The Pittsburgh Penguins had a unique problem in 1967. The AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets had just won the Calder Trophy (AHL championship) and were a “loaded” minor league team. The Hornets led the league in wins, goals, goals against average and won the championship with just one post-season loss. The Penguins were going to have to be competitive in order to bring in Pittsburgh hockey fans.
The Penguins did not purchase an AHL team like the Flyers and Kings, but did get the earliest start in signing recruits. In the late summer of 1966, Pittsburgh’s NHL team purchased G Les Binkley from Cleveland (AHL). Binkley played the 66-67 season on loan to San Diego Gulls (WHL, the pro league) before coming to Pens camp in 1967 fall. They did the same thing with defenseman Bill Speer.
Pittsburgh–more than any of the other teams entering the NHL–had fewer options from outside the expansion draft. The Penguins were severely hampered by an NHL rule (instituted after the Binkley signing) saying the new clubs were not allowed to procure pro talent until after the completion of the 66-67 season.
Penguins GM Jack Riley made the first error of the expansion draft. In the first round, he attempted to select Bruce Gamble from Toronto, but the Leafs had already lost Terry Sawchuk in that round and the rules dictacted that goalies needed to be selected in a specific manner (basically each team getting and losing a goalie per round).
Their backup plan–Joe Daley–ended up having a pretty good career, although mostly in the WHA. Daley played in 106 NHL games during his career, and the Penguins 2nd pick (Roy Edwards) played in 236 games. That total (236) made Edwards the 5th best goalie chosen that day. He was 30.
- Earl Ingarfield (219)
- Al MacNeil (74)
- Larry Jeffrey (122)
- Ab McDonald (245)
- Leo Boivin (214)
- Noel Price (404)
- Keith McCreary (522)
- Ken Schinkel (371)
- Bob Dillabough (161)
- Art Stratton (70)
- Val Fonteyne (349)
- Jeannot Gilbert (0)
- Tom McCarthy (0)
- Bill Dea (251)
- Bob Rivard (27)
- Mel Pearson (2)
- Andy Bathgate (150)
- Les Hunt (0)
3,181 total NHL games, that’s a mile from Philadelphia, St. Louis and Los Angeles. The Penguins did a couple of smart things after the draft:
- traded Larry Jeffrey to the Rangers for Paul Andrea, Dunc McCallum, George Konik and Frank Francis.
- traded Jeannot Gilbert–who didn’t want to leave Hershey–for small winger Gene Ubriaco.
THE UNIVERSAL DRAFT
The Penguins traded most of their early 1st rounders but did keep a few (Greg Polis, Blaine Stoughton, Pierre Larouche) and when they did deal a pick they got good young players in return.
- May 21, 1968: Traded 1st rd pick in 1969 (Frank Spring) to Boston for R Jean Pronovost and D John Arbour.
- October 1, 1968 Traded 1st rd pick in 1972 (Dave Gardner) to Minnesota for Bob Woytowich (not a young player but an effective defenseman).
- June 6, 1969: Traded 1st rd pick in 1971 (Gene Carr) and Lou Angotti to St. Louis for C Ron Schock, R Craig Cameron and a 1972 2nd rd pick (Bernie Lukowich).
Penguins made out better on these trades than their expansion cousins for a couple of reasons. First, they could identify talent. Second, they didn’t deal with Sam Pollock.
The strength of the team in the early 1970s was a glorious offensive line (Apps-Lowell MacDonald-Jean Pronovost) and aside from the 1st rd pick (for Pronovost) it came at a low price: MacDonald via the Intra-League draft and Apps for a journeyman checker named Glen Sather (plus the Pens received the wonderfully named Sheldon Kannegiesser in the deal). That line scored 107 goals in 1973-74.
Pittsburgh was well below Philadelphia as an expansion team, but they had some fine seasons too. Between 1967 and 1975 the Penguins would win only 11 playoff games–6 in 1970 and 5 in 1975–but they were entertaining from the beginning.
Up next: hockey’s SNAFU by the bay.