The Complete World Hockey Association

Derek Sanderson Derek Michael Sanderson

Height: 6-0
Weight: 170
Shoot: L
Born: 16 Jun 1946, Niagara Falls ON


Regular Season & Playoff Scoring Record (key)

year team
1972-73 Philadelphia

Turk Becomes a Blazer • by Frank Bertucci • The Hockey Spectator • August 1972

It was this city's biggest signing since 1776.

On Thursday, August 3, Derek Sanderson became the world's highest-paid professional athlete when he signed a $2,625,000 contract with the Philadelphia Blazers. Club officials would only say the pact is from "5 to 15 years".

Following the press conference at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Sanderson, his family, his agent, Bob Woolf, Blazers owners Jim Cooper and Bernie Brown, and the press were bussed to John F. Kennedy Plaza where Sanderson officially signed and was welcomed by the city of Philadelphia. Cooper likened the signing to the Declaration of Independence because "this means independence for all hockey players".

City representative Harry Belinger welcomed Sanderson by saying he was sure he would lead the Blazers to the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, no one informed him that the Blazers would have to steal it to get it.

Sanderson's signings weren't finished. He stayed for more than an hour hanging out and autographing paperback copies of his book and whatever else he was asked to sign. One person asked him to sign a picture of Derek going into the stands after some fans at the Spectrum two years ago.

The press conference was, of course, a party for the Blazers. Cooper opened by reminding everyone of the city in June when he was forced to hold a news conference to announce that Murray Williamson had resigned as general manager and coach because he felt there wasn't enough time to put together a good organization. Since then, the Blazers have signed 28 players, including Sanderson and player coach John McKenzie and general manager Dave Creighton.

Cooper also had praise for Woolf.

"Without Bob Woolf, Derek Sanderson would not be a Blazer," he said.

"I've had a lot of trouble dealing with Alan Eagleson. None of his players has signed with WHA teams. But Woolf, whom I consider the foremost sports attorney in the country, has shown he negotiates with only the interest of his client at heart, not his own interests."

Cooper went into some details of the negotiations.

"A week ago, we figured we had Derek, but he wanted to give the Bruins one last shot," he explained. "Believe me, it wasn't the easiest period of my life waiting for an answer. Then, on Monday, Bob Woolf called and told me Derek was ready to sign."

"Actually, I wasn't really worried. I had had dinner in a Chinese restaurant, and the fortune cookie predicted I was about to complete a successful business deal."

Even Confucius was smiling on the Blazers.

Woolf pointed out that Cooper was willing to go anywhere to talk with Sanderson.

"I told Derek to go to Europe for a while, to take it easy," Woolf explained. "I don't know where he was, but Jim Cooper wanted to fly to Europe and search the continent for him."

And then it was Derek's turn at the microphone.

"Philadelphia deserves a winner," he began. "You've had the Phillies, Eagles, 76ers and Flyers, but this will be the first winning team in Philadelphia. This city deserves it because it is the birth place of America."

"This is the greatest honor that has ever been given myself or my family. One of the big reasons I signed the contract was because I would still play with John McKenzie. The only reason I went back to the Bruins before signing was because I consider Weston Adams, Sr., a personal friend, and he deserved to know how I felt."

Cooper said there was a stipulation in the contract the Sanderson and McKenzie be given an opportunity to play online together. Any opponents playing against that line better not turn their backs or put their heads down.

Sanderson predicted he would score 50 goals.

"I've never played the power play and still got 30 goals in a season. With McKenzie on my right wing on the power play, I know I can score at least 50."

The Blazers also gave Derek's father, Harold, a job as a scout in the Ontario region.

"I didn't know about it until Derek told me," Harold said. "I've got a good job in Niagara Falls which I've had for some time, so I didn't ask for this. But I think I can help the Blazers."

"The Blazers brought it up first," Derek said. "I know my father can handle the job. If he can't, he'll be the first one to turn it down. He's too honest not to."

Sanderson said that if this franchise was still known as the Miami Screaming Eagles, he would not have jumped.

"Miami's no place to play hockey," he said. "How can you play after you've been walking around in bermudas all day?"

"Philadelphia is a good hockey town. It has a hockey press. It's no gamble playing here, the way it would be in Miami. New York and Boston aren't far. That's where the hockey interest is. The northeast is the only place to play hockey."

Cooper also announced that a Sanderson-Blazer fund would be begun. It will be awarded annually to a young hockey player in the Philadelphia area to help him get a college education.

Cooper pointed out that his son and daughter volunteered to give up their allowances if it would help the Blazers sign Sanderson. His daughter Cynthia came forward at the press conference and turned over her $5 to Sanderson who graciously accepted it, making his value to $2,625,005. He said he would take her to her junior prom.

"My reputation as a swinger was always exaggerated," he claimed.

Now he has to keep his word about bringing a winner to Philadelphia.


An Affair to Remember • by Frank Bertucci • The Hockey Spectator • February 2, 1973

Derek Sanderson was under contract to the Disorganization known as the Philadelphia Blazers for 167 days. He was an actual member of that Disorganization for less than 100 days.

When the Blazers signed Sanderson last August 4 the world was watching. There wasn't enough time to answer all the questions or enough room to seat everyone who stayed for the luncheon afterwards.

When the Blazers unsigned Sanderson January 17, less than 20 reporters and photographers showed up. Neither of the two featured performers in the drama, Sanderson and Blazer Owner Bernie Brown, were there. And when the press conference was over, there was no luncheon, There wasn't even a water cooler in sight.

What happened with Derek Sanderson could only have taken place in Philadelphia, the same city that's brought you the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers to laugh at over the years. And now you can add the Philadelphia Blazers Disorganization to that list of comic talent.

