Blaine Stoughton already had a 56-goal, 100-point season with the Hartford Whalers in the NHL. But before arriving there, he had first been a star player in the World Association (WHA), especially with the Cincinnati Stingers, but also with the Indianapolis Racers where he had been a teammate of Gerald Leroux.
In his professional debut, the St-Bernardin striker simply couldn’t sit next to this eccentric character on the bench. To give you an idea of the individual, Blaine Stoughton was married to a Playboy bunny and according to Gordie Howe himself, “Cindy” was even more popular than Blaine in Hartford!
“He was quite a buffoon!” He had a huge talent, but Blaine played hockey for fun above all else. He made me laugh too much. I was nervous and wanted to make my place in the team. I had Pat Stapleton as my coach. I especially did not want him to catch me laughing! ”
In 1978, in Indianapolis, Blaine Stoughton was assigned to a threesome with Wayne Gretzky. He was the 7th pick in the first round of the 1973 NHL Draft. He had played for the Pittsburgh Penguins right out of the junior ranks, then was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he played the entire 1974-75 season. His lack of seriousness got the better of the patience of Harold Ballard, owner of the Maple Leafs. An unusual incident marked his dismissal from the World Association for five long seasons.
“He had talent to spare. He could score three goals without forcing too much, but he knew a lot about everything! In Toronto, he received a very high pass from Tiger Williams. He had therefore recommended Tiger to send his next pass at the same height, but stronger. Blaine had told him he could catch his passes better with his glove. So he had hung his glove at the end of his pallet! In an NHL game, it hadn’t happened! Harold Ballard had not digested it. Not long after, he was gone! ”
In the WHA, Dave Semenko’s reputation was well established. This 6’3 ” 215-pound mirror cabinet made his opponents tremble.
One evening, in an Indianapolis hotel, Gérald Leroux met before a game between the Racers and the Edmonton Oilers.
The next day, at the initial face-off, Leroux 5’6 ” found himself next to Semenko. The contrast could not be more striking. Semenko approaches Leroux to say to him in the most serious way: “Does your mother know that you are here?” ”
Smiling, Semenko then gives a little pat on Leroux’s leggings before the start of hostilities.
“On the bench, Blaine asked me if I had recommended Semenko to keep his head up!” I told him that I was not sure that my message had reached his ears up there! Semenko had rather fought with our goon that night. Blaine had concluded that Dave had been afraid of me! ”
The Racers did not last long in 1978-79. Already, from the fifth game of the season, owner Nelson Skalbania had displayed his colors.
“If he doesn’t fit more than 12,000 people here soon, I’ll pull the plogue.” ”
Other than Gretzky, no one had a full year contract. The players were paid per game. Skalbania had a giant seal in front of her house. Rumor has it that it was valued at $ 2 million. A player had therefore suggested that he sell his seal to pay the players.
“He immediately replied that his seal was costing him nothing and that we were costing him money. Between the two, he was going to keep his seal! We quickly lost hope of having contracts… ”
After 25 matches, the club closed shop.
Gretzky was notably sold to the Oilers by his friend Peter Pocklington. Most of the other players have had to find work elsewhere. Blaine Stoughton ended up with the Whalers where he had four seasons of over 40 goals in a row.
Gallery: Sports moments that made us cry (Espresso)