Looking back at the California Golden Seals and their wacky owner Charlie Finley

In sports – just like many areas of life – history seems to repeat itself but trailblazers often stand out. Often times, it’s great ideas but every now and then it’s just off-the-wall stuff that stands out in our memories.

It seems like the 60s and 70s were an especially wheels-off time in sports history, as competitive leagues in football (the AFL), basketball (the ABA) and hockey (the WHA) challenged the salary structures and conventions of their sports. Yet one of the strangest professional sports teams operated in the mostly straight-laced NHL: the Oakland/California Golden Seals never really make waves on the ice … except when it came to what they wore during games.

Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley was an eccentric man who “didn’t know a right wing from a left wing” and it showed when he demanded that the team wear white skates as part of their uniforms (one would assume as a nod to Finley’s baseball franchise). NJ.com’s Rich Chere shares some recollections from former Seals GM (and eventual Islanders team builder) Bill Torrey on the odd fashion choices.

“I told him, ‘Charlie, this isn’t the Ice Capades. On white ice they’re going to look like crap,’ ” Torrey recalls. “Fred Glover was our coach, an old-time guy, and when I showed him the skates he said, ‘(Forget it) if you think any of our guys are wearing those.’

[snip]

Torrey was certain that when Finley saw how bad the white skates looked, he’d get rid of them. So the GM addressed his players before the game.

“I said, ‘Gentlemen, the man who signs your paychecks is here,” Torrey said. “Here is a pair of white skates. He wants to see what they look like on a player in a game. Anybody want to volunteer?’

“Everybody dropped their heads. Nobody wanted to wear them. I turned and walked out, not sure if anybody would wear them. But Gary Jarrett put them on and wore them. And they looked like crap.

“Charlie said, ‘Bill, you’re right. They look like crap. But I’m going to get some green skates with gold toes. We never wore the white skates long. Trainers hated them because the black puck would hit them and they’d look terrible.’ But we went with the green skates with gold toes.”

The team’s official colors were Kelly green, California gold and snow white.

Considering the off-the-deep end, mad semi-genius of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, you have to wonder if Finley is just another odd rich man who flocked to high-profile ownership in California. You cannot help but wonder if the Finleys of the world explain why the NHL has been reluctant to accept Jim Balsillie, Mark Cuban and other outspoken types as owners.

Something tells me Cuban would have some better fashion instincts, though.

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    Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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    It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

    Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

    Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
    Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

    This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

    The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

    This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

    And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

    Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

    The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

    Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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    John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

    Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

    First, take a look at the hit:

    Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

    Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

    Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

    It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

    Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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    Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

    For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

    The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

    Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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    This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

    On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

    William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

    Hnnngmgghh indeed.

    That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

    Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.