The National Hockey League, thinking, perhaps, about future expansion, went Las Vegas and rented a wheel of fortune to determine which of its two newest teams—the Buffalo Sabres or the Vancouver Canucks, who start league play next season—would have first selection in the various player drafts last week in Montreal. Buffalo croupier Punch Imlach won all the spins. Most importantly, Punch won the pro rights to 20-year-old amateur Gilbert Perreault, the center of the Montreal Junior Canadiens, who has been touted as another Bobby Orr.
Except for that, Imlach and Vancouver General Manager Bud Poile emerged from the drafts looking like typical Vegas losers. In fact, Imlach and Poile lost $6 million apiece—their club owners' price of admission to the NHL. For their money, the two men were permitted to select 18 skaters and two goaltenders in a draft of pro players from the existing franchises. Sadly, Buffalo and Vancouver were forced to start with the 16th-best skater and the third-best goalie on each club. Then, in order to insure that neither club would draft a quality player, the talent-rich clubs in the East Division disposed of their best expendables prior to the draft for such things as "future considerations," "unnamed amateur draft" and "a player or players to be named later."
Only the entrenched club owners consider this a fair system. NHL President Clarence Campbell and NHL Players' Association Executive Director Alan Eagleson both proposed that the owners reduce the number of protected skaters from 15 to no more than 12. The owners rejected this.
As a result, the 1970 draft was a disgrace. Only 13 of the 40 players selected spent the better part of last season in the NHL. Only three of the 40—Phil Goyette, Don Marshall and Goalie Charlie Hodge—could be considered quality NHL players, and their average age is 36. The Chicago Black Hawks gleefully accepted $333,333.33 for someone named Paul Terbenche, who scored five goals for Portland last year.
Mike Garrett's decision to leave pro football and the Kansas City Chiefs after this season to try and make it as an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers is a brave one. We wish Garrett success, but chances are against him. Some college football stars did very well in baseball, among them Alvin Dark, Jackie Jensen and Jackie Robinson, but there have been some awful busts, too. Vic Janowicz of Ohio State (like Garrett, a Heisman Trophy winner) was a flop with the Pirates. All-America Quarterback Paul Giel of Minnesota never did anything for the New York Giants as a pitcher. Eric Tipton, the Duke fullback, made it to the majors as a mostly wartime ballplayer and Ace Parker, the fine quarterback of the defunct Brooklyn Dodgers in the NFL, hit .179 in two years with the Philadelphia A's. Then there's the great Jim Thorpe, who played six years in the majors and ended up hitting .252. Bud Harrelson, the 150-pound Met shortstop, put it bluntly when he said of Garrett: "He has been away from baseball for five years. I've been away from football six years. I could step into football with Kansas City tomorrow and do a job, like catching passes, better than he could step into baseball and do a job."
F√ñHN AND DANDY
What high altitude was to the Mexican Olympics, the notorious F√∂hn—an ill wind that blows north from the Mediterranean into Germany—might be to Munich. Physicians and meteorologists increasingly agree that headaches and fatigue supposedly caused by this warm wind may be more than mere superstition. Recently, 65 sports physicians meeting in Munich discussed various aspects of the phenomenon. They decided that while natives and longtime residents of Munich tend to suffer under the F√∂hn, new arrivals feel rather exhilarated by it—for a while. Out-of-town soccer teams, for example, tend to excel against tired local clubs. Thus, if there is a F√∂hn in August 1972 (and the odds say there will be), records may tumble before the onslaught of hyped-up visitors.
You can send out for almost anything these days. Now a football team needing an invigorating pep talk can put $6.75 together and buy a record by Ray Eliot, associate director of athletics at the University of Illinois and former head football coach of the Illini. According to an ad in the Letterman, a magazine for high school athletes, "Ray Eliot pulls no punches in this 30-minute inspirational speech. It challenges one to reexamine himself in respect to football and life.... Coach Eliot motivates others to have desire, make the sacrifice and pay whatever price is necessary to win.... Coaches are playing it just before game time as a new approach to getting their clubs mentally ready."
It could help, but what coaches would really like someone to come up with is a Dial-a-Star service that could produce on request a couple of big, rough tackles and maybe a 9.3 running back or two.
One of the worst single fish kills in the history of the U.S. occurred last week in the Hudson River between the city of Hudson and Albany, N.Y. Warming water temperatures, coupled with enormous loads of raw sewage from Albany, Troy and other municipalities, caused dissolved oxygen values in the river to sink to almost zero in the 30-mile stretch. According to Everett Nack, a commercial fisherman who was the first to report the kill, "It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen." Most of the dead fish were herring, which run in from the Atlantic to spawn. There were also shad up to five pounds and fingerling striped bass. The toll is estimated to be at least one million.
