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The National Hockey League, thinking, perhaps, about future expansion, went Las Vegas and rented a wheel of fortune to determine which of its two newest teams—the Buffalo Sabres or the Vancouver Canucks, who start league play next season—would have first selection in the various player drafts last week in Montreal. Buffalo croupier Punch Imlach won all the spins. Most importantly, Punch won the pro rights to 20-year-old amateur Gilbert Perreault, the center of the Montreal Junior Canadiens, who has been touted as another Bobby Orr.
Except for that, Imlach and Vancouver General Manager Bud Poile emerged from the drafts looking like typical Vegas losers. In fact, Imlach and Poile lost $6 million apiece—their club owners' price of admission to the NHL. For their money, the two men were permitted to select 18 skaters and two goaltenders in a draft of pro players from the existing franchises. Sadly, Buffalo and Vancouver were forced to start with the 16th-best skater and the third-best goalie on each club. Then, in order to insure that neither club would draft a quality player, the talent-rich clubs in the East Division disposed of their best expendables prior to the draft for such things as "future considerations," "unnamed amateur draft" and "a player or players to be named later."
Only the entrenched club owners consider this a fair system. NHL President Clarence Campbell and NHL Players' Association Executive Director Alan Eagleson both proposed that the owners reduce the number of protected skaters from 15 to no more than 12. The owners rejected this.
As a result, the 1970 draft was a disgrace. Only 13 of the 40 players selected spent the better part of last season in the NHL. Only three of the 40—Phil Goyette, Don Marshall and Goalie Charlie Hodge—could be considered quality NHL players, and their average age is 36. The Chicago Black Hawks gleefully accepted $333,333.33 for someone named Paul Terbenche, who scored five goals for Portland last year.
F�HN AND DANDY
You can send out for almost anything these days. Now a football team needing an invigorating pep talk can put $6.75 together and buy a record by Ray Eliot, associate director of athletics at the University of Illinois and former head football coach of the Illini. According to an ad in the Letterman, a magazine for high school athletes, " Ray Eliot pulls no punches in this 30-minute inspirational speech. It challenges one to reexamine himself in respect to football and life.... Coach Eliot motivates others to have desire, make the sacrifice and pay whatever price is necessary to win.... Coaches are playing it just before game time as a new approach to getting their clubs mentally ready."
It could help, but what coaches would really like someone to come up with is a Dial-a-Star service that could produce on request a couple of big, rough tackles and maybe a 9.3 running back or two.