Monday, December 13, 2010

Seal of Approval

Recently, there were rumblings out of Pennsylvania that Terrence Pegula had a $150 million letter of intent to purchase the Buffalo Sabres. The rumours were quickly put to rest by the Buffalo ownership.

Back in January of 1969, there were similar rumblings emanating out of Buffalo concerning the Oakland Seals. It became public knowledge that Seymour Knox and his family had an option to purchase the west coast team. It was their intention to transfer the franchise to Buffalo, New York.

In addition to the Knox family revelation, other information relating to the Seals was disclosed. The predominate face of the Seals ownership group was Barend Van Gerbig. He had a syndicate of financial backers at the ownership level. In response to the maneuvers coming out of Buffalo, another voice was heard concerning the Seals future.

By means of a $680,000 loan in March of 1968 to the Seals, the Labatt Brewing Company had first right of refusal relating to the purchase of controlling interest in the team. The agreement terms were in effect until March of 1969. Their partners in this endeavor were the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL.

All this spelled major headache for the National Hockey League.

On January 21, 1969 the NHL Board of Governors met in Montreal prior to the all-star game. Their agenda was clear - untangle this mangled mess. Talking on behalf of the Board was Clarence Campbell who reported on the outcome of the meeting.

The question of double-dipping was front and centre. Campbell revealed that Puck Inc. owned the Oakland Seals, but player contracts and other team rights were owned by San Francisco Seals, Inc. The Buffalo group was negotiating with Puck Inc., while S.F. Seals, Inc. were dealing with the Vancouver group.

Putting matters into perspective, Campbell said "basically the right to move a franchise belongs to the league and not the owners. Therefore, it looks like both Puck Inc., and the Seals, Inc., have been selling options it is not their right to sell."

Sound familiar Mr. Balsillie?

The NHL ruled that the Oakland Seals would remain in place and future meetings would be held pertaining to the Seals ownership, and the leagues desire to keep the club in California.

The Oakland Seals would undergo several name changes and remain in the Bay area until 1976. At that time, the franchise moved to Cleveland. In 1978 the Cleveland Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars and left the State of Ohio.

Vancouver and Buffalo would be granted expansion teams to begin play in the 1970-71 season.

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