"We're not saying the names represent an act of genius," was League President Clarence Campbell's modest appraisal of the new alignment of teams. How about an act of confusion? Hereinafter those who profess to follow NHL hockey will have to contend with four divisions named Lester Patrick, Conn Smythe, James Norris and Charles F. Adams grouped under two conferences called the Clarence Campbell and the Prince of Wales. If by some mnemonic miracle they manage to keep these straight, they will surely come a cropper on the geography and history of it all. The three Pacific Coast teams, for instance—Los Angeles, Vancouver and California—are in different divisions, and Toronto, which was led by Conn Smythe for over 30 years before his retirement, is in the Charles F. Adams Division, of course.
The playoffs are so cumbersome even Campbell admits they may not work. In simplified form, the 18-club league will play an 80-game schedule to boil six of their number away. The winners of the four divisions draw byes and the other eight teams play a best two-of-three series. Then come the best four-of-seven quarterfinals, the semis and, if anybody is still awake, the finals.
In one area where the league seemed determined not to high-stick itself—rewriting the rules to speed up the game (SCORECARD, Sept. 2)—it was laid low through votes influenced by the needs of television. Changing lines on the fly went down 11-7, a free shot when the goalie freezes the puck lost 15-3. Both had been tested in 27 exhibition games and won general approval, particularly the fast-change rule that Boston's managing director, Harry Sinden, called "the best new rule in hockey since the introduction of the red line." Where games verged on three hours last season, the exhibitions averaged two hours and 15 minutes, but from a TV viewpoint that was just the trouble. The speedup did not allow enough time for commercials.
Spectators who prefer to do something during all that dead time have two choices. They can stay home rather than pay the stiff new prices for seats—$12 tops in Toronto, $10.50 in Montreal—and watch the commercials, or they can busy themselves at their seats trying to memorize the divisions. Could be a great time waster.
Standing alone in the torrent of words that flooded the country following the Cleveland Indian announcement that the team would have a new manager next year were statements by Frank Robinson himself and Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Quite neatly, they said all that the occasion required.
Robinson: "I just hope baseball people don't say, 'All right, Frank Robinson is the first black manager, we have one, that's it.' In my heart I don't think I was hired because I'm black. I hope not. I think I've been hired because of my ability."
Kuhn: "I don't think baseball should be exceptionally proud of this day. It's been long overdue and I'm not going to pat myself on the back for it. It's time to say we've got something started, and I'm proud of that."
PRO BONO ACADEMIARUM
Academy football has fallen on hard times, a parlous state of affairs that engaged the attention of President Ford when he was still Vice-President. As the result of an article in the July 8 issue of this magazine, in which he said Army, Navy and Air Force should be competitive with college football's leading teams, there has been a movement afoot to change regulations to favor the admittance of pro-caliber players.