Friday, January 30, 2009

Scouts Attendance For First Half of 1974-75

I've managed to make my way through the Kansas City Times and Star sports pages for the first half of the 1974-75 season. One of the things I'm interested in learning is the attendance for home Scouts games. (If anyone knows of a resource that has historical attendance numbers, I'd love to know.) There's no doubt that the Scouts drew poorly, but I'm interested in just how poorly, and if there were any trends. As I posted before, the Star reported that Scouts owner/president Ed Thompson was worried about attendance just six home games into the franchise's existence. Many years later, Thompson would tell Joe Posnanski that he knew the Scouts were doomed by their second home game, presumably because attendance dipped from 14,758 for the home opener to 6,642 for game two. (Kind of pathetic if Thompson was ready to throw in the towel that easily though, isn't it?) There are four home games from the first half that I don't have attendance numbers for because the library is missing some roles of microfilm. For the 17 games I do have, the average was 8,431 (8,035 if you throw out the anomalous opener). By any standard, that is not good. I wish I could find attendance numbers for the whole league in '74-'75 to give some context. I can tell you that on the road during the same time span, the Scouts played before an average crowd of 12,856. Overall attendance was lower at that time than it is now, so 8,431 may not be quite as bad as it looks today. (The Islanders are currently drawing the fewest fans in the league, with 13,679 per game.) As you can see in my chart below, there was a slight uptick for the last five home games of the first half. It will be interesting to see what happens in the second half.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Scouts All-Time Goaltenders

Only five men ever manned the nets for the Kansas City Scouts. Given the defense in front of them, it was not a place for the faint of heart.

Michel Plasse and Peter McDuffe were selected in the expansion draft. Kansas City hockey fans were already familiar with Plasse. He had played 16 games in '70-'71 with the CHL Kansas City Blues, in one of which he became the first professional goalie to score a goal. Plasse got the nod to start the franchise's first game, but he and McDuffe split time fairly evenly until January 10, 1975 when Plasse was traded to Pittsburgh for Denis Herron.

From that point on, Herron was the man for the Scouts, and with good reason. While his 15-52-15 record might not seem impressive, consider that when he was in the net, the Scouts had a .274 points percentage, compared to .205 for all other netminders. In '75-'76, Herron had 11 of the 12 Scouts victories.

click the chart to view in better resolution

A game-used Herron jersey:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More Newsday Coverage

Newsday has now added a "Complete Coverage: KC coveting Islanders?" page that collects all of their coverage on the story. Two items worth a read:

"The man behind the Isles possible move to Kansas City" is an informative look at Tim Leiweke.

"Isles moving? Not likely" is a refreshingly realistic piece. (Though it is a little misleading to say Kansas City has a population of 450,000 when the metro is around two million. Here's a link to the "Islanders next contestant on 'Who's Threatening to Move to K.C.?' " post on mentioned in the article.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Newsday Freaking Out

Well, there's plenty of buzz about the Islanders vs. Kings preseason game on Long Island, at least from Long Island's Newsday newspaper. Isles owner Charles Wang wanted to scare the community about the potential relocation of the Islanders. Looks like he has succeeded.

More links than you need, all from

News of preseason game in KC worries Isles fans

Keep Isles with their namesake

Give Wang, Islanders credit for making bold threat

KC has the arena, but no major sports team
(I notice Paul McGannon scales the rhetoric back when talking to Newsday: "We're not looking to take anybody's team.")

Isles game in KC doesn't phase Hempstead's Murray

Plus, here's some talk from New York sports radio.

Perhaps if all of this speculation keeps up through September, there will be buzz in Kansas City too and fans will come out to try and make a statement that we want a team.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Puck Daddy Delivers More Reaction To Isles In KC

Submitted for your consideration, the amazing Puck Daddy blog's roundup of reaction to the Islanders game in KC.

Star Article on Isles/Kings Game

The Kansas City Star’s Randy Covitz has an article on the upcoming preseason game at the Sprint Center. There is a piece of good news in it: The game will “most likely (be) on Saturday, Sept. 26.” It’s going to be important to attendance for the game to be on a Friday or Saturday. Covitz also covers the speculation about the Islanders participation signalling a veiled threat to Long Island that they had better build a new arena if they want to keep the Islanders.

