MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

Game: NHL vs. amateurs Stakes: rules of hockey Dice: loaded, by the pros

TRENT FRAYNE July 28 1962
MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

Game: NHL vs. amateurs Stakes: rules of hockey Dice: loaded, by the pros

TRENT FRAYNE July 28 1962

Game: NHL vs. amateurs Stakes: rules of hockey Dice: loaded, by the pros

ON SPORT

TRENT FRAYNE

A CRY as though from a wounded water buffalo passed the lips of the National League's president, Clarence Campbell, when the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association recently made a couple of modest recommendations for rules changes in the world’s fastest sport played on ice indoors. There appeared to be an awful moment there when Mr. Campbell, who stands in awe of no one who doesn't own an NHL franchise, felt someone might be rocking the boat.

“Harrumph and kaff,” said Mr. Campbell, in effect. “Let me remind you boys that you have no business meddling with the playing rules in leagues where NHL prospects arc learning the game. Good day, gentlemen.”

The NHL, friends, is currently entwined in one hell of a paradox: it’s so successful that it’s apt to starve. While its popularity has never been so great, people are staying away from all other leagues by the millions. And it’s upon the other leagues that the NHL must depend for future players. Thus, to keep the supply lines open, the NHL must pay vast sums to the

impoverished leagues, and ward off all people like CAHA thinkers who want to tinker with the rules.

There’s no question about the NHL’s popularity. The Elliott-Haynes research people report that 3,976,800 of us watched on television as Toronto and Chicago played a Stanley Cup game last April 7. And it’s almost as bad — or good, depending where you sit — every Saturday night throughout the winter as television takes the games from Montreal's Forum and Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens.

Where the CAHA sits, that’s bad. Every7 year the CAHA makes suggestions for rules changes and is brushed off by the NHL, which wants the kids to learn the pro's game. Anything else is apt to slow7 a boy’s progress towards Mr. Campbell's version of heaven. The CAHA is powerless to alter rules because it is only one member of hockey’s Joint Rules Committee. and there it is outnumbered by the pros. Accordingly, it loses every vote.

TV has proved so ruinous to the minor pro leagues that the Eastern Professional Hockey League, for one, was ready to fold in a dolorous meeting a few weeks ago. Then the NHL came up with an offer to underwrite all losses provided the league imposes an age-limit to weed out veterans on the way down and develop kids for the big league. One club in that circuit, Kitchener, dropped $150,000 during the last two seasons.

The American Hockey League, being allAmerican, is largely untroubled by TV, although one border-type town, Rochester, reportedly has cost the sponsoring Toronto Maple Leafs $200,000 over the last two years for the privilege of farming leaflets there to grow into Leafs. The Western Hockey League is surviving by migrating south to escape the tube: in recent years four cities, Winnipeg. Saskatoon, Victoria and Brandon, have given up the struggle.

In this atmosphere the CAHA rarely gets a sympathetic hearing from the press when its recommendations arc rejected by the joint committee on rules. The most recent reject was a plea for abolition of the centre red line which at least one amateur official, Commissioner Frank Boucher of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, feels would restore stick-handling and pattern passing to the game. “Those NHL people are like the Russians,” says Boucher. “They automatically veto everything.”

The CAHA’s alternative to annual rebuffs is

to give the joint committee a year's notice, defect, and then run its own show. It's reluctant to do this, says the immediate past president, Jack Roxburgh, because it feels that the good of the game generally is more important than any one group’s wishes. Nevertheless, Roxburgh says CAHA leaders were appalled by Clarence Campbell’s brushotT. “I thought he had too much on the ball to do such a thing,” Roxburgh told me. “We’ll simply have to make up our minds whether our agreement with the NHL is less or more important than the changes we propose. I realize Mr. Campbell

was only speaking for himself; after all, he is not the joint rules committee. Still, his attitude didn't help our relations any.” Having thus made yet another bad impression on almost everybody, Clarence Campbell then went back to running hockey the way the NHL owners want it run.