ST. LOUIS BLUES
Scotty Bowman, the coach and general manager of the Blues, got married in August, honeymooned in Aspen, Colo. and western Canada and, since he was in the area, dropped in on the Saskatchewan home of Glenn Hall, his All-Star goaltender. For years Hall has threatened to quit in June, only to sign in October. This time he says he means it. "We were sitting out on the porch, under a beautiful full moon," says Bowman. "Glenn looked good. He was relaxed, happy. He said it wasn't the money, that it's never been the money. He said he just didn't think he could get through another season."
Whether St. Louis can do without Hall is the cardinal question. He and Jacques Plante were the chief instruments of the Blues' West championship. Now the challenge of partnering Jacques falls to Ernie Wakeley, who was drafted from Montreal.
At other positions the Blues are strong. During the June meetings they gained depth at center ice, getting Phil Goyette from New York and Andre Boudrias from Chicago to back up Red Berenson, a superior center, and Frank St. Marseille. Ab McDonald, who scored 21 goals, returns at a wing, as does Gary Sabourin, who contributed 25 goals. Al Arbour captains a rough-tough defense featuring Noel Picard, Bob and Barclay Plager, Jim Roberts and Jean Guy Talbot.
Bowman will not have to worry over the fans' enthusiasm; St. Louis is the envy of all expansion cities. What does concern him is the possibility of overconfidence; he shudders at what happened to the baseball Cardinals. The Blues should win again in the West, but without Hall they can be beaten.
The Seals were the surprise of the NHL, rising from last place in the West to a second-place finish behind St. Louis. They led their division in scoring, terrorized some East teams and produced the NHL's Coach of the Year and even a couple of budding superstars in Carol Vadnais and Norm Ferguson. The best job of all was done by the management team—Executive Vice-President Bill Torrey, General Manager Frank Selke Jr. and Coach Freddie Glover, who somehow kept the players thinking hockey through the confusion of rumors switching the team to Vancouver or Buffalo. At the moment the Seals belong to Trans-National Communications, Inc., a New York-based outfit which recently bought the Boston Celtics and officially depicts itself as "a well-dressed, smooth-functioning organization that knows where it's going and how to get there."
One wonders how long an organization can stay well-dressed and smooth-functioning amid those empty seats at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena, but if Torrey and the others continue to hypnotize the players Oakland will not be beaten easily. Ferguson (who barely lost the Rookie of the Year award to Minnesota's Danny Grant), Ted Hampson and Billy Hicke lead an attack admired for its balance, and the defense, featuring Vadnais, Bert Marshall and Doug Roberts, is young and getting better. Only the goaltending remains unsettled. The Seals took four goalies to camp, and two—probably Gary Smith and Chris Worthy—will stick.
The weakest scoring team in the NHL has added some punch—left hooks, right crosses, a few elbows and maybe a stick or two. When the Flyers oozed out of the Stanley Cup in four straight losses to St. Louis, things started happening at the Spectrum. Coach Keith Allen became assistant general manager a year ahead of schedule and was replaced by Vic Stasiuk, an old Red Wing and Bruin scrapper. Then the Flyers went out and got some beef. Reggie Fleming, a brawler, was acquired from New York, and soon he was joined by the rugged Hillman brothers, Wayne from Minnesota and Larry from Montreal. The message was obvious. "There will be no timidity around here this year," says Stasiuk. "If my linemate gets his skull busted or his nose fractured, I have to feel it's up to me to retaliate. Fleming helps keep the aggressiveness you need."