Paul McGannon, the head of NHL21, an organization (or just Paul McGannon?) dedicated to bringing the NHL back to Kansas City, makes some rather bold comments in the article. He cuts right to the quick: “New York has three teams. If they don’t want to build a new rink in Long Island, we’ll take their team.” Also: “I think it’s a big deal, that we’re having two teams on the coast meet in Kansas City for a game, and we better sell it out. I love the regional appeal of the Blues and the Blackhawks, but we better send a message and sell the game out.”

Hopefully the NHL doesn’t take the view that Kansas City “better sell it out,” because I just can’t see that happening. I’ll be glad if we can top last year’s crowd.

According to the Kansas City Hockey History website, here are the attendance figures for preseason games in Kansas City (all at Kemper except for 2008):

9,346 Blues vs. Predators 1998
17,285 Blues vs. Blackhawks 2003
12,686 Blues vs. Predators 2005
11,603 Blues vs. Kings 2008

(For an average of 12,730)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Islanders & Kings To Play In Kansas City This September

According to Darren Dreger on TSN (Canada's ESPN), the New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings will be playing a preseason game at the Sprint Center this September.

I have mixed feelings about this development. I am excited that there will be another NHL game coming to town. But that much was expected. Beyond the initial excitement, I'm surprised that the Islanders will be involved in the game. As Dreger points out in his article, it "could be perceived as a veiled threat of potential relocation if plans for a new arena on Long Island aren't soon finalized." In other words, prepare for Kansas City to once again be used as a pawn for an owner to use in an attempt to blackmail his city into a new arena. While that possibility is distasteful for obvious reasons, there may be a silver lining. It has been suggested that the NHL was very pleased with Kansas City playing along with Pittsburgh to help them get a new arena, and that it has placed Kansas City in good standing with the league. It's possible that if the powers that be in KC and at the Sprint Center play ball again, Kansas City's standing will improve even more. And I suppose it is not completely out of the question that if Islanders ownership cannot get an arena deal on Long Island that moving to KC would be a remote possibility.

But that is small comfort. It's hard to imagine a match up with less intrigue and star power than Islanders vs. Kings. There is zero regional tie; the two teams couldn't be further from KC or from each other. While I'm not surprised the Islanders opponent will be the Kings, I am disappointed. The Kings return for a second straight year only because Tim Leiweke is CEO of the company that operates the Sprint Center (AEG) and a governor of the Kings. So basically, because they're easy to get. Beyond that, there is no reason for them to be selected for a KC preseason game. No star power, no regional interest. It was fine last year since they met the St. Louis Blues. But Islanders/Kings in Kansas City? What?

My biggest fear is that such a lackluster match up will draw a pitifully small crowd and damage KC's chances for a team. I just can't imagine any buzz around this game. The Sprint Center is no longer brand new, there's already been the first hockey game, and, again, it's Islanders vs. Kings! If last year's crowd of 11,603 seemed just okay, how bad would 7,000 look?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scouts All-Time Leaders

I mentioned in my last post that Guy Charron was the leading scorer in Scouts history; below is a chart of the top 20. Kind of pitiful that 18 points is good enough to make this list. The all-time leading numbers for games played, goals, assists, points and points-per-game are highlighted in red. No player dressed in all 160 Scouts games; LW Gary Croteau came closest, playing in all but four.

click on the chart to view in better resolution

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Scouts Notes, November-December 1974

It seems impossible to get good looking scans of photographs from microfilm, but I offer up a couple here anyway. Above is a photo of the Scouts' Lynn Powis, and below is a shot of the Montreal Canadiens skating in Kansas City. The guy getting sandwiched in the middle is none other than Glen Sather, current GM of the New York Rangers.

" 'That's a pretty good little hockey team,' offered Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, the Flames' coach, without being asked. 'Bep's got his guys working. They were on top of us all night.' "
- from Jay Greenberg's wrap after the Flames beat the Scouts 1-0 on November 20, 1974

"(Goaltender Peter McDuffe) doesn't deserve to be pulled. Sunday night he's getting bombed like the second world war. I'm going to put him right back in. (Michel) Plasse will have his chance to get bombarded, too."
- Scouts coach Bep Guidolin after the Scouts were beaten 10-0 by the Flyers on December 1. Plasse wouldn't have to wait long for his chance to get bombarded - McDuffe allowed 6 goals in the first period of the next game, and Plasse replaced him for the second and third periods.

