It was the spring of 1980 when Ernie McLean and Bill Shinske sold the New Westminster Bruins, who had gone 10-61-1 in 1979-80, to Nelson Skalbania for somewhere around $300,000.
“There comes a time in life when you have to say what more can you do,” said McLean, who, with Shinske, had relocated the Bruins from Estevan for the 1971-72 season. “I’m at the crossroads now. I’m hitting the road. I’ve proven what I can do.”
Understand that this was a time when the WHL was more than an afterthought to many media outlets, including some in the larger centres. So it wasn’t unusual for some in the cast of characters to, well . . . after selling the Bruins, McLean, when asked about his immediate future, said he was dickering with some hockey people in Japan.
“I threw a figure at them that would choke a horse,” McLean said, “and it seemed quite acceptable. The sum was three times what I could make here with the Bruins. There was talk of flying my wife and me to Japan for the season, a rented house with butler, and a chauffeur to drive a rented car.”
No, McLean didn’t end up in Japan. Rather, he stayed on as the Bruins’ general manager for a few weeks.
“I stayed on and I worked for (Skalbania) for two months,” McLean said. “But there was no possible way that I could see that it was going to work out.”
So McLean bowed out.
After the 1980-81 season, Skalbania sold the franchise to the Edmonton Oilers, who then were owned by Peter Pocklington, and the team moved to Kamloops.
Of course, as evidenced by the above tweet, there would be a Bruins’ rebirth down the road and McLean would come to be involved.
If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that Nelson Skalbania installed his daughter, Rozanda, as president of the Bruins. So it wasn’t long before their front office was being referred to as Goldilocks and the Two Bears, with the bears being general manager Tracy Pratt, who replaced McLean, and head coach Muzz MacPherson, the latter another of the great characters in league history.
Early in that 1980-81 season, The Canadian Press reported that the Bruins had added a forward named Dan Hill to their roster, and that he was coming off a 30-goal season with the Montreal Jr. Canadiens. Unfortunately, a reporter who was interested in chasing facts checked out the story and discovered that, yes, Hill had played with Montreal, but that he had managed just one assist in four games. He would go pointless in eight games with the Bruins.
It should also be pointed out that Rozanda attended a board of governors’ meeting before the 1980-81 season got started. At that meeting, she suggested that the WHL should increase the number of 20-year-olds for each team from two to four. No, the governors didn’t agree with her.
But by the 1986-87 season each team was being allowed to dress four 20-year-olds per game. Of course, that number later was reduced to three, which is where it is now.
Headline at The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton) — Study: Best way to get rid of a body is to check it as luggage with Air Canada.
F Andrew Cristall of the Kelowna Rockets has been scratched from tonight’s Top Prospects Game at the Langley Events Centre, the home of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. Cristall, who has 62 points in 36 games, has been out since Jan. 6 with an undisclosed injury. F Denver Barkey of the OHL’s London Knights had replaced Cristall. Barkey, London’s first-round pick in the OHL’s 2021 draft, has 37 points, including 11 goals, in 41 games this season.
MONDAY’S WHL HIGHLIGHTS:
The host Portland Winterhawks scored four second-period goals en route to a 6-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in a matinee game. . . . Gabe Klassen (27) and Ryan McCleary (10) each scored twice and Jack O’Brien had a goal and two assists for Portland. . . . F Chaz Lucius picked up three assists and now has seven points, six of them assists, in his three games with Portland. . . . The Winterhawks lost F James Stefan to an undisclosed injury in the second period. . . . The Winterhawks closed to within one point of the Western Conference-leading Seattle Thunderbirds. The two teams are scheduled to clash in Kent, Wash., on Saturday. . . . The WHL schedule now is dark until Friday night.
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