January 31, 2012
Harold Ballard: Controversial Owner
This category should be reserved for true builders of the game - Lester and Frank Patrick, James Creighton, Anatoli Tarasov, Father David Bauer, Scotty Bowman, and the man who built the Maple Leafs to such a legendary level that even Ballard could not completely destroy it - Conn Smythe, among others
It is clear this category is reserved for powerful NHL owners and their friends. Buy a team and get a Hall of Fame plaque for free. How else would Ballard, a convicted felon and quite possibly the worst owner in hockey history, be inducted? The cantankerous, eccentric Ballard alienated his players, showed contempt for his fans and desecrated the once proud Toronto Maple Leafs and Maple Leaf Gardens. How in the hell did he build the game?
One thing about Ballard's life I have to admit is that it is a pretty amazing story. I am currently reading William Houston's 1984 biography called "Ballard," pictured above. Pretty fascinating stuff.
Did you know that Ballard was once associated with a team called the Toronto National Sea Fleas? In the early 1930s he was their business manager, but somehow named himself coach, took his team to Europe for the World Championships representing Canada in 1933. That was the first year Team Canada lost the World Championships.
Did you know that Ballard, a manager with Canada's 1928 Olympic hockey team, somehow arranged that he, not an actual athlete, carry the Canadian Flag at the Opening Ceremonies.
Did you know that Ballard once fired an employee for refusing to walk his dog?
Did you know that in a sweltering summer day in 1965, Ballard delayed the Beatles by an hour, turned up the thermostat and shut off the water fountains in Maple Leaf Gardnes. He then jacked the price on the fountain pop sold at the concession stands.
Amazing stuff. He was a dastardly villain, yet he had some incredibly loyal followers - good hockey men like King Clancy and Tiger Williams. He was very generous with children's charities, the disabled and the Special Olympics.