Friday, July 31, 2009

Scouts Notes: December 1975

December of ’75 saw the last of the border-line respectable hockey that the Scouts played before the unimaginable collapse in the second half. At the end of the month, their record stood at 11-22-4 (.338). They’d played 37 of the season’s 80 games, which put them on pace to win 12.8 more; instead they managed just one in the remaining 43 games. Unbelievable.

Mike Baumgartner’s NHL career consisted of just 17 games, all with the Scouts early in the ’74-’75 season. On December 14, 1974, Baumgartner took a slap shot in the face. By early December of ’75, Baumgartner was forced to give up any hope of returning to hockey, and Ken Rudnick penned this piece for the Star:

The month opened with what may have been the finest win in Scouts history, as they managed to beat the mighty Canadiens 6-5. Wilf Paiement recorded the only hat trick in team history. The Canadiens entered the day with a six game winning streak and an imposing 18-4-3 record. They would cap their season with a Stanley Cup while going 12-1 in the playoffs. Ken Dryden had been the goaltender for the six straight wins, and coach Scotty Bowman decided to rest him for what he must have thought would be an easy win at Kemper Arena. So Michel Larocque got the start for the Habs, and was blitzed for goals from Robin Burns, Craig Patrick and Paiement in the first eight minutes. The Canadiens managed to right the ship after that, but the damage was done, and the Scouts hung on for the win. The two wins the Scouts enjoyed in Boston rank right up there with this one, but the fact that this one came at home and with the bonus of Paiement’s hat trick make it arguably their finest night. Robin Burns thought so: “This has to be the biggest win we’ve had in our two years. For the players, fans, everybody.” (12/4/75 Star) Coach Bep Guidolin got a little excited on the bench: “I didn’t know how to change lines. It was like being high on something, it was like, well, I don’t know, like out of sight.” (12/5/75 Star)

Defenseman Gary Bergman was the grizzled veteran of the ’75-’76 Scouts. Ken Rudnick had this piece in the December 11th Times on Bergman fighting through one last year:

On the 16th, Rudnick had this to say about the Scouts’ netminding stalwart Denis Herron:

After a 4-1 win against the Red Wings on the 19th, the Scouts had an impressive 7-6-2 record at home for the year, but would manage only one more victory in the remaining 25 home dates.

The sports editor at the Kansas City Star during the mid-’70s was Joe McGuff. He was an institution in the Kansas City sports scene, and his “Sporting Comment” column covered all aspects of KC sports. Here are three articles from McGuff that appeared in December ’75; the first focuses on Wilf Paiement after his hat trick, the second on Guy Charron’s stellar play, and the third is a wrap-up of Kansas City sports happenings in 1975. The last one doesn’t touch on the Scouts much, but is a good read for those interested in Kansas City sports history in general:

On the 28th, the Scouts visited one of their favorite foes, the California Golden Seals. The Scouts skated to a 3-1 victory. Here is what the standings looked like the next morning:

The top three teams in each division made the playoffs, and the Scouts where just one point behind third place St. Louis. They would end the season 36 points behind the Blues and a playoff berth. I have no idea what caused such a monumental collapse; hopefully I’ll have a better idea once I’ve read through the microfilm for the remainder of the season. (The Scouts relative success through the first half of the season seems to have rested on outstanding goaltending from Denis Herron and the scoring of a very small group of forwards. To hazard a guess, perhaps I’ll find that Herron’s play fell off slightly and the top forwards cooled off in the second half.)

Alan Eagleson was the head of the NHLPA at the time, and made waves by proclaiming six NHL franchises were “shaky” in terms of viability. He named Kansas City, Washington, Minnesota, Atlanta, California and Detroit as the weak franchises, and proposed consolidating them to four teams. The Scouts were forced to refute the claim, though the front office by this time had to be pulling their hair out behind the scenes. “‘The Scouts are not shaky, definitely,’ said Ed Thompson, president of the Scouts. ‘Alan Eagleson should stick to his law business and stay out of things he knows little about.’…‘Sid Abel, Scouts general manager, was equally emphatic…‘There’s no worry as far as we’re concerned.’” (12/3/75 Times)

The Scouts went 5-9-0 (.357) for the month, and drew an average of just 7,809 for the six home games.


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Hockey Team said...
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