On December 6, the fans at Kemper were treated to the first fight in arena history when Lynn Powis of the Scouts battled Andre Dupont of the Flyers. Sounds like it was a doozy: "A fan got into the action, reaching over and grabbing (Flyer) Don Saleski's hair, and players from both the Scouts and Flyers were then waving sticks at the fans." - Jay Greenberg

That same night the Scouts managed the only point they would ever get from the Flyers in 10 meetings with a 3-3 tie.

When the Scouts showed up for a morning practice on December 9, they were greeted with some terrible news: their head trainer, Gordie Marchant, had committed suicide. Coach Guidolin decided to try to hold the practice after GM Sid Abel broke the news to the players, but it broke up after just half an hour. "I could see there was no enthusiasm for practice. I didn't have much enthusiasm to practice myself," he said.

The next night they had to attempt to focus on the formidable Boston Bruins coming to town, a team that featured John Bucyk, Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr. The Bruins disposed of them 6-2. After the game, Bobby Orr had this take on the Scouts: "If they get a guy who could score 30-40 goals for them, and get a few more draft choices, they'll be all right. It's a darn shame people don't come to see them."

One person who came to see them that night was Bob Frank, who was stationed in the visiting team's penalty box as the penalty time keeper. When Orr landed in the box, he asked Frank for a towel... "Frank gave it to him. Orr said, 'Thank you.' 'That's the first time that's happened to me in six years at the job,' said Frank, who also served as a penalty timekeeper for Kansas City Blues games in the old American Royal Arena."
- Ken Rudrick, Kansas City Star

December 14 brought a significant trade: Bart Crashley (D), Ted Snell (RW) and Larry Giroux (D) were shipped to Detroit in exchange for Guy Charron (C) and Claude Houde (D). Crashley and Charron were both in their respective teams' doghouses and had been getting next to zero ice time. "I feel very bad about playing so poorly for the fans in Kansas City. I was very happy to leave," said Crashley. Charron had put up 25 goals and 55 points the previous season, but for reasons that were unclear to him (most likely defensive liabilities), he had been riding the pine so far in the '74-'75 season, and had just one goal in 26 games at the time of the trade.

The debut of Charron and Houde as Scouts did not go well, as they were shutout 0-6 by the Kings. In their second game however, Charron led the way with three assists in a 4-4 tie with Pittsburgh. Charron would go on to score 42 points in 51 games with the Scouts in '74-'75, and 71 points in 78 games in '75-'76, making him the Scouts all-time leading scorer, and the only player to score 100 or more points in a Scouts uniform.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

At Least They Owned The Caps And Seals...

As you can see below in my chart of team-by-team results for both years of their existence, the Scouts had success when they met up with the Washington Capitals or California Golden Seals. If they had to play one of the other 15 teams in the league, things didn't go so well.

They got at least one point off of every team, but never a W against Buffalo, Philadelphia or Atlanta in 28 combined attempts.

The fact that they beat up on the Capitals does reflect well on the Scouts, as the Caps were the only team that the Scouts were really on an even playing field with. GM Sid Abel and his staff were able to squeeze considerably more talent out of the nearly barren expansion draft than their counterparts in Washington.

If you think the .241 overall points percentage is bad, consider that it was .194 against all opponents other than the Capitals and Seals.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Immediate Signs Of Trouble

Considering that the Scouts lasted just two seasons in Kansas City, I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that there were signs of trouble after only six home games. The below article appeared in the 11/19/74 Star, and examines the disappointing attendance that the Scouts experienced in home games two through six (averaging 7,114 in those five games).

I haven't been able to find attendance figures online for 1974-1976, so I'll be tracking the attendance game by game as I go through the microfilm. My prediction is that as the losses pile up, attendance will just get worse after an already shaky start.

Finally, A Win

Right after the Scouts finally got to play a home game, they were treated to a midnight flight to the District of Columbia for a tilt against the Capitals the next night. Perhaps buoyed by fan support and a valiant effort the night before, the Scouts collected their first ever win. Of course, it didn't hurt that the Capitals were fellow expansionees, and, well, the worst team in NHL history. Still, the win didn't come easily; the Scouts rallied from 0-2 and 2-4 deficits to prevail 5-4.

Click the pic for the KC Times wrap and summary:

Sadly, the Scouts would have only 14 more victories to celebrate that season, and just 12 during their next (and last).