January 27, 2011

All Star Game Memories: Big Offer For The Big M

The 16th Annual NHL All Star Game, was played in Toronto on October 6th, 1962. The defending Stanley Cup champion Maple Leafs quieted the NHL All Stars 4-1.

This particular All Star game contest was far from memorable by itself. But the hulabaloo created by the Chicago  Blackhawks on the same day certainly rocked the hockey world.

Chicago owner Jim Norris made a public offer to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Norris wanted Frank Mahovlich, who was involved in a contract dispute with the Leafs. Norris even offered a cheque for $1 million in exchange. Norris even showed off the filled out cheque to the media as part of his antics.

The Leafs firmly rejected the deal the next day.

There was always speculation the whole show was nothing more than a publicity stunt designed to steal headlines away from baseball's World Series.  But Harold Ballard was certainly ready to make the deal.

This was back before the infamous Ballard had full control of the Leafs. He was still part of a group of owners, the "Silver Seven," who managed the team as a committee. Of course Ballard wouldn't worry about the others, and accepted Norris' offer and even took ten $100 bills as a down payment. Ballard then wrote a note of confirmation.

When Norris met with the group of seven the next day to finalize the deal, he was informed to keep his cheque.

The big winner in all of this was Frank Mahovlich. That night the Leafs gave in to his salary demands and signed a 4 year at $110,000 a year - a pittance by NHL standards nowadays, but a king's ransom back in 1962!

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