Among the 3028 responses that were received in a 1961 contest to name San Francisco’s Western Hockey League club, 102 entrants suggested Seals, which had once been the name of San Francisco’s old minor-league baseball club. Other names suggested included Golden Gaters, Penguins, Vigilantes, and Blades, which were all interesting choices. Thankfully, the WHL’s newest franchise had the good sense to NOT choose one fan’s suggestion: Yekcoh. That would be HOCKEY spelled backwards. Yikes! Can you imagine the kind of logo that would go with THAT name?
The San Francisco Seals beat the Los Angeles Blades for the Coliseum Cup, emblematic of hockey supremacy in California, three out of four times it was awarded while both clubs competed in the Western Hockey League.
The Seals were the first team to win back-to-back Lester Patrick Cups (1963 and 1964).Defenseman Kent Douglas scored the Seals’ first NHL goal (assists from Charlie Burns and George Swarbrick) at 3:23 of the 1st period vs. Philadelphia, Oct. 11, 1967. The final score was 5-1 in favour of California.
Charlie Hodge turned in the first shutout of the NHL’s expansion era, making 20 saves in a 6-0 win over Minnesota on October 14, 1967. It was just the Seals’ second-ever NHL game. The Seals immediately went on a 14-game winless streak that lasted an entire month.
While the 1967-68 Seals were not exactly known for their offensive prowess, Bill Hicke was dynamite on the power-play finishing 3rd overall with 12 goals.
1968-69 was indeed a banner year for the Seals as players finished in the top 20 in several statistical categories. Norm Ferguson finished 9th in goals (34) and 13th in shooting percentage (15.7), Ted Hampson finished in a tie for 6th in assists (49), 14th in points (75), and tied for 10th in power-play goals (9), Carol Vadnais finished 4th in penalty minutes (151) and tied for 13th in shots on goal (274), Gerry Odrowski was tied for 3rd with three shorthanded goals, Mike Laughton finished 2nd in shooting percentage (19.4). On the other hand, Vadnais led the league in goals on-ice against (133), while Doug Roberts finished 5th (122), and Bert Marshall 13th (105). As for goaltenders, Gary Smith finished tied for 4th in wins (22), tied for 5th in shutouts (4).
In 1968-69, Carol Vadnais set an NHL record for fighting majors (12), which was later broken by teammate Dennis Hextall, who got involved in 21 scraps during his one season with the Seals (1970-71).
January 1, 1969 is an important date in NHL history because it is the date Wayne Gretzky attended his first NHL game, setting him on a path to greatness. With his grandmother sitting beside him, eight-year-old Wayne watched the Toronto Maple Leafs defeat the Oakland Seals, 7-3. The Seals goaltender that night, Gary Smith, would later become Wayne’s teammate in Indianapolis of the WHA.
In 1969-70, the Seals qualified for the playoffs by finishing fourth in the West Division with just 58 points. The Montreal Canadiens, who finished fifth in the East Division with 92 points, didn’t.
Seals tough guy and leading scorer Dennis Hextall finished second in the 1970-71 NHL penalty minute parade with 217.
The Seals won the 100th game in franchise history on January 14, 1972, the same night Charlie Finley’s infamous white skates made their debut.
The Seals finished dead last in NHL attendance every season they played. Their high-water mark was an average of 6,944 in 1975-76.
The Seals won their first and last games in the NHL (Oct. 11, 1967: Cal. 5-Phi. 1 and Apr. 4, 1976: Cal.5-L.A. 2).
The NHL Seals/Barons own an all-time pre-season (exhibition) record of 38-37-12, for a win percentage of .506; their all-time regular-season NHL record is 229-488-141, for a win percentage of just .349.
The WHL Seals’ and NHL Seals’ respective all-time leaders in games played (Tom Thurlby and Bob Stewart) finished with the exact same number: 414.
The Seals sold out the 12,021-seat Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on just eleven occasions in their NHL history. The Barons never once sold out Richfield Coliseum in their two years.
The Seals underwent four name changes after originally being christened the San Francisco Seals in 1961: California Seals, Oakland Seals, California Golden Seals, and Cleveland Barons. The longest-lasting name was “California Golden Seals” (472 games). The shortest-tenured moniker was “California Seals,” (78 WHL regular-season and playoff games and 25 NHL games).
The Oakland Seals became the California Golden Seals two games into the 1970-71 season, actually marking the SECOND time the franchise changed names in mid-season. The California Seals had become the Oakland Seals 25 games into the 1967-68 season.
J.P. Parise was drafted by the Seals in the 1967 expansion draft, yet he did not play his first regular-season game with the team until January 1978 as a member of the Cleveland Barons.
Academy Award-winning actor, and Bay Area-native, Tom Hanks grew up a Seals fan. Charles M. Schulz of Peanuts fame was also a Seals fan. The Seals’ cartoon mascot, Sparky, who appeared on many promotional items in the 1970s, was named after him.
