Viewed 2199 times
For years it was estimated that the human body (of a 150-lb man), considering that 60% is water, and adding the chemical contents, was worth 98 cents. In the 1960’s they upgraded that amount to $3.50; and in the 1970’s they adjusted the tally, evaluating it at $5.60.
Later in that decade, a Yale University biochemist received a humorous birthday card from his daughter in which the original dollar value was stated. He was the wrong person to try to stick with that proposal. He reached for a supply catalogue and began to look up prices relating to the chemicals with which he was familiar. When he had completed his inventory, he maintained that the 98 cents was away off the map. The total value, using his own weight of 180 lbs. as a scale, should read closer to $6 million dollars. The exact tally was $6,000.015.44!
Of course in the New Millennium even that figure is both out-of-date, and not nearly precise enough. In hockey games when a goal with 1.7 seconds left on the clock can determine a win, loss, or a tie……one must be more exact than ever before.
Chemicals are only a part of the most recent tabulations concerning the worth of this old carcass of mine. “Components” of a dozen different kinds now enter into the picture. Basics like bone marrow are calculated at $23,000 per gram—blood at $337. per pint. Organ costs are part of the formula—even DNA. But alkali metals, if you please, is where the dollar temperature starts to rise. Things that most of us have never heard of—like “rubidium”--$10,000.; “boron”--$6,000.; germanium--$2,000—and potassium--$650.
Then there is a list of “black market” body parts prices. A couple of examples are: one liver--$15,763, and kidneys--$95,240.
But when it comes to average hockey fan, such figures warrant a mere casual glance. “What is a hockey body worth?”. That is the question!
Obviously it depends of whether those who do the evaluating make a positive or negative estimate of the player involved.
For instance, back in about 1906, a blond dynamo fondly referred to as “One-eyed” Frank McGee, was making headlines in the elite shinny fraternity of the day—the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association. He was called “the centrepiece of the Ottawa Silver Seven” while they were capturing three straight Stanley Cups, from 1903 through 1905. It was common for him to tally five goals in a single match—even eight—and in the regular season of 1905-06 he potted 25 markers in just seven contests. He is best remembered for his record setting 14 goals in 1905 in the second Stanley Cup challenge match against the Dawson City Nuggets. (one opposition skater had remarked after their first 9-2 loss: “That McGee isn’t so much.”)
That spring the Montreal Wanderers were their opponents in the finals. One day McGee missed the scheduled train to the Mount Royal City, and Ottawa’s management appraised his worth so highly that they paid $1,200 to hire a special train to transport him to the game.
Although hockey was technically an amateur sport at the time, when those same Wanderers turned openly professional four years later, “Newsy” Lalonde received only $1300. for his annual services. That indicates just how highly they rated their star forward.
One of the game’s favourite stories, told and retold, involves the storybook nature of Conn Smythe’s deal for “King” Clancy in 1931. The Great Depression had set in, sabotaging bank accounts, both personal and corporate. The Ottawa Senators were no exception, so they put Clancy, their most viable commodity, on the trading block. The $35,000. they requested seemed an insurmountable hurdle for any and all bidders. But Conn Smythe ‘s uncanny monetary wizardry prompted him to go for broke in this venture. He gambled a bundle on his own untried racehorse, “Rare Jewel”, and won between ten and eleven thousand dollars. This went along with the $25,000 the team governors were willing to spend. Adding post-dated cheques, and throwing in Art Smith and Eric Pettinger, he forked over the equivalent of $50,000 for the rambunctious rearguard. Obviously no financial sacrifice is too great if the prize is worthwhile. The “Little Major” was certainly convinced this one was.
Back in 1957 Frank Selke Sr. heard rumours that Ted Lindsay, 163 pounds of muscle and sinew, propelled by inherent meanness, was no longer on speaking terms with Detroit Manager Jack Adams. Visions of shinny sugar plums began to dance in his head, as he could picture a Montreal Canadien forward line of the Richard brothers (centre and right wing) complemented by the premiere league left wing, the Red Wing’s old “scarface” himself.
So he offered the Motor City manager $100,000. for Theodore’s contract (at that moment, the probable salary of upwards of $20,000 per annum would have to wait). “Jolly Jack” wanted no part of contributing to the Habs’ ongoing success (three Stanley Cup wins in the last five seasons). So, since Lindsay was in the dog house for quarterbacking a possible player’s union, he was traded to Chicago instead.
With the changing value of money it is difficult to compare amounts utilized in different eras. But a million dollars has a definitive ring, regardless of the calendar year.
