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Relocated NHL Teams: The California Golden Seals

The California Golden Seals were an ice hockey team that was a member of the NHL from 1967 to 1976. The team’s home stadium was the Oakland Coliseum and generally represented the larger San Francisco region. The Seals began as an expansion franchise in 1966 as the NHL conducted an expansion drive aimed at usurping the Western Hockey League. The franchise was awarded to Barry Van Gerbig, who purchased the San Francisco Seals of the WHL with the intention of shifting them to the NHL. Initial plans to build a stadium in San Francisco ran into headwinds and Gerbig resorted to setting up the team in Oakland. The team’s home stadium was the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Gerbig named the team California Golden Seals in order to give them a wider reach for fans.

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The Seals had little to show for their time in the NHL, being one of the least successful teams during that period. In total, they made just two playoff appearances with no trophies during their nine year stint in California. They opened their chapter in competition during the 1967/68 season. They won their very first two games and drew the third. From then on, their performances took a turn for the worse as they put together a series of inept performances and they eventually finished in last place with a 15-42-17 record. They improved immensely the following season, managing a 19-36-11 record that put them in second place. They made the playoffs but they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in 7 games.

During the 1969/70 season, the Golden Seals posted a 22-40-14 record which put them in fourth place. They were again eliminated in the playoffs, this time by the Pittsburg Penguins in four games. In 1970, the Golden seals, on the back of another ownership change finished in last place with a 22-40-14 record. In 1971/72, they finished sixth and then went on a run of three consecutive last place finishes. In 1975/76, which would prove to be their last season, they missed the playoffs narrowly after finishing in second place with a 19-36-11 record. After the season ended they moved to Cleveland and were renamed the Cleveland Barons.

The Masterton Memorial Trophy which is awarded every year to the NFL player who shows the greatest sportsmanship has strong ties with the Golden Seals. It was started as a celebration of the life of Minnesota North Stars’ Bill Masterson who was injured and died during a game with the Golden Seals on January 13, 1968. Masterton fell backward and injured his head when he was checked by Seals players Larry Cahan and Ron Harris.

Why were the California Golden Seals Relocated?

From the time the team landed in Oakland, fans were largely indifferent towards them. Within their first year, there were rumors that the Golden Seals could relocate to Vancouver. Ownership and team nicknames changed several times with the hope of increasing fan interest but this was largely unsuccessful. At the end of the 1973 season, an attempt by then owner Charles Finley to sell the team fell through after he failed to receive any meaningful bids. This followed an earlier attempt to sell the Seals to an Indianapolis based businessman which was blocked by the league. In 1974, the NFL acquired the team for 6.6 million dollar in the hope of saving it from collapse. Melvin Swig, a businessman from San Francisco bought the team from the league in 1975 hoping to move them to a proposed new stadium in SF. The plans for the new stadium were however shelved after a new mayor was elected, putting Swig’s plans in disarray. The league promptly lifted their objection against a move from the Bay area, which had been the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Seals organization who argued that the sole aim of the league was to prevent a rival organization from entering the San Francisco market. In 1976, Mel Swig relocated the Golden Seals to Cleveland and renamed them the Cleveland Barons. The struggles did not abate new team would last barely two seasons before it was merged with the Minnesota North Stars and moved to Dallas, where it was renamed the Dallas Stars.

California Golden Seals Notable Players

Giles Meloche G 1971-1976
Bob Stewart D 1971-1976
Gary Jarrett RW 1968-1972
Norm Ferguson C/RW 1968-1972
Carol Vadnais D 1968-1972
Bert Marshall D 1967-1973
Gary Croteau C/W 1970-1974
Joey Johnston C 1971-1975
Craig Patrick C 1971-1975
Harry Howell D 1969-1971

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