The Complete World Hockey Association

New York's Devolving Golden Blades • by Larry Bortstein • The Hockey Spectator • November 16, 1973

Controversy has clouded the successes of the New York WHA franchise since the Raiders represented this town in the new league a year ago. And, though the triumphs continue to come few and far between, controversies still are very present on the team that now is known as the Golden Blades.

Even as the Blades were skating to an impressive 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Fighting Saints recently — shelling rookie Saint Goaltender John Garrett for five goals in 40 shots, whereas he had allowed but two goals in 63 previous shots against him — off-ice conflicts were raging, one involving the status of the club itself, two others affecting the status of two players on the roster.

The chief problem surrounding the Blades was the familiar one they faced most of season as the Raiders — financial instability. As club President Ralf Brent prepared to leave for Chicago and a meeting of league trustees October 29-30, he was still optimistic that his group, which took over the Blades last May 30, could retain control.

However, Brent appeared to be fighting a losing battle, based on remarks from other league sources.

Jim Browitt, WHA Administrator, ran the Raiders for much of last season after the original group of owners surrendered the franchise which had sunk in a sea of red ink. From his office in Santa Ana, California, recently, Browitt allowed that the prospects for Brent's group retaining the Blades' franchise were "not good. I asked the present group to produce $2,000,000 for ongoing capitalization and I gave them a deadline. Then I extended the deadline, because they said it would be a matter of a couple more days. But they've got to do something very soon."

When the league paid the Blade players their first paychecks of the season in mid-October, the WHA office became, in effect, holder of the contract for all New York players.

Gene Peacosh, the left wing who made a fine professional debut last year with 37 goals and 71 points, announced he was not interested in remaining a member of that Blades' roster any longer. "I was promised a renegotiation of my contract after last year," an embittered Peacosh said after failing to dress for one game for what the club had called personal reasons. "My agent, Chuck Abraham of Los Angeles, has been receiving very tough treatment from management here. Too much has been said on both sides already for me to continue here. The Blades offered me more money, but insisted I sign for three years. I wanted to sign for only one year. I signed for small money last year because my only previous experience was with Jersey in the Eastern League and I wanted to get my foot in the door in the majors. Now I want out of New York."

Following an exchange of words between Peacosh and Jerry Delise, general manager of the Blades, in the Madison Square Garden corridors outside the New York locker room, the club announced that Peacosh was under suspension.

Another left wing, Don Herriman, who was acquired in the same offseason trade that saw Ron Ward go to the Vancouver Blazers for Andre Lacroix, ended his long holdout. He never had reported to training camp and reportedly had been ready to spend the 1973-74 season driving a truck near his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Skating on a Philadelphia line centered by Lacroix last season, and also featuring 61-goal scorer Danny Lawson on the right side, Herriman tallied 24 goals and 48 assists for the Blazers in 1973. He played for Blades' GM DeLise at Muskegon in the International League in 1966-67. Like Peacosh, Don came to the WHA last season after starring the Eastern League, which now is defunct. Herriman played for the Clinton (N.Y.) Comets in the EHL.

Like Peacosh, according to agent Howard Casper, who represents Herriman, Don signed for a "minor figure last year just to prove he could play on a major league level." Herriman wanted to renegotiate his old pact when he was acquired by New York.

DeLise, who has been described as an "old line hockey man", apparently has had less than cordial talks with player agents. But finances being what they seem to be around this club, it would not be surprising if DeLise were trying to guard the coffers as much as possible. Still, this doesn't explain the money other Golden Blades' executives have seen fit to spend this year on scantily attired girls skating around the rink before games and between periods, as well as other ill-advised promotions.

It's also not becoming to a club when its front office can now turn on Herriman and suggest that he will have to fight to earn a spot on the Blades. Two Blades' officials have told this correspondent that same story, when the point of the matter seems to be that a player with Herriman's credentials, once he gets into proper condition, deserves to play ahead of several left wingers now on the New York roster. Left wing is not an especially deep or talented position on this club, and the loss of both Peacosh and Herriman, which is a possibility, would hurt the club's offense, which has been sputtering to begin with, even more.

All the Golden Blades' problems have led to statements from Ben Hatskin of Winnipeg and other WHA owners questioning the importance to the league of a franchise in New York.

There is little logic in questioning New York as a major factor in the success of any sports league. Chauvinistic considerations to the contrary, this town could no more be left out of a major sports league than blades left off skates.

The question is, of course, when will New York have a truly major league franchise in the WHA? This is one the league has to wrestle with and which seems to have no quick or ready solution.



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