THE OAKLAND SEALS PAGE
LET'S RETURN NOW TO HOCKEY'S GOLDEN ERA -- WHEN
SEALS PERFORMED IN THE N.H.L.
The California Seals were part of the National Hockey League's ambitious
1967 expansion which doubled the number of league teams from six to
twelve. The "Seals" nickname came from San Francisco's Western Hockey
League (W.H.L.) entry, the rights to which were purchased by expansion
Seal's owner Barry Van Gerbig, a 28-year-old former Princeton Tiger
netminder, and backup goalie on the 1960 U.S. Olympic team.
Other clubs entering the league in 1967 were the Philadelphia Flyers,
Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota North Stars and Los
Angeles Kings. The cost of an N.H.L. franchise during the 1967 expansion
was $2 million. By 1970, when the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres
joined the league the cost of an N.H.L. franchise had risen to $6 million.
The 1967 addition of franchises in Los Angeles and Oakland was
strategic for the National Hockey League which previously had no teams
west of Chicago. Without franchises in the two largest markets on the
west coast, the N.H.L. was vulnerable to an upstart competitor gaining a
foothold in this populous vacuum, as the A.F.L. had done in football, and
the A.B.A. had done in basketball. Unfortunately for the Seals
franchise, this strategy did not prevent the rival World Hockey
Association from wreaking havoc starting in 1972.
The addition of Los
Angeles and Oakland was also designed to make the league more attractive
to the major U.S.
television networks by broadening the marketing base of the league. As
hoped, C.B.S. began broadcasting a weekly game in the winter of 1967.
C.B.S.'s contract with the N.H.L. required that the league operate a
franchise in the Bay
In 1967 the N.H.L. Seals began life as the California Seals.
been known as the San Francisco Seals during their Western league
days, when they played at the Cow Palace. However, the N.H.L. Seals
their home games at the new Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum -- the Cow
Palace was rejected due to poor sight lines. The California name was
chosen to give the team a broader appeal than the name
would have lent, and to appease the N.H.L. brass
who wanted the team to identify with
Within a couple months the team's name was changed to the Oakland Seals.
The club was not attracting fans from San Francisco, and the
ownership decided that it was not possible to represent both cities --the
times were too great, and there was too much rivalry between the cities.
The decision was made to concentrate the marketing of the team on the
Oakland fans, with whom it was felt the future of the franchise lay.
The Oakland Seals
moniker was retained for three seasons from 1967-68 to 1969-70.
In 1970-71 the Seal's were acquired by Chicago insurance magnate
Charles O. Finley. Finley
already owned the Oakland Athletics baseball team of the American League.
He had relocated the Athletics to Oakland
from Kansas City in 1968.
Finley was well-known for his novel
ideas, similar in style to Bill Veeck. For example, Finley
thought the Athletics nickname too dull so they became, "The Swinging
A's". The A's had a mule mascot called "Charlie O.", and they
wore white spikes with their kelly green and gold uniforms. The A's were
the only team to employee a "designated
runner", and Finley pushed for adoption of an orange baseball and a three-
Finley practised his unique brand of marketing on the Seals as
well, changing their
name from the Oakland Seals to the California Golden Seals. He also
changed their uniform colors to kelly green and gold and put white "figure"
skates on their feet. Finley
also added the A.B.A.'s Memphis Pros to his stable of teams renaming them
the TAMS (for Tennessee, Arkansas & Mississippi), and dressing them in
green and gold.
The Seal's Finley era ended in 1974 when the N.H.L. took control of the
franchise and the Seals lost their trademark white skates.
the life of the Seal's franchise was attendance, or more correctly the
lack of it. The arrival of the World Hockey Association in 1972 exacerbated
the Seal's problems. The Seals lost numerous players to the rival league,
and player salaries became materially bid up. It was therefore, not
surprising when in 1976 the franchise was moved to Cleveland. The club
played in Cleveland for two seasons as the Barons, before
finally being absorbed by the Minnesota North Stars in 1978-79.
Return to those glorious days of yesteryear...
All Time Roster
First Training Camp 1967
Oakland Seals Links