Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scouts On-Ice Notes: March—April, 1976

There was a lot going on with the Scouts off the ice late in the ’75-’76 season, so I’m going to split up my notes with this (mostly) on-ice report and an off-ice report later.

• “Scouts Booster Club dinner Sunday at Crown Center was a big success. Boosters presented (Wilf) Paiement with a pair of fur-trimmed bluejeans to go with his fur coat” (which he had been awarded for his hat trick earlier in the year). (3/3/76 Star)

• How far apart where the lowly Scouts and the mighty Flyers? When Flyer captain Bobby Clarke was asked how his team psyched themselves up for their game against the Scouts on March 7th, he responded, “You don’t really. You get bored. We had lots of shots but we weren’t really pushing that hard. Most of the time we were pushing the puck around.” (3/8/76 Times) The Scouts got 23 shots off in the game; the Flyers had 22 after one period.

• On March 16th, the Scouts hosted the Black Hawks. Guy Charron netted his 27th goal of the year, surpassing the team mark of 26 that Wilf Paiement and Simon Nolet had set the previous season. But the Scouts dropped the game 3-6, which was their 16th straight game without a victory, tying the team record. Unfortunately for the Scouts, the only end to this winless stretch would be the end of the season, 11 games later. Scout Robin Burns turned into an insane poet after the Black Hawks game: “An entanglement of troubles. A spontaneous nurturing of the fruits of disappointment. A demented departure from the reality of hockey.” (3/17 Times)

• Ordinarily, a stretch like that would prompt roster moves of some sort in an attempt to shake things up. But according to an article in the September, 1976 issue of Kansas City magazine, team president Edwin Thompson “refused to allow any player moves as the team went winless in the last 27 games of its history because it would have cost money to pay the moving expenses of young players being called up from the minors.”

• On March 20th, all tickets were priced at $2 for a game against the Seals at Kemper. 16,219 fans showed up, easily the biggest crowd to see a Scouts home game. Kansas City was up 2-0 after two periods, but of course couldn’t hold on, and the big crowd had to settle for a 2-2 tie.

• Two nights later, the Scouts visited the Capitals. This was a prime chance to stop the winless streak. Things were looking good as the Scouts jumped to a 4-0 lead in the second, and lead 5-2 heading into the third. This being the ’75-’76 Scouts, they allowed 3 third period goals and ended up with a 5-5 tie. “Jesus Christ and the disciples couldn’t help this team,” Steve Durbano said after the game. “This team stinks.” (3/24 Times) After the season was over, goalie Denis Herron pointed to this game as the nadir of an extremely low season. It was the last point the Scouts would ever earn.

• After the 21st straight game without a win on March 24th, Randy Rota said, “You wake up in the morning and think that this is the day it breaks. Only it never does. Pretty soon you stop thinking that. Pretty soon you start losing your personal pride.” And Dave Hudson: “You think if you keep after it, it’s gotta break. Only there’s not much time left now.” (3/25 Star) To add injury to insult, Denis Herron got his head stepped on while allowing a goal that night, and was knocked out.

• The Scouts had the misfortune of playing the Canadiens on March 27th, and for the second straight year, Guy Lafleur scored his 50th goal against Herron and the Scouts in Montreal. For good measure, he added number 51 later in the game as the Habs breezed to an 8-2 victory.

• On March 28th, the Scouts lost to the New York Rangers and a young goalie named Doug Soetaert making his third NHL start. After his playing days, Soetart would go on to spend one year as coach and ten years as GM of the IHL Kansas City Blades.

• The last home game in Scouts history came on March 30th against the Los Angeles Kings. Before the game, Herron was named as team MVP, as voted on by his teammates. “Gary Bergman was named top defenseman, Guy Charron was cited for being named the top star of the game most often during the season and Gary Croteau was honored for his dedication, hard work and leadership both on and off the ice.” (3/31 Star) In the game, the Scouts exploded for six goals in the first two periods and had a 6-5 lead heading into the final frame…but once again couldn’t hold, and lost 6-8. The Scouts much too brief run at Kemper Arena went out with a bang, as the 14 goals added up to the highest scoring game in Kemper history. 7,123 fans witnessed the end of the Scouts in Kansas City. Gary Croteau scored the last Scouts goal in Kansas City, while King Tom Williams potted the last goal overall.

• The miserable band of Scouts still had three road games to play. Earlier in the season, the Capitals had set a new mark in NHL futility by going winless in a record 25 straight games. The loss to the Kings at home was number 24 in a row without a win for the Scouts. The Scouts tied the record with a loss in Chicago on March 31st, then made it their own with losses in Los Angeles and Vancouver on April 3rd and 4th to stretch it to an impressive 27. Who knows how long they could have gone had the season not come to a merciful end. (The Colorado Rockies snapped the franchise’s streak by winning their first ever game.) Craig Patrick netted the final goal in Scouts history.

• Herron tried to make some sense of the team’s collapse over the final half of the season: “We change the coach and we change the system from top to bottom. We played tight hockey, man-for-man, with Bep. With Bush we’re more open now. We can’t play open, because nobody scores.” (4/5 Star) Gary Bergman allowed that the off-ice issues hurt their performance on the ice: “Sure, it takes your mind off hockey. Between the talk about the team moving and all the trouble in the front office…that’s been more of the topic of conversation with the players than trying to figure out what’s wrong with the team.” (4/5 Star) Injury trouble didn’t help, especially Wilf Paiement missing the last six weeks of the season. The record 27 games without a win stood until the ’80-’81 Winnipeg Jets took the Scouts off the hook by running up a 30 game streak.

• The Scouts record over March and two games in April was 0-15-2 (.059). The seven home games had an average announced attendance of 8,286.

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