Tuesday 29 January 2013

Diving Into Seals History

I've spoken a little about the California Golden Seals and Oakland Seals before on this soapbox. Hockey history, particularily from this point in time, is quite fascinating with all of the changes, movement, and upheaval of franchises that were seen within both the NHL and WHA. The hardest part is finding images and highlights of the old games to confirm findings. However, several users on YouTube are now putting up incredible highlights and news clips regarding these old teams. Today, we'll take a look at an incredible piece put up about the Seals franchise that highlights the entire existence of the club.

Credit for this clip goes to "werqa123" as he posted the clip on YouTube. Greg Musselman, who was an anchor and Sports Director for ITV Edmonton from 1981-96, filed the following report, and some of the images and facts contained within his story are pretty incredible.
There was no mention of why the Seals were changed to green-and-gold, but everyone assumes that it was due to Finley owning the Oakland Athletics. The Seals officially wore "kelly green, California gold and 'polar bear' white" if you asked Finley. Finley, of course, changed MLB's Athletics to a green-and-gold team with white shoes. For a long time, Finley has stated that the color combination of green and gold was his favorite. However, the June 30, 1970 edition of the Vancouver Sun quoted Finley as saying, "My two daughters are redheads and my wife has dressed them in green and gold since they were born. It'll be the same in hockey."

So if that's the case, he dressed his teams in the same colors as his daughters. The white skates, which look like figure skates in this image, are now more easily explainable when you consider that Finley was modeling his team's look after his wife's and daughters' fashion choices.

For the longest time, it was thought that the players on the Seals had their skates painted white, but Musselman reports that owner Charlie Finley actually bought the team white skates! Of course, there was a backlash from the other owners and, in particular, NHL president Clarence Campbell who is quoted in the Vancouver Sun article as saying, "White skates are for girl fancy skaters."

Marshall Johnston fondly recalls the ridicule the Seals took in their white skates to Evan Weiner of NHL.com. "Back then, I wasn't a physical player anyway, but I remember in Boston one night and some guy hollers over, 'Hey Johnston where's your purse?" he said with a laugh. "But that part of it. It was kind of fun."

Terry Murray wore the white skates in 1972-73, and he elaborates on the painting of the skates in an interview with Evan Weiner.
"Well, the white skates, they got heavier every week, too," Murray told Weiner. "It was just shoe polish and the trainers had to make sure they were white every game and they just got the old white polish out with the applicator and kept piling it out. So it was an extra five pounds by the middle of the season.

"I don't think we felt good about (wearing the skates), I think we always felt like a little bit of a pansy; maybe the only thing that helped out was that the Oakland A's were playing World Series ball and championship ball at that time and they had the white cleats on. Maybe it helped in our minds a little bit seeing them out there."
Pretty interesting, right? We have two teams in the "Big Four" pro leagues dressed as his daughters were dressed, and the white skates were covered in coats and coats of shoe polish. While it wasn't truly paint per se, Terry Murray made it pretty clear that the skates got heavier and heavier as the season progressed. The legend of the Seals' white skates, as well as why they were changed to green and gold, now have a little more weight to them thanks to Mr. Musselman's excellent piece and a little research.

Isn't hockey history great? It's even better when you learn that Terry Murray kept his white skates!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Jet said...

Hi Teebz, Jet here from UW. As you may know, the Seals were my favorite team, from 3,000 miles away.

It should be noted that the Seals had 4 different variations of colored skates - the first year under Finley they had yellow (gold) skates with green trim and the less-often seen green skates with gold trim. A year or two later they changed to white skates with green trim, then finally all-white skates with only green shoelaces.

Finally, when the team was sold back to the league in late 73-74, they ditched the colored skates and wore traditional black/brown boots for the first time in the green/gold era. I saw one of those games on TV in NY, Rangers at Oakland.


Teebz said...

Hey Jet!

I know about the other colors. In fact, the green and gold skates were even worse than the white skates because they were, in fact, painted. The problem was cost, though, as the skates that Finley chose for his colorful exercise were made in Japan!

I'm doing more research on skate colors (for example, St. Louis used blue and yellow) for a future article. I'll let you know what it comes out!

Mark G said...

Hi, I'm a former ITV producer who put together that piece on the Seals. I grew up in the Bay Area and went to many games at the Oakland Coliseum throughout the Seals existence. I moved back to Canada after film school and started my TV career in Edmonton. I thought a history piece on the Seals might be interesting and managed to track down a lot of footage from various sources, including a Bay Area TV station, and another station in Boston that televised the Bruins games. I called former Seals coach Vic Stasiuk who sent me a 16mm print of a documentary that someone had made about the team. I also got help from a variety of former Seals front office staff who sent me a variety of great photos. This was a labor of love and I'm glad it brought back some nice memories. I posted a better quality version of this story on You Tube, along with a piece I did a few years later when the Seals booster club came up to Edmonton. I later moved back to California and had the pleasure of producing a number of stories on the return of hockey to northern California when the San Jose Sharks came into existence. I have a replica Seals jersey that I proudly wear whenever I go to a Kings game here in LA where I now live.