed one additional player, while the Bruins may add two more.

The league will also be holding what is being called a Reverse Draft once the main draft has been completed.  In this session, the six teams will make available a pool of 60 players from which teams in the American and Western Hockey Leagues may select.  These players must have at least one year of professional experience. Cost of each player is $10,000 to those minor league teams selecting them.  The league will increase the number of players made available to 80 next season.

Vezina qualifications to change

The League is considering changes to the qualifications for goaltenders to have their names included on the Vezina Trophy.  The suggestion is that a goalkeeper must have played at least 25 games for the team that posts the lowest goals-against average in order to have his name included on the award.

Vezina Trophy winners Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower.
Vezina Trophy winners Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower.

This change was prompted by the unique circumstances surrounding this year’s winners.  Terry Sawchuk and Johnny Bower of the Toronto Maple Leafs combined for the league’s best average.  They split the schedule almost evenly, with Sawchuk playing barely the majority of games, 36 to Bower’s 34.  When the NHL initially said that only Sawchuk was eligible for the trophy, the veteran netminder declared that he would not accept the award unless Bower was named a co-winner.

The league amendment to the criteria for the award is expected to pass and will be retroactive to include this season’s results.

New referee-in-chief needed

With the  retirement of NHL referee-in-chief Carl Voss, a replacement will likely be named during these meetings.  Several prominent hockey men have had their names connected with the position.  They include former Montreal Canadien great Kenny Reardon, former official Scotty Morrison, and present NHL referee Frank Udvari.

Retiring NHL referee-in-chief Carl Voss
Retiring NHL referee-in-chief Carl Voss

Voss has been referee-in-chief since the 1950-51 season.  He is a former NHL player and was president of the United States Hockey League.  He won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 1937-38.

Trading should be brisk

Every summer session usually includes some good old-fashioned horse trading and this year should be no different.  There are a number of teams with player issues to deal with, which should make things interesting.

Once again, Toronto general manager Punch Imlach is expect to be front and centre.  Imlach has three quality goalkeepers (Sawchuk, Bower and young Gerry Cheevers) and he knows he can only protect two in the draft.  Talk around the league is that Imlach wants very badly to keep Cheevers, who was the AHL’s top netminder this season, but he is reticent to lose either of his two veterans for just the $30,000 waiver price.  Imlach may attempt to trade one of the two incumbents in order to realize a return that will help his team on the ice.

Punch Imlach is faced with some tough decisions.
Punch Imlach is faced with some tough decisions.

Other Toronto veterans on the block, according to writers around the league, are forwards Ron Stewart and Eddie Shack, and possibly defenceman Kent Douglas.

New York Ranger general manager Emile Francis is in full rebuilding mode, and will look to acquire talented youngsters.  Veterans such as Earl Ingarfield and Jacques Plante could find themselves with new uniforms after this week.  Rangers have already added star AHL goalie Ed Giacomin, and Francis has said that he wouldn’t mind another goalkeeper to compliment the former Providence Reds puckstopper.

Boston’s new general manager Hap Emms is also anxious to deal.  It’s known he has been in discussions with Toronto about picking up some of the Leafs’ excess talent, and he has openly discussed upgrading his goaltending by drafting whichever of Toronto’s three goalies is made available.

Even Stanley Cup champion Montreal is said to be looking at moving some excess baggage.  Canadiens are strong at every position and have good, young talent on the way up.  It’s hard to say how they could improve themselves with a trade, but talk persists that the Habs have something cooking.

Chicago is another team that is strong throughout the lineup.  The Hawks may use the draft to improve their depth, but they aren’t being mentioned in any of the trade discussions among reporters around the NHL.

Detroit is not expected to active, given Sid Abel’s statement last week that he was one defenceman away from having the team he wants for next season.  The Wings might grab a blueliner in the draft, but it looks like their trading was finished up early.

Pilous to coach Hamilton

Rudy Pilous, who spent the past couple of seasons coaching in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, has been appointed coach of the Hamilton Red Wings of the OHA Junior A Series.  Pilous will also assume the duties of general manager of the club, and will  oversee the Police Minor Hockey League.

New Hamilton coach Rudy Pilous.

Pilous takes over the G.M. duties from Jimmy Skinner, who will become a director of the team.  Skinner is expected to devote more time to scouting duties with the parent Detroit Red Wings.  The Hamilton coaching job became available when former NHL player Danny Lewicki and the team mutually parted company.

Pilous praised the Toronto organization and said that his departure was a family decision.  He wants to be closer to his family in nearby St. Catharines, and taking the job with Hamilton will enable him to do that.