Wood knew after only a handful of home games that the Raiders were doomed. The cost of the unionized Garden ushers and concessionaires was murdering him. The Raiders' coach, Camille Henry, was a former Rangers star embittered by the wealth and nonchalance of his athletes. The faceless players—Ron Ward, Norm Ferguson, Bobby Sheehan, some Minnesota collegians, even a black man named Alton White—were out of their depth against Hull and Cheevers and the tight, well-coached Whalers and Quebec Nordiques.
Wood went to the Garden and asked the unions to give him a break. They said, "We have to have a full staff every night in case the game is a sellout." (The Raiders were averaging 5,868 customers in an 18,000-seat building.) Wood sold the Raiders to an investment group for a good profit. He bought a restaurant and a Texas oil well and went back to lawyering.
While we are admiring the Napoleon, a man named Barry Rednor comes into Wood's office with a carton of junk. Rednor, an old friend of Wood's and a former member of the Raiders' board of directors, unloads Raiders pucks, Golden Blades pennants and posters, and a giant frosted brandy snifter autographed by several members of the long-dead team.
"They only made 10 of these," Rednor announces, holding up the vessel. "I've got a basement full of this stuff—and a lot of autographed sticks."
"They must be worth a lot of money," I venture.
"Not around here," Rednor replies.
ROOM B3-542, HÔPITAL DE SAINT FRANÇOIS D'ASSISE. QUEBEC CITY
In maroon pajamas and hand-knit slippers, sallow, shrunken, defeated: Camille Henry.
In the 1950s and early '60s, Henry was a darting, darling Rangers forward. He scored nearly 300 goals when goals were hard to come by. In '57-58 he won the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly barracuda in the NHL. His wife, in those golden years, was Dominique Michel, then (and still) the most popular comedienne in French Canada, the Carol Burnett of Quebec.
In '72, retired from playing right wing and hired by the Raiders as a drawing card in a bow to Rangers glory, Henry coached Wood's team into last place. I walked in on him in his semiprivate hospital room in la Belle Province last summer, and he barely looked up. He was sitting in a chair, having his blood drawn. "I would like to talk about your WHA memories," I say.