Nothing official has been announced yet, but the National Hockey League board of governors yesterday confirmed there will be an unprecedented meeting of team owners to set forth a process whereby the league would accept additional franchises.
To that end, a committee has been appointed to begin to draw up plans.
That was the big news that came out of the governors meetings yesterday in New York. The governors have come to the conclusion that expansion of the six-team circuit is inevitable, they just don’t know what that will look like. Next month’s owners’ meeting will be an attempt to design an expansion process.
Neither the date, nor the site of the meeting has been decided, But NHL President Clarence Campbell said it would likely take place next month in New York.
Expansion won’t happen right away
Campbell commented, “This doesn’t mean we will expand in the immediate future. Expansion to eight teams will not put one dollar in the pocket of any present owner in the NHL.
“We will establish a firm policy and then be ready with a plan when the time to expand does come.”
Campbell added that the league may be in a position to accept franchise applications at the annual league meetings in Montreal in June.
Existing teams will supply expansion players
However, on Monday, Campbell did not sound like a man eager to bring new teams into the league. He told a meeting of New York sportswriters, “Often we have no tickets left to sell. If we did expand, it would dilute the talent. Some 30 players would have to be supplied to the two teams from the present squads.
“That means that the Rangers would have to give up six players from the present team. Who could they afford to give up? It would be stupid of us to expand just for the sake of expansion.”
TV contract crucial
At present, the only way money would be generated for the league from expansion would be the acquisition of a national television contract with a major network in the United States. The league has approached ABC, and they have said that they aren’t interested until the league expands coast-to-coast. The NHL wants a contract before they will consider expansion.
WHL teams want in
At yesterday’s meeting, which was closed to press and public, it is believed that both San Francisco and Los Angeles made it known that they were seeking NHL franchises. James Piggott, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League, was very frank about their wish to join hockey’s major league.
“We are always looking toward a big-league franchise. I haven’t met with any NHL people lately, but there are other ways of presenting our case forcefully. And we do want in. And I can tell you it’s not very far off, either.”
There are rumblings that the Western Hockey League, if it continues to be ignored by the NHL, will attempt to establish itself as a second major league, in direct competition with the NHL. No one at the league level will discuss the subject, but Piggott’s statement gives a hint that major league status is very much on the minds of WHL owners.
Help for NHL have-nots
Also at yesterday’s meeting, the league took steps to provide player help for the NHL’s weak sisters. Specifically aimed at the two clubs who will miss the playoffs, the last place team in the standings will be allowed to protect two extra players in the summer draft, while the fifth-place team will get to keep one extra man. Under the former rules, each team could protect 18 skaters, along with two goaltenders.
In next June’s draft, the sixth place team will be able to select two players from other clubs without having to drop players from its own list to make room. The fifth place team will be able to select one player under those conditions.
Other summer draft changes will see the American Hockey League take part in the NHL draft for the first time in six years. They will be able to draft players not protected by the NHL teams. However, the NHL will not draft players from the AHL for at least one year.
The WHL will continue to participate as it has for several years, with each league being able to draft from the other.
The NHL voted to start the 1965-66 season two weeks later than usual. Opening night will take place on October 27 next fall. The change is being made to avoid conflicts with baseball’s World Series and the early part of the National Football League schedule. April 10 would be the last date of regular season play.
Nyet to Russians
Another topic of discussion at yesterday’s meeting was the prospect of games between the Russian national hockey team and NHL clubs. The concept was rejected by the league.
Campbell says that the Russians must prove themselves worthy competition for NHL teams before any matches would be scheduled. Presumably, that would mean they would have to be successful in games against minor professional clubs.
The Russians have refused all games against minor-leaguers, only wishing to meet teams from the major league.
Voss to retire
Carl Voss, the referee-in-chief of the NHL, will retire at the end of the current campaign. A league source told New York hockey reporter Stan Fischler that Voss was heavily criticized during the governors’ meetings yesterday. The complaints were aimed at his handling of the officials and his game reports. Voss was in New York but not present at the meeting, and upon hearing of the governors’ remarks, he informed Campbell of his intention to retire.
Voss’ retirement comes on the heels of the dismissal of linesman George Hayes for refusing to take an eye test. Former referee Eddie Powers was also at the meeting and spoke with the governors, but the subject of the discussion was not disclosed.
Powers did say that he is not seeking reinstatement to the league.
- Boston Bruins rookie forward Ron Schock is expected to return to action this week after missing two months with a serious leg injury
- NHL linesman Bob Frampton has returned to duty after missing two months due to surgery to correct a circulation problem that nearly cost him his left thumb. He has been advised by doctors to wear gloves the rest of the season
- Pat Stapleton, the smallish former Boston Bruins’ defenceman, is now doing well playing centre for Portland of the WHL.
- People are wondering who in the Boston executive suite made the decision to let defenceman Matt Ravlich go for $20,000 in last summer’s draft. Ravlich was grabbed by Chicago and has become a key man on the Hawks’ blue-line.
- Tommy Ivan, Chicago Black Hawks’ general manager, complains that referees are calling less than a quarter of the infractions that are committed against his superstar left wing Bobby Hull, who himself, isn’t griping about his treatment.
- AHL veteran Harry Pidhirny played his 1000th league game last night for the Baltimore Clippers. The team presented him with a lawnmower and a set of golf clubs.
- Toronto is interested in defenceman Bill White, who plays for Springfield of the AHL. White, who was originally a Leaf prospect, was traded to Springfield in the deal in which Toronto obtained Kent Douglas.
- Boston has placed forward Ernst Koepf of the West German national team on their negotiation list.
- Hap Emms, owner of the Niagara Falls Flyers of the OHA Junior A Series, has ordered helmets for all of his players.
- Montreal has to figure out what they are going to do with forward Leon Rochefort. He was called up from Quebec of the AHL as an injury replacement for Jean Beliveau. Beliveau has returned to the lineup, but Rochefort has played well enough to stay in the lineup. If he plays two more games, he can’t go back to the AHL unless he clears waivers, which he won’t.