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San Francisco Seals
City: San Francisco, California, Oakland, California
League: Western Hockey League
Founded: 1961
Home Arena: Cow Palace (1961–1966), Oakland Coliseum Arena (1966–1967)
Colors: Black, yellow and white.
Franchise history
1961–1966: San Francisco Seals
1966–1967: California Seals
Playoff Championships: 2 (1963, 1964)

The San Francisco Seals were a minor league hockey team which played in the Western Hockey League from 1961 to 1967.

1962 program


Previous teams

The California Hockey League had a team that went by the same name during the 1928-29 California Hockey League season.  The team would subsequently be renamed the San Francisco Blackhawks, San Francisco Tigers, and San Francisco Rangers.  The league would fold after the 1932-33 season. The San Francisco Shamrocks were a member of the Pacific Coast Hockey League from 1944 to 1950. All of these teams were based out of the Winterland Arena.

Western Hockey League team

By the early 1960s, the Western Hockey League had established franchises in a number of large west coast markets, with strong rosters of talented players unable to crack the static rosters of the "Original Six" teams of the National Hockey League. This included the San Francisco Seals, who played out of the Cow Palace. The team originated as the Winnipeg Warriors in 1955, who relocated to San Francisco for the 1961-62 season primarily due to difficulties created by long travel distances from Winnipeg. After their inaugural season, the Seals lured coach and general manager Norman "Bud" Poile south from the 1961-62 playoff champion Edmonton Flyers. Poile had won three championships in eight seasons at Edmonton. With the Seals, he would add two more.

Poile's teams generally led the league in penalty minutes. The Seals fit the mold. Led by hard-nosed players such as Orland Kurtenbach, Larry McNabb, Nick Mickoski and Charlie Burns, the 1962-63 Seals developed a fierce rivalry with the Portland Buckaroos, perennial regular season champions of the WHL. For the next two seasons, Portland-San Francisco games had the atmosphere of a heavyweight title fight, and games between the two routinely attracted crowds of 8,000 or more. The Los Angeles Blades were another rival. Cow Palace crowds loved to hate defenceman "Big Burly Bill Burega".

The Seals won the Lester Patrick Cup playoffs in 1962-63, defeating the Seattle Totems in the finals after eliminating Portland in seven rugged games. In 1963-64, the Seals finished a distant fourth during the regular season. But with superb play from forward Al Nicholson and goalie Bob Perreault, San Francisco beat Portland in the first round of the playoffs and won the league title by defeating the Blades.

In 1965, the NHL announced that it planned to expand through the creation of a second six-team division. This was prompted by the desire for a new U.S. television contract, and in reaction to rumours that the WHL was about to declare itself a major league. San Francisco-Oakland was one of the chosen expansion markets. For the 1966-67 season, the WHL Seals moved to the new Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and were renamed California Seals. Although considered an expansion team, it was essentially this franchise that entered the National Hockey League for 1967-68.

When the team joined the NHL in 1967, it retained the name "California Seals" in an effort to appeal to fans in both San Francisco and Oakland. However after only a few months the team had failed to attract many fans from San Francisco, and the name was changed to Oakland Seals. The name was later changed again to California Golden Seals in 1970.

Seals who played in the NHL

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