50 Years Ago in Hockey: NHL Approves St. Louis, Los Angeles

The National Hockey League revealed the details of its planned expansion yesterday, and approved two cities as locations for new teams. Los Angeles and St. Louis were designated by the Board of Governors as having suitable facilities that fulfill the requirements set out by the league.

Both cities have rinks that seat at least 12,500 for hockey, and have playing surfaces that measure 200 feet by 85 feet. NHL president  Clarence Campbell said  that while the rinks are NHL quality, the league felt that both cities meet all the requirements set forth by the league.

St. Louis Arens
St. Louis Arena

Campbell: LA  and St. Louis ready

Los Angeles and St. Louis could go tomorrow.  Both cities meet the requirements for standard arenas and we are satisfied also with the solidity, integrity and financial stability of the applicants.”

This is a curious statement by Campbell, given that no ownership group from St. Louis has made application to the league.

New team owners had better have deep pockets.  The fee for each expansion franchise will be $2 million.  For that hefty price tag, the new teams will be given 20 players.  Those players will be supplied by a draft from the exiting six teams.

No drafting process yet

No draft process was approved, but the present owners wish to avoid the sad-sack scenarios that plagued expansion in major league baseball.  Toronto Maple Leaf president Stafford Smythe commented on type of player the existing teams will make available to the expansion clubs:

“We don’t want set-ups coming into our buildings. Keen competition is necessary for success in sports. We can assure such competition by making good players available to the new clubs.”

One suggested method of stocking the new teams sees each existing team protecting one goalkeeper and five skaters.  The new teams would then get to pick one player from the six existing teams.  At that point, the established teams would freeze 10 more players and the new teams would select from the rest.

AHL stars like Bronco Horvath could return to an expanded NHL.
AHL stars like Bronco Horvath could return to an expanded NHL.

Campbell feels that there are many players outside the NHL who are capable of playing in the league.  He cites the first-place Detroit Red Wings, who used 52 players en route to their rise to the top of the NHL standings.  He also mentioned that there are 112 players on the college inactive list.  Campbell figures that with six more teams presenting the opportunity to earn an NHL salary, more of these players will be interested in turning pro.

Expansion by 1967-68

The governors also announced that the new division would begin play no sooner than the 1967-68 season, and no later that 1968-69.

The league will accept applications immediately.  Each application must be accompanied by a deposit of $10,000, which will not be refunded should the application be rejected.

Other cities that have been named as possibly acceptable include Baltimore, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco-Oakland, Vancouver and Washington, D.C. All have applied informally and are expected to follow the formal process with deposit cheques in the coming days.

Vancouver’s inclusion on the list is somewhat surprising, given that the city does not have a suitable facility to house a team.  It’s thought that a potential NHL franchise might persuade city councillors to build a major-league coliseum.  Vancouver council turned town an offer by Smythe to build an arena in the downtown area if the city would gift him a tract of land.  The issue was put to the voters in last December’s municipal elections and was defeated.

WHL Canucks to apply this week

Fred Hume, owner of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks, says that his team will make an application some time this week.  He says they are ready to meet every stipulation put forth by the NHL.

Campbell said that other applications would be considered, but those cities on this list would be given “preferred status.” One city that has expressed strong interest is Quebec City.  Campbell has gone on record as saying he doesn’t believe that Quebec can support a franchise.

Le Colisee would house an NHL team in Quebec City
Le Colisee would house an NHL team in Quebec City

The league schedule will be increased to 74 games.  The new teams will play two home games and two away games with east of the established clubs.

Campbell says that the expansion program is based on three objectives:

  • That the NHL become the only major professional hockey league operating in the United States
  • That the new division begin operating as soon as possible, but not before it can compete on an equal footing with the established clubs.
  • That the present league not be affected in any appreciable way during the organization of the new division.

AHL Not Expanding

The American Hockey League, which had also been considering expansion, has decided to retain its present format.  The league will keep the present franchises and two-division setup.  The owners did formally approve the interlocking schedule with the Western Hockey League.     Each AHL city will host four WHL teams, and each AHL team will visit four western cities.

The league also switched uniform colours, with the home teams now wearing white.