TO NHL OR NOT TO NHL
Hockey's expansion plans, which were announced in September, are not going quite as smoothly as the NHL had anticipated. The league had said that two new franchises would be accepted, that the price for each franchise would be $6 million and that applications should be submitted by Nov. 1, with a deadline of Dec. 1. Because of the extraordinary growth of interest in hockey, it was expected that applicants would be beating on the door, since informal applications had previously been received from Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Vancouver and Washington.
But as of last week not one formal application had been filed, and Buffalo and Vancouver were the only cities in which there seemed to be serious talk about applying. The cost of building a suitable rink is a stumbling block for some of the cities, and so is that initiation fee. But another difficulty is the quality of the players the new teams would receive. In the proposed expansion draft the old clubs can protect two goalies and 15 players. In the 1967-68 expansion the old clubs could protect only one goalie and 11 players (and the price then was only $2 million).
Even so, the NHL was confident that applications would be received and expansion achieved. Sam Pollock, general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, said there was not the remotest possibility that the NHL would not have two new teams next season. And as for the cost, David Molson, president of the Canadiens, says that in view of hockey's bright future the $6 million price is a bargain.
Michigan was not overwhelmed this fall with demands for tickets to its traditional game with Ohio State, which is to be played in Ann Arbor on Nov. 22, so authorities there did the wise thing. They shipped a big batch of tickets down to Columbus, where there is always a market for football. And, sure enough, the Ohio Staters so far have sold more than 20,000 (even though the game will be played 170 miles away), which surely must be an alltime record for ticket sales by a visiting team.
We usually do not print tips for sneak thieves, second-story men and others of that persuasion but, fellows, listen: be in Columbus on Nov. 22. You'll have a field day. Won't be anybody home.
NOT THE YEAR OF THE CRAB
Baltimore is taking a constant ribbing because of the successive defeats inflicted this year on its Colts, Bullets and Orioles by New York's Jets, Knicks and Mets. Now a gleeful news hound informs us that in the Mid-Eastern Parachute Association championship, held the other day in New Hanover, Pa., Lonnie Brown of New York outdropped the defending champion, John Crews. And where is Crews from? Yup.
Auctions are where you are supposed to pick up bargains, but bargains at horse sales these days are hard to find. "This is what I call an idiot's convention," said a veteran harness-horse trainer last week as he and his colleagues gathered at the Harrisburg (Pa.) Sales, where almost $5.5 million was paid out for standardbred yearlings. "People are throwing around incredible amounts of money."
Actually, the harness horsemen did not spend as much as they did at the same sale in 1968. Nonetheless, they were all aware that one man, Thomas Dexter, a newcomer to the sport, had paid $125,000 for a bay colt named Froehlich Hanover, a full brother to a couple of world champions. Dexter, a postcard manufacturer from Pearl River, N.Y., who got into harness racing only five years ago when he was "looking for a hobby," shocked the oldtimers with his money and persistence. Most dismayed of all was longtime Trainer-Driver Howard Beissinger, who had his heart set on Froehlich Hanover but who gave up at $120,000. He slumped dejectedly in his chair after Froehlich was sold.
"That shows you what's happening in this sport," said a friend of Beissinger's. "A guy comes here with $120,000 to buy one horse, and he can't get him."
A story like this, though probably ancient, is hard to resist. A male harness-horse driver, noticing a lady driver in the next sulky, leaned over and said, "What's a nice girl like you doing in a pace like this?"
HE'S GOT THE HORSES
It used to be that when a football coach had talent galore on his team, someone would be sure to say, "Man, he's got the horses." Now there is a college halfback of whom you can say the same thing, with considerably more accuracy. Mike Kemling, a halfback at Nebraska Wesleyan, owns his own string of Thoroughbreds. His Kem Jr. earned $12,000 in 1968 and $32,800 this year, before Kemling lost him in a $10,000 claiming race at Chicago's Hawthorne Park, and he also has a 2-year-old named Hesa Kem that has earned $16,000. That gives young Kemling winnings of $60,000 in two years, plus the $10,000 he got for Kem Jr., which should help pay a library fine or two.
Kemling trains the horses himself when he is on vacation, and his father takes over when Mike, who is only 5'7" and 160 pounds, is in school playing football. Last year, as a sophomore, he was Wesleyan's second leading rusher with 316 yards on 106 carries, and this season, in nine games, he had 615 yards on 170 carries. Come to think of it, he's not a bad horse himself.
