January 31, 2012

Harold Ballard: Controversial Owner

The Hockey Hall of Fame builder's category will forever be stained as long as Harold Ballard remains included.

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.


Anonymous said...

He was pretty wicked and made Leafs fans suffer for 20 years, but I try not to speak ill of the dead.

Hallwings said...

I'm trying to figure out who's been more damaging to the sport of hockey--Ballard or Bettman.

tuxedoTshirt said...

I knew it was bad, like turning off the lights on the WHA, but apparently he was always a dirtbag.

Hallwings...no. Bettman is hated, but does he deserve it? Ballard is an absolute piece of filth - may he rest in torment.

Anonymous said...

I used to argue for the 'nay' side when the Henderson for the Hall argument came up.
Paul Henderson was a really nice guy (still is) and was a pretty decent hockey player. But a HOF player? Not if you take Sept 72 out of the equation. Without the Summit Series, Henderson had just an average career...not HOF worthy.
But you know what? If guys like Bill Wirtz and Harold Ballard are admitted to the hall as full members in the...ahem...'builder's'category,then the whole thing becomes irrelevant.
Hey, if clowns like Ballard (and Eagleson for awhile) are let in let poor Paul in.
If it gets people like Liam Maguire to finally STFU then just do it. It would be worth it for that.

Unknown said...