Who Were They? The Class of '67
Stop number two on our Who Were They? tour of the past is the National Hockey League's first big expansion, the "Class of '67." Spoked by rumours that the Western Hockey League – one of hockey's top two minor leagues – was plotting to declare themselves major, New York Rangers governor William Jennings too the proverbial bull by the horns in 1963 and suggested to his NHL lodge brothers that the time had come to do something radical about their league's rather exclusive membership. Two years later, NHL president Clarence Campbell announced that doubling the league's size was on the agenda, and by June 6, 1967, owners representing six new franchises – in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia – had agreed to plunk down two million dollars a piece. This earned them the right scavenge the fringes of existing Original Six rosters, 12 skating players and one goalie. The one-goalie stipulation mean a couple of long-time net-minding heroes – like Terry Sawchuk and Glenn Hall – would join an upstart club, but the rest of the pickings were somewhat slim, especially as each established team was permitted by the league to "fill" their roster after one of their players was taken. Even with the new teams grouped in one "West Division" and playing amongst themselves fro an automatic berth in the Stanley Cup final for the first three expansion seasons, it would be seven long years before an expansion team won so much as a game in the Cup final – but by then, in 1974, Bobby Clarke's Broad Street Bullies had matured to the point where they beat the Boston Bruins in six games for the fist of their two Stanley Cup titles. Their fellow expansionists wouldn't fare so well, with the Penguins waiting 24 years and the Kings 45 years for their first Cups. As for the good fans of Minnesota, St. Louis, and the Bay Area – well, they're still waiting. Mind you, the current 50-year wait for those three (which included stretches of inactivity for Minnesota and the Bay area after their original teams left town for tonier locations) happens to coincide precisely with the length of time the long-suffering fans of a certain Original Six team have endured.