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 Area.

In 1967 the N.H.L. Seals began life as the California Seals. The club had 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 would play 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 "Oakland" would have lent, and to appease the N.H.L. brass who wanted the team to identify with San Francisco.

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 commuting 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 marketing 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- ball walk.

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 overriding theme over 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
1967-68 Season
First Game
Final Game
First Training Camp 1967
1968-69 Playoffs
1969-70 Playoffs
Oakland Seals Links


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