So it was that a half decade later the Queen City franchise was involved in another rather exorbitant monetary milestone. On October 5, at the gala 1962 All Star dinner, Harold Ballard, braced by some liquid refreshment, was bragging on the superior skills of Frank “The Big M” Mahovlich to Chicago’s CEO, “Big Jim” Norris.
“I’ll give you a million dollars for him!”, came the spirited reply.
“You’re kidding, Jim”, spluttered Toronto’s Vice-President.
And with that Norris proved he wasn’t kidding, by laying down a deposit of $1000 on the table. How much of what is reported to have taken place is gospel, and how much is fictional, is still debated. Some said it was all a hoax; others that it was a genuine proposal. But saner heads prevailed in Leafdom, and Frank stayed in the “city of churches” for six more seasons. But there is no question as to how highly Mahovlich was appraised as a hockey player.
But all of these were just peanuts in comparison to what has been called “the greatest trade in NHL history, if not in North American sports”. It is often referred to as “the” trade. We speak, of course, of the granddaddy of all dollar exchanges in hockey—Wayne Gretzky’s move to Los Angeles Kings. McSorley and Krushelnyski accompanied him to California, and Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas and three first-rounders were throw-ins in exchange. But it was the 15 million (18.5 Canadian) cash-on-the-barrelhead that was the coup de grâce. That is the epitome of answers to “what is a (hockey) body worth?”
But, there are at least a dozen instances which typify the very opposite sentiment about a player’s value on the shinny barometer.
Going back to 1916 during the days of the National Hockey Association, the February 15 edition of the Toronto World reported: “There may be some question as to the highest paid player in the NHA, but there is none about the lowest. ‘Brownie’ Baker of the Montreal Wanderers will draw down $1.00 for his season’s work. He signed a contract for that amount on the eve of his first appearance of the season against the Canadiens. He is not a hold-out, but could not make arrangements to get away from his position he holds in Sherbrooke—so he will play whenever he can get away.” (as it turns out that was for four games—or 25 cents per match)
One year later, when pro hockey’s only military squad was ordered overseas, more than one alleged discrepancy came to the fore. But when it came to Eddie Oatman, along with the revelation that he might never have actually been enlisted—and thus not a bona fide member of the 228th Battalion—he spilled the beans about the amount of his promised $1,200 salary he received ($400). The cat was let out of the bag at that time—all members of the Northern Fusiliers had nominal contracts of $1.00—in keeping with the league’s bylaws.
In the late 1920’s the service of two old pros was gained for the paltry sum of $1.00. One was Herb Gardiner, whose first five years on the pay-for-play scene was spent with the Calgary Tigers on the Western Hockey League. But when that circuit folded, countless “Western” skaters were snapped up by NHL clubs. The Habs’ Leo Dandurand put in this cheapskate bid for this stalwart blue-line workhorse, and it was accepted by Frank Patrick who was is charge of dispersing WHL players. He faithfully minded the store for the Canadiens for three more seasons.
The other victim was Charles “Dinny” Dinsmore. Commencing in 1924 he patrolled the left-wing corridor for the cross-town Montreal Maroons. Suddenly in 1927 he decided to abandon the shinny scene to become a bond salesman. But the lure of the game was too much for him, and as the 1929-30 campaign drew near he approached Manager Dunc Munro about returning to the ice. The price of his comeback to the Maroons would be one buck. Of course Munroe agreed to this humiliating financial arrangement he had hung on himself. Unfortunately, his skills had faded, and he lasted only nine games before going back the work-a-day world. Joe Pelletier calculates this amounted 11 cents per game.
Punch Imlach had a way of making players feel small. During the 1963 Leaf training camp, he demonstrated how he could also make them feel cheap. One dollar is insult enough; but when Don Cherry faced Ron Ellis in a camp scrimmage, and almost checked him into the next county, the man with the white hat shouted: “Get that 50 cent player off the ice before he hurts our million-dollar rookie!”
Buddy Boone with the Vancouver Canucks (WHL)
“Buddy” Boone was called the NHL’s “original fatman”. But he was also tagged “minute man”. When Boston’s Leo Labine was injured in the 1957 playoffs, Boone was called up to replace him. He played in all of the 5-game series against Detroit; although it is said he played only one minute of a crucial match which led to the end of the Red Wings post-season. And in that minute of the second frame he beat Don Simmons, tallying a key marker in the 5-4 victory.
But he was considered expendable as a fringe player in the Beantown system. Lynn Patrick was manager at the time, and he wanted to unload the chubby forward. He phoned another GM and asked what he would give him for Buddy. Without hesitation the answer came back: |
“Nothing!”—and he left it at that.
