Gilles Meloche (2016 inductee)
Gilles Meloche is the player most people associate with the California Golden Seals, and he is undoubtedly their greatest player. Meloche is the franchise leader in seasons played (7), and, even though he was a goaltender, he played in more games (355) than anyone in franchise history, with the exception of Bobby Stewart. Meloche’s numerous franchise records don’t even come close to doing him justice; 93 wins, 20,666 career minutes, 11 shutouts, and over 10,000 saves. Don’t be fooled; Meloche’s franchise-record 191 losses are definitely a result of playing behind weak defenses, but early on it seemed like just a matter of time before the Seals would turn a corner and find respectability.
His rookie season was a smashing success. In his Seals debut, he shut out the mighty Boston Bruins, 2-0. He finished the season with four shutouts tying Gary Smith’s franchise record, a 3.33 goals-against average, and a 16-25-13 record. The Seals nearly made the playoffs that season; the team would never come so close again. Despite a horrendous 12-32-14 record and a whopping 235 goals against in 1972-73, Meloche won the Larriburu Brothers Trophy as the team’s Most Valuable Player. His 3,473 minutes played led the NHL that year. The following season, despite a 9-33-5 record, the Seals Booster Club chose Meloche as the team’s most popular player. You could say that Meloche, in his time with the club, saw more turnovers than a pastry chef. “There’s not enough adjectives for me to describe him,” said teammate and coach, Marshall Johnston. “Obviously very talented, had an inward competitiveness that was admirable. Never, never – even though it was obvious where the goal wasn’t his fault – but never, ever any indication of a dirty look at the defenseman or forward who made the mistake to really cause the goal.”
Meloche’s rookie season is the stuff of legend… at least in the annals of Seals history. In his first game with the Seals, and just his third overall in the NHL, Meloche shutout the vaunted Boston Bruins, 2-0, in Beantown. The Bruins, featuring the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, and Wayne Cashman, had not been shutout in over a year. At the end of the season, Meloche tied the franchise record for shutouts in one season (4) and was named The Sporting News West Division Rookie of the Year thanks to a solid 3.33 goals-against average. The six assists Meloche recorded in 1974-75, as well as the two assists he recorded in a game versus the Rangers that same season, were both NHL records that stood for years until the league-wide offensive explosion that occurred in the 1980s.
Meloche was one of the few cornerstones the Seals could build around. He had earned a great deal of respect from his teammates due to his strong work ethic and positive attitude in the face of adversity. Teammate Larry Patey had nothing but good things to say about Meloche: “Great guy. Good goaltender and a guy I looked up to when I got there. I spent quite a bit of time with Gilles. He was one of the… upper players in the league because we knew he was good, and I think they knew he was a good goaltender, and they tried to build a team around him.”
Carol Vadnais (2016 inductee)
Vadnais was the NHL Seals’ first superstar player, and quite literally its poster boy. When Charlie Finley took over the club, Vadnais’ likeness was included on almost every promotional item. Vadnais has the unique distinction of being the first NHL player, if not the only professional hockey player, to become a logo for the team he played for.
When Vad played in Oakland, he was the closest the West Division had to a Bobby Orr: flashy and tough, with a good scoring touch. In his first season with the Seals, Vadnais led all Oakland defensemen with 15 goals and 27 assists. Vadnais was so offensively gifted that coach Fred Glover often played him on the wing when the other Seals forwards weren’t scoring enough. In 1969-70, mostly as a forward, Vadnais led the team with 24 goals. He remained in Oakland for four years and played in three All-Star games. He holds the career record for goals by a Seals defenseman (63), and is second in assists (83), points (146), and penalty minutes (560). In 1971-72, Vadnais requested a trade out of Oakland because he could no longer stand the pressure of being expected to score like Bobby Orr. On the day his wish was granted, Vadnais scored a hat-trick, then packed his bags for Boston. He spent the next three years in Boston, winning a Stanley Cup in 1972. He was then dealt to the New York Rangers with Phil Esposito in the famous swap that sent Brad Park, Jean Ratelle, and Joe Zanussi to Boston. While he would never win the Stanley Cup again, Vadnais played a big part in the Rangers’ run to the Final in 1979. After a final tour of duty with the New Jersey Devils in 1982-83, Vadnais called it a career and retired with 169 goals and 418 assists in 1,087 games. Vadnais passed away in 2014.
