The Seals played in the NHL for nine years, and the Cleveland Barons played in the league another two, but partly due to their lack of success in the standings, there are few photos out there to prove the team even existed.  Open any hockey book detailing hockey in the 1970s, and all you find are pictures of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Boston Bruins.  The Seals’ history, while nowhere near as storied as those of the aforementioned teams, deserves at the very least, a small spot on the Internet, and thanks to various fans I’ve connected with over the years, I’m able to present some of the rarest photos of the Seals in all their glory.

Thanks to Dave Martell for sending along these excellent photos of Len “The Comet” Haley, one of the Western League Seals’ all-time greats.  Haley himself gave these photos to Dave.

Martell wrote me an e-mail with Haley’s description of the above photo. “I had just got back to the bench after serving a fighting major and was making my case to the coach,” Haley said, explaining the strange look on his face.

What a great colour photo of “The Comet”‘s San Francisco Seals jersey from either 1962-63 or 1963-64, the Seals’ two championship seasons.

The 1964-65 San Francisco Seals

Thanks to Mike Phelan for allowing me to post this excellent and rare photo of Gilles Meloche receiving the Seals Most Popular Player Award for 1973-74.  That’s Mike’s Dad (in the brown suit – correct me if I’m wrong, Mike) emceeing the ceremony.  Ty Toki, the legendary president of the Seals Booster Club, presenting the star goaltender with his award.  If you look real closely, you can see Garry Young directly to the left of Meloche.  He had just returned to the Seals after the NHL bought the team from Charlie Finley, but Young would be gone before the start of the next season.

I honestly have no idea where this comes from, whether it was made by this woman named “Laura” or whether it was something the Booster Club gave out during the mid-70s.  Judging by the names on the ceramic seal, this comes from the start of the 1974-75 season.  If anyone has any information about this little statuette, please let me know.

Laura, where are you!!?

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The Seals 1967-68 Most Improved Player was kind enough to send me this autographed photo when I wrote to him a few years back.

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This photo came courtesy of Howie Menard, who played for the Seals for about half a season in 1969-70.  I interviewed him over the phone a few years back and he couldn’t have been nicer.

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A San Francisco Seals jersey

Camille Bedard 15, Ed Panagabko 8, Pete Panagabko 19, Jack Bownass 2, Leo Labine & Jim McLeod

The San Francisco Seals in action versus their southern California rivals, the Los Angeles Blades

George Swarbrick

George Swarbrick was the Western Hockey League’s rookie-of-the-year in 1964-65 thanks to his 22 goals and 22 assists.  He would later make the transition to the NHL Seals, and score a solid 13 goals in just 49 games his first year with the Oakland Seals.

Larrabru Perpetual Trophy

The Larriburu Brothers Trophy was awarded annually to the Seals’ Most Valuable Player

Canadian filmmaker Mark Greczmiel grew up in the Bay Area, and quickly became a huge Seals fan.  He took this photo of the players coming through the tunnel at the Oakland Coliseum.

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Pictured here are Gilles Meloche, back-up goaltender Gary Kurt, and left wing Gary Jarrett.

Here are some rare player shots from the post-Finley era, from 1974-76, courtesy of Seals Booster Club member Rich Reilley.

Al MacAdam

Al MacAdam, nicknamed “Spud” due to his growing up on Prince Edward Island, is the Seals’ all-time leader in assists (129) and points (217).

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Bobby Stewart, the Seals’ all-time leader in games played (414) and penalty minutes (691)

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Gilles Meloche won 270 games over the course of his NHL career, and 93 of those wins came in the seven seasons he toiled for the Seals and Barons.

Rick Hampton

While Rick Hampton never matured into the Bobby Orr-like defenseman the Seals were hoping for, Hampton holds the franchise record for most points by a defenseman in one season (51), and most points in a career (152).

Wayne King

Wayne King played 73 games for the Seals from 1974-76 and scored 5 goals and 18 assists.

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Over the years, Rich Reilley has amassed a treasure trove of Seals memorabilia, and what collection of Seals artifacts would be complete without a pair of the legendary white skates.  As you can see, these skates, which are from the 1972-73 or 1973-74 seasons, have a green trim, a welcome addition to the footwear; the 1971-72 skates were so white (as white as the ice in fact) that when one watched the team play on television it seemed as though players were skating on stumps.

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A 1972 Seals home schedule that used to hang on the walls of restaurants and bars in the Bay Area

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Carol Vadnais’ likeness was featured on many pieces of memorabilia in the early 1970s, including this pin.

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For decades, Joe Serratore ran a shoe repair shop in San Leandro, California.  He also repaired equipment and sharpened skates at the Oakland Coliseum from the Seals’ first days to their very last.  He had very close ties to members of the Oakland A’s and Raiders as well, and was often the recipient of signed photos in gratitude of the work he did for them.  Sadly, Joe passed away December 31, 2013, but lifelong friend Rich Reilley hung on to several pieces of Joe’s Seals memorabilia, including this mint condition briefcase that once belonged to coach Fred Glover.  When Charlie Finley bought the Seals in 1970, he gave everyone these monstrous-looking green-and-gold suitcases.  Glover thought they looked repulsive, and he refused to travel with his, so in the closet it stayed for thirty years.  Glover and Serratore were very close, and when Glover passed away, his wife gave the suitcase to Serratore.

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This is one truly rare Seals artifact, a mint condition Jostens ring given to Joe Serratore by the Seals organization. The sides have his name engraved “Joe” on one side and “Serratore” on the other.  Joe often wore the ring to special hockey events, and he would proudly show it off to anyone he ran into.

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This is quite literally a one-of-a-kind piece of Seals memorabilia, the Holy Grail of Seals artifacts: a flag that once hung in the rafters of the Oakland Coliseum arena.  By the looks of the “O” shaped logo, and green-blue-white colour scheme, this flag dates back to the “Oakland Seals” era from 1968-1970.  According to former stick boy Scott Ruffell, he is the one who stole the flag after the Seals’ last game.  He stuffed it under his shirt and and snuck out of the arena with it.  A friend of his later pranked him by pretending to be a police officer looking for the missing flag.  Years later, Ruffell sold the flag to Rich Reilley, who still owns it today.

26 Krazy George close up

Seals cheerleader Krazy George Henderson used to rile up fans at the half-empty Coliseum by banging his drum up and down the aisles, and sometimes even in the ears of opposing players as they waited their next shift.  More than a few opposing players wanted nothing more than to grab him by the throat and squeeze.  At first, he was just an overenthusiastic fan, but as time went on, the Seals eventually paid him to be their official one-man cheerleading squad.

 

Thanks to fellow SIHR member George Kloepping for allowing me to include photos of the San Francisco Seals.  Thanks to Mark Grezcmiel for the photo of Gilles Meloche and his teammates walking out onto the Coliseum ice.  All other photos which have no credit mentioned are courtesy of Rich Reilley.  Thanks so much for sharing these rare pieces of hockey history with the world.