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The Deal with the Seals
Why such sentimentality?
12/10/22 - By Paul Krill
So the Sharks are now wearing their California Golden Seals knockoff jerseys regularly. I thought this should have been a one-night gimmick but it looks like these sweaters are having some real staying power, unlike the actual Seals franchise itself.

How many people really know the history of the Seals? Are they worthy of all this waxing sentimental? And they've been gone from the Bay Area since 1976, which means no one under 55 or so will even remember them ever being here. The Seals were in and out of the region before I moved here, so I don't have personal, local recollections and maybe have no place asking about this sentimentality. I will, anyway, though.

The Seals, sometimes called the Oakland Seals or the California Seals and sometimes the California Golden Seals and briefly the Bay Area Seals, were part of the 1967 expansion that doubled the league from the "Original Six" teams to 12. The other new teams were the Kings, Blues, Penguins, Flyers and North Stars (now the Dallas Stars). Anybody notice anything about this list? Yes - those other five teams still exist while the Seals do not. Which brings us to the three most-noteworthy things about the Seals:

* They are the last franchise of any of the four major US sports leagues (the others being MLB, NFL and NBA) to actually fold, although they moved before that happened. Technically, they were merged with the Minnesota North Stars in 1978 after departing the Bay Area in 1976 and playing as the Cleveland Barons for a couple seasons. But the bottom line is, the team is no more. (Unless we make the argument that the Sharks' emerging in 1991 with access to some North Stars players and owned by the former North Stars owners - the Gunds - constitutes a reconstitution of the Seals franchise. Kind of a stretch.)

* In one of the most-notorious trades in NHL history, the Seals sent their #1 draft pick in the 1971 entry draft and Francois Lacombe to the Montreal Canadiens in return for a 1970 first round draft pick plus Ernie Hicke, and cash (according to Wikipedia). Needless to say, the Seals finished last and that draft pick they sent to Montreal was used to select future Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur, a key player in the Canadiens' Stanley Cup dynasty of the 1970s. Oops.

* Charlie Finley, brash owner of the Oakland Athletics in the 1960s and 1970s, once owned the Seals. He had them wearing white skates.

So I have to ask, is this really a Bay Area hockey heritage the Sharks should be saluting? Maybe people just like the color scheme? I suppose the Sharks will still sell a bunch of those Seals-like jerseys, which have even caught the attention of Canadian pop singer Justin Bieber, who reportedly lauded the jerseys as "fire." Oh well. To each his own.

Elsewhere in Sharks Territory:

* Hard to believe that the Sharks catchy "Holiday Sweater" rap video was released eight years ago. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago. It might be the most noteworthy music video ever produced by a North American sports franchise. The only two players featured in that video who are still with the team are Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto, although Nieto left and came back.

* Did the Sharks make the right move giving the Big $$ to Hertl instead of saving it for Timo Meier? Both are now playing at a roughly point-per-game clip, although Meier has 14 goals to Hertl's nine. Will they be able to keep both players? I guess we'll find out in a few months.

* With the Sharks' suspect goaltending and defense this year making it so easy for opponents to score on so many nights, we'll also find out soon enough if new Shark goalie Eetu Makiniemi, acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Brent Burns trade, is the solution. Looks good so far.

Contact Paul at at paulkrill@letsgosharks.com


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