DETROIT RED WINGS
There is a telephone at General Manager Sid Abel's seat in the Olympia Stadium press box, and often during games last year he used it—to give suggestions to Coach Bill Gadsby down behind the Red Wing bench. Even though Abel was not exactly being paid to coach the team, his advice did not bug Gadsby as much as that coming from Owner Bruce Norris, who was constantly on the phone to Abel from his private box. All this Big Brotherism failed to help the Wings, who missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
This year, Gadsby says, there will be no more phone calls. "I want to do it my way," he says. "If I hang myself out there on the ice, at least it will be with my own hand."
Nonetheless, it is doubtful that the front-office interference will stop unless the Red Wings start winning. The team's new hope is Carl Brewer, 30, an artful defenseman who walked out of a Maple Leaf camp four years ago rather than play for Punch Imlach. Playing alongside Bobby Baun, his old Toronto partner, Brewer could help forge a stronger rush from the Detroit end—which has been Detroit's biggest problem. "He's a real holler guy," says Abel. "For too long we've been a quiet team. Gordie [Howe] and Alex [Delvecchio] never say a word on the ice."
Still, what those two do will determine more than anything how high Detroit goes. Howe, 41, made his 23rd season a spectacular one with 44 goals, and Delvecchio had a typically good year (25). But if this is the year age finally catches up with them, nothing—not Frank Mahovlich or Brewer or Goalie Roy Edwards or Norris' second guesses—will keep the Wings out of the cellar.
CHICAGO BLACK HAWKS
When Bobby Hull scores an alltime record of 58 goals and you still finish last in the East, what do you do? The flip answer is "Raise ticket prices," which is exactly what Owner Bill Wirtz has done—to $8 on the main floor of Chicago Stadium. Hockey hunger is so great that the stadium is already a near sellout for the season, but doubts remain about the Hawks' defense and morale. Hull himself skipped training camp while renegotiating the four-year contract he signed after a bristling holdout last year. "Puppets and Bumsteads," he called the Hawk management, adding he felt he was not appreciated. Meanwhile, Center Pit Martin said Hull was appreciated all too much. "The Hawks have one star and one fairly big star, and the club seems set up to keep them happy," asserted Martin.
Amid the slanging, Coach Billy Reay at least has encouraging news about that "fairly big" star, Stan Mikita. The brilliant little center has recovered from a back injury that made him a defensive patsy last year. But even as Mikita mended, his valuable right wing, Kenny Wharram, suffered a heart attack and may be finished as a player.
Although Reay may have to juggle his forward lines, he knows the Hawks can score. His heaviest challenge is to stiffen the defense, which allowed 246 goals last year. The only really solid defensemen appear to be Pat Stapleton and Doug Mohns but Reay professes to see big-league quality in rookies Barry Long and Ray McKay. Montreal's young Tony Esposito was drafted in the hope he might surpass the so-so Goalies Denis Dejordy and Dave Dryden.