Monday, January 11, 2010

Terry Murray likes Seals, not Sharks

The 49ers have more championships and the Giants get way more press. There's the Raiders, who are...well, the Raiders. You can throw in the A's and the Warriors too. However, the only professional sports team in Northern California to have any kind of success the last few years has been the San Jose Sharks.

And while they might be the darlings of the greater Bay Area at the moment, life for hockey fans up there hasn't always been so pleasurable. Long before anybody was wearing their teal with pride, there was another hockey team in the dreaded land of wine and cheese (or is it whine and cheese?). That team put fans through nine losing seasons before skipping town.

Back in 1967, when the NHL was adding its Second Six, the TV contract at the time called for two teams in California. One went to Jack Kent Cooke in Los Angeles and the other to Barry Van Gerbig (singer Bing Crosby's godson).

Van Gerbig had assembled an ownership group the year before and purchased the San Fransisco Seals of the rival WHL. As a way to appeal to a larger audience he changed the name to the California Seals for the move to the NHL in '67. Like all things surrounding the Seals, that didn't last long. Just two months into their inaugural NHL season the name was changed to the Oakland Seals.

Chaos was always surrounding the team. They were nearly sold on multiple occasions in the first few years, never had a stable building arrangement and roster turnover was omnipresent - with only seven players returning for their second season.

Charlie Finley of the Oakland A's finally bought the team as they entered their third season. Soon after came another name change - now the California Golden Seals - and crazy marketing tactics, like green and gold skates.

The team was being run at the time by a guy named Bill Torrey, who later went on to become GM of the legendary New York Islanders of the '80s - winners of four straight Stanley Cups.

It was Torrey, who in the seventh round of the 1970 NHL Draft (#88 overall) selected Ottawa 67's defenseman Terry Murray. Yes, the same Terry Murray who now coaches Los Angeles.

Long before he was a King, he was a NoCal. Murray played in 90 games for the Seals over the course of three seasons in the early '70s. He was eventually signed by the Flyers as a free agent in 1975. His playing days were over by 1982.

Meanwhile, the Seals continued their tumultuous existence. Along the way they almost moved to Vancouver, Buffalo and Indianapolis. Murray wasn't the only future Kings coach to play for the Seals though, Tom Webster played seven games for California in 1971, before suffering a season ending back injury. Yet another connection to the Kings saw the Seals draft future Triple Crown winger Charlie Simmer in 1974. He debuted with the team the following season, scoring 21 points in 35 games.

Then things finally came to an end in 1976 when the Seals were relocated to Cleavland and renamed the Barons. In a move that should have surprised nobody, given the history of the Seals, the Barons failed as well and after two seasons were merged with the Minnesota North Stars.

Coincidentally, it was the Stars who almost became the Sharks. After experiencing financial trouble in Minnesota the team was considering moving West. The NHL wanted no part of that idea and a compromise was eventually reached. The then owners of the Stars, the Gund Brothers, sold their stake in the team to former Whalers owner Howard Baldwin. The Gund's were then awarded the expansion Sharks, who began play with the 1990-91 season.

A long and windy road that leads us to tonight.

The Kings are 47-47-14 all time versus the Sharks, including 3-0-1 this season. Considering the Kings are 0-2 on their current homestand...and have looked pretty flat overall...this is, you guessed it, another big game.

The Mayor

1 comment:

  1. Terry spoke with us last year at Christmas break about his time playing for the Seals and how 'frugal' the owner, Charley Finley, was. He specifically sighted an appearance sitting in the stands during a World Series game which is hilarious.