Garry Young had the shortest tenure of any Seals coach (NHL and WHL): 13 games (2-8-3 record in 1972-73).
Gilles Meloche is one of the most underrated goaltenders in NHL history, and he deserved a medal for perseverance for getting through the 1972-73 season with his mental health intact. He led the league in games played (59), goals against (235), minutes played (3473), finished 2nd overall in losses (32), and came nowhere near the top twenty in goals against average as the Seals sputtered to a 16-46-16 mark. Nevertheless, Gary “Suitcase” Smith had it even worse as the Seals’ number one goalie. In 1969-70, he finished third in minutes played (3762), but first overall in losses (34), goals against (195), and shots against (2230). Then, in 1970-71, Smith led the league in games played (71), minutes played (3975), shots against (2212), and goals against (256). The most remarkable stat, however, is that Smith led the league with 48 losses that year, while second-place Dennis DeJordy ended up with just 29, nineteen fewer losses than Smith! Unlike Meloche, Smith asked for a trade at the end of the season because he had a nervous breakdown and had to spend time in hospital recuperating from the pressure of 4442 shots he had faced over the course of those two seasons!
The Seals longest-ever NHL winning streak was four games, a feat that was achieved five times. The Seals also once won six straight over two seasons (final four games of 1972-73 and first two games of 1973-74).
Gilles Meloche proved himself to be quite the playmaker in 1974-75. That year, the six assists he recorded set a new NHL record for goaltenders which was not broken until Grant Fuhr picked up an incredible 14 assists in 1983-84. Meloche also tied the NHL record for assists by a goaltender in one game (2 – January 17, 1975 vs. New York Rangers), which was later broken by Calgary Flame Jeff Reese, who recorded three assists in one game (February 10, 1993 vs. San Jose).
The Seals never gave up a penalty shot goal in their 11-year NHL history, proving how solid the Seals’ goaltenders were. Chico Maki was unsuccessful vs. Chris Worthy, Dec. 15, 1968 (CHI 7, OAK 4 at CHI); Fred Stanfield was unsuccessful vs. Gilles Meloche, Feb. 23, 1972 (BOS 8, CAL 6 at CAL); future Cleveland Baron Chuck Arnason failed to score on Gilles Meloche, Feb. 16, 1974 (PIT 7, CAL 3 at PIT); Bobby Schmautz was unable to beat Gary Simmons, Nov. 2, 1975 (BOS 5, CAL 0 at BOS); Reed Larson was unsuccessful vs. Gilles Meloche, Nov. 5, 1977 (CLE 4, DET 3 at DET).
Both Bob Murdoch and Ralph Klassen scored their first NHL goals on the same night, October 8, 1975, versus Atlanta. The Seals won 4-3.
Al MacAdam has the distinction of being the only player in franchise history to score the game-winning goal in three consecutive games (1975-76).
In 1975-76, Dennis Maruk finished tied for 3rd overall in shorthanded goals (5), while Al MacAdam finished tied for 6th with four shorties. Fred Ahern finished 9th in shooting percentage (19.3). Gary Simmons finished 11th in goals-against average (3.33), while Gilles Meloche finished 13th (3.44).
The Seals/Barons’ ironman and all-time leading scorer, Al MacAdam, played in 320 consecutive games spanning four seasons (1974-75 to 1977-78).
The Washington Capitals are the only team against whom the Seals have an all-time winning record (13-6-1). The Capitals are also the only team against whom the Seals/Barons swept a season series (5-0 in 1976-77).
Statistically speaking, Dennis Maruk’s 1976-77 season was one of the best individual offensive showing in the history of the Seals/Barons. He finished 17th overall in assists (50), tied for 20th in points (78), tied for 16th in even-strength goals (24), and 12th in shots on goal (268).
Ted Tucker is the only NHL Seals goaltender to have a .500 record or better (1-1-1 in 5 career games).
Both Gilles Meloche (1971-72) and Gary Simmons (1974-75) earned shutouts in their Seals debuts. They would become teammates in 1974. In 1977, while playing for the Cleveland Barons, Simmons and Jim Moxey were traded to Los Angeles for Juha Widing and Gary Edwards. Edwards would also record a shutout in his debut with the Barons.
Goaltenders aside, Terry Murray played the most games as a Seal without scoring a goal (90 games played, 17 assists).
Here’s a bit of numbers fun: No member of the Seals or Barons ever wore a uniform number higher than Gary Simmons’ #31. The most popular player number was… 17? Wow, who’d a thunk that? Terry Clancy, Larry Popein, Norm Ferguson, Hilliard Graves, Gary Holt, Larry Patey, Hartland Monahan, John Stewart, Tom Price, Charlie Simmer, and Ken Kuzyk all wore #17 at one time or another.
Bjorn Johansson may have been cursed before ever stepping foot onto NHL ice. His NHL career lasted all of 15 games, and wearing unlucky #13 may have been the cause. He was the only player in franchise history to wear the cursed number.