|California Golden Seals|
The California Golden Seals were a team in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1967–76. Initially named California Seals, the team was renamed Oakland Seals part-way through the 1967–68 season, and then to California Golden Seals in 1970.
In 1966, the NHL announced that six expansion teams would be added as a new division for the 1967–68 season, officially because of a general desire to expand the league to new markets, but just as importantly to squelch the Western Hockey League's threat to turn itself into a major league. The San Francisco Seals were one such team from the WHL, and after it was purchased by Barry Van Gerbig and moved across the Bay to a new arena in Oakland, the Seals joined the NHL. The San Francisco Bay Area was not considered a particularly lucrative hockey market, but the terms of a new television agreement with CBS called for two of the expansion teams to be located in California.
Van Gerbig had planned to have the team play out of a new arena in San Francisco, but the arena never came to fruition, and the Seals played out of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena (now known as Oracle Arena). The franchise was named California Seals in an attempt to appeal to fans from San Francisco, and to address complaints from the other NHL teams that Oakland was not considered a major league city (notwithstanding the presence of the American Football League's Oakland Raiders and the pending relocation of Major League Baseball's Kansas City Athletics) and would not be a draw for fans. The plan failed, however, and on November 6, 1967, Van Gerbig announced that the team's name was being changed to Oakland Seals, although the league did not register the change until December.
The Seals were never successful at the gate, and because of this poor attendance Van Gerbig threatened on numerous occasions to move the team elsewhere. First-year coach and general manager Bert Olmstead publicly advocated a move to Vancouver, but an offer from Labatt's brewery to purchase and relocate the team was rejected by the league, as was a proposal to move the team to Buffalo from the eventual owners of the Buffalo Sabres, who had been shut out of the 1967 expansion.
This, as well as the team's dismal on-ice performance, led to major changes to both the Seals' front office and the roster – only seven out of the 20 Seals players remained after the first season. The new-look Seals were somewhat more successful, making the playoffs for two years, although with sub .500 records. Those would be the only two years that the Seals franchise made the playoffs.
The league's rejection of the proposed move to Vancouver prompted a lawsuit that was not settled until 1974 (San Francisco Seals Ltd. v. National Hockey League). The Seals organization filed suit against the NHL claiming that the prohibition violated the Sherman Act. The Seals asserted that the league's constitution was in violation by prohibiting clubs from relocating their operations, and that the relocation request was denied in an attempt to keep the San Francisco market in the NHL and thereby discourage the formation of a rival team or league in that location. The court ruled that the NHL was a single entity, and that the teams were not competitors in an economic sense, so the league restrictions on relocation were not a restrain of trade.
Failed Sale to Trans National Communications
For the 1969–70 season the team was sold to a group called Trans National Communications, run by then Boston Celtics owner Woody Erdman, whose investors included Pat Summerall and Whitey Ford. However, the group filed for bankruptcy and ownership reverted to Van Gerbig, who put the team up for sale again.
Charlie O. Finley Purchase
Prior to the 1970–71 NHL season, Charlie O. Finley, the flamboyant owner of baseball's Oakland Athletics, purchased the Seals. Finley and Roller Derby boss Jerry Seltzer had both put in a bid on the team. Although Seltzer's offer was slightly better and included a more detailed plan for revival, a majority of NHL owners from the "old establishment" voted in favor of Finley. Bill Torrey, general manager at the time, would eventually leave the team due to clashes with Finley. He would go on to manage the New York Islanders' dynasty of the 1980s. 
On October 15, 1970, with the new season already two games old, Finley announced that the team's name was being changed to California Golden Seals ("Bay Area Seals" had been reported the previous week, and appears on some of that year's promotional material), following a number of other marketing gimmicks intended to sell the team to the fans, among them changing the Seals' colors to green and gold to match the popular A's. The Seals are remembered for wearing white skates, but initially Torrey convinced Finley to use green and gold painted skates instead, team colored skates being a period trend. However, this was all for naught, as the Seals finished with the worst record in the NHL that year. At the end of the 1970 season, the Seals had traded their pick in the first round of the 1971 draft to the Montreal Canadiens along with Francois Lacombe in return for Montreal's first round pick in 1970 (selected Chris Oddleifson), Ernie Hicke and cash. As a result of the Seals' dreadful season, the Canadiens had the top pick in the draft, and used it to select future Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur. This transaction now ranks as one of the most one-sided deals in NHL history.
