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The California Golden Seals were a team in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 196776. Initially named California Seals, the team was renamed Oakland Seals part-way through the 1967–68 season, and then to California Golden Seals in 1970.



In 1966, the NHL announced that six expansion teams would be added as a new division for the 1967–68 season, officially because of a general desire to expand the league to new markets, but just as importantly to squelch the Western Hockey League's threat to turn itself into a major league. The San Francisco Seals were one such team from the WHL, and after it was purchased by Barry Van Gerbig and moved across the Bay to a new arena in Oaklandmarker, the Seals joined the NHL. The Bay Areamarker was not considered a particularly lucrative hockey market, but the terms of a new television agreement with CBS called for two of the expansion teams to be located in California.

Van Gerbig had planned to have the team play out of a new arena in San Franciscomarker, but the arena never came to fruition, and the Seals played out of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arenamarker(Now known as the Oracle Arena).The franchise was named California Seals in an attempt to appeal to fans from San Francisco, and to address complaints from the other NHL teams that Oakland was not considered a major league city (notwithstanding the presence of the American Football League's Oakland Raiders and the pending relocation of Major League Baseball's Kansas City Athletics) and would not be a draw for fans. The plan failed, however, and on November 6, 1967, Van Gerbig announced that the team's name was being changed to Oakland Seals.


Oakland Seals logo, 1967–1970.
The Seals were never successful at the gate, and because of this poor attendance Van Gerbig threatened on numerous occasions to move the team elsewhere. First-year coach and general manager Bert Olmstead publicly advocated a move to Vancouvermarker, but an offer from Labatt's brewery to purchase and relocate the team was rejected by the league, as was a proposal to move the team to Buffalo from the eventual owners of the Buffalo Sabres, who had been shut out of the 1967 expansion. This, as well as the team's dismal on-ice performance, led to major changes to both the Seals' front office and the roster - only seven out of the 20 Seals players remained after the first season. The new-look Seals were somewhat more successful, making the playoffs for two years, although with sub .500 records. Those would be the only two years that the Seals franchise made the playoffs.

Failed sale to Trans National Communications

For the 1969–70 season the team was sold to a group called Trans National Communications, whose investors included Pat Summerall and Whitey Ford. However, the group filed for bankruptcy and ownership reverted to Van Gerbig, who put the team up for sale again.

Charlie O. Finley purchases the franchise

California Golden Seals logo, 1970–1976.
Prior to the 1970–71 NHL season, the Seals were bought by Charlie O. Finley, the flamboyant owner of baseball's Oakland A's. Finley and Roller Derby boss Jerry Seltzer had both put in a bid on the team. Although Seltzer's offer was slightly better and included a more detailed plan for revival, a majority of NHL owners from the "old establishment" voted in favor of Finley.Bill Torrey, general manager at the time, would eventually leave the team due to clashes with Finley. He would go on to manage the New York Islanders dynasty of the 1980s .

Finley changed the team's name to California Golden Seals (itself a last-minute change from the announced "Bay Area Seals"), and introduced marketing gimmicks intended to sell the team to the fans, among them changing the Seals' colors to green and gold to match the popular A's. The Seals are remembered for wearing white skates, but initially Torrey convinced Finley to use green and gold painted skates instead. However, this was all for naught, as the Seals finished with the worst record in the NHL that year. At the end of the 1970 season, the Seals had traded their pick in the first round of the 1971 draft to the Montreal Canadiens along with Francois Lacombe in return for Montreal's first round pick in 1970 (selected Chris Oddleifson), Ernie Hicke and cash. As a result of the Seals' dreadful season, the Canadiens had the top pick in the draft, and used it to select future Hall of Famermarker Guy Lafleur. This transaction now ranks as one of the most one-sided deals in NHL history.

Under the ownership of the NHL and Mel Swig

The team rebounded in 1971–72, but the arrival of the World Hockey Association wiped out most of those gains. Finley refused to match the WHA's contract offers, causing five of the team's top ten scorers from the previous season to bolt. Devoid of any defensive talent save for goaltender Gilles Meloche, the team sank into last place again in 1973, where it would remain for the rest of its history. Although divisional restructuring in 1974–75 included a revamped format in which 3 teams in each division made the playoffs, the Seals efforts were frustrated by their placement in the Adams Division with the strong Boston, Buffalo and Toronto teams of the day.