When Sanderson signed, he said he would help to bring Philadelphia the winner it deserves. He never had that chance, partly through his own fault, but mostly because the Disorganization was going to pieces all around him and his teammates.

The first piece fell when Brown bought out coowner Jim Cooper. Cooper had been the spokesman for the Blazers from the beginning, while Brown remained in the background signing the checks and paying the bills. When Brown decided that Cooper had been too generous for too long, he bought him out. It was not a blood-less coup.

Meanwhile, the team wasn't doing anything right on the ice. First John McKenzie, then Bernie Parent and finally Sanderson were injured and had to miss considerable playing time. Sanderson never came back.

November 1 in Cleveland, Derek suffered strained ligaments in his back. Ironically, the Blazers won the game, 7-5, only their second win of the season. Sanderson scored two goals and one assist, and played in the style that had been expected of him. Neither McKenzie nor Parent played that night. Sanderson alone of the Blazers' Big Three had a hand in the win. It was Derek Sanderson's last game as a Blazer.

He was hospitalized 18 days with the back injury. When he returned, it was another two weeks before he could skate all-out. By this time, Phil Watson had replaced McKenzie as coach. But Watson has maintained all along it's not permanent. McKenzie is still introduced before games as Blazers coach, and the front office insists Watson is only "acting" coach, but Watson insists he is the coach. (There are 35 words in the preceding sentence. If you are confused, so is everyone involved.)

Before a game with New York December 8, Sanderson put on his No. 16 uniform expecting to play. Watson told him to take it off, that he (Watson) was told that Sanderson wasn't to play. Watson apparently believed what he was told, that Sanderson wasn't 100% physically fit.

So Sanderson spent the night in the pressbox and said that he would play the following Wednesday night (December 13) when Bobby Hull made his first appearance in Philadelphia asa Winnipeg Jet. Of course, Sanderson didn't play that night nor any other night, That Saturday night (December 16) he travelled with the team to Boston where they played New England the next day. Sanderson never returned to Philadelphia.

That's when the rumors began that he was headed for another team in the WHA, that he was going back to the NHL, that he would eventually be back with the Blazers.

The affair ended when Blazer President Dick Olson announced, the Philadelphia Blazers and Robert Woolf representing Derek Sanderson, have reached an agreement where Derek will be released.

Sanderson received an immediate cash settlement, estimated to be in the area of $1,000,000.

"The reasons are primarily economic," admitted Olson.

"We're happy with the situation," said Woolf. "Derek appreciates the economic situation the team is in. I want to make it clear that this team is adequately funded for at least ten years, even with Derek's contract in effect."

Brown, who refused to admit from the beginning of the mess that the Blazers were trying to renegotiate the contract, finally spoke at a game two nights later.

"There were many things involved," he said, "more than can come out at this time. I met with Sanderson after his injury. He just had a bad attitude, toward the team, his teammates, and the city. He made it clear to me at that time that he preferred to play in Boston, that Boston was the only place to play hockey."

Brown insisted Sanderson was never declared physically fit to play following the injury. Yet the Blazers physician, Dr Arnold T. Berman, had given him the okay to play in mid-December. And Woolf said that Sanderson had been examined by the Boston Bruins team physician, Dr. Carter Rowe, and given a clean bill of health.

As far as Sanderson's attitude toward Philadelphia and the WHA, Woolf admitted that, "I was disappointed in the reports I heard in Boston about Derek, He didn't act the way I would have liked him to, He understands that, I would have wanted him to build a better image."

Sanderson couldn't be the WHA salesman that Bobby Hull is, by his own admission.

"I was never a promoter, except for myself," he had said in December. "Eighty-five percent of the people never dug my act and they never will."

As far as Sanderson's attitude toward the team and his teammates, let two of them give their feelings: one who knew him since he joined the Bruins in 1967, John McKenzie, and one who met him just this season, John Bennett.

McKenzie: "Derek's attitude with the Blazers was better than it was with the Bruins. He spent time with the rookies here, something he never did before. On our first road trip, Mr. Cooper and myself had to tell him to cut down on all the interviews and television appearances he was making. It was hurting his playing."

"1 think he expected it to be like it was with the Bruins. We never had to practice hard with the Bruins because we had such a strong team. A lot of the NHL players we've got here didn't take our training camp too seriously. One day, Bernie (Parent) skated off the ice because everybody was fooling around. Derek went after him and told him to come back and finish the practice."

Bennett: "Before I met him I thought he was an ass, especially after reading his book, But he'll do anything for you, He's great with kids. After practices he always stopped and talked with any kids who were hanging around.

"Sure, he was mad about the way we were playing in the beginning of the season, but we all were. Nobody was talking to anybody else. But Derek wasn't alone in that attitude. In fact, he was the one who tried to get us together."

So now the Philadelphia Blazers and Derek Sanderson go their separate ways.

Whither Derek?

"Derek loves Boston and I think he wants to play there," Woolf said, "But I think it would make more sense for him to play in New York. No new league can make it without a viable New York franchise, and I think it would be good for Derek, like it was with Joe Namath."

But no one in the WHA has shown any great hurry to sign Derek Sanderson. In fact, the WHA league office made no great efforts to keep one of its top drawing cards in the fold. Brown said there were very few interested parties around the league, and that where there was an interested owner, there was an interested coach or general manager.

Whither Blazers?

"We're willing to sacrifice our chances of making the playoffs this season for future considerations," said Olson.

Once upon a time, Derek Sanderson and Jim Cooper promised to bring a winner to Philadelphia. Derek Sanderson is on a one-year vacation. Jim Cooper is just a fan again.

The first showpiece in the Blazer Disorganization's Hall of Fame will be home jersey No. 16. It's perfect. It was worn only once in a game in Philadelphia, and it never got dirty.

The jersey, that is.



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(c) Scott Surgent