NHL Ownership and Mel Swig
The team rebounded in 1971–72, but the arrival of the World Hockey Association (WHA) wiped out most of those gains. Finley refused to match the WHA's contract offers, causing five of the team's top ten scorers from the previous season to bolt. Devoid of any defensive talent save for goaltender Gilles Meloche, the team sank into last place again in 1973, where it would remain for the rest of its history. Although divisional restructuring in 1974–75 included a revamped format in which three teams in each division made the playoffs, the Seals efforts' were frustrated by their placement in the Adams Division, with the strong Buffalo, Boston, and Toronto teams of the day.
Tired of the struggling hockey team, especially in comparison to his World Series champion Athletics, Finley tried to sell the Seals, but there were no takers. The NHL eventually took control of the team in February 1974.
In early 1975, newspapers reported that the Seals and Pittsburgh Penguins were to be relocated to Denver and Seattle respectively, in an arrangement that would have seen the two teams sold to groups in those cities that had already been awarded "conditional" franchises for the 1976-77 season. At the same time, the league announced that if the sale to the Denver group was not completed or new ownership found locally, the franchise would be liquidated at the end of the season.
The Denver arrangement fell through, and the league ran the Seals for more than a year until San Francisco hotel magnate Melvin Swig bought the team in 1975 with the intent of moving the team to a proposed new arena in San Francisco. The team fell just short of the playoffs, and after a mayoral election, plans for the new arena were cancelled. With a new arena out of the picture, the league dropped its objection to a relocation of the franchise.
The End of the Seals
Although attendance was finally showing some improvement and the team playing better, minority owners George and Gordon Gund persuaded Swig to seek approval to move the team to their hometown of Cleveland. League approval for the move was granted on July 14, 1976, and the team was renamed Cleveland Barons after the city's old AHL squad. After two more years of losses and with attendance worse than it had been in Oakland, the Gunds (by this time majority owners) were permitted to merge the Barons with another failing team, the Minnesota North Stars. The merged team continued as the Minnesota North Stars under the Gunds' ownership, but assumed the Barons' place in the Adams Division. The North Stars ultimately relocated to Texas following the 1992–93 season to become the Dallas Stars.
The Cleveland Barons remain the most recent team in an established North American major professional league to fold, as well as the only team in the NHL to do so since 1942. As a result, the NHL consisted of 17 teams for the 1978–79 season.
The current NHL team in the Bay Area, the San Jose Sharks, has a historical connection to the Seals. Years after the Barons-North Stars merger, the Gunds wanted to bring hockey back to the Bay Area. They asked the NHL for permission to move the North Stars there in the late 1980s, but the league was unwilling to abandon a traditional hockey market like Minneapolis-Saint Paul. Meanwhile, a group led by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin was pushing the NHL to bring a team to San Jose, where an arena was being built. Eventually, a compromise was struck whereby the Gunds would sell their share of the North Stars to Baldwin's group, with the Gunds receiving an expansion team in the Bay Area to begin play in the 1991-92 season. In return, the North Stars would be allowed to participate as an equal partner in an expansion draft with the new franchise. On May 5, 1990, the Gunds officially sold their share of the North Stars to Baldwin and were awarded a new team in the Bay Area that would eventually become the Sharks.
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
|1967–68²||Oakland Seals||74||15||42||17||47||153||219||787||sixth in West||Out of playoffs|
|1968–69||Oakland Seals||76||29||36||11||69||219||251||811||second in West||Lost in Quarter-finals (LA), 3-4|
|1969–70||Oakland Seals||76||22||40||14||58||169||243||845||fourth in West||Lost in Quarter-finals (PIT), 0-4|
|1970–71||California Golden Seals||78||20||53||5||45||199||320||937||seventh in West||Out of playoffs|
|1971–72||California Golden Seals||78||21||39||18||60||216||288||1007||sixth in West||Out of playoffs|
|1972–73||California Golden Seals||78||16||46||16||48||213||323||840||eighth in West||Out of playoffs|
|1973–74||California Golden Seals||78||13||55||10||36||195||342||651||eighth in West||Out of playoffs|
|1974–75||California Golden Seals||80||19||48||13||51||212||316||1101||fourth in Adams||Out of playoffs|
|1975–76||California Golden Seals||80||27||42||11||65||250||278||1058||fourth in Adams||Out of playoffs|
² named California Seals from October 11 to November 6, 1967.
