Hockey Headlines

Sunday, 25 January 2015

TBC: Written In Blue & White

NHL players and general managers go through copious amounts of paperwork each and every season when it comes to contracts and memorandums. Because we're in the electronic age, a lot of it is done via email, but there is still a pile of paperwork nonetheless. In the pre-electronic days, imagine how much paper NHL teams would have used in the course of a season. It would have been crazy! That's the focus of Teebz's Book Club today as I proud to review Written In Blue & White, written by Greg Oliver and published by ECW Press. Mr. Oliver takes a look at the memorabilia collected by Mr. Allan Stitt who has been collecting Toronto Maple Leafs' paperwork for decades! Mr. Oliver dives in and takes a look at some of the highlights of Mr. Stitt's collection of documents.

Directly from the ECW Press website, "Greg Oliver is the author of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series — The Canadians, The Heels, The Tag Teams, and Heroes & Icons. He has been writing about professional wrestling for over 25 years, starting with The Canadian Wrestling Report newsletter when he was still in high school. Upon completing a degree in journalism from Ryerson University, he worked at the Toronto Sun and Canoe.ca for a decade. A freelancer since 2001, he has worked on more than 40 books as an editor, writer and layout artist. At the moment, he has two hockey books in the works. He lives in Toronto with his wife Meredith, son Quinn, and is active in the community, both in Scouting and as a soccer coach."

People collect all sorts of things, but collecting player contracts and memorandums from the Toronto Maple Leafs seems a little less than glamorous. Allan Stitt was at a hockey card convention in Toronto when he got started by purchasing Teeder Kennedy's rookie contract for $300 from one of the tables. Next to it sat a Teeder Kennedy hockey card for $100. Which would you have bought?

"I didn't know anything about the value of either, but I thought, 'That's just crazy, that a hockey card they made thousands of, and wasn't really significant in terms of historical NHL memorabilia, could be compared to a document signed by Hap Day, signed by Teeder Kennedy in his rookie year, and signed by Merv Dutton, the league president," Mr. Stitt told Mr. Oliver for Written In Blue & White. "The relative values made no sense to me, so without knowing whether either of them were undervalued or overvalued, I just bought the contract because I thought it was an incredibly cool document. I think too, because of my background in law, I was interested in contracts."

There's how Mr. Stitt became the preeminent collector of hockey contracts and paperwork on the planet. His contributions to the Hockey Hall of Fame have made him the largest donor in the Hall's history, and he's had a number of incredible pieces in his collection including a 1977 contract between Wayne Gretzky and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the statistical sheet from Game Seven of the 1972 Summit Series, and a share in Maple Leaf Gardens. Mr. Stitt is certainly one of the more unique collectors on the planet when it comes to his extensive collection of hockey paperwork.

Mr. Oliver doesn't just get Mr. Stitt's view on his collection. He actually highlights some of the more interesting contracts from the various eras of Maple Leafs hockey. There are notes, documents, contracts, memorandums, and scribbles on napkins from all the men who had a hand in building the Maple Leafs - Hap Day, Conn Smythe, Syl Apps, Punch Imlach, and many more. It's an amazing look at how contracts and documentation changed throughout the years for the National Hockey League, and how salaries changed from era to era as the players began demanding more pay for their play.

Some of the more interesting documents in Mr. Stitt's collection are the hand-written notes. There is one particular hand-written expense report from 1935 that documents the costs of a Maple Leafs' road trip to visit the Montreal Maroons. The total cost of the expense report is $36.59, but includes $2.40 for "Coca Cola" and 50 cents for oranges! Broken down, the Leafs spent $24.50 on travel and $12.09 on supplies! Would anyone have known about this if it weren't for Mr. Stitt's collection? Probably not!

One of the more interesting contracts in Written In Blue & White was Darryl Sittler's contract from 1977 as it featured a no-trade clause! Those clauses are pretty standard now, but they were virtually unheard of in the 1970s. The clause reads,
"Although not expressed as a term of that '77-'78 to '83-'84 contract we wish to confirm to you the understanding reached between our Company and each of you that during the term of the contract the right to the services of DARRYL SITTLER as a professional hockey player would not be traded to any other professional hockey club without his consent."
In the same contract, the Leafs also forced Sittler to purchase two "red seats" to be offered to Maple Leafs Gardens before anyone else, and for him to do two "do 2 personal appearances per year for Maple Leaf Gardens." The contract was a mere two pages long, and Sittler's base pay for each of the five years was $170,000!

If you're a fan of hockey history, the Maple Leafs, or interested in contracts in some way, Written In Blue & White needs to be part of your reading collection. There are so many interesting facts and anecdotes on the pages that Mr. Oliver writes, but even more on the pages from Mr. Stitt's collection that Mr. Oliver has documented. Written In Blue & White is well-written and contains a ton of history on its 192 pages, and it's hard to fathom that Mr. Stitt has boxes upon boxes of additional contracts and paperwork from other teams. Because of the vast amount of historical information and documents, Written In Blue & White absolutely deserves the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

You can find Written In Blue & White at your local bookstore for $39.95, but it comes with something extra special tucked inside the the back cover. I won't tell you what - you hve to buy the book! - but I thought it was cool! You can also find Written In Blue & White at your local library, so head down and check out the documents and history!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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