The California Golden Seals

Graeme
By
Posted: May 25, 2015


The California Golden Seals were an American ice hockey team that played in the NHL from 1967 to 1976. The team was based in the larger San Francisco region and played their home games at the Oakland Coliseum.

How did the California Golden Seals Start up?

The Seals franchise was created in 1966 as an expansion franchise for the NHL which sought to expand and usurp the Western Hockey League. The NHL franchise for the San Francisco Bay area was awarded to Barry Van Gerbig. Gerbig purchased the San Francisco Seals of the WHL with the intent of bringing them to the NHL as the new franchise. After plans for a new stadium in San Francisco fell through, he moved the team to Oakland where they would play at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. He named the team California Seals in an attempt to attract fans from a wider reach. The team did not adopt the name California Gold Seals until the 1970/71 season.

The California Golden Seals in Competition

The Seals were far from a successful team, winning no major trophies and making just two playoff appearances during their nine year stint in California. Their first season in action was 1967/68. They started in good fashion, winning their first two games and drawing the third. The team had been renamed Oakland seals midway through the season. From there, it was all downhill as they went on a string of poor performances that saw them finish last with a 15-42-17 record. The following season, the Seals saw an upturn in form and nearly doubled their win rate, finishing in second place with a 19-36-11 record. In the playoffs they were matched up with the Los Angeles Kings who beat them in 7 games.

Under new ownership for the 1969/1970 season, the Seals posted a 22-40-14 record that saw them finish fourth. In the playoffs they were swept in four straight games by the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 1970/71, playing as the California Golden Seals and having changed ownership yet again, the team finished last with a 22-40-14 record. After finishing sixth in 1971/72, they would follow this up with three consecutive last place finishes. In 1975/76, they posted a 27-42-11 record, missing the playoffs by just seven points. That proved to be the Golden Seals last season in California as they were relocated to Cleveland the following season.

California Golden Seals most notable Moments

During a game with the Minnesota North Stars on January 13, 1968, a very unfortunate incident happened. Seals Ron Harris and Larry Cahan checked Minnesota’s Bill Masterton who fell back awkwardly and hit his head on the floor. Masterton lost consciousness and would never recover, as he died ten days later in hospital. In honor of the fallen player, the League formed the Masterton Memorial Trophy which is handed out every year to a player who shows the greatest degree of sportsmanship and fair play.

California Golden Seals most Notable Players

Ted Hampson played in center position for the Seals from 1967 to 1971. He was instrumental in both their runs to the playoffs, top scoring for the Seals both times with 75 points and 52 points respectively.

Center Walt McKechnie was with the Seals from 1971 to 1974 and was top scorer for the team in 19772/73 (54 points) and 1973/74 (50 points).

Other notable players include Carol Vadnais, Bill Hicke, Harry Howell, Bob Stewart and Giles Meloche

What Happened to the California Golden Seals?

The California Golden Seals found it hard to attract fans right from the outset. As early as 1967, rumors had emerged of a possible relocation to Vancouver. Despite various ownership changes and name tweaks aimed at reviving the team and increasing its marketability, fan apathy persisted. Following the 1973 season, Charles Finley who then owned the team tried to sell it but failed to get any meaningful bid from local parties. An earlier attempt by Finley to sell the team to a group of Indianapolis businessmen had been blocked by the league. Eventually in 1974, the league purchased the struggling team for about 6.6 million dollars. In 1975, hotelier Melvin Swig purchased the team from the league with the intention of moving it to a proposed new stadium in SF. However, following mayoral elections in the city, the stadium plans were cancelled prompting the league to drop their objection for a move away from the Bay area. In 1976, Swig moved the team to Cleveland to become the Cleveland Barons. The relocated team would fold two seasons later, merging with the Minnesota North Stars and relocating to Dallas where they were renamed the Dallas Stars.

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