The teams of the American Hockey League worked over Freddie Glover's face pretty thoroughly. The V scar across his nose, which was smashed many times, has a little Providence in it, some Hershey and some Buffalo. The jagged tissue above the right eyebrow comes from hasty patchwork in Rochester and Springfield. His teeth are off the dentist's shelf. But don't feel sorry for Freddie Glover; he asked for every stitch he got. For 15 years with the Cleveland Barons, Glover played as if he were a 170-pound Gordie Howe. Besides, it is difficult to cry for someone who is going to be Coach of the Year in the National Hockey League this season.
After 20 years in the minors Glover has brought his fire to the big league at last—to the Oakland Seals, the team that needed it most—and the result has been the most remarkable turnabout since Emile Francis kicked life into the New York Rangers four years ago. With a month remaining in the regular season, Glover has the Seals solidly in second place behind uncatchable St. Louis in the West Division, and is terrorizing the established East, whose proud teams have been beaten or tied by the Seals no fewer than 16 times.
Oakland has more victories over the East—13—than any other West team. The Seals have already taken their season series from Montreal (3-2-1) and Chicago (4-1 with one game to go), and they can still tie Detroit and Toronto, with whom they are 2-3 with one game remaining. The Seals are catching on with the fans, too. Oakland has averaged better than 7,000 a game since Feb. 1 and drew more than 10,000 for a 5-2 victory over Chicago the last time the Black Hawks were in town.
Even the ownership and geographical dilemmas of the Seals seem to be solvable in these optimistic days. Last year the whole operation out at 66th Avenue and Nimitz Freeway resembled something out of beautiful downtown Burbank. The team had 52 owners and one "leader," Barry van Gerbig. As the Seals staggered to last place in the West, van Gerbig did much of his leading from a Florida golf course, and the club took a financial bath. Before the season was over the Seals had borrowed $680,000 from a Canadian brewery and rumors of town-switching � la Charlie Finley and his baseball A's were flying like slap shots.
Meanwhile, the players became resentful of Coach Bert Olmstead, who demanded more from them than they could possibly deliver. When the Seals finished with only 15 wins in 74 games the owners fired Olmstead and made the club's president, Frank Selke Jr., general manager. Selke is a pro whose father long managed the Montreal Canadiens. Selke, in turn, hired Glover as coach.
And just last week the Seals took an important step toward financial dignity. They were purchased by Trans-National Communications, Inc., a New York-based group of which ex-Yankee Whitey Ford and ex-Giants Pat Summerall and Dick Lynch are members. Trans-National took 80% of the stock and the Knox brothers of Buffalo the other 20%. (The Buffalonians, who had supplied money for the Seals' operating expenses the last two months, still basically want a club for their city when the next expansion comes.) The purchase price: better than $4.5 million. Bill Creasy, former producer of CBS' Game of the Week, becomes president and will represent the Seals on the NHL's board of governors. Said Ellis E. Erdman, Trans-National's chairman: "We have no plans for moving the club, because we have entertained no thoughts of attendance failing in Oakland."
"We feel our family is now complete from top to bottom," said Seals Executive Vice-President Bill Torrey. "We've had the bottom—Selke, Glover, the players—since the start of the season. This gives us the top."
Well, if any coach has bottom it's Glover. " Montreal was so impressed by Freddie's work as player-coach at Cleveland," says Selke, "that it even considered him as a replacement for Toe Blake when he retired." In Cleveland Glover set AHL records for goals (520), assists (831) and penalties (he steamed in the penalty box for a total of 2,402 minutes). Glover raised African violets at home and All-America hell on the ice. "The little guy always gets pushed around," he says. "Some guys build themselves up by pushing the little guys around. Well let me tell you, there's no better equalizer out there than a hockey stick. With a stick in your hands you're just as big as the next guy. There's not much a stick session won't settle—and I don't mean taking somebody's head off with it."
"When Freddie was at Cleveland I think I almost hated him," says Torrey, once in the front office of the old Pittsburgh AHL franchise. "You had to admire him, though, because he was such a competitor. Cleveland seemed to get off to a bad start every year—until Freddie sorted things out. By Christmas we'd be 20 points up and pulling away, but in March you'd look up and there would be Freddie parked at your doorstep, itching for the playoffs to start."
"I couldn't offer Freddie a lot of money," says Selke, "because I didn't have it to offer. All I could give him was a one-year contract and a helluva challenge."