It was on February 9, 1966 that the National Hockey League officially announced that it would expand from six to twelve teams.
From February 7-9 the NHL Board of Governors had been mmeting at New York’s St.Regis Hotel to discuss the issue of expansion. Among those present were Charles Adams of the Boston Bruins, James Norris of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bruce Norris of the Detroit Red Wings, David Molson of the Montreal Canadiens, William Jennings of the New York Rangers and Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thirteen groups representing eight cities arrived in New York in February 1966 to present their cases to the Board: five groups from Los Angeles, two from Pittsburgh, and one each from Vancouver, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Baltimore and San Francisco. Five groups made their 30-minute presentation Feb. 7, five more the morning of Feb. 8, and three the afternoon of Feb. 8.
What happened in between, of course, is the juicy stuff, and the stuff that has resulted in many words being written and broadcast.
Personally, I found it fascinating how Stafford Smythe, an owner of the Leafs managed to kill off the bids of both Buffalo (fear of encroachment on his TV market – “The only trouble with Buffalo is that they intrude on our TV area. From a TV standpoint, we might as well have another NHL franchise in Toronto“. ) and Vancouver, even though the Vancouver group included Toronto announcer, the legendary Foster Hewitt. Apparently, Smythe was still bitter about being able to be the benficiary of a sweeheart deal in Vancouver for land (voted down by a public referendum: “I don’t think Vancouver will get NHL hockey for a generation, and I’ve thought this since the city turned down the Leafs’ offer to build a rink out there if the city would give us the land“.). Smythe also was quoted as nixing Vancouver on television issues, “We can’t get any more TV customers out there because we’ve got ‘em all now with our Saturday night telecasts“
Great stuff, both on the historical and people aspects.