“Great”, said Lynn. “You’ve got yourself a deal!” (We don’t know if he had to add train fare as Gorman had done, or not.)
Bronco Horvath, centre for the famous Bruins’ “Uke Line”, and Second Team All Star in 1960, must have been happy that it was a devoted fan, not a team CEO, who reimbursed him for goals scored in 1959-60. At that time, he took golf lessons from Sam Videtta at the Colonial Country Club. A real Bruins fan, he decided to reward the Bronc with golf balls for every goal he scored—at the rate of two for each goal, six for a pair, and a dozen for a hat trick. When he finished the year with 39 markers, it was suggested that he had more balls to cart home than 39 caddies could carry!
Ray Sheppard was no run-of-the-mill puckster. He lit the red lamps behind NHL netminders 52 times in 1993-94. When he finally hung up his blades he had tallied 357 total goals in regular season play. But his worth was not immediately recognized. In 1990 the Sabres tried to avoid waving him through the league, so they sold him to the Rangers for $1.00.
New York managed to stumble onto an identical bargain a year later. Goalie Sam St. Laurent played 14 games with Detroit in 1989-90, then was farmed out to Adirondack. With Glen Hanlon and Tim Cheveldae sharing the netminding duties in the Big Time, he became dispensable. For that same bargain-basement buck, he was on his way to the Big Apple. He never took his place between NHL pipes again.
The early 90’s seemed to be an era when that pattern kept being repeated. Kris Draper was another example of weird economics. He was drafted by Winnipeg in 1989, and played his first pro season in 1990-91. While he skated a few shifts from time to time with the Jets, most of his initial campaigns was with their AHL affiliate in Moncton. Although his stipend was not large for an NHL’er, the Manitoba contingent felt it was too costly for a minor leaguer. So for that magic greenback they pawned him off on Detroit. There he enjoyed four Stanley Cup victories, and earned the Selke Trophy as the league’s Best Defensive Forward in 2003-04.
When Zellers had stores in almost every city and town, they used to run specials called “Dollar Daze, the pun intended to indicate the prices were so good it “dazed” the buyers. Obviously several NHL clubs have had their DOLLAR DAZE as well, and the players who were sold for a song were the ones a fog about their treatment.
In the New Millennium, of course, another buzz word applies to such skimpy transactions. They speak of a player being dealt “for a bag of pucks”—meaning the least possible outlay for the buyer.
Perhaps this is a good time to repudiate a popular tale which has been promulgated with more than one twist—but is still fiction. Originally (as always) it involved Eddie Shore and his cheapskate ways. The story goes that he once traded Jake Milford from Springfield to the Buffalo Bisons for two goal nets—and was upset when he discovered they were used. Problem is—Jake Milford never played for either Springfield or Buffalo. The later version has John Baby as the pawn, dispensed to Victoria—for one Art Ross net—and that it was only one because he wasn’t worth two. But he didn’t commence his pay-for-play tenure until long after Shore’s reign, and didn’t skate for either Springfield or Victoria.
After all that depressing revelation it may be appropriate to close with a light-hearted element to this essay.
In 1985 Dwight Mathiasen signed a four-year, 1.2 million dollar free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins—plus a $25,000. signing bonus. He turned out to be less than a roaring success, managing only 33 games—1 goal and 7 assists in total. When someone asked him how it felt to be a “million-dollar mistake”, he thought for a moment, then answered: “Better than being a $30,000 mistake!”
Viewed 2199 times
Second Thoughts on Penalties
Posted April 14, 2019
His Night to Howell
Posted March 30, 2019
Posted March 18, 2019
Humour - A Way to Catch Your Balance
Posted March 03, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 2
Posted February 15, 2019
The Revival of Hockey's Lost Art of Stickhandling - Part 1
Posted February 01, 2019
The Rise and Fall of Sweater Number 9
Posted January 23, 2019
Penalty-Free NHL Games
Posted January 09, 2019
The Greatest of These is Charity
Posted December 22, 2018
Minor League 'Davids' Defeating Major League 'Goliaths'
Posted December 07, 2018
The Shadow Knows
Posted November 25, 2018
Lying Down on the Job
Posted November 04, 2018
The Perils and Pleasures of Water
Posted October 19, 2018
Hockey's Cinderella Teams
Posted October 07, 2018
Posted May 19, 2018
Hockey's Classic Embarrassing Moments
Posted May 10, 2018
Playing in a Fog
Posted April 21, 2018
Posted April 08, 2018
First Game, First Shift, First Goal!
