Depth. The great expansion of 1967 was about depth, or a lack of it. From 1942 to 1955, the NHL’s powers were in Montreal, Toronto and Motown. From 1955 to 1967, it was about Canada. From 1967 to 1979, it was Pollock’s Habs versus the Bruins in Boston and Philadelphia.
Sam Pollock impacted the NHL for a decade from his rolltop desk and no one was there to uphold the integrity of the game. There should be an asterisk.
The draft rules looked innocuous enough, established teams protecting 11 skaters and a goalie and then pulling back in all but three rounds. The added items–added by Sam Pollock–protecting both junior age players and then taking the extra step of allowing the original 6 to pullback first year pro’s until after round 10 made it unfair for the new teams. Adding in that final line–”the established clubs would not have to expose first year pro’s until they had selected two goalies and 18 skaters”–well, that was written for the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs used that rule to protect the following men:
- Rogie Vachon 776
- Carol Vadnais 1076
- Serge Savard 1038
- Danny Grant 735
- Jacques Lemaire 853
Those men were the final pullbacks by Montreal, and none of the names were available to the new clubs. Why? Sam’s rule. 4,500 games and incredible talent kept by the Canadiens, and more depth in an era were there was very little. Boston–the emerging dynasty–lost several important parts of their future, same day.
Depth. Integrity. Sam Pollock. The 70s. The National Hockey League treats its rules and regulations like motel matches, and in turn leaves fans of the game in a state of wonder over the rule book and unpublished changes. It’s an inside job, folks. Always was, still is. The madness of the expansion draft and the insanity of the lockout are two moments in time caused by the same problem: no checks, no balance, no integrity. The men who own hockey treat it like a vending machine.
The games and its fans deserve better.
THE FINAL NUMBERS ON THE GREAT EXPANSION
- Boston (924) (Bernie Parent and Doug Favell)
- New York (595) (Cesare Maniago and Wayne Rutledge–in photo)
- Toronto (584) (Terry Sawchuk and Gary Smith)
- Chicago (376) (Glenn Hall and Roy Edwards)
- Montreal (154) (Charlie Hodge and Gary Bauman)
- Detroit (106) (Joe Daley and Don Caley)
There were some bizarre choices during the expansion draft and we’ll get to them during the profiles of the 6 new cities. Boston paid dearly here, with New York and Toronto also paying a heavy price. Chicago made a choice–the wrong one–but going with the younger man was defensible then and now. Montreal pulled back Vachon, Oakland protected Hodge and then Pollock made a side deal so that Minnesota would pass on eligible men like Ernie Wakely.
The goalie portion of the draft left Montreal unscathed, Boston devastated. Parent was 5 months older than Vachon, and although both had played pro in 1965-66, Vachon was in only 10 regular season games. The line was drawn somewhere between Parent and Vachon, and the line was drawn by Sam Pollock.
The Chicago Blackhawks should have been the power during the 1960′s, but never had the depth. Bobby Hull was better than any of the Montreal wingers, but he never had the troops behind him. Hull, Doug Mohns and Dennis Hull were the LW’s at the end of 66-67, and Montreal’s group (John Ferguson, Dick Duff, Gilles Tremblay, sometimes Bobby Rousseau played LW) had no one approaching the Golden Jet. However, the dropoff from one to the other in Montreal was such that their 2line didn’t give up a lot compared to the 1line and on it went. Montreal also used their depth well, sending lines out for shorter shifts and shutting down other teams best with shadows up front and on the blue.
When Montreal’s depth wasn’t damaged in the expansion draft–and holy hell it should have been, the impact was immediate and spectacular. Montreal would win Stanley in 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979. They won with the men culled from the rules created by Sam Pollock, they won with the picks gathered when sending second tier prospects and old men to the new clubs for 1st rd picks that would have enormous value.
While it is true that all of those things were available to other teams, Montreal alone–because of the expansion rules written by Sam Pollock–had more gems than the others and used them wisely.
Integrity of the game.
TOP 15 SKATERS (LOST)
- Boston 6,933
- Toronto 4,439
- New York 4,395
- Montreal 3,801
- Detroit 3,574
- Chicago 2,983
Read ‘em and weep. Boston had been doing an outstanding job of procurement and it was about to pay off, and Imlach had vapor lock in Toronto. New York lost a lot of the talent acquired via trading their stars (like Andy Bathgate) and Detroit’s long coda would eventually find darkness with Harkness. Chicago had the best players in the game and not enough support after 1961. Their problems are perhaps best explained by following the career path of Al Arbour after 1961.
And that leaves Montreal.
FIRST YEAR PRO’S, PULLED BACK BY NHL GP 67+
- Carol Vadnais (Mon) 1076
- Serge Savard (Mon) 1038
- Wayne Cashman (Bos) 1026
- Jean Pronovost (Bos) 998
- Nick Libett (Det) 982
- Jacques Lemaire (Mon) 853
- Rogie Vachon (Mon) 776
- Danny Grant (Mon) 735
- Craig Cameron (Det) 551
- Allan Hamilton (NY) 257
- Ron Anderson (Det) 251
- Paul Terbenche (Chi) 189
- John Arbour (Bos) 104
- Ted Snell (Bos) 104
- Rick McCann (Det) 43
- Bob Falkenberg (Det) 38
- Gary Marsh (Det) 7
- Doug Shelton (Chi) 5
- Bob Jones (NY) 2
- Geoff Powis (Chi) 2
- Mike Chernoff (Chi) 1
FINAL NUMBERS FROM FIRST YEAR PRO PULLBACKS
- Montreal 4,478
- Boston 2,232
- Detroit 1,872
- New York 259
- Chicago 197
- Toronto 0
It looks to me as though the Boston Bruins were in love with the $2M expansion fee, the Leafs were in love with protecting everyone with a crew cut, and the Canadiens were interested in the future.
The result of the expansion draft was obvious afterward, but the foresight required from Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York and Toronto didn’t exist. They were already in the counting room and couldn’t be bothered with the minutiae of the draft rules. Putting the fox in charge of the henhouse is a bad idea no matter the year, and the 1967 NHL expansion draft is an excellent example.
- Brian McFarlane’s 50 years of hockey (1967): Hockey men were amazed that the Canadiens were able to retain Claude LaRose, Dick Duff and Claude Provost, as well as promising youngsters like Carol Vadnais, Serge Savard and Danny Grant.
- More McFarlane: Boston was openly angry at the way they’d been stripped of young prospects.
And in the light of a clear blue morning, the 1970s were written on June 6, 1967, in the ballroom of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Up next, the brilliance in Philadelphia.