Friday, July 27, 2012

Bobby Hull's Summit Series Fate; Decided by The Players

The exclusion of Bobby Hull from the 1972 Summit Series in reality came down to a decision by the Canadian players. It boiled down to Clarence Campbell and the NHL's original stipulation that only NHL players be allowed and the fact that if the WHA defectors joined, many of the influential NHL owners would not sanction their players participation. Without the approval of their owners, many players would decline the invitation to play.

Ted Blackman of the Montreal Gazette wrote; “Harry Sinden made the argument – that he’d have have Hull, but not much else,” Alan Eagleson said after  Hockey Canada directors voted 9-2, with 2 abstentions, to conduct the Russia-Canada series without WHA players. “If the vote was taken when we sat down, it would have been 7-6 in favour of Hull, but after hearing Harry’s report on the attitude of the other players, it came out as it did.”
On Aug 2, 1972 The Hockey Canada executive committee (including the likes of Harold Ballard, Father Daivd Bauer and Sinden) first listened to an “earnest” pitch by Federal Health Minister John Munro on behalf of Hull’s inclusion. Then it heard Chicago owner Bill Wirtz reaffirm the NHL’s position. “We then considered five courses of action,” said the chairman of the committee, Douglas Fisher. “We considered playing the series as it now stands – without WHA players – or cancelling the whole thing, then three alternatives in between.”
The three middle choices were:

(1) Playing the series independent of any pro organization and undertaking separate disability insurance for players,

(2)  Playing with members from the three Canadian NHL teams, or

(3)  Playing with WHA and NHL volunteers.
Eagleson summed up, “These three ideas wouldn’t work to the best interests of the country and cancelling the series seemed terribly wrong, so we are here, playing under the terms of the original agreement with the NHL.” In the end it was Harry Sinden who cast the swing vote that doomed Hull. Eagleson added, “He felt for sure he’d lose 12 to 15 of the 31 players still eligible if Hull was included on the team and the NHL withdrew it’s approval. He talked to the players, he knew how they felt.”
Eagleson said both Esposito brothers, Phil with Boston and Tony with Chicago, wrote Sinden vowing they wouldn’t play without the sanction of their respective owners. All five Rangers selected insisted they’d need Emil Francis’ green light.
Commenting on his exclusion, Hull himself called it “silly blackballing” and thanked Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau for his efforts.
Eagleson in fact, was so unmoved by Hull’s exclusion from Team Canada that he chastised Trudeau, when the P.M. sent a telegram to Clarence Campbell demanding the best represent the land. “He should have stayed out of this.” Eagleson declared. “This can do more harm than good. He’s been badly advised.” Upon the final decision on the exclusion of WHA players, he expressed disappointment over only one player’s exclusion, “I hate to see it happen to J.C. Tremblay. After all, he labored for our players association in Montreal for five years.”

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