Tired of the struggling hockey team, especially by comparison to the World Series champion Athletics, Finley tried to sell the Seals, but there were no takers. The NHL eventually took control of the team in February 1974. The league ran the team for nearly two years until San Francisco hotel magnate Melvin Swig bought the team in 1975 with the intent of moving the team to a proposed new arena in San Francisco. The team fell just short of the playoffs, and after a mayoral election, plans for the new arena were cancelled.

The end of the Seals

After nine money-losing seasons and continued low attendance, minority owners George and Gordon Gund persuaded Swig to move the team to their hometown of Clevelandmarker in August 1976, where they were renamed the Cleveland Barons. After two more years of losses, the Gunds (by this time majority owners) were permitted to merge the Barons with another failing team, the Minnesota North Stars. The merged team continued as the Minnesota North Stars under the Gunds' ownership, but assumed the Barons' place in the Adams Division. The North Stars ultimately relocated to Texasmarker following the 1992–93 season to become the Dallas Stars.

The Cleveland Barons remain the most recent team in an established North American major professional league to fold, as well as the only team in the NHL to do so since 1942. As a result, the NHL consisted of 17 teams for 1978–79 season.


The current NHL team in the Bay Area, the San Jose Sharks, has a historical connection to the Seals. Years after the Barons-North Stars merger, the Gunds wanted to bring hockey back to the Bay Area. They asked the NHL for permission to move the North Stars there in the late 1980s, but the league was unwilling to abandon a traditional hockey market like the Twin Cities. Meanwhile, a group led by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin was pushing the NHL to bring a team to San Josemarker, where an arena was being built. Eventually, a compromise was struck whereby the Gunds would sell their share of the North Stars to Baldwin's group, with the Gunds receiving an expansion team in the Bay Area to begin play in the 1991–92 NHL season. In return, the North Stars would be allowed to participate as an equal partner in an expansion draft with the new franchise. On May 5, 1990, the Gunds officially sold their share of the North Stars to Baldwin and were awarded a new team in the Bay Area that would eventually become the Sharks.

Dennis Maruk was the last Seals player active in the NHL, retiring as a member of the Minnesota North Stars in 1989. Charlie Simmer was still active with the IHL's San Diego Gulls until 1992.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Season Team name GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1967–68² Oakland Seals 74 15 42 17 47 153 219 787 sixth in West Out of playoffs
1968–69 Oakland Seals 76 29 36 11 69 219 251 811 second in West Lost in quarterfinal (LA), 3-4
1969–70 Oakland Seals 76 22 40 14 58 169 243 845 fourth in West Lost in quarterfinal (PIT), 0-4
1970–71 California Golden Seals 78 20 53 5 45 199 320 937 seventh in West Out of playoffs
1971–72 California Golden Seals 78 21 39 18 60 216 288 1007 sixth in West Out of playoffs
1972–73 California Golden Seals 78 16 46 16 48 213 323 840 eighth in West Out of playoffs
1973–74 California Golden Seals 78 13 55 10 36 195 342 651 eighth in West Out of playoffs
1974–75 California Golden Seals 80 19 48 13 51 212 316 1101 fourth in Adams Out of playoffs
1975–76 California Golden Seals 80 27 42 11 65 250 278 1058 fourth in Adams Out of playoffs
Totals Nine seasons 698 182 401 115 479 1826 2580 8037
² named California Seals from October 11 to November 6, 1967.

Notable players

Hall of Famersmarker

Team captains

General managers

  • Rudy Pilous, 1967 (fired before start of season)
  • Bert Olmstead, 1967–68 (resigned in March 1968)
  • Frank Selke Jr., 1968–70 (resigned in November 1970)
  • Bill Torrey, 1970 (resigned in December 1970)
  • Fred Glover, 1970–71 (fired in October 1971)
  • Garry Young, 1971–72 (fired in November 1972)
  • Fred Glover, 1972–74 (resigned in February 1974)
  • Garry Young, 1974 (resigned before start of 1974–75 season)
  • Bill McCreary, 1974–76

First round draft picks

See also


  1. Minneapolis Tribune November 7, 1967, page 24 from an AP story.
  2. Pittsburgh post gazette Monday February 28th 1977 edition
  4. Pittsburgh post gazette Monday February 28th 1977 edition
  5. Pittsburgh post gazette Monday February 28th 1977 edition

External links

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