Posted March 26, 2018
Always a Bridgroom
Posted March 12, 2018
The Year the Canadiens Almost Died
Posted February 24, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless - Part 2
Posted February 17, 2018
Tangled With the Law and the Lawless
Posted January 28, 2018
Lucky Black Cats and Number 13
Posted January 17, 2018
Concussions in Hockey Nothing New
Posted December 30, 2017
The Best Christmas I Remember
Posted December 18, 2017
Filling the Gap
Posted December 01, 2017
Off Duty Injuries; mishaps away from the rink
Posted November 13, 2017
The Most Cruel Bird of All
Posted October 26, 2017
Las Vegas — NHL's 31st Team — Knights or Knaves?
Posted October 13, 2017
Playing Under the Influence - of Pain
Posted May 29, 2017
In Tune Pucksters
Posted May 14, 2017
Laughter - The Best Medicine
Posted April 29, 2017
The Last Straw
Posted April 15, 2017
Whose Side Are You On Anyway?
Posted March 30, 2017
Ferreting Out Phantom Hockey Stars
Posted March 17, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 2)
Posted March 08, 2017
A Woman's Place...is On the Ice (Part 1)
Posted February 19, 2017
Tales From the Sin Bin!
Posted February 04, 2017
Happy 100th Birthday N.H.L
Posted January 25, 2017
New Year's Resolutions that Might Have Been
Posted January 06, 2017
It Happened on December 25th
Posted December 21, 2016
The Best of Hockey's One-Liners
Posted December 10, 2016
The Price of Stardom
Posted November 18, 2016
Is There a Doctor in the House?
Posted November 03, 2016
Auston Matthews: Liberator or Lemon?
Posted October 14, 2016
Hockey's Multi-Generation Families
Posted June 16, 2016
Picture Perfect - A Dozen Classic Hockey Photos
Posted June 08, 2016
Anatomy of the Penalty Shot
Posted May 17, 2016
Hockey's Honourary Indian Chiefs
Posted May 04, 2016
Posted April 17, 2016
Records That Will Never Be Broken
Posted March 31, 2016
Right Church — Wrong Pew
Posted March 23, 2016
Does "Captain" Mean Much Anymore?
Posted March 02, 2016
Posted February 21, 2016
Now That's Not Pun-ny!
Posted February 07, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 2
Posted January 26, 2016
A Century of Leap Year Landmarks - Part 1
Posted January 06, 2016
Posted December 29, 2015
Practice Can Be Precarious
Posted December 11, 2015
Brooklyn Bridge is Falling Down...
Posted November 15, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part Two)
Posted November 01, 2015
Did You Have a Good Summer? (Part One)
Posted October 16, 2015
From Champs to Chumps
Posted June 07, 2015
CLEAN PLAY……CLEAN PLAYERS….TRUE SPORTS
Posted May 11, 2015
Putting the Bite on the Opposition
Posted April 24, 2015
One Eyed Wonders
Posted April 12, 2015
Captain Cage Cop
Posted March 26, 2015
Trade Deadline Deals — Blockbuster or Bluster?
Posted March 17, 2015
Fun In the Snow
Posted February 27, 2015
Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated
Posted February 16, 2015
It's not what they said - it's what they meant!
Posted January 31, 2015
Posted January 18, 2015
Hockey's New Years Babies
Posted January 03, 2015
Strange Gifts - Christmas or Otherwise
Posted December 20, 2014
Two Dozen + 1 Wacky Wonders
Posted December 06, 2014
The Last of a Long Line of...
Posted November 24, 2014
A Compendium of Referee Non-Calls
Posted November 09, 2014
40th Anniversary of the 1974 Summit Series
Posted October 25, 2014
The Many Faces of Training Camp
Posted October 13, 2014
The Rise and Fall of Playoff Heroes
Posted May 30, 2014
Boston Bruins Celebrate 90 Years
Posted May 17, 2014
A Curse Upon Ye!
Posted May 01, 2014
For the Birds
Posted April 20, 2014
They Were Not Fooled By Their Birthdates
Posted April 08, 2014
Bitten By The Hand That Feeds
Posted March 22, 2014
Tongue in Check
Posted March 08, 2014
A Few L.A.F.F.S. to Relieve your S.A.D.
Posted February 21, 2014
The Ultimate Valentine - A Kiss
Posted February 08, 2014
Hats Off to Hockey
Posted January 25, 2014
Posted January 11, 2014
New Year's Revelations
Posted December 30, 2013
Posted December 23, 2013
Esposito vs Esposito - Smith vs Smith
Posted November 30, 2013
Just Dying to Play Hockey
Posted November 17, 2013
What's In 50 Years
Posted November 02, 2013
The Ongoing Resolve - NHL Season is Too Long!
Posted October 20, 2013