At the moment his affairs are as complicated as his name. Is he Muhammad Ali or Cassius Clay? Technically, the True Champ, as he refers to himself, is still suspended from the Muslim faith and, although he officially has no right to the name Ali, he prefers it to Cassius. Ali's period of banishment expired in March, and by now he should be back in the Muslim fold. Instead, as in boxing, he is still out in the cold. Last week Justice Black of the Supreme Court rejected a bid for permission for Ali to leave the country briefly so he could fight Joe Frazier in Toronto.
Actually, if it were all up to Ali, he would just as soon go to jail and serve his time. "I'll be 31 when I get out if I go this year," he says. "Then I'd be free to travel. I'll be the first black champ that the white man hasn't whupped. They can't stop the True Champ. Joe Frazier and the world, watch out when I get out." The idea that Frazier might beat him in a fight is a joke to the True Champ. "All this talk about Smokin' Joe being too much for Ali is nothing," he says. "I ain't brainwashed by a little boy who made his bad reputation by beating a 300-pound blimp. I know Joe Frazier would be a perfect opponent. He'd be coming at me, smoking, and I'd be hitting him with the fastest jab ever seen in the ring, a jab that's quicker than a blink."
With no fight in the offing and prison still uncertain, Ali is awaiting his fate comfortably in Philadelphia. This past winter he got a reported $225,000 advance for his autobiography, and he promptly bought a 15-room mansion. He says every room has a TV set and a telephone. "I play with my little girl, work around the house and clean out the swimming pool, that's how I spend my time," he says. "And, you know, I enjoy it. But it won't bother me to go to jail, if that's what has to be."
THE SKI WAR (CONT.)
Each year about this time the ski people come down from the hills for their annual convention, and they prove each year that they don't get along any better in pinstripe suits than they do in parkas. Last week, when the U.S. Ski Association session in San Francisco ended, about the only unanimous action taken was to elect Snowshoe Thompson to the National Ski Hall of Fame—which was pretty noncontroversial, since Snowshoe has been dead for 64 years.
Otherwise, typically, the delegates argued a lot about amateurism in racing but resolutely did not settle the issue, even after hearing a warning from International Olympic Chief Avery Brundage that all cheaters would be cleansed from the Winter Games. Then members voted out USSA President Earl Walters in exchange for IBM executive Charles Gibson, who promised a more responsible fiscal policy. The USSA needs it, having just arranged a $180,000 loan from a Cleveland bank, which is handy, but the association still has not faced the fact that ski industry manufacturers, who used to support USSA, have now found it much easier to pay the racers directly.
WHITTLE WHILE YOU PLAY
Suburban Stamford, Conn. is hardly Indian country, but it is the headquarters for Remo Cipri, a 44-year-old artist who specializes in totem poles. Cipri is now at work on a pole depicting his vision of American sports.
Cipri has carved eight poles in the past two years, and his latest will be the largest totem pole on the East Coast. He chose a tulip tree, originally 130 feet in length, and the completed pole will be 50 feet long, with a nine-foot circumference and a three-foot diameter. It will weigh almost eight tons. Cipri cut down the tree himself—besides being an artist, he works as a tree man—and hauled it to his front yard where he can work with it in a horizontal position.
Cipri began at the top, carving a moon, which he says "depicts the day we live in." Next comes an eagle with its wings spread to "Symbolize America." The first of five six-foot sporting figures is a football player, an Indian in a helmet, as the artist feels that football is the No. 1 American sport. Below is a baseball player—a white man with a bat in his hands, which Cipri describes as a "crude" instrument, rather "like a war club." Next in line is a black basketball player. "From what I see and feel," Cipri says, "the black man dominates that field." The figure is designed to resemble Wilt Chamberlain. Tangled in his legs is a little man "who is trying to get at Chamberlain and is always frustrated."
The last two figures—a tennis and an ice hockey player—are still to be completed. Cipri's neighbors have been wandering past the yard to watch his progress and take pictures. He will reach the bottom of the totem pole in about a month when, one hopes, none of the passersby will be hockey fans.
The sports of golf, bowling and tennis seem ideally suited for pro-am tournaments. The celebrities pair with the pros, and the money goes to charity. Now auto racing is about to have a pro-am. The officials of the new Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway are planning one for August over a 2.5-mile road course. The make of the car and the length of the race have yet to be decided, but the format will be simple: the amateurs will drive a few laps, pit and then let the pros take over. Among the pros who will compete are Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart. On the amateur side are Paul Newman, Roman Polanski and Dick Smothers.
It has been suggested that to add excitement, speedway officials invite one celebrated amateur of sports to try his hand at the wheel. That sportsman is Vice President Agnew.
THEY SAID IT
•Adolph Rupp, University of Kentucky basketball coach, on the shooting ability of Lou Dampier, former UK player now with the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA: "God taught Louis how to shoot, and I took credit for it."
•Walt Garrison, Dallas Cowboys fullback, owner of a Rhodesian Ridgeback, a breed of dog once used to hunt lions, replying to scoffers: "Well, I haven't seen any lions around here since we got him."