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Golden Seals honored for 50th anniversary

Alumni Ernie Hicke, Norm Ferguson among those celebrating former California franchise joining NHL in 1967

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

SAN JOSE -- The line stretched alongside the tables of California Golden Seals memorabilia, winding through the concourse at SAP Center and going past eatery Iguanas Burritozilla and stopping near LeBoulanger.

A meeting of the NHL's past and present was represented in the concourse more than an hour and a half before the San Jose Sharks played the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

There was the abundance of Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton Sharks jerseys, naturally. But some fans of a certain age reached back into their memory bank and brought old Golden Seals memorabilia to the game.

The occasion was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the California Golden Seals and the NHL coming to the Bay Area. They joined the League in the second six expansion in 1967-68, played in Oakland and after an often-tumultuous run, moved to Cleveland in 1976.

Golden Seals alumni Ernie Hicke, Norm Ferguson, Bert Marshall, Dennis Maruk, Gilles Meloche and Gary Simmons were honored in a pregame ceremony on the ice and earlier signed autographs in the concourse nearby a collection of Seals memorabilia and photos. 

One especially memorable relic: a shiny patented leather green suitcase with yellow trimming. Team colors, of course.

Then Seals owner Charlie Finley required the players to use the suitcases on trips, which obviously led to confusion and amusement at the baggage carousel in airports.

"We would all stand back and wait," Ferguson said. "All the people were looking at it: 'What the heck is that?' And then another 20 suitcases came off."

Ferguson, who played 279 games with the Seals from 1968-72, was laughing as he retold the story to a reporter and a couple of family members in the concourse, including his son, Craig, who played in the League in the 1990s during brief runs with the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers.

Some of the alums had not been in contact with one another for decades but the old connections and bonds did not take long to form again.

"To be back with the guys the last two days is just a pleasure," Hicke said. "I go outside and have a cup of coffee and a smoke, and all of a sudden three or four of them come out and we are just laughing our [butts] off about this story and that story."

The laughter was about the good times, and the often strange and turbulent times, a constant revolving door of ownership, management and player changes. 

"I'm enjoying it way more than I originally thought," Marshall said. "I didn't know exactly what it would be. One of those things is, it's about memories."

The players weren't the only ones skating down memory lane. Sharks season-ticket holder Roger Myers, now a Berkeley resident, went to Golden Seals games in Oakland when he was younger and never had the chance to meet his favorite player, Meloche.

Myers, wearing a Meloche jersey, stood in line to get autographs with his 10-year-old son. Roger said his son has been going to Sharks games even before he started walking.   

"He started as a goaltender because I liked Meloche," Roger said. "But he started to like scoring goals instead of stopping them.

"This is a great chance to meet some of the guys I watched play as a kid and bring my son to meet them. He never got to see the Seals play."

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