The Complete World Hockey Association

Westward ho, the Blazers • by Frank Bertucci • The Hockey Spectator • June 1973

The last time Bernie Brown spoke with reporters he wanted to know why he was always asked how much longer he would stay in ice hockey.

"I'm still here," he said.

The last time Dick Olson spoke with reporters he was displaying blueprints for a proposed 17,000-seat arena.

"We're not looking to move out of Philadelphia," he said.

Friday, May 11, Bernie Brown was finally out of ice hockey, and Dick Olson and the Blazers were out of Philadelphia. At a press conference in Vancouver, James Pattison announced he had bought the Blazers for $1.9 million and the team would play in that city, probably in the Pacific Coliseum, where the NHL Canucks have played the last three years.

"I liked the team, I liked Johnny MeKenzie, Phil Watson, everybody. That's why I paid $1.9 million cash," said Pattison, who owns two radio stations and two General Motors franchises.

McKenzie signed a three-year contract as player-coach. Watson will be general manager.

The move came as a surprise to many people, despite the persistent rumors of the past month. As late as two days before the announcement of the sale, Olson had said, "As far as I'm concerned, it's settled, The team will be here (Philadelphia) next year."

Which is a half-truth. It was settled. The basics of the sale had been agreed to by May 1. All of which gives Dick Olson as much credibility as a White Mouse aide.

There also is something to be said about his employer-employee relationships. Only the day before, Blazers executive vice president Hal Freeman had said that if anything was happening he hadn't been informed. Ticket manager John Nash said he had not been told anything so he was making plansfor tickets sales for next season.

Another surprised person was Blazer center Andre Lacroix, the WHA scoring leader.

"1 didn't think it would bappen this quickly," he said after it happened that quickly. "I was in the office on Thursday and I asked Hal Freeman if any of the stories were true, and he told me that as far as he knew, the Blazers were staying here."

"I remember when Mr. Brown brought in Olson (the beginning of January) and told us he was giving him a five-year contract. He said he was going to spend the money to make us a winner. I really expected he would try it for at least another year. This year the Flyers had too much going for them, and it was hard for us to bring people in."

(Notice that Olson's five years ended in five months)

Which brings up the question of whether the British Columbia Blazers will have Andre Lacroix.

"Right now I don't know," he said. "I talked to Howard (Casper, his agent) and he told me that technically I'm a free agent within the WHA. I had a clause in my contract saying that I did not have to go with the franchise if it moved.

"I was supposed to renegotiate my contract with the Blazers. Howard has been trying to get in touch with the new owner in Vancouver. If they want to renegotiate my contract I'll play in Vancouver, I want to get this all settled this week."

First Dave Creighton, then Jim Cooper, followed by Derek Sanderson and Bernie Parent, and now we don't have any more Blazers to kick around.

May they find luck in Vancouver. They had none here.

May they find truth in Vancouver. There also was none of that here.



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