Monday, February 20, 2012

Making the Grade

In the era of Original Six hockey, there was no shortage of players just bursting  for the opportunity to crack an NHL line-up. At the time of expansion in 1967, many in hockey shared the opinion teams in the American Hockey League and Western Hockey League were more than stocked with talent to make the NHL.

Since there were only six big league clubs and limited jobs in the National Hockey League, many players never made it to the big dance. The advantage clearly went to the NHL owners, who often held the threat of demotion over the heads of those on their roster. If a player was unwilling to agree to contract terms as established by his owner, he knew his employer had another option concerning his services. Instead of being handed a revised proposal, the player would have a bus ticket shoved in his chest and be instructed to report to the farm. Of course, there would be no increase in salary. If the player didn't agree, he wouldn't play hockey.

The roster for the Buffalo Bisons, heading into the 1953-54 season, highlights just how good the talent pool was in the American Hockey League.

The first impression when viewing the above - is it not an NHL line-up? So many names either played for New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal or Toronto. Some were in the later stages of their careers, but still had the passion and skills to lace-up their boots. Many, were lingering in the AHL, waiting for the phone to ring or the tap on the shoulder from their general manager.

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