Everyone knows who the original six NHL teams were. Even if you weren’t alive in the days when only the original six teams were playing, today there are constant reminders — like t-shirts and hoodies — that help. But as the teams expanded from six to twelve, the memories become less clear — especially about one of the original six expansion teams that no longer exists. That team was the California Seals, a.k.a the Oakland Seals, a.k.a. the California Golden Seals.
Mark Greczmiel is a Los Angeles-based television producer who doesn’t want our memories to fade about the team that was “his team” for nine seasons when he was just a kid. His family was originally from Vancouver, Canada, but when they moved to the San Fransisco Bay area, his father missed hockey and took the family to watch games in the 12,500 seat state-of-the-art stadium that was rarely full, unless one of the big teams, like New York or Boston was in town.
My Brother Caught a Puck
“I remember the first game that we ever went to,” Greczmiel tells me. “It was 1967, against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The arena didn’t have netting around the rink like they do today — and my older brother caught a puck! He still has it!”
Greczmiel, who specializes in entertainment programs has been working on earnest on a documentary about the Seals for the past year, collecting stories about the hard luck team. Last summer, for example, he traveled across the US and Canada to interview former players and people associated with the team, but he really needs cash to finish it and give him the access he needs to license old footage of the Seals. And to do that, he’s got a crowdfunding project going on Indiegogo to raise $26,000 USD.
Contributions are Rewarded
There are different amounts you can contribute, and each have different rewards, from pennants and jerseys to programs and producer credits — but those are on a first come, first served basis. For example, a $10 contribution will get you a Golden Seals sticker, but a $250 will get you a replica jersey — for example a replica green and gold jersey that was worn in the 1970-74 seasons when Oakland A’s owner Charles O. Finley owned the team and got the California Golden Seals to wear the same colors as his world-champion baseball team — kelly green and gold — and the infamous white skates.
Yes, white skates. Finley thought it would be nice if the players’ hockey skates looked like the white shoes his baseball players played in, so he had them painted white. Painted! After every game — and in between periods — the trainers would be busy, repainting all the scuff marks and puck marks. As the season went on, the white skates got heavier and heavier, with every coat of paint.
Did You Know?
There are stories like that that are now a part of hockey folklore, but there are many more that should be told to give hockey lovers an idea of what it was like to play hockey in that era. Did you know, for example, that:
- The first NHL game Wayne Gretzky ever saw was between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Seals at Maple Leaf Gardens? It was, and his grandmother took him to see it.
- Charles O. Finley tried making modifications to the game — like putting the players’ names on the back of the jerseys. That innovation wasn’t welcomed by all teams, though, as some thought it would cut into their program sales. When the Seals played in Detroit and Toronto, they needed pull out their second set of away jerseys — the ones without names — to keep those owners happy.
- Finley was a cheap skate when it came to salaries, but his hockey team flew first class in Boeing’s brand new 747s for the transcontinental trips the team needed to make. We’ve all heard of snakes on a plane, but there was one group of Seals players returning home from Boston who let their carry-on lobsters loose, terrorizing the economy passengers.
- The team sometimes went for long losing streaks, but sometimes would log a surprise win against a big team. When that happened the players were ecstatic! In the locker room, after the game, they would hoist up a garbage can and parade around the locker room as if it was the Stanley Cup, and they’d just won the series!
Greczmiel has collected stories, photos, ticket stubs, programmes and pennants, but there’s little audio or video footage about the Seals as they rarely paid for a radio or television contract. What he has found needs to be verified by an archivist and then transferred to digital form and then put into the documentary which he expects will be ready by early 2016. To get all that done he needs your help.
Go to Indiegogo now and become a part of hockey’s past.