Things have a way of snowballing, though that's the wrong figure of speech for this item. Baseball has long been a favorite sport of Puerto Ricans, but attendance at winter league games on the island last year was uncomfortably sparse, and it was feared that the game was losing ground But now, after the first weeks of winter baseball this season, attendance is soaring again—and this despite rain, and lots of it
Two things are primarily responsible for the upsurge, according to Mario Nevarez, president of the San Juan Senators. First, the generally heightened interest in baseball in the States is being reflected in Puerto Rico, because the Game of the Week was televised there (via satellite) for the first time. Second, the victory of the New York Mets absolutely delighted the islanders and got them bubbling about baseball again. "Puerto Ricans love an underdog," says Nevarez, but, more to the point, he explains that the Mets are looked upon as practically a home-town team "Don't forget," he adds, "more than one million Puerto Ricans live in New York City, more than live in San Juan."
So, with late returns in from outlying districts, chalk up one more triumph for the Amazin's.
Among the many coach-athlete disputes that occurred on campuses the past couple of years (SI, Aug. 25 el seq.) was the one last December at Rhode Island's Providence College in which Track Coach Ray Hanlon, a strict disciplinarian, ordered that a TV set be removed from a room shared by four members of his cross-country team. The athletes resisted, and Hanlon suspended them. Other runners quit in sympathy, the team was disbanded, the track program dropped and at the end of the school year Hanlon was dismissed as coach.
This summer the college reactivated track and hired a part-time coach named Bob Amato, a former Providence runner who is now a physics and science teacher at East Providence High School The first thing Amato did was write to those members of the disbanded squad who would be coming back to school. "I had no idea what the response would be," he says now. "I didn't know if we would have enough for a team or whether any of them would want to come out at all. But of the 15, all but three came out and are still on the squad. Of the three who didn't, two are studying in Italy this year and the third had an injury that kept him from running."
Amato says he has been aware of no carryover of last year's dissent. "There has been only complete willingness," he adds, "and sometimes to a degree that has surprised me. I called a special practice for 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning, and everyone was there ahead of time, waiting to get going."
Amato uses none of the strict Hanlon rules that brought on the ferment. His attitude, he says, is that his charges are college men who know what they have to do if they want to be successful and that he is there to help.
So far, the relaxed approach seems to be paying off. A year ago the Providence cross-country squad had a 7-3 record in dual meets and won both the team and individual titles at the Eastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference run. This year the dual meet record was 8-2, and again Providence took team and individual titles at the Easterns.
But last year at this time dissension was beginning to tear the team apart. Now there appears to be only harmony and purpose. Marty Robb, the team's star, said last week, "Now it's a sport again, not a way of life."
And television? Ray Labonte, the team captain, grinned and said, "We even watch a little of that now."
For many years the weakfish, a dining delicacy and, despite its soft mouth, a popular game fish, was one of the common prizes caught off the Northeastern coast of the U.S. Suddenly, in the mid-1950s, the species virtually disappeared, and some scientists, who believed its major nursery grounds to be in the North Carolina sounds, blamed the wipeout on commercial trawlers off the Carolina coast that scoop up thousands of pounds of fish—trash and otherwise—to sell to the cat-food industry.
This past summer, however, despite the continued trawling, weakfish mysteriously reappeared off New Jersey and New York. (Many new-generation fishermen, unfamiliar with the species, threw them back.) Scientists, now recognizing the importance of a separate Northern-based population, set to work to learn why it had surfaced again. One theory now holds that the weakfish had been all but killed off not by the trawling operations but by rising pollution, and that the few survivors had developed into a hardier strain that was more resistant.
Whatever the reason for the return of the weakfish, the question may be largely academic. A substantial percentage of the weakfish caught this summer had fin rot, which apparently spreads in direct proportion to the increase in water pollution. The disease deters growth and migration, and eventually the fins drop off and the fish dies.
Will there be weakfish in 1970? Not even ichthyologists will venture a guess.
Jim Coleman, who was co-captain of Arkansas' football team in 1919, was a guest at homecoming this year and marveled at the coaches who flourish in such great numbers around modern-day teams. "In 1919," Coleman noted, "we traveled with 15 players. A large squad was 18. Nowadays they have more coaches than we had players."
Coleman's comment was not hyperbole. Including graduate assistants, Arkansas has 21 men on its coaching staff.
THEY SAID IT
•George Andrie, Dallas Cowboy end, noting that inspirational talks by former Cowboys Tommy McDonald and Jerry Rhome lifted the Cleveland Browns to an emotional peak for the last two Dallas games: "This ought to teach us one thing: if we ever trade any more ballplayers, we sure don't want to send any silver-tongued orators."
•Weeb Ewbank, New York Jet coach, resorting to Stengelese when explaining why Joe Namath missed a practice: "I wouldn't say that Joe has a sore arm, per se, but his arm is kind of sore."
•James Shepard, Massachusetts game director, after closing the hunting season for bears because some of the bears were getting drunk on the juice of wild apples fermenting in their stomachs: "It wouldn't be very sporting to shoot them in this condition."