Photo credit: puckprose.com
This Zamboni Time Machine flashback looks at at the time a flamboyant owner owned a flamboyant hockey team.
When Charlie Finley bought the California Golden Seals in 1970, he was the flamboyant owner of the equally flamboyant Oakland A’s baseball team. The Seals had come into the NHL in 1967, and by 1970 were already struggling as a franchise. It was hoped that Finley would bring his outrageous marketing ideas from his other ventures to hockey, and in the process turn the team around.
One of the first things Finley did as owner of the Oakland A’s was to change the team’s colors to green and gold, so of course, that’s what he did with the Seals as well. This would not be the only over the top stunt Finley’s baseball and hockey players would have to endure.
Another thing he did with his baseball team was to make his players wear white cleats, so it made sense to Finley to have his hockey players wear white skates. Charlie’s lack of hockey knowledge was obvious, and the players refused to wear them. Undaunted, Finley showed showed up at a game unannounced and made his General Manager at the time Bill Torrey (yes, that Bill Torrey), go down to the locker room and persuade the players to wear the albino skates.
After seeing these skates in action, Finley decided he did not like them. Instead, he decided he decided to push the envelope even farther and made the Golden Seals wear green, gold, and white skates. Shockingly, this struck a chord with traditional powers the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, who briefly implemented skates in their team colors with their uniforms.
Finley’s off the wall ideas didn’t stop with the uniforms. In effort to attract more fans, he decided to have a live seal for a mascot. On the surface, it seemed like a good idea, but it only lasted one game. The creature was brought out to center ice before the national anthem was played, much to the amusement of the fans in the arena. It barked and flapped for a minute, but must have got tired, as it decided to take a nap right on the center ice face off dot. Despite the best efforts to wake the animal up, the entire ice crew wound up dragging the sleeping seal off of the ice.
Finley would give up ownership of the Golden Seals in February of 1974 when the NHL took control of the team. Many flamboyant owners have come and gone since Charlie Finley, but none with his sense for absurd marketing.