National Hockey League Clarence Campbell, thought to be the main architect of the future of the league, talked at length yesterday about the question that seems to be on the minds of fans, writers and all hockey people – expansion of the NHL.
TV deal necessary
The bottom line seems to be, at least according to Campbell, nothing will happen until a television network or dedicated sponsor comes on board to bankroll the addition of more clubs. Campbell feels that there are too many obstacles for the league to overcome to accomplish this in the near future. He pointed out the advantages baseball and football have over the ice sport.
“A short-term deal with a sponsor or a network wouldn’t be the answer. It would have to be some interest willing to stake its money on hockey – in the service of hockey itself. That’s the only way I can see the expansion of hockey.
“It would be economically unfeasible and artistically unsuitable to consider expansion otherwise.”
Campbell didn’t specify any direction in which the league might look when considering adding teams, but he did refer to the large size markets available in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“The NHL can be basically described as a successful operation. There would have to be justification for expansion.”
NHL rinks 95% full
Campbell says that NHL arenas are playing to 95% capacity and that because of that success, there is no reason for the present owners to complicate their businesses. They would give up prime home dates and, most important to Campbell, the quality of the on-ice product would be diluted.
“All the best hockey players in the wold are in the National League now, so expansion would provide a recruiting problem. It would probably mean that each of the present clubs would have to submit a list of six players to produce the 63 needed to stock new teams.
“Expansion would deteriorate the quality of play by one-third, because to make up for the six players lost, they would have to bring is six rookies or minor leaguers.
Nothing to be gained by expansion
“To summarize: you can’t increase earnings and you can’t improve the show.” Campbell’s point is, there is nothing to be gained by expanding the league.
When questioned about the large television profits being reaped by baseball and football, Campbell was skeptical that hockey could have similar success.
“Remember too, that these other sports do not compete in prime television time. Hockey is traditionally a night sport and that is prime time.”
Campbell also said that Canada has enough television coverage of the sport now.
“Canada has as much television coverage of the sport as you want – almost to the saturation point. I’m not sure hockey can be sold for equivalent prices in areas where the sport is not indigenous.”
Campbell: Lindsay “an amazing athlete”
Unrelated to the expansion issue, Campbell made a somewhat surprising comment when he lauded Detroit Red Wing forward Ted Lindsay, by calling him “an amazing athlete.”
Referring to Lindsay’s comeback with the Red Wings this season at age 40 after four seasons out of the league, Campbell said it was “one of the most amazing feats in professional sports.”
“I know I was among the many knowledgeable hockey people who expressed skepticism when it was first announced that Lindsay would try a comeback after being away from the game for four years. But now I know I was wrong.
“Lindsay has done what I thought was next to impossible.”
Campbell made his comments at a Variety Club luncheon in Toronto.
Junior Wings, Marlies battle to 3-3 tie.
A goal by captain Jimmy Peters with only 33 seconds left in the game gave the Hamilton Red Wings a 3-3 tie with the Toronto Marlboros last night at the Hamilton Forum. Peters’ goal came with goaltender Jean Guy Ruest on the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
Peters had been honoured just before the start of the third period as Hamilton’s top scorer, best defensive forward and most popular player this season
The tie leaves Toronto five points behind league-leading Niagara Falls.
Real Lemieux and Freddie Speck scored the other Hamilton goals. Brit Selby fired a pair of second-period markers for the Marlies, with Doug Dunville adding the other.
In the other OHA game, the Peterborough Petes defeated the St. Catharines Black Hawks 4-1 in Peterborough.
Peterborough marksmen were Jim Paterson, Danny Grant, Mickey Redmond and Dan Sharpe. Stu Roberts replied for the Black Hawks.
- New York Rangers have called up forward Marc Dufour from St. Paul of the CPHL. He is the leading scorer in the league and will replace the ailing Phil Goyette.
- Toronto Torrids defeated a Montreal team 2-1 in the Quebec peewee tournament yesterday thanks to a goal by 12-year-old Steve Shutt, who stickhandled through the entire Montreal team for the winning goal.
- Montreal Junior Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman feels his team has the best penalty killing in the OHA Junior A league thanks to a couple of young Americans – Craig Patrick and Larry Pleau.
- Johnny Bower has returned to the Maple Leafs after flying out west to attend his mother’s funeral.
- Toronto has returned goalie Gerry Cheevers and defenceman Duane Rupp to Rochester of the AHL.