Includes Cleveland Barons (1976-78)
- Most games played, Bob Stewart (414)
- Most goals, Dennis Maruk (94)
- Most assists, Al MacAdam (129)
- Most points, Al MacAdam (217)
- Most penalty minutes, Bob Stewart (691)
- Most wins by a goaltender, Gilles Meloche (93)
- Most losses by a goaltender, Gilles Meloche (191)
- Lowest goals-against average by a goaltender, Charlie Hodge (3.09)
- Most shutouts by a goaltender, Gilles Meloche (11)
- Most minutes, Gilles Meloche (20,666)
- Most wins by a coach, Fred Glover (96)
- Most losses by a coach, Fred Glover (206)
- Most goals, Dennis Maruk (36 in 1977-78)
- Most assists, Dennis Maruk (50 in 1976-77)
- Most points, Dennis Maruk (78 in 1976-77)
- Most wins by a goaltender, Gary Smith (21 in 1968-69)
- Most losses by a goaltender, Gary Smith (48 in 1970-71)
- Best goals-against average by a goaltender, Charlie Hodge (2.86 in 1967-68)
- Most shutouts by a goaltender, Gary Smith (4 in 1968-69) and Gilles Meloche (4 in 1971-72)
- Harry Howell
- Bert Olmstead
- Craig Patrick (inducted as builder)
- Rudy Pilous (inducted as builder)
- Bill Torrey (inducted as builder)
- Bobby Baun, 1967–68
- Ted Hampson, 1968–71
- Carol Vadnais, 1971–72
- Bert Marshall, 1972–73
- No captain, 1973–74
- Joey Johnston, 1974–75
- Jim Neilson and Bob Stewart, 1975–76 (co-captains)
- Rudy Pilous, 1967 (fired before start of season)
- Bert Olmstead, 1967–68 (resigned in March 1968)
- Frank Selke Jr., 1968–70 (resigned in November 1970)
- Bill Torrey, 1970 (resigned in December 1970)
- Fred Glover, 1970–71 (fired in October 1971)
- Garry Young, 1971–72 (fired in November 1972)
- Fred Glover, 1972–74 (resigned in February 1974)
- Garry Young, 1974 - given title of Director of Hockey Operations due to NHL ownership of club (resigned before start of 1974–75 season)
- Bill McCreary, 1974–76 - given title of Director of Hockey Operations from 1974-75 while club under ownership of NHL. He became general manager in the summer of 1975 after Melvin Swig bought the club from the league.
First Round Draft Picks
- 1967: Ken Hicks (third overall)
- 1968: none
- 1969: Tony Featherstone (seventh overall)
- 1970: Chris Oddleifson (10th overall)
- 1971: none
- 1972: none
- 1973: none
- 1974: Rick Hampton (third overall)
- 1975: Ralph Klassen (third overall)
- Minneapolis Tribune November 7, 1967, page 24 from an AP story.
- Deford, Frank (1971). Five Strides on the Banked Track. Little, Brown and Company, 114–115.
- Pittsburgh post gazette Monday February 28th 1977 edition
- Pittsburgh post gazette Monday February 28th 1977 edition
- Pittsburgh post gazette Monday February 28th 1977 edition
- Cameron, Steve (1994). Feeding Frenzy! The Wild New World of the San Jose Sharks. Taylor Publishing Co., 29–38.
|Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals|
|History||WHL years • 1967 Expansion • Expansion Draft • Players • Coaches • Draft Picks • Cleveland Barons • San Jose Sharks|
|Owners||Barry Van Gerbig • Charlie O. Finley • Melvin Swig • Gordon Gund|
|Oakland/California Seasons||1967–68 • 1968–69 • 1969–70 • 1970–71 • 1971–72 • 1972–73 • 1973–74 • 1974–75 • 1975–76|
|Cleveland Seasons||1976-77 • 1977-78|
|Arenas||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena • Richfield Coliseum|
|Relocated and Defunct NHL Teams|
|Relocated||Atlanta Flames · Atlanta Thrashers · Colorado Rockies · Hartford Whalers · Kansas City Scouts · Minnesota North Stars · Quebec Nordiques · Winnipeg Jets|
|Defunct||Oakland / California (Golden) Seals · Cleveland Barons · Hamilton Tigers · Montreal Maroons · Montreal Wanderers · New York/Brooklyn Americans · Ottawa Senators (original) · Philadelphia Quakers · Pittsburgh Pirates · Quebec Bulldogs · St. Louis Eagles|
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