A new ownership group called Puck Inc. showed interest in buying the club from majority owner Barry Van Gerbig and keeping it in Oakland. Unfortunately for Van Gerbig, the Seals’ monetary losses continued to mount, and by Christmas, Puck Inc.’s interest had waned. Trans-National Communications Inc. bought the Seals in January 1969, but its wish to move the team to Buffalo was nixed by NHL owners.
Despite the gloomy financial forecast, the Seals surprised league pundits with a second-place finish, despite finishing seven games below .500. Moody and unproductive veterans were either traded away for youngsters or left unprotected in the intra-league draft. Ted Hampson, who had been acquired during the Seals’ first season, scored an impressive 75 points to lead the team, while Bill Hicke scored 61. Rookie Norm Ferguson led the team with 34 goals and finished second to Minnesota’s Danny Grant for the Calder Trophy as rookie-of-the-year. Carol Vadnais led the Seals’ blue line with 15 goals and 42 points, and he became the West Division’s most exciting defenseman, Other newcomers such as Gary Jarrett and Mike Laughton gave the Seals some scoring depth too. Back-up goaltender Gary Smith took over as the Seals’ lead goalie and finished with a 22-20-7 record. New general manager Frank Selke Jr. hired former American League legend Fred Glover to coach the team.
Early on, Glover was like a breath of fresh air, but he did have one eccentricity that often drove his players nuts: he liked to scrimmage with his players because he believed he still had a shot at playing in the NHL. Marshall Johnston played for Glover in the 1970s, and according to Johnston, “At the start, you’d go through the skating routines… and then Fred would scrimmage with us. The joke was the team that Fred was on, you’d better let him win or else we’d be out there ‘til three o’clock in the afternoon.” Players quickly caught on that if they let Glover score a goal, practice would immediately end. The Seals’ first-round series versus Los Angeles developed into a bitter affair that went the full seven games. Unfortunately for the Seals, L.A. would win the deciding contest, putting an end to Oakland’s Stanley Cup hopes.
The Oakland Seals logo, which was used from 1968-70
Following their surprising second-place finish, the 1969-70 Seals were faced with lofty expectations for the first time, but they stumbled out of the starting blocks and played lethargically for most of the season. Most players saw their numbers decline sharply. All-Stars Hampson and Hicke dropped to 52 and 44 points respectively. Norm Ferguson scored just 11 goals and 20 points. Gary Smith would see more rubber than a mechanic at the local Jiffy Lube. He faced over 40 shots on 18 different occasions, and well over 2,200 shots over the course of the season. One night, the Boston Bruins fired a whopping 63 shots at Smith and Hodge in an 8-3 shellacking on November 10. On most nights, Smith would be lucky to keep the opposition down to just three goals. The Seals could hardly call season three a success, yet, despite earning just 58 points during the regular season, they qualified for the playoffs thanks to a season-ending hot streak and Smith’s acrobatic goaltending. Nevertheless, big changes were imminent after the Pittsburgh Penguins swept the Seals in round one of the playoffs.
Captain Ted Hampson set career highs with 26 goals and 49 assists in 1968-69 on his way to winning the NHL’s Bill Masterton Trophy, given to the player who shows the most dedication to the sport
Thanks to Chris Creamer of Sportslogos.net for graciously allowing me to use the Seals and Barons logos featured on this site. Please visit his excellent and fascinating site at http://www.sportslogos.net. Other photos found on Google Images.