Dennis Maruk (2016 inductee)
Undoubtedly the most exciting and offensively talented player the Seals ever drafted, Dennis Maruk is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (94), and is ranked second in points (211) behind “3-M” line-mate Al MacAdam. Maruk is one of just four Seals to ever score four goals in one game, and he accomplished this feat twice (1975-76 and 1977-78). “PeeWee” was a sensation immediately upon arriving in Oakland, scoring 30 goals and 62 points, and finishing third in NHL voting for Rookie of the Year. The Seals Booster Club voted Maruk the team’s most popular player, and he also captured the team’s Three Star Award. When the Seals moved to Cleveland in 1976, Maruk set franchise records for assists (50) and points (78) by a player, and the following season, he established a new mark for goals (36). He is the only former Seal/Baron to register two thirty-goal seasons, and one of only four players to accomplish the feat even once.
The Minnesota North Stars could have hung on to Maruk after their merger with the Cleveland Barons, but instead they chose to trade him to the Washington Capitals for a first-round draft pick just two games into the 1978-79 season. Washington is where Maruk truly became an NHL star, racking up two thirty-goal seasons, a 50-goal season in 1980-81, and a sixty-goal season in 1981-82. His 136 points that season are still a Capitals record. After a subpar 81-point season in 1982-83, Maruk was dealt back to Minnesota where he settled in as a solid 60-point player. He ended his NHL career in 1988-89 after having scored 878 points in 888 games, making him the highest-scoring NHL player to ever play in Oakland.
Al MacAdam (2016 inductee)
The tough Prince Edward Islander was a force to be reckoned with in the mid-to-late 1970s. He was one of those players others feared, even though MacAdam’s reputation was as mild-mannered as it got. In his four seasons with the club, MacAdam did not miss a single game, and he holds the franchise record for most consecutive games played (320). He is also the team’s all-time leader in points (217). He participated in two NHL All-Star games, and became the first Seal to score a goal in the contest (1976). MacAdam played right wing on the Seals’ famed 3-M Line, along with Dennis Maruk and Bob Murdoch. That season, MacAdam led the Seals with 32 goals, and 63 points, and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. MacAdam was more than a scoring threat for the Seals; he was also named the team’s Unsung Hero Award winner in 1975 and he was also named the co-winner of the Wralstad Memorial Award for Sportsmanship (with Wayne Merrick).
Joey Johnston (2016 inductee)
When most players of the Charlie Finley era are asked who they believe was the team’s most valuable player, most answer either Gilles Meloche or Joey Johnston. Joey “The Jet” electrified Seals fans for four seasons from 1971 to 1975, and left his mark throughout the franchise record books. He is third all-time in goals (84) and points (185). In 1972-73, Johnston broke out for 28 goals and participated in his first All-Star Game. Near the end of the 1973-74 season, Johnston was named team captain. At the time, he had been enjoying a stellar season in which he participated in his second straight All-Star Game. Johnston finished the year with 27 goals and 40 assists, easily earning the team’s overall scoring lead. The following year, Johnston earned another invitation to the All-Star Game thanks to a stellar first half, but as injuries limited his effectiveness, his production waned. He was traded to Chicago in the off-season, where it was expected he would play in big part in the Black Hawks resurgence, but a summer car accident later led to a premature retirement.
Ted Hampson (2016 inductee)
While Carol Vadnais may have been the Seals’ most electrifying player, Ted Hampson was certainly their hardest-working. The Seals’ resident “Charlie Hustle” arrived in Oakland mid-way through the 1967-68 season and immediately made an impact, scoring 27 points in 34 games. The following year was undoubtedly Hampson’s best as a professional, and arguably the finest individual performance in franchise history: 26 goals, 49 assists, and 75 points. Thanks to Hampson, who became team captain at the start of the season, the Seals finished second in the West Division and qualified for the playoffs for the first time. For his efforts, Hampson was awarded the league’s Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance and determination. He is the only Seal to win a major NHL award. He was also runner-up to Alex Delvecchio for the Lady Byng Trophy, given to the league’s most gentlemanly player. In his four years with the Seals, Hampson accumulated just 37 penalty minutes, and led the team in scoring twice (three times if you count his stats as a Red Wing during the 1967-68 season). In both 1969 and 1970, Hampson was named the winner of the Larriburu Brothers Trophy as the Seals’ Most Valuable Player. By 1970-71, Hampson, like many of the Seals’ veteran players, had seemingly lost a step, and his 30 points in 60 games were a disappointment. He and Wayne Muloin were traded to Minnesota for Tommy Williams and Dick Redmond. Hampson proved there was still life in his old legs as he played professionally until 1976. He signed with the World Hockey Association’s Minnesota Fighting Saints in 1972, and during his four seasons in the rebel league, he scored 203 points in 305 games, and he won the Paul Deneau Trophy as the league’s most gentlemanly player in 1973.