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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    Beard breakdown: Burns vs. Thornton (Video)

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    Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.

    Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”

    In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.

    The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.

    One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.

    Brouwer mulling signing with Canucks in free agency

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 21: Troy Brouwer #36 of the St. Louis Blues looks on against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on December 21, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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    Troy Brouwer grew up in North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver.

    We mention this because, on Monday, Vancouver’s News 1130 spoke with Brouwer — a pending UFA — about his plans for the future. And, lo and behold, Brouwer has thought about a return home.

    “I have thought about it, for sure,” Brouwer said. “Family and friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.”

    The 30-year-old added his father is a “huge” Canucks fan and that Mark Messier, who spent two ill-fated seasons in Vancouver, was a “big influence” on Brouwer’s career.

    So, file that one away for the future.

    Brouwer will likely have a number of suitors come July 1. A Stanley Cup winner with Chicago in 2010, he’s been a very reliable goalscorer — at least 17 in seven straight seasons — and is coming off a terrific playoff, in which he scored eight goals and 13 points in 20 games for the Blues.

    The Blues, of course, would probably like to retain Brouwer. They paid a high price to get him — T.J. Oshie, in last summer’s deal with Washington — and used him quite a bit this year. Brouwer averaged 16 minutes per night in the regular season and nearly 19 during the playoffs.

    Problem is, St. Louis might not have the cap space to retain him. Brouwer will almost certainly be getting a raise on the $3.66M he earned annually on his last deal, and the Blues have some other financial decisions to make this summer (like captain David Backes, for example.)

    “Not sure what the Blues plans are,” Brouwer told News 1130. “I’m assuming we will talk with them before July 1st.”

    Bettman: The ‘word’ on expansion should come June 22

    NHL hockey commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, after attending an NHL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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    PITTSBURGH — Mark June 22 on the calendar. That’s when the NHL’s Board of Governors will meet in Las Vegas, and that’s when we should get word about the league’s expansion plans.

    “That word,” commissioner Gary Bettman said today at his annual Stanley Cup Final press conference, “will probably come in one of the following forms:

    “Whether there will be no expansion; whether expansion will be deferred until a later time in the future; or whether there will be expansion, and if so whether it will be a one-team or a two-team expansion.

    “I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen. But again, when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”

    The NHL is currently considering two expansion bids, one from Las Vegas and another from Quebec City. The former is optimistic about its chances, while the latter’s fortunes may have been dashed by the decline of the Canadian dollar.

    On Las Vegas, the commissioner and his deputy, Bill Daly, were asked if the NFL’s potential foray into that market could affect the NHL’s decision. The answer to that question was no.

    The other theme of today’s press conference was the Olympics. Specifically, the IOC’s decision to stop covering millions of dollars in transportation and insurance costs for the players.

    On that, Bettman had a strong message for the IOC and IIHF.

    “I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” he said.

    In other words, if the IOC and IIHF can’t resolve the “expense issue,” it’s practically a certainty that the NHL will not be sending its players to Pyeongchang‎, South Korea.

    WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

    Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

    The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

    Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE