Thursday, February 5, 2009

Scouts Notes, January 1975

January ’75 may well have been the best month the Scouts had. As far as wins and losses go, it definitely was: they went 5-6-2 (.462), the only month of their existence they went .400 or better. They beat the Bruins in Boston, tied them in Kansas City, traded for and saw the emergence of Denis Herron, saw Simon Nolet and coach Bep Guidolen participate in the All-Star Game, and stars Nolet, Guy Charron and Wilf Paiement were all clicking.

• The month kicked off with a six game home stand in which the Scouts went 3-3.

• On January 7, the Star ran this article that both highlights positives from the Scouts season and points out some of the problems as well:

• On January 8, Rangers defenseman Brad Park scored the first hat trick in Kemper Arena history en route to a 6-1 Rangers win.

• Goaltender Herron arrived from Pittsburgh in a trade on January 10. Herron was actually considered a bit of a throw in at the time of the trade; the Scouts were really interested in getting defenseman Jean-Guy Lagace, who GM Sid Abel hoped would provide an intimidating physical presence on the blueline that he felt was lacking. The Penguins wanted goaltender Michel Plasse in return, so minor leaguer Herron was included to make up for the Scouts loss of one of their top two goalies. At the time, Herron had 23 NHL games under his belt, with a 7-10-2 record. The conventional wisdom was that Peter McDuffe would be the number one the rest of the way, but Herron soon established himself as the top goaltender for the rest of the Scouts existence, and used that as a spring-board to a career that included 462 games, a Vezina trophy in ’80-’81 and a William M. Jennings trophy in ’81-’82.

• The mid-point of the season was reached on January 11 after the Scouts defeated the Capitals 5-3. Their first half record stood at 8-28-4 (.250).

• Guidolin was selected by the league to coach the Prince of Wales Conference at the All-Star Game due to his appearance in the Stanley Cup finals with the Boston Bruins the season prior. In a quirk of realignment, Guidolin was on the opposing side of the Scouts’ lone All-Star player, Simon Nolet. No Scout was voted in by the writers, so the task of naming at least one Scout to the game fell to the Campbell Conference coach, Fred Shero of the Flyers—The same coach who had benched Nolet for much of the previous season and the same Flyers who had left Nolet unprotected in the expansion draft. Nolet was the obvious choice though. Shero said, “He seems to be more of a leader now. He never was before.” Nolet himself didn't mind acknowledging he had “a hell of a good first half.” The game was played in Montreal on January 21, and Bep’s Prince of Wales squad defeated Nolet’s Campbell side by a score of 7-1. Nolet managed two shots.

• The first game after the All-Star break was in Boston. The Bruins had lost five home games in the previous season. The Scouts had won a single road game. In Star reporter Jay Greenberg’s game preview, he wrote that expansion team victories were next-to-impossible in Boston. But that night, the stars and planets aligned, there was a cold front in hell, and the Kansas City Scouts stole a game from the Boston Bruins in what must have been the high point of the season. Bep originally had Peter McDuffe slated to be in net, but Denis Herron had impressed in his first two games with the Scouts, and earned the start in Boston. Herron stood on his head, stopping 34 of 36 shots from the Bruins, and Randy Rota, Ed Gilbert and Gary Croteau scored for the Scouts. According to Greenberg, “It was as perfect a game as a team of their talent can play. They back-checked fiercely, got out-of-this-world goaltending from Denis Herron, and cashed their limited chances into three goals. There was not a Scouts player who didn't play well.” You can read his giddy game summary here:

• In the same sports section that recounted the amazing win in Boston was an article with another bad omen for the future of the Scouts: TV ratings for Scouts games in Kansas City were “disappointing” (actual numbers were not divulged), and the Scouts’ TV home (KBMA Channel 41) was dropping seven of the 14 planned broadcasts for the second half of the year. Here is the article in full:

• More bad news for the Scouts came when their AHL affiliate Baltimore Clippers folded in the middle of the season, leaving the Scouts to scramble to find teams for their farmhands to play on.

• On the 26th, an off-day practice at Kemper was open to the public and was followed by a “Meet the Scouts” session that was attended by “a little more than 1,000 people” according to the Star.

• This bit of trivia was in the January 27th Star: “The Scouts will wear players’ names on the back of the home uniforms for the rest of the season. The road uniforms will remain nameless. The home team, for reasons of program sales, has the option of forbidding them.” —Jay Greenberg
(Based on the graphics at, I had assumed nameplates were not added until the 1975-76 season.)

• Just four days after the big win in Boston, the Bruins paid a visit to Kemper on January 27. The Bruins were surely not too happy about the embarrassing loss, and would not be taking the Scouts lightly this night. A second victory would be miraculous, but the Scouts came just 46 seconds away from pulling it off. Before a Monday night crowd of 9,657 that was Kemper’s “most frenzied yet” (Greenberg), the Scouts clung to a 3-2 lead when the Bruins scored off of Don Marcotte’s skate in the final minute. The Scouts protested that Marcotte had kicked the puck in the net, but the referee called it a goal, and the Scouts had to “settle” for a tie—still quite an accomplishment against Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito’s Bruins. Here is Orr skating on the Kemper ice that night:

Esposito claimed to not be embarrassed about gaining only one point in the two games: “They’re in the National Hockey League aren’t they?” Orr added, “I’m not going to take anything away from them. They’re working awfully hard.” Bruins coach Don Cherry didn’t take things as gracefully; Greenberg wrote he was in a “mild rage” after the game.

• The below article appeared in the January 28th Star, and covers issues that are familiar on today’s NHL landscape: troubled franchises, the potential for relocation and expansion, and bad economic times. Interestingly, Denver and Seattle had actually been promised expansion teams for the 1976-77 season, promises that the league had to back out of. At the time of the article, sources told Jay Greenberg that the “Oakland Seals are as good as gone to Denver.” Little did anyone know it would be the fledgling Scouts fleeing to Denver instead.

No comments: